Though Christmas episodes are a staple of anime, there aren’t many anime exclusively about Christmas. There’s no shortage of live-action movies and cartoons about Santa Claus , but the good man hasn’t had much spotlight when it comes to our beloved anime. Itsudatte My Santa attempts to make up the difference by telling a story about not one, but two Santa’s. Something that sounds great until you actually sit down to watch it…
The OVA is based on a one-off manga by Ken Akamatsu, the author behind Love Hina and AI Love You. It tells the story of a young man called Santa, who also happens to be born on December the 24th. His birthday is always overshadowed by Christmas and his name is a joke, but it gets worse. Santa’s parents are the traveling types, so he rarely gets to see them and certainly not on his birthday. Over time, this turned him into a jaded adult who hates everything about Christmas. And this year again, he is gearing up to spend the holiday alone and miserable.
That is until he’s suddenly accosted by a hyperactive, young girl. She claims to be a real Santa Claus and thus she can’t accept seeing somebody being so miserable on Christmas eve. When she then learns that Santa actually hates Christmas, the mysterious girl doubles down; not only will she help Santa overcome his melancholy, she is going to make him believe in the magic of Christmas once again!
As with most of Ken Akamatsu’s work, Itsudatte My Santa is mainly a comedy story. Santa and “Santa Claus” get into all kinds of trouble and arguments, which benefit from Akamatsu’s proven skill at writing good comedy. However, the manga and its anime adaptation are held back by a general lack of creativity & passion.
Overcoming cynicism and learning to love Christmas is already the default Christmas movie plot, after all. The manga is also short, so it doesn’t really go into any depth or significant character development. That’s somewhat to be expected for a one-off, but it has jarring continuity errors on top of that. It certainly feels slapdash compared to Akamatsu’s usual work.
A lot Itsudatte My Santa also relies on familiar romcom gags. You’ll get the usual jokes about perverted boys, accidental nudity, and pantyshots, none of which will wow anyone even remotely familiar with fanservice. The underwhelming art also sabotages the appeal of these naughty jokes.
These same issue carry over to the anime, which feels even more amateurish. There’s a constant awkwardness to the anime, with jokes never quite landing and every scene feeling rushed. Director Noriyoshi Nakamura is fairly inexperienced, which could explain why the anime never quite feels right. The voice work is also an issue worth mentioning. Though Itsudatte My Santa has phenomenal talent like Aya Hirano and Yukari Tamaru on board, it sounds pretty bad; especially when it comes to side-characters. The encounter between Santa and the thugs in episode 1, for example, stands out for being some of the worst, Japanese dialogue I have heard in quite some time.
The 1-hour runtime is also far too much to adopt a manga that barely counts 40 pages. Several events had to be stretched out or altered entirely to accommodate this. This does the comedy no favors at all, as quick, snappy jokes from the manga are turned into overlong ordeals. In a hilarious turn of events, the rewritten story does fix a plot hole from the manga, only to cause new inconsistencies altogether. This includes one of the worst directed scenes I have seen in a long time:
Hidden for spoilers, select to read.
Santa Claus takes Santa to various children to deliver presents, including the kids living in a shelter. Santa realizes that this is where his parents work and they have missed his birthdays all those years to take care of these kids. In the background, his parents are about to call him to congratulate him on his birthday, while he is actually standing right behind them. Santa still answers his mobile phone and talks, which his parents seemingly fail to hear at all. He also makes no attempt to approach them, in spite of being mere meters away. In the next cut, Santa is suddenly outside, with no transition between areas or clear indication of where this is. In the manga, Santa’s parents return home to celebrate his birthday, but just disappear without explanation. Both story events are quite bad, but it feels more egregious in the anime because it lasts much longer.
Though anime that actually feature Santa are rare, Itsudatte My Santa is not worth bothering with, even for its novelty value. It’s a shoddy OVA based on a lackluster manga, whose easy laughs come at the cost of a paper-thin story and low production values. Maybe stick with reliable “Christmas” anime like Toradora and Tokyo Godfathers instead.