I had thought that Kanokon ~Manatsu no Daishunikusai~ would be the most lackluster anime that I'd see during 2009. Given that Kouta and Chizuru graced our screens in November, that assertion seemed likely to hold. Oh, how wrong I was. After the delicious melancholy of Blue Drop, I fired up Itsudatte My Santa! looking for something short and funny with a slight zest of holiday cheer. Unfortunately, however, it proved too long on stupid and too short on functioning humor for my needs. Good thing it was a mere two episodes, as otherwise I might have set fire to my monitor in disgust.
Much like Mai, Itsudatte My Santa!'s overenthusiastic protagonist, the OVA tries too hard to please. Straight from a melodramatic voice-over wherein Santa (yes, you heard that right) muses on how children come to stop believing in Santa Claus, the story jumps right into a trainee-Santa Claus attempting to cram happiness down the poor boy's throat. At this moment, any sense of pacing flies out the window, and the "story" careens from gag to gag without pausing to reflect on whether or not anything works. The rest of the uninspired episode consists of an off-brand imitation of A Christmas Carol cheaply bolted onto a half-formed love story. The second portion jumps forward into summertime to provide one of the worst beach sequences in the history of anime: little or no fan-service, a weak riff on Mai's "I can only create things with 'san' in their names" power, and jerky animations of the gang eating watermelon, and finishing off with a montage of Shirley trying to orchestrate some alone time for the two hopeless lovers. That this segment derives most of its humor from Maimai biting Shirley's backside demonstrates the series' puerile wit at its finest.
Of course the OVA wraps up nice-and-neat in the finale, but the fact that the narrative never goes to any length to introduce significant tension or conflict makes the whole thing seem frivolous. However, since Itsudatte My Santa! isn't strange enough to elicit a massive "WTH?" (think Puni Puni Poemy). I--like most viewers I imagine--have to ask, "Ken Akamatsu took time off writing manga for THIS?"
Itsudatte My Santa! has to be one of the most cursorily animated OVAs out there. For most of the two episodes, viewers can feast their eyes on boring pans, nearly-still shots of people talking in front of static backgrounds, and action scenes that play out like flip-books written in the corner of high school texts. In 54 minutes of video, only one scene has any kind of visual flair and the director uses it TO END BOTH EPISODES. Famed moe champion Ken Akamatsu CLEARLY intended these two scenes to be identical. The repeated actions and events serve to reinforce the unchanging and therefore nonthreatening nature of Santa and Mai's relationshi... No. Reusing footage is just plain lazy, and placing it at the end of the boring second episode feels more like a slap in the face than an inspiring end to the story.
No, this OVA doesn't ear-rape you, but it sure-as-hell tries. While Santa, Shirley, and Maimai all have bland, reasonable voicing, Mai bounces immediately into the high-obnoxious register and stays there so long as she's not in Santa Claus mode. Whiny, shrill, and always shouting, her voice actor, the talented Aya Hirano, should be ashamed of this performance, deeply ashamed. Luckily, Mai's magical girl transformation into a holiday avatar lowers the pitch of her voice, and this, coupled with the spare minutes when the character keeps her mouth shut offer some respite.
Underneath all the action, an innocuous score wends its way through the anime. A standard synth affair blends in bells and faux-choral themes to enhance the anime's "Christmas" feel, but the music's low volume means it serves more as layer of frost atop the more offensive aural elements than an active participant in any scene; this is unfortunate, as louder music might have drowned out Mai's grating exhortations.
A foursome of cardboard cut-outs forms the main cast of the anime. Santa himself starts out interesting, but the OVA wastes no time in reducing him to a shallow romantic stand-in by the second episode. But of course, this is a Ken Akamatsu anime, so it's the girls that are interesting, right? Nope. Mai shows less depth of character than your grandmother's silver and nowhere near as much history. She flits between mopey, bubbly, and confrontational with no apparent motivation, which further damages the already frayed plot. Add to the mix her loli sister imaginatively named Maimai and a non-descript rival in the form of Shirley and you get... Well, I've seen mad-libs with more personality.
I know what you're going to say. "Patcheeesss! U scored less than the sum of its parts!" to which I have to reply that this anime is the single most insulting thing I have EVER watched. The short OVA tries far too hard to make the most of its meager content and comes across as scattershot, insincere, and rushed. This drivel wears its three jokes thin within the first ten minutes and then follows up with a tired attempt at romance in its second installment--should you care to stick around that long. The fact that Ken Akamatsu believes you'll watch this or that this is what you're WAITING to see it is tantamount to violence against his fan-base in my mind. Do yourself a favor and skip this one. Also, consider burning your Negima collection in revenge.
What if you were born on December 24th; would you like Christmas? How about if your parents decided to name you "Santa"? Needless to say, Santa strongly dislikes the Christmas holiday because he is always alone and his parents never take the time to wish him a "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Birthday". Yet one Christmas Eve, Mai, a Santa-in-training appears before him and promised him that she will do everything in her power to make him happy. With Mai's help, Santa shall discover the true meaning of Christmas and the magic that happens in this world.
These days I load up on comedy, slice-of-life, and horror shows, but I'll watch almost anything that sports a good voice cast, an interesting story, or looks particularly pretty. I tend to relate anime I review to other shows I've seen, because that's just how my mind works. Whether my warped view on a particular show totally misses the mark or you believe I've hit the nail on the head, I'd love to hear from you and welcome feedback and intelligent discussion of just how wrong I might be.