Lovefool 12.05.11 | Have Yourself a Manga Little Christmas

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Lovefool wraps up a twee day of hall decking by checking in with some of her favorite Christmas comics.

 

 

Happy December, nerdlings! Here in snowy Omaha, Mr. J and I had a weekend that could only be described as magical and, were it to be montaged in a movie, it would've had the most twee of twee songs playing over it. I'm talking Twilight soundtrack levels of twee here. I woke up to the biggest snowflakes I've ever seen falling out of the sky and stood at a window in my jammies like a child. We both did, for a few minutes—the flakes here look like they're just too heavy for the sky to hold and it's delightful to watch them spinning down from the sky. You almost expect to hear a solid “thwack” noise when they hit something. We built a snowbunny with bottle cap eyes while waiting for a car to warm up (which, amazingly, takes a lot longer when you're building a snowbunny) and played board games with our neighbors while drinking winter seasonal beer on Saturday. Sunday, we decorated the Chateau for the season and laughed at our cats being surprised, again, that there was a tree in our living room while The Nutcracker Suite played in the background.
 
Twee. That's the only word for it.
 
So I woke up this morning in an excellent mood, took a tiny nutcracker to work for my desk and had myself a genuinely good day. Not “good for a Monday,” even, just a good day in general. I'm feeling like I got a double shot of holiday cheer and, naturally, it's pretty much all I can think about, this peace on earth noise. Except Lovefool is theoretically about comics and there aren't really many comics about Christmas. I mean, sure, the big guys put out a few books every year but go on, Google “christmas special 2011 comic books” and all you'll get is a lot of chatter about the Doctor Who special. Eventually, we get to the Marvel holiday books, one of which seems to feature zombies, and DC's Batman: Noel, which got admittedly excellent reviews. But I can never seem to find anything really mainstream that really gets my Christmas spirit flowing, Jingle Belle and Archie aside? (Note: new Jingle Belle the 14th!)
 
Luckily, it's manga where Christmas really gets sparkly, which is weird considering Japan isn't traditionally into such things. In the last few decades, however, they've gotten into the act and made it an odd mishmash of traditions, most of which seem to involve cake. They've skipped all the nonsense about trying to figure out if it's more passive-aggressive to not send a card at all or send one without a personal message and gone straight to the good stuff, presents and sweets. True, they don't even get the day off but it's still become a day for couples to spend together and exchange gifts. I guess they get together after work? I don't know but it looks super-fun.
 
This phenomenon of awesome Christmases in manga first came to my attention when High School Debut devoted almost an entire volume to the holiday and it was delightful gooshy stuff. I'm not sure if you've read Kazune Kawahara's High School Debut, but it's about a girl who goes into training to get a boyfriend and then, lo and behold, finds one right where you'd expect her to. But the Christmas volume is excellent and skips the stomach-wrenching disaster scenes you'd expect in such a book and ends up being pretty festive without sacrificing any of that delicious teenage feeling. When I decided to start exploring further and festively, I found an entire wee book by Naoko Takeuchi that conveniently features the Sailor Moon logo on the front in case you've forgotten that she's Naoko freakin' Takeuchi. Chocolate Christmas is an elusive bite-sized bit of festiveness that your Lovefool will never admit to telling you to Google. Seriously, though, Google it. Love Hina also gets into the act, including Christmas not only in a book but also in a widely acclaimed Christmas television special. Of course, The Nightmare Before Christmas has also been released as a manga and it's truly a book for all seasons. Well, fall and winter, at least.
 
Perhaps the most interesting part of these books is that there is absolutely zero emphasis placed on the non-secular origins of the holiday unless they're the awesome. No one goes to church but they sing Christmas carols. And Caroline from Paradise Kiss certainly knew what she was about when she popped out of her front door on her way to a Christmas party holding a bottle of whiskey. Christmas is like a prequel to Valentine's Day in Japan, only better because it's not all cheesy and gender-specific like their unique version of Valentine's Day. It's even warm-ish there, with average temperatures ranging in the 40s and 50s so the ladies of manga get to wear cute things, unlike their Western cousins, who are all running around wrapped in very rounding layers.
 
All things considered and so far from home, I like Japan's version of the holiday, especially through the soft filter of manga. It seems easy and fun and less likely to involve getting shouted at by someone or snowed in. It seems to take the love and leave the less fun aspects of it out. True, they probably don't know how pretty midnight mass can be but it's not like I can make it anyway since they have it at 5:30 these days, anyway. So, alternate arrangements it is—it's almost enough to make me give the sketchy used copies of Love Hina's Christmas special on Amazon a go and pick up a bottle of Jameson for the 24th. Caroline would appreciate that. | Erin Jameson
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