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5 Best Anime Holiday Episodes & Specials

5 Best Anime Holiday Episodes & Specials

Everybody celebrates the holidays differently. For some, it’s a time for quiet gift exchanges with friends around the living room. Others mark the occasion by playing in the snow with cuddly, little monsters, or by doing some “sleighing” at a reindeer-themed massacre. One of these picks even settles once and for all the enduring question of whether Son Goku could beat Santa Claus in a fight. Maybe Japanse animation isn’t always appropriate to the holidays, but it will always make the holidays more memorable than the umpteenth airing of Frosty the Snowman. Read on, and get some unique programming ideas for this month.

Sword Art Online — “The Red Nosed Reindeer”

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It’s anime. There needs to be at least one pick that turns the most wonderful time of the year into a heart-wrenching occasion of digital terror. This one’s a bit like what you’d get if “Gift of the Magic” were reinterpreted by a sadistic game developer. Heroic digital avatar Kirito links up with the Black Cats’ Guild in this sword & sorcery MMO, and the small group toils throughout Advent to raise enough in-game money to build a home for themselves. Of course, on Christmas Eve everybody but Kirito is slain by elf-like baddies, leaving the erstwhile hero to avenge their deaths. The episode ends in tears, with the most dispiriting humming of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” because it must.

Pokémon — “Pikachu’s Winter Vacations”

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Little shorts so delightful, they became an annual tradition. Many people may have the new games or various Pokéball paraphernalia on their lists this year, but for this pint-sized electric mousy creatures, the holidays are all about shenanigans in the snow. On one occasion, Pikachu stays up late on Christmas Eve and discovers that Santa, naturally, has his own Pokémon–a “Stantler.” Another time, the critter finds a lil’ Kangaskhan on a misty mountain and invites the baby along for some sledding, followed by a big, joyous snowball fight. Show these shorts to any Grinches in your life, the cuteness is guaranteed to make their hearts grow at least two sizes.

K-On — “Christmas!”

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When the gift exchange is announced with an emphatic shout and a fist pumped, you know your characters definitely aren’t taking the holiday for granted. And really, that’s reflective of the whole theme of K-On, anyway. These four girls are the only members of their school’s music club, and the series sees them transform that neglected little program into something extraordinary through sheer force of enthusiasm. Likewise, what might be a simple trading of presents at one member’s house feels like a true holiday epic.

Azumanga Daioh — “Osaka’s Scary Story”

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Part of the appeal of watching anime for American otaku is the chance to see Western cultural touchstones from an outside-looking-in perspective. This episode of the light-hearted, slice-of-life school comedy offers a sixfold serving of that, as its sextet of lead classmates exchange differing views on the nature of Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick. Some still believe in Santa, others point fingers at Santa Believers in a classroom-sized witch hunt, and some imagine him in ways rather adorably lost in translation. See the screencap above for one of the girl’s bizarre PaRappa the Rapper-esque vision of the gregarious gift giver.

A Very Dragon Ball Z Christmas

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It’s Kakarot vs. Kris Kringle, at last! Yes, this Robot Chicken sketch is an anime parody, not an actual anime special, but the X-mas X-over still feels more fitting than an official Toriyama-devised occasion ever could be. Goku and Gohan aide Santa in rescuing Mrs. Claus from a dirty fightin’ Nutcracker, an evil Little Drummer Boy, and the dastardly Composite Santa/Frosty. With potshots flying at everything from DBZ‘s jumbled jargon to Silver Age superhero silliness and the techno-organic terrors of Akira, this is quite certainly the craziest Christmas caper ever conceived.

Are there other episodes that are far more appropriate to both anime and the holidays? Put your picks in the talkback.

Image Credits: Aniplex of America, AEsir Holdings, Sentai Filmworks, Nintendo, Adult Swim

Featured Image Credit: Toei

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