It’s a Wonderful Life. Charlie Brown Christmas. Polar Express. Love Hina.
Yes, you read that right. Among all these classics, I include Love Hina among my required Christmas viewing every year. The Christmas special for the show is my favorite episode of one of my favorite series, and is my favorite Christmas anime episode among the many I’ve seen.
Love Hina is an angst ridden show, and this specific episode is full of it. Keitaro is excited, thinking that Naru may confess to him (or at least give him a gift), and is heartbroken to find that she apparently still harbors feelings for her former tutor. All this while Keitaro works himself to the bone to get Naru a meaningful Christmas gift.
The angst in this episode, and in other shows like it (ex. Maison Ikkoku), works because we like the male lead. In Love Hina, in fact, Keitaro is the better person of the potential pairing. Naru is more attractive and much smarter, but she’s also weak-hearted and all too often unkind; Keitaro, on the other hand, always puts others above himself.
How apt that around Christmastime, Love Hina shows us a character with heart, in a season revolving around a God who cares about our hearts. Naru, for many superficial reasons, finds it hard to accept Keitaro; on the other hand, Keitaro accepts and loves Naru, despite all of her deep, significant flaws.
God, too, loves us despite all our flaws. He understands our deepest weaknesses, and during Christmas, we especially remember this connection. We celebrate His coming as a human, and even more powerfully, as a human baby. In humility, He came and loved us, though we didn’t deserve it. And this love is at the very heart of Christmas.