TWWK Note: Welcome to the first post for Anime Today, a new column on Beneath the Tangles focusing on current series. Japes, formerly of the Japesland blog, is joining our group of writers as our first columnist. Please give him a warm greeting – I’m really excited to have him aboard, as we’ve been close for a while even before he agreed to join the blog.
Today I’m going to be focusing on a new series entitled きんいろモザイク (Kiniro Mosaic) or KINMOZA. For those who are not watching the series this season (I heartily recommend it, by the way!), KINMOZA is a sketch comedy by Studio Gokumi based on a four-panel comic of the same name, much in the vein of Lucky Star and Nichijou.
Quite stereotypically, the writers of KINMOZA decided to throw in a Christmas-themed episode, which we are getting early this season due to the twelve-episode length of the series. However, in this episode (episode eleven; the latest episode as of writing), KINMOZA did something I usually do not expect, but always appreciate: present a western tradition according to its different interpretations and celebrations.
If you are reading this, then you are likely familiar with Christmas in anime, and perhaps, to a lesser extent, Christmas in Japan. In Japan, the major event of what we call the “holiday season” is not Christmas, but New Year’s, which makes sense since Christmas is an import holiday for the Japanese whereas New Year’s has existed historically. This said, Christmas takes on a whole new meaning. As was mentioned in the episode, Christmas is more like the western Valentine’s Day: a day for couples. In fact, the meaning it shares with the western definition of Christmas is more akin to the secularization of Santa Claus (ironically based on the Greek Christian Saint Nicholas). This is further exemplified by the loss of the etymology of the word Christmas (“Christ’s Mass”). In Japanese, the word becomes ”クリスマス” or, literally, “Kurisumasu.” In the language exchange, the root meaning becomes totally lost with Christ becoming, essentially, “Chris” and “Mass” become different from the Japanese word for mass, or ”ミサ/misa” (due to retaining the English pronunciation). While this is unimportant in and of itself (I believe meanings are more important than words, which is why I am not offended by the casual use of “X-Mas”), it is still quite telling of the cultural priority of the holiday in Japan as opposed to the religious priority, just as with the commonality of the “white dress wedding.”
All of this is (though not explicitly) is shown through the words and actions of the Japanese main characters, Shinobu, Aya, and Youko.
Where this series begins to differ from the majority of anime in the depiction of Christmas is the inclusion of two English characters: Alice and Karen. In regard to the former, we are given a more “classic” view of the holiday. Alice describes here celebration at home and how big of a deal it is with her culture and family. Each year they attend church and spend the day as a family (which she holds as important enough to consider returning home to England for Christmas), as opposed to the couple-centric celebration in Japan. She even goes on to mention the explicitly Christian heritage of the holiday, namely the birth of Jesus Christ.
Now, up until this point, KINMOZA has not done anything terribly creative. Sure, many anime don’t touch the Christian roots of Christmas, but in the scheme of things, many do. What really sets the episode apart for me is what follows.
Following Alice’s comment concerning the birth of Jesus Christ, the Japanese characters are taken aback by the more solemn view of the holiday, apologizing for not taking Christmas as seriously. For comedic effect, immediately following this exchange, the party is met by Karen (the other English character) in full Santa garb shouting “Merry Christmas!” (which, I might add, in her original Japanese she shortens to leave out the “masu” part). Now while this was used for a (relatively) cheap gag, the implications of Karen’s outburst, namely her worldview, say much about the western version of Christmas. Often, the Japanese will overgeneralize the western Christmas as Catholicism-oriented (not on purpose, seeing as I likely overgeneralized the Japanese Christmas with what I wrote earlier), but Karen’s view supports the fact that not all westerners are Christians, or even follow Christian customs (hence the emphasis on Santa Claus).
Now, I say all of this not to belittle any particular celebration of the Christmas season (obviously, the birth of the Jesus varies in relative importance depending upon whether people believe him to have been an influential man or Son of God), but to point out an excellent example in recent anime of different views of the holiday being more accurately represented (it irks me to no end when westerners are automatically cast as cultural Christians, and therefore not even true believers at all). Although religion is not really explored in KINMOZA (and it likely shouldn’t be for it simply does not fit the tone of the series), small details like this make it much more enjoyable to one with an analytical eye.