Just when I thought Christmas was over for anime, Crunchyroll decided to drop me one last gift in the form of a new Locodol OVA before I went to bed. Locodol (a.k.a. Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita.) is definitely a wonderful show; you might think I am just saying that as a general fan of anime idol singers, but I feel that Locodol, despite being about “local idols”, is not really about idols; the girls’ singing and other media works are considered government work and focused more on helping their town of Nagarekawa out in various ways, rather than being geared toward personal accomplishment or fame. That, and there is a greater slice-of-life element to the show overall, which is the route that this Christmas-themed OVA takes.
The focus of this episode is on Yukari, whose birthday happens to be on December 25th. As such, the episode’s happenings involve finding a way to celebrate her birthday amidst the greater festivities of the season. It is overall an interesting situation to be in, and one that is relatively rare in real life; some quick Internet research shows that December 25th is the second least common day of the year that people are born, with only the obvious February 29th being rarer. Nevertheless, it does happen (and probably more often in Japan, where Christmas has somewhat less significance overall than in the West), and it provides some interesting quandaries; Yukari’s friend and locodol partner Nanako worries that if she celebrates her birthday too soon, it will feel incidental to Christmas, as though the holiday will take the spotlight away from her friend’s birthday.
Now, Christmas might be celebrated as a secular holiday in Japan, but for Christians who have friends’ birthdays that fall during the holiday season, the opposite problem might come up: the worry that celebrating a friend’s birthday will take away from the importance of celebrating Jesus’s birth. In these cases, it is helpful to remember that December 25th is most likely not Jesus’s actual birthday, just a day historically designated to celebrate His birth for various reasons. All things considered, celebrating Jesus’s birth is not something that has to be bound to a particular day of the year, and probably should be done throughout the year to some extent anyway.
But let us talk more about birthdays, and what it means to celebrate them. Interestingly enough, the first known birthday celebrations for civilians seem to be among the Romans, with early Christians considering it a pagan celebration, even refusing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in such a way until Christmas traditions were officially instituted in the 4th century. Even now, many groups and some denominations of Christianity look down on birthday celebrations as celebrations of selfishness, of glorifying people rather than God, and of basically engaging in a pagan ritual.
Certainly, birthday celebrations can go a bit too far in the direction of human selfishness and glory. Whether it be a child who fusses over not getting the gift or party he wanted, or well-intentioned party organizers throwing an overblown celebration (perhaps with a bit too much alcohol involved), there are undoubtedly ways that birthdays can be celebrated sinfully. However, in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the anniversary of a person’s birth. In fact, for friends and family, such celebrations can be a good thing. With how short human lives can be, it is worthwhile to celebrate another full year that you have spent with someone close to you, to remember what a blessing they are to your life and show them some appreciation and love for that.
In fact, that is exactly what Yukari’s birthday celebration ends up being: a small gathering of her friends and co-workers to have some fun and show their appreciation for Yukari. It is also notable how low-key the celebration is; despite Yukari being from a rich family (as evidenced by her attending a fancy party the night before), her birthday celebration takes place within her own room and with only simple preparations, with everyone in casual clothes. After all, birthday celebrations do not need to be extravagant affairs, as long as the heart of appreciation is there.
Likewise, birthday gifts are a nice way of showing love to your friends and family, especially those whose love language is gifts. Just remember that it is not the monetary value of the gift that matters, but the thought behind it; despite coming from a rich family, Yukari was plenty happy with the gloves Nanako got her. And if you are the one receiving gifts and get one that perhaps you do not particularly want, try to at least recognize the sentiment behind the gifts. Being on the receiving end of gift-giving can be fun, but rather than thinking of birthdays as a time of getting free goodies, think mainly of the people you are celebrating it with, and the gifts they give you as an extension of their love for you.
This might be an awful lot to think about for something as simple as a birthday, but that probably means that our culture might have come to take birthday celebrations for granted. That might be why, when researching for this post, I found quite a lot of “Christian” sites warning against celebrating birthdays and how sinful they can be. I certainly do not believe celebrating birthdays is sinful as long as it is approached with appropriate moderation, but only as I really started writing this post did I really get to think about what it really means to celebrate a birthday. I have to thank slice-of-life shows like Locodol for reminding me that birthday celebrations, as simple as they can (and probably should) be, can still be wonderful times of fellowship.
The entire Locodol series, including the recent OVA, can be viewed on Crunchyroll. If you want to read more about what I think about the show, check this post out: Locodol: Living for Something Greater.
Is there an anime series you think needs more love? I am always looking out for hidden gems of anime. Post in the comments about your favorite overlooked anime and I may take a look at it (if I haven’t already seen it) to possibly write about it in the future!