Seasons greetings to our dear readers! Gintama ranges four seasons and 367 episodes at the present time and includes quite a few Christmas episodes. I have already written about the Christmas story told in episode 200. The present post concerns an earlier Christmas episode from season one. Gintama might be described as a science-fiction, samurai parody, but it covers a wide range of genres and styles within its four seasons. With episode 37 (Titled “People who Say that Santa Doesn’t Exist, Actually Want to Believe in him”), you might dub the first half Old Comedy, i.e. the sort of gut-busting low humor one sees in Aristophanes’ plays. The first half contains nothing especially edifying, but it gives the viewer a good time.
On the other hand, the second part relies less on silliness than on character flaws. Much of the comedy drives off the contrast between the way different sets of our protagonists enjoy or endure Christmas Eve. Inside Yorozuya, we see Kagura, Shinpachi, and Tae enjoying a quiet meal and exchanging gifts. Later, they make a peaceful trip to a shrine. Essentially, they enjoy the quiet and peaceful holiday most people want every year. Gintoki was supposed to have been with them to celebrate, but he never returns from his trip to buy a comic book.
It turns out that Gintoki was busy coming to blows with another manga enthusiast over the last issue of Shonen Jump’s Christmas edition. Each tries to manipulate the other into handing over the comics by telling outrageous lies about suffering relatives. When their argument permits no solution, the store clerk tells them that the store will be closing. In the end, they needed to combine funds to be able to buy the Christmas edition! One would think this would induce them to share the pleasure of reading these comics; but no, co-ownership of the volume only adds fuel to the fire.
These two leave the shop with one hand each on the magazine. They are too afraid of letting it pass solely into the hands of the other. A humorous encounter with an old lady leads to the magazine flying atop of a passing truck, a high speed chase, explosions, and both combatants too tired to read or move after the comics are finally recovered.
The essential difference between the evening enjoyed by Kagura et al. and the one suffered by Gintoki lies in the spirit in which each was enjoyed. Kagura et al. pursued the holiday with simplicity and good will–with a godly spirit. Gintoki pursued the holiday with greed and ill-will: the spirit of the world. People often lament that the Christmas season appears to become longer every year and more commercialized. Yet, I ran across one person who expressed with pleasure the fact that the Christmas season appears to begin on November 1st these days. Whether Christmas exhausts or enlivens depends on how one celebrates the event: immersing oneself in material things causes weariness, but few things are more invigorating than focusing on the joy of Christ’s coming. St. Paul expresses this duality best when he writes: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life,” (Gal. 6:8).
Our Blessed Lord tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. In receiving, we receive the fruits of another’s good will. In giving, we participate in a good work and in charity. We might well have a gift for a lifetime, but good works and charity can be taken with us into eternity. Material goods take up space, we become bored with them, and often need to throw them away when they become a hindrance to better things. On the other hand, charity takes up no space, we cannot become bored with it because God made us for charity, and charity need never be thrown away.
So, I hope that your Christmas is filled with superabundant and supernatural love and lacks all worry, anxiety, greedy, and envy–that it is filled with Christ and lacks the spirit of the world. Have a merry Christmas everyone!
Day 5: Tomorrow we jump into episode 17 of Azumanga Daioh, chock full of the man (cat?) himself, Santa Claus!