Greetings everyone! Your Prodigious Cajun Samurai Josh here with my first contribution to the 12 Days of Christmas festivities! This is my first time participating in one of these since joining the Beneath the Tangles crew, and when our dear boss TWWK gave us the list, and I saw this show was one of the ones we could pick from, I just HAD to pick it up for commentary duties! This one has to be one of the most underrated shows I think I’ve ever seen, and the Christmas Episode that accompanies it is probably one of the best I’ve seen since Toradora. Submitted for your approval, I present to you Kodomo no Omocha.
Kodomo no Omocha, also known as Kodocha (Child’s Toy) is a 102 episode series that aired from 1996 to 1998 and is based on a manga created by Miho Obana. That’s “Obana” not “Obama” (Though it would be really cool if Obama made a manga). But I digress. The anime, directed by Akitaro Daichi, noted director of Fruits Basket, was released in the US by Funimation Entertainment back in 2005. Sadly though, only 51 episodes were dubbed and released on home video, and in 2012, the series went out of print on DVD and not available for legal streaming anywhere.
Really, the only way you can watch this series legally is if you bought the DVD’s, which, at the time of this printing, are going for OBSCENE amounts of money. Thankfully I bought the series long before they went out of print. Ironically, I bought my Season 1 and Season 2 during a vacation in Texas many years ago. Most people buy cheap souvenirs, I buy anime. Don’t judge me.
(UPDATE: So, literally 12 hours before this article goes to press, we get breaking news from Discotek Media that all 102 episodes of Kodocha will be released on Blu-Ray with a tentative release date of Fall 2021 for the first season (The original dubbed 51 episodes) and the second season (sub-only) sometime in 2022 with release dates to be announced later. Also, Discotek announced that this will be a full and uncut version, which means that all the cut audio and OP’s from the Funimation release will be put back in their right places, which means that “7 O’Clock News” will be the OP for Season One as it should be. This marks the first time that the series will be released in its entirety in the US, and to say I’m ecstatic is a prodigious understatement! This show is finally getting the full release it so richly deserves here in the US and trust me when I say that I’m gonna be getting this one as soon as it comes out…I hope. We now return you to our regularly scheduled article)
The Christmas episode that we’ll be looking at today, “The Special Christmas Kiss”, takes place in the second season of the series before the final, and one could argue the most heartbreaking, thirteen episodes as released in the US. As there is a LOT of story that takes place before this episode, I’ll do my best and both try to avoid spoilers while still providing some context. It’s kinda hard to review a single episode this far into a series WITHOUT spoiling anything, but hey, that’s what good writers do, right?
Okay, so the episode starts out as almost all the episodes do in the series with the opening theme “Seven O’clock News” …oh, wait…that’s right. Due to contract restrictions, the original OP was never used in the US release, opting instead for the acceptable, though not quite as good “Ultra Relax”.
The episode proper begins with our female lead Sana Kurata introducing herself and the rest of our cast of characters through Polaroid pictures including her eccentric award winning writer mother Misako, her manager and ex-boyfriend Rei (no, not really her boyfriend), our mascot character Babbit, her former bully and now best friend Akito, and fellow child actor and pre-teen heartthrob Naozumi. And in case you were wondering, yes, this happens at the start of just about every episode. Sana introduces us to everyone relevant character at the start with Polaroids. And trust me, that’s not the only thing that will date this series.
Sana blasts into class (quite literally) with some big news—she’s going to be a writer! Having been discovered by her mother’s editor, Sana is going to have an essay work published. Baby girl is so excited, she decides to break out the Yak Bak and lay down some sick rhymes. No, really. Baby girl raps. And yes, that means that Sana’s English V/A, Laura Bailey (Winner of Best Performance at The 2020 Game Awards), raps as well. And coming from a guy who has heard more than his share of rappers and wannabe rappers, I gotta say, with all due respect, this white girl can rap her behind off! And it’s not just this occasion. Throughout the series run, Sana will literally just break into song to relay her feelings, more often than not relying on rap with her handy Yak Bak. I would like to see Tohru Honda pull THAT off.
But I digress. Back in the classroom, Sana announces to the group that she invited Naozumi to her Christmas/Middle Birthday party, much to their delight. Sana then confronts Akito, laying down subtle hints that he had better get her a very nice Christmas/Middle Birthday present or there will be hell to pay. (Oh, before I forget, It’s explained in the previous episode that Sana is having a party to celebrate both Christmas and the middle day between her and Akito’s birthday—their “middle birthday”). Of course, as is typical in their relationship, Akito trolls her, and she, of course, angrily takes the bait leading us into the episode titles.
Fastfowrd to after school, Akito and his best friend Tsuyoshi go out to find a gift for Sana—they would’ve went earlier, but due to an earlier confrontation with Naozumi (Who has a crush on Sana) they got distracted. Now at the 11th hour, Akito doesn’t know what to get Sana, and is sinking, quite literally, into despair. Having come up short, the two boys stop off for lunch and see a commercial that Sana did with Naozumi with the latter kissing her on the cheek. This gets Akito thinking about how he felt when he got a present from his father, a model dinosaur. What WAS it with 90’s kids and dinosaurs? Seriously, kids in the 90’s really had a thing for dinosaurs. Was it the whole Jurassic Park/The Flintstones live action movie? I don’t know. But all I remember from the 90’s was dinosaurs, whipped cream pies in the face, Mark Summers, Packard Bell computers and Amazing Discoveries. But I digress. Later that night at home, Akito’s sister offers up her opinion on the matter—so long as it’s a gift from the heart, it doesn’t matter what he gives her. Yeah, let’s not tell her that Akito contemplated getting Sana a bra earlier in the episode because she “needs it”. One thing you learn about Akito, he can be rather blunt and he can be just as dense, if not more so, than Sana.
The night before the party, everyone is in high spirits in the Kurata household getting the decorations ready. Rei, Sana’s manager, is giddy at the idea of spending time with his girlfriend, but due to scheduling conflicts, she won’t be able to make it, throwing him into a literal pit of despair. What is this, Legends of the Hidden Temple?! What’s with all the pits of despair!? However, it’s not all bad; in a switch from the norm, Misako’s editor finally gets her manuscript on time so he can also have some fun on Christmas Eve with his lady love. Naozomi arrives and tells Sana that he won’t be able to go to the party as he has made plans ahead of time that he can’t break. Sana is disappointed, but Naozomi promises her that he’ll have a gift for her.
Fast forward to the night of the party and everyone comes over, except Misako who is outside looking in, wanting to give her daughter space to be with her friends…also because the giant Christmas tree she has balanced on her head won’t let her go in the house. Just go with me on this one. Sana breaks the sad news to her friends that Nozomi won’t be there, and of course, the Naozomi-loving fangirls take it as well as can be expected—they gorge themselves silly with food. Sana gives Akito his gift—a model dinosaur. However, Akito doesn’t have a gift for Sana…which she takes surprisingly well, considering she promised fire and brimstone earlier. Tsuyoshi told her how hard he worked to find just the right gift, and the fact that he put forth that much effort and thought about it for so long was present enough for her. Meanwhile, outside, Misako is on the phone with somebody…and judging by the conversation we hear, it’s probably not the best of news.
Later on, with the party guests moving outside for some shenanigans in the snow, Sana gets a phone call; it’s Naozomi. He’s calling from a local school that has a special meaning for the two of them. I would explain in detail as to why this school is special, but that would lead down the path of PRODIGIOUS spoilers and it’s hard enough keeping this as Spoiler Free as possible, considering how deep we are in the series. Naozomi gives Sana his present—the small children’s choir at the school singing a Christmas carol for Sana. Of course this touches her heart.
Afterwards, Sana joins the party outside with the others. A stray dog comes up and, while initially skittish around Sana, the little pupper takes a liking to her, as do everyone else that encounters our adorable, spazzy ball of rapping energy. This causes Akito to wonder if Sana is kind to him because she thinks he’s just a wild stray. Tsuyoshi rightly tells him that baby girl is prodigiously dense and that he will have to tell her his feelings directly in order for her to get it. That Tsuyoshi. What a bro. And the fact that he’s voiced in english by one of my favorite V/A’s, Greg Ayres, makes him even more awesome.
After the party, Misako notices Akito is still in the yard, hunched over something. When Sana goes out to investigate, she sees that he made a little snowman for her as a present. She’s over the moon, especially when she finds out that Akito really did enjoy himself at the party. Akito is one of those kind of characters that really doesn’t show his emotions that often, so to hear that he actually enjoyed himself is amazing to Sana. Akito finally decides that now would be a good time to tell this adorable spazzy dork how he feels. After a few stuttering false starts, during which Sana is clueless as to what’s going on, Akito takes her by the shoulders and, as the Christmas snow falls around them, plants a kiss on her lips. He then dashes off without saying a word, leaving Sana dazed and confused. Later, before she goes to bed, she questions why on earth didn’t she pull away or freak out when he kissed her. In a previous episode, Sana was freaking out and panicked over a kiss (on the cheek) with Naozumi for a commercial she was shooting–even to a point where she shut the whole production down. This time however, she just stood there and let it happen and she wasn’t even upset with Akito afterwards. This causes our adorable dork to freak out before drifting off to sleep.
Christmas Morning rolls around, and instead of being awoken by the sounds of happiness and gift opening in the living room, men in dark suits and glasses barge into the house, marking everything for seizure. When everyone asks what’s up, Misako calmly states that the Kurata family is now bankrupt. Uhh…Merry Christmas everyone?
So where does that leave us? Well, suffice it to say this is a sweet little Christmas episode and a prodigious example of what Kodocha is all about— rip-roaring comedy, drama, and a little schoolyard romance all wrapped up in a perfect bundle. Though they don’t really dwell on any Christmas religious themes, the show pretty much focuses on being with friends, family and the ones you hold dear, message that will carry on heavily in the next story arc as we deal with this latest Kurata family crisis. Honestly, I think Kodocha got a really bad rap here in the US, and I firmly believe that this is one series that deserves to be brought back in some way shape or form. Heck, if they can bring FRUITS BASKET of all things back, then Kodocha should be a no-brainer. (Update: They did. Thank you Discotek!) At least that’s what I think. See you next time!
Kodocha is currently not available for streaming but will be available from Discotek in Fall 2021 (Hopefully).