Nobumasa is a boy who works part-time in a shoe store, where he meets Mizuki, a girl whose abusive family life has left her unable to trust other people. Meanwhile, Nobumasa is unaware that another girl, Seiko, has a crush on him but is unable to express her feelings.
It is always tricky to find a balanced Christmas themed production to approach, all mediums taken together. For an amazing one such as "A Nightmare Before Christmas" there are plenty of atrocities creeping in the shadows like "Santa with Muscle" or "Santa & the Martians", which would make the tales of this shamelessly eggnog guzzling uncle of yours sound perfectly grounded...
There are many trends under which these belong to, split into two categories: firstly, the Western ones. They mainly attach importance to what is commonly branded as the "spirit of Christmas". They are either Family or Romance shows revolving around hackneyed themes such as the
need to observe the act of contrition, greet forgiveness in own heart, the belief in miracles, self-realization and the acceptance of differences. They tend to be sickeningly goody-two-shoes given how overly preachy they tend to be... It is as if they are family footage, but screenplayed in a professional way in order to be adapted into the little screen. It lives to be experienced and forgotten at the end of the year. The second is the category occupying us here: the Eastern one. Japanese openly consider Christmas like a commercial great event with an added gimmicky charm, unconcerned they are by traditional christian values. As such, in animation, this time of the year translates as being plotline's flavor rather than a pivotal element of the narrative. While Christmas Specials of established franchises are not uncommon (much like as an episode setting, as widespread as the local festival or Tanabata), Standalone movies and OAVs are. The ubiquitous recommendation I get when asking what to watch is "Tokyo Godfathers". "Ichigatsu ni wa Christmas" does not exactly compete in the same category, yet, it is worth of consideration, to the point you may recommend it without blushing to anyone who has already completed Kon's movie.
InwC (abbreviated as such for the need of this review) is the infant of another Satoshi, Satoshi Dezaki. I know, it is difficult to take the figure seriously, taking into account he directed a series about a gigantic cop screwing prostitutes and downright acting as their pimp while his colleague is in the middle of a stakeout. Yet, Satoshi drives the Magic Bus at the right station: when it has to be consistently serious, it is. Straightaway, InwC stands out thanks to a short apostrophe tinged with sarcastic affection:
- Would you come at the Christmas party?
I have invited you every year but you have refused to come every time;
"I can't suffer it, these celebrations, I detest the December month and particularly Christmas"
You hate a lot of things
I would love to see you at one Christmas party
So that I'd strive to make it as boring as possible
For you, who find funny things distasteful.
But what is it serious about it, would you ask? Romance? On the contrary to what the official genre indexation on Myanimelist suggests, InwC doesn't really dwell on it. It is more of a red herring. Indeed, early on, Fujioka and Seiko are established as a couple. The love triangle is mostly employed as a thread to explore Mizuki's facets. The OAV only becomes interesting when you renounce to anything resembling shipping mentality. Mizuki's infatuation is simply doomed to not happen as nobody could be loved back out of pity. On the other hand, you start to realize how witty InwC is, broken apart as a Fuzokuga. One obvious instance of it is in the opening scene on the shoes store as Fujioka ponders about what lead young maidens to be so keen on pulling pranks, trying on all the footwear to choose nothing... It is indeed a seemingly mundane situation any salesman faced at least once. Another is the dialogue ensuing after Fujioka ensures that the neighbor house is not scouted by a burglar, thus being culprit of a misconduct himself. It comes off as ironic, in answer to the common preconception. However, Mizuki's seemingly sassy nature dissimulates her true colors, which are those of the winter scenery. Much like the official poster shown in this profile page, a part of her opted to fade away from the reality as the snowdrift melting at the end of January. This is one of the numerous instances of play of parallelism outlined by Satoshi Dezaki. Another obvious one is the teddy bear. In the hospital scene, one shot alternates with another as a cinematographic metaphor for arrested development of the girl. The bittersweet end offers a realistic cope out, ultimately reflecting the will of a childlike maiden giving up on an ill-fated love. An intellectually honest direction to branch for, mostly in a production lasting less than 45 minutes...
Overall, the spice of InwC is its characterization put in relief by the competent presentation. The art isn't particularly remarkable; it is in the average of most of the Shoujo-ish designs of the era. The animation does not benefit from a high budget as evidenced by the copious use of panning and recycled animations. It is not a main concern for a production of this type, anyway. The soundtrack manages to sound eerily forlorn and merry at the same time, rendering well the discrepancy between the tragic backdrop of the heroine and the festive atmosphere experienced by everyone else. It is particularly surprising that this OAV has ended to become so obscure, given the participation of one of the most notorious seiyuu/singer of all time: Megumi Hayashibara. It was certainly her presence in the cast which decided Onion no Fansub to complete the subs in the fist place. She delivers here a powerful performance which is likely to please her fans. All in all, InwC is a reminder that you should always give a second chance to directors like Satoshi Dezaki. He may not be Osamu but he remains a strongly capable worker when given a solid framework to weave around. Thank you, Magic Bus. Thank you, Iwadate Mariko, for writing such a spiritual Christmas tale.
Praise be unto Sacred Geometry~
..| Colophon |..
This section is dedicated to content indication in order to inform audience in a practical way. On the next paragraph, the buzzwords offer hints about the title's strong suits and drawbacks.
Ketchup meter: The core of the violence in this anime is the amount of self loathing Mizuki has to deal with for being unable to become the hyphen of her dysfunctional family.
xXx meter: Thankfully, InwC does not bake this bread! No tonal whiplash, then.
Fishing scene(s): None.
+ Representative of a true Fuzokuga
+ A rare Christmas addition, free of happy asspull
+ Well balanced character development in spite of the short length
+ Cinematographic density
+ Powerful voice acting
- Lacks character build up
- Modest production values for OAV standards