R.O.D: A Christmas Carol
December 23rd, 2013
R.O.D. - A Christmas Carol is the 73rd episode of Anime Abandon, and the final episode for 2013. The episode was originally posted to That Guy With the Glasses on December 23rd, 2013. It is also Sage's shortest Anime Abandon episode, clocking in at only 9 minutes, 37 seconds.
Fully recovered from the horrors of Violence Jack in the previous episode, Sage brings himself and his fans some Yuletide cheer by taking a critical look at Christmas through the eyes of anime. Today's subject is an episode from R.O.D.: The TV called, simply enough, "A Christmas Carol."
(Anime Abandon opening Verison 2.0)
Sage: Well, it’s that time of the year again: that time of the year when genuine human kindness pokes its head out through the thick layer of snow that is human indifference, and feels the warmth of the sun for only but a time…before we stuff that little bastard back in from where he came and get drunk before promising ourselves for the umpteenth time that next year we won’t be such a fat, miserable fuck. (Short pause) Merry Christmas.
(Cut to scenes from Joyeux Noel)
Sage (VO): I kid, of course. I love this time of year, and I know that doesn’t sound exactly new or brave to say. But it’s the genuine truth. There’s something in the air that wasn’t there the previous eleven months. A sort of electricity that compels people to act decent to one another. Call it commercialism, call it societal pressure, but there’s no denying people tend to act better towards each other this time of year.
British Soldier: We were talking about a ceasefire. I don’t think anyone would criticize us for laying down our rifles on Christmas Eve.
Sage: What started as a pagan holiday, then hijacked by Christian PR, and then reimagined by one of the largest conglomerates in the world, has turned into a secular holiday celebrated the world over.
(Cut to a picture of a Christmas cake)
Sage (VO): Even countries where Christianity is the minority find themselves celebrating the holiday with as much pomp and circumstance as anyone!
Sage: Enter Japan.
(Cut to pictures of the Japanese celebrating Christmas)
Sage (VO): Japan celebrates the holiday much like America: exchanging gifts, hanging wreaths and lights wherever they can be hung, (Cut to a baby holding a bucket of KFC, and a promotional picture) and eating a lot of KFC. OK, maybe that one bit isn’t so much an American thing, but KFC is so popular in Japan around Christmas that restaurants have to take reservations months in advance.
Sage: And…just like America, Japan loves their Christmas specials, and tons of anime have Christmas-themed episodes. Some were downright insulting…
(Cut to the Love Hina Christmas Special)
Sage: Some were kind of racist…
(Cut to the Hetalia Christmas short)
China: Christmas trees are illegal in my country. It kinda sucks.
Italy: Heh! Just like girls!
China: It’s because they catch fire too easily. The trees, not the girls.
(Cut back to Sage)
Sage: And some were genuinely heartfelt…(holds up the subject’s DVD) like Read or Die’s.
(Cut to footage of R.O.D.)
Sage (VO): If I could be honest, I always felt that the Read or Die series was pretty underrated, and it kind of mystifies me that it’s not bigger than it is. For those of you who don’t know, Read or Die—often abbreviated as R.O.D.—is a meta-series that takes place in an alternate dimension where the British Empire is still kicking around…being all empirical and shit. In this world, nothing is more precious than books, because they contain the knowledge of the past. And whoever can control history can control the present…or at least that’s I think that’s what Rage Against the Machine sang.
The series centers around the agents of the British Order and their main rival for the control of history, the Chinese agency Dokusensha. These agents—called Paper Masters—all have the ability to manipulate paper, creating monstrous constructs out of it, or having it slice through anything that gets in the way.
(Cut to a Ken Burns shot of the R.O.D. OVA DVD cover)
Sage (VO): Some of you may know of the Read or Die OVA, and are probably wondering why I haven’t covered it yet on the show. Well, I’ve been always meaning to, but for some reason or another, it kept getting lost in the shuffle. Which is a real shame, because the TV series dovetails off the OVA, and it would’ve been nice to have something for this episode to build off of.
(Cut to Sage)
Sage: Ehh…chalk it up to poor planning. In any case, the TV series was born out of the success of the OVA, and while we’re not going to focus on the overarching series, unfortunately, we are going to focus on what I consider to be a fine example of a Christmas special: the episode “A Christmas Carol.”
(Cut to the R.O.D. Xmas Carol footage)
Sage (VO): First off, a quick breakdown of the characters. These three girls are Anita, Maggie and Michelle. They’re Paper Masters that work for Dokusensha, and they’re acting as the bodyguards-slash-squatters of the novelist Nenene. Nenene receives an invitation to a banquet held by an awards committee, despite not having written a book in the last several years. She seems dismissive, but the girls twist her arm, and off they go. The girls seem to have having a good time, either fangirling over all the authors in attendance, or over the free food. But Nenene is left dealing with up-their-own-ass authors…
Author 1: And as part of my new promotion effort, I’ll be making a TV appearance on the 18th on “Oops! Late at Night!” at 1:30am! Oh my dear, I’m so embarrassed!
Nenene: Well, that’s just great!
Author 1: Oh, you kidder! No matter how super-famous I become, please don’t ever feel shy about giving me advice! Toodles! Ahh, Pierre Carada, darling!
Nenene: Thank god…
Sage (VO): …or old crones, browbeating her to write another novel.
Author 2: You know, a real writer is expected to produce work with some consistency. There’s nothing wrong with getting a little hung up, occasionally. But after a while, it ceases to be an acceptable excuse. I know you’ve been doing well living on your…previous accomplishments. But if you don’t shape up soon, you’ll have nothing to fall back on when the reprints stop.
Sage (VO): But luckily, her editor comes to defend her, and the evening draws to a close after Nenene is asked to give a speech. Back at the apartment, it’s revealed that not only is it Christmas, but it’s also the anniversary of the night the three girls met. They explain to Nenene how Maggie and Michelle found Anita in an abandoned church two years ago on their very first mission together. After discovering that Anita has no home or parents, Maggie and Michelle find themselves at a crossroads of what to do with her.
Michelle: What do you really think it takes…to make a happy, normal, and completely ordinary Christmas to happen for somebody?
(We see Michelle and Maggie walk away from the church, while Anita bundles up inside the church in the cold. As she looks at a statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus, she begins to weep.)
Sage (VO): Of course, the three reunite on Christmas morning. Realizing that the world is much more bearable when you have people around you that care about you. We flash back to the four in the current day, and end on Nenene beginning work on a new book.
(The episode summary finished, we cut back to Sage)
Sage: It’s not a very action-packed episode, granted, but I love this episode all the same. It goes into detail of the characters histories, and there are some great nuanced moments…but what does all this have to do with Christmas specifically?
(Cut to the episode footage)
Sage (VO): Sure, it serves as the backdrop for the episode, but it doesn’t seem too heavily involved, does it? Well, yes, it doesn’t, but I think the episode has something a little more subtle to say about the holiday.
The holidays are usually a time of stress, and it can be hard to see the joy of the season. At the beginning of the episode, Nenene is swamped with people who think very little of her, if at all. How many times have we all been forced to be in situations like this? Lame Christmas parties, family gatherings, we can all relate to this. Hell, the berating that Nenene received can be likened to a parent scolding their child over their life decisions. But, the episode juxtaposes this with a different kind of gathering: one more intimate and close. We learned what bound these three together, and what continues to bind them, and how they want to extend their sort of makeshift family by inviting Nenene into the fold.
The episode asks, “what does it take to make a happy, fulfilling Christmas for somebody?” And it answers with kindness, compassion and trust: three of the great human virtues.
(Cut back to Sage)
Sage: Christmas isn’t about the food, the parties or the gifts. It’s about showing the people in your life how much they mean to you.
(Cut to the footage one last time)
Sage (VO): If you haven’t seen Read or Die, I highly recommend you do so. Both the OVA and the series are very entertaining. The animation is a little choppy here and there in the series, but it makes up for it in charm. Plus, it knows how to do a Christmas episode right.
(Cut back to Sage for the last time in 2013)
Sage: Well, that’s it for Anime Abandon in 2013. I want to thank you for joining me on this…turbulent ride of a year, and on behalf of myself, Mark, Gabe, David, and everyone else who helped make this show a reality, I want to wish you all a very happy holidays. Don’t worry, I’ll be returning in January, going back to business as usual with…(holds up next episode’s subject) City Hunter. So…’till next time.
The Love Hina Christmas Special
R.O.D. The TV