With Christmas right around the corner, today we’re looking back at some memorable anime series and how they explore the meaning of the holiday within a Japanese context. Without going into too much detail, the main differences between Christmas in Japan and many Western countries like the U.K. and America is that it is more of a couples holiday than a family one and that, besides the small minority of Christians in Japan, it does not really have any religious connection. There’s also the whole fried chicken thing but that’s a treat for another article. With that out of the way, let’s dive into Toradora! and the significance it places on Christmas.
Taiga as Embodiment of the Japanese Christmas Spirit
Despite her frequent outbursts and general irritable attitude, Taiga’s childlike belief in Christmas shows a softer, more considerate side, albeit with a hint of selfishness due to trying to be on good behavior for Santa. She is completely in love with the idea of Christmas and wants to be part of it. Interestingly, part of this zeal for the holiday comes from her past education at Catholic school which actually connects this back to the Christain holiday and the tradition of helping the disadvantaged. At that school, Taiga volunteered to help orphaned children and still continues to send them presents “from Santa” every year as we learn in episode 18.
While not religious herself (as far as we know), Taiga chooses to believe in the spirit of Christmas and Santa Claus, partially because of a memory of a childhood dream of Santa visiting her when she was a little girl and promising to return if she’s a good girl but mostly because she thinks it’s a good thing to believe in that can spread happiness whether or not it’s true or not. She even sends presents to her estranged father and step-mother in spite of not actually wanting to make amends. In any case, Taiga is a perfect example of what a strong belief in Christmas would be in a Japanese context, similar to how many Japanese people choose to follow Buddhist and Shinto religious traditions and ideals without literally believing.
Season of Forgiveness
Another major plot point of this arc in Toradora! is the crystal glass star that Taiga gives to top the tree for the Christmas party. Minorin is completely distraught after her stray softball crashes through the window and breaks the star. With some help from an insistent Ryuuji, it is eventually fixed and becomes symbolic of people who may go through trauma and make mistakes but are able to recover from their damage and come out shining in the end. This again connects to a core tenet of redemption of forgiveness in Christianity and also later interpretations of Christmas like Dickens’ famous A Christmas Carol.
Of Love and Santa Claus
As we mentioned before, Christmas in Japan is considered a romantic holiday more than a family one and this factors heavily into Toradora!’s interpretation as well. The climax of the Christmas arc is Taiga realizing that she does have feelings for Ryuuji after he comes to her house when she was alone after the party and plays with her dressed as ‘Santa Bear’. Before she believed it was okay to be “relying” on Santa as she didn’t really believe in him (but chose to anyway) and seeing now that she has really been relying on Ryuuji is a major revelation.
It’s interesting that things end pretty bittersweet at the finale of the arc with Minorin officially rejecting Ryuuji after she saw Taiga crying after he left but this all still reflects the importance of romance on Christmas and sets up the remainder of the series. The original song Holy Night that Taiga and Ami sing at the beginning of episode 19 is arguably another manifestation of this that connects to more modern Christmas songs that often have a romantic element, as opposed to traditional caroling songs.
Altogether, Toradora!’s Christmas arc is one of the most memorable in all of anime and stands out quite a bit from the many one-shot fluff episodes in other series as it can be interpreted as having many connections to both traditional Western ideas of Christmas while still fitting snuggly within a modern Japanese context and exploring the often complicated feelings associated with the holidays.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to stick around Honey’s for more of all things awesome, anime Christmas episodes and otherwise! Until next time, see ya~!