This is a weird one. Like Ranma 1/2’s ‘Tendo Family Christmas Scramble’, this is a Christmas episode of an anime. Unlike that, (and if anything, more in-line with another Netflix item of this sort, ‘Sabrina’s Christmas Wish’) this is a canonical entry into a straightforward, chronologically-plotted show that is released as a one-time Christmas gift to the fans, and lives forever-after outside the season arrangement of the series it belongs in.
To be very clear: this is an episode of the TV show. It does not exist independently of the show’s timeline. It is a direct lead-in to Season 2. It is weird that it is treated as its own thing in Netflix’s catalog, because it doesn’t seem to serve any purpose that way. It’s harder to find, easier to miss as one works their way through the series, and it isn’t as special, important, or self-contained as Christmas specials which were created to be…well, special.
I love this episode–and it is only an episode, remember, no matter how it is packaged or displayed on Netflix–as much as any of Aggretsuko’s best episodes. It is funny, relatable, sweet, cute, charming, just like the rest of the show, and it also does a competent job as a thing which is Christmas-themed. Its holiday spirit is minimum-acceptable, but it gets the job done:
Retsuko is trying to find validation in the arcane, addictive art of fabricating one’s best life on Instagram. Haida is struggling as ever with his desire to become involved with Retsuko romantically. When Retsuko gets trapped at the office on Christmas eve, she tries to doll the experience up for Instagram, to make it looks like she has a more satisfying social life than she does. Haida mistakes this as evidence that she is seeing some new guy. When Feneko corrects his misunderstanding, he rushes to sweep her away, but as is often the case in this show, Retsuko proves that her life exists independent of Haida’s well-intentioned desire to be involved.
The ending is nice enough, as this show always is, and I’m very glad that this episode exists. Aggretsuko is one of Netflix’s finest original offerings, and this episode is the connective tissue which binds season 2 to season 1. But, for being set aside as a Christmas special, it does seem to be lacking something.
I think the reason I didn’t feel this way about Sabrina’s Christmas Wish is that it existed outside of the normal Bojack timeline, and it was framed not just as a Christmas special, but around one as well. There was no question that it existed specifically to be a Christmas special. In this episode of Aggretsuko, though, for all its delightful Christmas cheer (the Japanese are pretty famous among pop culture nerd losers like me for their love of Christmas), it doesn’t have that same, special, “isolated moment in time just for you, the viewer, to absorb Christmas cheer by way of this show” vibe that is present in other specials like the flawed but ever-endearing Tendo Family Christmas Scramble.
Still, it has enough to tick the boxes for me. It’s colorful. It’s cute. The Christmas vibe transcends audience desires (to see Retsuko and Haida match up). There is a very sweet montage at the end featuring some of the show’s less immediately likable characters, where they are shown in their sweeter moments with their loved ones. I mean. Shit. I’m not made of stone.
I love this show. I love these characters. And as for this Christmas episode? I’d give it a
GBU Christmas-Adjusted Rating: 7/10
P.S. I’m disappointed with myself that I didn’t review this sooner. It came out in 2018.
As a Netflix original, that is where you can currently stream it.