My Santa Special - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 55
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series:

My Santa Special

By Chris Beveridge     December 10, 2007
Release Date: December 11, 2007


My Santa Special
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Young Santa knows it's tough to be born on Christmas Eve. He feels like he falls between the cracks of everyone's holiday happiness, and even his absentee parents don't seem to care! There might not be any mistletoe, but good cheer comes down the chimney with a kiss from a crazy young Santa-in-Training named Mai!

She has been sent to show sad-sack Santa the true joy of the season... and if he can quit acting like a bummed-out bump on the Yule log long enough to surrender to her considerable charms, the festive fireworks between the two might be hot enough to light up the tree!

The Review!
When average guy Santa is forced to believe in the magic and reality of the real Santa Claus, his life gets turned upside down by love and fanservice.

Audio:
The bilingual presentation for this release is done in a standard stereo mix for both tracks which are encoded at 192 kbps. The mix for the show is surprisingly good with a fair amount of material going to the rear channels at times with how it's done. The show has a good forward soundstage mix throughout the show but the majority of it is your standard stereo mix where it has a full feeling. The music and some of the ambient effects make good use of the left and right channels and some of the dialogue is well placed during some of the more active sequences. The English mix feels like it has a bit more accurate placement to it but in the end both mixes are quite good and fit with the show. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in late 2005, the transfer for this two part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. My Santa has some decent production values to it overall but some of how it wants to present itself comes across a bit poorly. This is most noticeable during the opening sequences that feature the flashbacks and some of the sepia like tones through which we get a bit more noise than is intended. The noise carries through to a few other scenes as well that aren't filtered in the same way but it's fairly mild overall. My Santa doesn't seem to benefit in the same way as some other recent FUNimation titles that have higher bitrate spikes as this one seems to sit generally in the threes through fives. It's not a terribly active show for the majority of it so it isn't a big deal, but there are some scenes where a higher rate would certainly benefit the overall quality.

Packaging:
The cover art for this is quite good as it features all the main women from the show in various Santa related outfits set against a moonlight night. Santa himself gets tossed to the corner, which is to be expected since the show is about the girls, and there are hints of other Christmas items in the background. The framing is cute with reindeer and wreaths as well as miniaturized versions of the series logo. FUNimation kept the original Japanese portion of the logo with "Itsudatte" but they're only soliciting it as the larger "My Santa" with Akamatsu's name. The back cover features some good fanservice shots of Mai in her two forms as well as a few shots from the show itself. The summary runs through the basic plot concept and the background is similar to what's on the front cover. The production credits are pretty minimal here and is squished along with the copyrights and the very small technical grid. No insert is included but there is artwork on the reverse side that has the girls in different outfits set against a dark sky with snowflakes falling that's really cute.

Menu:
The menu design replicates the front cover in terms of character artwork as it has it along the left and coming across much brighter and vivid than the cover itself. Some of it works, but other parts of it just feel a bit too bright. The background works the standard Christmas themes with a white slate that has wreaths and other holiday items along with the appropriately colored logo in small text. The navigation along the right is simple in that it has the big logo at the top and the quick access to the episode list and audio as well as the trailers. Submenus do load quickly and moving around is easy. Due to alternate angles with credits, we manually selected our language options. FUNimation titles continue to mis-label their subtitle tracks anyway and this volume is no exception.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally published back in 1998 in Weekly Shonen Magazine, My Santa is a very short work by the still reasonably well known Ken Akamatsu. Akamatsu isn't exactly a rarity in the manga/anime world, but all of his works have been published over here in one form or another and My Santa is the last one that had been sitting out there for a bit. The show doesn't have a lot of material to work with which means that the two OVA episodes here tell a complete enough story that wraps up well enough while still teasing you with the potential for more.

The anime incarnation differs considerably from the manga, particularly in that the second episode is original as it was never in manga form. In addition, a number of characters are introduced that aren't in the manga at all. The manga, and the majority of the first episode, are pretty close in that it introduces us to the two main characters of Mai and Santa. Santa is a fairly standard and average guy who is living his life but is a bit disconnected from people, especially around the holidays. Born on Christmas Eve and being saddled with a name like Santa, he's never had it easy over the years and it's only been made worse by the fact that his parents are constantly out of the country for their work. It's never easy having a birthday near Christmas, but the days on or around it make it even more difficult. As such, he dislikes the holiday and actively avoids people and things associated with it.

This changes when a pretty young girl named Mai comes out of nowhere and insists that it's her goal to get him to enjoy the holiday. She reveals that she's actually a Santa herself, at least one that's in training, and it's her goal to get him into the proper holiday cheer. He doesn't believe a word of it but as time goes on and the two hang out at his apartment he starts to believe in different ways. Events cause Mai to hang out longer with Santa which means that she spends the next year with him as she builds up her energy to return home the following Christmas. The bonds between the two is what's important and though we don't get to see the majority of their relationship, the bookend periods of it around the holidays does work well enough to give you that simple kind of smile and happiness that you associate with many Christmas specials. And since that's what this really is, when you look at it in that context as opposed to a full work, it's a nice addition to the myriad number of Christmas specials out there.

While light on content, the visuals are clearly very Akamatsu in its nature. Not unlike some of his other material, you can see his limited range quite clearly depending on when you started to get into his works. If you're from the Love Hina generation, then there's certainly enough familiarity to the designs. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as I do like his designs and I enjoy the open nature he takes with the fanservice since he's up front about it. When I get one of his shows, I know exactly what to expect. Lots of boob shots, lots of camera angles showing off butts and plenty of skimpy outfits that reveal just right. I'm not even surprised to see a beach episode in a show revolving around female Santa characters.

The production values aren't quite stellar but they're solid enough that it feels like we're seeing what we did with Love Hina with the animation. The character designs are solid and the outfits change regularly which is always a plus for me when it comes to any show. What amused me the most is that they really did push the magical girl aspect of it in how Mai changes from a slightly mousy brunette into a big busty blonde. The transformation sequence alone is worth the price of admission if you've ever wanted to sexualize Santa in anime form. Ribbons flying everywhere, the boots, the fur… It's like the Three Wishes lingerie catalog came to anime form. Admittedly though, Mai in this form after the transformation isn't all that interesting and I think Akamatsu had the better story in having her in the brunette form and tackling the relationship side with Santa himself. The second episode clearly shows that it wasn't from the manga as it's very different in tone and how it bumps up the magic and wackiness. The first episode has much more of a Christmas Special feeling to it.

In Summary:
With it being nine years since the manga was first published and Akamatsu hip deep in Negima, never mind that it took seven years to make this into an anime, I doubt we'll see any more. Hence, it's a very good low commitment holiday release you don't mind pulling out once a year. My Santa is light, silly, full of fanservice yet has a nice amount of heart to it in the first episode that it clicks well enough. When faced with the dazzling array of Christmas themed specials across so many shows on TV this season, this one didn't feel anywhere near as obnoxious as what's been created in the last few years in North America. My Santa had me smiling numerous times throughout and enjoying the fanservice but it's definitely a fluffy show that's got very little filling to it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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