Christmas is coming, so it’s time to watch all sorts of holiday specials to get into the festive spirit. Alongside Rankin/Bass classics and the plethora of live-action Christmas films, there are more than a few anime specials that are worth checking out. Let’s take a gander at a few of the most fun Christmas-focused anime episodes.
Hamtaro – “Merry Christmas!”
This one’s great if you just want some light, early 2000s nostalgia mixed in with silly Christmas hijinks. The second I turned this episode on while getting ready to write this feature, I was warped back to the early 2000s. This episode has everything you’d want from a holiday-oriented Hamtaro episode, from somewhat awkwardly dubbed songs to weird and funny dub lines. The hamsters are all preparing for Christmas and hoping that Santa visits them, while Laura hopes to get a dollhouse. There are essentially no stakes, making this a silly and breezy Christmas episode that revolves around goofy hamsters.
I also didn’t know that this series was dubbed by the Canada-based Ocean Productions, who dubbed a variety of famous series like Death Note and Dragon Ball Z, as well as a ton of iconic Canadian cartoons. You’ll likely hear a few familiar voices throughout the episode, further adding to this nostalgic Christmas romp.
Sword Art Online – “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
This one is so melancholic that it almost comes back around to being funny. Shortly after becoming trapped in Aincrad, Kirito joins a guild and makes some new friends. They go on various adventures and eventually save up enough to buy a house. As the leader leaves to purchase the residence, everyone else goes into a dungeon to earn money for furniture. They fall for a trap, and everyone but Kirito dies horribly — including the kind and nervous Sachi — leading the guild leader to kill himself. Kirito decides to fight Nicholas the Renegade on Christmas Eve — a Santa-esque boss who drops an item that can revive players.
Though he wins, Kirito learns that the item can only revive someone within 10 seconds of their death and goes back to his apartment. He finds a message from Sachi in which she hums a Christmas carol for him. It’s definitely the most somber Christmas episode I can remember, but it’s one of the better and more self-contained stories in Sword Art Online and a decent pick if you prefer a bittersweet Christmas special.
My Hero Academia – “Have a Merry Christmas!”
Sure, half of this episode is more about the comical way that the students of Class 1-A deal with PR, but the Christmas half is a happy and cute celebration of the holiday. The students are all dressed as Santa (barring Bakugo, naturally,) and are eating, drinking, and generally being merry. Eri attends the celebration and keeps confusing Christmas for other holidays, making for a delightfully relaxing holiday special.
This episode serves as a pleasant break from the intense ongoing story that’s happening before and after the festive celebration. Seeing as the series has gotten rather intense, there’s never been a better time for a bit of a Christmas break.
Pokémon – “Holiday Hi-Jynx”
There are numerous Pokémon Christmas episodes, but as a 90s-born megafan, “Holiday Hi-Jynx” sticks out in my mind as the go-to special. The episode is all about Ash and friends meeting Santa Claus after Team Rocket causes trouble for him. Jessie believes that Santa’s Jynx stole her toy when she was a child, leading her to never forgive him. It turns out the Jynx took the toy to fix it, but couldn’t return it after Jessie stopped believing in Santa. It ends on a snowy note that will get any old-school Pokémon fan nostalgic.
Interestingly, this episode was pulled from rotation not long after airing due to accusations of the titular Pokémon Jynx being based on a racial stereotype. Since then, Jynx has been recolored to be purple rather than black both in the games and the anime — as you can see in the picture above. If that wasn’t enough, this episode came right after “Electric Soldier Porygon” — the episode that gave numerous children in Japan seizures. It was certainly a rough couple of episodes for the original series.
Gintama – “The Santa Arc”
Though it’s called an arc, “The Santa Arc” is only two episodes long. It follows Kagura’s father and Gintoki, as well as numerous other ne’er-do-wells, as they compete to prove themselves to Kagura as the real Santa Claus. It becomes a wild contest filled with wacky hijinks and crude jokes, which get funnier and funnier as the episodes go on.
This arc makes fun of anime tropes and holiday tropes alike, with Kagura and friends parodying everything from The Little Match Girl to shoujo romance anime. It’s the funniest special on this list by far, but it still has plenty of heart to leave you feeling good afterwards. If you want some real laughs and genuine sentiment, Gintama has got you covered.