December is upon us and that means, for better or for worse, the Christmas holiday season is in full swing. For some, this means cranking up the jingles, festooning every available surface in tinsel and lights, and hunkering down for a deluge of special geared toward the the true meaning of it all™. While my mileage usually varies from late adopter to non-participant in the first two areas, I’m mostly unashamed to admit that I’ve been known to spend my time in front of some classic, and sometimes not so classic, holiday programming. Planting itself firmly in the not so much group? Netflix’s Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas.
Taking notes from both traditional anime OVA’s and The Princess Bride, Pink Christmas sets itself up as a story outside of current canon that Charles/Sadie is telling a bedridden Kaz. In said story, Kaz is up against his usual demons, both figuratively and literally, as he stares down maintaining his status and sanity through an elite Secret Santa event, a gorgeous sweater party (yeah, you heard me), time spent with family, and the ever-present threat of supernatural hijinks. Along the way, the tale also provides a glimpse into the Kaan family lineage and the life of one of the shows most sidelined side characters.
At face value, the special appears to be geared toward traditional holiday themes, albeit in its own way. At the center we of course have Kaz, drenched in typical self-absorption magnified by festivities garnered toward excess, and desperately in need of an education of the true meaning of the holiday. As an ostensible means of remedy, viewers are given Kaz’s worldly Aunt Angelique, and a plucky sales clerk named Salesclerk Herbert Simms who lives to serve to a fault. Between Angelique’s crass distaste for all things snobby and aristocratic, and Herbert’s unwavering loyalty toward a culture that invariably cast him as a tool of the elite, things start out very Dickensian, with each respectively acting as the ghosts and Cratchit to Kaz’s stylized, millennial Scrooge. Only, viewers mustn’t forget that this is Neo Yokio, and nothing is ever that typical or that simple, and the message that it’s selling is quite the opposite from any holiday fable that most are familiar with.
Ultimately, Pink Christmas hits upon two vaguely dueling truths. First, it very plainly trots out how existence often relies upon recognizing the lesser of two evils and embracing them for the sake of relative peace and continued survival. On the flip side, blind, knee-jerk action can be just as damning as thoughtlessly accepting the status quo. Aunt Angelique and Kaz’s nemesis Arcangelo, to a degree, embody this first notion. Angelique eschews the Kaan family’s demon vanquishing business and ideals of high society that looks down on the less fortunate, but an only slightly deeper look shows that her lack of an alternative for handling demonic threats, and fetishizing of impoverished living while still reaping the benefits of her wealth are no better than the lifestyles she sneers at. Arcangelo’s anti-material goods campaign is similarly self-serving and ineffectual. As he oh so snidely whispers to an appalled Kaz, it’s nothing more than a vehicle for his music career, providing him with even more personal wealth, and simultaneously destroying the industry that keeps the have-nots of Neo Yokio employed and fed, and providing the perfect conditions for the city to fall prey to yet another demon.
No one here, even in the show itself, is saying that the city’s established infrastructure and ideals are without their problems, but it’s also clear they might not be quite as bad as what’s left in the wake of their absence without a solid plan to clean up after it, or even more so, the hypocrisy of cherry-picking what is or isn’t worthy of condemnation for, as Kaz’s less user-friendly Aunt Agatha so coolly reminds him toward the special’s end.
Alternately, the hasty allegiance that a down on his luck Herbert makes in the face of the city’s crumbling capitalist culture and his resultant unemployment, alongside Aunt Agatha’s blunt way of problem solving are equally fraught. Yes, Herbert’s unquestioning love of thankless servitude needed examining and change, but perhaps not by way of becoming a vessel to a demon with apocalyptic intentions. Likewise, Agatha has a decent grip on the way things work in navigating harsh realities and vanquishing evil, but her shoot first, ask questions later-style of management quite literally opens the floodgates that are Neo Yokio’s own undoing.
It’s all fairly heavy subject matter for what is initially presented as a cartoon tale of Christmas whimsy, and even the protagonist recognizes as much, with Kaz leveling a near-outraged ‘What the Fuck?’ at the story’s narrator. But those of us even further outside of the narrative can’t be too surprised that this is what one gets when they go to Neo Yokio for a holiday parable, and honestly, that is what I liked most about it. Straying away from the hyper-meta, and almost effortlessly interwoven, commentary on today’s society– specifically without any attempt at a proposed solution or preached effort toward change– would have put me off in a way that the strangeness the story actual delivered simply could not. I had expectations of what I was getting into, and was delighted when I realized Pink Christmas wasn’t about to try to cram anything down my throat short of a trippy subversion of the Christmas themes currently flooding new and nostalgic airwaves. Neo Yokio has always come to serve unchecked, unabashed self-awareness, and Toblerones, and even with this continuation it has yet to disappoint. Well, I mean, there was the minor issue of the shorted Christmas Toblerone, but I suppose if Kaz can forgive, so can I.
-Bergdorf Goodman being run by a chibi girl called Bergdorf Chan almost ended me.
-I need to take a brief moment to be utter, speculative trash, and ask, what is up with Arcangelo re: Kaz? I mean, I understand that they’re rivals, and that there should be every expectation of them playing around like traditional anime frenemies, but I’m starting to get a little bit of a more than friends vibe. After all, in this hour-long outing alone, Arcangelo orchestrated Kaz being his Secret Santa, wrote a [love] song for him (even if it was just a larger part of the plan), and called him a pink-haired prince before giving him a kiss on the cheek. Like, what’s a girl to think? That it’s all just part of his trolling? That Archangelo just wants to be buddies and has no qualms with closeness condemned by toxic masculinity? How dare you?
-Missed opportunity: I know that a classical music backing-track fits with the show’s elite themes, but I really think the special’s montage of intercut fights between Kaz’s and a demonic Christmas tree, and Kaz’s feuding aunts really would have been epic had it been underscored by Smith’s new song Goku. Just saying.
-Angelique Kidjo as Aunt Angelique is a delight. I don’t know if it was on purpose, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of Grace Jones’s Strangé in Boomerang. Just perfect.
-Trigger Warning; Nothing untoward happens (unless you count an unasked-for conversation with a verbose demon), but there is one instance of drink dosing here. Again, nothing worse follows, but also, gross.
Rating: 4.5 Limited Edition Domino’s watches out of 5.
Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas is now streaming on Netflix,