My Santa! DVD Review

Santa was born on Christmas and as a result his birthday is overshadowed by the Itsudatte My Santa DVD Coverholiday. To make matters worse his workaholic parents never bother to show up for his birthday. After celebrating his birthday alone year after year no wonder Santa hates Christmas. This Christmas Eve, however, Santa is in for a surprise. He is granted a visit from Mai – a young santa in training who’ll do everything in her power to make sure this Christmas will be a memorable one for the miserable Santa.

The Itsudatte My Santa one-shot manga was a slow sweet romantic comedy. Plot-wise it relied on very little to keep it going, instead encouraging you to slowly enjoy the developing relationship between Santa and Mai. In contrary to the slow manga the Itsudatte My Santa! OVA is paced like a marathon. The story is told in a fast paced manner without any stops or breaks. It ruthlessly shoves pictures and audio at you and never stops or slows down for you to appreciate it. In addition this is a very talkative OVA. Characters are always indulged in a conversation (or a monologue), even when the situation hardly requires it. The conversations feel rushed, as if the voice actors and actresses were trying hard to fit all this text into two 30 minutes episodes. To add insult to injury, the voice acting for the OVA ranges from very good to plain horrible. Mai’s voice, in both Japanese and English, is the stinker of the bunch. She is loud, annoying, and in the English dub she also swallows the ending of some sentences. Luckily Santa’s voice is fairly good in the Japanese audio track and excellent in the English one. With these constrains burdening the execution of the OVA it is hard to find it an enjoyable watch. Both the story and dialog stays entertaining as long as you keep your expectations low and your mind open.

As the night moves on Mai tries her best to remind Santa of the cherished values of Christmas. Her unwavering attempts to make Santa happy on Christmas Eve gradually peel off Santa’s layers, allowing us to understand why he finds it so hard to enjoy this time of the year. The music does a good job at enhancing the bitter sweet reality of Santa’s Christmas. There are some pretty sweet melodies as well as a couple of fully voices songs included in the OVA, but you might find it hard to hear them considering the main characters never stop talking. As the OVA leans much more on the comedic elements of the manga rather than the romantic ones it also fails to create a convincing romantic atmosphere to Santa and Mai’s crazy Christmas Eve. The romantic edge seems to have been lost in the transition from picture to animation. When the OVA does push a romantic line or two into the fry they feel forced and unbecoming. When you mix this romantic illusion with the nonstop comedy and general Christmas glee you end up with a mixed bag of presents, some of which will betray your expectations.

The OVA is split into two episodes, with the first one covering the Christmas Eve in which Mai and Santa meet and the second one covering the year following that night. The second episode introduces two new characters. Shelly (or Sherry in the English dub) is Mai’s best friend and rival. She is a strong willed girl who adds spice to the series. She receives an appropriate dub for both version and fits naturally with the rest of the crew. On the other side of the spectrum we have Mai’s little sister Maimai (or Mai² as her name is officially written). Unlike Shelly she is but a prop (literally, she is just there. No more, no less). Admirably the second episode manages to shove in a beach scene without making it an obscene fanservice fest. The second episode continues the comedic antics but tries really hard to make us believe in the gentle romantic relationship Santa and Mai are sharing. But here, yet again, the fast pace raises its ugly head. An almost slide-show like sequence is used to show us how Santa and Mai spend an entire year together. It leaves no real space for character development at all. The first episode tried to convey how Mai falls in love with Santa in a matter of hours – she meets him on Christmas Eve and is in love with him by the night’s end. By pure logic the second episode, which covers a whole year, should have allowed their relationship to develop a bit more slowly. Sadly the second episode’s romance is even more lukewarm than its predecessor. Itsudatte My Santa! takes the fact that the two main characters are a romantic couple for granted and ultimately fails to deliver a solid presentation of that notion. In the end you are left with the feeling that the OVA should have been more refined, twice as long and run at half the speed if it wanted to achieve a more balanced presentation. The second episode ends with a preview for a third, never produced episode. Clearly this OVA didn’t garner enough attention to secure a third installment in Japan. Maybe it’s for the best.

Like the series itself the DVD by FUNimation Entertainment is also a mixed bad. The DVD case is quite nice and feature a reversible cover which shows a detailed illustration of all the characters in the OVA. The DVD menu is done in good taste. It’s simple, has nice background tunes to it and allows easy access to both episodes as well as specific scenes. Visually Itsudatte My Santa! looks quite good. Its official picture ratio is 16:9, which looks fine. However I found that resizing the picture to widescreen format (which adds black bars to the top and bottom of the screen) makes the picture even more colorful and sharp. I suggest you try it out if your TV supports image resizing. As audio goes you have the choice to watch the series in English or Japanese with or without subtitles. Stereo is the only option available, but I can’t see this OVA gaining anything from surround sound even if it were available. The DVD has an extras menu but the OVA itself does not have any extras. Instead the extras menu is filled with trailers for other series.

The DVD does have some visible faults. When FUNimation authored the DVD they forgot to remove the recording sign from the final release and so an annoying small rectangular box with a camera picture in it is visible in the upper left side of the screen at the beginning and ending of each episode. Initially I suspected that this problem stems from my DVD player, but after checking the DVD in multiple DVD players on different TV sets I can confirm that this is indeed an authoring mistake made by FUNimation. The translation of the OVA is also somewhat problematic. I found one critical error in the subtitles for episode one. There are more than three mistakes in the subtitles for the second episode, although they have less direct impact on the plot and can be easily discarded. A far worst issue is present in the English dub track of the second episode. Here we find a large number of inconsistencies in the translation that, in the end, makes a plot device in that episode seem like a badly written joke. This plot device is handled with care in the Japanese audio, so the ill use of the English dub is made more noticeable. It’s hard to recommend one audio track over the other. If you choose to watch the OVA with the original Japanese dialog you will eventually find yourself wasting more time reading the subtitles than enjoying the art or the animation. However, if you choose to watch it in English you will have to deal with Mai’s horrible dub and a falsely translated second episode. It’s a tough choice between two unsatisfying options.

As an interesting side note FUNimation released Itsudatte My Santa! twice. There is the original 2007 release and a 2008 rerelease available out there. The copy I watched for this review is the 2008 rerelease. It’s disappointing to know that FUNimation let all those DVD issues slide under their radar when they rereleased the title.

Itsudatte My Santa! is a comedy OVA with a below mediocre execution and an unsatisfying aftertaste to it. There is no balance between the long expositions of dialog and the almost static presentation of the visuals. If the OVA’s fast pace won’t hinder you than its forgettable plot will. Any attempt to find a coherent story or a well-developed crew of characters therein will leave the viewer disappointed. The romantic potential this OVA had remains buried down deep beneath the cliché jokes that litter its surface. Itsudatte My Santa! is a low par Christmas tale that is better left forgotten. There are better ways to enjoy that magical snowy Christmas vacation.

 

Pros:

-          None this time.

 

Cons:

-          Inappropriately fast paced.

-          Implied romantic relationship is not convincing.

-          Translation errors can be found in both subbed and dubbed versions.

 

Final Score: 3/10

 

 

Product Information: My Santa DVD (re-release). Published by FUNimation Entertainment. Release Date:  November 18, 2008.

Review Equipment: Sharp 40-Inch LCD LED HDTV (LC-40LE810E) connected to a Premier DVX131 DVD using an HDMI cable.


 

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