Big O’s Christmas episode understands the spirit of the season

Around this time of year, most people have own holiday communication tradition. For most people, it’s usually a movie that was recommended to them by a relative as a child — typically somewhere along the lines of A Christmas Story, Home aloneor It’s a wonderful life. Overall, something that captures what one might call the “spirit” of the season. For me, my winter break media tradition is to revisit one of my favorite – if not my favorite – episodes from one of my all time favorite TV series. my era: 1999 neo-noir mecha anime Big O.

For those unfamiliar, here is some essential background information. Co-created by designer Keiichi Sato (tiger & rabbit) and animation director Kazuyoshi Katayama (Giant robot: The day the earth stood still) under the pseudonym Hajime Yatate, Big O follows Roger Smith, a freelance negotiator and private investigator who lives and works in a post-apocalyptic metropolis known as the Model City. Forty years before the events of the series, civilization was destroyed in a great battle between giant robots (known as the “Megadeuses”) that ended after a mysterious event erased all memories. of everyone on the planet mysteriously.

An ominous trio of giant robots walking side by side in a city engulfed in flames

Image: Sunrise/Sentai Filmworks

While occasionally acting as a mediator between the Model’s military police and the city’s criminal elements, Roger secretly worked overtime as the vigilant pilot of a giant, table-top black cyborg. Piston-armed with purple laser eyes named Big O. With the help of butler-mechanic Norman and his robotic companion Dorothy, Roger fights off a gallery of villains. wants to unearth and revive technology that once destroyed the world for their nefarious purposes.

As far as the anime base goes, Big O‘s is a particularly attractive thing; one that provided the show’s screenwriters, headed by series author Chiaki J. Konaka (Serial test Lain), the freedom to explore a multitude of stories that address everything from the stark class divide between the city’s elite and the city’s impoverished populace to the ephemeral persistence of love. in the absence of memory. As it relates to this essay, it is also the premise that raises an equally compelling question: How do you tell a Christmas story set in a post-apocalyptic world where no one remembers anyone what before 40 years ago?

A man in a black suit and a young woman in a black dress look up as snow falls from the sky.

Image: Sunrise/Sentai Filmworks

The answer, as revealed in “Daemonseed,” the 11th episode of the series, is simple: Christmas is no longer Christmas, but “Heaven’s Day” — a holiday created to celebrate Celebrating the founding of the Model City. The episode opens with Roger walking through a bustling shopping center a few days before the city’s holiday celebrations to pick up Dorothy, who he believes is running errands. Unbeknown to him, Dorothy was buying Paradise Day gifts for Roger, who despised the holiday for its artificial nature and for its tacit celebration of the Model Corporation, the governing monopoly. the city effectively with impunity. When Alex Rosewater, president of Paradigm and the series’ true villain, receives a letter threatening disaster on the eve of Heaven’s Day, Roger is hired to assist the military police in catching the killer. and prevent a suspected attack on the city.

What I like about this episode, both as a Christmas episode and as a standalone story, is that it reveals a lot of new things not only about Roger’s character and his beliefs, but also about the world of the series itself. After his encounter with Rosewater, Roger was informed by his friend Major Dan Dastun that a second secret letter had also been sent to Rosewater, which quoted a passage from the Biblical Book of Revelation. At this point, the series has dropped a metaphorical bomb on its audience: Both Roger and Dastun — or perhaps, for that matter, anyone in the city — know what the Book of Revelation is, except a select few and perhaps the most powerful book. member of Alex Rosewater’s inner circle. It was a brief exchange that was supposed to be meaningful towards the main implications, one that shaped the role of Model Corporation as an entity similar to that of the Catholic Church during the Age of Communion. Dark, preserving knowledge that should have been lost while selectively disseminating and suppressing said knowledge to serve its own interests.

An electronic billboard with the words

Image: Sunrise/Sentai Filmworks

In addition to its contributions to the world-building of Big O, “Daemonseed,” despite its ominous-sounding title, is a moving episode and contains points that quietly probe the question of why people celebrate holidays and mention a sentimental love. implicitly deeper than any concerns of consumer culture. While searching for the author of the letter, Roger and Dorothy run into Oliver, a struggling street saxophonist, and his blind girlfriend, Laura. Following the image printed on the letter of a destroyed church just outside Oliver and Laura’s apartment, Roger learned that the elderly in the neighborhood regularly gathered there to sing, although no one seemed to be there. know why or what exactly they sing about.

“She said old men, when they sang, didn’t know what they were praising,” Roger said to himself as he stood in the shadow of the church’s bell tower. “But they continued to sing the songs in the book regardless.” While Roger seems to dismiss this behavior, believing that any memory of the world before 40 years ago plagues the present with the kinds of questions that only make life more difficult, it is the This is a scene where the series invites the audience to pause and reflect on the questions themselves, even though they can be difficult. What is belief in the absence of memory? Is the act of reciting these songs and rituals in itself an act of foolish nostalgia, or does it speak of some deeper and deeper need that underlies the human urge to seeking the companionship of others and giving gifts in a spirit of communion? For me, it was an episode that elicited all these questions and more, no matter how many times I re-watched it. That’s a big part of why I find myself forced to revisit it around this time of year.

A man in a black suit and a young woman with short blond hair stared at the ramshackle church bell tower framed in the window pane.

Image: Sunrise/Sentai Filmworks

A man in a black suit was walking out of a destroyed building with the shadow of a ramshackle church steeple cross visible in the snow.

Image: Sunrise/Sentai Filmworks

And beyond these broader existential questions, “Daemonseed” is still an animated episode about giant robots, and so you can rest assured that you’ll see a giant robot defeat a Christmas tree. evil giant. As I mentioned before, “Daemonseed” is a special episode of Big Obut one of my absolute favorites that I haven’t touched on is how the climactic battle at the end of the episode features one of the few instances where Roger’s opponent isn’t a mechanical leaf for Big O, which is an organic leaf.

At the beginning of the episode, we see a frantic man in a Santa costume crossing the street with Oliver while walking home. This man was the culprit behind the letter to Rosewater, and after learning that Oliver would be inside the city’s central dome on Paradise Day, he gave Oliver what looked like a jewel. strange emerald. It was later revealed that this “jewel” was actually a seed containing an invasive creature designed to destroy the dome and everything around it. The scene where the Daemonseed is awakened is breathtaking, as tentacle-like vines writhe from Oliver’s pocket as it becomes apparent he’s playing sax before transforming into a giant mass of destructive power.

A giant black robot was punching a swarm of mutant vines, a column of smoke billowing from the exhaust on its arm.

Image: Sunrise/Sentai Filmworks

The battle between Big O and Daemonseed was one of the best in the first season of the series, with Roger using nearly every weapon and tactic in his arsenal when trying to fend off the creature. this object. However, the war ended in a stalemate, with the Daemonseed disintegrating after having accomplished its true goal: destroying the dome surrounding that part of the city that obscured the sky above. The final scene itself is a moving coda, with Oliver reuniting with Laura in tears, bystanders marveling at the giant tree as snow falls from a crack in the dome, and Dorothy and Roger exchanging redeem while Oliver plays a saxophone cover of “Jingle Bells” in the background.

“Daemonseed” is more than just a Christmas episode creation, it is one of my all-time favorite movies and one that I enthusiastically recommend to anyone curious about the series. this story. It may not be the best indie intro to anime – I still consider the first and second episodes the best places to start – but it’s nonetheless a great episode that showcases a lot of the work. substance that makes up Big O one of my favorite anime to this day.

Big O available to stream on HIDE.


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