Review: Merry Happy Christmas by Amy Tasukada

Happy-Merry-XmasRating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Short Story


Aoi and Sato are excited about spending their first Christmas Eve together—the holiday that is as good as national date night. Before they can get to the festivities, however, Sato has to endure a night of drinks with his coworkers, who are actually crashing a date with Aoi, and Aoi has to come clean about a last minute work assignment for his job as as voice-over actor in far-off Hokkaido.

Despite these setbacks, they go ahead and plan on spending at least Christmas Eve together. Sato pores over what gift “Santa” can bring his boyfriend. Meanwhile, Aoi is adamant he’ll have time to pick up the KFC dinner he ordered months in advance. To make matters worse, Aoi gets trapped in a storeroom with a handsy colleague and misses his flight back home and Sato is left waiting the airport for his no-show boyfriend. By the time Aoi finally gets free from work and makes it back to Tokyo, he’ll have his work cut out for him to bring home a Christmas dinner and have a real Christmas Eve with Sato.

Yes. You read that right. Christmas Eve, for all intents and purposes, national date night. What about Valentine’s Day? That’s for “obligation chocolate” (you get the good stuff for people you like/have a crush on, but you get the de facto box of chocolates for anyone male with whom you work). And the KFC thing…I, too, thought this was a Japanese national THING. Turns out it might not be quite the nationwide thing I thought it was as my colleagues (who are from the middle-ish part of Japan) have never heard of this “tradition.”

Still, all these things ring so true to my experience of Japan. Like the first two installments of this series (Would it Be Okay To Love You? and Year One), this is a story chock full of common Tokyo experiences. I admire the tact with which Tasukada approaches the gay-in-Japan aspect as well. There are two significant episodes covered that I found of particular interest. The first happens during Aoi’s first scene where he’s in the recording booth, reading his lines as the sub (or “uke” which is literally “receiving”) finally getting the dicking he’s lusted after. The production director encourages Aoi to read it with more fear and Aoi, clearly unable to be openly gay even if he plays gay characters in boys’ love programs, mentally berates the director for thinking any top worth his salt would go ahead with a bottom who’s fearful.

Maybe it’s the recent run on highly visible figures being torn down for sexual misconduct, but I thought Tasukada’s handling of this almost (?) de rigueur attitude to be spot on. I also loved how Aoi’s awesome attitude comes shining through when he flips the director off in the safety of the window-less recording booth.

There seems to be less Sato in this story and I’ll admit, he felt a bit flat for it. The biggest thing he does, beyond the cute bit about how his family celebrated Santa (crack a window), is try to convince Aoi to let him pick up their Christmas KFC and worry that, while they’re stuck drinking with his colleagues, they’ll somehow mess up their responses and he and Aoi will inadvertently out themselves.

The one criticism I have is that some of the themes here have already been pretty thoroughly covered in other installments. The idea that these two just can’t be together like hetero couples and the bigotry are not new elements. The only real “new” ground we covered was the blink-and-you’ll-miss-is idea of Aoi being almost tempted by the fruit of another.

On the whole, however, I think anyone who’s read the first book or books in the series would almost surely enjoy this installment as well. It’s a true-to-Tokyo-life look at how the holiday is celebrated in Japan (so if you’re unfamiliar with Japan, some of this might seem totally off the wall or perhaps be a barrier to following along…I am a poor judge because I know exactly what Tasukada is talking about). Even without the background knowledge on Japan, you can still enjoy a sweet story about two lovers just fighting to have a happy holiday with one another.

camille sig

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