January might already be halfway over (just where did the time go?), but that doesn’t mean New Year’s has to be over just yet. Before we plunge head first into the new year, we want to take a moment and look back at one of our favorite celebrations – in real life and, of course, in the anime universe.
New Year’s is celebrated all over the world, but it isn’t celebrated the same way everywhere you go. In Japan, New Year’s means watching the first sunrise, wearing kimonos and visiting traditional shrines. This difference fascinates us and that is why we want to dedicate today’s article to some of our favorite New Year celebrations in anime.
We have picked 10 scenes from different anime that show your favorite characters in different adventures, all happening on or around New Year’s Eve. So what are we waiting for? Allow us to take you back in time and celebrate the new year once more. Enjoy!
10. K-On!: Live House!
- Episodes: 1
- Aired: January 2010
We’re starting our list with an OVA from seven years ago that is still able to put a smile on your face now as it was back in the days.
The high school band we all know and love gets the chance of a lifetime when the young girls are invited to perform in a live house on New Year’s Eve. But it wouldn’t be K-On if the group of friends didn’t go through all kinds of troubles before being able to finally have their performance on a big stage. This OVA is filled with as much laughter and innocent joy as all the other K-On episodes while topping it off with a little bit of holiday cheer.
What we liked about this depiction of New Year’s Eve is that it revolves all around friendship. It doesn’t show any “traditional” elements such as shrine visits or mochi making, but instead focuses on what really matters: the people that you celebrate New Year’s with. This OVA is filled with twists and turns, but at the very end the storyline slows down to show the girls watching the first sunrise of the year together. This scene filled us with so much joy that we couldn’t resist but put K-On!: Live House! on the first spot of our list.
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2008 – March 2009
After K-On!, we are moving on to an equally well-known show with Toradora!.
For those of you who are not familiar with this show, Toradora! revolves all around an unlikely couple: Ryuuji Takasu has an intimidating and off-putting aura but is actually a kind guy at heart. Taiga Aisaka might be short and look like a princess, but she is always ready to fight. What combines the two is the fact that they are unlucky in love. This might change though when the students form an alliance to bring each other together with their respective crushes. Can their plan succeed?
The New Year’s scene of Toradora! takes place in episode 20, so rather towards the end of the storyline which might already give you a hint at what kind of twist the storyline is about to make here. This episode follows right after a Christmas special, so the holiday atmosphere is ever-present. In contrast to this quiet time of the year, drama is unfolding between the main cast as emotions are running wild, confessions are being made and the story is building up to the finale of Toradora!. We enjoyed this New Year’s scene since it integrates the New Year’s festivities flawlessly into the ongoing storyline. Check out Toradora! if you haven’t already since it’s a must-watch for all fans of romantic comedies.
- Episodes: 201
- Aired: April 2006 – March 2010
Do you want more comedy, less romance? Then the next recommendation on our list is just for you!
Gintama is the quirky story of Gintoki Sakata, a former samurai who is now holding himself above water with the help of all kinds of odd jobs. He might cherish the values of a samurai at heart, but that doesn’t mean that his jobs always go without disturbances. On the contrary, in a universe where feudal Japan is invaded by aliens from a different planet, anything can and will happen.
Similar to Toradora!, this New Year’s special follows right after a Christmas episode, thus continuing the storyline without interruptions. Now, Gin is trying to find suitable New Year envelopes to hand out traditional money gifts to everyone, but – as you could have expected – this turns out to be harder than expected. We really enjoyed the traditional twist which introduces the concept of giving out small envelopes filled with money (called “otoshidama”) to children on New Year’s Eve. Of course, this scene is combined with the usual over-the-top yet hilarious humor of Gintama, so there was no way we could have excluded it from our Top 10.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2016 – June 2016
After a classic like Gintama it’s now time to move on to a more recent show from last year with Bakuon!!.
This show might be less well-known than the ones we have introduced so far, so let us give you a quick explanation of what Bakuon!! is about. High school girls are usually interested in make-up, shopping, dating and everything in between, right? Maybe, but the main cast of Bakuon!! is here to prove you that girls can also find interest in motorcycles. Sakura Hane and her friends stumble across the motorcycle club at their local school and from that point on, their future lies on the open road.
Episode eight of this exciting new show features a Christmas party as well as a New Year’s celebration. Both encounters show the main group of girls as they are having fun together, even during their winter vacation. Together, they watch the first sunrise of the new year (of course while being on the road with their beloved motorcycles) and forget all about their small quarrels for a moment. This New Year’s scene might not be as cheerful or romantic as some others on this list, but we like the honest approach which shows our main cast of girls having fun together, no matter what time of the year it is. If you are interested in motorcycles, you should definitely give Bakuon!! a try.
6. Hayate no Gotoku! (Hayate the Combat Butler)
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: April 2007 – March 2008
Hayate the Combat Butler is a charming comedy romance with a little bit of action that features episodes taking place in all kinds of seasons.
The hero giving this show its name is Hayate Ayasaki who actually feels like anything but a hero. After being abandoned by his parents who left behind an unimaginably big debt, the young boy is being sold to the yakuza and after several other twists and turns ends up being the personal butler of Nagi, the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in Japan. Knowing that his situation could be much worse, Hayate takes on his new position and does his best at excelling at his job as a personal butler.
If you were looking for a more romantic New Year’s celebration in anime, then this is it. This special episode features Hayate biking Nagi to the nearest beach since the young aristocrat wants to watch the first sunrise of the new year together at a romantic location. While nothing grand happens between the two characters, it is charming to watch their innocent interactions and get a feeling of how romantic the first sunrise of the year can be. Hayate the Combat Butler surprised us with a heartfelt New Year’s episode, and that is why we included it on this list.
5. Shirokuma Cafe (Polar Bear's Cafe)
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: April 2012 – March 2013
Not only humans but animals as well celebrate New Year’s Eve – or at least they do in the adorable show Shirokuma Cafe.
This quirky show might have slipped under your radars, but that’s even more reason to give it a quick shout out on our list. The name-giving Shirokuma Cafe is a coffee shop run by a friendly polar bear who created a spot for animals of all kinds to relax and enjoy a hot cup of coffee. Don’t look for a continuant storyline in this show, since it revolves all around the fun adventures the main cast gets itself into every single day.
The New Year’s celebration of our group of animals stretches itself over two episodes and features an end of the year cleaning as well as a talent show for the regular customers of the cafe. Rest assured that there will be more than just a few hilarious scenes. This episode sets itself apart from the rest of our list by not simply focusing on events happening on New Year’s Eve, but rather the whole vibe of this time of year. You’ll get lots of reflections on the past as well as hopeful outlooks on the near future and this simplicity charmed us enough to add Shirokuma Cafe to our list.
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 2007 – September 2007
Lucky Star has made it on more than just a few lists on our website, and we’re glad to also include it on today’s Top 10.
In case you’ve forgotten, Lucky Star is the laid-back comedy hit from 2007 which gained a big fanbase in no time. Its charm lies in its simplicity as every episode revolves around the interactions between the main cast. What might sound boring in theory actually turns into a great show that can be enjoyed by anyone and at any time of the year.
The New Year’s celebration of this little gem might be rather short, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a good look at a Japanese New Year. Not only will you get introduced to the game karuta (a traditional card game played on New Year’s Eve), but also famous snacks such as mochi rice cakes and zoni soup as well as a short shrine visit. All in all, this episode might be one of the best ones to give you an insight into how many Japanese people celebrate the beginning of a new year, so definitely check this episode out if you want to learn more!
3. 3-gatsu no Lion (March comes in like a Lion)
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: October 2016 - ?
It’s time for the most recent anime on our list and one of our biggest recommendations when it comes to new Slice of Life shows.
Rei Kiriyama thinks he can handle life all alone, despite only being 17 years old. After quickly working his way up in the professional Shogi world, he is now able to support himself and live on his own. But life is more than just paying rent and somehow getting by, as Rei soon has to realize. Luckily enough, he stumbles across three sisters who welcome him into their family and teach him the importance of family and friendship.
The New Year’s episode of 3-gatsu no Lion begins surprisingly depressing, with our protagonist staying alone in his apartment, bedridden with fever. But it wouldn’t be a Slice of Life show if it didn’t feature both the beautiful and ugly aspects of everyday life, right? That’s exactly what 3-gatsu no Lion does, it mixes the pain and suffering of an old year with the hopeful outlook of the next year, all while stressing the importance of family. 3-gatsu no Lion offers you a bittersweet New Year’s episode that you shouldn’t miss out on.
2. Himouto! Umaru-chan (My Two-Faced Little Sister)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
You haven’t forgotten the charmingly annoying Umaru yet, have you? If you have, let us refresh your memory with her little New Year’s celebration.
Himouto! Umaru-chan is the story of Umaru Doma, a girl who seems to have it all: looks, brain and a natural confidence in public. Only her older brother Taihei knows Umaru’s other side – once the girl gets home, she turns into a lazy childish bum who enjoys nothing more than playing video games and eating snacks. This show tells it how it is and the special New Year’s scene in episode eight continues this tradition.
Umaru is excited to celebrate New Year’s Eve, but mainly because of her big selection of snacks rather than to welcome the new year. Lucky for her, she has a partner in crime with Takeshi, a friend of her older brother, who shows up with his own selection of food and drinks. Overall, this episode made us laugh a lot while also making us crave all kinds of unhealthy snacks. Himouto! Umaru-chan’s New Year’s special is just like the rest of the show: funny and simply adorable, so if you haven’t checked it out already, you’re missing out.
1. Kimi ni Todoke (Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: October 2009 – March 2010
Last, but definitely not least on our list, we have most likely the all-time favorite New Year’s scene for all fans of romantic comedies.
Kimi ni Todoke tells the story of Kuronuma Sawako who has earned herself the nickname Sadako with her resemblance to the ghost girl of “The Ring”. She is a timid girl without any friends, but deep down she has a heart of gold and only cares about the wellbeing of others. Sawako’s fate is about to change when she gets close to Kazehaya Shouta, the most popular and good-looking guy in class. And who knows? Maybe she will become a little bit more than just friends with him.
The New Year’s scene in Kimi no Todoke takes place in the final episode and builds the dramatic climax of the first season. The setting is calm yet beautiful, with snowflakes falling from the sky and the dark of an early night surrounding our two protagonists. Everything from the setting to the music and the dialogue functions in a perfect harmony and makes this scene so unforgettable. Kimi ni Todoke is all about new beginnings and turning New Year’s Eve into the final confrontation between Kazehaya and Sawako is a beautiful idea. Kimi ni Todoke’s heartfelt ending gets two thumbs up from us.
Just like Christmas specials, New Year episodes can bring a little bit of holiday cheers to your favorite anime universe. It’s fun to see beloved characters engage in New Year’s activities; just like us, many characters take the time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. It builds a sense of connection between the viewer and the story and that is why we think that New Year’s scenes are so charming.
What do you think of special holiday episodes and what is your opinion on our selection? Let us know in the comment section below!