‘Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas’ is a major upgrade over its parent show

Sunday, December 9, 2018 - 5:39pm

"Neo Yokio"

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Netflix

I could never really decide whether “Neo Yokio,” the anime produced by Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig (what a world, huh?) is god-awful or so bold, so audaciously weird that it is absolutely brilliant. Its Christmas special “Pink Christmas” is similar, but I find myself leaning much more towards the latter.

Neo Yokio, the show’s eponymous city, is a re-imagining of New York in which a group of “magicians” who saved the city from “demons” in the 19th century live a life of decadence and privilege in the modern day. Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith, “The Get Down”) is the protagonist, a vapid, narcissistic socialite who has a robot butler Charles (Jude Law, “The Young Pope”) and spends his time trying to be the city’s most eligible bachelor and, well, spending ostentatiously.

In “Pink Christmas,” Charles narrates a story to Kaan in which the central focus is a Secret Santa contest among the city’s most eligible bachelors. The protagonist in this story within a story is Herbert (Richard Ayoade, “The IT Crowd”), a sales clerk for an upscale department store who worships the more materialistic aspects of Neo Yokio society. He assists Kaan with outwitting his arch-nemesis, the bachelor Arcangelo (Jason Schwartzman, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”).

“Pink Christmas” takes many aspects of the first season and fine-tunes them masterfully. The show has always trodden a line between admiration of the society it portrays while also scathingly criticizing it. The latter is more prevalent in this episode, in particular, a scene where Arcangelo advertises an expensive show that is supposedly supposed to be anti-capitalist. The show also takes a stab at satirizing the city’s entrepreneurs who are obsessed with image and social media branding.

As always, the show brings a whole lot of whimsical moments, which Kaan points out he wants more of to distract from the grittiness of Charles’s story. The dialogue is consistently over-the-top, but at the same time, it is amusing to see such a prolific and talented cast seem to actually have a lot of fun performing. Smith’s portrayal of Kaan is actually annoyingly similar to who I imagine he is in real life, making him one of my least favorite characters, compared to the more skilled performances of Law and Schwartzman. Nonetheless, I concede that might just be the entire point.

“Pink Christmas” also gives the animators more chance to show off and have fun with their craft. While “Neo Yokio” has never been groundbreaking (even slightly subpar) animation-wise, the fictional city comes to life in this special in a more colorful, vibrant and dramatic way. “Pink Christmas” takes the winning parts of the main show’s confusing season one formula and surprisingly manages to create a rather entertaining holiday special.