‘Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas’: This Netflix Special Breaks Through the Holiday Noise

An hourlong Christmas episode lets this anime futuristic satire embrace its weirdest and most wonderful sides.

Neo Yokio” is a show wholly committed to its aesthetic, and the Netflix series’ holiday special “Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas” contains the same idiosyncratic charm that made its first season a singular delight. It opens with a wintery remix of its iconography, complete with a scoreboard ranking the fictional city’s eligible bachelors and a snowy overview of its fantasy version of New York (centuries after the end of a demon war that left parts of the city underwater).

Even as the special references its anime ancestors, “Pink Christmas” also revels in its own bizarre framework. Arrangements of “O Tannenbaum” and “Greensleeves” slide right alongside the show’s usual Baroque-heavy background music. The Homer-sampling narration sets up a world where people have casual chats about the potential presence of evil, shapeless forces the same way they talk about hosting podcasts and using social clout.

Read More:  7 New Netflix Shows to Binge in December, and the Best Reasons to Watch

“Pink Christmas” is more than a continuation of the exploits of young socialite Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith). It’s an overview of the characters that inhabit this futuristic world where interdimensional beasts lurk in the shadows and table manners can become grounds for a telekinetic brawl. Seesawing between the anxieties of being single and under a microscope in a big city and battling for the fate of humanity makes for a kind of whiplash, and it might take adjustment for first-time audiences. Still, the show’s appeal doesn’t come from parsing the weird “Neo Yokio” internal logic; it comes from the passion-project feeling that everyone involved seems to be delighted they’re pulling this off at all.

As in the main show, the voice performances are a little scattered; even so, each performer is so committed to each particular character choices that it’s hard not to enjoy. Jude Law is still an unparalleled pleasure as Charles the mech butler, this time used sparingly to narrate the proceedings in the style of the “Princess Bride” Grandpa. Desus and Mero are always welcome additions, this time returning as Kaz’s friends (and doomed entrepreneurs) Lexy and Gottlieb. Jason Schwartzman remains one of our finest on-screen jerks, here voicing Kaz’s preening nemesis Arcangelo Corelli. The increased presence of Richard Ayoade, voicing an overeager Bergdorf Goodman sales clerk, adds a nice twist.

Neo Yokio Pink Christmas Netflix Toblerone

Beyond the genre trappings and layers of artisanal details that encase the show in its own protective layer, “Neo Yokio” knows how to position itself in a TV world dominated by loud, busy pleas for audience attention. The stream of winks and nods to animated classics continues, including one to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” done with exquisite abandon. There are plenty of moments ripe to exist in meme form, and there’s some extra participation from series creator and Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig that might give non-genre fans reason to tune in.

“Pink Christmas” leaves very few seasonal conventions untouched. In finding the true reasons for the season, “Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas” weaves through and upends them all. Secret Santa tropes, holiday spectaculars, and even traditional dinners each are subverted in turn. In the world of “Neo Yokio,” Christmas is everything and nothing all at once.

This free-for-all generates the freedom to play with anthropomorphized Christmas trees and elaborate gift-giving in the same spirit that Season 1 relished its convoluted fashion rules and cross-city car races. “Pink Christmas” also gives the show’s team of animators a little license to experiment with the show’s visual stylings. The more the special’s title works into the proceedings, the more it feels like its own creation.

Rather than being used to set up any future storylines or tease fans with the promise of more, “Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas” uses its final showdown as a chance to acknowledge that it might be more self-aware than it ever let on before. “Neo Yokio” might be made for specific tastes, but it’s far from impenetrable. If the holiday spirit is really about unity and finding common ground, “Pink Christmas” offers up something unapologetically wild. For everyone, it’s a blast.

Grade: B+

“Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas” is now available to stream on Netflix. 

‘Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas’ First Trailer: Get Ready to Spend the Holidays with the Greatest Robot Butler in All of Anime

Charles doesn’t make an appearance in this teaser, but it’s hard to imagine a return to this alternate, futuristic New York without him.

Plans for a Season 2 of “Neo Yokio” are still up in the air, but fans can take solace in the fact that a new anime adventure is coming sooner than previously expected.

Announced in the only logical way possible — in a Twitter exchange with the official Toblerone account — the show unveiled a teaser for “Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas,” an out-of-nowhere holiday special continuing last year’s freshman season.

This bizarre jewel in the Netflix animation programming lineup was one of IndieWire’s favorite surprises of last year, so the tiny bits of information that this hints at is more than enough to get excited about at least one new episode. The scoreboard of bachelors is still up and storefronts are still glistening in this futuristic version of New York City, now with added extra dusting of snow. 

The first season of Ezra Koenig’s series followed Kaz Kaan (Jaden Smith), a New Manhattan socialite trying to crack society’s upper crust, all while defeating demons and preparing for a citywide street race. This new teaser doesn’t exactly confirm the return of Charles (Jude Law), Kaz’ robot butler. But since having this show without Charles is a pointless endeavor, one can only assume he’ll be in the “Pink Christmas” mix somehow.

The impressive Season 1 voice cast also included Tavi Gevinson, Susan Sarandon, Jason Schwartzman, and the incomparable duo of Desus & Mero. “Neo Yokio” isn’t the first Netflix show to whip up a surprise Christmas special for its fans. After “BoJack Horseman” Season 1, the show released an “episode” of show-within-a-show “Horsin’ Around” that December.

In the meantime, watch the teaser for “Pink Christmas” (complete with a backing Bach cantata for good measure) below:

“Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas” is set to premiere December 7 on Netflix.

‘Neo Yokio’ Voice Cast: A Visual Guide to Who Played Whom in New Netflix Animated Series

The show’s eclectic cast includes well-known performers like Jaden Smith, Susan Sarandon, Jude Law, and Steve Buscemi.

[Editor’s note: This post contains very minor spoilers for Season 1 of “Neo Yokio.”]

Netflix has a fascinating track record with animation, taking big chances especially with adult-aimed series like “BoJack Horseman” and “F Is for Family” over the last few years. Its latest venture, “Neo Yokio,” looks nothing like either of those series — instead, it draws its visual inspiration from decades of anime as it brings us into the futuristic world created by Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig.

What does give “Neo Yokio” something in common with its Netflix sisters is its A-list voice cast, which features an eclectic but overall critically acclaimed group of actors, including Jaden Smith as young demon hunter Kaz, who just wants to be the most eligible bachelor in town, despite the growing sense that things might not be what they seem in this society.

Who are the other famous faces behind the scenes? Below is an illustrated guide to all of Neo Yokio’s VIPs.

Kaz Kaan – Jaden Smith

Neo Yokio

The hero of the show begins heartbroken but still ready to take on both demons and Neo Yokio society.

Charles – Jude Law

Neo Yokio

Jude Law steals the show as Kaz’s snarky butler — proving that maybe, just maybe, Law’s finest work has come in robot (or pope) form.

Helena – Tavi Gevinson

Neo Yokio

Kaz’s ostensible love interest is actually a more political figure than one might think, and it’s intriguing that the role of a former fashion blogger is being played by… a former fashion blogger.

Arcangelo – Jason Schwartzman

Neo Yokio

Schwartzman is perfect casting for the voice of a member of Neo Yokio high society. After all, he saved Latin — what did you ever do?

Aunt Agatha – Susan Sarandon

Neo Yokio

This grand dame is always a treat to hear.

Lexy, played by The Kid Mero; and Gottlieb, played by Desus Nice

Neo Yokio

Neo Yokio

Kaz’s best friends become slightly less interchangeable later in the season after an encounter with a cursed swimming pool, but they remain a united duo (much like Mero and Desus themselves, who host a really fun talk show on Viceland).

Salesclerk/Various – Richard Ayoade

Neo Yokio

Playing a variety of roles, the “IT Crowd” star/”Submarine” director is always a delight.

Old Man in the Graveyard – Ray Wise

Neo Yokio

A small role, but the “Twin Peaks” and “Fresh Off the Boat” star does a lot with this Episode 1 appearance.

The “Helenists” – Kiernan Shipka, Willow Smith, Amandla Stenberg

Neo Yokio

Helena’s loyal devotees play a larger role than expected in the course of the season, which is great news given the trio of young women who offer up their voices.

Sailor Pellegrino – Katy Mixon

Neo Yokio

No one better to play the Neo Yokio newcomer than Katy Mixon, who always works so well as an outsider voice.

Headmaster – Stephen Fry

Neo Yokio

Why wouldn’t you ask Stephen Fry to play the man in charge of a prep school?

Professor Muhly – Nico Muhly

Neo Yokio

Playing a relatively prominent role in Episode 3, Nico Muhly might be unknown to those outside the contemporary classical music world, but within it he’s well-known enough to have made an appearance on “Mozart in the Jungle.”

Kathy – Alexa Chung

Neo Yokio

Kaz’s ex-girlfriend is a sore point for the jilted young man, but Kathy shows more personality than you might expect form this sort of role (and really, no explanation needed for her slight British accent).

Kaz’s Cousin – Ike Barinholtz

Neo Yokio

Turns out living in the Hamptons doesn’t imbue you with automatic class, as Kaz’s rough-edged cousin proves.

Mila Malevich – Annet Mahendru

Neo Yokio

Hey, it’s Nina from “The Americans”! And this time, as the voice of a hard-drinking Russian race car driver, she seems to be having a lot more fun.

The Remembrancer – Steve Buscemi

Neo Yokio

This might be the fanciest Steve Buscemi’s ever looked, and maybe one of his more intimidating roles in recent memory, given the authority he seems to exert single-handed over the city.

“Neo Yokio” is streaming now on Netflix.

Jaden Smith voices a demon-slaying teen in trailer for Ezra Koenig’s Neo Yokio 

Posh teens and their overbearing aunts populate Neo Yokio, the “greatest city in the world” according to this trailer and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig. This Netflix-based anime features Jaden Smith as the voice of Kaz Kaan, the latest in a line of “magistocrats,” pink-haired people who keep the world safe from…

Read more…

Posh teens and their overbearing aunts populate Neo Yokio, the “greatest city in the world” according to this trailer and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig. This Netflix-based anime features Jaden Smith as the voice of Kaz Kaan, the latest in a line of “magistocrats,” pink-haired people who keep the world safe from…

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Netflix’s ‘Neo Yokio’ Trailer: Jaden Smith’s New Show Looks Like the Most Unique Animated Series of the Year — Watch

The voice cast includes Jaden Smith, Susan Sarandon, Jude Law, Tavi Gevinson and Jason Schwartzman.

After rocking the mic in Netflix’s “The Get Down,” Jaden Smith is returning to the streaming giant — in pink-haired, animated form.

Today, Netflix announced “Neo Yokio,” a new original series created by Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and featuring a voice cast starring Smith, Susan Sarandon, Jude Law, Tavi Gevinson, Jason Schwartzman, and Desus & Mero. Additional members of the voice cast include: Richard Ayoade, Ike Barinholtz, Steve Buscemi, Alexa Chung, Stephen Fry, Katy Mixon, Annet Mahendru, Kiernan Shipka, Willow Smith, and Amandla Stenberg.

According to a release from Netfilx, “the series is a postmodern collage of homages to classic anime, English literature and modern New York fashion and culture.” Set in the ultra-modern city of Neo Yokio, the show focuses on young Kaz (Smith) as he deals with both teenage heartbreak, the legacy of his demon slayer family, and the danger that might be threatening Neo Yokio.

The visual style, for sure, invokes modern anime tropes, thanks to the involvement of directors Kazuhiro Furuhashi (“Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn,” “Hunter x Hunter,” “Rurouni Kenshin”) and Junji Nishimura (“Ranma 1/2,” “Urusei Yatsura,” “Pro Golfer Saru”). But the blend of additional references pushes the show toward being something truly unique, as seen in the trailer below.

The six episodes of “Neo Yokio” premiere Friday, September 22. Check out the trailer below, as well as more first-look images.