Hello again, and welcome to the next part of Japanator's 2012 Holiday Shopping Guide! The other day we gave you our recommendations for the best videogames, but now it's time to take a look at the latest batch of stuff to pile into stockings and tree-undersides, particularly in the field of entertainments, both animated and live-action.
Read on as Brad, Salvador, Josh, Elliot, Jeff, Pedro, and yours truly pick out the best and brightest from the year's crop of anime and film for you!
Brad Rice suggests:
For the Creepy Weeaboo in your circle of friends...
House of Five Leaves Box Set
There's always one. You just know he has an extra hard-drive or three of salacious material, and he always shuts down when the conversation doesn't focus on all things Japan. God forbid you talk about sports -- he may as well up and leave at that point.
They probably don't spend enough time watching the really good stuff, so it's up to you to educate them. Give them House of Five Leaves, a stunningly beautiful series set in the classic samurai era. It pulls heavily from Natsume Ono's drawing style, and really sets itself apart from most other samurai-era titles. They won't be disappointed once they actually watch it.
For the Editor-in-Chief as Significant Other...
AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa
Let's say you're dating someone who runs a site dedicated to Japanese pop culture. The person's really into all things Japan, and really loves Japanese cinema. Sure, they have some films by Akira Kurosawa on their shelf, but they don't have this entire box set. It has all the important films that he's been too lazy to collect, and will keep him busy for hours and hours!
But seriously, this is a great gift for the Japanophile who seems to have it all.
Salvador G-Rodiles suggests:
For the tokusatsu fan that wishes to own a toku series in its uncut form...
Ultra Seven: The Complete Series (DVD)
Now here's an opportunity that you won't find too often, since you are getting the entire Ultra Seven series in one uncut package. Running at 48 episodes (Episode 12 is excluded from the set.), this is one deal that will quench your love for guys that like to pummel giant monsters with throw-able headgear, hand-to-hand combat, and giant beams that are available in all shapes and colors.
If you are looking into starting a tokusatsu collection, then Ultra Seven is there to help you protect your shelf from evil space invaders. And to those who own Ultraman, Ultra Seven will help you turn your toku collection into an Ultra Combo.
Josh Totman suggests:
For the old-school otaku that needs an upgraded edition...
Tenchi Muyo!: OVA Series (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
MSRP: $69.98 $43.08
Tenchi Muyo!: Movie Collection (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
MSRP: $69.98 $32.99
If you are any older otaku, or at least old enough to remember this series on Toonami, you will love that Funimation is now bringing back one of the classics to Blu-ray. If you have never heard of this show shame on you! I'll be taking your otaku membership card back and the Letterman jacket!
Seriously thou, if you ever wanted to catch up on some classic anime these are the sets for you. The OVA collection that started the whole Tenchi universe(not to be confused with the series). It takes you through all the introduction to the whimsical harem that Tenchi is now stuck with. Along with that, you can also get the movie collection. Three Tenchi movies all rolled up together in a nice neat package. Each of the movies in this set stands alone when it comes to it's take on the universe. Especially the third movie.
And for the old-school otaku for whom anime is serious business...
Serial Experiments Lain: Complete Series (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
MSRP: $89.98 $53.99
Another classic that has been brought back to life by our good friends at Funimation is the love it/hate it/what-the-hell-did-I-just-watch Serial Experiments Lain. This show is still on peoples minds on exactly what was going on in that strange wired world. The art style of Yoshitoshi Abe is absolutely stunning in this show. It's hard not to be a fan of his work really. Oh, and let's not forget about the music of Reichi Nakaido. This series did also give birth to everyone at that time calling their computer Navi.
If you are any sort of collector of anime on discs, you need to have this one in your collection if you don't have the original Pioneer ones already. Also to note, they did remaster the series for the Blu-ray release. Not upscale, remastered from the original master copy so this thing is going to look beautiful.
Jeff Chuang suggests:
For the armchair film critic...
Children Who Chase Lost Voices (DVD or Blu-ray)
Makoto Shinkai's latest film, honestly, have a range of reviews both positive and negative. What none can deny, however, is that it looks gorgeous, sounds great, and the film presents your eyes with fascinating visuals. The story is long and a little laborious; the message of the film is earnest if to a fault. But my biggest peeve was how it took me at least three tries to really "get" what the movie was about.
That might not sound like a ringing endorsement, but for people who love films that are tough to digest and want to get every single nugget out of something, and also are into anime, this is a must-watch. Children Who Chase Lost Voices is worth your time not only as a way to keep tabs on one very promising young animator in the industry. The convenience of having it to watch on your own leisure should make this film a lot more interesting than the usual spectacle one expects when watching it at a screening or at a con.
Pedro Cortes suggests:
For the lover of all things hot blooded...
Gurren Lagann: Childhood's End & Gurren Lagann: The Lights in the Sky are Stars
Compilation films have a pretty spotty record. Films like the original Mobile Suit Gundam trilogy were able to take the source material, present it in a new way and even add to the overall mythos of their franchises. However, for every one of those, you have stuff like the 0083 movie, which was a horribly edited mess.
A lot of people had some reservations about GAINAX going right back to the Gurren well so soon after the show finished, but what we got were a pair of films that took some of the best moments of the show and turned them up several notches. The first half of the first film is a quickly recapped version of the show's first eight episodes. After that, the rest of the first film and important sections of the second film break off into new territory, culminating in a slightly different ending that I felt was better overall. Oh, and more freaking huge robots. That's always a good thing.
Elliot Gay suggests:
For the people who have money to spare...
Fate/Zero Blu-ray Box 1&2
Look, as far as I'm concerned, Fate/Zero is one of the best action series to come along in years. Ufotable's lavish production featured sky high production values, an excellent cast, and the musical talents of Yuki Kajiura. As somebody who's never been super fond of the original Fate/Stay night, it speaks to Fate/Zero's strengths that I fell in love with it as hard as I did.
That being said, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I purchased both of the ridiculously expensive BD box sets, and I regret nothing. These are beautiful collections, with a nice variety of extra features, production booklets and other odds and ends.
None of that changes the fact that you'd be paying more than half a grand to pick these babies up, so unless your gift receiver really loves Fate/Zero (and you really love them), I would suggest thinking long and hard about whether or not this purchase is worth it. If nothing else, I can certainly vouch for its super high quality.
Josh Tolentino suggests:
For your young scientist friend that secretly nurses a budding seed of madness and paranoia...
Steins;Gate Blu-ray/DVD Hybrid Collection 1 & 2
Legions of generic harem romances and high-school love comedies have given the term "visual novel adaptations" a sour ring to it, but White Fox's work animating Steins;Gate is one of the few exceptions. The result is unique tale of madness, paranoia, time travel, and nerd humor, carried by charming cast led by the easily one of the most charismatic anime characters in recent memory: Rintaro "Okarin" Okabe also known as the mad scientist Kyoma Hououin. BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!
Voice actor Mamoru Miyano turns in a career-defining performance as Okarin, and snappy writing and an intriguing premise based on ascribing strangely sinister motives to ostensibly benevolent real-life scientific organizations keeps the show tense throughout its run, making it a worthy purchase for anyone hoping for a break from anime's high-school rut.
For that female friend of yours who's got both supernatural personal issues and an abiding love of school supplies...
Bakemonogatari Blu-ray Complete Limited Edition
Even four years and a whole sequel later, Bakemonogatari remains one of my favorite anime of all time, and is one of those shows that proves you can structure an anime around conversations and dialog without incurring the stigma associated with the likes of Lucky Star and its ilk.
Operating at a near-absurd level of verbosity, the show embeds its character development into its voluminous conversations, but rather than relying on snore-inducing exposition, still couches its greatest twists into obscure turns of phrase, throwaway lines, puns and other subtleties, and all backed up by SHAFT's gorgeous sense of style.
While on the pricey side, Aniplex's Blu-ray set is notable for managing something I never expected any potential licensor of Bakemonogatari to go for back when I begged for the show to be brought to English: They translated and subtitled the commentary audio tracks!
That's frankly incredible, because those commentary tracks are done not by the usual director-and-crew, but by the voice cast, acting in-character. Basically, Koyomi Arararagi, Hitagi Senjougahara, Tsubasa Hanekawa and all the rest comment on their own actions as they watch them, almost Mystery Science Theater 3000-style. It's pretty great, especially if you've always wanted someone to call someone else "Ms. Panties".
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