The time is now, dear readers, as we come closer and closer to the time of gift-giving, and also to the end of Japanator's shopping guide season! We brought you our gift suggestions for videogames, anime and film, and printed media, but now it's time to delve into the realm of the musical, as well as the weird.
It's our Music and Goods shopping guide! Get on below to check out our favorite suggestions for the best in music, toys, and other random crap that you can use to show your affection (or hate) for your loved ones (or foes)!
Marcus Speer suggests:
For the religious Nujabes / jazz-hop fan:
Marcus D - Melancholy Hopeful
Aside from having a dope, rad first name, Seattle hip-hop artist Marcus D also makes really awesome beats. Definitely taking inspiration and love from some of Japan's most influential hip-hop artists like Nujabes, Shing02, Uyama Hiroto and Taku Takahashi, Marcus D (who is signed with Nujabes record label, Hydeout Prod.) dropped a bomb this year, his second album Melencholy Hopeful that crosses jazz-hop styles from both the East and West into something fresh and soulful.
If you dug the Samurai Champloo OST (which I've been outspoken about in terms of being one of the greatest among anime soundtracks ever made) and find yourself nodding along with the electronic, jazzy beats and soothing piano notes in Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei titles like Persona and the pseudo-SMT game Catherine, then this album is definitely something to look into. It seriously just oozes coolness; there's a flavor to the songs that can get you pumped up for the work day or relaxed for the ride home. I deeply recommend it!
Chris Walden suggests:
For the mysterious young girl fan:
ClariS - Birthday
This will most likely not be the first time you've heard of ClariS. You may have somehow dodged hearing of them if you've never seen OreImo, Puella Magi Madoka Magica or Nisemonogatari, but the chances are that you will have heard their music. Still, if you've managed to avoid it thus far, congratulations. Now go and give their album a listen, it's pretty good.
All of these songs are on their debut album Birthday, plus a good nine others (or eleven if you find that version with the Nendoroid song plus one other). They don't stray too far from the upbeat and cheerful music they've released before (with perhaps the exception of Connect), but that's far from a bad thing. It is perfect for lifting your spirits, so long as you can get behind some good ol' J-pop.
Plus there's the big mystery about the singers themselves. They've released three popular songs and have done well with an album, and still they've managed to avoid being seen/revealed in public? That certainly takes some skill! Still, it's the voice that matters, so they can take my money and perhaps some of yours too!
For the Kill Bill/catchy rock/curious music fan:
Tomoyasu Hotei - All Time Super Best
I'll have to admit, up until about a month ago my only contact with Tomoyasu Hotei music came from Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2, more commonly known as the second Japanese Elite Beat Agents. It seems crazy that it isn't more commonly known, but this Japanese rock veteran is responsible for a very well known tune from Kill Bill, namely Battle Without Honor or Humanity.
So what changed? Well, he showed up at Hyper Japan here in the UK to announce his one-off December gig. As the gig-lover I am, I looked into whether it'd be worth turning up by listening to his All Time Super Best album. It may be almost seven years old now, but it's certainly sold me on just how special this upcoming gig will be.
But aside from this, his music is definitely going to be a good place to point newcomers to Japanese music. With a big hit like the one from Kill Bill adding to a very solid selection of songs (see the video above), this might be what is stopping your friends from experimenting a little with their music library.
Salvador G-Rodiles suggests:
For the Super Sentai and/or Power Rangers fan:
Super Robot Chogokin Daizyujin/original Megazord
MSRP: $60.99 $52.40, 3,520 yen
If there is one thing that most Sentai And Power Rangers fans have in common, it's that both parties got into both franchises through the exposure to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. For many folks in the west, it was the gateway drug that would eventually spark their journey into the realm of tokusatsu. And what better way to cherish your childhood memories by owning the Super Robot Chogokin figure of the Daizyujin/original Megazord from Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger/Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Just look at the GLORIO detail placed into the body of this prehistoric combination, which feels like the actual Daizyujin was standing right in front of you. And not only does it look nice, it also comes with the effect pieces that lets you reenact the powerful attacks that lay waste to Bandora/Rita Repulas's monsters. A piece like this doesn't come by very often, so get your Dino Bucklers/Morphers out while you still can.
Jeff Chuang suggests:
For your glee club buddies
Tari Tari Music Album - Utattari, Kanadetari
MSRP: 3300 Yen
Tari Tari has one of the best selling anime soundtracks in 2012, and it's easy to see why. The show is pretty much a music show, complete with song and dance numbers. It employed a pretty solid voice acting crew to back the image songs and the ending song, and it hired an award-winning high school choir to sing the choir parts. All of this adds up to a very interesting and competently put-together album.
Tari Tari Music Album collects, on 2 discs, all the insert vocals and the key background music pieces from the show. If someone you know enjoyed Tari Tari, this is the perfect way to relive it.
For the extremely practical importer
Japanese Playstation Network Card
MSRP: 500, 1000, 3000, 5000, 10000 Yen
Invariably for anyone hooked on iDOLM@STER 2, or just want to watch Gundam Unicorn right when it comes out, there's not much you can do but to hit up the respective online stores on the console of choice. For most of us, that would be the PS3. Since the Vita is still somewhat region-free, the PSN point card makes a very shrew gift for people unafraid of setting up that Japanese PSN account. It really isn't very hard, and the reward is bountiful even if just in terms of the free demos you can play.
For those people who still remember the name of the swimsuit they saw that day
Max Factory's Meiko Honma Swimsuit ver.
MSRP: 7500 Yen
I'm generally not a fan of swimsuit figures, but sometimes it's just done so well. Max Factory's Menma is just such a thing. This is entirely separate from my emotional attachment to a great character from a total tear-jerker of a story from 2011. Simply put, it's somewhat rare to see a swimsuit figure that isn't all about body lines and shapes, but balances that with some bold design elements, color choices, and having the right accessories.
Kristina at Tomopop agrees as much, if you need more convincing. The tragedy here is that for people that actually like Menma and want a figure of the iconic Ano Hana character, there are several less exciting, but more characteristic, figures to choose from. That makes this Menma just a bit less popular of a choice for the average Menma fan. The silver lining is that you can still pick up this fragment of summer at an off-season price. It's definitely a below-the-radar gem.
Josh Tolentino suggests:
For the true Sengoku BASARA fan that demands only the best in thematic madness...
Abingdon Boys School - Teaching Materials (or Abingdon Road if unavailable)
MSRP: EU9.99 (via iTunes), or $22.99 for Abingdon Road
Now, these two are releases from 2010 and 2009, but I think it counts in this case since the best song on either album, "JAP", was in 2012's release of Sengoku BASARA: The Last Party. Yes, I'll say it now: Abingdon Boys School's best song is "JAP", at least with regard to Sengoku BASARA.
Why? Just as lead vocalist Takanori "T.M. Revolution" Nishikawa wanted to return to his rock roots when forming ABS, Sengoku BASARA's a pretty rockin' show. "JAP" perfectly captures the the blend of lady-fan-baiting fabulousness and testosterone-drenched excess that led Capcom's series to usurp Koei's Dynasty Warriors throne. It's a little ironic that the franchise's best musical encapsulation comes from the anime and PSP spinoff and not a theme to the main games.
Fans of anime songs with access to the European iTunes store will get more out of picking up Teaching Materials, seeing as that compilation contains most of ABS' best anison, including "JAP" the inferior "Blade Chord" that they did for Sengoku BASARA's 2nd season., "Nephilim" from Folklore, "Innocent Sorrow" from D.Gray Man, "Strength" from Soul Eater, "Kimi no Uta" from Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, and "HOWLING", from Darker Than Black (aka the "now I've lost it" song).
Folks who pick up Abingdon Road will miss out on "HOWLING", but will get a good number of other songs, and either is better value than picking up the single for their actual 2012 song "WE aRE" (sic), for Sengoku BASARA HD Collection.
For the Busou Shinki anime fan that wants to explore the source material "down to the last screwhole"...
Busou Shinki Arnval Mk.2 Tempesta
MSRP: 5,180 Yen
I'll readily admit that my enjoyment of the Busou Shinki anime comes not from being a fan of the figurines but from my nerding out over imagining a world where Shinkis are a real thing.
Well, this here is the real real thing that a Shinki is - an action figure made my Konami. That's not inherently a bad thing, and all things considered, it looks pretty damn cool. This Arnval Mk.2 Tempesta's is good for fans of Ann. The colors may not match, but the original white-colored Arnval Mk.2 model (originally a pack-in for the Busou Shinki Battle Masters PSP game) is now super-limited, and is going for up to five or six times the price of the Tempesta.
At prices like that, I'd only buy a Shinki if it actually is as presented on the anime, i.e. a living, sentient six-inch-tall mecha girl that would love me unconditionally and call me "Master!".
For your lucky lottery-winner best friend...
A KR-01 Kurata piloted robot
MSRP: $1.3 million (minimum)
Awww yeah. Now this is some GUNVARREL stuff right here.
Yes, you're reading it correctly. It's not a hoax, but a real live pilotable mecha. You can move it by mobile phone or motion control, and it comes with a pair of smile-activated BB Gatling Guns. Yes, smile-activated. I want one. And you should to!
Sure, for that kind of money you'd be just short of the scratch needed for a Bugatti Veyron, but a Bugatti Veyron is not a 4.4 meter-tall giant robot. Artist Kogoro Kurata and Suidobashi Heavy Industries' hand-built monstrosities certainly have that going for them.
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