The hardest part about picking out shows for friends is you're never quite sure how they'll react -- will they absolutely devour it, or will the box set be a poor choice and they'll have to slog through episode after episode, just to seem like a gracious recipient.
Luckily, we're here to provide you with gift ideas for just about everyone on your list.
Ben and Lauren joined me in picking out some of the best titles to give to your friends and loved ones this holiday season. We've got all of them covered -- from the old-taku to the friend who is always going to be alone to the boys' love fangirls.
So take a look after the jump to see what's in store!
For the friend who is always going to be alone:
Let's face it: your friend [insert name here] isn't going to find a girlfriend anytime soon. He's been sitting around, drinking, and probably furiously masturbating at online porn. Why not help him along by giving him the gift of 2-D love with the purest of angels: Aisaka Taiga.
By giving [insert name here] Toradora!, you'll not only give them a wonderful story that will surely pull at their heart strings, but also give them an outlet for their misplaced feelings of love. Sure, buying them Toradora! may send your dearest friend down the road of body pillows and figures, but at least they'll be happier, more sober and probably a lot more productive.
Just because the other person isn't real doesn't mean their feelings can't be.
For the friend who never grew up:
Does your friend still play with action figures and Transformers, even though he's got an office job and makes three times as much money as you? More power to 'em, I say. Give 'em that extra nudge of support by giving them the best-known shonen series here in the United States, in the best version I've ever watched.
Dragon Ball Kai, quite simply, gives all the fun of Dragon Ball Z without the feeling that it'll take forever to finish it. The fights with Vegeta and Frieza come quickly and are incredibly entertaining, since it doesn't take five episodes to make a spirit bomb.
Your friend will thank you, and when they invite you to watch it with them, do it. You'll secretly enjoy it.
For the guy who likes sports/girl who likes shota
Big Windup! (Amazon - $13.99)
I've endlessly ranted about this show, but I'll do it one more time: Big Windup! is a fantastic show that grips you in the episode-by-episode unfolding of the baseball matches. For those who don't know much about the sport, they explain a lot of the strategy behind how pitchers make their decisions, which lets you form a tight bond with Mihashi and the other team members.
The show, a great example of the seinen genre, follows a lot of the typical bonds of shonen competition shows, but with a much more serious angle and attention to detail -- they know their fans aren't ten-years-old, and as such there's much more gravity.
Oh, and for all the ladies, these boys get really close. So, it's perfect material to keep yourself warm under the covers with during those long winter nights.
For your man, to show him the man you wish your man could be like:
A good chunk of our readers are already converts to the cult that is Gainax, and bathe lavishly in the light of Gurren Lagann, the show that takes manliness and the celebration of it to a new level. For those of you who haven't, this show is guaranteed to get yours (and your man's) blood boiling.
The show itself smells great and gives you a powerful dose of manliness as you watch giant robots and giant egos duke it out for the future of humanity. The movies, meanwhile, can go into the realm of absurdity for a bit, but overall provide a concentrated shot of manliness that also doubles as perfect odor protection. Nobody will notice that you haven't showered for a week, because the MANLINESS that Gurren Lagann delivers unto you will distract everyone.
This post is now diamonds!
For the neophyte who's too intimidated to tackle Evangelion:
Evangelion 1.11 (Amazon - $16.49)
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of those shows that, understandably, just about everyone should watch. It's a medium-defining piece that is up there with Akira and Cowboy Bebop as a work responsible for bringing in swarms of people to the fandom forever.
Evangelion 1.11 is a beautiful re-imagining of the project from the folks at Gainax, condensing the work down into four movies and streamlining the narrative so it makes a lot more sense. If anyone wants to get into Evangelion, this is the most painless way to do so, apart from the "up in the air" future of the third and fourth films.
If they decide that they like this show and want to delve deeper into the mindrape that is Neon Genesis Evangelion, it'll be entirely your fault. Merry Chirstmas!
For the musical-theater lover:
Nerima Daikon Brothers (Amazon - $8.99)
This anime may be a blast from the past with its 2004 original run date, but nothing has replaced it as of yet. While the premise may be a riff on the American Blues Brothers, nothing else can compare to this absurdity. What's most unique about this musical comedy is a dubbed version that painstakingly translates each song in rhyming verses in a way that makes sense!
Nerima is billed as a shounen anime but it really has something for everyone. Follow energetic Hideki, unenthusiastic Ichiro and gold digger Mako (yes, one of the "brothers" is a girl) as they farm daikon radishes, sing the blues, fight crime, and try to earn enough cash to build the concert dome of their dreams.
For the new anime fan:
Soul Eater (Walmart - $11.96)
Perfect for your friend or protegee who just got into anime and is still marveling at how it's like no cartoon they've ever seen from America. Soul Eater is a vibrant blend of fast-paced action scenes, in-depth character development, and gorgeous stylized animation to remind us why we got into anime in the first place.
If you're low on cash, you can pick up part 1 of the saga for a song. There's no doubt that after 13 episodes with Soul, Maka, Black Star and Death the Kid, your friend will need to coaxing to pick up part 2 him or herself.
For the old-taku:
Gundam Unicorn (Bandai Store - $34.98)
"They don't make anime like they used to in the 80's," your old-taku friend is known to grumble before launching into a "Back in MY day" speech. Luckily, with Gundam Unicorn, director Teruo Sato harkens back to the heyday of the Gundam franchise, from art style to action to plot.
However, since this anime came out in 2010, it does the 80's one better. Not only is the art and sound quality much improved, but the movie is available on Blu-Ray for the crispest possible finish. But the new-fangled additions don't ruin the plot -- if your friend has been watching Gundam since the beginning, he or she will see that the story continuity is unmarred.
For the M. Night Shyamalan fan:
Code Geass (Amazon - $27.99)
It's a twist! And then ANOTHER twist! And we're not even at episode three! Code Geass is not for the weak of heart. But if you have a friend who likes that sort of thing...
Your friend can follow Lelouch, a high school student with a God complex, through an action-packed psychological thriller that will leave them alternately clutching their head while sobbing and sitting nose to the TV screen offering panicked advice to the doomed characters. Sounds like a good time... if you like M. Night Shyamalan.
For the friend who's stuck in 9-to-5:
The Legend of Black Heaven (Right Stuf - $24.99)
For your friend who frequently compares his or her life to the song "Code Monkey" by Jonathan Coulton, there is hope. Hope that, someday soon, a sexy alien will arrive at their bland workplace to tell them that they're the last hope against evil space forces. And the only way they can save the world is by rocking out as hard as possible.
At least that's what happens to the disgruntled salaryman protagonist of Black Heaven. Let your friend take a break from his or her boring job to watch this animated version of their best case scenario.
For the friend who loves colorful sci-fi action:
If your friend is the type of person who prefers TV sci-fi with its fast pacing, Star Wars, or simply loves scantily clad intergalactic police officers, Birdy the Mighty offers something for them.
Produced by A-1 with some of the best animation I've seen in a long time, Birdy has a bright cast of characters and a surprisingly good story. Birdy (the character) is fast, often rash, and her mistakes cause earth-boy Tsutomu to get trapped with her in a shared body while still tracking down dangerous criminals. Vivid, friendly, and incredibly fluid, Birdy is the nest new sci-fi release to give this holiday.
For the moody, brooding friend who may have accidentally destroyed the world:
If you're looking for something for the friend who prefers the darker side of anime, Casshern Sins will fit that bill. Based off of the classic anime series from Tatsunoko, Casshern features and bleak and desolate environment across which soulless robots trek in search of meaning. Highly emotional at times, and surprisingly thoughtful, there is a striking amount of spirit in a world so gray.
Beautifully animated by Madhouse, Casshern Sins is a highly recommended piece for any collection. It's a show I'm sure we'll be bringing up years from now.
For the friend who loves gangsters, violence, guns, and dames:
Baccano! Box Set (RightStuf - $19.99)
If your friend fits that description up there, please first take a moment and be sure to check your friend is not Ladd Russo.
Baccano! packs twisting storylines, entertaining and lovable characters, and a buttload of bullets. It also has a fantastic dub that fits perfectly with the 1930s New york setting. There's no main character here either, instead it takes more of a Tarantino-style approach to its storytelling and throws a bunch of people into a pot and you get to watch them duke it out.
Immortals, train robberies, and bank heists: Baccano! has everything a crime film fan could want!
For the friend who wants manly, hot-blooded nonsense in his shows:
History is a wonderful thing. You can learn valuable lessons from the past, and the Sengoku era of Japanese history is particularly fascinating, with many political and physical battles being fought, making it a great setting for an anime.
And sometimes you just want to throw all that nonsense out the window and scream "ARE YOU READY GUYS" while riding your horse that has motorcycle handlebars mounted on it up a wall. Yes, Sengoku Basara is that kind of show. There is some history involved in the backdrop for the story, but after that you can turn your brain off and just enjoy the manly fight scenes. Swords, flames, screaming out your moves, and burning passion are what will consume your friend after watching this!
For the friend who'd rather be exploring mystical lands and encountering strange new creatures:
Take a little steampunk, add a tiny dash of Nausicaä, and throw a mystical creature or two in there, wrap it all up in some gorgeous BONES animation, and you've got yourself Xam'd. It's a fairly original show that I really enjoyed when it first showed up on the PSN network a ways back, and it has still stuck with me all this time.If your friend wants a fantasy series that steeps itself in mysticism and transformations into odd-looking creatures, then this is the way to go.
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