Japanator Holiday Shopping Guide: Manga edition!


It's that time of the year: to start shoving people aside in order to claim that last item on store shelves so you can give it to someone else. The worst part about holiday shopping, though, is when you get trapped in a store and have no idea what to get your friends.

So, in order to help alleviate that stress and make life a lot easier, we here at Japanator have put together some holiday guides for you.

In this edition, Karen Gellender and I tackle some of the best manga that's come out this year, along with an older favorite from each of us. We've got you covered, with recommendations for everyone, from that friend who you secretly hate and never want to sleep again to the one who is infinitely smarter than you.

Karen's picks

What to give the friend who is smarter than you:

Katsumi and Okimasa discuss Tezuka

A Drifting Life (Amazon, $19.77)

I've always been suspicious of the phrase "instant classic" (how would you know?), but Yoshihiro Tatsumi's decade-in-the-making, 800+ page opus about the early days of manga amidst the backdrop of postwar Japan seems like a pretty safe contender for the title. Despite the book's intimidating size and scope, Tatsumi's elegant and charming artwork makes the tome a surprisingly quick read. A slightly fictionalized autobiography of the author, A Drifting Life chronicles the early career of young Katsumi, whose trials and tribulations whilst carving out a career in manga mirror Japan's struggle to redefine itself, culturally as well as economically, after the devastation of World War II. Anyone with an interest in manga, the 1950's, Japanese history, or any of about five thousand other topics I could name will savor this book.

I have my doubts about this friend of yours though; how good is his attention span, really? Did he ever finish Tolstoy's War and Peace like he said he was going to? If not, you could just buy the book and give it to someone who already loves it, but had to borrow her copy from the library on account of abject poverty. I mean, just in case you were wondering, there's a gaping hole on my bookshelf now where this book should be...wait, I can't afford bookshelves.  Oh well, I trust you to let your conscience be your guide this holiday season.

What to give the friend who likes his beautiful girls wearing actual clothes:

Urd, Skuld, and Belldandy

 Oh My Goddess COLORS (Amazon, $13.57)

After being delayed for a stupidly long time (this book was originally slated to come out early in 2007), this collection of Oh My Goddess in all the colors of the rainbow has arrived, and it was worth the wait. While the book primarily features several fan-favorite stories, with color added to Kosuke Fujishima's already-stunning line art, the fact that it contains a series encyclopedia that covers the first thirty volumes of manga makes it the perfect gift for fans of the series. As the recent 20-year anniversary of this divinely inspired romantic-comedy attests, Oh My Goddess has enough history, lore and just plain minutia to merit this comprehensive, delicious fan's guide.

It's also just a beautiful book overall, with a gold-embossed cover and overall presentation that practically exudes class; even someone who doesn't know Oh My Goddess from Bleach might enjoy this book just for the visuals. To tell you the truth, it's so beautiful that your sensitive friend might cry upon receiving it, and you don't want to make your friend cry. I've already seen it, and once held it in my arms all too briefly, so if you give it to me instead, you can be confident that I won't start bawling all over the book...well, probably.

For the friend who loves shoujo, but is also SO sick of shoujo

Hot Gimmick!

Hot Gimmick (VIZBIG Edition) (Amazon, $13.49)

The VizBig editions are a fantastic value and make great gifts, but unfortunately, most of the titles currently available will probably be old news to your mangaphile buddies. I mean, the Fushigi Yuugi books look gorgeous and all, and I'm sure plenty of shoujo fans would be happy to receive them, but wouldn't you prefer to give something a little bit fresher?

That's where Hot Gimmick comes in; Miki Aihara's tale of maladjusted Tokyo teens is like the shoujo genre crossed with the WTF? did that seriously just happen? genre. For fans who love shoujo but are perhaps a bit fatigued from all of the morally impregnable main characters and cherry blossoms, Hot Gimmick is an addictive treat. Be warned though; some of the bizarre relationships portrayed in Hot Gimmick have apparently led some people to believe that this manga somehow condones rape (uh yeah...riiiiight). I think Aihara has a gift for making potentially disturbing situations hilariously funny, but it should be noted that this manga isn't meant for younger readers or the easily offended.

So if your shoujo-loving friend is one of those pseudo-intellectual types who likes to call herself a feminist, but in reality is just a bitch, you should probably pick something else. Come to think of it though, why are you even friends with this person? Don't give this neat manga to her when someone like me would be so much more appreciative.

For the friend who loves vampires but hates Twilight:

Vampire Moka

Rosario + Vampire (Amazon, $7.99)

Finally, a vampire story that goes light on the angst and heavy on the fun. Akihisa Ikeda's tale of a high school full of monsters, one secretly human freshman, and the schizophrenic vampire who keeps them all on their toes, is a silly harem manga, but it's an unusually clever silly harem manga. In fact, concepts that seem downright dumb in other manga actually make sense in Rosario+Vampire: the entire class is ridiculously horny? Well, it's a class full of DEMONS, why shouldn't they be? There's that one ridiculously busty, flirtatious chick with an inexplicable crush on the scrawny main character? Well, actually she's a succubus who's under tremendous pressure from her mother to be a good little succubus and enslave the entire male student body, even though her natural inclinations are more gentle, and she actually has a lot in common with said scrawny main character. And so on.

While the anime is notorious for a ridiculously high ratio of panty shots per episode, the fanservice quotient in the manga is comparatively mild, and at $7.99 a pop, it's a smart buy too. In fact, it's such a smart buy that your vampire-loving friend can probably afford to buy it for herself; why not celebrate the holiday spirit by giving a cash-strapped blogger the gift of monster hi-jinks?

Retro Recommendation:What to give your friend who loves guns almost as much as girls:

Rally and Minnie May

Gunsmith Cats Omnibus (Amazon, $11.53)

The "hot girls with guns" idea has been done to death (and in all likelihood revived as an especially nubile zombie, and then done to death again) but Kenichi Sonoda's manga about dusky-skinned bombshell Rally Vincent and her friends has such a unique tone that the idea becomes interesting again. The hard-boiled nature of the story, which concerns a street-smart group of bounty hunters in a somewhat dark version of Chicago, helps Gunsmith Cats stand out from the pack, and with style and panache to spare.

Gunsmith Cats was recently re-released in a series of four Omnibus editions, meaning that picking up the complete series has just become remarkably cheap and convenient; you can get about 1600 pages, featuring Rally messing around with her Shelby GT500 and her awe-inspiring gun collection, for under fifty bucks. Especially taking into account the fact that this series was once available only as single-chapter comics, that's an amazing value.

Of course, if your friend is such a gun fiend that he would rather have all of his holiday swag come out of the Browning catalog, this would be a great gift for someone else too. Hell, that friend of yours is probably a homicidal maniac anyway, do you really want to give him any ideas? If you give Gunsmith Cats to me instead, it won't result in any needless violence and might even improve my marksmanship.

Brad's picks

For the friend you never want to sleep again:

Higurashi: When They Cry (Right Stuf, $8.24)

Nothing ever goes wrong in sleepy little towns. Nope, never. Those stories of murders, disappearances, and missing body parts? Ah, don't worry about them too much. It'll just keep you up at night, and you won't make too many friends asking questions.

Of course, the whole story in Higurashi: When They Cry is over in two volumes. Originally based on a visual novel, the manga explores all the different possible story arcs, and takes a much more subtle and nuanced approach to the series than the anime adaptation did.

But here's the thing: It's going to scare the living daylights out of you. From now on, you'll be living in fear of the next piece of food a friend gives you and constantly checking under your bed to make sure Mion isn't there. I don't want to put you through that, so let's just take the easy way out: why not give it to me instead?

For the friend who's too good to read commoner manga:

Pluto (Amazon, $9.35)

You want to read one of the most engrossing stories that's been published this year? Look no further than Pluto, Naoki Urasawa's (Monster, 20th Century Boys) adaptation of an arc of the Astro Boy manga. Volume by volume, you'll find yourself engrossed in the series, wondering how the plot will unfold next.

For your friend (a.k.a. me), giving them this as a gift means that you know they love titles that prove to be engrossing and that they own enough turtlenecks and berets to qualify themselves as a proper reader for the Viz Signature line.

But look, you don't want to insult your friend and tell them that they're a snobby elitist and that they would be burned alive for having "commoner manga" on their shelves. Me, though? I've got plenty of turtlenecks and I think my beret is plenty stylish. I wouldn't mind taking those volumes off your hands.

For the friend who doesn't know the value of human life

Ikigami (Amazon, $11.04)

Maybe you have that one friend who's always just lazing about and who thinks that his life is just pointless. Why not give him a little jolt, a-la A Christmas Carol? Instead of three ghosts, give them three volumes of Ikigami, where they can see how people handle the last 24 hours of their lives.

It's not exactly filled with holiday cheer -- what with the people dying and all -- but Ikigami has been one of the most sobering and memorable titles from this year, and it'd be a shame for your friends not to be exposed to it.

What? All your friends are motivated, happy with their lives, or already own the manga? Well, you shouldn't let it go to waste, then. Why not drop it off at my house with a little bow on it? You know I'd appreciate it...

For the friend who you want to kill with cuteness

Kimi ni Todoke (Amazon, $8.99)

This is a title that's so sugary-sweet, reading more than one volume at a time is likely to induce diabetes. While not as blatantly "DAWWWWWWWW" inducing as the anime adaptation, Kimi ni Todoke still tells a beautiful story of a girl opening up her personality and her heart to those around her, and the wonderful things that ensue.

Colette tackled this heartwarming title when it first came out, and since watching the show, I couldn't help myself but get these volumes just to see how the story progresses. This manga is right up there with Yotsuba&! for a good title to read when you want to thaw that icy heart of yours. It's jam-packed with so many positive emotions that it's a perfect way to convey your feelings of good tide towards someone you care about.

But, for your own safety, I don't think you should read this. There really is a strong possibility of death when tackling this manga. Thankfully I, as a seasoned veteran of the industry, have built up a strong tolerance and can handle this material.

Retro Recommendation: For your friend with a medical fetish

Black Jack (Amazon, $11.53)

Simply put, Black Jack is a phenomenal gift for just about anyone. Each story in this largely serial adventure tackles a fairly straightfoward plot with such deftness skill that it's almost surgically put together. Similarly, the manga has such detail in the art that it's almost photographic.

The beauty of buying Black Jack as a gift is that you can pick up just about any volume and hand it off to a friend to read. They won't really miss much, and it won't ruin anything plot-wise.

I can't really think of a good reason why you should just give this to me, other than I want it more than you do. Probably. So c'mon, won't you show a little kindness?

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Brad Rice
Brad RiceFounder   gamer profile

Brad helped found in 2006, and currently serves as an Associate He's covered all aspects of the industry, but has a particular preference for the business-end of things, more + disclosures



Filed under... #Holiday Shopping Guide #Japanator Original #manga #top stories



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