Japanator's 2013 Holiday Shopping Guide: Anime


Nothing fills that stocking like a Blu-ray box set

Wondering what to pick up for the otaku in your life this holiday season? Well, you should be. If you give someone a bad anime this year, who knows what could happen? Friendships could be lost over the misguided gift of Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc. Your own mother may slap you until you're red as Santa's hat if you try to slip a copy of the Nakaimo: My little sister is among them! under the tree. How can you give the gift of colorfully animated entertainment without fear?

That's where we come in! Just in time for Cyber Monday, here's Japanator's annual guide to some of the better, eminently gift-worthy anime that's come out recently. We aim to help you select premium presents that will elicit huge grins rather than pained groans from your cartoon-loving friends and family. Of course, I'm just playing around here, and your loved ones probably wouldn't really disown you over some bad anime gifts...but I'd still stay far away from that Kenshin OVA, just in case. It's pretty bad.

For the casual anime fan...

Akira 25th Anniversary Edition

MSRP: $34.98

Some fans don't keep up with current anime, but still have a lot of appreciation for the classics. It's been my experience that among those viewers who enjoy anime as an occasional treat rather than a daily obsession, Akira is seen as the crème de la crème-- and with very good reason. Fortunately, the recently released Akira 25th Anniversary Edition is about as close to perfection as you can ask for; it's the grand dystopian spectacular that made oodles of people fall in love with anime in the first place, with better-than-ever visual quality and audio. Seriously, it's Akira, what more needs to be said?

For fantasy lover in your life...

Fate/Zero Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set I

MSRP: $187.98

If you like myths and legends, the whole Fate/Stay Night series is probably your cup of tea. The violence and occasional gore isn't for everyone, but the series' premise of modern-day magi summoning mythical heroes from both the distant past and far future is a lot of fun, with a particularly interesting take on Arthurian lore. Of course, your fantasy-loving friend probably already owns the box set of the Fate/Stay Night TV series (and possibly Unlimited Blade Works, but let's not dwell on that), so Fate/Zero, the recently released prequel, is your best bet. This limited edition comes with the works, including a soundtrack CD, but keep in mind it only contains the first 13 episodes; the second box set is due out on Dec. 31.

For the shounen lover who's already seen all of Naruto and Bleach...

Blue Exorcist Limited Edition Blu-Ray Box Set I and II

MSRP: $174.98 (each)

Blue Exorcist is in a strange category: the under-appreciated shonen series. It's a quality show with great characters and impressive production values that has a good reputation among anime fans, but always seems to get lost in the shadow of the bigger shonen franchises. I reviewed Box Set II earlier this fall and was quite pleased with it, so that's the version I'm recommending; however, if the limited editions are too rich for your blood (which is totally understandable), keep in mind that this show was also released on DVD earlier this year for nearly a third the price. Whatever your price range, the action-packed and often humorous adventures of Rin, the world's cutest devil-spawn, should be more widely enjoyed.

For that friend who is kind of getting sick of anime...

Wolf Children

MSRP: $34.98

Some people are tired of your little sister romance tales, your vampire warriors, and your feisty magical girlfriends falling from the sky, etc. ; in other words, anime tropes. I can enjoy shows that dip into the trope well at times, but even I start to get fatigued sometimes when it feels like every title is a collection of things I've seen before. For people who love anime, but are also kind of starting to hate anime a little bit (you know what I mean), director Mamoru Hosoda's Wolf Children is just what any jaded fan needs to rekindle their love of the art form. It showcases the best of anime-- an imaginative premise, stellar artwork, and a story that can move you-- with virtually none of the typical drawbacks. Give the gift of Wolf Children and you'll not only give a great present; you may just save an otaku from an existential crisis.

For that friend who thinks that moe is the cancer that's killing anime...

Girls Und Panzer: TV Collection

MSRP: $69.98

Okay, okay, I kid: Girls Und Panzer isn't necessarily the best gift for your friend that thinks that moe is the cancer that's killing anime. That person probably wants High School of the Dead or something, but I'm not recommending that. However, for any fan that has a low opinion of anime with cute-as-a-button girls at the helm, Girls Und Panzer just might be the title to change their mind. When it was first announced, we thought GUP was going to be another disposable cute-girls-doing-cute-things show, but we were wrong: instead, the show takes it's tank battles incredibly seriously, leading to some seriously entertaining viewing. It's a surprisingly clever series that may charm even the Scroogiest otaku around with it's incendiary moxie.

For those with children, or children at heart...

My Neighbor Totoro Two Disc Blu-ray/DVD combo

MSRP: $39.99

Recommending My Neighbor Totoro to anime fans is a bit like recommending Oreos to people who like cookies: how could you not already know about it? Still, it's an older film, and you might be surprised at how many younger otaku still haven't gotten around to seeing it...like, er, me. Yes, I realize I that I need to surrender my otaku card after this shocking reveal, but what can I say, the stars just never aligned and I never saw Totoro. However, since it's apparently one of the greatest children's films ever made, I plan to rectify this by buying two copies of this release: one for me, and one for my two-year-old niece. How do you like them apples?

Furthermore, if you want to give someone the gift of Studio Ghibli magic but they've already seen Totoro a million times (which is entirely possible), keep in mind that Ghibli films From Up on Poppy Hill and Howl's Moving Castle were also released in Blu-ray/DVD combo packs earlier this year.

For the otaku who demands more from their entertainment...


Humanity Has Declined: Complete Collection

MSRP: $59.98

Honestly, Humanity Has Declined makes for an odd Yuletide gift. "Happy Holidays! Here, have the gift of tremendous cynicism for the future of human life on this planet." However, this snarky 2012 TV series is like nothing else out there, and pretty it's rare that you can say that. For the thinking otaku, this show's post-apocalyptic skewering of culture (both otaku culture specifically and in general) will provide some serious food for thought, as well as more than a few laughs. If you're not familiar with it, think the anime version of MTV's Daria, only with bizarre episodic plots that seem to have come straight out of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's definitely not for everyone, but for the otaku who's tired of happy-go-lucky fare, they might just be perversely delighted that you strayed so far off the beaten path to get them something this weird.

For the gamer who wishes they really were trapped in an MMO...

Sword Art Online Blu-ray Box Set I-IV

MSRP: $112.98 (each)

Sword Art Online is a polarizing series; so much so that I know for a fact that several of you are rolling your eyes just to see it included on this list, like you over there in the black shirt-- yeah, I can see you, deal with it.

Still, despite the legion of detractors, it was visually spectacular and offered up some interesting ideas about the future of virtual environments, even if the level of the writing was arguably below where it needed to be to make for compelling viewing. You should probably test out your potential giftee first to make sure they aren't in the "I hate SAO and everything it stands for!" camp before you fork over the cash for this, but if they're going into it unbiased, these sets make pretty snazzy gifts. Even our own Elliot, who doesn't even like the show much, was impressed by the quality of these releases.

For your friend who loves the Marvel and DC movies...

Tiger & Bunny Blu-ray Box Set I and II

MSRP: $44.82 (each)

Superhero anime is an interesting little subcategory. While there's tons of anime that feature heroes with supernatural powers, most shows are very different in style and tone from the exploits of American-style costumed superheroes. Japanese live-action series are another story (see: Superhero Time), but for some reason, the stories of costumed, super-powered heroes feel like a separate entity from anime. Cue Tiger and Bunny, an anime that is unabashedly about costumed superheroes and their exploits. I don't know if this show will convert non-anime fans into otaku-- you never can tell with these things-- but it's pretty safe to say that anyone who enjoys superhero tales will probably get a kick out of the super-polished Tiger and Bunny.

For the incurable romantic...

She's not a pet, she's an artist

Pet Girl of Sakurasou 1

MSRP: $59.98

People kind of flipped when Pet Girl was first announced, since the initial summary made it sound like it was about a guy taking care of a mentally disabled girl. It turns that on this show, "mentally disabled" seems to mean "absent-minded but incredible artistic genius," so the whole idea of spacey Mashiro being the main character's "pet" isn't really the mean-spirited joke that people were afraid it was. That said, if you can get past the questionable title, what you have is a unique and surprisingly moving romantic comedy that deals with the nature of genius; both what it's like to be exceptional, and what it's like for the "normal" people who surround the exceptional ones. It's one of those trojan horse shows that turned out to be a lot more interesting than we thought (see: Outbreak Company), and viewers who enjoy rom-coms and/or shows about art will likely enjoy it.

For your friend who likes to keep things old school...

Yaaay old school credits

Gatchaman Complete Collection

MSRP: $149.98

If you know someone who likes seeing the original series that went on to influence other titles decades later, you can hardly do better than this Gatchaman collection. Not only does it include all 105 episodes of the 1972-74 TV series, but it also includes the three OVAs and a slew of special features. Naturally, by modern standards this costumed heroes show is rather corny, but that's part of the charm; it's also significantly darker than the neutered US versions, Battle of the Planets and G-Force, from years back. Also, the good guys are technically called "the Science Ninja Team," and it probably merits a purchase just for that. Don't you want to be able to tell your friend, "I got you the complete adventures of the SCIENCE NINJA TEAM!"? I feel cool just typing it.

Now, have you made your picks from this list-- and hopefully, aren't completely out of money? Excellent, because we've got more holiday gift guides coming your way here at Japanator. In the meantime, get back to decking the halls, or trimming the tree, or whatever it is you do this time of year. Or sit back in a comfy chair and watch anime, that works too. Happy Holidays guys, whatever you celebrate.


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Karen Mead
Karen MeadContributor   gamer profile

Hi, I'm a former newspaper journalist who got tired of having a front row seat to the death of print. There probably could be some interesting story there about a disenchanted reporter moving on ... more + disclosures



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