Japanator's Holiday Shopping Guide 2011: Manga and Books


Clear your shelves, friends and readers! Gift-giving time approaches, and one must prepare for the tide of sweet, sweet books and manga to come squeezing into your library! Let it never be said that we at Japanator ignore the still serenity of print for the sultry motions of anime and videogames. Never!

Today we bring you our picks, straight off the press and into your hearts. Jeff, Kristina and I browsed far and wide for our favorites, braving strange stores, poorly organized sections, and those annoying people that just sit in the middle of the manga section, reading and never actually buying anything.

Deadbeats! Now, turn the page and read our notes below!

Oh, and don't forget to treat our anime and game recommendations as commands! Buy, you fools!

Jeff Chuang suggests:

For your biggest Puella Magi Madoka Magica fan

You know you want some inucurry

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Production Note 
MSRP: ¥5600 ($72)

Everyone who has been following anime knows about Madoka. It's one of our favorites here and if the conventions this summer means anything, a lot of you also like the show. Shaft has released a "productions material" art book containing a bunch of production material and artwork used for the show during this summer's Comic Market as an exclusive. I guess it sold well enough that now there's a general release of the same book. 

And this is no simple artbook. It's got a nice slip case, a "normal" art collection and a loose-bound sketch binder. There's a ton on Inucurry-dan's inventive artwork that has to do with the various battle scenes. That's on top of the postcards and bookmarks. And the word on the street is that this is definitely the book to get and keep, as it is written with "collect me!" all over it. And "while supply lasts," of course: while it is available on CDJapan, you might get lucky with another bookstore of choice; I didn't. If your lucky Madoka-crazed beneficiary can handle some moon-speak with his or her artbook, it's a great choice.


For the new Kindle owner who wants the thickest Japanese SF novel in digital form:

Eggs, eggs, I see eggs everywhere!

Mardock Scramble
MSRP: $9.99 (Kindle edition), $17.99 (Hardcover), £6.49 (iTunes)

I don't know about you, but I like to curl up to a large tome of science fiction goodness once in a blue moon. It's doubly fun when that book is written by an accomplished Japanese SF author, who has went on and write for a handful of anime like Le Chevalier D'Eon, Heroic Age and Fafner.

Haikasoru, Viz's acclaimed line of Japanese SF novels, released this 700+ pages thriller earlier this year. There was the anime adaptation of the first of the trilogy of Mardock Scramble, which is also available on DVD now; with this novel though, you are getting all three parts. The original story was published in Japan in trilogies, in usual light novel fashion. Western readers are spared of that, thankfully, in this combined tome. Or else we would be talking about how there's all this random talk about gambling and not why this is a really good stocking stuffer for the SF fan in your life. The whole thing reads not unlike a nod to good '80s and 90s cyberpunk in the lines of Armitage and BGC, so it should be extra amusing for people who's been around the anime block once.


kristina avatarKristina Pino Sugggests:

For anyone that likes some good drama and mystery centered around conspiracy and hacking (in other words, something a little different in the world of manga and anime):

bloody monday

Bloody Monday
MSRP: $10.99 each [Buy: Vol.1, Vol.2] [Pre-order: Vol.3, Vol.4]

Bloody Monday hooked me from the get-go with all the gore and theatrical drama involved. A terrorist arrives at Tokyo to stop an investigation agency from finding out about the truth behind a bloody incident called the Christmas Massacre which occurred in Russia previously. She's also there to unleash the virus again, this time in Tokyo, and repeat the incident.

Takagi, the main character of the series is a hacker extraordinaire who sometimes helps his father at the PI agency, and gets roped in to this mess when his father is falsely accused of murder and taken away. And of course, now it's up to Takagi, who even gets abducted by the terrorist to further her plot, to stop all of this from happening.

I am not usually attracted to anime or manga centered around young kiddos as protagonists, but the drama is really good in Bloody Monday. It reminded me (just a little bit, in one small aspect) of Infinite Ryvius, because they really get deep with the psychological aspect of being a kid that's in way over his head. If you're into this modern bloody drama sort of thing, you should definitely check out Bloody Monday. 2011 marks the manga release of the "final season." which is perfect for you all since you won't have to wait so long to read it all the licensed way.


For your nostalgic buddy, or just someone you want to treat to some good old-fashioned magical girl shoujo manga goodness:

sailor moon

Sailor Moon
MSRP: $10.99 each [buy Vol. 1, Vol.2, Vol.3, Vol.4, Vol.5]

Now, Sailor Moon has been my home girl for forever, but with the recent re-licensing of the manga series it's pretty safe to say that our favorite meatball head is now safely back on my list of recommendations! I used to watch Sailor Moon in the mornings before school, but I never did read the manga. Now that Kodansha has awesomely brought her back to the shelves, it's time for us to revisit the magical world of the Sailor Senshi and the dashing Tuxedo Mask.

Who knows, maybe there's a young girl in your life that's never known the magic that is Sailor Moon and her life is just that much emptier without Usagi Tsukino (or as I remember her in the old English dub, Serena Bunny). You'll have her dressing in pigtails and waving around magical wands in no time! For all others, it'll probably be more of a nostalgia factor that'll just bring the magic back. One of the things I love most about the re-release after all is the return of the beautiful artwork I had always associated with Naoko Takeuchi.


For the girl (or boy) that loves her boy cops loving other boy cops:

yellow 2

Yellow 2 (Episodes 1-3)
MSRP: $6.95 each [Buy Ep. 1, Ep.2, Ep.3]

I loved the original Yellow series, and when I found out there would be a continuation I was more than ecstatic. The only real reservations I have about suggesting these is, if you haven't been on board with them since Chapter 1 of the series, you might have to pay a little more than you're comfortable with to collect the issues since they tend to get pricey after the initial sale.

Yellow 2 continues the story of Taki and Goh, who in the original series met as partners on the job and somehow fall in love with each other despite one being straight and the other bi. (If this sounds familiar, you may be thinking of Fake.) Now, in the headline I did mention "cops," but they aren't exactly cops. They're really drug snatchers with lots of talent to sniff out those thugs. They cooperate and work with cops though, so it's close enough.

What I personally like about the story is it's honest romance with some good drama and a little action. It gets cheesy if you think about it too much, but I prefer it over some of the other ridiculous situations that BL mangaka put their characters through. I just kind of wish it would get animated! But, I digress.


For the girl (or boy) who is a lover of shoujo-esque drama in her boy on boy lovings:


The Tyrant Falls in Love (Up to 5 Volumes)
MSRP: $12.95 each (Buy Vol.1, Vol.2, Vol.3, Vol.4, Vol.5)

I'm not even sure why I love this series so much, because it's basically about an abusive relationship between a man that's in denial and another that's suffering from unrequited love. Eventually, all the rage subsides and you could enjoy what turns into a more honest relationship, but until then you'll have to deal with some very shoujo-esque drama. I'm not talking puppy-love comedy sort of gay on straight guy, I'm talking a series that kicks off with drunk surprise sex that leads to much strife. Well, yeah, then it gets funny. Ok, ok, you got me.

I still find it charming, though infuriating (the same way that shoujo pisses me off - it's nothing against the series). It's a good series to get into that is currently on-going in releases, though I could honestly recommend at least three other BL that I also like; but there's a limit to my recommendations real estate on this column so I went with the one with the most recent release (December 2011 for vol. 5)! That and, you can't go wrong with guys in lab coats and glasses.

[Note: What I said above in Yellow 2's section about BL manga getting expensive after the initial run is not an exaggeration. If you click on Vol.1 above in this section, you'll see Tyrant's first issue is selling for $60. If you're interested in any BL purchases - never hesitate!]


Josh Tolentino suggests:

For the friend that's about to join the Gallian Militia:

Valkyria Chronicles Design Archives
MSRP: $49.99 $27.77

Valkyria Chronicles is a great game. It’s a must-have for any PlayStation 3 owner, as its sequels are for PSP owners. Most distinctive about the series, though, have been its phenomenal visuals, evoking nothing so much as a sketchbook or watercolor painting in motion.

And now, thanks to Udon Books, the game’s mammoth 400+ page art book, Valkyria Chronicles Design Archives is available in English.

Read it and take in the secrets of series art director Raita Honjou (known to some H-doujinshi connoisseurs as “Zettai Shoujo”), and how he managed the feat of making dozens of characters look unique and distinctive, despite them all having to wear the exact same military uniform.

Other design revelations include early concepts (you won’t believe what the Eidelweiss was supposed to look like at first), developer commentary, and the meticulously detailed mechanical designs that you may have missed out on.

Fans shouldn’t pass this one up, and true fans might want to preorder the sequel’s art book, Valkyria Chronicles 2 World Artworks, due next February.


For the friend that's about to enter business school:

Spice and Wolf Volumes 1-5
$58.95 $32.99 

This one's a bit of a cheat, seeing as Spice and Wolf has been moving onto shelves since 2009, but now that retailers are offering the latest five volumes in a big ol' bundle, I figure it counts. And the books are well worth sneaking into a gift-buying guide. 

Even if you have been watching the Spice and Wolf anime adaptation, I'd still recommend reading Isuna Hasekura's original work, not just because having a look at source material is always a good thing, but because the books are good reads. Too often a light novel reads just like someone's overlong pitch for an anime series, or the stuff that would otherwise be in a manga were it not that the writer sucked at drawing or couldn't find a proper illustrator.

The printed adventures of Kraft Lawrence and his divine business partner Holo read a little bit differently on the page than on the screen. The books are more relaxed, taking their time to carefully weave the lessons about economics in fake-medieval-Europe with the development of Holo and Lawrence's relationship. 

In short, it's the perfect sort of thing to take the pressure off a harried business student. Plus, at least it's better than daydreaming about being on The Apprentice.


For the Persona-loving friend who pretends he's married to Aegis and having an affair with Chie:

Shigenori Soejima's Artworks SC 
MSRP: $39.99 $24.99 

Our second Udon Books-published recommendation this year comes as a last-minute addition to the list, thanks to some wonderful, wonderful news. Yes, the book is coming on December 27th. A little late to sneak under the tree, but still close enough to join in the party.

Shigenori Soejima's character designs and artwork were a big part of what helped make the latter Persona games for me, and any chance to see what makes his pretty pictures so pretty is a good thing. I already own the book in Japanese, and I'll tell you right now that the added value of being able to understand his notes is worth the second purchase.


You are logged out. Login | Sign up


Click to open photo gallery:


Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoManaging Editor   gamer profile

Josh is Japanator's Managing Editor, and contributes to Destructoid as well, as the network's premier apologist for both Harem Anime and Star Trek: Voyager For high school reasons, he's called "u... more + disclosures



Filed under... #books #Holiday Shopping Guide #manga #top stories



You're not expected to always agree, but do please keep cool and never make it personal. Report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community team. Also, on the right side of a comment you can flag nasty comments anonymously (we ban users dishing bad karma). For everything else, contact us!