The 2007 Holiday Gift Guideby Zac Bertschy and Bamboo Dong, Dec 15th 2007
What's not to love about Christmas? The endless office parties, seeing relatives you'd rather not see again, drinking too much, gaining weight - the holiday season has it all!
Of course, the most difficult thing about the holidays is figuring out what in the world you're going to get for those people in your life who are just impossible to shop for. So we at the Anime News Network editorial team have put together this handy little list of what sort of anime and manga will make these difficult-to-please folks smile on Christmas (or Hannukah or Kwanzaa or Solstice or whatever you happen to celebrate!). After all, nothing says "Happy Holidays!" like a huge box of foreign cartoons, right?
Everyone knows that one cool grandma who strives to stay hip with the lingo, and wants to make sure she stays an active participant in your life. They're the ones who peer over your shoulder when you're watching anime, and pretend to feign interest in whatever explosions are happening on the screen. Your plan is to slowly introduce her to the wide world of anime, but you don't know how to do it. Grandma Bernadette loves knitting and hunky firemen, but she's also got a weak heart, so getting her something with too much fanservice is definitely out. She fills up her spare time watching re-runs of The Golden Girls and Little House on the Prairie, but by next year, she'll be watching anime like a champ.
Nothing hearkens back to the simpler, more idyllic days than rediscovering the trials and tribulations of a gentle childhood. By giving her Right Stuf's boxset release of Piano, she can kick back on her well-worn recliner and imagine she's watching her grandchildren struggle to regain their musical touch. Like reading Willa Cather's “A Wagner Matinee,” it may remind her of the way that music can rekindle one's memory of their youth. Something like that. Truthfully, we just don't want her to get flustered by watching something too exciting and filled with blood and nudity. To keep her warm, we also suggest a fluffy Kiki's Delivery Service blanket. Not only does it insulate against the harsh winds of old age, it also has a cat on it. If this one-two punch of anime love doesn't ingratiate you intro Grandma's will, then you have no hope.
“I wish I had a little sister so I could cry when she got stranded in the rain”
This is the guy who stares into the horizon and says wistfully, “If I had a little sister, she could call me ‘big brother,’ and bake me sugar cookies every week. We'd frost them together and live happily ever after.” You've tried to take him out to the bars, and you've dragged him to a dozen kick-offs, but nothing could really quell his lonely heart like the blushing stare of a prepubescent girl. This holiday season, give him the gift of love—moe love. He's probably never going to grow out of it, so you may as well indulge his daydreams.
“Dear Brother, the highlight of my day was when you picked me up from school and enveloped me in your muscular arms!” That's what your friend will hear when he discovers the entire Air TV series and the movie waiting under the Christmas tree. Filled with cute little girls and plenty of giggles (and lots of tears), it's the perfect item to send him to cloud nine. True, the lead male isn't actually anyone's big brother, but with a plenty of girls who would gladly adopt him as their nii-san, it's close enough. Complement this gift with this unbearably cute huggable body pillow cover from the hit series, Idolmaster. Haruka-chan is scared of thunderstorms, so she'll need your protection during the night. You wouldn't want to let your little sister down, would you?
“Mommy needs a virtual babysitter”
Parenting is hard work. When she's off saving the world, making business transactions, handling her stock portfolio, and playing with her new iPhone, she need someone to help keep an eye on her kids. Those little rascals may have a few weeks off from school, but mom's got some important business to take care of. She needs something cute and friendly, that will not only keep her children calm for hours at a time, but will also teach them important values, like friendship, sharing, and caring. If they learn some skills along the way, even better.
When it comes to entertaining kids, pick something that isn't condescending, but is still safe for viewers of all ages. Your best bet is Fruits Basket, which now comes in a handy thinpak. Tohru is a positive role model for girls, with her go-get-‘em attitude and her unwavering charm. She's never phased by bullying and hard times, and her good nature is absolutely infectious. She'll teach kids once and for all that throwing toys around the house and torturing the neighbor's dog may not be the best path to acceptance. Of course, you probably don't want the little girls in your life running about the neighborhood hugging strange men—for that, we recommend a small collection of Fruits Basket pillows. Great Eastern has a wide assortment of plush pillows, including the lovable Shigure, the calm Yuki, and the ever-popular Kyo. You can even get a plush rice ball, for all those slightly bizarre children who like things a little offbeat.
“I'm a magical fairy princess!”
Sure, honey, and the voyeur next door is the next CEO of Goldman Sachs. That's okay, a little delusion never hurt anyone, though this girl may be straying a little too close to the fire. She's mommy's little angel, and her room is covered corner to corner with every pink and purple object sold at Target. She has the crown-shaped Princess throw pillows, the Glam Grrl!! sheets, and at least two pairs of velour pants that say “Juicy” on the rump. Chances are, her Christmas wish-list probably has one of those Fur Real ponies on it, too. Congratulations, brave knight, you get to shop for her.
Aside from the requisite gaudy, marabou-trimmed wand, another great gift idea would be ADV's thinpak release of Princess Tutu, a series that only made a minor splash when it first came out. It stars a clumsy ballet student who harbors a strange secret—she's actually a duck, and it's only because of a magical pendant that she can appear as human and interact with others. Her dream is to befriend her beloved prince, but there are sinister forces acting against her. Although the series can be a little dark at times, it's a very charming and magical show, and it gives a fun, almost Swan Lake-esque twist to the princess genre.
“Dreams DO come true!”
You likely have that one friend in your life who is depressingly optimistic, and nothing in the world could ever get him or her down. That person sees the platinum lining behind every cloud, and when life gives them lemons, they make enough lemonade to water every homeless shelter in a three-county radius. They haven't read The Secret —they are The Secret, and although their ever bright outlook in life is a bit too much for the cynic in everyone, they can brighten up your day when you most desperately need it.
Achieving goals is all about chasing your dreams, and no one knows this better than Sora from Kaleido Star. Ever since she was a kid, she dreamed about being an acrobat on the famous Kaleido Stage, a magical production that almost puts Cirque du Soleil to shame. With plenty of hard work, and a heavy dose of good luck, she finally makes it, but now she has to prove herself. We're not saying that your friend should quit his or her job and join the circus, but when it comes to classic tales of reaching for the stars, Kaleido Star gets the job done. And, to make things even more convenient, you can get the entire series in one convenient thinpak. The second season's available in a thinpak set too, but that might be overkill.
“I'm 15 and nobody understands me!”
You know the type; too much black eyeliner, a wardrobe of black clothing purchased almost exclusively at Hot Topic, a music collection chock full of Fall Out Boy, Dashboard Confessional and Hawthorne Heights (while keeping their DVD of High School Musical in the closet). Maybe they're a little antisocial – going out of their way to talk about the “sheeple”, writing angry notes in the margins of their textbooks, watching and re-watching Edward Scissorhands, and endlessly complaining that nobody understands their angst and pain.
What better way to brighten up a misanthropic teenager's dreary day than with the first volume of Death Note? Everyone knows the story by now – bored, misguided teenage genius Light finds a notebook that comes with a handy-dandy Death God named Ryuk that follows whatever murderous orders Light jots down in its pages. First order of business? Start slaughtering criminals in an attempt to remake the world in your own image! While most people over the age of 18 or so see Light for the twisted, bloodthirsty villain he is, teenagers with a chip on their shoulder and a grudge against the world for not “getting” them will see him as a beloved anti-hero. To sweeten the deal, this special edition comes a little Ryuk of its own! If you're worried that this series will only fuel your downbeat friend's revenge fantasies, don't be – only when they start carrying around a replica Death Note and strike up conversations with little Ryuk about bringing the gym teacher down should you get concerned.
“I just finished my Go-Gurt and I'm all out of DBZ videos!”
Little brothers can be a pain, especially when they're all cracked out on cheap candy, video games and anime. Voracious consumers of all they see, your average little bro will plow through his new Wii game in minutes, and that's after going through your entire comic book collection (and getting chocolate stains on your Spiderman back issues). Thankfully, for the last few years, we've all had a long-running televised babysitter named Dragon Ball Z, but as much as little kids love repetition – and there's been plenty of DBZ repeats, even considering the show's 291-episode length and the mountain of movies and specials – little Timmy is probably getting sick of it by now, and what's worse, he's started eyeing your Batman graphic novels…
What better way to keep your hyperactive sibling in check than with a gigantic box of Naruto manga? Viz put this expensive, lavish sucker out a while back, and it's bursting with 27 – count ‘em, 27 – volumes of Naruto's famous exploits. Already a proven hit with kids, if Goku is making your kid brother yawn, Naruto will send him into a deep, happy coma that, if you're lucky, he might not wake up from until he's old enough to have a decent conversation with you. Even better, his reading speed and comprehension probably aren't quite at Olympic levels of proficiency yet, so 27 books will keep him out of your hair (and away from your stuff) for a good long time. If you're balking at the price – and sticker shock on this particular item is totally understandable – just try to envision the many, many hours of quiet solitude that price tag will afford you. And hey, once he's done reading these, you can always get him the DVD box set for his birthday. That'll shut him up!
“The only thing larger than my beard is my laserdisc collection!”
If you're a nerd – and if you're reading a holiday gift guide exclusively about anime, it's a safe bet that you are – then you probably have a friend who uses Unix, wears suspenders, prides himself on his giant beard, enjoys overly complicated war simulation board games, leans libertarian and most of all, hasn't seen any new anime since 1996 and likes it that way. Oh sure, when you first saw his classic laserdisc collection, you pulled one out thinking he had a really awesome shelf of old-school LPs, but that all came clattering down when you realized you were holding not a vintage copy of Jimi Hendrix’ Are You Experienced, but instead a vintage copy of Mobile Suit Gundam vol. 4, carefully sealed to prevent laser rot.
Shopping for often prickly old-school nerds like this can be really daunting – they're very particular in their taste and generally have the kind of disposable income available to single adult men who don't have girlfriends to blow money on, so they generally buy what they want. However, you're guaranteed to make his day if you put any of Bandai Visual's insanely overpriced but totally awesome collector's editions of some of his favorite old classics. Specifically, Wings of Honneamise – available in both HD-DVD and Bluray flavors, so you can even cater to his side of the format war – comes with an awesome booklet, sturdy packaging and a crystal-clear version of an otaku favorite from days long since past. If robots are his thing, you can also consider snagging Gunbuster or either of BVUSA's Patlabor releases. The ancient animation and now-shopworn plots are guaranteed to warm the cockles of his old-school heart! Now, if only you can find any of them for less than the price of a used car…
“Have you seen my new $25,000 home theater setup? No? Here, put these earplugs in…”
Everyone's got a friend whose penchant for overspending on electronics is simultaneously a blessing and a curse – you wish you had the kind of scratch necessary to put together an ass-kicking theater in your living room, so there's jealousy involved, but on the other hand, you get to use his stuff since he's your buddy. Long ago he adopted both Bluray and HD-DVD, he's got a massive HD TV and a movie library that rivals the archives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Lucky for you, his focus on American films puts you in the Holiday gift-giving position of “Anime Ambassador” – you get to open his eyes to the wonderful world of Japanese animation!
Odds are your tech-head buddy is currently obsessed with buying (or re-buying, as the case usually is) films on HD-DVD and Bluray, but there's a limited number of anime releases on either format. Luckily, Sony Pictures Classics saw fit to release what was probably the best anime film of the past several years and likely the crown jewel in Satoshi Kon's prestigious filmography, Paprika, on Bluray. There's no better film to show off your buddy's awesome home theater system either – the sumptuous soundtrack and mind-blowing visuals will turn him into a fan overnight and will likely have him scrambling to check out other HD anime releases. Unfortunately, you already bought him the best one, so it's all downhill from here, but hey – at least you didn't show up with a Hickory Farms sausage and a bottle of egg nog.
Happy Holidays from the Anime News Network editorial team!