Anime News Network's Holiday 2015 Gift Guide
Tech & Gadgets
by Zac Bertschy,
The Streaming Bundle
The start of any tech gift guide on a site like this is liable to give you a long list of bluray players and high-end TVs, but as any anime fan will tell you, times have changed - all we really need to get going at this point is a suite of streaming subscriptions. We watch this stuff everywhere: our phones, our laptops, tablets, the PC at school, our Playstations, Rokus, AppleTVs and someone at some point probably watched streaming anime on a Zune. The device isn't really the thing: the subscription service is (welcome to our new ala carte future!).
You can't just get one if you want access to everything that's available – you need at least a few, and it is undeniable that a couple year-long subscriptions to any two or three of these services will make your otaku giftee one happy camper come Christmas. You're basically giving them a year of free anime; four whole seasons of entertainment. What's not to love?
So let's say you're going to give someone access to a few services for a year. Which services do you pick?
At the very least, if your aim is to make sure your giftee has access to basically everything they need for the coming year, you'll need a subscription to both Crunchyroll ($6.95/month for the basic plan, or $11.95/month for premium which will score them access to free shipping in the store and special perks at conventions) and Funimation.com ($4.95 a month for their simulcast catalog subtitled, $7.95 a month if you want access to their broadcast dubs and some store promotions). The majority of broadcast anime winds up streaming in one or both of these places, so these are the two you absolutely need. The good news is, Funimation's premium service is $59.95 for one year, which is a pretty decent savings, and that's the same price as Crunchyroll's basic service for one year, so for $120 you're not only giving your friend or relative an entire year of anime, but you're relieving them of a bill they were likely already paying. You can't go wrong with this idea!
If you're looking to give the complete package, consider adding on a Hulu Plus subscription ($7.99 a month with commercials, $11.99 a month without; giftcards are available) which features a lot of Viz Media's anime licenses (and plenty of Funimation's content, although not all of it) among other things. If for whatever reason your giftee doesn't have Netflix, you can throw that in on top for $9.99 a month or $120.00 for a year (giftcards are available).
If you're feeling the holiday spirit, consider adding on Viewster's Omakase subscription, which includes access to their (somewhat limited) streaming anime back catalog, but more importantly, it signs you up for their subscription box program, which is kinda like Lootcrate in that a box of curated anime stuff shows up at your door once every other month. If you go for it this week, they'll get a box of limited edition Kill la Kill merchandise (maybe have this one shipped to your house and give it as a gift with the subscription!)
That's a lot, right? Let's break it down into some packages, helpfully arranged in order of how much you love the person receiving them:
The “Best Friends” Package: Crunchyroll+ Funimation.com yearly subscriptions: US $120.00
The “I'm Doing Pretty Well Financially Right Now and I Love You” plan: Crunchyroll, Funimation.com, + one choice of either Netflix or Hulu: US $240
The “No, Seriously, You Will Never Understand The Depth Of My Love” plan: One full year of every single service listed above + a year of Viewster's OMAKASE service, 365 days of virtually every available piece of streaming anime online plus a box of stuff every other month: US $660
We'd be remiss, of course, if we didn't also recommend a few gadgets to watch this stuff on. You have a couple excellent high-end options on the market right now; the first is the freshly-released new version of the Apple TV, with a slightly higher price tag ($150 for the 32gb version, $200 for the 64gb model) but a dramatically improved interface, basically every streaming service you could want, and now it comes with voice control thanks to Siri hanging out in the remote. It can play mobile games, too, and it looks damn good doing it, so if you want your otaku pal to be able to pause Crunchyroll and flip over to a game, he (or she) can do that.
Retail Price: US $149 (32gb) $200 (64gb)
Shopping Link: Apple
Your other option is, of course, the other killer piece of hardware for set-top streaming, the Roku 4. It ALSO has voice search, every service you can name, and a smattering of (again, mobile) games. There isn't a whole lot of daylight between this and the Apple TV when it comes to functionality – if you're already in Apple's mobile ecosystem, that might be a better choice, but the rave reviews and solid support for the Roku make it just as wise a choice. If you need your giftee to have one box that can use every single service listed above, this is the other one everyone will recommend to you, and they're right.
Retail Price: $129.99
Shopping link: Amazon
Of course, if you're aiming for the fences and are having visions of your friend or relative giving you some kind of golden trophy for Greatest Living Relative, you'll skip the set-top boxes and go to something much more powerful that can handle all those streaming services AND give them access to the other thing otaku care more about than breathing or eating: video games. The PlayStation 4 is absolutely the otaku console of choice right now – if they're in to games that came from Japan, most of ‘em show up here, along with every major JRPG release and a few indies they aren't going to find anywhere else. Again, this is The Greatest Best Friend in History-level giftgiving, though; only do it if they gave you a kidney or something, you overachiever you.
Retail Price: $349 for a 500gb bundle, $429 for the 1tb bundle
Shopping Link: Amazon
Xbox One Bundle
Okay, so it isn't the preferred console for gamers who want stuff from Japan – the Xbox is a legendary failure there – but this is still a powerful machine, competitively priced with the PS4 and your chosen giftee will still be able to handle all that streaming anime AND play Final Fantasy XIV, XV, Kingdom Hearts III and that Final Fantasy VII remake, whenever it actually releases. Not a bad option, and if you're just feeling generous, every gamer wants access to every platform – nobody likes being held back, so if your giftee already has a PS4, this may be just the thing.
Retail Price: $349 for the 500gb bundle, $399 for the 1tb bundle
Shopping Link: Amazon
Rebuild of Evangelion Character Headphones
Okay, so they may not be exact replicas of the headphones Shinji uses when he's listening to that tape recorder in the fetal position, but these probably have better sound quality. It's a pretty sleek set of cans that won't look absurd in public but still have a little EVA flair to let everyone know how much NERV you got.
Yeah, I said it. Now you just have to live with it.
Retail Price: US $39.50
Shopping Link: Jlist
Attack on Titan Computer Mice
Have you ever looked at your computer mouse and thought “you know, I wish this reminded me more of the hit television series Attack on Titan”? Well, your prayers have been answered, not once but twice! This set comes in two flavors: one with the entire cast and a black mouse, and then you've got Eren and Levi just about to kick some butt with a blue mouse. They're wired, which kinda sucks – who doesn't prefer a wireless mouse? – but at that price, it's a small compromise, especially when your mouse looks this good.
Retail Price: US $12.99
Retail Link: Entire Cast, Eren and Levi
Cat Ear Headphones
Okay, so these aren't from a specific anime, but they DO look like they were custom-designed with anime convention attendees in mind, or maybe from a Tite Kubo/Tetsuya Nomura collab we were never privy to. Either way, look at ‘em: covered in glowing LEDs, with cat ear speakers on the headband so you can “share” music! Now everyone at the anime convention has to listen to your tunes, and there's nothing they can do about it! THE DAY IS YOURS!
Retail Price: US $149.99
Shopping Link: Brookstone
Smart Phone Futon
The problem with getting people cellphones for Christmas is that everyone already has one. Do you want to know what they DON'T have? A Japanese-style futon for their phone to sleep in! This cozy little number will keep your phone warm and safe all night, and even comes with a little kitty pal who will doubtlessly wake your phone up in the middle of the night when it wants attention, if my own experience is anything to go by.
Retail Price: US $18.00
Shopping Link: Jlist
Nyanko Earphone Jack Accessory: Horse Cat
This is a cat that's hiding inside the head of an absolutely terrified horse that you can plug into the headphone jack on your phone. I don't know why you're still here reading a description of this item when you could be purchasing multiple Horse Cats right now, one for yourself, one for special occasions, and then some extras to delight your family and friends this holiday season.
Retail Price: US $8.00
Shopping Link: Jlist
This is it: the ultimate gift for any discerning Evangelion fan. There are a few other pricey Evangelion items in this guide, but none of them double as both a functional humidifier AND one of the coolest-looking, most unique pieces of EVA merchandise ever produced. It's a little pricey, but the look on your EVA-obsessed friend's face when he unwraps this incredible thing is going to be worth every penny.
Retail Price: US $181
Shopping Link: Japan Trend Shop
Screen Cleaning Robot
Everyone's gotta wipe all that gunk off their cellphone screen at some point, so what better way to do it than with this handy self-guided screen-cleaning robot that fits in the palm of your hand? I have no idea how well this actually functions, but he sure is adorable, relatively inexpensive, and potentially extremely useful if your screens are all gunked up. Pretty cool stocking stuffer.
Retail Price: US $25
Shopping Link: Japan Trend Shop
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