Holiday Gift Guide 2018
Books & Manga

by Rebecca Silverman,

Artbooks

Dragon Quest Illustrations: 30th Anniversary Artbook

Dragon Quest may not be quite as well-loved in the west as in Japan, but its artist Akira Toriyama certainly is. That makes this artbook, which comes out before Christmas but in the middle of Chanuka, so appealing: it contains a retrospective of Toriyama's thirty years drawing for the franchise. Even if you don't know who the characters are, the look back at Toriyama's art is fascinating, as is the shift in his coloring and shading techniques. That's also interesting from a game design perspective, and in that case the fact that this is all the work of one artist really allows you to see those evolutions. Game fans can see unused character and creature designs, and while there is limited commentary, the fold-out poster and hardcover format are nice bonuses.

Retail Price: $34.99 (Seller Price: $27.88)
Publisher: Viz
Retail Link: Amazon

The Complete Art of Fullmetal Alchemist

If there's an FMA fan on one of your lists, this is a terrific treat. Collecting all of Hiromu Arakawa's color art for the series, along with character designs and an interview, this oversize hardcover is a treasure trove. The pictures range from serious to silly, and there's really a very impressive volume to it. Thick, glossy pages give the book a lot of heft as well, and if there's not the usual artbook extra of a fold out poster, there's enough else here to still make it worthwhile.

Retail Price: $34.99 (Seller Price: $26.24)
Publisher: Viz
Retail Link: The Right Stuf

The Eyes of Bayonetta 2

Whatever you may think of the game, Bayonetta does have some beautiful artwork, and this book from Sega's illustrators has a good variety of images. From character and weapon designs to pinups and original art, this is a nice follow-up to the previous artbook for the franchise for fans of the game.
Retail Price: $49.99 (Seller Price: $31.44)

Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Retail Link: Amazon

Okite! Book

If virtual idols of the YouTube variety are your thing, MikaPikaZo's artbook may be the one for you or the person on your list who likes cute girls. The images aren't explicit, but the girls are adorable in a Love-Live kind of way, and there's a nice variety of pictures: group shots, pinups, themed, or just simple portraits. Knowing who the characters are is a bonus, but if you just are looking for some sweet cuteness, this is a very good place to start.

Retail Price: $28
Retail Link: J-List

Norari Fashion Book

Artist Tajima Yukie's artbook is all done in traditional mediums and set up like a fashion magazine, which makes for one gorgeous collection. Tajima's characters are beautifully rendered and comprise both humans and fantasy races, all garbed in clothes that draw inspiration from both real-world styles and cultures and fantasy imagery. The fashion magazine set up is a nice way to set itself apart, and it also allows us to focus on the clothing more than anything. Since it's beautiful, that's a plus. The faces all have a slight look of 1980s shoujo as well, which further makes this a unique book for the art and illustration fan on your list.

Retail Price: $15
Retail Link:J-List

Futurelog

Range Murate is one of the most immediately recognizable artists in anime and manga, and this book covers twenty years of work. Entirely in color, the hardcover collection contains both illustrations and comics from the Robot anthologies, as well as columns from Futuregraph. It's touted as the most complete collection of his works thus far, and that seems to be a well-deserved boast. It comes out after Chanuka is over, unfortunately, but you can still get it in time for Christmas.

Retail Price: $59.95 (Seller Price: $38.65)
Publisher: Denpa
Retail Link: Amazon

Manga

Classic Manga by Go Nagai: Devilman Classic Collection and Cutie Honey Classic Collection

If you haven't read any Go Nagai manga, well, that's probably because previous to this year there wasn't really any available in English. That changed with Seven Seas’ new hardcover editions of two of Nagai's seminal works, Devilman and Cutie Honey. Both titles have been highly influential in their genres, horror and magical girl respectively (although Cutie Honey also falls under “campy science fiction”), and if you know a manga historian or someone into either of those genres, these books are attractive enough to make for good presents. Both are hardcover with color pages and translations that read both smoothly and not too anachronistically given their 1970s settings. Devilman’s a bit harder to take in a few cases, but both are good stories in their own right, even without adding in the historical significance – and although expensive, they're also among the more affordable of the fancy hardcover manga out there.

Retail Price: Devilman - $29.99 (Seller Price: $22.28) Cutie Honey - $27.99 (Seller Price: $18.29)
Publisher: Seven Seas
Retail Link: Devilman - Amazon Cutie Honey - Amazon

Captain Harlock Classic Collection

If you remember the heady days of Viz's release of Galaxy Express 999 or even the recent Queen Emeraldas release from Kodansha, Seven Seas has your Leiji Matsumoto needs covered with the original Captain Harlock manga. Surprisingly less sexist than its modern remake, Captain Harlock beautifully captures why the genre is called “space opera” – the sweeping vistas, moodily dramatic cast, and driving plot all combine to form something almost inexpressible. Fans of old school science fiction you're trying to get into manga should find this an easy point of entry, and once again, manga historians won't want to miss adding it to their collections.

Retail Price: $24.99 (Seller Price: $15.99)
Publisher: Seven Seas
Retail Link: Amazon

That Blue Sky Feeling volume 1

For whatever reason, these past couple of years have been excellent for thoughtful LGBTQ+ coming-of-age stories, and the latest addition to that is Okura's manga. The story follows high schooler Noshiro as he befriends Sanada, an openly gay classmate who is ostracized by the rest of the class. As the two grow closer, Noshiro begins to understand himself better, and whether this story leads beyond friendship for the boys or not, it's a thoughtful examination of what it means to be different when that's not always acceptable. There are some uncomfortable moments, such as the fact that Sanada consistently dates older men (possibly for sex), but on the whole this is simply a good book.

Retail Price: $10.99 (Seller Price: $8)
Publisher: Viz
Retail Link: Amazon

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal Edition

Do you know someone who has yet to read Naoko Takeuchi's classic magical girl manga? Well, they're in luck, because the Eternal Edition of Sailor Moon is not only here, but it's gorgeous. Oversized and printed on thick, glossy paper more commonly seen in artbooks, this edition has plenty of full-color pages and is big enough to really appreciate Takeuchi's art nouveau-inspired artwork. It's a classy enough edition to merit double-dipping for the true Sailor Moon fan in your life.

Retail Price: $27.99 (Seller Price: $18.16)
Publisher: Kodansha
Retail Link: Amazon

 

How to Treat Magical Beasts: Mine and Master's Medical Journal

Veterinary manga has been translated before, but this series, which currently has two volumes available, takes it a step further by making the protagonists magical vets. Despite the fact that they're treating dragons and the like, the story remains grounded in sound, albeit 19th century, veterinary practices, covering topics like abuse and neglect, euthanasia, and doing your absolute best to save a seemingly hopeless case – and having it work. It's both charming and emotional, and, don't worry, more hopeful than not, making it a good bet for the animal lover or veterinarian on your list.

Retail Price: $12.99 (Seller Price: $9.20)
Publisher: Seven Seas
Retail Link: Amazon

Frankenstein

Even if the person you give this to has never read Mary Shelley's 1818 classic Gothic, Junji Ito's adaptation is a thing of dark and gruesome beauty. Of course, if they have read it, this volume's even more fantastic; Ito's adaptation is not only one of the best, it also maintains an excellent balance between Shelley's original aesthetic and Ito's trademark sensibilities. A few additional, never-before-available-in-English short stories are also included, some of which were part of the recent anthology anime of Ito's works, making this even more appealing. Don't let the pastel cover fool you – this hardback edition is some of Ito's best work and a great gift for a horror fan you know.

Retail Price: $22.99 (Seller Price: $17.24)
Publisher: Viz
Retail Link: Right Stuf

 

Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs

If you know someone who just wants some rom-com fun with a supernatural flair and a hefty dose of fanservice, Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs currently has three volumes available and is just that. The story of a hapless young man whose exorcist powers are to punch ghosts into the other world, and the weird, haunted hot spring inn he finds himself rooming at got an anime adaptation recently, and the manga is not only a bit more fun, but also less censored. While this isn't for the kiddies, it does work well with the basics of the harem genre and is one of the more entertaining series within it to come out recently with a nice variety of female love interests for the hero. It's great snow day reading.

Retail Price: $12.99 (Seller Price: $9.74)
Publisher: Seven Seas
Retail Link: Right Stuf

Astra Lost in Space

All five volumes of this space adventure, which gets more engaging by the book, will be out in time for the winter holidays, which makes it a good gift for the science fiction fan on your list. The story starts out simple enough – a group of ragtag school kids in a space-traveling future find themselves, well, lost in space when a field trip goes wrong. But with each volume, more and more twisted secrets are revealed and the mystery surrounding the group deepens. It's almost definitely one of those series that should be given in multiple volume sets, and at only five total, it's a good way to give a complete series.

Retail Price: $9.99 (Seller Price: $7.49)
Publisher: Viz
Retail Link: Right Stuf

The Prince's Romance Gambit (ebook only)

Has someone you know been griping about the worn-out tropes of shoujo romance? Do they have an e-reader? Then The Prince's Romance Gambit may be the gift for them. Featuring a no-nonsense heroine and a hero who actually makes rose petals appear out of thin air because he's that amazing, this digital-only series (three volumes of which are available as of this writing) is a very funny send-up of the “hot guy pursues normal girl” story. It's still romantic, but not without a definite tongue in the cheek, and worth reading whether you're a fan of the genre or totally sick of it.

Retail Price: $10.99 (Seller Price: $7.99)
Publisher: Kodansha
Retail Link: Amazon

The Maid at My House (ebook only)

It's cute! It's cheap! It's complete at three volumes! The Maid at My House may not have the most winning title, but it's a surprisingly heartfelt little love story in the Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight vein. While it's more likely to appeal to readers of shoujo and josei romance, it also is a good fit for the hopeless romantic of any stripe. It's also a good budget gift for the digital manga reader, with each volume only costing $4, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Retail Price: $3.99
Publisher: Akita Publishing
Retail Link: Amazon

Light Novels

Obsessions of an Otome Gamer (ebook only)

Usually in reborn-in-an-otoge stories, the protagonist finds herself as the bad guy. That's part of what makes this book so good – the heroine is reborn as the actual protagonist. Add in that she may not be as dead as we think she is, and the story just gets more interesting from there. Strongly written and well-translated, this story is genuinely emotionally engaging as well, and no matter which hero the recipient of this gift prefers, they'll get their chance: once the characters reach high school, the series splits into two, one following each hero. That makes this the gift that keeps giving, assuring the happy ending the reader most desires.

Retail Price: $6.99
Publisher: Cross Infinite World
Retail Link: Amazon

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (ebook only)

A more typical take on the subgenre, when an otaku tomboy dies after obsessing over an otome game, she's surprised to find herself reborn as the evil villainess of the piece – a girl doomed to be killed or exiled. But that doesn't get her down in this comedy romance; instead, the newly awakened Katarina sets herself to not only preparing to survive what she sees as her inevitable banishment, but also to trying to prevent some of her problems by being, well, the self she was prior to her reincarnation. The result? Katarina might be transforming from villain to master of her own mixed-gender harem. This is a delightful comedic romance, and if you know an otoge fan, it's a perfect gift. (And if they have a late summer birthday, a hardcopy will be available by then.)

Retail Price: $6.99
Publisher: J-Novel Club
Retail Link: Amazon

Defeating the Demon Lord's a Cinch (If You've Got a Ringer)

This isekai near-parody asks the important questions: what if the hero's party is totally inept and stands no chance of actually defeating the demon lord? And what if the only one with any fighting skill whatsoever is the priest? That's what happens in this action comedy, and while it's great for those tired of the basic isekai tropes, it's also just a good story in its own right. Knowledge of fantasy basics is definitely advised, however, but if you've ever thought the priest was the weakest character, this is the book to turn that on its head.

Retail Price: $14 (Seller Price $9.80)
Publisher: YenOn
Retail Link: Amazon

Didn't I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!

On the other end of the isekai spectrum we have this somewhat more serious novel about a girl who dies and asks for something that really should have been pretty easy, only to be handed a ludicrous amount of power. Adele, or Mile as she renames herself, is just trying to be normal in her new world, but her levels and inability to fully act like someone who isn't from contemporary Japan continually make her stand out. A nice bonus with this story is that, while there are some objectifying moments, for the most part it's just about girls adventuring together and kicking serious ass. It isn't anti-men, but it also doesn't need romantic interests to move the story forward.

Retail Price: $13.99 (Seller Price $8.81)
Publisher: Seven Seas
Retail Link: Amazon

Toradora

The wait was long for this one, but it was worth it. Toradora is among the best romantic comedies out there, with its relatable, endearing cast and deft uses of genre tropes. Whether you know someone who has seen the anime or not, this is a well-written, nicely translated book on the lighter side of things that nevertheless pays attention to the emotional nuances of the characters’ home lives. With three volumes out in time for the holidays, it's a good winter reading gift.

Retail Price: $13.99 (Seller Price $9.79)
Publisher: Seven Seas
Retail Link: Amazon

Monogatari Novels Box Set Limited Edition

Nisioisin's seemingly endless Monogatari series is now easier to start someone on with Vertical's box set of the first seven novels. The box is decorated with new artwork from illustrator Vofan, and the books fit snugly enough not to slide around but not so tightly that you destroy them every time you try to pull one out. The books themselves aren't different from the original releases, but the chance to have (and keep) them all together makes this very appealing.

Retail Price: $105.65 (Seller Price $64.57)
Publisher: Vertical
Retail Link: Amazon

JK Haru is a Sex Worker in Another World (ebook only)

Okay, obviously you need to know the person pretty well to gift them this novel, but it is one of the best to be released in English. A pointed critique of the isekai genre, the story follows Haru, a high school girl (JK, or “joshi kousei”) as she's reincarnated in another world and is forced to make her living as a sex worker. There aren't many job options for women, and since she did compensated dating back in the real world, it seems like a good fit to her. The book is unstinting in its depiction of what Haru goes through, from violence to humiliation to those customers she does like, and it's also not shy about pointing out the issues with what can be viewed as a power-fantasy genre in general. Even if you don't know someone you can give this to, it's worth reading.

Retail Price: $6.99
Publisher: J-Novel Club
Retail Link: Amazon


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