Do you need a quick, but special, gift idea for a friend who seems curious about getting into this whole anime thing, but they don’t know where to start? Maybe she’s seen half an episode of Cowboy Bebop and thought it was pretty sick. Or he lets out a little sigh of panic when confronted with the manga section of their local bookstore? There are some tried and true entry points for the future otaku, friend, and we’d be happy to share them with you. The best gifts are the ones recipients wouldn’t normally buy.
Check out our gift guide for the anime newbie below:
This article has been updated since its original publication.
As far as classic manga series go, you can’t go past Dragon Ball Z. It’s a series whose influence is still incredibly present to this very day. This VIZBIG edition collects the first three volume of Dragon Ball Z at a slightly bigger page size than normal manga. There’s a good chance the person you’re buying this for may have already. The manga is more streamlined, so things move at a better pace, and Akira Toriyama’s art has a level of dynamism that the anime just doesn’t fully capture.
Nobody doesn’t like space opera/infinite jazz breakdown Cowboy Bebop. It’s true. Even the most anime-ambivalent of us can get down with a little sci-fi bounty hunter action. Clocking out at a light 26 episodes, it’s not an intimidating thing to take on. Also, the big band soundtrack is gold. The series has been split over two blur-ray collections, along with the direly underrated movie.
Spirited Away is is just as good at age 7 as it is at 26. That’s because it’s accessible, refined and gorgeous. Director Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t skimp on details: Spirited Away‘s spirit bath house is intricate in architecture, full of bizarre creature and set in a stunningly strange other world. The Art of Miyazaki’s Spirited Away features sketches, commentary and storyboards from the world-class anime, which, to those outside the fandom, could grace a coffee table or give them a lead-in to Miyazaki’s phenomenal corpus of work.
So cute. So cute. I have one of these. It brings me joy every god damn day. I won’t call this a conversation-starter, but it sure looks like it fell right out of an anime.
In 1996, Revolutionary Girl Utena broke ground in the magical girl genre. It’s about a chivalrous girl who wants more than anything to be a prince. The manga features gender-bending behaviour, female love and awesome fight scenes. In 2020, Revolutionary Girl Utena is, objectively, a little silly and over-earnest. It’s a bit of manga history, and a lot of entertainment, all in a short five volumes (collected here are two hardcovers). A friend actually bought this for me last year, and I was pretty floored.
Nausicaä is hardcore. She’s a princess and a fighter who’s inherited a kingdom in a post-apocalyptic world, overrun by a toxic jungle. Behemoth insects destroy everything in their path. It’s on Nausicaä to strike a compromise between human settlements, the bugs and the scientific realities of living a chemically hostile environment. It’s a great buy for anyone passionate about the environment, and especially for people who love strong female protagonists.