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 anime and manga Christmas gift guide below.
This article has been updated since its original publication.
Hot take: Satoshi Kon was the greatest anime director to ever do it. Before his death in 2010, Kon released four feature films and one TV series, and they’re all incredible.
Tokyo Godfathers is Kon’s most accessible work, and On Christmas evening, three homeless people stumble across an abandoned newborn in the backstreets of Tokyo. The trio set out on a quest to reunite the child with its parents, which proves to be a bit more difficult and weirder than expected. It’s a beautiful and heartwarming story.
It’s a must-watch for anyone who has even the slightest interest in anime, or even animation as a whole. Tokyo Godfathers is also one of, if not the best Christmas films ever, so it’s a perfect gift idea for the occasion.
If your friend has been looking to get into manga but isn’t sure where to start, why not give them the first volume of Koyoharu Gotouge’s Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba for Christmas? This series follows Tanjiro Kamado, a member of the Demon Slayer Corps, who is on a quest to find a cure for his demon-cursed sister.
Look, we don’t need to tell you how popular Demon Slayer is, but your friend might not be in the know. Getting them the first volume is a great Christmas gift idea because it’ll help them dive into a fairly recent series, so they can be a part of the current conversation. It’s also just a good series in general and, by shonen manga standards, a short one, clocking in at a total of 23 volumes.
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 the 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 blu-ray collections, along with the direly underrated movie.
Tragically, we lost mangaka Kentaro Miura earlier this year. But while he may be gone, his art will exist forever. Berserk has built a well-earned reputation as being a must-read series, and it deserves a place on anyone’s shelf. This series follows Guts, a wandering swordsman who has been marked by demons. The manga jumps around in time, showing us everything that leads up to Guts becoming cursed, and then his journey to take revenge against the one who cursed him.
The series isn’t for the faint-hearted, but underneath its layer of violence and morbid tragedy is a surprisingly moving story about processing trauma and what it means to be a survivor. This hardcover collects the first three paperback volumes of Berserk in an oversized format, which really lets the fine detail of Miura’s art sing.
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 bathhouse is intricate in architecture, full of bizarre creatures 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.
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 2021, 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.
Before he became the most iconic anime director in the world, Hayao Miyazaki created one of the all-time greatest manga series (which he later adapted as his second feature film).
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 in a chemically hostile environment. It’s a great buy for anyone passionate about the environment, and especially for people who love strong female protagonists.