It’s that time of the year: time to buy stuff. For other people, for yourself, it doesn’t matter. And this year’s especially difficult, since someone out there decided it’s now “patriotic” and “American” to go shopping. So much for all of my hard-earned money!
But since we’re in this big spending mindset anyway, I thought I’d gather together some of my favorite products from throughout 2008. Buy them for your friends, or buy them for yourself (don’t worry, I won’t tell). And hey, you could even forward this list to your friends and family so THEY can buy it all for YOU!
Now, I’ve sorted all the goodies by the company who published them. This may seem a little bit odd, but there’s a very good reason: Right Stuf has all those awesome sales where you can save a bunch of money on titles from a particular publisher! So even if you don’t buy these for the holidays, you can check back whenever one of those sales pops up. Handy, no?
Without further ado, the gifties!
- Best Student Council – A group of girls run their private all-girls high school, but this ain’t no Maria-sama ga Miteru. The main character, Rino Randou, has a puppet on her hand that seems to have a life of his own, and the secondary characters are no less colorful.
- Slayers Movies & OVAs Collection – With a new Slayers TV series out, and another one on the way, it’s time for any of you not familiar with the show to catch up. I can understand that committing to three TV seasons might seem daunting, so why not try this set of the feature films and OVA episodes?
- Hitohira – Imagine being so shy you literally cannot force yourself to speak. Such is the situation of Hitohira’s heroine Mugi Asai, who finds herself conscripted into the Drama Performance Club in this soft-spoken manga.
- Voices of Love – Naughty comics for adult women (that aren’t hentai)? Yes please! Voices of Love was one of the first manga released by ’s josei line, LuvLuv Press, and it’s an excellent collection of smoldering and slightly smutty but fairly realistic tales of adult romance.
- I Shall Never Return – You didn’t think you’d get away without a single yaoi title, did you? This boys love volume, from ’s yaoi pub Deux Press, was later adapted into the popular anime OVA, released by Kitty Media.
- Code Geass – Enjoy your plot-twisty mech-geo-political drama in anime or manga flavor, take your pick. Better yet, snatch up the first Geass box set, which includes the first two discs of the anime AND the first volume of the manga (plus some other goodies).
- Gurren Lagann – Speaking of goodies, I remember at Fanime Con when someone suggested that the Gurren Lagann box set should come with a light-up Core Drill and thinking that it’d never happen. Oh me of little faith! A light-up Core Drill there is, as well as two discs of Gainax’s latest masterpiece and a really fantastic box to put ‘em all in.
- Gunbuster / Diebuster – Bandai Entertainment absorbed Bandai Visual USA this year, and the result? You can get Gunbuster, Gunbuster 2, and/or Gunbuster VS Diebuster a bit easier now! Part of me wants to hold out for a massive box set, but these seminal Gainax OVAs (and movie) are too good to pass up.
- The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – A phenomenal film with a bit of sci-fi, a bit of romance, and even a mild slice-of-life flavor, this is definitely one of the best anime films to be released in recent memory. If you missed it in theaters, snatch it on DVD when it comes out tomorrow. That’s an order!
- The Girl who Runs through Time – Remember that movie I just mentioned? It’s sort of a sequel to a novel, which this manga from CMX is based on. So you should grab it, too.
- Shirley – It’s time to ditch those wishy-washy “sexy” maids in favor of REAL maids. And there’s no better way to do it than with Shirley, a one-volume manga from Kaoru Mori, the creator of Emma: A Victorian Romance.
- If you’re interested in getting the latest anime from legally, you should consider buying a membership to Anime Members, CrunchyRoll’s paid membership which will start getting access to English-subbed anime within 24 hours of the episodes’ airings in -- in HD resolutions.
- Hellsing 9 – Come on, this is the penultimate volume of one of ’s greatest vampire manga ever. Alucard puts all those Twilight pansies to shame.
- Blood+ - Speaking of vampires that put Twilight to shame, Blood+ is another great franchise. Loosely based on the TV anime, which was even more loosely based on the Prodution I.G anime film, Blood+ is being released in both manga and novel format—and you should definitely consider both.
- Gantz – The long-awaited English release of Hiroya Oku’s chilling tale about the most deadly game on the planet is finally out! If you haven't been reading this hard action manga illegally, you should have. I mean, you should have wanted to. I mean, uh...oh, just go buy it.
- Faust – Both prose and manga make up this most excellent anthology of some of ’s greatest popular fiction, with work from Death Note artist Takeshi Obata, CLAMP, Yun Kouga, and other huge names. As a bonus, it’s also a way more efficient use of backpack space for taking on a plane, because it’s got so much in it!
- Manga: The Complete Guide – If you’re into manga, you need this book, and that’s all there is to it. Jason Thompson details every manga ever published in English (at the time of the book’s printing), and he probably knows more about them than I do about…well, everything, put together.
- Mao-chan – I’m not sure if it’s because they’re owned by Random House, but Del Rey loves big fat books! Written by Love Hina’s Ken Akamatsu and illustrated by Maid War Chronicle’s Ran, this cute comedy clocks in at nearly 400 pages.
- Yokaiden – An OEL title by Nina Matsumoto, this period piece features superb art—which is important when you’re writing about yokai, or demons/spirits. The story follows a boy named Hamachi as he tries to find his grandmother’s killer, only to find yokai everywhere instead.
Digital Manga Publishing
- Speed Racer – The one, the only, the original, Tatsuo Ishida’s Speed Racer manga. Compiled into a two hardbound volume box set, DMP’s collection is a must-have for fans of the classic series. (I know Tony and I both got our copies ages ago…)
- Vampire Hunter D – Okay, technically this first volume came out in November 2007, but come on, it’s Vampire Hunter D. On top of that, it’s being released simultaneously with the Japanese version! The art is beautiful and the story is true to Hideyuki Kikuchi’s novels.
- Flamboyant – No matter what you thought of the anime Burst Angel, you probably loved the character designs—it’s what drew most of us in in the first place. And it’ll draw you to this art book from Ugetsu Hakua, the character designer for the show.
- Pathos – Sweet jesus, more vampires! (And more yaoi!) This dark tale comes from Mika Sadahiro, the queen of dark yaoi (and creator of the woefully unlicensed Under Grand Hotel), and features a dashing pair of vampires who take a human under their wing and attempt to protect him from the world…and themselves.
Drawn & Quarterly
- Good-Bye – A collection of dank and dark tales which might not be the most uplifting thing you’ve ever read during the holiday season, but it’ll leave you slack-jawed nonetheless.
- Mamoru the Shadow Protector – If you like to look on the bright side of life, try this classic-style martial arts romantic comedy. Mamoru’s family has always protected the Konnyaku family, and so he’s the appointed guardian of Yuna. Yuna’s adorable, but she’s also ditzy and prone to getting into trouble, making Mamoru’s job especially difficult…
- King of Fighters Art Book – You know you love the game. You know you love the characters. You know Mai Shiranui is hot, and you know you want this book. Why do you keep fighting it?
- Disappearance Diary – This autobiographical manga follows creator Hideo Azuma through a dark period of his life, in which he became an alcoholic and then a vagrant—several times in a row. The chipper art contrasts nicely with the darkness of the story, which—like Good-Bye –is a fantastic read regardless of the season.
- Black Lagoon – It was hard to narrow down the lengthy list of FUNi titles, but Black Lagoon—a rescue license, previously owned by Geneon –was an easy pick. The series has the heart of a boyish action tale with its fascination with guns and and action, but a somewhat deeper, more philosophical soul as the modern pirates of the Black Lagoon think about why they wreak the havoc they do. It’s a wild ride, I promise. The first season box set isn’t out until December 30, but preorders are available.
- – Oh, delicious Host Club. Don’t let the pretty boys fool you: there’s more to this shoujo series than bishies and over-the-top comedy. Beneath the gorgeous exterior lies the intelligent story of a group of high school kids figuring out who they are, and who they want to be.
- Kodomo no Omocha Season 1 – I always like promoting slightly older series, and Kodocha is a classic. The zany comedy features 6 grader , who is also a child music star, and Akito, a sullen boy who is unimpressed with ’s celebrity. Through in a colorful cast of secondary characters and you have a hilarious time. This one’s another preorder; its street date is December 16.
- Mushishi – If you’re looking for something more sedate (maybe even something you can show to your parents), the Mushishi box set is definitely your choice for the year. 26 episodes of gorgeously animated tales of “mushi,” strange supernatural beings that live on the periphery of the world and occasionally interfere in the lives of humans. Like Kodocha, this one will be in stores on the 16, so preorder now.
- 07-Ghost - An orphan and former slave, Teito Klein has advanced far in his life already: he’s attending the prestigious Barsburg Academy in this fantasy manga. But as you might have guessed, Teito’s life takes a sharp turn he stumbles upon a deadly secret that lands him in the middle of an ancient war.
- Kurogane Communication - This is an absolute favorite of mine. Created by Train + Train artist Tomomasa Takuma (and adapted into an OVA some years ago), the story is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a natural disaster has wiped out humanity on Earth...or so it seemed, until a small group of robots find a young girl in a cryogenic chamber. They revive her and decide to care for her themselves.
- Strait Jacket – A hard, dark fantasy following a Tactical Sorcerist as he attempts to protect citizens from demons, and a half-human half-demon girl who reminds him of his dark past. It's based on a series of light novels by Ichirou Sakaki and beautifully animated by Feel.
- Phoenix box set – Osamu Tezuka was the godfather of manga, and is his masterful series of tales on resurrection. This animated version of the manga came after Tezuka’s death, in 2004, but at least that means it has the benefits of contemporary animation technology to bring Tezuka’s art to life.
- Maka-Maka – This is an adult title—yuri, even. The story follows two female friends who are friends with benefits, and the art and story are both phenomenal. It only makes sense, then, that the production values should match: this is a gorgeous full-color book with tons of little details (like if you remove the dust jacket, a naked version of the lead characters is hidden behind the normal version). Definitely a pick for anyone seeking a story that is both smutty and realistic.
- The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry-chan – This is a wacky title about a frog named Strawberry-chan and her sadistic owner—fortunately the frog has a bit of a masochistic streak itself, so the two get along very well. It’s surreal at times, and absolutely hilarious. It’s also woefully unknown, despite being by Ai Morinaga (creator of My Heavenly Hockey Club and Your & My Secret).
Right Stuf / Nozomi Entertainment
- Emma: A Victorian Romance – This is the perfect anime adaptation of Kaoru Mori’s amazingly detailed depiction of an inter-class romantic entanglement in Victorian England, and by that I mean that it takes on all of Mori’s lush art style as well as his attention to the littlest details. The entire series is out, in two single-season box sets, and you should consider snatching up both.
- Maria Watches Over Us – If Maka Maka was a bit much for you on the sex side, and Best Student Council is too light-hearted, Maria Watches Over Us season 1 is the pick for you. In the first season box set, girls at a Catholic all-girls school find love and love triangles litter their path through high school.
- ARIA – I’ve heard this one sometimes referred to as an “atmosphere anime,” which honestly isn’t my thing, but I won’t deny that the visuals are simply stunning—and I’m not just talking about the beautiful heroines. Set in a future where we’ve colonized other planets, Neo Venizia’s canals are home to the female gondoliers. ARIA follows several girls training to be Undines, professional gondoliers.
- Pita Ten – This novel goes along with Koge-Donbo’s adorable manga and anime series and features short stories revolving around its colorful characters. Definitely a pick for anyone you know who likes Cute (with a capital C).
- Afro Samurai – And in the opposite corner, we have the manga adaptation of the FUNimation and Gonzo collaboration starring Samuel L. Jackson! Afro Samurai is the #2 swordsman of , and he’s working his way up to battling the #1—so he can kill him as revenge for the death of his father. Plenty of sword action combined with hip hop sensibilities makes for a solidly stylish read.
- Manga Sutra – A pair of virgin newlyweds embark on the naughty road to, um, naughty things in this sort-of hentai. I say sort-of because while it has plenty of sex in it, it also has a lot of how-to and informational sections that make it…well, less hentai and more Sex for Dummies.
- .hack// Manga and Novel Special Edition – If you’ve ever considered getting into the .hack franchise, here’s a great opportunity. This set features one volume of the manga .hack//Legend of the Twilight and one volume of the novel series, .hack//Another Birth. This one’s not coming out until December 16, but you can preorder it.
- Your & My Secret – I already mentioned one Ai Morinaga title above, but since TOKYOPOP re-licensed this title from ADV, I can’t help but want to showcase it, too. Morinaga has an amazing funny bone, and you benefit: in this manga, a rough, tomboyish girl and a shy, blushing boy accidentally swap bodies. The only problem is that the former-girl kinda likes being a guy, while the former-boy wants to swap back…
- Black Jack – My personal favorite Osamu Tezuka work (excepting only Unico, my first anime as a small child), Black Jack is the tale of the titular rogue doctor, who is a surgeon of almost inhuman skill—such skill that he frequently performs illegal and risky surgeries, leading him to have his license revoked by the medical board. Which, of course, doesn’t stop him in the slightest.
- Dororo – Man, I love that this list has so much Tezuka on it! Dororo is another classic, this time a story set in . The night he was born, Hyakkimaru’s father offered up his body to 48 demon gods, who each took a part of the baby’s body. Hyakkimaru still lived and became a superb swordsman even with his handicaps, and his goal is to take on the demons and win back his body parts. He is joined on his journey by a young orphan thief, the titular Dororo. You can also snag the recent live-action film based on the manga.
- Parasite Eve – Yes, as in the popular Playstation 1 game. This is the novel that inspired the game, although the game was closer to a sequel or spinoff of a novel rather than a direct adaptation. That won’t stop fans of the game (or of horror novels in general) from devouring this chilling story about our own DNA rising up against us.
- Naruto, Death Note, and Bleach Manga Box Sets – If you want a jump start on your manga collection, there’s a 27-volume Naruto set, a 13-volume complete Death Note set, and a 21-volume Bleach set out there with your name on it. Bookshelves not included.
- Bleach and Full Moon Art Books – Art books on either side of the shounen/shoujo scale! First we have a Bleach art book, with Tite Kubo’s unique hip-hop/punk/martial arts combo style on full display. Then you can get your fill of Arina Tanemura’s rich, beautiful art in the Full Moon art book.
- Death Note DVD Box Set – Perhaps you’ve already finished the manga, or maybe you’ve caught some of the show on Adult Swim, or maybe you haven’t been exposed to any Death Note at all yet. In any case, this 5-disc collection of the first 20 episodes of the popular supernatural suspense thriller should be on your wish list.
- Breath – In Yaoi Generation’s first offering (coming out December 16, but you can get a discount if you preorder), Yanagi has a one-night stand with a guy who turns out to be his best friend’s brother—and in total denial about his homosexuality. It’s probably safe to bet that they eventually find their feelings for one another, but the journey to that end will definitely be worth it. If, y’know, you’re a yaoi fan.
- Reflections: The Artwork of Kôsen – And another excellent purchase for the yaoi fangirl in your life is this art book from a pair of Spanish artists, who created Yaoi Press titles Saihoshi and Stallion (and TOKYOPOP title Daemonium). Beautiful art, beautiful boys, what more could a fujoshi need?
- Yen+ - Another phenomenal anthology, this one primarily manga, manhwa, and OEL titles, Yen Press has really put together some amazing stuff. Major titles like Higurashi and Soul Eater fill up the book as well as series you probably haven’t heard of but will probably enjoy anyway. I can pretty well guarantee that there’ll be at least one title you want to dive into head-first.
- The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya – The manga has finally begun its release in the U.S. Granted, it’s primarily the stories you’re familiar with, but it’s a start! And it’ll help you pass the time until the novels finally start coming out next year.
- Sundome – If you buy only one just-barely-not-hentai BDSM manga this year, um, this is it! A hot babe joins the same club as a loser nerd, and the two embark on a strange relationship of dominance, submission, and a growing respect. Throw in another batch of nerds and another babe, this one a total ditz, and you’ve got a dark sexual comedy unlike anything you’ve ever read before.
And that’s it! Hope you find the guide helpful. But before you complain that you want all this stuff and can’t afford it, well, be sure you keep an eye on the site…