The Great Manga Gift Guide – Okazu Edition

November 26th, 2009

Here it is, my friends, the 2009 Okazu Edition of the Great Manga Gift Guide. These are my suggestions for manga that would make great gifts for the fan(s) in your life.


Dogs, Bullets Carnage – This title is unbridled action. It’s a bunch of broken, violent people in a violent world. The art is *very* stark, which works totally for what little of the story exists. Mostly, the story is the frame for the fighting. There is a chick with a weapon, but don’t look for more than that.

Who Would Like It: Not for beginner manga fans, but if your gift recipient thinks they’ve seen it all – here’s something with all of it at once. :-)

Kimi ni Todoke – This is one of my wife’s favorite series right now. It’s got that thing that we westerners so often miss in manga – someone who just spits it out already. The protagonist is…nice. And the fun of the series is watching everyone else realize that, too. This female lead is no typical “he’s mean to me because he loves me” heroine.

Who Would Like It: Got a shoujo fan (or closet shoujo fan) in your family or friends? Give them this for something that is totally feel-good, without making you put your brain on hold.

Black Lagoon – Girls, Guns, Drugs, and loads of crazy. This is actually one of my favorite series overall right now. As there isn’t the vaguest hint of Yuri, I have no reason to review it here, but hot damn, this is awesome manga. It’s just chockful of loony women who are armed to the teeth and not afraid to pull the trigger. Yums.

Who Would Like It: Action fans, anyone who spends a lot of time watching Spike TV and anyone who likes women who kill first, then tell you to *^&# off! later will love this.

MW – There’s a reason why Tezuka is consistently held up as a master of the craft. In this volume, he deals with “Homosexuality” in nearly as insensitive a way as possible – and it totally works. In this fraught horror story in which a broken man seeks to punish everyone for his existence, the one stable, normal and happy person is a lesbian editor who appears on only a few pages. Hardcore angst and melodrama, a fistful of self-loathing and misanthropy.

Who Would Like It: This book is great for folks who like it dark, with an even darker background for contrast and horror fans.

Aria – Nothing happens in this series. But it happens beautifully, and with grace and humor and joie de vivre. And scenery porn.

Who Would Like It: Perfect for the jaded, the cynical and any fan that still wants to recapture a feeling of childlike joy at, well, everything.

Iono-sama Fanatics – this volume about a totally lesbian Queen of some small country who happens to love girls with black hair is a very pretty and very sweet fantasy. It’s not often we get to enjoy fantasy romance that’s almost entirely angst-free.

Who Would Like It: Readers who love their manga cute, sweet, harmless and did I mention cute, will love this. It’s charming, as in “Princess Charming.” :-) (I guess that would be Queen Charming, huh?)

WORKS – I haven’t given this book enough air time, really and I blame myself. Tadeno-san has been cranking out Yuri manga since long before you ever heard of it and, although these stories are early (and therefore a little dated,) they still stand the test of time as solid looks at lesbian life and love.

Who Would Like It: Self-serving, yes. Still, a great Yuri primer for an interested adult. A good choice for a lesbian who doesn’t know Yuri yet.

Kashimashi~ Girl Meets Girl Omnibus 1 and Omnibus 2 – This silly story of a boy who becomes a girl and suddenly find herself the center of a love triangle still stands as one of the best adaptations of a manga from Japanese to English I’ve ever seen.

Who Would Like It: Not for beginner Yuri fans, but for folks who can take a handwave or two in their lives.

Azumanga Daioh Omnibus 1 – This collection is a reworking of one of the funniest 4-panel comics to hit American bookshelves to date; there’s really no downside to this volume. It’s a nice chunky book, it’s got some gut-bustingly funny bits and a lot of “heh” parts and is overall a lot of fun. And hey, there’s Kaorin and her totally hopeless love for Sakaki.

Who Would Like It: If you missed this the first time around, now’s a *great* time to add it to your wish list, or get it for a friend, then “borrow” it. :-)

Hayate x Blade – Are you totally unsurprised that this is a Great Manga Gift in my opinion? First of all – funny. Crazy, stupid, funny. Snort-Laugh Out Loud funny. Then there is awesome action. And there are girls. Almost 100% girls, who are in romantic partnerships with darn little romance, honestly, but that doesn’t stop us from projecting.

Who Would Like It: I wouldn’t get this for a little kid, because there is a lot of violence, but for anyone who is getting jaded on service and lack of plot drivers in manga, anyone who longs for action and comedy and something intelligent, anyone who wants a story written by someone who can actually write – hand them this and step back if they are drinking something.

Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5


Ed Sizemore also suggested we all add a “piece of coal” book, one that was really not good and you’d give to someone you wanted to punish. Clearly, I’d pick Mariaholic for the role. In fact, I’d give you my copy, but I put it through the shredder.

Thanks to David Welsh for coming up with this fabulous idea – and thanks to all the bloggers and readers who participate!

Now, here’s where you come in! What I want to know is – what are your Great Manga Gift Suggestions – and what book is your piece of coal? Let’s have ’em in the comments!

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13 Responses

  1. Ed Sizemore says:

    Great list. I’ve put some new titles on my Amazon wishlist now. Maria Holic is definitely my black coal gift too.

  2. Hahaha I love the piece of coal! Erica, these are great suggestions. Interesting to see Azumanga Daioh included on quite a few of the lists (including mine). What a great guide!

  3. @Melinda – I noticed that a lot of folks are putting the Azumanga omnibus on their lists. It is good fun.

    @Ed – Agreed. I’m definitely going to be adding a few titles to my Amazon Cart after this is all over. :-)

  4. Lexie says:

    Kimi ni Todoke! And Aria! two of my favorite titles :D


  5. Supakluk 1 says:

    How’s the English translation of Azumanga? I only read the German translation and it was pretty bad.

    Also thanx for the list, there were some titles I didn’t know that sound interesting.

  6. SatoshiMiwa says:

    Great list. Stuff like Hayate X Blade and Azumanga would be on my 15-20 title list. The other stuff I’ll have to check out soon!

  7. Filo says:

    ‘Hayate x Blade –

    Who Would Like It: I wouldn’t get this for a little kid, because there is a lot of violence…’

    I would think all the complicated dialogue and its humor in general would blow over little kids’ heads anyway.

  8. Eric P. says:

    My Gift Suggestions:

    Inubaka-If you’re a dog person at all, you’d get the hugest kick out of this manga. The mangaka puts just as much time and effort as well as heart and soul into designing the dogs realistically, enough so you’d feel the impulse to touch the page and pet the images. While it’s a story of a girl finding her way in the city by working at a pet shop, it also educates on everything there is about petcare and how having pets affects people.

    Sand Chronicles-A shoujo series where we follow a girl through her lifetime, starting from her childhood and currently into her college years. She makes friends, friends fall both in and out of love with each other, and in the end they all try getting by in their lives. It depicts human lives and interactions realistically enough for you to empathize with them all, and you almost feel like you’re growing up along with them in each passing volume.

    With the Light-A truly distinct shoujo manga from Yen Press. Two parents give birth to an autistic son, and like Sand Chronicles it is a series where we follow the characters through their lifetime and puts a lot of focus on human people and their lives, and like Inubaka it also stops to educate when it needs to. It’s an especially great read for anyone who wants to learn about autism or has relatives with autism.

    Solanin-A mature and honest one-shot drama about a college grad girl who lives with her boyfriend and tries to find a way to make it in the world, and really goes on a meaningful journey that involves tragedy and music.

    Children of the Sea-This is a manga title with an emphasis on imagery, and what beautiful imagery it contains of the mysteries and beauty of the ocean, which itself reflects the mysteries of the developing, fable-styled story.

    Yotsuba&!-This one should go without saying, but it’s a slice-of-life where nothing happens and yet the characters are charming people who manage to have fun and wind up in funny situations, all thanks to a little girl who finds excitement and something new to explore in everything.

    Higurashi-From the surface, it seems like another moe title with its cutely designed girls. But then out of the blue their ‘cuteness’ shifts to something menacing as paranoia and murder take over the tone. Each new story sheds light on the mystery this world takes place in, sucking readers in. If you were reading this alone in a room at night, it’s guaranteed to give you chills.

    There are other titles, but I figured these are really noteworthy so as not to make this any longer. I haven’t listed any Yuri titles since Erica pretty much listed the good ones, and I can’t think of a ‘coal’ title since I just stay away from any titles I don’t think I would like anyway.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m blanking on good gift suggestions (the only series coming to mind are epicly long, which is almost as much of a curse as a gift when you give someone the first volume and get them hooked, hehehe…)

    For coal though, I would say Hot Gimmick. I haven’t read Mariaholic (thought it looked terrible and saved myself the agony), so Hot Gimmick is THE worst manga I have ever had the misfortune of reading. It made me mentally scream in agony, it was that painful…

    I would not, however, actually buy either of these series for someone I wanted to punish because
    1) I wouldn’t waste money on someone I wanted to punish,
    2) it would be too cruel, no matter how deserving of punishment that person might be, and
    3) I wouldn’t want to give my money/support to the production of these painfully awful series.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Re:Black Lagoon

    Bah. I remain firm Revy/Eda, myself.

    It’s a good wishlist ^_^

  11. animemiz says:

    Great list! Thanks for your collaborative spark.. ^_^

  12. Katherine says:

    Great list! ^^ I’ll have to check out Dogs, Bullets, and Carnage. I’ve been meaning to read Black Lagoon, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Thanks for the reminder!

  13. norell.anna says:

    Thanks for suggesting Dogs, Bullets and Carnage – now I have something to read until Black Lagoon gets fun again. (The Baile de la Muerte arc was just too long…)

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