Great (Retro) Anime/Manga Gift Guide 2011 (English)

November 25th, 2011

I’m staring at my pile of to-watch and to-read anime and manga and I can’t but help notice that there are a lot of familiar titles among the mix. And, as it’s that time of year again, at which Americans decide what matching pen and pencil set to get their relatives, and otaku Americans decide what anime or manga they should buy to indoctrinate their younger family members, I had a thought.

This year, I’m specifically suggesting anime and manga that were awesome and wonderful a decade or more ago and are just as wonderful, now that they are available again. These will all make perfect family watching/reading to brainwash educate your young family members in the ways of anime and manga fandom. And, possibly create a new Okazu reader or two. ^_^

Princess Knight – This is as close to a kernel as we have in America for the concept of “shoujo manga.” And, not at all coincidentally, Sapphire is the inspiration for many of our favorite cross-dressing, sword-wielding heroines, Lady Oscar, Tenou Haruka and Tenjou Utena among them.

This manga makes a great starting point for discussion of gender roles, societal expectations, Disney as a role-model for manga and anime, and the history of manga. It also makes a terrific end point, after you’ve handed your youth of choice some of the other items on this list and they are intrigued as to where this kid of thing all started. History lessons disguised as entertainment…what will nefarious adults think of next?

Magic Knight Rayearth manga. This fetching all-in-one edition of CLAMP’s sword-and-sorcery classic manga is…really nice. Color pictures make the volume an attractive collector’s item, especially for those people who missed this the first time around. The story is, perhaps, “basic,” but as a result it makes a fantastic entree’ into role-playing, strong female characters, chicks with swords, teamwork/friendship-focused stories and other touchpoints that mean a lot to readers of Okazu. Let me be blunt, this would have been my favorite series ever at 8 years old.  Give this to the girl prince in your family, or the gamer kid and see what they make of it. I bet they love it. Then, when you’ve got them good and interested, invite them over for a marathon watching of….

Magic Knight Rayearth remastered Anime. Media Blasters did a really, really nice job.

Yes, the anime itself seems kind of kiddy-anime. That’s because it was. It was still pretty classic sword-and-sorcery stuff. Evolving armor, magic, weapons, a little light politics and romance, magical creatures, even giant robots. This is your chance to have heart-to-heart with your young relative about love and hate and violence and friendship and how many different ways humans make bad decisions.

And the remastered animation really looks good.

When you watch  Season 2, you can advance the discussions of politics a bit.

Also, I recommend start using the word “delusion” in discussion about the way we as adults, especially, talk about our world. Let them know that it’s not their imagination. ^_^

Or you can do none of that, and just enjoy the colorful animation in fine CLAMP style (personally, I always like their swirly bits,) and the D&D-ish world with Japanese influence.

About this time, you should introduce them to Code Name: Sailor V.

Bearing in mind that this may be the very girliest of all the girly things on this list, it’s still adorable and important.

Minako is not an “average girl” in the way that most magical girls are presented. She’s very athletic, she’s not too sharp and her life is centered around the kinds of things an actual 13-year old might care about – boys, pop idols, having fun with friends, playing games, reading about stuff that she’s not yet buying, but would one day like to.

As bizarre as that might seem, at 13 most girls actually do want to be more grown up, more active in their own lives, and they kind of have to wait a few years before they are allowed to be. Minako provides us a glimpse into a really typical teen girl id – fun, friends, fashion, yummy food, and an overwhelming, if somewhat limited, sense of justice. Sailor V is solid fun, with some weirdly non-moral of the story wrap-ups. The second volume of Sailor V gets a little deep and very superficial at the same time. Some of those chapters are perfect openings for discussion of body image, among other things.

Of course once your young family member has read this, hit them with the big guns….

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is not a classic by accident. This series combined elements of classic “girls” stories with elements of the most popular “boys” stories to a create a whole that resonates with readers even now. It’s not accidental that Sailor Moon was made into an anime, where Sailor V was not. The themes of friendship, teamwork, strength in numbers is one of the binding ideas of this series, just as it is in One Piece.

The supporting characters are exactly what makes this series so powerful. With such a large ensemble, each targeted to a personality archetype, there was someone for everyone to like in Sailor Moon. As the older characters are added in, it’s likely to be read by more family members than just the kid you’re giving it to.

Now that your target kid is thoroughly hooked, hand them Volume 1of the Card Captor Sakura Omnibus. I originally gave these to my 14-year old niece, but she’s in a more Doctor Who phase right now. However, my 17-year old nephew ended up liking this series enough to keep reading.

I can’t say enough about this series. There’s so *much* here. Sakura is strong, in a complete girly, down-to-earth way. You can imagine having her over for lunch and really enjoying her company. (And Tomoyo’s, because of course she’d come, too.) There’s just enough sexual politics, elementary grade version, in this book to intrigue and bewilder anyone of any age. The art is some of CLAMP’s absolute best. I consider this series to be their peak work.  For those of you with kids in your life you think are even the slightest bit bent, this series is a must-read for them.

Volume 2  continues with even more great freaky magic, and more deeply intense relationships that you just don’t normally see, all within an adventure that’s perfectly child-friendly. I’m reminded over and over why this series was so damn popular when it came out. Because it’s *excellent* on every level.

Every new character that it introduces is delightful to know, even (and often especially) when they disturb you just ever so slightly. ^_^ This series also genuinely has the best magical creatures I’ve ever seen in any fantasy series.

(As an aside, my number one and two wishes for 2012 are that the Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura anime are relicensed and re-released by a company that cares about quality. Number three and four would to complete the body of literary precedents with the licensing of Rose of Versailles, anime and manga.)

Which brings us to the final suggestion I have for this year’s Gift Guide. In this case, it’s the manga that remains out of print, and the anime which has been re-issued.

Revolutionary Girl Utena could not have been without all the previous series. It took so many of the elements established in earlier series and combined them in unique, powerful ways.

Because of the non-linear story, the surreal art, and some of the themes, it makes a great benchmark to the inside of your family member’s brains.

This 10th anniversary edition looks good, has great extras, and has stood up well against the last decade of animation. The music is still a magical cookbook of awesome.

I must comment on  the tremendous overlap of voice actors in the anime for Utena, Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura. I consider these people masters of their craft for very very good reasons.

In any case, when you are considering your family members and you think you’ve got one that could become an Okazu reader in the future, stick these under their tree and see what happens. ^_^

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One Response

  1. Anonymous says:

    You put CCS on the list?
    *nods head in approval*

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