While Christmas may not be the hot topic in anime and manga like it is in Western media, your average otaku still enjoys the season as much as anyone else. The universal spirit of giving, of laughter, of fun… and presents. Can’t forget the presents!
If you have an anime fanboy or manga fangirl in your life, chances are you’d love to give them something truly meaningful, something that hits their geeky nerve right on the nose and makes them light up. Before you break out your checkbook, however, there are a few things to consider.
Firstly, do your research, i.e. know your loved one’s tastes. Unlike, say, a roleplaying geek, anime geeks can get a bit more specific (some say demanding!) in their interests. Saying that someone likes anime or manga is all very well, but it’s like saying someone likes movies; it’s far too general a scope. You don’t want to buy them a full cosplay outfit from Hellsing only to find they only enjoy quietly watching Hikaru no Go and writing fanfic. Luckily, this sort of research is rather easy (we anime geeks LOVE to blather on endlessly about our favorite series!) and involves something that couples should be doing anyway: listening and understanding each other. Keep an ear out when they talk about their favorite anime and manga, or what kinds of things they like. Ask questions. Subtly check out their DVD/art/figure collections to see what they do/don’t have. If you can get a sense of their favorite anime genres, you’re already half way there, but if you can narrow it down to their favorite characters, then it’s smooth sailing from there!
Secondly, anime merchandise can be a bit tricky to find depending on your area. Big cities often have anime stores, or at least comic shops with a good selection of anime/manga merchandise, but if you’re out further afield, you may want to check out eBay or other online stores.
Lastly, official merchandise can occasionally be expensive. As such, I’ve included a few ideas for “budget” alternatives to my suggestions, good for people who are low on cash or perhaps just want to try something homemade for your sweetie. I know lots of men and women who are much more likely to melt into a little puddle of goo over a slightly messy home-stitched plushie than one bought from a store.
Who knew sculpted pieces of plastic could bring such joy to the geeky heart? Anime has long been a great source for toy, figurine and statue sculptors, and the best part is that there’s plenty of great stuff for every kind of anime fan with every kind of budget. Your boyfriend love Gundam? Take your pick of any model kit you could ever imagine, of every Gundam ever released, in several different scales. Your girlfriend nostalgic for the days of childhood television? Pick up the old Sailor Moon dolls from Irwin. Are you tightening your belt this holiday season? Small “gachapon” style figurines are available for almost every major anime title (and even a few minor ones), and you too can assemble tiny plastic dioramas of your favorite characters. Have some money to burn and looking for something with a bit of… fanservice for your partner? The world of custom-built cast statues awaits, with tons of busty beauties (and a few handsome hunks) arrayed in poses all over the tastefulness spectrum.
Budget/homemade option: If budget is your main concern, stick with gachapon figures; these are usually tiny, come in clear plastic capsules like those toy vending machines at malls, and go for inexpensive prices. If you’re looking to make something yourself, you can be really creative. Lego might be a good place to start; I know I’d love it if a boyfriend tried to make a Lego rendition of Ryuk, even if it was just made out of five blocks or so! If you’re good with paint or crafts, try modifying cheaper existing toys, such as Barbies, to resemble their favorite characters. Heck, you could even try repainting My Little Ponies to be famous anime characters!
There’s something adorable about little chibi plushies. They’re cute, cuddly, and manage to capture the essence of our favorite characters in a huggable little shape. Despite what society may tell us, we’re never too old for a plush toy here and there, and geeks understand that better than anyone (see: Blizzard’s adorable gryphon and windrider pet/plushie combos). You can very rarely go wrong with getting an anime fan a plushie of their favorite character, and chances are it will soon have place of honor on top of their bed.
Budget/homemade option: If you are a talent with sewing, this is your time to shine, as you can make your own plushie in whatever manner you desire. Think your honey would like a more button-eyed Sackboy version of Heero Yuy vs. the standard felt? Go for it! If you are like me, however, and don’t know which end of a needle is which, there are plenty of Etsy users who make plushies and sell them at reasonable rates. Shop around a bit and find one that will appeal to your beloved otaku.
I am of the firm believe that a geek can never have too many Tshirts, and anime is rife with excellent Tshirt material. Whether official merch or fanmade, you can find all kinds of cool shirts with which your boyfriend/girlfriend can keep themselves decent. Some of them go the mascot route, others go for minimalist motifs, and still others go for attractive artwork of the main characters or even images from the anime or manga. Get your loved one something to wear for their next con, or at least, their next marathon of Bleach.
Budget/homemade option: This part is not only easy but offers tons of options. Do you have a computer? Do you have a color printer? Then you can print off Tshirt decals and make the Tshirt yourself! The added bonus is that you can make a Tshirt of anything, like a screenshot of your boyfriend’s favorite scene, or a particular image or art piece your girlfriend loves. You can even come up with great Tshirt captions to go along with it; Demotivational Posters and icanhazcheeseburger are great places to put witty comments to your chosen image. If you’re a bit hesitant to do the decal printing and ironing yourself, there are plenty of places (e.g. Staples) that will put the image on the Tshirt for you, as well as other things like mugs or mousepads.
There are fans, and then there are fans, and chances are the latter enjoys plastering their room with posters dedicated to their favorite series. Feed their addiction with more pretty pictures to go on their walls. Most anime stores and conventions have enough small anime posters to wallpaper the White House, and usually at dirt cheap prices too. If your love is not so much into the massive postering but would still like something fannish for their wall, try picking up a wallscroll instead; these images are larger, rendered on light canvas or bamboo, and make a really dramatic art piece. Larger lithographs are also a great idea. Lastly, if they’re a bit more subtle in their art tastes or want something a bit more practical, see if there are any official calendars of their favorite series. A lot of the longrunning series like Bleach and One Piece continue to push out yearly calendars, and even old favorites like Sailor Moon get a calendar here and there.
Budget/homemade option: Again, this is where access to a computer and a printer will come in handy. With a bit of high-quality paper and the right office software, you too can make a customized calendar or glossy photo of the big mechs and bishies your partner adores. If you’re handy with Photoshop or its cheaper equivalents, try whipping out some filters and lens flare to put your own spin on your favorite otaku’s favorite artwork.
1. Commissioned fanart
Fanart and the anime/manga fandom have always been intertwined, and as a result you can find a lot of extremely high quality artwork for pretty much any series ever. Why not take advantage of this, get something truly personalized for your sweetie, and support an artist at the same time? If you browse around on deviantArt, you’ll find plenty of fanartists willing to accept commissions at all levels of pay, from premium prices for lush CG artwork to nice budget fees for a single cute chibi. Find an artist that impresses you and commission something truly unique and tailored to your boyfriend or girlfriend’s interests. You can have their favorite guy/girl/giant mech/whatever holding up a personalized holiday sign. You can commission a picture of their favorite anime couple, even if they don’t end up together in the show… heck, even if they’re not IN the same show. Or heck, you can even get your honey “anime-ized” by clever artists (see my icon for example). With a bit of searching and thought, you can help give the gift that makes them squee forever.
Budget/homemade option: If you yourself are an artist, then this is where you can go nuts and draw something perfect for the otaku in your life. But even if you’re not … you know, it’s still not a bad idea. Because even if all you can manage are stick figures holding vaguely familiar swords and guns, it shows you care enough to think of your boyfriend or girlfriend’s interests, and are willing to try, however clumsily, to make something special for them. To do something to make them smile.
And in the end, isn’t that what Christmas is really about?
What gifts do you like to buy for the otaku in your life? And what otaku-themed gifts would you like to get?