December 12, 2011

Bento Bako Weekly: Mostly Manga Gift Guide 2011

It’s December, and December is the time for wish lists and gift guides. I wasn’t planning on putting something together this year, but one evening I started typing up about one thing, and more just kept coming. It’s not the most well rounded list. It’s mostly manga I’ve read over the year, and unfortunately I haven’t been paying much attention to anime releases this year to make many recommendations on that end. Still, I hope you can find some good gifts for your manga lover below!

For fans of medical dramas, like House: The final volume of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack series came out at the end of this year. This story of a genius, scarred-faced doctor whose radical surgical skills save those in need and teach everyone else a lesson, ended this year with the seventeenth volume. Perfect for Tezuka fans, manga fans, and medical fans. Read my review of volume 16 here.

Shojo for the kickass woman in your life: Some great shojo titles came out this year featuring some awesome heroines. A Bride’s Story from Yen Press (volume 1 review here) with its gorgeous and painstakingly detailed art is perfect for anyone who loves a good story and has an eye for Kaoru Mori’s incredible artistic skills. The Story of Saiunkoku (reviews here) hit its fifth volume here this year, and features an intelligent, good looking, ambitious young lady who follows her dreams even when they might be impossible to attain. Dawn of the Arcana launched late in the year from Viz Media (volume 1 review here), and features a strong willed lass who must cope with being married off to an arrogant young man who is not only a stranger, but is the prince of her country’s centuries-long enemy.

For fans of Japanese history: Try Fumi Yoshinaga’s take on the Tokugawa era of Japan in Ōoku: The Inner Chambers (reviews here). In her version of history, the men have suffered extreme population loss as a result of a vicious virus, and the women have taken over running and ruling the country.

For fans of war history: Try Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (review here), a moving and tragic story by Shigeru Mizuki about a Japanese unit during WWII forced to sacrifice themselves in the name of honor and duty.

For CLAMP fans: Really, there are so many choices! But perhaps the biggest CLAMP event this year was the reprint of X by Viz Media (volume 1 review here). Viz has started a new release of CLAMP’s apocalyptic series that is sure to delight fans both old and new. If your fan is already well familiar with CLAMP’s back catalog, they also have a new series that launched through Dark Horse this year: Gate 7.

For JRPG fans: Try Bandai Entertainment’s manga adaptation and spin-off mini-series Tales of the Abyss: Asch the Bloody (review here), which tells the story of the game from the point of view of its misguided anti-hero. (The anime version of Tales of the Abyss was also released this year, from Bandai Entertainment.) Or, for those who prefer to play rather than read, check out the PSP remake of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2: Innocent Sin from Atuls USA.

Old school anime fans: Revolutionary Girl Utena. Right Stuf/Nozomi Entertainment released a beautiful three volume set of this classic fan favorite over the year. Check out some excellent review of the series, written by Erica Friedman, over at Okazu.

Old school manga fans: Kodansha launched their new release of Sailor Moon this year (as well as Sailor-V). For fans of classic shojo, you really can’t go wrong with this one. Drew reviewed both Sailor Moon and Sailor -V in his From Friendly Ghosts to Gamma Rays column.

For a good laugh: Oresama Teacher is about the funniest manga I’ve read all year. This story of a delinquit girl trying hopelessly to turn straight constantly has me rolling in laughter. Holding a close candle to that is Kamisama Kiss, which is also hilarious, but is cuter and has more romance. Both are from Viz Media and have left me pleasantly pleased and surprised all year. You can find reviews of volumes of Oresama Teacher here, and reviews of Kamisama Kiss here.

For yaoi fans: Digital Manga Publishing launched the Digital Manga Guild this year, letting fans work as translators, letterers, and editors to publish a plentiful amount of manga on their digital manga website Buy your BL lover some emanga points so they can buy whatever titles catch their fancy. If digital isn’t your receiver’s cup of tea, how about a volume of the stunningly beautiful web comic Tea House, a sweet and sexy story about a high class brothel.

For short story lovers: Natsume Ono’s short story collection Tesoro (review here) was released by Viz Media this year, and is a fantastic overview of Ono’s changing style throughout her career, as well as just a fantastic collection of stories.

If your manga lover likes psychological dramas: Vertical Inc. released the first volume of Usamaru Furuya’s manga adaptation of Osamu Dazai’s Japanese literary masterpiece No Longer Human. No Longer Human (review here) follows the life of a young man who struggles to understand what it means to be human and develop a sense of self and individuality.

For action fans: Two action driven titles were launched by Dark Horse this year, both by well known manga creators. Yasuhiro Nightow’s (of Trigun fame) Blood Blockade Battlefront and Kohta Hirano’s (Hellsing) Drifters are sure to be a hit for any fan of hard core action and bloody violence, or for fans of each creator’s previous work. (Reviews of both can be found here.)

For wine aficionados: Vertical Inc. released The Drops of God this year, a well known and highly regarded series that has profoundly impacted the wine industry around the world. Deb Aoki, a wine lover and the manga reviewer for, loves it, so that’s a stellar recommendation there. It’s also been recognized and reviewed by wine magazines around the globe.

For anyone interested in the history of the manga industry: Stone Bridge Press printed a new edition of Frederik L. Schodt’s Dreamland Japan, a must read for those whose interest lies on the industry side of things. (Review here.)

For fans of demons and the supernatural: Viz Media launched two yokai-centric titles this year, the humorous and yokai-packed Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan (reviews here), and the story of Satan’s son turned exorcist, Blue Exorcist (reviews here).

For sports fans: It launched near the end of last year, but Cross Game is still going strong in 2011, and keeps getting better with every volume. Viz Media’s omnibus version is the perfect way to watch this baseball romantic comedy unfold. (Reviews here.)

If all else fails: Check out the archives for the Manga Moveable Feast, which feature extensive reviews of all sorts of great manga from manga bloggers around the Internet. There’s an excellent list of each of the archives at Manga Widget. (Or you could buy some cheap manga off of me.)

Hope you found something interesting, either to put on your own list, or to give to someone else. Have a good Christmas! It’s looking like I’ll be getting a root canal soon, and then juggling two ferrets down to my parents’ for the holiday. So, you know, fun times are ahead.