I’m going to tell you right off the bat that this gift guide is lacking.
Why? Because I can’t recommend one of the biggest shoujo titles of the year since I happen to have worked on it. But don’t worry because nearly every other gift guide has mentioned it. See if you can figure out what I’m talking about. 🙂
For the Disney nostalgic:
Princess Knight by Osamu Tezuka
Reading the Osamu Tezuka classic made me feel a lot like I was watching Snow White, so if you know someone with a taste for the Disney princesses, flaws and all. I wouldn’t recommend the title for kids, unless you think you can explain away some of the old-fashioned ideas about gender inequality. However, it does present an interesting character in Princess Sapphire, who has both a female and a male heart, and doesn’t want to give either one up. In this way, Princess Knight was well ahead of it’s time in terms of non-cisgender identities. Either way, Princess Knight is a fun read that will delight anyone who regularly pops Cinderella into their DVD player.
For the historical fiction buff:
A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori
If you have a friend or relative who is into The Red Tent just as much as they’re into comics, they’ll probably enjoy A Bride’s Story, which follows the marriage and family life of an unusual couple in late 19th Century Central Asia. Karluk, the groom, is only 12 years old, but his wife, Amira, is 20. Before you think “Ew, that sounds gross,” let me tell you that the manga presents their relationship in a very natural way, without only a few allusions to sexuality in the first two volumes. (And I should mention the fact that marriage between young girls and older men was common back then and is often addressed in historical fiction.) In between scenes about their relationship, Kaoru Mori weaves in beautifully-rendered stories about the surrounding culture, with special attention paid to the artwork and handicraft of the region. If your giftee has read Habibi by Craig Thompson, chances are they’ll love A Bride’s Story too.
For the inner goth:
Grand Guignol Orchestra by Kaori Yuki
Kaori Yuki is the one of the goth grand masters of manga and Grand Guignol Orchestra is her most enjoyable romp into a twisted fantasy world since Cain Saga. Actually, it might be my favorite work by her yet. The story takes place in an alternative version of Europe that is plagued by zombie-like creatures called guignols (French for puppet.) The only way to eradicate guignols is to have the mysterious Royal Court Orchestra perform. Of course, the orchestra is really after the secret of the guignols’ creation and the members must put themselves in danger in order to find out. Any goth tired of the usual vampire or zombie tale will enjoy Grand Guignol Orchestra‘s unique plot.
For the mythology fiend:
Kamisama Kiss by Julietta Suzuki
If you happen to have a friend who is heavily into mythology and shoujo manga, Kamisama Kiss is a perfectly cute gift choice. Nanami is suddenly homeless after her irressponsible father disappears, luckily for her, a strange man suddenly gives her his home. Unfortunately for Nanami, his home is a Shinto shrine, and she is now the kami (or god) in charge yokai servants. One of them, Tomoe, a fox yokai, is extremely unhappy to have to serve such a weak kami. The result is a treasure trove of fun and exciting stories with a parade of supernatural characters from Japanese mythology.
For the hopeless romantic:
Kimi ni Todoke by Karuho Shiina
Kimi ni Todoke is one of those manga where you latch hard onto the protagonist and the supporting characters, and then get taken on a wild, emotional ride with them. This solid empathy for the characters is a great testament to Karuho Shiina’s storytelling abilities because Kimi ni Todoke would otherwise be like every other high school romance manga out there. Perhaps the difference lies in socially awkward Sawako’s struggle to fit in and make friends, and how much most manga readers can relate to her. But it’s really Sawako’s slow journey to love that makes this a great gift for someone who just loves a really cute couple.
For someone who likes a-typical shoujo:
Seiho Boys’ High School! by Kaneyoshi Izumi
What makes Seiho Boys’ High School! so different from other manga is that it immediately places itself in a situation not only where there almost no girls, but where there are a plethora of horny teenage boys. Somehow the story manages to be a shoujo manga instead of Maxim in manga form by focusing on the eternal teenage boy’s quest: having a cute girlfriend. Therein lies the problem of trying to convince the only ladies available that the guys at the boys’ school are worthy and not just trying to get into their pants, which plays out with great comedic effect. Some guys already have girlfriends, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own girl problems to deal with. The change of perspective brings a refreshing look at the usual shoujo tropes.
For the new fan:
X by CLAMP
Got a new fan who’s all over Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle or xxxHOLiC, but doesn’t know their manga classics? X is the perfect book to stuff in their stocking, especially with it’s high-drama, supernatural story line. With this 3-in-1 reissue, you can easily get them into the story without breaking their piggy bank in the future or without spending too much of your own cash in case they don’t like it. Luckily, any previous exposure to CLAMP will soften the blow of those gigantic, pointy shoulders and you can show them what emo looked like in the anime & manga crowd before Death Note came along.
For the fan who’s hot for tsundere (men):
Dengeki Daisy by Kyosuke Motomi
The above category may sound kinda creepy, but Dengeki Daisy is honestly one of the cutest new manga I’ve read all year. After Teru’s brother, her only remain relative, dies, she relies on the mysterious “DAISY” for emotional support. DAISY, however, is just an anonymous person who texts her words of encouragement. The life of the impoverished and bullied Teru doesn’t get much better after she has to repay a debt to the grouchy school janitor. Fortunately for Teru, the janitor is looking out for her in more ways than she knows. Thus, this gift would be perfect for anyone who loves their men hot-and-cold!
For the person who’s struggling with their identity:
Wandering Son by Shimura Takako
On a serious note, 2011 has been an awful year to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, even as society slowly begins to recognize their equal rights. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to show a person struggling with their identity, sexual or otherwise, that you sympathize? Perhaps Wandering Son isn’t the best gift in to show them that their struggles will be easily accepted, but it could certainly show your recipient that they are not alone and there are others who care about them out there. Plus, showing them that there’s a whole world of people out there who are similar to them is sure to lift your giftee’s spirits.
For the foodie:
Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! by Fumi Yoshinaga
If you are a foodie, you know what it means to really geek out over insanely delicious food and Not Love but Delicious Foods is Fumi Yoshinaga’s ultimate foodie geek-out. Each story features a thinly-veiled Yoshinaga eating delicious food all over Tokyo and describing her conquests in mouth-watering detail. Never thought you would drool over unagidon? Yoshinaga will take you there. Perfect for anyone who loves food, or perhaps someone who is taking a food-centric trip to Tokyo soon.
For the person who still stumps you:
As cold and impersonal as gift cards seem, there are plenty of manga fans who welcome them. It means they get to choose their own gift, at their leisure, without paying for that huge stack of manga. You can’t go wrong with that.
That’s it for this year’s Great Shoujo Manga Gift Guide! Happy manga shopping, and if you need more suggestions as to what to buy your otaku friends, you can find the 2011 Great Manga Gift Guide list here.