By Deb Aoki
So you want to give someone the gift of manga, but you don't want to stick 'em with the long-term commitment of a multi-volume series? Or perhaps you're hoping to share the fun with a reader who's new to manga. But before you despair and reach for the bookstore gift card, here's a few recently released gift-worthy picks to consider.
Author: Helen McCarthy
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
Compare Prices for The Art of Osamu Tezuka
Great for: Any comics reader or artist who's interested in learning more about this manga master.
Before there was Naruto, Dragon Ball or Sailor Moon, there were the creations of Osamu Tezuka. Hailed by many as the "God of Manga," Tezuka was a prodigiously creative, influential and prolific creator whose influence in Japanese manga and anime cannot be over-estimated.
This lavishly illustrated, coffee table-worthy art book gives readers an engaging overview of Tezuka-sensei's life, creations and influence. As an added bonus, it includes a DVD, with a short documentary showing this manga master at his prime.
Manga creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi has a devoted following for his uncompromisingly gritty tales of urban Japan. With A Drifting Life, Tatsumi-sensei recounts his life-long pursuit of a career as a professional manga artist during some of the most tumultuous and formative years of contemporary Japanese history.
This mega-sized 800+ page volume takes readers from Tatsumi's early years when he dreams of manga stardom and his fateful meeting with Osamu Tezuka, to the heady days when he helped found the gekiga ("dramatic pictures") movement. A must-read for every manga fan.
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Compare Prices for Tsubasa ALBum De REProDUCTioNS
Great for: CLAMP-aholics, especially Tsubasa devotees.
This superstar manga creator collective almost needs no introduction, but one reason why CLAMP is so popular is their lush and lovely artwork.
This collection of color illustrations from Tsubasa is so packed full of eye-candy, its release date had to be pushed out a few months to fit it all in. For CLAMP fans, this art book will be well worth the wait as it also includes a few extra goodies, like an original manga story created just for this edition.
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Publisher: Yen Press
Compare Prices for Azumanga Daioh Omnibus
Great for: Anyone who enjoys a good laugh
Before Yotsuba&! won everyone's hearts, Kiyohiko Azuma honed his comic chops with a series of 4-panel comic strips about an eccentric but loveable group of high school girls. Through four volumes, readers laughed with child prodigy Chiyo, quiet but strong Sakaki, spacecase Osaka, straightforward Yomi, her best friend Tomo, and peppy Kagura along with their kooky teachers, from their first day of school until their graduation day.
Along with Yotsuba&!, Yen Press picked up Azumanga Daioh and gave it spankin' new translations along with a super-sized, all-in-one edition.
Author: Taiyo Matsumoto
Publisher: VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
Compare Prices for GoGo Monster
Great for: Fans of indie comics, innovative visual storytelling and twisted children's tales
From the creator of Tekkon Kinkreet comes a mind-bending manga one-shot that takes readers down a dark rabbit hole of a child's imagination. While it's about kids, GoGo Monster is not a kiddy story -- it's too smart, multi-dimensional and creepy. But believe it or not, it's kinda heartwarming too.
Besides offering mesmerizing artwork, GoGo Monster is also presented as a deluxe slip-covered hardcover edition that is a work of art in itself. From the moment the reader slides it out the case, GoGo Monster will take them on a trip they'll never forget.
Author: Kosuke Fujishima
Publisher: Dark Horse
Compare Prices for Oh My Goddess: Colors
Great for: Guys who love goddesses, girls who appreciate sweet but strong heroines and anyone who appreciates a little magic in their lives.
Oh My Goddess! was one of the first manga brought to the U.S., and it's still going strong today for a very good reason: Kousuke Fujishima's gorgeous artwork and his heartwarming stories that mix romance, comedy and magic, and a few robots and motorcycles for good measure.
This color collector's edition offers both a fun introduction to the series for newbies, plus lots of fun and fascinating details about Belldandy and the goddesses that live with Keiichi, a hapless but kind-hearted engineering student.
Authors: Hayao Miyazaki / Studio Ghibli
Publisher: Ghibli Library / VIZ Media
Compare Prices for The Art of Ponyo
Great for: Anime fans, artists and the young at heart.
Anytime a new Studio Ghibli movie makes it to America, it's cause for celebration. With the release of Ponyo, anime fans of all ages got to enjoy a surreal but enjoyable fairy tale about a little girl fish, the little boy who finds her, and the strange and wonderful adventures they share together.
This delightful art book goes behind the scenes of the making of Ponyo, and shares a wealth of sketches, character designs and paintings from the magic-makers at Studio Ghibli.
Author: Susumu Katsumata
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Compare Prices for Red Snow
Great for: Grown-up graphic novel fans and Japanophiles
Myth, magic and melodrama mix in these grown-up (and often sensual) tales of the simpler, rural lifestyle of Japan's recent past. But instead of shogun, ninja or samurai, Red Snow serves up short stories about the salt-of-the-earth working class: farmers, priests, craftsmen and innkeepers, and throws in a few magical beings like kappa and kitsune into the mix as well.
Drawn and Quarterly presents this gekiga ("dramatic pictures") gem in a deluxe hardcover edition that is worthy of any comic connoisseur's library.
Author: Patrick W. Galbraith
Publisher: Kodansha International
Compare Prices for The Otaku Encyclopedia
Great for: Hardcore J-pop culture fans, otaku and/or those who aspire to join their ranks
All it takes is a few visits to an anime convention or anime club and you realize that you're not in Kansas anymore, gaijin. Welcome to the world of the otaku, the superfans who strive to immerse themselves in all aspects of Japanese pop culture.
From maid cafes to Comiket, Galbraith interviewed and profiled numerous tastemakers and trend-setters in the worlds of anime, video games, toys, mecha models, idol singers and manga, and also explains the lingo of Japan's geek culture.
Author: La Carmina
Publisher: Mark Batty Publisher
Compare Prices for Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo
Great for: Travelers, gastronomes and anyone who appreciates dinner with a show
If I had 10 yen for everytime I said, "Only in Japan," I could afford another plane ticket to the land of wonderful weirdness, Tokyo. Goth diva, bento connoisseur and world traveler La Carmina dares to visit some of Japan's oddest theme restaurants, take photos and tell the tales to armchair travelers.
With La Carmina as your guide, check out eateries where mad scientists, vampires, maids and English boarding school boys are your waiters and gosh-knows-what is served just to make your dining experience complete.