The Christmas shopping season has officially begun, and people are flocking to stores to purchase gifts for their loved ones. Thanks to the magic of the internet, the search for the perfect gift has become little more than a few clicks of a mouse, and a trip to one’s favorite online retailer. However, with the spread of information, we’ve also seen a number of lists that proclaim kitschy, overpriced merchandise as the must-have gifts for the holidays. And, for some circles, they are. However, most anime fans are average people with rational tastes.

Tonight, I’d like to present a more practical guide to what anime fans would appreciate this holiday season. From the fun to the functional, the obvious to the unexpected, those looking for gift ideas will certainly be that will leave most anime fans smiling.

Storage

By the nature of the hobby, many anime fans amass large collections of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. Strides have been made in space-saving packaging, but five hundred DVDs is still going to take up a decent amount of space, no matter how thin the cases may be. Many fans would appreciate a sturdy, attractive bookcase, to help contain and display their collections. At $59.99, IKEA’s six-shelf Billy bookcase is inexpensive and stands up well to most household abuse. The 250-disc capacity shelves aren’t the fanciest of furniture, but they are a functional and practical addition to the media room.

Fans looking to take their discs on the road may be best-served by a sturdy DVD wallet.Case Logic’s 48-DVD album provides an inexpensive and attractive way to bring DVDs on the road. The liner note storage allows for easy and stylish sorting, while the pages themselves keep discs safe and scratch-free. The binder allows for extra pages to be inserted or replaced, which is a godsend when running low on space, or when that one page decides to finally wear out.

Electronics

While DVD is the current king of the market, Blu-Ray is quickly becoming a contender to the throne, as its presence grows. Blu-Ray players are getting more affordable by the day, and more anime titles than ever are seeing Blu-Ray releases. Any anime fan would be absolutely thrilled to tear the wrapping paper off of a shiny new player. Clocking in at under $150, Panasonic’s DMP-BDT210 is a full-featured set that offers 2D and 3D playback, as well as wi-fi access to Netflix and Pandora radio.

Those looking to ditch the discs entirely would be better served by a Roku. This tiny box packs a massive punch, as it offers over 250 entertainment channels for viewers of all stripes, and programs that range from sports, to news, to music. Hulu, Netflix, and Crunchyroll are all present, which ensures instant access to HD streams of most of the hottest titles of today and yesterday, while Crackle offers a number of programs with limited commercials.

Gift-y Stuff

While the items highlighted in this section aren’t always practical, they are items that fans will treasure for some time to come.

Artbooks, as the name implies, are books of art. Specifically, they are books of artwork from a particular artist or series. They’re often prized by fans of particular shows, as they offer pieces that simply can’t be obtained in standard merchandise, books, or liner notes. They’re available for every series of game or anime one can think of, from Final Fantasy to Fushigi Yuugi, and can be found in specialty retailers like Robert’s Anime Corner Store or Right Stuf. Due to their nature, artbooks are typically imported from Japan. Harder-to-find titles will require a look into importers, like Play-Asia and CDJapan. The prices on artbooks can vary greatly, with more common books buyable at under $20, to rarities and limited-edition pieces that reach up to $200.

Image courtesy of The Crystal Temple

The ultimate gift for an anime fan, the greatest possible honor, is to be able to own a small piece of his or her favorite show. The gift of a cel or a production sketch (genga & douga) will allow this to become a reality. These delicate items are exactly as the name implies – an actual animation cel or production sketch from an anime series. These items are truly one-of-a-kind, and vary wildly in price depending on the quality of the shot, the condition of the cel, and even the show itself. While Robert’s offers a selection of cels, buyers may have to head to eBay ¬†or Mandarake for cels and sketches from more popular shows. As a bit of a hint, newer shows do not use cels for production. They relied on digital animation, so only sketches were used in production. As for pricing? Cels and sketches can be found for as little as $5 for, say, a bad shot from Vampire Princess Miyu, to over $1,200 for a cel of Tetsuo from Akira. Cels produced for promotional or advertising purposes, or hanken are also available – they’re often larger and more detailed than the average cel, and way more expensive. Starting price for these special items begin at $150 bare minimum, and can quickly rise above $2,000 for shows that aren’t obscure.

As with any online auction sites, I cannot stress enough: Make sure you are sure of what you are buying before you purchase! Check feedback, look into the seller’s listings, and make sure that you are getting exactly what you want before you order.

DVDs & Gift Cards

This section goes without question. Anime fans will often be DVD buyers, and often crave new experiences. With so many titles on the market, choosing that special series can be a challenge, though. To help ease the blow, I’ve begun recommending bundles of quality titles that retail for under $100, and fill popular fields of interest.

Those who don’t want to go through the hassle of buying DVDs may be better served with the American tradition: gift cards. Gift cards for popular retailers like Amazon and Best Buy can be found in almost any supermarket nowadays, and each offers a wide selection of anime titles.

Online retailers Right Stuf, AnimeNation, and Robert’s also offer gift certificates, and tend to carry more niche titles that can’t be found in the average Best Buy or Fry’s. Right Stuf in particular is known for their studio sales and their weekly specials, while AnimeNation boasts a wide selection of close-outs, and Robert’s offers a variety of rarer items.