With Christmas only a day away, the last-minute gift rush is on. Anime fans always appreciate the gift of great anime, but it can be tough to decide just what to give. There are literally hundreds of shows on the market, and it’s hard to determine what’s good, what’s bad, and what shouldn’t be screened near an open flame.

Tonight, in the spirit of down-to-the-wire shopping, I’ve compiled a short list of shows that will tickle fans’ fancies, even though they don’t break the bank.

Ramen Fighter Miki
Ramen Fighter Miki is one of the better comedies in the past several years. The show’s willingness to embrace its innate silliness. Miki is a spunky delivery girl that’s quick to anger, but willing to do anything to ensure that the family business keeps its top spot. However, every attempt she makes at this goal, be it making deliveries, waiting tables, or attracting customers ends with property destruction, bodily harm, or fast-paced martial arts action. Larger-than-life characters, like snooty bakery worker Megumi, or Superhero wannabe Nishiyama bring outlandish plots to life. Each episode is packed with clever in-jokes and parodies, and the show’s biting sense of humor are sure to leave fans of all stripes in stitches.
Retail price: $19.99

School Rumble DVD Season 1 + OVA
School Rumble is another show that takes the absurdity of its situation and runs with it. The show begins with a love triangle between three high schoolers: The perky yet somewhat dense Tenma, the tough-talking delinquent Harima, and the clueless Karasuma. The series begins with a bizarre love triangle in which Harima has a crush on Tenma, who has a crush on Karasuma. However, Karasuma is going to transfer to a new school in one year, which means that Tenma must act fast to declare her love.

The show isn’t afraid to delve into the absurd, as it makes light of high school life. A large, lively cast is brought to life by the many sight gags, puns, and slapstick humor litter every episode. Every cast member’s quirks are delightfully absurd, and the off-the-wall dream sequences offer hilarious insight into what could have been a two-dimensional array of characters.
Retail price: $29.98

Golden Boy
Golden Boy is the classic OVA aimed at the older set. The show combines perverted jokes and slapstic humor with a sweet innocence that save the series from being the typical adult-oriented show. In the series, Kintaro Oe is a renaissance man that’s managed to topple the greatest academic challenges. He completed the entire law curriculum at Tokyo University, and set off on his ten-speed in hopes of life experience and new lessons. As Kintaro travels across the countryside, and helps one gorgeous lady in need after another, viewers will laugh, cry, and cheer him on. Whether Kintaro’s aiding a violent blonde in a software house, or tutoring a seductive mayor’s daughter, every episode is cleverly written, and manages to be fun without resorting to being filthy.
Retail price: $19.95

Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell is one of the most influential anime films of all time. The film’s blend of science fiction tropes and self-explorative concepts infuences numerous directors, from James Cameron to the Wachowski Brothers. The film is set in the year 2029, where humans and robots have grown together in society. Major Motoko Kusanagi is a member of Section 9, a cybernetically enhanced band of officers responsible for extrordinary crimes. As she hunts a hacker known as the Puppet Master she’s forced to confront a number of difficult questions, like “What does it mean to really be ‘human’?” She may not like the answers to these questions, as they start to reveal a number of uncomfortable truths about her, and about existence.

The film’s strong narrative is still held as a high water mark by fans today. It was the first anime title to chart on the Billboard Top 100, and many anime still fans consider the film essential viewing.
Retail price: $14.95

Excel Saga
Excel Saga is, without a doubt, one of the most insane comedies on the market. The show revolves around Excel Excel, agent of the shadowy organization ACROSS and servant of the great world-ruler-to-be Ilpalazzo. As she partners with the terminally ill agent Hyatt, she must find a way to bring Ilpalazzo’s plans to fruition, while dealing with a corporation of do-gooders, adorable alien invaders, an afro-toting badass, and the need to fill her stomach. Each episode is a parody of a genre of anime, be it mecha, action, or even sports shows. With the theme lain out at the outset, Excel and Hyatt go to work in absolutely decimating the genre with humor. Cheap jokes, potty humor, and playful sight gags are all on the table as Excel romps across each episode’s landscape with reckless abandon. Colorful characters, strong writing, and an absolutely impeccable voice cast in both English and Japanese ensure that Excel Saga will be the type of show that will draw viewers in for years to come.
Retail price: $49.98