This is how to buy a gift for an otaku
November 25th, 2011
09:37 AM ET

This is how to buy a gift for an otaku

So, the holidays are rolling around yet again, and you have an otaku in the family.

We can understand that you might feel a bit panicky about what to get them when it comes to the holidays. It's because you have no idea whose face is on those posters and the whole anime thing just seems like a universe unto itself.

How on earth do you delve into that? Or figure out what they like best? And even worse, what if you end up buying them something you think is cool, but they turn up their noses at?

It's hard to go wrong with a gift like a USB drive, especially since there are so many cool ones for fans of Japanese culture. For instance, the Voltron 2 GB USB drive is part pose-able toy and part storage monster, ready to transport your files with attitude. Plus, he comes with a blazing sword, which has no other function beyond making you look that much cooler. Voltron Force, go!

Not every Japanese culture fan is hung up on old '80s anime references, though. For many of us, watching anime and J-drama just makes our tummies rumble as we watch all the delicious-looking Japanese food pass in front of our eyes. It's a fact that playing "Persona 3" made me go out for ramen that day because you so much game-time in a ramen shop. I couldn't resist!

One excellent way to inspire a fan of Japanese cooking is with an item like the electric takoyaki maker, which enables you to create this delicious street food in your own home. Then your favorite otaku won't just have to envy that scrumptious looking food those girls in her favorite show are eating - instead, she can invite people over and serve themed snacks while they watch. Important note: Don't forget the Bulldog sauce.

When buying Japanese gifts, keep in mind that cute is king. This much is evident when it comes to a gift like the Stakora bank, which features a precious cat in a house and a tiny bear that accepts your coin in his wagon before pushing it inside to save it for you. These adorable banks are popular with Japanese children, who associate saving money with something fun at a young age thanks to banks like this. You can also choose from different breeds of cat, which makes the process of picking a specific bank that much more fun.

Many otaku adore collectibles - which are also very popular in Japanese culture.

Since the live action version of anime classic "Akira" is in the works, why not thrill your friend (who likely hates the idea of a live action adaption anyway) with pitch-perfect figures of the original characters in this collaborative effort from toy makers Bandai and Medicom.

These poseable figures of Tetsuo and Kaneda feature clothing made from real cloth and both come with an extra head so you can swap out their look. At least if the live-action movie turns out to be as much of a trainwreck as we suspect it could be, you can look at these figures on your shelf and remember the good old days.

Thanks to American stores like Target, Domo-kun has gone from being the mascot of Japan's NHK television station to a widely recognizable figure of Japanese culture. There are tons of collectibles available of the cute little dude from plushies to poseables, but you can really administer a double dose of nerd culture by gifting the Nerdy Domo version, which was exclusively sold at San Diego Comic-Con this year. These likely wont be around too long, so don't wait if you want to snag one.

After a deep dive into all that Japanese culture, otakus may become interested in learning the language. Simply joking around about the few words that we do know thanks to repeated viewings of anime and drama is always fun for an otaku. A gift that nods to this passtime is ThinkGeek's "Japanese for Beginners" shirt.

Featuring cute versions of several Japanese words that sound much like their American counterparts, it may come in handy if you need to remember how to order a beer or a steak. It also will likely earn you dirty looks if anyone can figure out what the vending machine joke is about, but hey, laughter makes you live longer.

The anime "Neon Genesis Evangelion" is one of the best known in otaku circles, and with good reason: the series redefined the boundaries of the mecha genre (which traditionally features giant robots) and has grosses over 150 billion yen since 1995. Japan shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to churning out cool merchandise from this series, and one of the slickest new additions are these chopstick sets which contain a tiny little figure of each character from the show.Shinji, Rei, Mari and Asuka are all available in themed colors, and you'll pretty much look like the coolest guy ever if you whip these out to use with your bento box lunch.

What if your Japanese fan is a beginner? Seen a few Studio Ghibli films, enjoys Haruki Murakami books, but isn't quite hardcore yet? Maybe something like the 2012 Studio Ghibli calendar would do the trick. Featuring exclusive stills from many of the films the Japanese animation studio is famous for such as "Spirited Away", "Howl's Moving Castle" and "My Neighbor Totoro", this oversized calendar is a perfect way to relive the magical moments as you make your way through another year.

When it comes to unusual gifts, the Japanese pretty much have the advantage. If waking up to a normal old bell is not your idea of a good way to rise, maybe you should consider Clockman, which is an alarm that will speak to you in a child's voice and do everything from tell you the time to play games with you. With a smiling face like that to wake you up, it's hard not to feel cheery about the day. And of course, Clockman is cute - like pretty much everything else that Japan likes.

Shopping for the otaku in your life isn't as hard as you thought it might be, right? Now maybe next time you're trying to choose a gift for the J-culture fan in your life, you'll know where to look. Maybe you'll ever realize you need a cute little cat bank for yourself while you're at it!

soundoff (39 Responses)
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    • houssein

      I guessed Haruhi long befroe I saw this. Like last montho or something.So 1 was easy.2 Lupin III, since I used to watch it when I was a kid. x'P3 I had to pass but the only anime I could think of is Doraemon; used to watch that too. Lawl (but I like Mojacko more x'P)4 Evangelion, even though I've never completely watch the whole series, but I know mecha with that color scheme :'P5 Detective Conan, since I watched the Lupin III VS Detective Conan movie befroe x'3 Although I've known of Conan for awhile just never got to watching the series. (too many episodes O_O) lawlI always thought I was just an Akiba-kei but I guess not. Lawl

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  5. Otaku

    Maybe you can ask them what they are watching and if it is any good.
    "Hey Paul what are you watching?"
    "FLCL (fooly cooly)"
    "Is it any good"
    "Yeah I am really enjoying it"
    Google "FLCL"
    Click "Shopping"
    Scroll.
    The actual show? This depends. Does he own other shows? Some people like to own them, while others do not. This should be simple.
    Plush toy? Is he a "she" by any chance? If not, no.
    Wall scroll? You can not, I repeat, You can not possibly go wrong with a wall scroll from a show the person enjoys.

    Other shows may have things like...
    Figures – Yes
    Pillow covers – No, they might like them, but not as a gift.
    T-shirts/clothing – Is it extremely subtle? Then yes. Is it not subtle? Then no. If you don't know what I mean by subtle, don't choose clothing.
    Memorability / collectables – This is very dependent. If you don't know anything about it, don't get it.
    Soundtrack – Is it Cowboy Bebop? Yes. Is it their favorite show? Yes. If not, don't get it.

    The most important thing to remember is that, not all otakus like the same things. Grouping them together is like saying all people that like music would enjoy the same cd. Basically, the best a website could tell you is, most music lovers would enjoy a beatles cd, or even worse, all music lovers would enjoy (insert current top 10 albums). Just like music, the true fans have found their own tastes, and don't usually enjoy something due to popularity.
    Hope I helped somewhat.

    December 14, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  6. fun. rocks

    check out we are young by fun here http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/we-are-young-feat.-janelle/id463207143 also check out the cover glee did if the song here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ul-pLYo5MJ8&feature=youtu.be

    December 8, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
  7. Luke

    Love it all lawl..

    December 8, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  8. Jowl

    That Voltron USB stick is a terrible idea. Things you put data on shouldn't scream STEAL ME I LOOK COOL.

    December 1, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  9. Don'tDoIt

    This is all completely wrong.

    Please follow this simple rule: If you don't understand this stuff and they haven't specifically told you what they want, DO NOT TRY TO BUY THIS STUFF.

    November 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • lolol

      1000 times this.
      This article is the equivalent of suggesting hockey paraphernalia for a football fan because he's into sports.

      December 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  10. asgardshill

    Better an otaku than a weeaboo. (And some of those gifts look distinctly weeaboo-ish.)

    November 28, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • An weeaboo

      Your mom's an otaku

      December 14, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Dany

      Very articulate stneemtat from Matthews. However, he forgets that Edward R. Murrow used to do the news with a trained chimp on The Today Show in the 50s. He started out doing exactly the kind of news Matthews condemns.The other issue that he doesn't mention is the birth of 24 hour news channels, that have an insatiable hunger for talking heads and pundits to fill air time. That's where we're getting all these ranting morons getting air time. Someone like Glenn Beck would have been confined to regional radio back in the day but now he has a national TV platform. That's the real difference.

      September 15, 2012 at 12:18 am |
  11. KM

    Gundam models are also nice. Personally I would prefer those since most of the suggestions given were too cute for my taste.

    November 27, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  12. GB

    WooHOO! I am an otaku. Its pretty embarrassing, but its true. I would love any of these gifts. As an adult who has too much stuff and is 'hard to buy for', I think these are a hoot.

    November 27, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  13. MrSnow

    The live recordings of Yoko Kanno and The Seatbelts, the music of Cowboy Bebop. Its an oldie but a standard, abd its just plain good music.

    November 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • JeffinIL

      Tank! is the best opening cartoon theme song since Johnny Quest. I love 'em both.

      November 27, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
      • TylerDurden

        The opening theme for Xam'd called "Shut Up and Explode" by the Boom Boom Satellites is up there with "Tank!".

        December 3, 2011 at 8:38 am |
      • Jenith

        yes, all was peachy keen and godeln. >>KojiI have most of things I'm buying as data, but I like physical copies more than digital copies. I only use the digital copies as previews before I'm able to buy the real thing, more or less.>>tomoyoIf you listen to AWO there's a sharp dichotomy between when Daryl is joking and when he's not. The Otaku Expiration Date is just a running gag, made especially funny because Daryl will be 30 in just 9 months. You really shouldn't take a lot of what he says seriously.Anyway, thanks for all the birthday wishes, everyone.

        September 14, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  14. sam

    dear author.

    i hate to make you feel silly, but have you considered that perhaps that 'tiny bear' is actually a mouse?

    November 27, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  15. T3chsupport

    Two words.
    Bucky.
    Balls.
    Can't go wrong with that geek gift.

    November 26, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • This is Fact

      The bigger the balls, the better the bucky.

      December 6, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  16. Jen G

    I wonder if CNN knows the real meaning of Otaku. Anime and Manga fans are not Otaku so, let's clear that up right now.
    Here is a good explanation of the word "otaku"

    http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/lexicon.php?id=22

    November 26, 2011 at 8:29 am |
    • Jon

      That's terrible about the murders, but CNN is using the term correctly in it's current popular definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otaku Otaku can be taken in the same respect as "geek" or "nerd" which started off as negative terms for equally "socially inept males", but is now considered hip. "Otaku" in the context of the murders was given by the media (probably to sell papers and get ratings), but its original from the social awkwardness of anime/manga fanboys/girls correct in its usage here.

      November 26, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • gremlinus

      Please. Otaku is just another word that people have used to distinguish themselves as "real" fans as opposed to all of the "casual" fans. There is a new word in every generation of every genre. The only people that care about such things have nothing else, so let them have it.

      November 27, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  17. Beth

    I've got a crazy idea... How about we forgo the shopping frenzy for cheap products made overseas this year and make a committment to buy Made in the US? Congress certainly isn't going to do anything to help the economy, so lets do what we can to put each other back to work, and buy produces either made or at least assembled in the US. And if you can't find a "product" you like made in the US, how about lawn care service, house cleaning service, a hair cut, pet grooming, etc as a gift? Lets put Americans back to work!!

    November 26, 2011 at 6:37 am |
    • JeffinIL

      Here is a crazier idea. Read the article above and see why your gift ideas for this group of people IS crazy.

      November 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
  18. JeffinIL

    $48 for a calendar? Otaku doesn't tranlate as "sucker".

    November 25, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  19. Sparky

    All this wonderful stuff, made in China! Wait...

    Just get your otaku a life.

    November 25, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Flora

      I have a very active life outside of my fandom, thank you, and so do the others. And yes, I wouldn't be surprised if these products are made in China – we don't have the monopoly on using others for cheap labor.

      November 26, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Jeffrey

      I think the fact that they know about products from other countries is proof enough that they not only have a life but they also know well about other countries, as well as their culture and products. typical comment coming form an american though, just because you dont understand, it must mean you have a better life than someone else, right? stop the ignorance.

      November 27, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  20. Ashley B.

    Isn't there an article like this every year?

    November 25, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  21. YourMom

    What in G0ds name is an otaku?

    November 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • TylerDurden

      If only there was a way to use the same device you used to post your question to search for an answer to your question. If only...

      December 3, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • learn2google

      http://lmgtfy.com/?q=What+is+an+otaku

      December 14, 2011 at 5:15 pm |