holiday gifts 2022

The Best Gifts for Anime Fans, According to Anime Fans

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist

Whether you have a Naruto-obsessed little sibling, a preteen niece adorning her wall with Bleach posters, or an uncle with a growing Gunpla collection, by now most people know and love at least one anime fan. The Japanese animation style has so thoroughly pervaded popular culture that reportedly more than half of Netflix’s global audience (around 111 million subscribers) watched at least one anime title last year.

But the genre’s appeal to all sorts of people can make buying anime-related gifts especially tricky. “Anime is so broad and deep that ‘baby’s first anime’ will be vastly different from what the 40-year-old fan loves,” says Peter Tatara, the event director of Anime NYC, New York’s largest annual anime convention. So to help you zero in on what will most delight the anime lover in your life, we surveyed anime fans of all ages — from young kids and tweens to college students and adults — about which franchises they’re watching and reading and what merch they’d most like to receive as a gift this year.

For younger fans who are just beginning their forays into the worlds of anime and manga (Japanese comics), Tatara recommends Kanata Konami’s manga series Chi’s Sweet Home, an “adorable” and “heartwarming” tale of a mischievous kitten who gets into plenty of adventures. “It’s perfect for any young kid to read with their mom and dad or older siblings,” Tatara says.

Photo: Crunchyroll

Office coordinator Marco Juan plans to gift his 10-year-old daughter, Samantha, a subscription to the streaming service Crunchyroll this Christmas. Considered the premier anime hub, Crunchyroll distributes some of the most popular properties around, including One Piece, Attack on Titan, and Mob Psycho. “Right now, we’re stuck on the stuff that’s licensed out to Netflix, which doesn’t have everything,” Juan says. “She’s hungry for more.” Even though this present can’t be wrapped in a box, rest assured it will be received with delight: Last Christmas, Strategist senior editor Winnie Yang gifted a Crunchyroll subscription to her now 13-year-old nephew and reports that “it’s been a big hit.”

Among the tween set, collectible Funko Pops are especially popular — 9-year-old Jack, 9-year-old Jaden, 10-year-old Zoya, and 11-year-old Laurence all boast extensive collections featuring characters from franchises like Naruto, Demon Slayer, and Danganronpa. “I already have the Naruto and Obito figures, so I’m really looking forward to getting Sasuke,” Jaden says.

Stuffed plushies of favorite characters are also coveted, with multiple people mentioning that they already own plushes of Danganronpa’s Shuichi, Demon Slayer’s Shinobu, and Yu-Gi-Oh’s Kuriboh. Thirteen-year-old Cecilia is hoping to expand her collection with a plush of the adorable dog-devil Pochita from Chainsaw Man, a long-running manga that was adapted into a hotly anticipated anime earlier this year.

For a slightly older crowd, you can’t go wrong with a Gunpla gift. A portmanteau of the words Gundam and plastic model, these build-your-own action figures are based on the media franchise Gundam, which Tatara calls the “Star Wars of Japan.” The cult-favorite model kits can take anywhere from a few hours to a whole month to complete, depending on their intricacy and difficulty level. “They require a lot of discipline and focus, but they’re a lot of fun,” says barista Charles Ello, who enjoys challenging himself with the complicated Master Grade–level kits.

Emily Zheng, a student at Hunter College, is a collector of Nendoroids — cute, chibi-esque mini-figures made by the Japanese company Good Smile. “They’re teeny, and they have a lot of interchangeable parts so you can put them in different poses,” Zheng says. She’s currently eyeing a character from the video game Genshin Impact, but Good Smile also offers characters from many well-known pop-culture properties, including Marvel and Nintendo.

Sixteen-year-old Hannah and 14-year-old Charlotte, who attend a visual-arts school, tend to gravitate toward fan-made posters, postcards, and stickers of their favorite shows, rather than “bulky” figures or collectibles. “I want to hang them up, but I have so many that they’re just sitting in a pile in my room,” Charlotte says. Currently, the two are reading the mangas Haikyu!! and Toilet-bound Hanako-kun.

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Hannah also has a hot tip for fellow anime art lovers: Whenever she attends an anime convention where she knows she’ll be buying a lot of posters, she brings along her school-issued art portfolio to help protect her new goodies from bending and creasing.

Cosplaying is a common hobby among anime fans and can range from casual approximations to full-on costuming with elaborate hair and makeup. For the beginner cosplayer, Naruto’s cloud-embellished Akatsuki cloak is easy to throw on and doesn’t require many props or add-ons, making it a popular choice among convention attendees. As a bonus, this fleece one can double as a robe for lounging around the house.

Brothers Anthony, 7, and Caleb, 3, are both obsessed with Izuku Midoriya, a.k.a. Deku, the protagonist of My Hero Academia. Anthony already owns the character’s signature silver respirator, but he’s hoping to receive a full Deku costume so he can re-create his hero’s look from head to toe.

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For those interested in elevating their cosplay to the next level, part-time cosplayer Liz Groombridge says any gift certificate toward buying wigs would be appreciated. Their go-to supplier is Arda Wigs, a recommendation co-signed by sisters Alyssa and Emily Santos, who cosplay at the handle @emlyssily. “They have the best wigs. They’re synthetic, but they’re not like Spirit Halloween wigs. They’re really good quality,” Alyssa assures us.

Groombridge also mentioned water-activated eyeliners, which she says “are useful for doing complicated looks or lots of lines on the face.” Resembling watercolors in their appearance and function, these palettes help cosplayers create ornate facial designs they might not be able to achieve with typical makeup.

Emily and Alyssa’s regular wardrobe is filled with anime-themed sneakers, clothing, bags, and other accessories, most of them sourced from the OG supplier of fandom merch: Hot Topic. “They’re cute and a good price,” Emily says, adding that she especially loves anything related to the animation company Studio Ghibli. This wallet depicts Jiji, the chatty cat companion from the beloved Ghibli film Kiki’s Delivery Service.

Anime apparel that’s covered in large flashy graphics can come off a bit too “overt” or “gaudy” to Jeremy Lim, a transcriber for Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. “I want to buy something that looks like regular clothing that I can wear on a regular basis,” Lim explains, and for that, he looks to Hypland, a streetwear brand that frequently collaborates with anime franchises like Inuyasha, Bleach, and Yu-Gi-Oh! This T-shirt features Bleach protagonist Ichigo and has a cool, understated vibe.

Uniqlo — often our first stop for dependably good basics — also regularly partners with anime properties. “They did a YuYu Hakusho collab a couple years ago, and they’ve done an Inuyasha one as well. They lean a little more classic, rather than new anime, but their designs are always nice and high quality,” Groombridge told us. The brand is set to release new Naruto and Spy x Family designs in late November.

If you really want to splash out for your anime-loving giftee, several weapons-crafting companies will create painstaking reproductions of beloved characters’ swords. Retail worker Isaiah Black and Long Island University student Nate are both eyeing Ichigo’s infamous Bankai katana. “I’ve already got four Zoro swords, but Ichigo’s sword is very cool, I must admit,” says Black.

If there’s one character they’re completely enamored with, a $500, one-and-a-half-foot-tall statue of said character is guaranteed to make your recipient very happy. “I don’t even dream of owning one of those giant, expensive figures, but to have one would be amazing,” says Briana Troise, a student at the School of Visual Arts. Fellow student Rianne Phillips agrees: “If you’re gifting a very special person, boy oh boy, one of those statues is the ticket. Everyone says they don’t want one, but secretly they want one.”

Someone who’s into anime is likely to be interested in other aspects of Japanese life and culture as well. Japan Society is a New York–based nonprofit organization that’s over 100 years old, and a membership provides access to both in-person and remote Japanese-language classes as well as “discounted access to a year of cultural performances, screenings, and other activities to get you a step further into Japanese culture,” according to Tatara.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Best Gifts for Anime Fans, According to Anime Fans