Buying Anime Gifts on a Budget

‘Tis the season to be jolly–or to be more exact, to be mall-y. It’s the holiday season, and that means, buying gifts for friends and family. Unfortunately, if you’re still new to shopping for your anime-lover friend or brother or sister, the mall is the last place I would go to shop. Why? Because it’s expensive! Imagine paying $10–whole price–for a manga volume! Well, if you’re on a budget and paying that much for manga, anime, or Japan-related gifts isn’t something that’s on your Christmas list, I would heed a few points that I’ve learned from buying some great gifts.

Before you head out there, actually make a list of who you’re buying what for. If you make a list, you’re likely to stick with that list instead of buying impulsively and spending all of your money. Also, you should set a price limit as to what you want to buy for each person.

Now that you know more about what to do before shopping, on with the tips!

1. If you have time, go online. There are a lot of websites out there that offer deals just for buying merchandise from them. Websites like and offer savings on anime, manga, apparel, and Japan-related items. And before you decide to roam their pages, sign up for an account with them. You can get additional deals just for making a new account. Re-sell sites, like and, offer new manga and anime for cheaper prices outside of regular retailer websites. For instance, you could buy a Bakuman Volume 1 manga for less than $3 on, versus getting it at $7.49 ( or $9.99 (retailer). The only thing about shopping online is making sure the shipping fee is reasonable, if any, and that the package will arrive on time.

If you’re worried about receiving the gift by Christmas, I would suggest getting a gift certificate. If the gift certificates are still shipped, the shipping fees are really low and it’s more likely to arrive on time because it’s not a box. On some websites, gift certificates aren’t sent out, like on They are sent to the purchaser via email, and all you have to do is print it out (on nice paper, I hope!) and wrap it like a Christmas gift. It takes the hassle out of buying a specific gift for your anime friend and they’ll appreciate not having to return an item they don’t like.

If you live outside of the United States, offers free shipping to all countries.

2. If you have time and got a dime, get in line. If you already booked yourself to go to a convention, make sure to remember your anime friends and family. For a list of your local anime convention, check out If you’re one of those people who don’t go to anime conventions, there’s always the option of going to your local comic book retailer (not a mall one, hopefully), and having them order the manga or anime, if it’s not available in the store. Normally, there isn’t an extra charge for ordering, but sometimes, a deposit of the item’s price will be asked, so come with some cash. In some towns and cities, there are also manga and anime stores. Although they don’t have as many deals as online websites, if you’ve signed up for a point card, you can earn some much-needed points on your Christmas purchases.

3. No dime, no time, draw a line. If you don’t have money but you have some artistic skills, like drawing, painting, or even using Adobe Illustrator, make them a gift. You can personalize it to your choice, and it’s something original for your friend or family to keep. If it’s drawing or computer-generated images, just make sure to frame the piece or put it in a plastic sleeve like the ones used for American comic books (any comic book retailer can sell it to you for less than $1 each).  If you have left over clay or plaster, sculpt a figurine of their favorite anime character, use acrylic paint to color it, and let it dry. Presto! You have a gift that didn’t take hours to construct and zero dollars to make.

Myth-bust: Panty Vending Machines in Japan

Every time I talk to a male anime fan about being in Japan, the first question to pop up is, “Is it true that Japan has panty vending machines?” They get this excited look in their eyes or in their voice as they anticipate my answer. “Please say, ‘Yes’. Please say, ‘Yes’.”

The honest answer: Yes, panty vending machines exist in Japan. And I’ve seen one.

I saw my first and only panty vending machine at a hot springs entertainment complex in Odawara City. In case you haven’t had the experience of going to a hot spring, all you do is get completely naked, throw your clothes into a locker, scrub your body clean, and hop into different kinds of hot pools. When you’re done, you scrub your body clean again and go get your clothes. However, if you drip too much water on your clothes, or if your panties mysteriously disappear, or if they’re just too soiled, there’s a vending machine waiting for you. Now these panties aren’t the nice, cute-girl hipster types; they’re more like granny panties.

Though I’ve seen a granny-panties vending machine, it seems that panty vending machines are only in certain places, and rare at that.

In some places in Japan, you might be able to find some panty vending machines out in the open. More than likely, they’ll be tucked away between some cola machines or near a “pink” video vending machine dispensing porn. One blogger posted he found these machines on a lone street in Kumamoto. Lucky guy to be a witness to the cute panty vending machines.

Aside from this blogger, I’ve asked my Japanese friends about the machines. They seemed confused by the question– I mean, it’s not every day someone asks you if there are vending machines dispensing panties–so they paused before answering. “There are some near a roller coaster,” they replied. Not so shocking, seeing that some people pee in their pants–er, panties, so they have to get new ones asap.

As for used panty vending machines, my friends claimed there were none, along with a look of disgust. But supposedly, there is evidence that even they once existed before the government banned them in 1993, according to a article. Schoolgirls would go to a porn shop, trade their panties for a pretty one provided by the shop, then they would go to school and return to trade back the soiled panties for their own underwear. I don’t get why people would want used panties, aside from stealing them from unguarded verandas as a joke, but supposedly that was done before the government ban.

So, for all of you curious fans out there thinking about “weird Japan”, yes, panty vending machines exist in Japan, but they’re not on every corner or street that your eyes will see.

Anime Fans Give Back To Japan

After the recent earthquake in Japan there have been a range reactions from anime and manga fans, as well as various blogs and sites. Some send their prayers and thoughts, some donate money, some bitch because they can’t torrent their cartoons, and one site whose name isn’t worth mentioning (Sankaku Complex) posted a gallery of knocked over and broken figures. But rather than focus on the negative things cropping up in fandom, or talk about what a blight upon anime fandom Sankaku Complex is, I’d prefer to focus on the positive things.

The hosts of the Unofficial One Piece Podcast have decided to put together a 24 hour marathon podcast to raise donations for relief efforts in Japan, a movement which they’ve named Anime Fans Give Back To Japan. During the 24 hours they’re going to have various guests come on to talk about what’s happening, and they’ll also have information posted about what people can do to help. Some of the guests include Zac Bertschy and Justin Sevakis of Anime News Network’s ANNCast, as well as  J. Michael Tatum, Terri Doty, and Stephen Hoff of the That Anime Show podcast.

For news about the earthquake and information about where to donate you can also check out ANN’s special coverage. Crunchyroll is also accepting donations for relief efforts, and will match all donations made.

For more information about the marathon podcast, you can follow them on Twitter at @OtakusHelpJapan