Off-Ramp host John Rabe and contributors share thoughts on arts, culture, and life in L.A.

12 anime gift suggestions for the clueless parent

Sailor Moon cosplayers at Anime Revloution 2014 in Vancouver, Canada.

GoToVan/Flickr Creative Commons

"Sailor Moon" cosplayers at Anime Revloution 2014 in Vancouver, Canada.

Japanese animation — anime — offers very different visions from its American counterparts, and it's extremely popular with college and high school students. They can be extremely difficult for well-meaning parents, uncles and aunts to shop for, so here, in no particular order, are some titles that can transform an adult’s image from clueless doofus to knowing friend. Plus, we have a few suggestions for younger children (who can also be a pain to shop for).

Cardcaptor Sakura: Complete Collection
NIS America: $249.99; 9 discs, Blu-ray, plus book
When cheerful fourth-grader Sakura Kinamoto opens an odd book in her father's study, strange lights fly out. Kerberos, who looks like a plushie of the lion on the book's cover, explains that she's inadvertently released a deck of magical cards. Despite her protests that’s she just an ordinary little girl, Kero insists Sakura must become a Cardcaptor and retrieve them before they work mischief on the world. Many American series talk about empowering girls — in this one, the viewer sees Sakura grow stronger and more confident as she learns to master the magical cards.

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20 years later, 'The Far Side' is still far out, and the new collection is lighter!

Gary Larson

One of 4,000 "The Far Side" panels Gary Larson drew over 14 years. The full collection is now out in paperback.

Off-Ramp animation expert Charles Solomon reviews "The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994" by Gary Larson.

It’s hard to believe the last panel of Gary Larson’s wildly popular comic strip “The Far Side” ran 20 years ago: January 1, 1995. The comics page of the LA Times (and many other papers) still feels empty without it.

RELATED: Charles Solomon interviews artists responsible for look of "Big Hero 6"

During its 14-year run, "The Far Side" brought a new style of humor to newspaper comics that was weird, outré and hilarious. The strip became an international phenomenon, appearing in over 1,900 newspapers worldwide. Larson won both the National Cartoonists' Society Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year and the Best Syndicated Panel Award. An exhibit of original artwork from the strip broke attendance records at natural history museums in San Francisco, Denver and here in L.A. Fans bought tens of millions of "Far Side" books and calendars.

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4 fun SoCal Christmas events that don't involve shopping malls

Frank Romero with one of his French paintings, in his home in the South of France.

John Rabe

Frank Romero with one of his French paintings, in his home in the South of France. But every year, he and his wife Sharon throw a big studio sale for Christmas, and you're invited.

"Live! Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!" - Auntie Mame.

Your calendar is filling up, but here are four holiday events you'll want to make room for:

Every year, pioneering Chicano artist Frank Romero and his wife Sharon throw a big studio sale that includes works by a wide group of artists, and a lot of food and drink. It's just as much a party as a sales event, and Frank and the other artists are always there to meet and greet. And now that the couple is spending more time at their home in France, it's a chance for their old friends to catch up with them, so who knows who you'll see from L.A.'s arts community.

RELATED: See Frank's new works - French scenes with an East LA flavor

The Romero Studio annual Christmas party and sale is Saturday, Dec. 6, 6-10pm; and Sunday, Dec. 7, 1-5pm, at Plaza de la Raza, Boathouse Gallery, 3540 North Mission Rd., LA CA 90031 (in Lincoln Park across from the DMV — which BTW is a very good DMV).

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The Getty's new $65M Manet: 'Spring' from an artist in the autumn of his life

The Getty spent $65m (and change) for this late Manet masterpiece, "Spring."

A  132-year-old vision of springtime has landed permanently at the Getty Museum, smack in the middle of this California autumn: "Spring (Jeanne Demarsy)," one of Impressionist painter Edouard Manet’s  last completed pictures.

Here's what Getty Director Timothy Potts had to say about the artist:

Manet was the ultimate painter’s painter: totally committed to his craft, solidly grounded in the history of painting and yet determined to carve out a new path for himself and for modern art. ... Alone of his contemporaries (the only one who comes near is Degas), Manet achieved this almost impossible balancing act, absorbing and channeling the achievements of the past into a radically new vision of what painting could be.

"Spring" somehow manages to be the evocation of youth itself and all its hopes. The subject is 16-year-old actress Jeanne Demarsy, just then seeing her stage career ascend at the same time Manet neared the end of his own career. (He died at age 51 in 1883,  soon after the painting went on display.) 

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'Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful' photos at the Getty Center

Josef Koudelka & Pace/MacGill Gallery, @Koudelka/Magnum

Prague, 1968, part of "Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful," at the Getty Center.

Off-Ramp commentator Marc Haefele reviews "Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful," at the Getty Center through March 22. The exhibit was organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and Fundación MAPFRE.

"I became what I am from how I was born, but also what photography made from me. Other people ask me, 'Are you still Czech or are you French?” I don’t know who I am — people who see me might say who I am. I am the product of all this continuous traveling, but I know where I come from."  ( Josef Koudelka, New York Times, 2013)

Master photographer Josef Koudelka is a bouncy, 76-year-old elf with a sketchy remainder of fluffy white hair who got along for many years with neither a nationality nor a fixed address. He lived out of a backpack with a couple of cameras, moving all over Europe, Africa and the Middle East, often sleeping outdoors.

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