Did you have a good year?
Be honest with yourself, was it good? You don’t have to tell me, but tell someone. Someone you love, it may serve them and you if they know. I had an alright year for the most part with some highs and lows. Had some close friends get married and was even honored to be a groomsman for one of them. I’ll tell you what, it’s real heckin’ weird that they’re now someone’s husband. Yea…we won’t linger on this topic. Part of what made this year enjoyable, changes in my social circles aside, is all the different media I consumed. Some were incredible, most great and the others were just ok. I’m actually proud to say that I didn’t waste my money on any unenjoyable entertainment this year, which in itself is a victory. What were those things you may ask? Well, do you got a second? I’ll tell you all about them this week. It’ll be just a brief rundown of why I enjoyed it and I’ll even do ya solid and not include specific examples to reduce the seeding of spoilers. That being said, read at your risk, meaning pay attention to the headers. Alright, what’s first?
Arcane (Season 1)(2021)
I’d like to go on record stating that although there was a time I spent the better part of 5 years playing League of Legends, the game this show takes it’s world and characters from, I’m about 4 years of sober from the game now. If you’re going to know something about me, let it be my love of fictional worlds and universes. Big lore junky here and would gladly converse about the one’s I hold close. What I’ve always loved about Riot Games’ world of Runeterra is the way their world feels so lived in. Each region of the world has it’s own history and characters. Regions like the frozen and brutal lands of the Freljord, the void-infested and fallen kingdoms in the deserts of Shurima, the mystical lands of Ionia, the swashbuckling of Bilgewater, the spectral and infamous Shadow Isles, the celestial wonders of Mount Targon, the adorable yet dangerous forests of the Bandlewoods, and the warring nations of Demacia and Noxus (Yes, I did really list all of them). Where this first season took place is just one corner and with the way things are going it won’t be long before the others appear and we see what they have to offer. If not then hopefully in a different series. What a great time to be a fan of Runeterra! Now, if you have no attachment to the game and/or world, its directorial approach partnered with benchmark setting 3D animation will have you sold. In order to keep this brief I’m going to spit fire a few points that sold me so we can move onto the other entries on the list:
- Dynamic use of camera to highlight motion
- Compelling narrative and cast
- Active characters and world, feels lived in and alive
- Art direction and feel of scenes
- The fact that a friend who doesn’t dabble in animated media pushed me to see it as soon as possible (Thanks James!)
I know the last point is more or less personal, but I think it could speak for itself for some. So yea, Arcane was rad and I’ll be watching season 2, moving on!
Young Justice (Seasons 1-3)(2010-)
When I first discovered superheroes it was the web-head from Marvel comics that grabbed my heart first. The likes of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and the like never really hit. While my peers had watched and loved Batman: The Animated Series (1992), Justice League (2001) and/or Justice League: Unlimited (2004) I watched Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994), X-Men: Evolution (2000), Spectacular Spider-Man (2008), and The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (2010). I did dabble with the occasional DC animated film on the side, but that was about it. That all changed when I found Young Justice. The best way to describe this show and give it the praise it deserves is this: it’s a show and cast that matures and grows overtime in theme and tone. Now, if you don’t give a shiz about DC comics, I don’t know what to tell ya other than the approach to telling a maturing branching story is pretty solid and the familiar characters tie it all together well. Basically using DC comic characters and storylines for groundwork only, making it real easy to hop into. As much as I adore superhero comics, they’re not easy to get into and can be intimidating to some. Each episode and season builds out the world for you. If you know the stuff, good for you, there’s cuts into the decades long continuity waiting and it isn’t essential to the narrative. It’s still going and with a currently airing fourth season, it’s been great to see where things are going with so much having been built in the seasons prior.
Real well crafted stuff, needless to say I’d recommend this. Moving on now to one of the outliers amongst my favorite media I gobbled this year.
Schitt’s Creek (Full Series)(2015-2020)
So this show was not on my radar in the slightest. I had heard of it in passing a few times and even saw it advertised on Netflix. Still never gave it a thought. I don’t remember what brought me to start watching the show, but I am grateful that I did. Schitt’s Creek is a wonderfully witty, heartfelt, and cozy show that I don’t think I could live my life without now. Ya know the type, shout out to the Gilmore Girls (2000)(currently watching too) fans reading me talk about random stuff. Before I even finished the series on my own I had already started a second watch through with my mother, I loved it that much! The cast and their small town lives are so welcoming and very funny to watch. The writing and deliverance of the comedy mixed with the growth of the main cast is what sold me. I earnestly think that the show is something that’ll stand the test of time as that one show you could go back to for comfort at most stages of your life. Huge kudos to Dan and Eugene Levy for what the cast and crew created.
Now, let’s say you don’t like comedies, is this for you? Well, no, no it’s not. It’s that simple! Moving on because there’s still more to cover!
Loki (Season 1)(2021)
This show is another great example of what the MCU can accomplish with it’s characters and narrative in an episodic format, alike to its comic roots. This is a point that warrants its own post at some point, but to keep it brief I’ll just say it’s good that they have the room to tell a more engaging story. Like WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki gives us a story with a less developed character(s) from the MCU as the lead and shows us who they are. Good thing too because now would be the time to do that in the early years of the post-Endgame landscape. The performances from the cast, Tom Hiddleston especially, are solid. Watching his version of Loki be pushed to grow and learn more about himself is compelling and satisfyingly. Him and Owen Wilson absolutely have a fun dynamic and the theme is an absolute banger. It’s like up there with the fairly recent theme for The Mandalorian for me and we all know how great that one is.
Go watch Loki on Disney+ if you haven’t already, great stuff that show is. Moving on now!
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
This movie is still too fresh for my liking to warrant me talking about it publicly so I’ll just say that it’s a well needed web-swing in the right direction for the character and I loved it. I’m in fact seeing it a second time but in IMAX the day after this goes up. Funny enough, I’ve seen each MCU Spider-Man film at least 3 times in theaters during their theatrical releases and am likely to repeat it again. What can I say to you at this point that I haven’t stated yet about my feelings about Spider-Man, I’m a web-head. This was better than Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) for me, but not better (currently) than Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). Hot take? Maybe, but probably not.
Moving onto the last film and/or television entry on this list.
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
For those who are not familiar with this film, let me give you some fun background information about it. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1982-1994) is a manga series created by THE Hayao Miyazaki, ya know, of Studio Ghibli fame. This was a passion project of his that had the opportunity to be made into an animated film. Miyazaki poured his very being into the film adaptation of his manga and it shows beautifully in every cell of the work. What was really cool about this is that it came out before Studio Ghibli would officially release it’s first film, Castle in the Sky (1986). The story follows Princess Nausicaä as she desperately struggles to prevent two warring nations from destroying themselves and their dying planet. If you already enjoy films by Studio Ghibli then this’ll be a no brainer. If you don’t or have never watched one here’s what I’ll say: films by Miyazaki and his studio are often times classics alike to the older Disney films for animation. His films can range from having mature themes of war and violence to capturing the essence of child like wonder. Nausicaä is a good protagonist to follow and root for and at her peak can be someone inspirational. Give this film a try and experience a labor of love unlike any other. Plus, the score by long time collaborator, Joe Hisaishi, is an awesome pairing that elevates the work.
That’s the last film and/or television entry, now onto the only video game I looked forward to all year.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (2021)
Mass Effect is my favorite video game franchise of all time. Full stop. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a sci-fi RPG action-shooter developed by Bioware. The story of the original trilogy of games follows Commander Shepard, the character you create and play as, and his crew on their mission to stop the Reaper threat before they wipe out all intelligent life in the Milky Way galaxy. Throughout it you’ll assemble said crew from different corners of space and develop bonds with them, ones that can effect the way each individual playthrough progresses. What I adore the most about this game is how it allows you to approach downtime between missions. The game actively entices you to take your time and interact with the different crew members and faces you meet throughout the trilogy. Each time learning something new, letting the story unfold and further immersing the player. I spent about 100 hours playing through the Legendary Edition of this game over the course of two months. What a great deal the Legendary Edition of the franchise is, all three games bundled with their add-ons, updated for the modern era with enhanced visuals and quality of life changes. I have a looooottt I can say about these games that I likely will address a different day. For now I’ll say this, if you ever wanted to be a Captain to a diverse crew of aliens and humans alike, on a life or death mission this is for you. If you don’t like video games, well, watch someone playthrough it and slowly become jealous that it’s not you playing instead.
Moving onto the two print comics entries!
Daredevil by Frank Miller Omnibus (2016 printing)
Daredevil is and has always been a pocketed favorite hero of mine. There’s something about him as a deeply troubled and tested character that has me captivated. Matt Murdock is not a saint, never claims to be one, but the man without fear is a hero to his core and a vessel of justice for Hell’s Kitchen. Sometimes though, he can become too lost in his alter ego or even lose everything because of it. Giving us opportunity to see how low a person can fall and the journey of recovery. Daredevil and his mythos has had many contributors but none so unanimously agreed upon as his greatest contributor, Frank Miller. This omnibus format collects some of the best DD stories ever put to print and on top of that demonstrates that comics from the 1980s and 90s were really leaving it all on the page back then. If you ever wanted a cursory look into the character or to even read up on what the Netflix adaptation took inspiration from, this is an excellent option. Expect more Daredevil talk in the future from me.
Moving on the second to last entry on this long list and the last print comic to talk about!
Nightwing by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo (first six issues)(2021)
I have a special connection to Nightwing. It’s the favorite hero to one of my closest friend and fellow co-founder, Kenny, and for as long as I’ve known of the character he’s really only been that for me. Just that hero that my friend loves. Kenny would key me in throughout the years on what makes the former side kick to Batman and first Robin, Dick Grayson, so great but it wouldn’t really stick. When I first heard news that Tom Taylor, the man who wrote one of my favorite Spider-Man book of the last decade, was writing the new Nightwing series I knew this was going to be the perfect opportunity to see this character on the page. What I wasn’t expecting is the absolutely incredible art of Bruno Redondo and coloring of Adriano Lucas to steal the show. From covers, to the interior art and panel layouts, this book is just gorgeous to look at. This series by the team of Taylor and Redondo is essentially a return to basics for the character making it a wonderful jumping on point for new readers. From what I understand from the Nightwing fanbase, it was much needed too as the character was kinda lost during a bunch of random shiz for like 5-6 years due to a higher up in editorial actively disliking the character. Comics, what can ya say? If you were to try a random superhero comic series, I’d strongly recommend this love letter to the character.
Now, for the last entry and the only music related one!
T-SQUARE is a Japanese jazz-fusion band that started in the late 1970s and I cannot get enough of them. I discovered them through this remastered recording on YouTube of a live concert they performed for their album Natural in 1990. What sold me, aside from the talented musicians and soloists in the band, is how well they sold a live performance. Something as small as a smile seen from the players can show a level of joy that adds energy to a show. At this point in life, I don’t think I’ll get to see them perform live, but at least I have their extensive discography to listen through. It feels nice that I’m certain that they were probably smiling in each recording. I actually learned fairly recently that the electric guitarist, Masahiro Andoh, is retiring from the band this year and with it they’re during a farewell tour. His ability to shred in the key of jazz-fusion will be forever revered. Give T-SQUARE a listen, in honor of Andoh retiring, and enjoy the some of the best Japan has to offer for the genre.
Oh my, I think we’re now done. Wow, yea my hands are cramping up a bit so I think this is a sign that I’m done. I hope you all liked reading about what I enjoyed in media this year. It was a good year for TV for me since in years past I had kinda stopped watching any television in general and instead played video games and watched YouTube and/or Twitch.tv steams. What did you think? Let me know and if you have time, tell me about what you liked that you had seen this year. For now, take care and be well! Next time we meet, we’ll be in the year 2022 wowee. Happy New Year everyone!