Well… never thought we’d end up in a place where 2019 feels nostalgic, but here we are. 2019 for me personally was not a great year due to some shitty family issues, but it was the one year where I declined to do a “best of what I missed” list because I somehow managed to stay up to date with enough stuff in 2018 that I just couldn’t find enough stuff to fill it out. So, in terms of engaging with the culture(s), a decent year. 2020, on the other hand… the family stuff’s still there, but that was completely dwarfed by the real-life sci-fi film we’re all now living through (but hey, at least it made my personal issues calm down for a bit… silver linings and all that). In this regard, bringing back the “BoWIM”s this year makes a lot of sense, since I and many other people had a lot more time on our hands to get caught up on stuff. I didn’t make a whole lot of progress through my various backlogs, but by the last week of the year, I realized I had enough material to work with to make something I’m kind of proud of. As with previous years, here are five pieces from five different mediums (film, album, game, manga, and anime) that I wish I found much, much sooner than I did.
It feels almost unfair how good this movie is, because it came out at the end of the decade, and it might genuinely be the best movie of the 2010s. I’m a little unsure if I caught this in the last two weeks of 2019 or in early 2020 right as awards season went into full swing, but believe the hype, this movie deserves all the things it won (and its best picture win made up for Green Book winning the previous year, which was so, so nice to see). The only downside to Parasite is that it’s something that’s been so heavily talked about, that I’m all but certain that I can’t add anything to the discourse about it. How it tackles the multiple layer of class, how so much of what’s ingrained into Korean culture can be seen in the US, its director finally getting the recognition he deserves; I know I’m preaching for what’s already a choir, but… yeah, best movie of 2019, no question.
Album & Game: Sayonara Wild Hearts
I don’t know exactly how it happened, but 2020 was the year I finally got into rhythm games. Which is weird to me in how unsurprising it should be, cause when I sat down to think about it, I’ve always had a soft spot for this genre. In retrospect, my favorite game of 2014 was Fantasia: Music Evolved, I got a rare copy of Guitar Hero for the PC waaay back when I was into PC gaming, and Beat Saber is the one big game that’s piqued my interest in getting a PSVR headset. And yet, the genre is pretty much absent from my library of xbox games, until earlier this year when I finally got Avicii Invector. Being an Avicii fan, one of his final projects already had my interest, and its simple gameplay and small price tag made it an immediate favorite gaming experience of mine in this year. Invector was my first choice for this category during the first half of this year. But then, something strange started happening: rhythm games started to really find a foothold on xbox, or at least my own console. Harmonix released their long-awaited game Fuser (expect to see that come up again when the year ends), Tetris Effect found its way onto Game Pass and into many hours of my free time, and during a foray into my backlog pile, I decided to finally try out something I had bought during a sale months ago: a little game called Sayonara Wild Hearts, something that proceeded to completely blow me away.
Everything about this game, from its development to its content, just amazes me. It started out as a mobile game, it got Queen Latifah as its narrator after one of the developers jokingly threw her name out as an option, it somehow plays like a dozen different genres all stitched together despite being, at its core, an on-the-rails title. And the soundtrack is as diverse and outstanding as its gameplay. It can be finished in one sitting, and it encourages multiple playthroughs to get all of its achievements, which are some of the most creative I’ve seen in a game in a long time. If I were to redo my top games of 2019 list, this would’ve easily edged out Need for Speed: Heat. Find this game, love it, and then go look for its album, and cherish one of the most mesmerizing collection of tracks I’ve ever heard in a game.
Comic/Manga: Chainsaw Man
Okay, this one is stretching the “rules” a little bit, but I would argue that this really is a 2019 piece of media, despite starting in December of 2018, and in spite of its volumes being localized outside of Japan earlier this year. 2019 was when Chainsaw Man really got going, and although its anime adaptation is what finally got me to pull the trigger on getting the volumes, this was one of the very rare manga that found its way onto my twitter feed, a place where manga gets next to no mention. For something to be so big that it frequently appeared in the anime twitter discourse… this manga had to be something. And good god, is this series something.
We’re probably not prepared for when this manga’s adaptation drops, because if it’s done remotely well, this could be something on par with Attack on Titan. We could’ve been forgiven for thinking the next big phase of shonen shows would’ve come from WebToons adaptations, but it’s actually shonen jump itself having some of its best material in ages (and I will always be amazed that this is a shonen jump comic, cause just look at it). On the surface level, this is a horror-action series like its contemporary Jujutsu Kaisen, albeit with a more B-movie schlock look to it, but underneath the guts and gore is something that’s… quite possibly one of the earnest pieces of honest human connection I’ve ever seen portrayed in something with this much action. Self-actualization and realization, control, honest friendship; there’s layers to this series. I won’t give too much away, just a heads-up that it takes until volume three to finally come into its own, but once it does, Chainsaw Man has the full potential to go down as one of the all-time greats of its genre.
Anime: Fruits Basket (2019)
I had a bunch of stuff on my anime backlog coming in from 2019. Astra Lost in Space, that Code Geass movie… Vinland Saga (I know, I know… and I still haven’t gotten around to it [ducks into bunker]). I thought going into 2020 that this category was going to be as straightforward as was possible. So… yeah, I still don’t have a good idea of how Fruba was the one show that I caught up on. Fruba is kind of like Eva in how’s there’s almost an inevitability to it: if you’re into anime, you’re going to come across it one way or another, whether you like it or not. Unlike Eva though, which for understandable reasons (an infinite number of copiers and imitators) has become retroactively cliched in many ways, Fruba has come out nearly twenty years later as retroactively brilliant, in how its genre of monster-boys (and girls) has matured into something much, much smarter than what it started out as, and its stories of people trying to find happiness in spite of their personal trauma hits better now than it did in the early 2000s. Funny what you can achieve when Deen isn’t handling your adaptation…
This is a production I would call nearly faultless, with its only weak spot being how you have to bide your time as the show introduces a lot of characters in the first half of its first season. But when you start to get into the weeds with these characters, they all have wonderful depths to them, and seeing them all grow and change in their own messy, funny, heartbreaking ways made me understand why this placed so high on AniTAY’s best anime of 2019 poll. Can’t wait to see how it all ends in season 3, just one of many, many things to look forward to in 2021.
Thank you for finding me on Medium, and I’ll see y’all again soon when I drop my Best of 2020 list, as oxymoronic as that sounds (once more for the road, fuck this year).
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