12 Days Away From Anime #5: I Broke the Bank For Naruto

Like many 12 year olds my age, Naruto was my world once. Not just the anime, which this post can’t be about, or the manga, which I finished in 2014, but also the video games. It was an action series, and the best Naruto games were those that adapted its enthralling world and powers into player-controlled factors.

My favorite was Naruto Ultimate Ninja 3. In addition to being a faithful, fun fighting game, it had a story mode that allowed you to jump around the leaf village and climb its walls like the ninja you were. When I hear of Spiderman‘s brilliant movement mechanics, my only reference point from my casual gaming childhood (and adulthood) is scaling the walls of that tiny, tiny city.

So one day I clicked on a video ranking the Naruto video games. The top ranked result was the Ultimate Ninja Storm games, Ultimate Ninja’s spiritual successor. The winner was the entire series, which was available as a single pack for the PS4.

On a whim, I went online to purchase that exact item, listed over a hundred dollars. That’s what I got for thinking four games at once would come at the cost of one. I didn’t pay a hundred dollars, but I had to pay a lot to get that PS4 pack.

It was a decision that felt ridiculous but also obvious. I had a PS4 and wanted some more games, and this was the exact type of game that I grew up on. The Legacy box turned out to be a very fancy metallic case containing three discs – firstly a Boruto OVA, secondly a disc for Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy, the multiplatform remastered collection for the first three games, and Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 – Road to Boruto.

So far I’ve played 2 and 3. 1 doesn’t interest me so much, I’ve played the hell out of Part 1 already on other consoles, so the next one I get to will be 4.

They’re a pretty big hit. The actual experience of playing them doesn’t quite measure up to the experience of buying them, but they’ve been exactly what I wanted. 4-tails Naruto is a wild power fantasy, 9-tails Naruto is a badass, I can play as late-appearing characters Tobi, Pain, or Kakuzu to my heart’s content, post-time skip Sasuke is available and extremely edgy, and Mifune is the dark horse winner as far as gameplay goes. I have Naruto games now, and Storm 4 looks to be the biggest hit of them all. Overpowered characters like Hagoromo Otsutsuki and end-series Naruto and Sasuke await me. If only I can finish this Bloodborne replay first…

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12 Days Away From Anime #4: Twin Peaks. Just, Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks: The Return is the kind of show that people heap praise on while it airs, but forget about while it ends. No article during its airtime could go without saying it was revolutionizing what was possible in TV, but its award performance was middling to weak, and its legacy seems nonexistent. Where the old Twin Peaks was a big hit that proved its experimentation was worthwhile through being popular and loved, The Return is every bit as different and standout in its time, but nowhere near as addictive or powerful.

Now, having binged the entire first two seasons of Twin Peaks last year, and catching up with the new season this year, I can say it’s still one of my top 10 favorite shows, and possibly the best season of anything I have ever seen.

It’s an absolute power fantasy for its creators, dense with ideas, self indulgences, and fun moments. At the same time it’s a completion of the old Twin Peaks story, opaque behind layers of analysis. Due to that, I can enjoy it on both an aesthetic, outside analytical level, and an immersed plot-based one.

I watched Twin Peaks so I could watch this season, for all the strange things I heard about it, and neither disappointed. Since the new season was my goal in all of this though, it is my favorite (though the standout moments in season 2 compete well). If there is a fourth season, I could see it living in this season’s shadow. Very well; so many people can’t accept this Twin Peaks as theirs, and a fourth season may offer me their same experience.

For now, I’ll just list a bunch of the cool stuff The Return has to offer:

  • Special effects so unrealistic that they evoke the horror of what it would mean to see them in real life.
  • A rendition of Special Agent Dale Cooper that is both disappointing and the most powerful we have ever had.
  • An entire cast of people as fascinating as classic Twin Peaks‘ Cooper.
  • A man in the rain cussing out Gene Kelly.
  • “The Nine Inch Nails” with a definite article.
  • Two mobsters freaking out over a cherry pie.
  • A Steven Universe reference!
  • Old ladies using unearthly powers they can never begin to understand in order to make stacks of cash.
  • A Polish accountant.
  • Love, loss, and empathy, scattered all throughout.

12 Days Away From Anime #3: Amateur Web Series and Why You Should Watch The Blair Goddess Project

At their best, web series are an outlet for getting out as many fantastic ideas as possible. A health and fitness channel can become an entertainment platform for a paranormal entity, a crossdressing demigirl can discover her identity and turn an entire football team gay in the process, and an edgy parody of educational television can turn into a morally ambiguous character story about the nature of growing up.

Vlog series are perhaps the best fit for YouTube, as the world outside the video screen becomes a part of the set, and their tone relies on a series of assumptions that one has to hold in order to watch them. Among LGBT+ web series, literature adaptations are of particular interest to me, and I think the reason they tend to work is that they have to synthesize themes common to LGBT+ web series and media with the themes of their source material. Examples would be Carmilla‘s absolute defiance of its source material, and how that leads to a story arc that is both completely absent and independent from the original novel, yet needed that novel in order to exist, and Away From It All‘s addition of asexuality into the dynamics of unrequited love that its source material (Far From the Madding Crowd) revolved around.

This is where The Blair Goddess Project appears as an anomoly. It is a wholly original series, told in a format more reminiscent of Parks and Recreation than The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and has very little, if any, reliance on its characters identities. Neither of its three protagonists are straight, but that fact is not centered through romantic entanglements or comings out. While its central themes of food and friendship are borderline stereotypical to its protagonist’s asexuality and aromantism, this is never pointed out. Blair even rejects human labels for sexuality and identity – she is a goddess. The show achieves a complex, entertaining, and heartwarming story not through combining two distinct premise-inherent goals of adaption and identity, but by the sheer ambition of its creator, Nicole Mericle.

It is awesome that BGP can exist as a web-series. Its enormous cast and their performances are both reflective of the limits to a college student’s resources, and what it looks like when somebody refuses to stop before those exact limits. It’s consistently inventive and funny in a way that can’t be done using somebody else’s script.

It is said that you know someone is good at something if they make it look easy. This show takes a middle ground where I know how hard it is, but I’m able to get sucked into its world regardless. I appreciate its struggle, effort, and accomplishment akin to how I feel about the 26th episode of Evangelion.

When I first finished The Blair Goddess Project, I was pleasantly surprised. Here was a strong narrative on par with a typical Disney movie, accomplished by students with far fewer resources. Over the year, I kept going back to the series. I rewatched it three times, liking it more each time. It’s not just that the typical “Eugene/Hercules/Ralph has a very simple goal, makes a human connection on the way to getting it, and has to atone for his selfishness” was pulled off in a sequence of four minute YouTube videos, but that the writer’s wit, insight into life, and legitimate love of friendship are unlike anything else.

I struggle to think of a friendship more compelling than Blair and Alex’s. I wish I could find worlds that feel as large and compelling as BGP‘s Earth does in under three hours. I go into every piece of media wanting to feel what “Human Contributions” makes me feel and the best moment of every comedy is when they pull off a dense, energetic moment like the scene transition in “Sprinkles”.

If you like web series, amateur low budget web series are a fun, low commitment way to get transported into another world. For my money so far, The Blair Goddess Project is one of, if not the best.

12 Days Away From Anime #2: Rebecca Bunch’s Bus

I started Crazy Ex-Girlfriend this year. The premise, a woman following her ex-boyfriend across the country in an attempt to get back together with him, seemed uninspired. It took a fictional trope with some negative baggage, and fully leaned into it. It was a cringe comedy, that allegedly would have something good to say, but started out by stewing in its characters’ awful actions and instincts.

“I’m Going to The Beach With Josh and his Friends!” started out as a good example of what bugged me about the show. Rebecca, wanting to get closer to Josh’s friend group in an attempt to get closer to her ex-boyfriend Josh, buys them a party bus for a trip to the beach. Meanwhile, Rebecca’s co-worker Paula has lost interest in talking to her because she denies still being in love with Josh. I felt trapped within the humiliation of Rebecca’s zeal for winning them over. Then it shifted.

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12 Days Away From Anime #1: Varúð

Hey everyone. I haven’t been watching that much anime this year, but I love the anime blogging sphere, so I’m gonna co-opt their tradition. For the 12 days leading up to Christmas, I’ll make a post about a moment in media this year that meant something to me outside of anime.

Sadly, this will mean no mention of

-My conflicted, declining thoughts on Devilman Crybaby

-The wonderful charm of the Perfect Blue dub

-My love of Night is Short, Walk on Girl

-My overwhelming awe towards Liz and the Blue Bird

-The undertold, underlistened-to stories of FLCL Progressive

-Akage no Anne

-Yu-Gi-Oh ARC-V’s tremendous climax and disappointing ending

But no worries, if that stuff’s interesting it will be up eventually.

 

Now for the post proper: I’m still thinking about the season 13 finale of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

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The Impossibility of Sorting Media

Two months ago I put up this listicle describing my favorite new media experiences from 2017. I put it together by keeping a log of everything I had consumed in 2017, and also noting which ones were released in 2017 – the latter list was set to be released after I had finished Twin Peaks: The Return.

While my failure to get out these lists on time is notable, you should know I am not keeping a log of everything I consume in 2018. The moment 2017 finished, I was done keeping track of everything I watched. I’d felt released from a great burden, and thus was not willing to put myself under another one.

Right now I don’t know if another top list is coming. Spoiler: Twin Peaks would top it. Clearly. This post can replace such a top list; it will, along with generally explaining my recent approach to consuming media, be a set of acknowledgments to notable media I’ve been consuming in the last three years.

Three years ago, I created a favorite anime ranking app for myself, inspired by the economic idea of preferences. Given any two options, there had to, objectively, be one that I preferred. So I figured I could sort what my favorite anime were based on that.

Later on, in early 2017, I figured I ought to be able to sort everything. Why not? 2016 had been full of brilliant media experiences.

Steven Universe had the “Summer of Steven”, which consisted of a season’s worth of the shows’ best content, coming at the heels of its excellent season 2 finale and season 3 premiere arcs, earlier that year. Welcome to Night Vale finished up its brilliant “Good Boy” arc, and followed it up at the end of the year with twin titans “Michigan” and “Toast”. Planetes, Welcome to the NHK!, The Tatami Galaxy, Hunter x Hunter (2011),and Paranoia Agent all joined the ranks of my favorite anime, my Gurren Lagann and Madoka Magica rewatches had cemented their statuses. Gravity Falls, one of my favorite shows of all time had its finale and Don’t Think Twice became one of this improviser’s favorite films.

While my enthusiasm had waned in the second half, the year’s endgame held some sweet surprises. Texhnolyze and Summer Wars were strong shows that matched up with my aesthetic sensibilities in strong ways, and K-On!! and Legend of the Galactic Heroes were some last minute favorites. Lest I forget one of my favorite webseries, Carmilla, had its final and overall best season.

That might not have even been everything. I wanted to have a year where I had everything written down. So that all those great experiences could be logged and revisited.

So 2017 was the year I logged things. On the whole, I’d gotten disappointed with anime. It wasn’t all bad. In addition to some good rewatches, Little Witch Academia and Owarimonogatari lived up to their hype, and Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou and Nichijou were some of the best-executed shows I’d seen. Yuu-Yuu Hakusho and Cardcaptor Sakura joined my long-show rotation, and while I still haven’t finished them they deserve some love.

Where 2017 really shone was all that it had to offer me outside of anime. I finally listened to The Meadowlands and it was everything I wanted music to be. After a year I finished Goodnight Punpun, my favorite manga. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls blew my mind in regards to video games, Endless Jess’ Horseshoe Finale blew my mind for the potential of internet content, and Twin Peaks blew my mind to what art could be. I also caught up on Bojack Horseman and then months later binged through its stellar fourth season.

I also finally watched live action shows to a significant extent. Brooklyn Nine Nine was first, four seasons binged while I recovered from a nasty oral sickness, but Firefly and The Good Place followed.

More than just media I could put among my favorites, the year was full of media that I could sort and rank. Star vs the Forces of Evil and Samurai Jack were brilliant additions to my cartoon stockpile, as were several seasons of a certain Dreamworks/Netflix collaboration that will not be named. Doctor Who had its most consistent series since Series 6. The Uncanny Upshurs and Hamlet the Dame introduced me to Parafable, a collective supplying niche, fascinating, but ultimately very low-fi webseries. I kept track of what was airing to an extent. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo ShinjuuMade in Abyss, and Rick and Morty aired very notable seasons. I also followed up on The Eccentric Family and Stranger Things, sequels that continued events pretty well, but perhaps lacked the freshness of the original. Point is, I consumed a crapload of media in 2017, and thinking about it and comparing it to other media was very enriching.

Yet 2018 doesn’t need a word document for me to feel excited about media. My live-action journey continues. Twin Peaks: The Return is one of the best shows I’ve seen. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is one of my favorites. I can check off The End of the F***ing World and GLOW, and I had a momentary obsession with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (turns out Rob McElhenney is the rich and successful version of Jesse Wood). This is to say nothing of both seasons of Atlanta, because nothing I could say about them could do them justice. TGP’s status-quo-shifting second season and B99’s excellent fifth season also had their finales. Right now, I’m watching Breaking Bad and really happy to be here.

I read Band vs. Band and it became one of my favorite uses of aesthetic in storytelling (ridiculously good webcomic, only rivaled by SMBC). The Blair Goddess Project took that low-fi Parafable-esque style of web-series and showed that these series could be not just good, but remarkable. I can not tell you why it has taken so long for me to write a post about this series, but one is out, and hopefully more are coming! Hopefully several are. All For One, a webseries based on The Three Musketeers (made by the makers of Carmilla), had its second season, and it was KindaTV’s best work yet.

I’m trying to play more video games. Bloodborne is every bit as fun as I wanted it to be, and Final Fantasy X has a very lovable story to accompany its somewhat baffling gameplay. Down the road I want to be able to play plenty of Dark Souls III and Final Fantasy VII, and finish the data battles in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix. Hopefully by 2020 I can get to the Yakuza games or try out Shadow of the Colossus.

I also shelled out for a huge DVD collection and finally made some positive progress in my live action movie list. Arrival and Mulholland Drive are now two of my favorite movies. I’ve got a lot to burn through, but I’m particularly excited about Shaun of the Dead and re-watching Wolf Children.

These have all been wonderful experiences, but they didn’t need to be ranked or pitted against each other for that to happen. I still love ranking things. Twin Peaks and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are #2 and #3 in live action TV, Arrival is movie #7 and is about as good as Gurren Lagann for me, etc. The giant list system, however, is too exhausting. I still have some giant lists, but it would be nice to think outside of that box for a bit and just enjoy things.

After all, the medium that probably most interests me at this point is low-budget web series. A college project like Blair Goddess or a single-frame like All For One is not gonna be as stylistically vibrant as a typical Fremulon show or Trigger anime, but their existences can be far more fascinating. Honestly, it might just be I need to give these shows more credit. I cannot repeat enough times how much I’ve gotten attached to Blair.

Hopefully I’ll be taking a break from listicles for some time. There’s got to be a lot more interesting things to say about stuff than how many things I think some show is better than, and being good does not merit an article. Why should I use blurbs to communicate how I’ve been enjoying things when there can be far more to say about one thing than the other?

Why should Evangelion and Twin Peaks, two of my favorite shows that have been talked about to death around the internet, merit real estate in some listicle over Utena, Monogatari, and Ping Pong, largely discussed favorites that I have a lot more to say about, or series that I don’t want to “rank” but still have a lot to say about?

Anyhow, no more ranking blurb lists, as much as a top 30 shows list might be actually super fun or interesting. But let’s see how long that lasts.

Soundtrack Analysis: The Blair Goddess Project and I Am Nothing

Note: This post is best paired with the song “I am Nothing” by Kaysy. You can find the song here, or in this video, which provides context for the subject being discussed.

———–

I am nothing.
I am a speck. I am a dot.
I am nothing.
Most things would still exist if I did not.

Zoe Lasnammer is in an existential fix. Gods, goddesses, and other deities are all real. Her employers are divine. We all know humans live short, limited lifespans, but most of us assume there’s no other alternative. Now she knows there is one. For Zoe the past and future centuries are a double helix of inaccessible possibilities, but for Blair and Alex they are merely memories made and memories to be made.

Every day, every gesture Zoe makes is a tiny drop in an immeasurable pool of experiences. She doesn’t question or bemoan this – it’s just a normal part of living. How much lower is she to a god than a college student to an internship? How much lower is a human to a god than a student activist in the scope of all the problems she finds in the world?

How about the creator of a web series, in the span of YouTube’s enormous pool of content? This theme is in real life. We are nothing, infinitesimal in so many situations. I can’t shake that this aspect of humanity is communicated so much better in a college web series than a high budget show.

But I am something.
I am a body. I am a brain.
I am something.
I have a story. I have a name.

When Zoe calls Blair out on her selfishness, she does so fully aware that it could lead to her death. It won’t mean nothing. Her friends, her co-workers at Demeter’s Kitchen, and her mother would miss her immensely. However, someone has to say it. If Zoe is that someone, she saves someone else an early trip down the river Styx.  She could save that person’s loved ones all of that grief. She is a small pebble, but she can change things.

Zoe believes even one person’s life can have an impact. This is the same woman who took Blair, a deity that had seen every famous human building in the world, unimpressed, and tried to wow her with a public park. The park had something that even the Eiffel Tower and the Parthenon did not: Zoe’s childhood. It’s not much, but it’s something exclusive to her. Personality, values, and emotions. Things Blair never wanted from anyone, much less a mortal.

But I am nothing.
I am a speck. I am a dot.
I am nothing.
Most things would still exist if I did not.

Zoe is limited in two directions: past and future. Blair and Alex suffer half of this infinite problem. They may have an infinite future, but they are limited when it comes to the past. They are among the youngest deities on Mt. Olympus, born after the Ancient Greeks, the gods’ favorite culture, had fallen. Polytheism among humans is in decline, and their entire culture has defined itself by an era that they were not around to experience.

In the song, to be something is to “have a story [and] a name”. They have neither. They appear in no myths, and thus have no names among the Earth’s worshipers except the ones they chose for themselves.

Even the things they were around for, they wasted and regretted. They spent their early days pranking as many famous historical figures as they could, instead of meeting them and talking to them. They saw Michaelangelo work, but they will never know him any better than Zoe did.

Zoe thinks it’s normal to be nothing, but Blair is alone. The youngest deity, unworshiped, unknown. Stuck on Earth with no power. So great to human eyes, but so puny in the divine scheme.

When she starts her job, Zoe asks Blair what she does. Hermes delivers, Hades keeps the dead, Gaia and Demeter are responsible for nature. Blair has power, but she does nothing. Most things would still exist if she did not.

I am everything.
Yes, I am a body and a brain.
But I am everything.
Every story I’ve heard. Every name.

I don’t know that Blair and Zoe really get to this point of development. So let’s talk about Alex.

Alex is a constantly transforming agender deity who was banished from Olympus for starting a fire. Isolated, even by their best friend, they had to learn to appreciate humanity all on their own. Unlike Blair, they were offered no reward as an incentive to do this, this was just something that happened to their perspective.

You can either isolate yourself, or reach out and make everything around you a part of you. Alex chose the latter. They are everything.

This can apply more broadly. The Blair Goddess Project is more than Blair, Alex, and Zoe’s friendship. It is Chad’s self-redemption through religion, and his and Blair’s constant misunderstanding each other. It is the poor mortals who are used as puppets of Blair’s bullying whims. It is whimsical prayers and outlandish explanations of human history.

It is Shannen Michaelson’s semi-unnamed college student character who invites Blair to their froyo study group. The one who Zoe mistakes for Alex when they meet in the school halls. That little moment where Zoe learns that Blair has friends other than Alex; never commented on, never brought up again – but still one of the myriad minimized stories this series contains.

Evangelion Rant I Can’t Use For Lit Class

Guys, I really love Neon Genesis Evangelion. First it was the convoluted process of reading every bit of backstory to understand how exactly giant aliens brought humanity into existence. Then I said I loved it because of the theme of finding human connection and believing happiness is possible even at times where it really isn’t. That you could accept your life even if it wasn’t what you wanted. A high school freshman struggling to make friends could really use a story like that.

As the years passed and I re-watched it, I thought maybe it was the direction. The intermingling of so many character and plotlines when I usually preferred single-focused shows, and the exciting action and the brilliant design sense all around.

A giant robot devours a giant tentacle alien while its maintenance crew screams in horror. How is that not awesome? How is that not art?

But now I’m not sure I really understand what I love about it.

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2017 – My Top 10s

Wow I got super late on this post. I spent the entire year cataloging my consumption of art, and what happened? I got sick and tired of cataloging. But dang it, there was a lot of great stuff!

What a year it was for art. There’s a lot I got to see, and a lot I didn’t – due to the latter, for now I am releasing my personal list. Not my favorite things from 2017, but my favorite things that 2017 introduced me to.

10 Shows

10. Firefly and Serenity

Treason alert: Firefly had exactly the right amount of content released. 14 episodes was enough to introduce its amazing cast and their various conflicts, setting up for a heartbreaking tell-most movie finale. Yes, it would be nice to see Shepherd Book’s backstory told on-screen. Yes, Inara would get a fleshed out story in a multi-season Firefly. But it’s well worth the Simon drama, unearned tragedies, and Whedon-isms avoided. Firefly is still very good though. And all these people wishing for multiple seasons have me curious to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and see what Joss does with 144 episodes.

Recommended episode: Jaynestown

9. Nichijou

Nichijou is about as weird and good as anime gets. It’s a high school situation comedy where the situations are genuinely relatable and interesting, but are made comedic through high-quality animation. Days are ruined, robots are loved, and soccer games are fabricated and unfabricated, all in one small, constantly moving town.

Recommended skit: Igo Soccer Club

8. The Good Place

While The Good Place had episodes this year, I want to focus on the mostly-2016 first season. I like shows more than movies, and The Good Place S1 is a remarkable movie. Constant creativity, entertaining characters who are continuously explored, and a singly-focused continuous plot despite its four hour run time. While, like a certain visual novel, the ending resets those great character moments, it’s still a must-watch.

This show is very linear. You can only start from the beginning.

7. Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou

Hideaki Anno’s so-called masterpiece. It’s pretty great. Complex, sympathetic protagonists, absolute mastery in depicting both cartoon insanity and the fearful tremors of teenage love, and Anno’s mix of masterful cinematography and inability to organize a production make this a frustrating gem every bit as much as Evangelion was. Sadly Anno didn’t get to take these characters that far – the show changed focus after 18 episodes and never got its movie apocalypse moment. But maybe it didn’t really need that – KareKano’s eighteenth episode is an unsatisfying ending, and this show demonstrated that those have their place.

This show is very linear. You can only start from the beginning.

6. Yu Yu Hakusho

Childhood wish fulfilled: I watched the entirety of the Dark Tournament arc. While Yu Yu Hakusho is not something I finished this year, it has already impressed me. It is the story of a teenage thug given a second chance at life, and it seems to have formed my entire stance on what that kind of story should be. Yusuke is about as charming as a delinquent protagonist gets, and in the midst of his fantastical battles he does some real growing up. Life is beautiful, even if you have to fight demons. Live it.

Recommended episode: Episode 1 if you like emotional stuff. Peek at 32, 40, and 58 if you want action.

5. Xavier: Renegade Angel

This show might have a better script than Ping Pong. It joins Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, Jimmy Nutron, and the entire rest of the adult swim catalog in the pantheon of “Things That No One Expected to Exist”. And yet in the sea of puns, glitches, and sperm, it can be so darn crushing. Xavier: Renegade Angel is about a guy who just does not get it. He deserves better, but he just does not understand anything around him. It takes this premise to its highest potential.

Recommended episode: Damnesia Vu

4. Star vs the Forces of Evil

You like fantasy action shows? You like seeing characters rise to the top of their potential? You like lived-in worlds? Continuity? You like teen comedies for preteens? Star Vs the Forces of Evil is Disney’s new fantasy epic, and it is excellent all across the board. Some badly-written episodes and an over-focus on romance aside, it’s a necessary watch for fans of long-form fantasy animation and a charming time.

Recommended episodes: Season 2’s “Spider With a Top Hat” and “Ludo in the Wild”

3. Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks will probably trickle higher up on this list as time goes on. In the face of its effortlessly likable cast, sense of humor, and some of the strongest imagery in art, the weaker stretches feel like nothing. But it is an incomplete series – Fire Walk With Me, while phenomenal, was not meant to be the ending it was. Good thing it’s no longer the end. A big delay on my in-2017 media list is that I hadn’t watched the Return until this year.

Recommendation: Watch the first seventeen episodes. After that, watch as much as you want and skip to the finale if you get bored.

2. Brooklyn Nine Nine

Parks and Recreation is compressed comedy in a can. The Good Place, in its first season, is a tightly paces supernatural/theological comedy as well as a sharp character study. Michael Shur’s third show is maybe his most flawed one, and quite possibly his best. Its co-workers’ friendships are both realistic and fascinating. Its heart is the most genuine – the love between these characters is palpable and human. That “what happens next?” feeling hits every episode, even when the stories they tell are self-contained. It can be wacky comedy, fascinating mystery, and one of the best romances I’ve seen.

Recommended episode: Season 1’s “The Party”

1. Bojack Horseman

SecretAgentBob-esque talking animals go on wacky misadventures and go on long rants about our culture and the hopelessness of human life in a fully realized pun-filled fictional version of Hollywood. I spent the entirety of 2016 knowing this show was perfect for me, and it was. Combining brilliant gag comedy with overwhelming bleakness is interesting enough, but Bojack Horseman takes these pointless, cynical events, and forces you to say “keep going! You can do it!” The show believes in you, even when you fail.

Recommendation: This show is great and I hope you watch all of it. But at least watch Season 3’s “Stop the Presses”

10 non-shows

10. Coraline

Probably considered Laika’s masterpiece. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as Paranorman, it’s still a good time. Masterful aesthetics combined with Gaiman’s lovely adventure writing makes for greatness, pure and simple.

9. K-On! Movie

Kyoto Animation, what do you do when you’ve already depicted the entirety of the high school experience? What more is there to achieve in a franchise that ended up basing itself in the inevitability of endings? Go into what comes after. The K-On! Movie does not take place chronologically after the original series, but its moments of focus on the gang’s teachers give a sort of glimpse to the future. It’s also just more K-On!, as charming and beautiful as it’s always been.

8. Inglourious Basterds

Yeah, this was one of the most important things I had to watch. Tarantino nazi-killing fest. This movie has no real dips – the entire experience is nail-biting, witty, and cathartic.

7. Gunnerkrigg Court

Holy crap that art shift. This comic is absolutely beautiful, and its “Academy of Adventure” setting makes me hunger for more.

6. Ozanari-kun

Why do people create art? To feel purpose? To feel accomplishment. Maybe so that others can feel happy to be alive. Ozanari-kun depicts this idea with the pathos and cruelty that only gag manga can deliver. Ozanari-kun is Inio Asano’s underrated masterpiece.

I might have to take a step back to fully explain this.

Ozanari-kun is a gag-style manga about a young office worker who constantly abuses and mistreats his boss. His boss falls in love with him. The rest of the comic explores the processes of mourning, and love, and reunion in about as obnoxious of a visual and textual style as possible. It takes Solanin’s sobriety and Punpun’s masterful mixing of styles, and makes the most of them to crush the soul. It is profoundly sad to be alive, but works like this one make me happy that I am.

5. Hot Fuzz

But let’s move away from the complicated emotions of Asano’s works and into the world of “oh my gosh that was amazing”. Hot Fuzz has energy. It’s a buddy cop comedy with two utterly lovable buddies and a brilliantly dim town setting. Friendship, laughs, and gore. This is what a movie needs to be.

4. Horseshoe Finale

If Hot Fuzz is what I want out of movies, Horseshoe Finale is what I want from visual media in general. You know how you watch Ping Pong the Animation and wonder why few shows have such focused, well-composed visuals, or meticulously crafted scripts, or godly use of their soundtracks?

Horseshoe Finale is that for YouTube. It’s a labor of labors, a monumental piece of work that took thousands of dollars and at least hundreds of hours of work to create.

Talking about how Endless Jess is a huge genius is hardly going to get anyone interested in his work, but I will say this: don’t go into his work looking for someone to agree with. Consume whole, and reflect.

3. The Meadowlands by The Wrens

I haven’t found enough albums that feel like single works to me. Albums where each song is a great piece of art that feeds into a longer message and theme. Bjork and Sparklehorse make amazing songs, but Bjork’s stand on their own, while Sparklehorse’s entire discography is a brilliant work of art.

Dark Side of the Moon kind of scratched that itch, but that’s an album where you listen to either the highlights or the whole thing.

The Meadowlands is one of the first albums where I feel I could start almost anywhere. Each track emanates a sort of sparkly sadness – light magical chords in a fundamentally melancholy situation. It’s what I’d call “Nickelodeon rock”: an upbeat partying crowd listening to an angsting guitarist. But unlike Drake Bell, you get the impression that the musicians of the Wrens are seriously having a rough time. It takes those musical moments of youth and makes them crushingly real.

2. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls

I don’t know what I can say about these games that hasn’t been said already. Demon’s Souls is the ultimate badass experience. A knight in full armor braving forces that can literally kill them. Dark Souls is a great rewarding exploratory experience.

If I’ve gotta explain why these games beat out almost every piece of media I consumed in 2017, it’s that pulling off a riposte or beating a boss feels the way that The Meadowlands sounds. The player experience is just so well-constructed.

And no, I can’t pick a favorite. Demon’s Souls had a way bigger effect on me personally, but I’m far more eager to revisit Dark Souls.

1. Oyasumi Punpun

You’ve been fired from your job. You kick a half-empty soda can around on your walk home. As fizzy grape juice stains the toe of your shoes, you pass a dumpster. Around the corner from the dumpster, just outside your view, two little boys play tag. “It” has almost caught up with his friend, but just as his hand reaches out, the other boy jumps up. And he doesn’t come down, not for a full five seconds at least.

That’s my favorite aspect of Oyasumi Punpun: miraculous, amazing things, just outside of your perception’s reach. Like anyone, this comic depressed me. Its beautiful backgrounds astounded me. Its mix of dramatic modes and influences succeeded and impressed.

And because it made me believe in magic, just for a little, it’s one of my favorite stories ever told.

Bringing Justice to the World: A Five Month Retrospective on Gay and Dead

I must repent something. This list is absolute garbage. The true stars of Gay and Dead had been shunned and replaced by false gods. This comes with me liking the album way more than I used to as well. Here is the new ranking.

Songs to listen to all day

Gayer Than God: How can I forget that amazing beat and sample? Also hugely underrated those lyrics. This might stay the absolute favorite.

Buttfuckers Anthem: Last place, my ass. This is the grimiest, nastiest thing on the album. “Starts getting grimy”, get it together Bread. I’M THE GOD OF ASS

Pure Personality

Body Rolls: This is a drunken rant. Everything about it was done while totally wasted. I think my old blurb still tells it like it is. “Everybody knows me but you don’t know what I’m about”

Fallen to Pieces: Still a great start, still great lyrics. But can’t stand up to the best beats.

Day Dreamer (Sad Gay Boy): Still great. Still agree with the previous list here.

Essential to the Album

Broken Brilliance: Pretty much the perfect intro.

Fat and Dangerous: The album’s thesis statement. It may have gone from #3 to #7, but I think I can appreciate it as a whole more than I did before.

Who the Fuck is Conrad?: This song gets sadder over time.

Catchy songs

Paradise (in name only): Jess’s verse is amazing, Digi’s whining about SAO fans and dick jokes are fun.

Freak Power: Ideas.

The Bunker: Freaking Endless Jess.

Buy the album: It’ll be worth it.

Songs anyone could have done

Nihilistic Suburban Void: I still need to listen to more Death Grips.

Space Chillin’ (interlude) – Down here for its brevity more than anything else.

Quarter: Legitimately creepy verses, but I don’t like the chorus as much anymore.