By Sullivan Wallace
Well, 2017 was a ride, wasn’t it kids? Fidget spinners, dabbing, the constant overhanging threat of political armageddon. It was one for the history books. Personally, 2017 was such a stressful, tumultuous year in my own life that I didn’t have the time or energy to consume as much media as I normally did, so when I was asked to do my own top ten, I was hesitant.
But looking back, I did get introduced to some pretty amazing things in 2017.
10 Grace and Frankie
Ironically, the first thing on this list is the last thing I’d seen. After coming home for the holidays, I was tasked to help my mom cut the cable and learn how to use our family Netflix account. This led to a lot of nights with us binge watching TV shows, the most recent one being this.
After their lawyer husbands leave them for each other, uptight, inhibited Grace and naive hippy Frankie move into their shared family beach house and form a bizarre friendship as they navigate life as recently single women-of-a-certain-age. If you can get through a poorly paced and often irritatingly characterized first season, you’ll find a bitingly funny show with a real emotional core that leaves you rooting for all of the characters, in spite of their flaws and shortcomings.
One of the earliest topics I ever did a podcast on, and a solid OVA from Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno, Gunbuster could be seen as the testing grounds for a lot of the imagery and ideas that would later find themselves in Anno’s magnum opus. While still brilliant today, it’s a wonderful time capsule of both anime in the 1980’s and the earliest days of Studio Gainax. Give it a watch!
Ask anyone else on the Third Impact team and they will say it bluntly: I am a walking ball of stress.
I don’t remember how exactly I came to Chillhop, that lo-fi genre of soft, relaxing hip-hop and jazz beats that flourishes on Youtube and Soundcloud, but it was probably with its association with relaxing anime imagery. Soon, I was using it to study by, read by, and sleep by, things my hyperactive, anxiety riddled brain finds difficult without sleep aids. It’s also led me to an enjoyment of 80’s Japanese funk and soft pop, which I’ve come to love and use in the same way.
7 Cutie Honey
Go Nagai’s psychedelic android magical girl. Cutie Honey feels less like an anime and more like a colorful fever dream that’s funny, campy, and ridiculously sexual at the same time. If Honey’s charm doesn’t reel you in, then the bizarre, wacky monsters of Panther Claw and Sister Jill will. My fanboying for Sister Jill just proves that my favorite women in anime tend to be sinister, glamourous villanses in bat-like masks and dominatrix gear.
Tori loves K-pop, as do most of our mutual friends, and in 2017, I decided to get more acquainted with it. To be honest, I am an old lady when it comes to music, you could turn on the radio and I wouldn’t know what song was playing or who sings it. I only just recently learned that Gucci Mane was an actual person, and that he sold crack out of an ice cream book (I gotta get his autobiography, it sounds like a hell of a book), and my favorite band hasn’t been active since 2011, I still listen to Lady Gaga albums from 2008.
So using BLACKPINK’s “Boombayah” as a jumping off point, I have slowly been exploring new artists and songs in the genre. It has been a very rewarding experience, even if my favorite boy band are apparently not active any longer (I sense a theme here…) but I can at least keep a part of the conversation. Maybe soon I’ll understand these “BTS” fellows, what are they on about?
I still haven’t figured out the proper context for what a “bop” is though…
5 Mystery Science Theater 300 – The Return (Season 11)
I’m a MSTie kid, always have been, always will. I had been following the progress of Season 11 since creator Joel Hodgson mentioned it on the annual Turkey Day Marathon all those years ago. To be entirely honest, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the end product. It was a little too “star-studded” for a show that was notorious for having only two guest stars in its original eleven year run, and the jokes fly off way to much and way too fast, often feeling like they took a “whatever sticks” approach to riffing – poor form indeed.
But if you can get past some growing pains, the reboot does have a lot to offer. While their voices are different and take some getting used to, Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn comfortably step into the roles of Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo, last asseyed by Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy, daunting shadows to work under to be sure.
If you, like me, were left cold by the the first episode, Reptillicus wait until Cry Wilderness, and you’ll see there is life in the show yet.
2Kawaii4Comfort could basically be described as an Ibsen* play enacted by weeaboos. It’s a harrowing, emotionally draining trip into the broken lives and psyches of five friends, who quite honestly don’t like each other that much. To call it a cringe series would be reductive and a disservice, it’s a much needed exploration of the parts of anime fandom we all would rather just not talk about. But such truths, like all uncomfortable topics, must be presented to us in a way that humanizes them. 2Kawaii4Comfort does just that. Incredibly due praise to Luke Palmer and John Bickerstaff for this.
3 Otaku no Video
If 2Kawaii4Comfort is a critique of how the anime fandom can ruin its participants, Studio Gainax’s Otaku no Video is paean to the boundless promise that comes from being part of a passionate, enthusiastic community. True, the live-action bits are incredibly self-deprecating, but the anime surrounding it is filled with hope and inspiration towards the power of the passion of fans. I would be lying if I said I didn’t see bits of my own life when I saw scenes of Kubo, Tanaka, and friends gathered together in a room working and encouraging each other with their own projects, of waiting in long line outside at night waiting for an anime screening, laughing and chattering so much that it hardly seems a burden. It’s these scenes that speak to, pardon the cliche, the power of friendship.
2 Urusei Yatsura
If there was any show this year that completely stole my heart, it’s Urusei Yatsura, after seeing the OP in a playlist of Austin’s, I immediately sought it out and was captivated by Lum and her friends. After lecherous high-schooler Ataru Moroboshi unwittingly becomes the fiance of the alien invader Lum, he finds that his life has been completely been turned upside down, as he now has to contend with her various extraterrestrial friends and family – from the cruel tengu princess Kurama, to Rei, her ex-boyfriend with a bottomless appetite.
Urusei Yatsura is for the hopeless romantic in all of us, for anyone who is in love with love itself and wants a show that shares the same philosophy. It’s funny and heartfelt, like any romantic comedy should be.
1 Nintendo Switch
I was unable to get a Switch at launch, something that filled me with an agony akin to finding out your fiance has left you so he can become a priest. For months I watched as Ryan and my other friends played theirs, and I resisted any spoilers, I wanted to play everything for myself.
I couldn’t choose between the breathtaking beauty of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the brilliant simplicity of Super Mario Odyssey. No, the Nintendo Switch deserved its own place on my list for reigniting my lifelong love for Nintendo and its characters after the disappointment that was the Wii U, which could best be described as the cold-fish in the sack lover of game consoles.
I haven’t finished Breath of the Wild, but everytime I step into Hyrule, I am allowed to escape from a world that has become increasingly hostile, loud, and frightening.
Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario and Link’s creator, once said of games – “I think great video games are like favorite playgrounds, places you become attached to and go back to again and again. Wouldn’t it be great to have a whole drawer full of ‘playgrounds’ right at your fingertips?”
We now live in a reality where anywhere we go, we can visit not just a playground, but an entire kingdom, ours for the exploring.
And that is nothing short of magic.
*Henrik Ibsen was a Norwegian playwright known for his realistic dramas, often featuring characters in existential despair or anguish. Apparently Ryan feels this joke must be explained.
Sully can be reached by Twitter @calva_kun