2018 is nearing its end. Therefore, it’s time to take a look back at my favorite distractions that gave me moments of joy and sanity during this wacky year! Remember, the numbers don’t matter; they’re just there because, who doesn’t like a listicle?
10. Teasing Master Takagi-san
Takagi-san was a hidden gem in the Winter 2018 season. It follows two classmates, Nishikata and Takagi, in a cat-and-mouse game of light-hearted teasing. The constant over thinking and planning of Nishitkata trying to one up Takagi made me laugh a lot throughout the series. The underlying sweetness and genuine care for each other behind their cat-and-mouse games made me care a lot for Nishikata and Takagi. I hope Takagi-san gets a second season so the chase can continue!
9. Western Cartoons
Not every cartoon has to be an anime right? (…waiting for angry commenters to go away…) Ok, I think the coast is clear. Anyway, Cartoon Network has been knocking out of the park. Here are two of my favorites:
Let’s get the behemoth out-of-the-way. If you’ve been on the internet or Tumblr in recent years, you probably know about Steven Universe. If not, here is the spark notes version; Steven is a young boy who is half-human, half-gem. He is raised by his human dad and The Crystal Gems, a rebel faction of warriors who defend the Earth from their former home world. What makes this show great is its onion-layer style of storytelling, strong character growth and development, and how it handles sensitive topics from emotional abuse in a relationship to the fluidity of sex and gender. If you are looking for genderqueer representation in your media, you’ll like Steven Universe. Plus, any show that has Captain Harlock and Crusader Kings II references is cool in my book.
Craig of the Creek
Craig of the Creek is a more recent CN show about a boy named Craig and his friends who go on adventures though a large area the neighborhood kids play around called (what else?) the creek. Watching Craig of the Creek reminds me of when I was a kid, having D&D-like adventures in my backyard growing up. Craig of the Creek features adventures on a large scale, with factions, quests, and different types of environments. It’s similar to Codename Kids Next Door or Fillmore in the sense that they take place in the real world but they have their own universe and rules within the real world, which I highly enjoy.
8. Doctor Who Season 11
Unlike Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, where the show spent way too much time on his age, identity, and dealing with companion baggage, Jodie Whitaker’s Doctor is fully-formed (with surprisingly little focus on her new gender, despite a few jokes hear and there). On the plus side, this season gave us more standalone episodes and HISTORICAL EPISODES! This is a welcome change of pace from the Steven Moffat serialized story era of the 11th and 12th Doctors. Now for my small nitpicks; no classic Doctor Who villains this season. I respect that decision, because there are only so many Dalek stories you can tell. I do hope that in the next season we can see underused classic villains, like The Celestial Toymaker or the Rani. Also, the new companions are great, but if Classic Who has taught me anything, three is a crowd in the TARDIS. There is simply not enough screen time in any given episode for each companion to have a meaningful connection to the story. We will see how this three-companion grouping works out in the long run but regardless, if you’re a lapsed fan of Doctor Who I would highly recommend jumping back on board with the 13th Doctor.
7. Marvel’s The Vision (2017)
Compared to last year my comic book reading has gone downhill. The only books I read this year were book written by Tom King, who is currently writing the latest run of Batman. While, his Batman run has had its ups and downs his mini-series The Vision was perfect from beginning to the end. The Vision is not a typical superhero book It’s more akin to an episode of Black Mirror. The Vision creates his own family and decides to act and live as human being as much possible. Without going into spoilers this book explores the relationship between man and machine and what dark acts we are capable of doing to protect the one we love. If you are not a fan of the typical superhero books I highly recommend The Vision.
6. Spider-Man (PS4)
Until Insomniac’s Spider-Man game came out, I thought Spider-Man 2 on the PS2 would always be the best Spider-Man game. But when I put in this new game, I started playing and I just couldn’t stop. I had to get all the backpacks, all the radio towers, do all the side quests, find all the bases, I just loved it! I felt like I was Spider-Man in how fluid his movement is when he’s swinging around and fighting. The story nailed how Peter Parker is in the comics, with his constant attempts to appease everyone in his personal life but screwing up somewhere along the way (and balancing that with being a masked crime fighter). Yuri Lowenthal deserves high praise for his performance of as Spidey. The icing on the cake for me was J. Jonah Jameson. Jameson has an Alex Jones-like podcast called Just the Facts! with J. Jonah Jameson where he rants about Spider-Man and the events in the game. Every time it would come on I would stop what I was doing and listen. Bruce Campbell should have been one of the callers on the podcast. Hopefully he can show up in the sequel.
5. Horizon Zero Dawn
I heard a lot of positive praise surrounding Horizon Zero Dawn and decided to give it a go. What I found was game with an intriguing mystery and fun-but-difficult combat style. You play as Aloy, an outsider who is tasked with learning both the secrets of her past and the downfall of the world. While I enjoyed the story, the best part of HZD was the combat. You have to take down many different types of mechanical creatures, each with their own strengths and weakness, forcing you to not always go in guns blazing. You have to approach each fight like a puzzle. Dark Souls vets may find the combat style too easy in comparison, but if you are intimidated by the SoulsBorne games, I would highly recommend Horizon Zero Dawn.
4. Zombie Land Saga
Zombie Land Saga was a big surprise to me this fall. I thought it was going to be just another idol show except with a cheap zombie gimmick. How wrong I was… One great thing about Zombie Land Saga is that it spends time with each idol, allowing the audience to get a better understanding each idol’s personalities and backstories, something I wish more idol shows would do. Mamoru Miyano as the manic producer steals the show at every turn with his in-your-face personality, though behind the scenes he is competent producer. My only complaint is the bad CGI musical performances. The songs are catchy but the animation style change was a bit to jarring for me. Otherwise, I haven’t enjoyed an idol show this much since the 2011 IDOLM@STER anime.
If we did “Best of” awards at Third Impact Anime, Megalobox would probably win “Best Remake or Reboot.” Megalobox is a modern retelling of the Ashita no Joe franchise. If you have seen Rocky or Creed, you will have seen a lot of the same character archetypes and plot events that you’d see in Megalobox. But this is not a bad thing. If a story keeps getting retold in different iterations and styles, it’s got to be good, right? What makes Megalobox really stand out is its animation and music. The animation during the boxing scenes is great. As you see Joe get hit, you feel each and every blow he takes. The music is a mixture of Jazz and Hip-hop, similar to Cowboy Bebop or Samurai Champloo. The closing theme especially really stayed with me with it’s fun jangly guitar and hip hop vocals. Megalobox seems like a show out of time, like something you would have seen in the Toonami heyday of the early 00’s. If you grew up on Toonami and miss those days of anime, go check out Megalobox.
2. Laid Back Camp
Watching Laid Back Camp for me was like eating my favorite comfort food wrapped in a warm blanket. It just made me so happy! Laid Back Camp‘s fun character interactions, beautiful nature backgrounds, and great folk soundtrack kept me wanting more and more each week. Luckily, we are getting more with a second season and a movie on the way! Don’t watch Laid Back Camp if you are looking for a complex plot. If you want an anime to get you relaxed and at peace, Laid Back Camp is your show. The theme song “Shiny Days” is an upbeat pop that will get stuck in your head and put smile on your face for days.
1. Lupin the Third: Part V
You knew Lupin the Third: Part V was going to be on my list! A Bill “Top 10” list without a Lupin series or movie? Impossible! Part V switches up the Lupin formula by putting the Lupin gang in a variety of situations and styles. You have episodes set in the modern day (similar to Part IV), there are episode arcs, and also flashback episodes that call back to and reference previous series’. I was a little nervous that the Lupin gang would be a little antiquated in dealing with concepts like cryptocurrencies, social media, and modern tech. Lucky, the Lupin gang is always down to adapt. As Lupin realizes, money is still money, it’s just in a different safe. The episode arcs each have their own tone, from battle royale stories to old spy novel stories. The flashback episodes were a fun look back at how the Lupin franchise has changed in tone over the years. You have one episode inspired by the “Pink jacket” series’ silly and nonsensical tone and stories, an episode inspired by the “Red jacket” series with exotic locales and chasing after mcguffins, and an episode inspired by the “Green jacket” series’ more realistic and mature tone. Part V is an interesting mixture of both adapting to the future and looking at the past, without one overshadowing the other.
If you need further evidence that Part V was great, I reviewed the first five episodes. You can read my first episode review here.
And so ends one year as we head into the next. 2018 was a great year for entertainment but 2019 has even more exciting distractions in store! From a new Lupin TV special (he’s in a black jacket!) to Psychonauts 2, there’s a lot that I’m personally looking forward to. What about you? What are you excited for in 2019? Let me know in the comments or over on twitter @wbforeman999