Tori’s Top 10 of 2019

Ah… here we are. Somehow I’ve managed to make it through another year despite it’s ups and downs! I also found myself straying away from anime and consuming a variety of different things this year.

For my 2019 article I decided to structure this as a general, “here’s 10 things I enjoyed” vs. “this was the #1 thing I loved this year and only this.” That was just too much stress.

I won’t ramble too much since I’m sure that’s not what you’re here for. I hope you enjoy my choices and let me know if you have any recommendations!


GunPla/PlaMo

This was honestly the most surprising favorite of the year. After many years of admiring all the Gundam kits in many vendor halls and my pals who can build the really fancy ones, I finally took the plunge. I thought, “Tori, you absolutely do not have the patience to do this.” and I sold myself short. Putting on music and working on a model kit is honestly the most zen I have felt in years. I also feel like I’m getting my money’s worth since I have to take the time to put it together myself which always makes me feel good when I finally get to display the finished product!

I’m looking forward to finally finding the courage to build the Miku kit. That was very much an impulse buy thanks to the guy at the booth encouraging me that I could do it.

As of now, I have 6 unfinished kits underneath my desk, which oddly enough there’s also my first Lego build in there too. Maybe my 2020 stretch goal is to get through all of these!


One Cut of The Dead

one cut of the dead trailer

“While shooting a low-budget zombie film in an abandoned warehouse, the crew find themselves caught between actual zombies and a mad director who won’t stop rolling. If you think you know what happens next, think again. Filmmaker Shinichiro Ueda turns the film on its head more than once for one of the wildest, funniest, and most surprising zombie movies of all time.”

Alright, I don’t normally throw the phrase, “This is one of my favorite movies” around so lightly, but please believe me when I say One Cut of The Dead is absolutely one of my favorite movies.

One Cut of The Dead is truly something else, literally and metaphorically. This movie was made on a budget of $25,000 dollars which is pocket change in the film world. After being shown around in different film festivals, the movie managed to make a whopping $30.5 billion dollars world wide. Despite the lack of funds, this movie is incredible. The cast are out of this world and the director really had a fantastic grip on the story he was trying to tell.

One Cut is definitely a movie you want to go into knowing nothing about so stray away from any actual reviews. This one is also a lot of fun to group watch to see how others react to it.

POM!


Beastars

“Legosi, a large gray wolf, is a timid and quiet student of Cherryton Academy where he lives in a dorm with several other carnivorous students including his outgoing Labrador friend, Jack. As a member of the school’s drama club, Legosi works as a stagehand and supports the actors of the club headed by the star pupil Louis, a red deer.

Out of nowhere, Tem the alpaca is brutally murdered and devoured in the night, setting a wave of unease and distrust between the herbivore and carnivore students. At the same time, Legosi has a fateful encounter with Haru, a small dwarf rabbit, and begins developing complex feelings for her.”

I’m really surprised to be enjoying this series as much as I am! Even though it’s not yet complete, I think it deserves a spot here, even if solely for that amazingly funky opening song.

Okay, so take the opening drama scene from Zootopia and then add a murder into the mix and you have Beastars. Just kidding…sort of. The cast of characters are all anthropomorphic animals, which is not something I’m hugely interested in. However, the characters are all interesting and relatable in ways that I never expected. Legosi and Haru are just… incredible.

The show was animated by Studio Orange who also gave us the wonderfully awesome Land of the Lustrous so that was the big draw for me. But, I ended up really enjoying everything else that makes up the show enough to stay around. Sadly, it doesn’t hit US Netflix until 2020, but you can pick up the manga as that’s been localized and is slowly coming out. I’ve gotten the first couple volumes and have been enjoying that just as much!


Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare

“Set in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, high school student Tasuku Kaname prepares to commit suicide after his classmates discover gay pornography on his phone. Before he is able to do so, he witnesses a woman jump from a window, only to discover her unharmed in the building where she jumped from. Tasuku discovers that the building is an open “drop-in center”, where he meets other people with various troubles and learns to accept his sexuality.”

I’m not sure where to start with this other than telling you that it’s only 4 volumes and please go purchase and read it immediately! The way the author uses visual metaphors to convey the very real and raw emotions our character goes through is just amazing.

Very rarely do I say that a piece of media handles any kind of LGBT+ anything well, but I truly believe Our Dreams at Dusk does. The mangaka, Yuhki Kamatani, identifies as non-binary which I think adds a depth to the work that just makes to so real and relatable. They’ve also stated the issues they had with gender identity growing up and how that’s somewhat reflected in this work.

I was very teary reading through this for so many reasons. It’s so refreshing to see LGBT+ couples and peoples portrayed with such authenticity, and never played for a joke or someone’s fetish, and I kept waiting for it with every page turn. Even if you identify as non-LGBT+, I think this is a very important work to read. It dispels so many myths and fears about us as people that I’m sure that thousands of young people are also going through in Japan. Everyone is on such a different journey in their life and it’s illustrated beautifully here.

Also, Haruko and Saki are the best and they deserve to always be happy forever!


The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Image result for The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle synopsis

“As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. … Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.”

I can hear people groaning now, “You expect me to read a 400 page book that has no photos?

Yes, yes I am.

Throughout the entirety of 2019, I got back into reading. It’s such a peaceful activity and I love how easily I can just zone out and forget about everything going on around me.

This book truly took me for a wild and exciting ride and I could hardly put it down. I will say there were times that I had to go back and re-read due to confusion. This book has almost 30 characters that are all important to the plot in one way or another! Think of Umineko or Higurashi, that’s the first thing that came to mind when I was reading through this. Huge cast, trapped in a time-loop, trying to solve murders and the identity of the murderer. I was so excited the entire time. I do have to say the closing paragraph of this book is one of the most beautiful and inspiring things I’ve read in a novel.

Very rarely do I find myself craving a book to be made into a movie or a television show but honestly, in the right hands I think this could do very well.


Moominvalley

Lest we forget the great Moomin boom of 2019.

Moominvalley is the latest animated iteration of Moomins, based on the Tove Jansson comic strips that ran from 1945 to 1993.

I’m not sure what I can say that’s new about Moomin, but I think this new adaptation captures well what makes the older cartoons so charming and fun!  Moomin is one of my go-to things when I’m feeling down because I know it’s the visual equivalent of a good hug. You’re always guaranteed a laugh and a good time.

However, I can talk about how wild the voice cast is. Moomin is voiced by Taron Egerton, of Kingsmen fame and Moominmamma is Rosamund Pike! Now I can only imagine Moominmamma pulling a Gone Girl on Moominpappa. Hm.

While currently unavailable here in the US, there has been an official UK DVD release if you’re into importing.


Frozen: The Musical

Gosh, I really feel like I should be talking about the Sailor Moon live instead, but I’ll let Austin have that one. (Just know that she and I touched hands!)

Literally the morning we were about to leave for NYC, I snagged us cheap tickets to see the Frozen musical because I was too excited to sleep (so excited that I forgot my whole wallet at home but was able to board the plane anyway. Yikes).

This was my first Broadway show ever and I was so entranced by every moment. Not to mention, this musical fixes literally every problem I have with the original Frozen movie. Better character development, more songs, and more story.  The technical effects that they used to portray Elsa’s powers were so awesome, I’d love to see how that was all done up close.

Our cast was really amazing, but I have to say young Anna and Elsa really stole the show. I find it so incredible that kids just just get up there on stage and remember all their lines and cues!

Anyway, this show made me realize just how much I care about Elsa as a character and I’m so sorry that I went through my edgy “I hate this movie ’cause it’s popular” as a teen with Frozen.

I do have to mention in passing, how I cannot stop listening to “Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself” from Frozen 2. What amazing songs.


Pokemon Sword

Image

I’m just so grateful to have another Pokemon game to play. This was the one thing I was looking forward to all year and kept me going. I would have to say I have a very pro-Pokemon bias as Pokemon Red was the very first game I have vivid memories of playing, and I haven’t stopped with them since!

While, yes there are some genuine complaints to be had with this game, the fact that I can dress up my character, cook curry, and play with my Pokemon at camp, is enough to make me forgive any injustices. Mostly.

I’m glad I kept away from all the spoilers and leaks, because having the surprise of new Pokemon was just so joyful to me, no matter how strange some of them are. This is also one of the rare times I want to watch the corresponding anime season to learn more about the characters in-game!

I’m about halfway done with the game at this point but I got too distracted trying to build my dream team!


Romance is a Bonus Book

I’m praying to anyone who is out there listening that this show gets a season two, because one is just not enough.

“Cha Eun Ho is a successful author and a senior editor at a book publishing company. Kang Dan-i is a mother and former successful advertising copywriter. When Cha Eun Ho was a child, Kang Dan-i saved him from an accident and was injured. Cha Eun Ho helped her recuperate and they have been close friends ever since. When Kang Dan-i goes through a major life change and tries to re-enter the professional world, their lives become even more connected. They face personal and professional challenges as they slowly start to realize their true feelings for each other.”

I rarely watch k-dramas. As a matter of fact, the way I decide on them is seeing a random screen shot out of context on social media and if it makes me laugh or is intriguing, I’ll give it a go.

I am so glad that I stopped procrastinating on this one! It’s on Netflix so you can watch it too!

I just want to say how much I love Dan-i as a character and honestly I want to be more like her. No matter what happens to her, she is always finding a way to make it work, and that’s very admirable. I need to research more about this actress, I’d love to watch more shows with her in them.

I find it great that this show features a main character who is older. Dani-i is 37 in the present time of the story. I just feel like that’s so unheard of, since most dramas tend to have younger women being the main romantic focus. However, the rest of the cast is so memorable and fit beautifully into the roles they’re playing. The show can deal with some heavy things at times, but I feel like it never gets too cheesy or dramatic like most dramas are known for.

I would definitely recommend this for people who might not be into k-dramas or who are unsure of where to start in such a plethora of options. It’s so charming and an easy watch, I think you’ll like it!


Death Stranding

I still don’t know what’s going on except I can make Norman Reedus piss and also chug Monster Energy Drinks™. Also, that ridiculous little baby has unearthed deeply buried motherly instincts that I never knew I had within me.

Moving on, it’s no Silent Hills but it’s still something really special.

I very much have a soft spot for Kojima-anything. When I was young and my mom remarried, my step-dad’s way of bonding with me was through playing games on his PS1. I remember growing up watching him play a lot of Metal Gear, which is probably something I shouldn’t have been doing at age 6, but hey I mostly turned out fine.

I’m really at a loss of words for this game. It’s just so otherworldly and cathartic. I love walking around the vast, open landscape, delivering packages, peeing, and playing with my pet baby.

It’s gripping and exciting, even if I can only vaguely begin to wrap my mind around it. I know it mostly has to do with how we’ve isolated ourselves as humans and other ‘ok boomer’ sentiments, but that is a message I somewhat agree with. I think it’s harder and harder for people now to feel comfortable with face-to-face communication because at times it can be difficult. I’m very excited to get to the end and to see what’s in store.

I’d recommend this solely for the way it’s going to make you feel. The game forces you to take your time and be patient and that’s something we could all use.

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