We are nearing the end of 2019, and the end of another decade if you can believe it! Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like 2011 just happened. Anyways, here are my favorite forms of entertainment from this year.
The Patlabor OVA series
I found out about the Patlabor franchise from my brother who, out of nowhere, bought the complete series on Blu-ray. I was a bit perplexed by the tone of series at first but it quickly grew on me. The show follows a ragtag police unit of a bunch of screw ups in the Tokyo Police Department that pilot giant mechs called Patrol Labors (hence, Patlabor). They are tasked with doing a variety of jobs from thwarting bomb threats to dealing with kaiju-esque monsters. The original OVA series and the first movie have a mixture of action and comedy that blends seamlessly. What makes Patlabor is that each member of the police unit have their own personality quirks that affect their job as police officers; Noa’s wanting to make sure her mech Alphonse isn’t hurt, Isao Ohta’s obsession with guns which brings destruction with him wherever he goes, and so on. Division 2 is bound to screw up, but they always get the job done! Feel free to watch Patlabor for yourself on VRV or HIDIVE.
Matt Colville’s Running the Game Series
Dungeons & Dragons can be an intimidating game for people to play let a alone run. You have to do a lot of rule reading to understand. Luckily in recent years, a number of YouTube channels have popped up that teach people how to play or run D&D. Many of those channels I couldn’t connect to until I found Matt Coville’s YouTube video series Running the Game. Running the Game as the title states is about teaching new Dungeon Masters how to run D&D. The videos are not the most visually impressive as they are basically podcasts, but what makes the series great is Matt’s ability to breakdown D&D concepts and make them understandable. He goes into detail about how to make interesting bad guys, how to give players information, and how time works in a roleplaying game. Breaking down each aspect of the game has made D&D much less intimidating for me. I appreciate that he tells his audience “D&D is your game!” If you don’t like a rule, or even what he suggests, you can change it to your liking. It’s your world so don’t be afraid of not getting everything exactly right. The Running the Game series has helped me get over my fear of getting things right, helping me to finally run my own D&D game as well!
The Works: Masaaki Yuasa
Masaaki Yuasa was an unknown name to the average American anime fan until the release of Devilman: Crybaby in January of this year. Thanks in part to Austin and Tobias, I started watching his earlier works and enjoyed them immensely. You wouldn’t know that the same director of The Night is Short, Walk On Girl was the same one behind Kaiba because he doesn’t stick to one particular look or narrative style. Yuasa’s squash-and-stretch animation gets his characters to do some crazy body movement that are visually engaging. The plots range from coming of age stories to dystopian Sci-fi. Yuasa’s films and TV series’ are great character growth stories, from tragedies, to self discovery, to navigating complex moments in life. Character is the core in Yuasa works, which never gets lost in his visual presentation. I highly recommend any of Yuasa’s work to any anime fan, new or old.
Apollo 11 Documentary (2019)
A lot of films have been made about the Apollo 11 moon landing, but what makes this 2019 documentary special is the rare 70mm film and archival footage that was made available to the public for the first time in this documentary. Unlike most documentaries that use talking heads to convey the narrative, Apollo 11 uses hours of archival footage to tell the story of the moon landing. The footage is incredible, from seeing the curvature of the Earth, to leaving Earth’s atmosphere. Apollo 11 is an amazing time capsule of the United States in 1969. The Vietnam war, the clothing, and the sense of optimism the United States had before the disillusionment of the 1970’s. Baby Boomers can be annoying, but I can’t help but admire and wonder how man went to moon on technology that is less powerful than today’s average smartphone.
The Imagineering Story
I bet most of the Third Impact crew will be talking about the Disney+ Star Wars show The Mandalorian which is a fun Sci-Fi western. Instead, I will be talking about the documentary series The Imagineering Story. This docu-series is basically the history of the Disney theme parks across the world. Disney, unlike most film studios. are great at telling their own history. This is the first time Disney talks about their theme parks beyond the United States, from Disney Sea in Japan to Disneyland Paris. The series also talks about how certain rides and attractions came to be and how they work, from Soarin’ to The Indiana Jones ride. Of course, Disney produced documentaries have to be watched with a grain of salt. You’re never going to hear Disney talk about underpaying their workforce or bashing their parks, but there were some surprising acknowledgements of past missteps. Even Disney couldn’t ignore how bad Super Star Limo was, or the mislaunch of Disney’s California Adventure. If you are a Disney nerd and enjoy the parks, The Imagineering Story is for you.
What I like about the Hitman reboot is the puzzle element of the game. “How do you get to and kill a target in complete anonymity?” For me, it’s near impossible but that’s the fun of it; learning from mistakes and trying again. The game also has a dry sense of humor that I found pretty funny. Hitman brings elements I wish James Bond games could do; stealth and the more social aspect of being a spy. If you enjoy the stealth game play of Metal Gear, and have a dry sense of humor, you’ll like Hitman (2016).
I’d be surprised to see Avengers Endgame on others people’s list. It feels like this movie came out a lifetime ago. What I liked about Endgame was showing the affect of Thanos’ population wipe out on the greater population, and the Marvel heroes personally. It showed that even these super humans can be affected by failure and loss. I also enjoyed all the callbacks to previous Marvel films, rewarding the audience that’s been watching the Marvel films since 2007. I thing Endgame gave us a fitting end to characters we have followed since the beginning.
Compared to Austin and Tori, I never really connected to a Kyoto Animation series until I watched Violet Evergarden. Its beautiful 19th century aesthetic and great music really hooked me in. What kept me engaged and caused me to marathon the show in 3 days was the main character, Violet. Violet’s personality and tendencies are similar to people on the Autistic spectrum, even though show presents Violet’s violent and socially isolating past as the reason for her personality. Violet is good at dictation/typing when it comes to speed and efficiently but when it comes to conveying emotions and social graces, Violet struggles. These same analytical strengths and communication weaknesses are common with someone on the autistic spectrum. I have an Autistic family member and Autistic friends so I couldn’t help but project my experience of being around people on the Autistic spectrum onto the show. My projection made me invest much more in Violet’s story and her character growth. Seeing Violet connect to her clients emotionally and express her own emotions made me cheer for her. Violet Evergarden is a quiet, at times sad show about a person growing into their job and into their emotions. My interpretation of Violet Evergarden is probably crazy, if somewhat stupid, but it made me invest into the characters and show.
Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
Most anime comedies I don’t like due to crude sex humor. That’s often old-hat and boring. Love is War is funny because it’s very relatable. When you are in high school and you have a crush on somebody, you overthink and over plan to N’th degree. Love is War‘s main characters, Kaguya and Miyuki, each have a crush on the other and they take this over thinking to a million degrees and further. Kaguya and Miyuki treat each interaction with each other as if they’re playing a game of chess. The complete seriousness of such trivial acts, such as sharing a piece of cake or an umbrella becomes so abused its funny. Not to mention the over-the-top narrator and their ever-chaotic mutual friend, Chika Fujiwara, whose endless antics in the middle of Kaguya and Miyuki’s battles is icing on the comedic cake. Love is War has a bop of an opening song that I will miss when season 2 comes around in 2020.
Now to be fair, I’m cheating on my final entry as I’ve been a fan of the funk band Vulfpeck for a long time. I couldn’t help myself! This band is so much fun, with their imaginative funk instrumentals and great R&B sound. You just can’t help but to get up and dance! All of their albums are available on their YouTube channel, or on your favorite music streaming platform.
And with that, these were some of my favorite pieces of entertainment this year! What kept you entertained in 2019? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter @wbforeman999. Have a great 2020!
- My Hero Academia
- Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 1
- Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
- Criterion channel
- Cased Closed/Detective Conan: You can read more of my thoughts on Conan here: https://thirdimpactanime.com/2019/12/04/why-you-should-give-cased-closed-a-shot/