End of Year 2020: Favorite Watching

While we are a community focused on games and how they intersect with our lives, we’ve never shied away from exploring and discussing other media critically and enthusiastically. It only seems appropriate, then, that our End of Year event offer up a space for us to share our own “Waypoints” from 2020.

This topic is dedicated to anything that you watched. As pretty much the whole realm of moving image, that can mean a lot of things! A big blockbuster, a small indie film, a prestige drama, a great anime, or even a YouTube video! Whatever it is, feel free to tell us all about it!

[Hub Thread]

This anime season I’ve been happy to see the adaptation of Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle. A good season from Kaguya-sama too, and as an anime original I enjoyed Deca-Dence this year.

The award for second-best gremlin of the year goes to The Mandalorian (the biggest gremlin-energy award this year went to Sleepy Princess). Hopefully we see more Xena-like TV like this in the future.

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What We Do in The Shadows is an all time great TV comedy and One The Run might be one of the few perfect episodes of television.

The Mandalorian reminded me how much of a sucker I am for Star Wars bullshit and how fun episodic TV can be in an age when everything is serialized.

The Good Place is just a joy

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Never thought we would get an adaptation of Dorohedoro but we did, and it was a good one! They nailed the tone of the manga. Fingers crossed for more seasons.

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Disney+ launched in the UK this year so my watching for a lot of the year was very Star Wars heavy. I finally rewatched the prequels after a number of years and much like Rob on the Civilised Age pod, I thought they had some really cool ideas but were delivered generally abysmally. I would still place Phantom Menace and Revenge of the Sith ahead of Rise of Skywalker at least for not being pure nihilistic cinema but they are much better to think and talk about than to actually watch.

I had a much better time watching The Mandalorian which wears its influences on its sleeve and is very fan servicey but in spite of that is a great watch and deservedly recouped a lot of the good will lost from the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga.

I also spent a month blasting through The Clone Wars and Rebels and those are just superb. Some arcs and episodes do suck (Jar Jar and the droids) but the majority of it is great and surprisingly clever for a kid’s cartoon. I’ve enthused about this so many times but there’s an actual episode that appears to be a Star Wars interpretation of an incident in the Russian Civil War! In a kid’s show! In Star Wars!

In non-Star Wars stuff I would have to say my favourite shows from 2020 that stick out to me would be The New Pope, Snowpiercer, and The Boys. I haven’t found The New Pope to be as good as 2017’s The Young Pope which is my favourite season of television but John Malkovich has been a delight as Pope John Paul III and Silvio Orlando has excelled even more as the “Littlefinger” of the Vatican. I love this show’s gleeful referencing of pop culture culminating in the cameos of Sharon Stone and Marilyn Manson who were the first two rumoured names on the cast list.

Snowpiercer and The Boys I’ve mentioned before but they’re two shows which do one thing I love which is being about as subtle as a sledgehammer in its politics (I mean seriously Snowpiercer has a gruff Northern Irish man declaring “a train… Is like a high rise turned on its side”). Both are really good TV which had a great season of TV that tied a lot of threads and opened plenty worth exploring in the next. Excited to see where both go next.

Despite its flaws as Jordan propaganda, I really liked the shared cultural event that was The Last Dance at the start of the pandemic. I was absolutely riveted week-to-week, even though I grew up a basketball fan when the events actually occurred.

Oh cool time to talk about anime.

The year’s immediate stand-out for me was Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, an anime about making anime. I love the style and cast, and the show’s love for animation is really charming. While it’d be easy to credit Masaaki Yuasa for directing this, truth is this was more of a group effort than ever, showcasing that studio Science Saru is more than capable of going on after his retirement. Sakugablog has a good series of articles about the show’s production which I recommend checking out if you’re interested.

Deca-Dence somewhat feels like missed potential, I love its characters and I appreciate how blatantly it dislikes capitalism but the show’s plot doesn’t quite hit the mark. Still there’s plenty to like about this show from the director and writer duo who worked on Mob Psycho 100’s anime adaptation.

Speaking of anti-authoritarianism, Akudama Drive starts off feeling like it probably won’t go through with its potential of painting cops as fascists, and ends up actually going pretty hard in that direction. It’s also just incredibly stylish. The story draft was written up by Kazutaka Kodaka, with Rui Komatsuzaki also doing the character designs, meaning its cast of characters are basically Danganronpa characters. Some of the problems that come from that are present as well, though thankfully not nearly as much as in the Danganronpa games. I didn’t think this show would end up being one of my favorite anime of the year but it really surprised me.

As for non-anime stuff, I loved What We Do in the Shadows’ second season. Each cast member does such an incredible job here that it’s hard to pick a favorite (though it’s probably regular human bartender Jackie Daytona) and the narrative actually went into a really fun direction.

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2020 was the year of Anya Taylor-Joy. (Like how 2019 belonged to Florence Pugh.)

Best Movie: Emma. which the crew did a Waypoints about back in like April. Fantastic movie. I am amazed that it hasn’t made more BOTY year lists. It really is just the most charming experience imaginable and was the very last movie I saw in a real theater. :sob: It’s held the top slot since March and nothing really has even come close other than I’m Thinking of Ending Things.

Best TV Series: The Queen’s Gambit because I love chess, I love Sixties fashion, I love alcoholism and shipping debates. It’s not really a “series” as much as seven hours of a movie you binge, which I did during Election Day and the day after when I didn’t want to check any results.

Best Anime: Increasingly I don’t even watch all that much anime, to be honest. But I’ll give it to Dorohedoro for being a lot of fun, even if the episodic structure of the show and the pacing were just incoherent. But the main two couples were really sweet together and I loved how weird that world was.

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My TV show of the year is, of course, Superna- haha no could you imagine? Most of my faves this year were anime and my number one is definitely Dorohedoro. It was already one of my favourite manga of all time, and while it took an episode or two to get used to the CGI, I came to like it. Great voice acting, love to see my beautiful wife Noi in motion, stellar OP/EDs.

Shoutout to Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, which I am watching subbed for the first time and it turns out it’s actually a really great show when instead of the kinda transphobic humour 4Kids went with for Chronos/Crowler, most of the jokes about him in Japanese are just that he speaks with a comical Italian accent, na no ne.

And the film situation this year was, obviously, dire. If this was a Top 5 list, I’d be forced to include Deep Blue Sea 3. But Blood Quantum would still be a contender in a better year, so I’m happy making it my film of the year. Indigenous director and actors, practical gore effects, what’s not to love?

Biggest hit for me has to be the 2010 three kingdoms series. The whole cast does a great job but the stand out has to be chen jianbin as cao cao

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Live action it would be the Watchmen series on HBO. I saw it a year late so missed all the discourse but personally its the best adaptation of a comic I’ve ever seen. A sequel to the events in the comic, it mirrors the structure and tone of Moore’s work while still being it’s own unique story.
Animated would be Eizouken and Dorohedoro. One is about the wild joy of creation (in this case creating an anime), the other is a dark punk rock fantasy that reminds me of Let it Die and heta uma style manga like Tokyo Zombie
links to my related twitter threads
live action


animated

I’m perpetually behind on 90% of the media people talk about, so my hot tip for 2020 was watching half of the first season of Jessica Jones, and finally watching season 2 of Fleabag. I don’t think there’s anything actually from 2020 I watched though…

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I watched both seasons of The Boys this year and thought they were both good TV. I’m not sure I enjoyed it, though? I’ve never had to pause a show to diffuse tension/stress before and I was doing it basically every episode towards the end. Especially in the first season it’s doing the “nobody’s safe” thing well.

The AlphaGo documentary came out a couple of years ago, but DeepMind uploaded it to YouTube right at the start of the pandemic which is when I watched it. I had started to get back into playing Go/Weiqi/Baduk at the beginning of the year, but watching this documentary kicked my interest up to 11. What I find so wonderful about this documentary is that although it absolutely does give into astonishment about the development of AlphaGo, just as much it focuses on the human participants, and everyone involved seems like such genuinely good spirited competitors that it captures their mutual respect like the very best kind of sports drama. Fan Hui (pro Go player and sort of narrator) and Aja Huang (AlphaGo programmer) especially seemed to have an understanding of the remarkable history that they are a part of and their empathy and respect for each other and for Lee Sedol really hits me hard. (spoilers for a Go match from 4 years ago) At the end of the first game when Aja Huang says “I think he resigned in a very polite way… Lee Sedol plays black but he played a white stone” I can’t help but tear up

Relatedly, this review of Go by SUSD from later in the year is another great Go video because it’s such a spot on distillation of what is so compelling about the game. It shouldn’t be surprising given that Quinns has been playing and reviewing board games for such a long time, but it’s still really impressive that he was able to get to something at the heart of the game as quickly as he was. I think the video will have a lasting impact in that it’s something that folks can use in reference for years to come when introducing people to the game.

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Been really enjoying Owl House and Amphibia on disney. they’ve been really knocking it out of the park with their original series lately. Also Ducktales is finally coming to an end and this season has been fantastic , i’m gonna miss when it’s over.

I… may have watched all of The Clone Wars the week before A More Civilized Age came out so i was beyond hyped when that pod was announced. I do not mind going back over that show at all. I also def agree that maybe the best format for star wars is tv star wars?

I haven’t watched much live action tv this year as i just haven’t had the mental bandwith for it. But Joe Pera Talks With You has been a nice comforting funny little show. I was worried at first because I find a lot of adult swim shows edgy or needlessly violent or vulgar. But Joe Pera is such a nice cozy show about mundane things and has also made me miss simple things like just going to a diner?

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Oh right the last season of The Clone Wars came out this year! Which also includes the final arc, which altogether I consider to be one of my favorite Star Wars movies, as well as one of the best finales of a TV show! I always found it hard to recommend people to actually watch the show because it’s incredibly hit or miss and even then takes a while to really get to most of the good stuff. I hope that more people here will watch it now that A More Civilized Age is happening though. I do think a bunch of the later arcs, especially the final one, are worth it.

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I can hardly keep track of everything I watched in this, the year of some extremely blessed network engineers. But I’m going to second everyone recommending Star Wars television this year (particularly in light of the debut of A More Civilized Age) and say that Ghost In The Shell: Stand-Alone Complex is a top-notch bit of anime.

at this point, I’m so “behind” on everything I’ve become insufferably proud of my pop culture cluelessness. Just endlessly amused by telling tarantino fans I’ve never watched pulp fiction.

in 2020 though, I did watch Giri/Haji and enjoyed it. I appreciate the offbeat stuff it tries. It might get a bit “wow japan such honor” sometimes? It tackles those themes headfirst, and it mostly worked for me. I just didn’t experience Japanese culture firsthand so I feel I can’t make a definitive call. Beyond that, most times the police gets involved in anything, it gets worse, which is hardly innovative but feels right every time.

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Having already watched the first season of What We Do In The Shadows about 10 times. I loved the second season even if the ending was a little so-so. The episode with Jackie Daytona was a major highlight for me.

I loved the Queen’s Gambit. It did the whole thing about young lady walking into a male dominated field “you can’t play chess because your a g-g-g-girl”. I liked how all her chess friends came back in the end to help her win. I liked how it didn’t treat the Russians ‘completely’ as bad guys.

However, the show that clinches it for me is Gangs of London. Now this show is trying to be the new Game of Thrones, and you get that vibe from the show’s very name. It is a show that involves different clans or families jostling for power over the crime underworld of London and ready to committ lots of violence to hold on to that power. However, it’s given a real contemporary feel, each of the ‘houses’ represents a different section of British immigrant society, the races and cultures that have actually built contemporary Britain, and this includes Afro-Caribbeans, Albanians, Kurds, Irish and Welsh. It has all the drama you’d expect from one of these multi-character dramas BUT it also has the view for action that would make John Wick nod in approval. It’s made by they same creative team who made The Raid, and it’s sequel and some of the action feels far too slick for the small screen. Episode 4 in particular is just a straightup siege of a country house and it rocks so hard. I came to the show for the action but stayed for the socio-economical messaging which is all there along with the white knuckle fight scenes and shootouts. Game of Thrones didn’t get popular until the third season, I hope Gangs of London gets its due. It sidesteps so much of the pantomine of British politics at the moment and tells a story about all the different immigrant cultures that have built the UK and the complications between them all.

Anchoring the cast is Sope Dirisu as the main protagonist and he may as well be the coolest man of 2020 too.

Also a quick shoutout to Auntie Donna’s Big Ole House of Fun on Netflix.

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They’ve already been mentioned, but I want to add my support for Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken and Deca-Dence. Both very fun shows in very different ways.

Keeping with anime for a moment, Golden Kamuy Season 3 just wrapped up and continued to be excellent. I like that series a whole bunch an excited to see where it goes from here. I also want to mention Natsunagu! which is about a young woman searching for a friend who she lost contact with after the 2016 Kumamoto earthquakes. It’s got a very pretty art style and tells a fun and emotional story. And the episodes are only ~4 minutes each, so you can watch the whole thing in an hour if you’re unsure about it.

It technically came out last year, but I watched Color Out Of Space this year and wow that movie sure is something. I loved Nic Cage’s performance in it (similar to his performance in Mandy, another great movie). I was barely able to get through it because of how anxious it made me feel but it was absolutely worth pushing through.

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