Once again, Karleen and Malia are looking back on favorite media of the year. Not necessarily the best, but the favorites.
Malia – Kemono Friends
This show is a true diamond in the rough. Besides the unpolished, low budget animation, it looks like one of those generic anime series focused on girls as cutesy, sexualized objects. The first few episodes, while benign, are mostly light-hearted, slice of life adventures with some animal facts. However, lurking under all of that is a heartwarming, interesting show with creative worldbuilding. Kemono Friends is not some grand orchestra of twists and turns but I was surprised by how invested I was in it by the end. It also has the best opening. I’d say that I’m looking forward to the second season, but with the original director leaving, I’m not so sure… At least the first season holds up well on its own.
Karleen – Osomatsu-san season two
Almost all the anime I watched in 2017 wasn’t from that year, as I delved into classics like Universal Century Gundam or research for the LGBTQ Anime and Manga panel, but I had the sextuplets of Osomatsu-san to fall back on. Besides the premiere episode painfully mocking the show’s obsessive fanbase and its prudish backlash, this second season (currently airing its second cour) has felt more like a soft reset than a continuation. As much I love the sextuplets, the focus on the minor characters such as in “Chibita’s Revenge” brings me so much joy. The episodes are as unpredictable as ever, except I don’t have to worry about them indulging the worst cravings of the fandom anymore.
Crash Override isn’t just my favorite, but I believe the most important book of 2017. It can be hard to find straightforward information about Zoë Quinn and Gamergate on the Internet when the reactionary and hostile “movement” dominates the conversation, so Crash Override finally provides an offline avenue to hear Quinn’s story of abuse, artistry, and advocacy. With the rise of the “alt right,” it is all the more important to understand how it emerged from Internet subculture and how to combat it. Those are vital, but the part that impacted me the most was Quinn’s admittance of her own unsavory past on the Internet and its reminder that individuals are not perfect, but there is potential to learn and change.
Malia – It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura
I didn’t read as many books as I wanted to last year but the few that I did read were worth my time. It’s Not Like It’s a Secret was a recommendation from a friend and I absolutely second it. One way I could describe it is as a sweet but dramatic love story between two girls. Another way is as a coming of age story about the complexity of misogyny, homophobia, racism, and inter-generational immigrant families in America. Even as it remain appropriately YA, it’s the kind of story about prejudice I don’t see often, tackling issues with more than simple black and white morality.
Karleen – OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes
I didn’t expect to like OK K.O., much less be my favorite cartoon of the year. The premiere episodes left me puzzled why the name of a character referenced 4chan and uncomfortable with the homogeneity of the women’s character designs. Those issues didn’t disappear, but I’m glad I gave the show another chance. I can feel the care put into it, especially with the staff’s influences from media of their youth, and that in turn brings me back to my childhood. It feels like an episodic comedy cartoon I would’ve watched back then, but more socially aware. As much as I appreciate antagonists who embody real social evils or a well-written anti-villain, it reignites my love for goofy harmless ones like Team Rocket. The dysfunctional Boxmore family and the supervillain romcom between Boxman and Venomous steal the show for me, though there’s plenty more to enjoy. Masterful episodes like “No More Pow Cards” and “Everybody Likes Rad?” show an awareness of stereotypes and media representation that give me hope it can improve on my initial grievances.
It was a good year for returning cartoons, too: BoJack Horseman season four’s delve into generational trauma and sexual identity, Star vs. the Forces of Evil season three’s ever-expanding world, Voltron: Legendary Defender’s three whole seasons’ change-ups in team dynamics, and Rick and Morty season three’s unrelenting exploration of its unhealthy family.
I’ll be honest: I still have a huge backlog of 2017 comics to catch up on. This probably means in two to six months time, I’ll change my mind about my favorite. However, this isn’t to diminish the joy I got from The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part One. I have my issues with the original TV series, but its romantic ending between Asami and Korra was truly “healing.” So I adore having further exploration of their relationship in these sequel comics. I also love the placement of queerness within this world. It’s not always easy, but Korra and Asami are supported with love. It feels similar to real life without being unnecessarily sad. Additionally, the art by Irene Koh is lovely. I’m pumped for Turf Wars Part Two.
Karleen – The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part One
I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of The Legend of Korra television series, but the finale in which Korra and Asami join hands and journey into the Spirit World gazing into each other’s eyes left an emotional impact on me. I’d been looking forward to where the follow-up comics would take their relationship and adventures without the constraints of Nickelodeon, and Turf Wars Part One‘s focus on Korra and Asami as a couple and the political intrigue did not disappoint. It’s almost surreal to read same-gender relationships finally acknowledged in a fictional world I’ve known since “The Boy in the Iceberg” aired over a decade ago, but I know it’s more like Avatar and I have grown up together. Thank you, Michael Dante DiMartino, Irene Koh, and the rest of the team.
Karleen – My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata
It’s hard not to repeat my LGBTQ Manga Book Club response for My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. Like I said then, its portrayal of family conflict, mental illness, and sexuality masterfully culminates in a beautiful anticlimax. It truly is a triumph of a book, from its irresistible artwork to Nagata’s raw psyche. It’s amazing how many social issues and emotions it packs into a single volume. Of all the manga I read this year (over 100 volumes!), it was the one that gave me the most to contemplate and the one to resonate with me the most.
That’s not to say there weren’t other stand-outs of manga in the US: the chic After Hours, the hilarious Delicious in Dungeon, the bewitching The Girl from the Other Side, the gruesome and informative Golden Kamuy, the groundbreaking My Brother’s Husband, the adorable conclusion to My Love Story, and the haunting Otherworld Barbara.
Malia – My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata
It’s been a fantastic year for some great manga licenses and even with the desire to name something different from Karleen, I can’t deny that My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness was stunning. Through exploring her personal, complicated relationships with mental health, sexuality, family, intimacy, work, and art, Nagata created something special. In the end, what I admire the most about this manga is its accessibility and kindness. It’s dense and brutal about her issues but not cruel. In a nutshell: Her artwork writing made me feel less alone when I didn’t even realize that I was. It can seem funny that something so specific can deeply resonate with so many, but that’s basically what I said last year about Moonlight. Marginalized voices are not some niche appeal but rather, they reveal a deeper truth about humanity.
Karleen – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
The dominant narrative around The Last Jedi discusses it as a disappointment to what fans wanted out of the sequel trilogy, for better or for worse, but for me it was everything I dreamed of. Even though The Force Awakens banked on nostalgia and I enjoyed it, this movie was the one to take me back to my childhood obsession. There’s just something about it. Luke broken by the expectations placed on his heroism and lingering darkness, Rey coming to terms with her identity and learning that compassion can’t connect to someone unwilling to change, the all-important message of saving what we love over fighting what we hate, the meta-narrative on evolving Star Wars fandom, the incorporation of the corrupt Jedi Order of the prequels to bridge the trilogies into a cohesive whole, parallels to both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to leave room for Episode IX to stand on its own, and more. I won’t deny it has its flaws, but maybe it’s those imperfections that ring true to me since I love how the original trilogy comes out coherent despite the mess. Reading negative reactions made me realize that the series is seriously important to me, but that isn’t the same as taking it seriously. If I don’t like the finale to the sequel trilogy, that’s too bad, but at least I got my turn.
The Last Jedi became my favorite by swooping in at the last second just like how it become the top grossing film of the year. Here are my otherwise top five: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Get Out, The Problem with Apu, The Shape of Water, and Thor: Ragnarok.
Malia – Get Out
I saw a lot of good movies in 2017 (which I’ll dedicate a whole other post to) but Get Out is the one that’s stuck in my brain the most. To make a film that’s so socially relevant and salient without coming off as patronizing or corny is remarkable. I’m hesitant to call any media perfect but there’s nothing like Get Out, in its originality, power, and skill. And there’s honestly not much else that I can say that hasn’t already been said by people much more qualified than me.
Malia – Reply All
2017 was the year I got into podcasts. I had sort of resigned myself to never following any as I found myself zoning out when it came to trying some widely beloved recommendations. Eventually though, after giving them a second chance, I clicked with some great ones. So this year I’m naming a podcast that’s been around longer than 2017. Reply All taps into my personal fascination and love of the Internet, but also has widened my understanding of it in ways I never thought of. There’s no deeper proof of how the Internet and “real life” are barely distinguishable now. And like real life, the Internet has many shades of funny, disgusting, touching, and inspiring. It’s a wonderful gem of a show. (Some favorite episodes include, “The Cathedral,” “We Know What You Did,” “Milk Wanted,” “Stolen Valor,” “Lost in a Cab,” “The Skip Tracer” series, and every “Yes Yes No” segment.)
Favorite TV Show (Live Action)
Malia – One Day at a Time
This is the only new live action TV show I watched this year but I adored it. It’s a corny, light sitcom but it’s also explicitly political. It’s the good kind of conversation starter that doesn’t try to be edgy but instead is thoughtful and affirming.