BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Week 52 – Wasn’t All Bad

Week 52 – Wasn’t All Bad

So we’re finally here. In six hours (my time, as of when I started this), I’ll have survived 2020. There were a lot of times when I honestly didn’t think I’d make it.

Make no mistake, it was a trainwreck and a half of a year… but as a therapeutic exercise for myself, I thought I’d go month by month and write out good things that happened. I try to find and believe in the good in people and things even when most everything is terrible, so time to put that philosophy to work.

January: In January, I rediscovered my love of Star Trek with the premiere of Star Trek: Picard. Trek was one of my first fandoms, and it’s been a major part of my life since I was five years old and watching The Next Generation with my dad. Seeing Patrick Stewart reprise his iconic role felt like a part of me was coming home… and seeing Troi and my personal Eternal Symbol of Cool Riker appear again and slip perfectly back into their roles was sheer joy. Picard inspired me to finally watch season 2 of Discovery while I was waiting for new episodes, and there I found a show transformed. While Discovery season 1 had its moments and I’ll defend its creative choices, it was in 2 that I finally saw the Trek series that it could be. It spread its wings: the actors began to find the centers of their characters, the tone balanced itself out, the action was balanced with ethical quandaries, the science was better, and the humor came back with a vengeance. Anson Mount as Captain Pike was phenomenal, embodying the character’s legendary nature and showing why the captain before Kirk was spoken of so reverently. Mount is fully deserving of the Strange New Worlds spin-off that he was announced to be starring in earlier this year alongside Number One and the new Spock, Ethan Peck… and oh, that scene where he stepped onto the bridge. The bridge, modernized but still recreated with loving detail by set designers who knew exactly what they were doing. And then in the season finale, Discovery made a daring decision to upend the status quo in a way that’s never been attempted in Trek before…

… which made me genuinely ecstatic for season 3, which is finishing up next week. I can’t speak for anyone else, since I try to avoid fandom discourse… but I’ve loved this season even more than season 2. They’re reminding people of what Star Trek is all about. They’re introducing bold new ideas and jaw-dropping new tech. They’re blessing us with two new supporting characters who make perfect additions to the cast… and one of them is beautiful and funny and amazing and just that they’re there means so much to me and others watching. They’re continuing to demonstrate the reasons why I adore Ensign Sylvia Tilly, the character I’ve felt attached to since her first scene, and giving her the character development of my dreams. I’m sorry for speaking so vaguely here, but this season has enthralled me so much that I don’t want to spoil any of the wonderful things they’re doing to anyone who might be waiting to check it out… including several of my readers, I hope. Despite what trolls and haters and nay-sayers might say, Discovery Season 3 is pure Star Trek, with moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

February: In February, I had the privilege to meet and shake hands with an icon of my childhood: Jason David Frank, better known as Tommy Oliver, the Green (and White!) Ranger from the original Power Rangers. The first episode of MMPR premiered on my ninth birthday, and it sparked a love of Japanese culture that continues unabated to this day… getting a chance, however brief, to meet the man I grew up with, the face of the franchise, was utterly fantastic. Nine-year-old me would have exploded if he knew that one day I would get to stand next to Tommy and do the famous morphing pose, just like he fantasized about back then. It’s another item off my bucket list.

March: I discovered Better Call Saul last year after I finished my Breaking Bad binge, but this year was the first time I got to experience a season as it aired… and what a season. The cast and crew proved once again why BCS is one of the best series on television, an almost Shakespearean tragedy about a man whose life beats him down relentlessly whenever he tries to do good… so he responds to that by gradually abandoning the urge to do good and thereby ruining himself. But the star this season wasn’t Saul/Jimmy, though of course Bob Odenkirk’s performance was excellent as ever. No, the star this season was Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, who deserved every acting award there is. She underwent a transformation that none of us were expecting, and she did it right under our noses, with such sublime subtlety that none of us noticed it was happening until it was too late. The end results hit me and everybody else watching like a goddamned semi truck, just as shattered and shocked as poor Jimmy was in his final scene. The television landscape will lose some of its greatest characters when they finally finish for good next season… but oh, what a journey it’s been.

April: “Dishearteningly.” Explaining it here would take way too long and I already used way too many lines on January alone. In a nutshell, I consider myself quite the comedian when the mood strikes me… not all my jokes land or are appreciated, but I try. That single word, “dishearteningly”, formed the basis of what I consider the most successful joke I told all year, one that prompted a hysterical fit of laughter from the primary recipient, and one which I’m still proud of and amazed by eight months later.

May: Real-Time Fandub. I’d heard of it, and of their infamous Sonic Adventure 2 dub with its Eggman rant that took the internet by storm, but I never watched it until May. I’m so, so glad I did. The concept is brilliant: a bunch of small-time YouTube voice actors, all friends with each other, redub the cutscenes of a game with no script and all in one take, trying to crack each other up whenever possible. Their improv skills are phenomenal, and their stuff gave me belly-laughs that I sorely needed this year. I eagerly await their future projects.

June: Crunchyroll licensed Precure for simulcasting. I thought it would never happen, despite all the fanbase’s begging, but when Healin’ Good came back from its COVID-induced hiatus… it came back with a way for us Americans to watch it legally, with subtitles, uncut. The response from the Precure fandom was meteoric, and as the year went on, we got KiraKira Precure A La Mode and Star Twinkle available as well, and CR has already announced that there’s more on the way, with next year’s Tropical-Rouge Precure being available from the outset. I know CR is controversial among parts of the community, I know some people say to stick with the fansubs anyway, but this is the first step to legitimizing Precure in the West. I couldn’t be more happy about it.

July: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! This one was from earlier in the year, but it was only this summer that I got around to watching it. A series that combines two of my least favorite anime genres, isekai and harem, shouldn’t have worked. However, in a year with a ton of great anime comedies, including the return of the mighty Kaguya-sama: Love is War, this one emerged in a class of its own thanks to its spectacularly dense lead character, Catarina Claes. One of the best recent examples I can think of of a character being both incredibly lovable and a complete and total idiot, Catarina deserves her mass acclaim… but it would be a disservice not to mention the seven (later eight) people of mixed genders who all vie for her affection, though she remains cheerfully oblivious. Each member of the would-be harem has their own distinct charm and personality, and each one (or more! Poly is good!) would make for a genuinely good match for Catarina… and yet the show is mostly free of the meanspirited backstabbing that characterizes the harems in most other series. It’s fun, it’s compelling, and it’s riotously funny. I look forward to the second season.

August: My Hot Fuzz rewatch. Most of the good parts of August were introducing my friend Ninty to some of my favorite comedies… but when I found out he had never seen Hot Fuzz, I resolved to correct that immediately. There was nothing better than watching Hot Fuzz again with someone who had never seen it before, and it got exactly the reaction I was hoping for. Amazing.

September: Hololive. Yeah, it’s the new hotness and I’m just one of millions of nerds who got sucked in this year, so my experience is hardly unique, but. When I discovered Korone Inugami (through the memes, of course), I found someone very different from the rigidly scripted and relentlessly micromanaged virtual idol I was expecting. Korone and her kin have personality… real, genuine personality that’s near-impossible to fake. Part of the reason the Hololive talents are so easy to get into is because while they’re absolutely playing fictional characters, they’re allowed to have the real people behind those characters shine through their avatars. Watch any given compilation of Korone (or Gura, or Amelia, or Coco, or the dozens of others) and it’s apparent that the content isn’t following a script. It’s being created there on the spot by some unbelievably talented performers… so Korone’s adorable enthusiasm for learning new English words? That’s real. Amelia’s shrieking moments of gamer rage? Those are real. Coco getting stoned off sleeping pills, live on stream? Very real. I fell down the rabbit hole, yeah, but I don’t regret it a bit.

October: Chapter 61 of The Changeling of the Guard. This one isn’t really my moment, granted, but seeing my best friend finally get to the scene in his fanfic that he had been working towards for six years, and the explosion of his fanbase afterward… it’s stuff like that that I live for. Excellent work, buddy. You earned all your praise.

November: Falling in love with the DCAU again. Since Ninty hadn’t seen but a handful of the franchise, I decided we should watch all of the major series and movies together, beginning by going back to where it all started: Batman: The Animated Series. Nearly thirty years later, its status as a masterpiece still holds up. I loved the series as I kid, and watching it again had me marveling at its beauty, its elegance, and the depth and intricacy of its writing. B:TAS wasn’t supposed to be as amazing as it was, the network was only expecting a vehicle to tie in with Batman Returns and sell action figures. Instead, they made art, and they made it out of sheer love for the story, the characters, and the mythos. You can see that love in practically every frame. We’re roughly two-thirds done with Superman: The Animated Series now, which is just as gorgeous and treats the superhero with just as much care and reverence. It reminds me of just why Superman has been and always will be my favorite superhero, and it’s not because he’s the strongest. It’s because he represents the best of humanity… he’s the ideal we all should reach for, not just powerful, but noble, kind, and selfless. That’s who I want Superman to be.

We’re going to continue on to Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited, and I can’t wait.

December: Animaniacs (2020). This one was honestly tough; I was tempted to choose the frankly incredible Digimon Adventure: for this month, because both series are reboots of shows that I adored as a kid. But the new Animaniacs, though… it had a way tougher job. Comedy is hard and times have massively changed since the classic series ended in 1998. There’s a million ways it could have or should have gone wrong. But within minutes of starting the 2020 series, I was grinning ear to ear. The new writers should be commended for emulating the classic series’ style so perfectly. I’ve been telling people that it doesn’t really feel like a reboot, it feels like the old show just took a break for an incredibly long time and now it’s back. The smart writing is there, the meta humor is there, the old-fashioned slapstick is there, the orchestrated soundtrack is there… it works. True, most of the old supporting cast hasn’t come back yet (though the writers say that may change), the art style is a bit different, and some jokes and sketches are rough around the edges, but it’s incredibly faithful to the spirit of one of the greatest cartoons of the 90s. Like I said, this should not have worked. Classic Animaniacs was a product of its time, sure, but it was also a throwback to the golden age of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies… franchises which are a lot less well-known than they were a quarter-century ago, sadly. I was worried that we’d get endless, lazy smartphone and meme jokes, or that they’d make it more conventional so kids would get it, or that they’d do away with all those cherished adult jokes they snuck past the censors which were completely inappropriate for children. None of those fears were founded. It’s as wild and crazy and fourth-wall breaking as ever, and I adore it. At least three giant belly-laughs per episode on average, you can quote me on that.

So yeah. For all the pain and heartbreak and suffering, there were good things in every month of this year. There is light, even in the deepest darkness… and this year’s darkness is almost over. May we all have a far more peaceful and enjoyable new year.

-BHS

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: BHS Blogress Report: 2020, Week 48 – Jane | Tasakeru
  2. Trackback: BHS Blogress Special Report: You Are Not Alone | Tasakeru

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