2021 has been a year of slow progress for me. I’m finally pursuing a B.A. in earnest, and in turn beginning to make the transition from writing for fun to maybe making a career of it.

As always, this list is mostly what I’ve watched this year that I have something (positive) to say about, and not necessarily the “best” nor “of the year”, listed in alphabetical order.

Encanto (2021 film): I mention this more for what it represents than how much I enjoyed it – that is, Disney beginning to produce “bilingual” movies. I was unimpressed by Shang-Chi, but Encanto succeeds in telling a vibrant story that is also embedded in Columbian culture and language.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021 TV): I watched all of the Marvel series that came out on Disney+ this year, and although I loved the concept of Wandavision, the ending kind of missed the mark for me. Hawkeye was fun and generally competently made, but it didn’t leave much of an impact. This was the one that stuck with me, because at least it TRIED to make a salient point, even if it didn’t really stick the landing.

In the Heights (2021 film): I don’t suppose it’s a coincidence that this is the second Lin-Manuel Miranda musical on the list, but this leans into being live-action without forsaking the inherent whimsy of musicals.

Kageki Shoujo (2021 anime): At the beginning of the year, I thought would place Wonder Egg Priority here instead, but along came this show to hit all the same themes in a much more sensitive manner (and being about stage performance sure didn’t hurt). I’d still have to make a trigger warning for child sexual abuse and eating disorders, but Wonder Egg Priority would bear plenty more and it just lacks proper emotional resolution. At least Kageki Shoujo handles the sexual abuse subplot with nuance and empathy (I can’t really speak to the eating disorders).

Over the Garden Wall (2014 animated show): This is a show that explores the vastness of what animation can accomplish in aesthetics, tone, and mood, all without getting too scary for children. It’s a Fleischeresque dreamscape, and well worth watching on a chilly October evening.

Parasite (2019 film): I was scared off of this film initially because I’m just generally shy of horror films, but it turns out this isn’t really a traditional horror film – it’s more focused on the horrors of capitalism than anything else, but that’s quite enough.

Honorable mentions:

Fruits Basket the Final (anime): This season really felt abridged, but at least they finally animated the ending

Spiderman: No Way Home (film): This is a love letter to the entire Spiderman franchise (although it offers little than a wink and a nod to Spiderverse, to which it is highly indebted)

Tropical Rouge Pretty Cure (anime): This has just been a fun diversion throughout the year, more slice-of-life than an epic magical girl show, but I always look forward to it

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