It’s that time of year again – the time for year-end lists!
It’s the end of another year, and I’m still running this blog. I plan to keep it up for at least another year, as I still have stuff I want write about. I’ll be announcing the next series tomorrow, and I expect to start on A Wrinkle in Time before the end of the year.
As for this list, as always, it’s only a summary of great stories I ENCOUNTERED this year, not necessarily ones that came out this year (I think all the TV shows had a season this year, tho). Additionally, the honorable mentions are not really any worse than the main list, I just don’t have much to say about them. Hence, there is a non-zero chance that I’ll pick up one of these entries and make a proper series out of it *hint* *hint*
Anne With an E (TV): If you’re looking for an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables that just tells the story of the book, go watch the old version. If, however, you love Anne as a character and are interested in a slightly more grounded story that fills in a lot of gaps in the book, this show might be for you. The creators aren’t afraid to change things up, in large ways and small. It still feels like the Anne of the book, just in circumstances that would have been taboo in a 19th century children’s book but are more acceptable for modern tweens.
Iron Widow (novel): This is a fascinating YA dystopia by Xiran Jay Zhou, loosely based on the story of an actual Chinese empress but transposed into a futuristic setting. She grapples with themes of racism and sexism within an Asian context, which I’ve rarely seen explored in a story like this. There’s a great love triangle and plenty of twists, not to mention potential for a sequel, but it’s a good standalone narrative even if it never gets a sequel.
Only Murders In the Building (TV): If you’re looking for a quirky comedy-mystery show, this might do the trick. Selena Gomez acts as a straight man to Steve Martin and Martin Short (despite being neither straight nor a man), and as someone who never watched her in Dcoms, I was surprised that she’s actually a good actress. The show is mainly concerned with the eccentric tenants of a NYC apartment, and as the title implies, MURDER! The plot is basically one murder per season, with the main cast being a few amateur sleuths who bonded over true crime podcasts. It’s a fairly mild TV-MA, with occasional violence and (consensual) sex scenes. There’s nothing gratuitous, except the fairly constant language. Every adult I know who watched it enjoyed it, and maybe you will, too.
The Owl House (cartoon): I started following this show after season 1, but I was all in by the end of season 2…at which point it was canceled. The creators were able to wheedle a severely abridged season out of the Mouse, who contended it was “off-brand”, and…yup. This show is unlike any other show on Disney Channel, and that’s part of its charm! They took inspiration from all sorts of fantasy stories (mainly Harry Potter and Miyazaki films) and put it in a blender. It employs an occasionally deliberately ugly aesthetic to tell an earnest (and surprisingly sweet) coming-of-age story. Don’t sit on this one like I did.
Strange World (animated film): This movie made it onto the list not because I really loved it, but because it deserves better, dangit! Aside from the very generic title, Disney evidently did the bare minimum job promoting the movie in theaters, then quietly shuffled it off to Disney+ for the holidays. Can you tell I’m frustrated with Disney at this point? Anyhow, it’s not exactly a masterpiece, but it’s a fun adventure that feels more like Pixar than Disney proper (only partly because it’s not a musical). The titular world isn’t totally unique – it’s intentionally based on [spoilers], but that’s an environment that’s rarely explored, and it still does a great job of making it seem alternately dangerous and inviting. It’s far from perfect (I felt like there was an important scene missing from the finale), but it does stick the landing and deliver actual consequences in the end. Show some love for this film – it deserves it.
Spy x Family (anime): A slice of anime (with a dash of ridiculous action) about a “fake” family with their own secrets
Kindred (TV): An intriguing modern(ish) take on a fantastic (if pretty dark) story
Turning Red (film): Like Anne With an E, this movie explores the lives of tween girls (and even their sexuality) in an empathetic and grounded manner
Until next time…