El Sijo's Blog

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The Best of 2016

rs_600x600-161202140354-600-best-of-2016-mhTo many people -including myself- 2016 was a bad year. But nothing is absolute; there were good things as well. And since this is a science fiction/fantasy blog (and I don’t care to remember the bad things) I present you now my favorite series of 2016:

This was a surprisingly good year in animation. In addition to expected hits like Zootopia and Moana, we had films like Kubo and the Two Strings (stop-motion, but it counts) and even Storks and Sing were much better than I expected! On television, Steven Universe continues to reign with shocking revelations both personal and cosmic; and the return of DC’s heroes in Justice League Action was long awaited. And as a Latino, I appreciated Disney finally giving us our own Princess with Elena of Avalor.

As for Japanese animation, my favorite of the year was My Hero Academia– best American-style superhero show ever done in Japan ever (I also liked One Punch Man, which was also about superheroes, but was more of a deconstruction.) Funniest Anime of the year goes to Konosuba (God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World) which deconstructed fantasy role-playing games. On the other hand, I had a love/hate relationship with Re:Zero. For one thing, it was a show for sadists, as the main characters were killed or made to suffer over and over again- but at the same time, it had an intriguing premise that begged you to keep watching to see if the heroes would ever win. (I guess I understand why people watch The Walking Dead now.) Funny how deconstruction seems to be a theme these days eh?

In live action, I didn’t see that many movies. Deadpool was another surprise in that I hate the character but I enjoyed most the film well enough. Captain America: Civil War was thankfully excellent despite being based on a terribly comics storyline. Doctor Strange was OK but I wasn’t too happy with the changes they made (I  refer more to the SFX than the ethnicity of some characters). Arrival was probably the smartest film of the year (probably too smart for its own good.) Before you ask, no I didn’t see Rogue One yet (I’m not that big of a Star Wars fan, especially when I knew the ending ahead.) I’ll catch it in DVD and tell you my opinion then.

I don’t watch much television these days -most comedies and dramas don’t do much for me- but I was hooked by two in particular: The Good Place and Designated Survivor. Both have surprisingly clever writing. And I’m quite amazed in how Good Place is effectively mocking the conventions of religion yet hasn’t gotten called in for it. As for survivor, you might wonder why its listed here. Well, since it obviously takes place in a different version of the present, I count it as Science Fiction. In any case, its a clever use of the designated survivor protocol as well as a great drama with lots of intrigue. And do I really need to say that Stranger Things is also on my list?

Finally, we had some great video games as well. Pokemon celebrated its 20th anniversary successfully with Pokemon Sun and Moon, which not only had a neat Polynesian setting (which in turn had great synergy with Moana’s) but also modernized the franchise in many ways. Final Fantasy also had a great year with both the fun World of Final Fantasy and the more traditional Final Fantasy XV. Note I don’t play shooters, so I can’t talk about Overwatch.

That’s all I can think of now, but there were plenty of other things both I (and I’m sure, you) enjoyed as well last year.


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Concrete Revolutio: bizarre, but interesting

Concrete Revolutio

In an earlier blog post I talked about how sometimes you have to stop watching a show you like. With the 2015 Anime Concrete Revolutio: Superhuman Phantasmagoria, I had the opposite problem- I disliked the overall tone but could not bring myself to stop watching, because I was invested in (some) of the characters and really wanted to find out what the heck was going on (which is probably what the producers intended.)

The basic concept of the series is: what if all Japanese superheroes co-existed? As a fan of those I was very much excited at first. But it turns out this is a deconstruction of the genre- more “Watchmen” than “Justice League”. Everybody either has a hidden agenda, or is hopelessly naive. Or dead, because somebody dies in nearly every episode. Further making things frustrating is their choice of showing flash-forwards, sometimes years into the future- so we know things will get worse, just not why.

This is definitely not what I enjoy in most superhero series (with some exceptions.) Around episode 4 I was ready to quit. Still: I cannot accuse this show of being poorly written. It knows how to tease you into wanting to find out what is going on and why. Every episode you learn a bit more and meet characters who will be important later. It can be hard to follow, but it might be worth it for those with the patience.

And then there’s the characters. For the most part, as mentioned, they are based on existing heroes or at least, character types (Jiro is likely Cyborg 009, Kikko is a Magical Girl ala Sailor Moon, etc.) Their designs are cool and they are likable; you can’t help but worry about what will happen to them when they find out the truths of the cruel world they live in.

As I write this the first season of the show (out of a planned two) has finished airing and part of the secrets have been revealed, and they are indeed terrible. Will I stick around for part two? I don’t know yet. I think I’ll at least give it a chance. Certainly, you can’t fault it for its quality.

Recommended for: fans of superheroes, 70s Japan, and conspiracies.