I love stories. I always have. I love people, movies, TV shows, songs, artworks, and especially works of literature that tell good stories.
In my early years, my favorite stories were The Hungry Caterpillar and The 12 Dancing Princesses (the book, not the movie). As a child, my favorite stories were Scooby-Doo and the bridge in “Shake It Off”. In middle school, I fell in love with the stories my English teacher told about his students in the Oakland ghetto and New York Times articles. Now, I find solace in the poetry of Rupi Kaur and the film, When Harry Met Sally (which is, in my opinion, one of the best rom-coms ever made). These are just a few of hundreds, maybe thousands, of stories I have encountered and retained over my 16 years.
What makes a story good, I wonder. I would like to say it’s all about how it is told – the language, imagery, etc – but I actually think that is not always the case. Sometimes, poor acting, an unimpressive screenplay, or a bad melody are of no importance if the storyline itself strongly resonates with me. I don’t mean to say that a mediocre story can’t be told in a way that turns it into something incredible. What I mean is that an incredible story cannot (easily) be turned into something mediocre.
I’ll give you an example. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemmingway, has an incredibly simple premise: a Cuban fisherman in his attempt to catch a giant marlin. And yet, it is so effectively written and constructed that we remember this book as one of the great pieces of literature. On the other side of the spectrum, the Harry Potter movies, in which (let’s be honest) the children actors hardly live up to their roles, have still seen unprecedented success. Why? Because J.K. Rowling’s phenomenal story trumps any criticism.
I tested positive for Covid exactly one week ago. Surprisingly, the time went by fairly quickly, as I occupied myself with reading, homework, and plenty of Netflix.
Here’s everything I watched while quarantined:
The second half of The Italian Job. We started this during film studies, and I can’t say I know why. It’s a pretty good movie, but not exactly a classic. And as much as I like a good car chase, it’s a little less exciting when they’re driving minis.
Bridget Jones’ Diary. This has not aged well. Perhaps if I were to disregard the fatphobia and blatant sexism, it would be a fairly enjoyable watch. The premise itself is good – who doesn’t love a romantic comedy, with a relatable protagonist, and a love triangle? But the execution, not so much.
Several episodes of Gilmore Girls. Rory and Jess are beginning to flirt and I cannot wait to see how Dean reacts. I can feel a breakup is coming, and I am so ready! Dean might be absolutely gorgeous, but I personally detest him and his short temper. Rory deserves better.
The first couple of episodes of the Great British Baking Show season 10. This show never fails to make me smile and give me an appreciated British nostalgia. They always manage to find the sweetest bunch of contestants. I’m obsessed with the gay Polish guy.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I LOVED this one. Is Audrey Hepburn totally iconic? YES. Am I going to be Holly for Halloween? Very possibly. The only part I didn’t like was the scene where she threw her cat out of the taxi, and then proceeded to search for it in the rain. It gave me so much anxiety – I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when she finally found Cat.
The best reality documentary on youtube is a Vice series titled “North Korean Labor Camps” where they sent a Canadian Journalist, Shane Smith, to investigate the hermit kingdom and bring back cultural learnings with him.
It has everything: politics, humor, wit, fear, camaraderie with absolutely random people, realities of everyday life of common people, getting banned and kicked out, and going into the endless unknown (Siberian Tiga) like a spaceship.
It’s in a blog, video diary format with a pretty bad camera (it was 10 years ago), and it’s just so cool. All seven parts of the series are just insane. He gets in trouble with the FSB, there’s a car chase in the wilds of Siberia, and he befriends the local mob. My favorite part though is all the random people that just helped and tagged along: a cop, ex-chief of police, freelance journalist, and some crazy Russian guy who saved the journalist from angry authorities.
It all started in North Korea, with a video titled “We Tried Sneaking Journalists into North Korea.” In it, you see how unsettling and just off North Korea feels, at least 10 years ago. Anyway, soon he finds out that Koreans are being sent to logging camps for like several years at a time in Eastern Russia and so begins the aforementioned series. I want to do something like this one day.
Besides what he manages to uncover, what’s most shocking is how calm the journalist was despite the tense circumstances. From intimidating drunk guys on trains to North Korean camp leaders telling him no, he just kept his cool and kept asking questions. That’s a Journalist!
Recently at UFC 274, new #1 contender Charles Oliveira called out Conor McGregor to compete for the vacant lightweight title after losing his title due to not weighing in at the proper weight. I understand that Oliveira is chasing the PPV dollars that come from challenging The Champ Champ, but in the long run of his career, it is a big mistake. In my opinion, Oliveira would be killed if he stepped into the octagon with McGregor due to one key factor. This factor is Oliveira’s terrible eyesight. Oliveira is a world-class level fighter, only being relinquished from his title due to missing weight, however, one thing that not many fans may know is that Oliveira must wear glasses outside of the ring due to his compartmentalized vision. This obviously affects him in the octagon, as he cannot wear glasses. Against most of his other opponents, this hasn’t jeopardized his career entirely, however, we have seen Oliveira be grounded by pure strikes like in the Gaethje fight where he got dropped by a nice uppercut. Against McGregor, a striking genius, Oliveria would be down and out in the first round; of my life. I believe that Oliveira’s jiu-jitsu gives him a chance, but McGregor’s takedown, defense and range would really restrict his game to only haphazard striking, which is not the optimal plan of attack against a world-class striker. For these reasons, I believe Charles Oliveira should not have called out Conor McGregor, but regardless it’s impossible to know until the fight happens, so until then, we’ll see.
Many anime in the anime world tend to be boring, or just plain in some way; it’s a seemingly unexplainable phenomenon that separates great anime from the boring ones. If I had to describe what made this separation, I would describe it as the overall vibe. A perfect example of an anime that is great despite lacking a super intriguing story that draws you in is Space Dandy, an anime I’ve recommended before and an anime I’ll recommend again. It’s one of Shinichiro Watanabe’s masterpieces, in my opinion, creating a perfect ambiance with a mixture of charismatic characters and unique settings. Space Dandy is also accompanied by a masterpiece of a disco soundtrack and unparalleled animation. The show is above all else, consistent with its entertaining environment, continually drawing in the viewer despite lacking an incredibly unique or special plotline. Space Dandy is an anime that holds a special place in my heart and I should hope that everybody that watches a decent amount of anime will have watched it.
Noragami is an incredible show that is shrouded in the world of Gods, Demons, Human Souls, and living Humans. This anime follows a trio of eccentric people, one, is a girl who discovered the world of souls, demons, and gods through an accident and was helped by the other two men in the trio. The other men are a fighting duo, a fighter, who is a god known as Yato, and his Regalia (weapon), Yukine, who is a lost human soul. The show consists of excellent fight scenes, the discovery of mysterious and forgotten pasts, and fictional mythology. I would definitely recommend this show to somebody who has watched a decent amount of anime.
Assassination Classroom is a show that drops the viewer into a unique classroom, one where the students, known as academic failures, are tasked with the job of killing their extraterrestrial teacher. Their teacher known as Koro-Sensei encourages them to kill him as well as further their education and physicality, as many normal teachers would do. Killing Koro-Sensei is no easy task as he is an alien that can move faster than the speed of light, fly, and even become an indestructible ball for 24 hours. This anime follows the teacher and students as they mature, grow a relationship, and become deadly assassins. I would recommend this show to anybody that enjoys anime, or any newcomer to anime. It perfectly combines comedy, intensity, and strong emotion, definitely a must-watch.
In the anime world, new anime can be hit or miss. Regardless of the title or studio a new anime with a large budget can crumble and burn, like anime such as Gundress, or Berserk (the newer version). The spring 2022 anime season is looking a little dismal, with most of its new anime looking generic and unentertaining, however, I do believe some of the new anime coming out will be great.
Spy x Family
Spy x Family follows an interesting man who’s especially good at his job. Based off of the title of the anime, you could probably guess this occupation he was practically made for, is being a spy. This spy who possesses an incomparable intellect for the nature of his job, is emotionally inept, thus making the show intriguing when the man is tasked to make a believable family infiltrate a school in a few weeks. This light-hearted show has shown elements of action, comedy, and entertaining psychology, as well as just being all-around entertaining. Only 3 episodes have been released so far but the show is invigorating, making me wait on the edge of my seat to see the next episodes. I believe this anime will be a big one.
Tomodachi Game is a manga series being adapted into anime, and just like Spy x Family, the manga is very well renowned. Tomodachi Game is a survival anime that has a psychological thriller genre. In this anime, 5 friends are thrown into a game that involves trading and paying back debt. With the topic of debt, the friendships are being held together by a thread, and the point of the game is to ruin their friendships. The anime has shown great elements of intensity, but also some moments were a little odd. Im excited to see what this anime has in store, and I hope it’s not ruined by bad story writing and bad animation.
This Anime is a classic. If somebody were to ask me “What anime should I watch?” and I knew they were new to anime, Mob Psycho 100 is one of the first anime I would think of. It should be one of the first anime that a new anime watcher should see. It has a funny, upbeat, yet deep, and meaningful story as well as unique and awe-inspiring animation. It has a plethora of characters that represent many walks of life, and many types of people. This show about a talented young Esper is incredibly entertaining, and it brings up big issues with the perception of oneself. Mob despite his talent and power, is timid and bullied, because he is different. This show has spirits, curses, and more espers. I would absolutely recommend this show to anyone who hasn’t seen it.
Magi is another anime I would recommend to anyone. It’s a fantasy anime with dungeons and djinns. Dungeon Capturers attempt to get through dangerous dungeons to gain access to the power of djinns. Djinns are massive magical beings that are kept with metal vessels on the dungeon capturers body and giving them magical powers. This series is split into three shows, all of which are incredibly creative and enticing. Magi perfectly uses magic powers, overpowered characters, and war politics to create a cohesive and congenial anime.
Other than rewatching and still going through Hunter x Hunter and One Piece, I have been pretty invigorated in anime. Although the subculture has not been filled with the best new anime this year, I am finding shows that I am loving. Some of these shows might not be for everybody but they are all unique and great in their own way.
Ranking of Kings
This anime from 2021 is special. It follows a decently simple design with its fable format. This anime is made to resonate with real-world emotions and difficulties that many may face such as depression and hopelessness. It opens up the world to disabilities and the difficulties of trying to work around them. The protagonist in this story Bojji is both deaf and mute, as well as is especially weak in a world sanctioned by power. Despite his setbacks in life he decides to work to become the best version of himself. This feel-good story is accompanied by a unique animation style that is enticing to the highest degree. The show has not ended yet but I am highly anticipating the finale.
Hajime No Ippo
This anime is a story of a rising superstar. A hard-hitting boxing talent is known as Ippo Makuonochi, and his journey to the Flyweight Title of Japan. This show is made for fans of boxing, bringing in-depth details of fighting, training, and experience in the fighting world. It’s a feel-good anime with an almost dangerously optimistic outlook on brain damage in the sport (until it’s explored at the end of the second season). I personally enjoyed this anime because of the evolutions the characters go through. The anime and the sport are both about harnessing talent and power to become something unintelligible. I would definitely recommend this anime to anybody that is a fan of boxing.
Space Dandy, although not being a show that I’ve recently seen, it is something that I feel I must recommend. This show follows a classic blueprint similar to that of Cowboy Bebop, where a group of three eccentric characters travels through space collecting aliens from around the galaxy. This layout can feel overdone or boring to some, however, I don’t believe this to be an anime based on its plot, but rather on its animation. Every episode is created with a different director, writer, animation director, and storyboard director. This show about “A dandy guy in space” became grounds for many animators to build careers for themselves in the anime/manga world. This mysterious show about mysterious characters makes you ask questions with seemingly no answer other than weird space jibber-jabber, but every episode still finds its way to leave a viewer incredibly satisfied with the 20 minutes they spent watching an episode. The show is fantastic and I recommend it to anybody and everybody (I also recommend not skip the intro song as it is fire.
When many are told to think of sports that need extreme technicality, many people’s first thoughts would go to sports like golf, fencing, or F1 racing, however, my first and undisputed choice would be MMA. It is most definitely the most technical sport in the world, requiring multiple Olympic skills as well as multiple martial arts that can take years to learn. MMA doesn’t necessarily require profession in every single useful style of combat, but to stand a chance in an octagon, one must have mastery of some striking technique as well as a grappling technique. If a person enters the cage with a heavy background in wrestling and is completely lacking in defense and striking technique, they’re most likely leaving the cage with some fractured facial bones. The thing is, is that this would be the most likely outcome, but in a fight, nothing can be predicted. If the wrestler who only focuses on his wrestling is able to take down his opponent successfully he has a chance. If he lands a few punches in the ground and pound, as well as tiring his opponent on the ground, he has an even greater chance of submitting his opponent. MMA can go any way, it is a constant game of chess where every movement changes the possibilities of the match. One bad movement, with bad defense, while a fighter is fatigued can end a fight in a moment, but that’s only if they get caught in their blunder. This makes MMA a technical sport, however, if you want to make it more technical with advanced striking techniques like creating efficient combos where no movement is wasted, connecting the ending of one punch or kick, with the starting movement of your next strike, as well as taking into account the reaction and movement of the opponent. Things such as feints and reactions to feints can’t go unnoticed. Sharp observers and champions such as Isreal Adesanya and Sean O’Malley are masters of taking advantage of their opponent’s reactions and body language, while more instinctual fighters such as Kevin Holland, Jon Jones, and Jose Aldo are great at taking advantage of their opponents in quick thinking exchanges. It’s a brutal yet beautiful sport, that perfectly ties together technicality and intensity.