2020 has been one hell of a roller coaster ride, from the Australian forest fires (remember that?) to the #BLM protests, Trump’s end as president, and of course, the pandemic that’s still around even today. It’s been a tough year for everyone as well, but with a bit of hope and streaming services, video games, and our hobbies to help us, we managed to survive the terror of 2020 and made it to 2021.
With the year being already so negative, I thought of leaving out the bad, and just reminding us all of the good with what I felt were some of the best stuff I got the honor to watch and/or review over the year. So focusing on 3 categories: Movies, Drama Serials, and Anime, I’ll be crowning my favorites of the year, along with a runner-up with a few honorable mentions at the end. For this list, I also wanted to make sure all of these were released in 2020, so we can all be reassured that 2020 isn’t all bad. So let’s start the year and dive right in!
Title: The Promised Neverland (2020) Runtime: 1hr 59min Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
It’s always terrifying to hear that your favorite anime series is receiving a live-action adaptation especially when films like the Netflix’s Death Note adaptation and Dragon Ball: Evolution exist. Fortunately, with some recent ones like Detective Pikachu and Netflix’s Bleach adaptation, things have looked a little less horrifying. When The Promised Neverland‘s adaptation was announced, it was immediately on my radar as I loved the anime series when I watched it over Netflix, but was also wary it could easily end up as a terrible film.
So, what is The Promised Neverland (2020) about? It tells the story of Grace Field House, an orphanage where the kids and their caretaker, Isabella, live together until the children are adopted. However, the truth behind the orphanage is a much more terrifying one, as main characters, Emma and Norman find out after one of the children, Conny, is adopted – that Grace Field House is actually a farm and that the children are merely meat sold to the demons who reside on the outside world. The children must now race to prevent the other children from their cruel fate and free themselves from the terrors of the outside world.
Title: Violet Evergarden: The Movie Runtime: 2hr 20min Genre: Slice of Life, Drama, Fantasy
2020 has been a strange year, and for someone who loves anime and needed to just catch up on numerous series, it has been perfect for exactly that. I talked about Violet Evergarden a while back in a trio of anime recommendations on Netflix back in August and it’s truly become one of the my favorites. I did mention that it was not perfect, but when it wants to focus on telling stories around raw human emotion, it truly goes beyond the medium in exceeding expectations.
The movie takes an incredibly interesting angle, looking at Violet Evergarden and her story but set in the future, with technology similar to what we have in the future, which means that the Auto Memory Dolls, people employed to help others write letters, have long become obsolete with the telephone and computers replacing them. The granddaughter of one of the characters Violet helped in the past chanced upon Violet’s story while looking through her grandmother’s belongings after she passed and we learn that Violet Evergarden left the postal service when she had turned 18, and we learn why through her investigation.
Title: Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train Runtime: 2hr 06min Genre: Adventure, Action, Shounen
Anime films have grown in popularity in recent times, with films either being independent properties and stories, or based off an anime series franchise that’s garnered some mainstream success either in the Japanese markets or globally. It was pretty interesting to learn that the Demon Slayer anime, or Kimetsu no Yaiba for some, is using a movie to cover the events of the next arc in the story.
Just to catch everyone up to the same page, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train covers the events shortly after the end of Season 1, where our protagonists board a train for their next mission, which involves investigating mysterious disappearances on the titular Mugen Train, and to meet up with the Flame Pillar (or “Flame Hashira” as per some translations), one of the most elite swordsmen among the Demon Slayer Corps.
Title: The Blood of Zeus Episodes: 8 Genre: Action/Adventure
Greek mythology holds a very unique place in the world; its religious origins long past its time, yet their tales live on in the modern day. It’s fascinating how the stories can be as simple as trying to explain why natural phenomenon occur while some can tie ideas of fate, heroism and tragedy into a web of intricate storytelling. And its influence can be felt in modern pop culture as well, with it influencing some of the most popular video games such as God of War to movies like Clash of the Titans.
And as much as we’d like to say that we’ve learned everything there is to know about Greek mythology, we’re never really certain. Blood of Zeus runs with that premise, claiming itself to be an untranslated myth lost to the ages which chronicle the rise of the demigod, Heron, in a time of chaos and war as he learns about his divine origins and fulfills his destiny to save the world.
Do you remember those kid-friendly horror tv shows when you were young? Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? were some of the first dips for children worldwide into the horror genre. And they’re usually not that scary or downright lame. Yet, there are some horror films intended for children that wanted to get the scares.
And The Witches (1990), an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s work of the same name, was one of those films. Infamous for the visually terrifying transformation scene where the witches in the film removed their ‘human disguises’, it was nightmare fuel that powered a generation and rightfully earned its reputation as such.
Ah, here we go. My first book review. I was honored to be able to review a book written by local actor, Micheal H. Chua, which is a story about well, domestic workers in Singapore. It’s not commonly seen in our local media, only being talked about as a side character or cameo but in this book, they take center stage and is the protagonist of our book.
The story follows Maria, a young Filipina who came to Singapore on an Entertainment Visa, initially intending to come to take on her dream job as a singer, before learning it could be a scam and takes on a domestic worker job instead. The book follows her adventures and the hijinks that ensue as well.
Inception blew our minds with diving into dreams, Memento dove into short term memories, and Tenet, now explores an even more complicated part of our world, time. Or well, at least our perception of it. It’s always difficult to not go into one of his films feeling extremely impressed by his weaving of the premise into the film’s story and action and letting it all come together like some new way to eat peanut butter and jelly.
Tenet puts us in the shoes of The Protagonist, a CIA agent that later joins the Tenet organization to bring down the arms dealer that had access to some special weapons that work in reverse to the flow of time. And of course, that temporal displacement kind of concept is the main premise for this film. But does it hold up to Nolan’s other masterpieces? Let’s find out.
And here we are, the final of the 3 recommendations I have for the anime on Netflix. And it was something I put in my backlog for a while before I decided to watch it – Beastars. What it looks like is a fan fiction of Zootopia made into an anime, with the primary focus still on the harmony of the carnivores and herbivores. But what I found was so much more.
Beastars’ story is pretty simple and set in a world of anthropomorphic animals where herbivores and carnivores live together in peace. The main story begins when a devouring (basically a carnivore eating a herbivore) happened in Cherryton Academy and revolves around our 3 main characters, Legoshi, a grey wolf, Louis, a red deer, and Haru, a dwarf rabbit. So let’s dive in and find out more.
Using written letters to communicate is a lost art form, one that we maybe only see in movies nowadays, seen as an obsolete form of communication in a time of chatting apps and social media. It is taken for granted when we see someone receive a letter and that is the essence of Violet Evergarden in a nutshell.
As a story set in a nation freshly recovering from a war, it revolves around Violet Evergarden, a former child soldier. She becomes employed as an Auto Memory Doll, a lady employed to carry out writing services, including letter writing, as part of the mail delivery service and her various encounters while working as such.