2020 has been quite the year, and that may be an understatement. Still, even throughout the pandemic and other crazy happenings, life goes on. I think many of us have uncovered a wide selection of media to keep us going. As such, I thought with the year ending, let’s take a look back at some positive things that helped me get through the year. As such, here are four stories that stuck with me even until the year came to an end and helped me not lose my sanity. Keep in mind that not everything on the list will be from 2020. I had to catch up on some things throughout the year. So, being stuck at home did have its advantages. So, without further ado, here are the things I loved about 2020.
Love after World Domination
Have you ever wondered about what would happen if Rita Repulsa was a high school student and fell in love with one of the Power Rangers? Well, you are in luck, as author Noda Hiroshi and artist Wakamatsu Takahiro have created just that story. The manga Love after World Domination (恋は世界征服のあとで) got released in 2019, but I didn’t find it until April. It focuses on the group Gerato 5, who are trying to keep world peace alive while fighting the evil society only known as Gecko. One of their leaders, Magahara Desumi, ends up falling in love with the Gelato Red Ranger, Aikawa Fudou. As they are from two sides of the conflict, they use their various clashes to sneak away on small dates. The monthly series parodies Super Sentai, which is the basis for the Western Power Rangers while giving a lighthearted romantic comedy. It humanizes the villains in a way that makes them just as endearing as the members of Gelato 5. Just like us in 2020, we are all just trying to keep everything together as best as possible while facing incredible odds.
The Queen’s Gambit
I think pretty much everyone has been praising this series, but I just had to throw in my two cents as well. Netflix is a fascinating streaming service. As the most dominant streaming service, they do not have to rely on pre-existing intellectual properties like HBO Max or Disney+. Yet, they somehow are obsessed with purchasing the rights to well-known properties, even though they have some truly stand-out original series. Among them is this year’s sleeper hit The Queen’s Gambit. Scott Frank and Allan Scott introduce us to chess prodigy Beth Harmon, who is played by Anya Taylor-Joy. After the tragic loss of her mother, she uncovers her talent with the board game. The story is based on the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, which I confess I have never read but certainly will do now. What makes this series stand out is Taylor-Joy‘s performance combined with the slow breakdown of a prodigy. She faces her inner demons, addiction, and what it means to be the best. The mini-series teaches us a lesson I believe we all needed to hear in such a year. Sometimes we lose ourselves in those that seem to be perfect in the eye of the public but may not realize how much pressure lies on their shoulders.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
In my opinion, Final Fantasy VII Remake is the best 2020 release. I do confess I have a strange history with the Final Fantasy franchise. I did not grow up with the original version of VII. Actually, my first Final Fantasy game was the ninth entry that I played at a friend’s place. It wasn’t until the tenth that I played through an entire game. I got hooked ever since. My introduction to Cloud and Sephiroth was actually through Kingdom Hearts, which sparked my interest in these characters. So, I went into the game already knowing the story without ever playing the original. We knew that the remake would have a stronger emphasis on the Midgar arc, which was the intro to the original game. I loved the idea as it allows them to flesh out the city and its inhabitants before it opens up to the rest of the world. Luckily, the game did exactly that and even went a few steps further. The retooled combat system was a refreshing combination of classic RPG turn-based combat and action. The performances for these incarnations of the characters were some of the best in the industry. It certainly made me anxious for what the future may hold and helped me through the beginning of the first lockdown. I could get lost in the city of Midgar and forget I was stuck at home for who knows how long.
Now, to cap off the year, let’s talk about the most recent release. Charles already prepared a great review of the film, but after just watching it, I just had to talk about it too. Pixar’s latest film, Soul, is a beautifully done story about purpose. It focuses on a music teacher Joe, who prematurely dies just as he believes he has found his dream to play in a jazz band. His journey into the afterlife leads him to meet 22, who gets dragged into a wacky adventure about finding the spark that inspires your life. It tackles the many questions of our existence in a light-hearted but relevant manner. It doesn’t shy away from making its audience question what was their spark. We felt sympathy with Joe, as many of us lost our path far away from the passion that once drove us. Many moments in this film hit me personally. As someone struggling to find a way into a creative industry, you never realize you lose sight of everything around you. You become so obsessed with the end goal that you forgot the experiences along the way. If you ever needed a film that makes you feel that 2021 is a new beginning, this is the film for you.