Movies, music, comic books, great food, everything goes in this last category. With Part One anime and manga and Part Two video games out of the way, here's our final Crunchyroll 2017 Favorites with everything else!
PETER FOBIAN (@PeterFobian)
Blade Runner 2049: I never in my entire life actually scoffed until I came upon news of this movie. On the heels of a few monstrously bad Hollywood adaptations and reboots, I couldn’t imagine this movie being anything but another disappointment. I’m so happy to be wrong. Visually this movie was every bit the cinematic marvel as the original. That’s not to say it’s faultless. The story was perfectly serviceable until the forced shoehorning of Harrison Ford’s character left the plot a mess, but the atmosphere was maintained and it had some great modern takes on the content of the original. If every adaptation were this good I’d welcome them all.
John Wick 2: Another visual marvel that gives me hope for modern movies, John Wick 2 is every bit as good as the first, a combination of novel sequences and set pieces with great cinematography. The unapologetic daisy chain of fight scenes the raise the bar for Hollywood action. Like Blade Runner, the movie suffered a bit for the sake of a cameo, with Reeves and Fishburns' reunion taking up altogether too much screen time, but otherwise the film is a spotlessly choreographed action masterpiece. I can’t wait for the post-apocalyptic part 3, in which John Wick has killed 99.99% of Earth's population.
Atomic Blonde: Capping off my style-over-substance cinematic trilogy for 2017 is Charlize Theron’s rampage through Cold War Germany. I respect this film trying to deliver all the hyper-stylized, tightly-directed action as John Wick while including a compelling story, even if it didn’t quite land. Falling back on a few bored tropes left the later half of this movie feeling narratively stale, but the final sequences were marvelous all the same. I hope this grows into some sort of franchise all its own.
Takeshi Miike’s Blade of the Immortal: Two of the greatest anime disappointments of my anime life were the Blame! OAV series and the Blade of the Immortal anime, which were both made right in 2017. Polygon Pictures provided a Blame! Movie which satisfied (for now) and Blade of the Immortal got perhaps the man most suited in the world to direct its live-action adaptation. This movie is just the kind of bloodbath that the 100-man slayer and the 100-movie director both deserved.
Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi: It’s honestly cheating putting this movie in this list since it’s 100% anime. I’m pretty sure the middle of this film was just Gunbuster. Unfortunately it did actually sort of feel like two movies, one of them much better than the other. The plot following Rey and Kylo was marvelous from start to finish, as well as its branching conclusion with Luke, but the subplot with Finn dragged on forever and led to some themes that felt confused and left me wondering if they even knew what they want to do with his character (bring back Benicio though). That one scene, you know which one, was inspired (also very anime) and I hope other directors and studios take note.
RENE KAYSER (@kayserlein)
Baby Driver: If you forced me to pin down my single favorite movie, game or song, I could hardly come up with an answer. When it comes to my favorite director, this one’s a lot easier, though: It’s Edgar Wright, hands-down. No other director manages to reinvent himself every single movie while also staying true to what his fans love about him, and Baby Driver is his first “Big Budget Movie” (it does star several big Hollywood actors but only cost $34 million!). It not only combines its visuals with its soundtrack like no other movie but also tells a genuine heart-warming story. While Hot Fuzz will remain my favorite action movie of all time, Baby Driver keeps its distinctive shape in its rearview mirror.
Spider-Man: Homecoming: I’ve enjoyed almost every MCU movie thus far but with me being a lover of great villains, I have also suffered from Marvel’s biggest flaw: Having good antagonists. I couldn’t warm up to Loki like everyone else and had almost given up hope ... but then my third-favorite superhero swung in and gave me a great villain who was also played by a major actor of my favorite one! The rest of the movie may not hold a candle to the first two Raimi movies but I hope that we can keep this momentum with the MCU and may one day see a proper depiction of Dr. Doom.
Wonder Woman: If you were to ask me whether I preferred DC or Marvel, I would easily side with the bat and the man of steel. But even I can’t proclaim the current state of the DCEU as anything but bad while Marvel keeps hitting it out of the park. However, after the two trainwrecks of 2016, Wonder Woman gave us a glimmer of hope and a fantastic movie in which we also finally(!) got a female lead. Justice League was in turn bogged down by its production issues but I sincerely hope that we will start to get a proper representation of all these amazing characters from now on - even if we have to flashpoint it along the way.
Star Wars - Thrawn Trilogy Audioplay: My birds have told me the concept of an audioplay isn’t as common in the US as it is in Germany, so I’ll preface this with a short explanation. An audioplay is basically the same as an audiobook but instead of a single narrator, you have an entire cast of actors who act out the written story which is usually formatted to work with only dialogue and sound effects (though there are ones who use a narrator).
This year I, as a major Star Wars-fan, was delighted to discover a production I had never stumbled upon: An entire audioplay of Timothy Zahn’s famous Thrawn trilogy. While it may seem trivial at first, the people behind this not only got the entire German voice cast of the original movies (who actually dub every movie and even cartoons to this day!) but also paid close attention to absolutely every detail. They licensed John Williams’ famous score and made sure that the listener was able to distinguish each ship by its engine sound, each fighter by their weapon sound and each alien race by their own made-up language. Disney may have eradicated these books from the canon (though they thankfully brought Admiral Thrawn back in the Rebels cartoon) but this production will forever allow German fans to experience this original sequel to Return of the Jedi as close as possible to actual movies - all thanks to some amazing voice work and love from some serious fans.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi: As I’m writing this, less than a day has passed since me attending its premiere. So while I may be still blinded by the early “Honeymoon Phase” of still getting my emotions sorted and not having contemplated everything a thousand times, I am currently convinced that this is the best Star Wars movie I have ever seen. Rian Johnson mixed up the characters we love in a tale that’s both completely and yet faithful to the franchise and it almost disappoints me that Disney gave him “only” one additional trilogy to handle. This movie not only changes up Star Wars completely and for the best, but it also serves as a perfect capping stone for 2017 itself. A lot of bad things happened over these past twelve months but the final shot of this movie serves as a reminder that no matter how bad things get, we can still change the world for the better - no matter who we are and where we come from.
Game of Thrones Season 7: Game of Thrones got dumb this year. The time it takes characters to travel doesn’t match up in the slightest, we got a lot of scenes the audience was clearly intended to not think too hard about and a lot of it devolved into fanservice … but I completely loved it! After six years of buildup, we got an entire season with payoffs and while they didn’t always make perfect sense, they certainly were satisfying. I hope that the writing will improve a little for the final season but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it.
Female Doctor Who & other awesome ladies: This year has truly been great for awesome female leads in popular media. I already mentioned Wonder Woman and Star Wars: The Last Jedi who both have amazing female leads not to forget Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn!) but one of the oldest British TV series also finally made the jump to change things up. At the time of writing, I haven’t seen Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Doctor but I can’t wait to see that Christmas special and what fresh air she will bring to the show!
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return: If you’re a fan of the original series, you’ll know within the first half hour that the show is back for real. And if you’re unfamiliar with it, the new series is a great jumping-off point. The new selection of movies is impressive, as is the new selection of cameos. Season 12 promises to be amazing!
Doctor Who Series 10: “Extremis”: “Extremis” is one of the riskiest episodes of Doctor Who ever made, and that’s saying something. I’ve been enjoying the Twelfth Doctor’s run immensely, but the fearful and challenging nature of this story makes it stand out for me. The gut drop of the big reveal still hasn’t left me.
A Series of Unfortunate Events: As a fan of Lemony Snicket’s dire children’s book series and all the puzzle-solving that went with it, I was thrilled with the new iteration of the story. Neil Patrick Harris is a perfect Count Olaf, and it’s just the right mix of dire and hilarious. There will be new mysteries to unravel whether you’re a casual reader, a hardcore fan, or a newcomer.
Night Mind: Halloween 2017: I get all my nightmare fuel analysis from Nick Nocturne, the host of the YouTube channel Night Mind. And this year he pulled out all the stops for Halloween. The latest SCP Vault imagines how certain entries might be interpreted by the public, Monster Hunt explores local legends, and his Candy Bowl vid combines an “Internet Ghost Tour” with world-premiere horror shorts. Lovers of the macabre need Nick in their lives at Halloween and year-round!
Sick Scenes - Los Campesinos!: For my “the rest” this year, I’m just gonna go with a couple albums that have been circling my brain. And in this tumultuous year of 2017, Los Campesinos!’s Sick Scenes feels like the most urgent of releases. Marrying the band’s consistent indie rock hooks to tortured reflections on surviving in the age of Brexit and Trump, Sick Scenes is simultaneously a symbol of artistic maturation and a redoubling of youthful intent, a resounding cry saying even though we’re all very tired, we’re all very tired together.
After the Party - The Menzingers: If Sick Scenes casts its anxious eye outward, The Menzingers’ After the Party feels like a more inward-focused release, a monologue spiraling into a panic attack as the band’s longtime punk rockers face the onset of true adulthood. At twenty-nine-and-three-quarters years old, I must be the ideal mark for a record that opens on “whoa-a-o-o, whoa-o-o, where we gonna go now that our twenties are over.”
Blade Runner 2049: When a sequel to Blade Runner was announced, I made fun of it, because Blade Runner didn’t need a sequel. Any time there was an announcement about it, I would retweet it with a snide comment about how the film didn’t need to exist. But then, rumors started to spread that the film was good. I gave in and watched it, and I agree. A fully worthy companion to the original Blade Runner, less an exploration of what makes humans human and more about how people define their identities in Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmares. I waited years to hate it and couldn’t. I’m looking forward to buying it on Blu-ray.
Get Out: An amazing directorial debut by Jordan Peele, Get Out is an acclaimed and fantastically realized horror movie, of all things. I love horror as a genre, but it’s usually far from respectable. By making a Rosemary’s Baby of race, Peele manages to make a funny, smart, and scary film that has resonated widely with audiences. I had never seen Key and Peele before this, so this was my first exposure to Peele (who also wrote), and I’m now looking forward to his future work.
Twin Peaks: The Return: In a documentary about the original Twin Peaks, David Lynch seemed genuinely sad that the original series ended the way it did and expressed a desire to go back. So when the series was announced, fans of Lynch knew this wasn’t a quick cash in, especially when Lynch seemed to walk away from the table when he wasn’t going to be given complete creative control. But the series arrived, and no one knew what to expect, and what we got was massively different than anyone could have imagined. At 18 hours, Twin Peaks: The Return nearly doubled the amount of Lynch-directed content in existence, itself a delicious treat, but it also updated Twin Peaks for the modern age in uncanny ways. Stunning and important.
Big Mouth: Images of this Netflix series circulated the internet as an example of how unbelievably ugly American cartoon designs are, and those opinions aren’t wrong. But if you can get past the aesthetic, Big Mouth is incredibly funny, starring favorites Nick Kroll and John Mulaney of The Kroll Show and Oh, Hello. It’s the puberty series that everyone needed during puberty, that you couldn’t watch during puberty because no adult would show this series to a kid. But now you can watch it and heal some old wounds.
Lady Bird: Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, who I mostly know as the voice of Pony in China, IL, Lady Bird is an assured debut film about adolescence in a time period very close to my own. It’s funny and charming, but also saves up some really painful emotional arrows in its quiver for the final act. Centering on the relationship of Lady Bird and her mother, it also touches on larger social questions and the common experiences of high school. Support an up and coming director by checking this one out.
Baby Driver: I didn’t see nearly as many movies in the theater as I wanted to in 2017, but Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver was one I enjoyed from the first frame to the last. Some of the musical elements were a little too clever for their own good, but the final product is a fast-paced action/chase/comedy flick that’s incredibly fun to watch.
Thor: Ragnarok: Speaking of comedies, Thor: Ragnarok certainly didn’t seem to leave many jokes on the cutting room floor. Thor is the bro-iest Avenger, but it kind of works. If they had focused more on the Planet Hulk storyline and less on the typical world-ending Marvel plot that swirled around Hela, it probably would have gone down as my favorite of the Marvel movies.
Fantasy Sports No. 3: If you’re not reading Sam Bosma’s Fantasy Sports series, you need to get on these comics ASAP. They’re so colorful and full of energy, and all of Bosma’s designs are damn near perfect. The third one came out this year, but I’d happily list every single installment in a best-of year-end list.
Shihai Surunoha Kimito Koi No Aji by MOSHIMO: 2017 was the year I discovered you could actually find some J-pop and J-rock on Spotify, which lead to an exploration of all sorts of new discoveries for me. Among the best was a little band called MOSHIMO, which puts out a charming sort of pop rock sound—with a female lead vocalist who actually plays guitar! You can only watch so many idol lives before you start to long for singers who can play instruments. Anyways, MOSHIMO’s 2017 EP is, I’d wager, their best effort yet, showing a level of musical sophistication that’s a step above their previous works.
Baby Driver: The movie that grabbed the hearts of a great number of anime fans (as shown by its presence in other people’s lists here), I adored the film—which was the only movie I saw in theaters all year—primarily for amazing gimmick of writing a whole film to a playlist. I mean, back when I was at university, I’d skip around campus walking to classes much the way Baby does in the movie, so seeing that aspect of my life made into a whole dang film was pretty fun. It gets a bit long in spots, but overall I had a ton of fun with it.
Duolingo’s Japanese Course: Earlier this year, the popular language learning app Duolingo released the beta of their Japanese course, providing me with the convenient tool I needed to start actually learning the language. I’m under no illusions that I’m going to become fluent using Duolingo’s course, but just having something like this available makes it so much easier to fit some beginning learning into my head and busy schedule. If I manage to go on and truly learn Japanese someday, it’ll be because it started with this course. It’s worth checking out!
Mr. Robot S3: I’m admittedly biased about this one; Mr. Robot is one of my all time favorite shows, and this year, Sam Esmail took us on a hell of a ride as opposed to last season, which was far more slow paced and Lynchian. While not necessarily reaching the same highs, season 3 remained incredibly consistent, bringing two very different seasons together in full circle as we travel with Elliot to the depths of despair, but also, back into a hopeful and determined future of self awareness, culpability, and responsibility. The show only continues to break TV standards and I can’t wait for next year to raise my stress levels and churn my brain again.
The Expanse S2: Someone once told me The Expanse was like ‘sci fi Game of Thrones’. While I understand that to an extent, this is a form of clickbait, they’re not completely wrong either. Season 2 ramps up from Season 1 as more political factions are introduced and old characters make relationships with new. The show isn’t afraid to take risks, but at the same time, none of its twists or moments of tension feel haphazardly done. Likewise, the character development continues to be stellar, with no clear ‘good’ or ‘bad’ side to root for. One of my favorite things about this show is how firmly committed it is to diversity, featuring one of the most diverse casts I’ve seen in years. Its attention to realistic space physics is also incredibly neat and something I respect.
Blade Runner 2049: When the trailer for this movie first came out, I was half furious, half terrified. How could a movie possibly live up to the groundbreaking Blade Runner, let alone, be a direct sequel? After seeing it however, I can say that Blade Runner 2049 rose to become one of my favorite movies in recent years, surpassing its original with a soul of creativity and respect that few sequels possess. It borrows the best from Blade Runner, reinvents it for the current age, and then adds nuance in ways I’d never expect. It also happens to be, possibly, the most visually stunning thing I have ever seen. Nearly a 3 hour movie? Totally worth it.
The Night is Short, Walk on Girl: I recently watched Tatami Galaxy a year ago, and while it was great, I still felt like I missed watching it at the right time in my life for it to really have an impact on me. The Night is Short, Walk on Girl corrects this by combining many of the show’s strengths into a single feature film while also expanding upon the show’s main themes. Filled with the same charmful designs, warm and wacky adventures (and characters!), Night is Short is a movie about living life to your fullest, and the need to connect with another human being, even if we can’t fully understand their perspective. It’s one of Yuasa’s strongest works and my favorite animated movie of the year…..
A Silent Voice: …..other than A Silent Voice. Naoko Yamada is a powerhouse in the animation industry, and she brings that talent to this movie based off the manga and one-shot. While many have complained about how the movie fails to mesh the two into a fleshed out and nuanced story, for me, the movie was nearly perfect in its portrayal of topics like miscommunication, depression, anxiety, and self guilt. With stunning animation at every turn along with small but brief details that are rewarding upon rewatch after rewatch, this movie is guaranteed to win you in some way or the other. And make you cry. A lot.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return: I was in the middle of a major MST3K kick when I heard that the Satellite of Love was coming to Netflix. Like anyone, I had my reservations about this new series; with an all new cast, and only some of the original writing staff, how would the new show hold up? As it happens, even with new voices, Crow, Tom Servo, and Gypsy were as great as ever, and Jonah Ray was an excellent addition as the human on board. My only complaints were with the new Mads, Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt; their bits were clearly filmed in bulk, and were host to several odd editing tricks (the liquid technology gag was really only there to cover the jump cuts between takes, wasn’t it?). Despite that, the movie selection was great, the sketches were silly, and I’m hoping we see even more from this crew in the not too distant future.
Twin Peaks: The Return: I watched Twin Peaks for the first time in 2014, and I was still antsy with excitement about the show’s final chapter; I can’t imagine what the wait was like for those who watched it when it first aired back in 1990. Twin Peaks: The Return is a masterful metatextual experiment that is as brilliant as it is polarizing. The show is conscientious that the audiences who hung on this long are thirsty for answers, and provides them in deliberate bites of surreal, disturbing television that David Lynch has both spearheaded and mastered. The Return’s slow windup seems loaded with fanservice and levity at first until it shocks viewers with episode 8 (which is presented completely in black and white, and is almost entirely silent), as if to say “alright fairweather friends, it was fun, but your time being comfortable has come to an end.”
The Return borrows a lot more from Lynch’s cinematic playbook, in many cases resembling Eraserhead more than the Twin Peaks it comes from. The result is a challenging, engaging, and almost paradoxical ending that both resolves the now twenty year long mystery, as well as igniting a spiral of new questions about reality, time, and what exactly is at stake for the characters we’ve come to know and love.
I particularly enjoyed seeing how the show flirted with the metanarrative, teasing the audience by introducing Kyle Mclaughlin’s character early on, but keeping Agent Dale Cooper well out of reach, instead forcing us to spend time with the dull but lucky Dougie Jones.
While Twin Peaks: The Return is a far cry from the show it’s derived from, and it’s certainly not for everyone, I would invite anyone who loves serial storytelling to challenge themselves and give it a try (after watching Twin Peaks seasons one, two, and the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, of course).
Grape-kun: I remember waking up one morning to see the top story on the anime subreddit: an aged Humboldt penguin had fallen in love with a life size standee of penguin-girl Hululu from Kemono Friends placed in his enclosure. I knew I would be making a video about this penguin, but I never could have predicted how much of an impact he would have on my life. Over the next nine months, the story developed, and I made a new video for Crunchyroll as each new chapter unfolded. I know it’s silly, but I really felt an affinity for the little penguin who was enamoured with a piece of cardboard. So much so, that when planning a trip to Japan this fall, I had scheduled a day to visit the Tobu zoo and see Grape-kun for myself. Unfortunately, that visit never happened, as Grape-kun passed away just weeks before my trip.
So what’s the takeaway? When this little penguin made an innocuous decision, he was abruptly elevated to the world’s stage, and people several continents suddenly away had opinions about him. There were responses on all sides of the spectrum (thankfully mostly positive), but none of those responses ever reached Grape-kun. Grape-kun just kept doing what he was doing, and I think that’s what we can learn from him: be yourself no matter what the madding crowd says. Rest in peace little guy. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
That's it for our three-part series on 2017! Be sure to check out Part One and Part Two! If you're still in the mood for past CR Favorites, check out the previous years' features here:
What were your favorite "everything else" of 2017? Comment below and share with us! Remember, this is a FAVORITES list, not a BEST OF list, so there's no wrong answers!
Peter Fobian is an Associate Features Editor for Crunchyroll, author of Monthly Mangaka Spotlight, writer for Anime Academy, and contributor at Anime Feminist. You can follow him on Twitter @PeterFobian.