Movies, books, food, and more--here's the rest of the CR team's favorites from 2016!
Superhero friendships ended, the Death Star plans were stolen, we experienced more reboots than you could possibly imagine (although really, that's every year), and Emily cooked a lot of food. After looking at our favorite anime and manga in Part One, and our favorite games in Part Two, we're gonna close up Crunchyroll Favorites 2016 with our favorite EVERYTHING ELSE--movies, books, comics, and more! Let's get started!
NATE MING (@NateMing)
Voltron: Legendary Defender- I think it's safe to say that Voltron--the US edit of Beast King GoLion--was what got me into anime in the first place, so I was pretty skeptical of this new take on the story by the creators of The Legend of Korra. Thankfully, I had absolutely nothing to worry about, as this is a really fun reboot that not only keeps the high-energy feel of the original, but also pays homage to both Voltron and GoLion. I can't wait for the next season (also, Shiro's totally gonna die).
Ip Man 3- The first Ip Man was a cool quasi-historical beat-em-up with some great setpieces, but the second was only okay despite bringing in the legendary Sammo Hung. We're back to the good stuff with the third go-around--the Donnie Yen vs. Mike Tyson headliner is pretty awesome, but the real star is a rival Wing Chun instructor, played by Max Zhang.
Star Trek Beyond- I've always liked Star Trek more than Star Wars, and while Rogue One was great, the real surprise for me was Star Trek Beyond--co-written by Simon Pegg--going back to the series' optimistic roots and giving every character a chance to shine. Justin Lin already has experience delivering with ensemble actioners, and the Enterprise herself has never looked cooler. Just goes to show you can't always judge a movie by its trailer.
Shin Godzilla- This isn't the alpha predator from the 2014 US reboot--the King of the Monsters and reluctant, almost accidental protector of humanity. Hideaki Anno's Godzilla is a ruthless force of nature, death personified that leaves a trail of destruction and levels the heart of Tokyo in mere moments when pushed. Bureaucracy is the real enemy here, as the film constantly switches from meeting to meeting to planning session and back to another meeting to discuss the results of that planning session--sure, Godzilla's blowing stuff up, but nobody wants to take responsibility and act. I hope Anno gets another shot at the King, because this was fantastic.
The VVitch- Low-key, creeping horror can be very hit or miss, but The VVitch wins by never letting you settle down or feel safe. Spot-on period presentation brings us into an American colonial family banished to the frontier for being too religious for settlement life, and how their fanaticism is just as destructive as the dark forces that are literally at their doorstep.
Baskin- On the other hand, Baskin just goes all-out in its ferocity and surreal visuals, where five overly-macho cops investigate a cult and all hell breaks loose. Baskin is horror purity, almost like watching David Lynch join forces with Gareth Huw Evans--hold on tight, this one is absolutely not for the faint of heart.
Batman vol. 2 (The New 52)- Western comics rarely end, or at least they very rarely have good stopping points, which is why I was so satisfied with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's New 52 run on Batman. From introducing new villains to really focusing on Batman's relationships with Alfred and Jim Gordon, this 50-issue run came to a close this year with an awesome, gigantic kaiju battle in the middle of Gotham. What's best, you barely need any background character knowledge to get started--just pick up Court of Owls and read all the way through to Superheavy. It's so damn good.
Monstress- Gorgeous, mysterious, and part of an intricate and sometimes terrifying world, Monstress has me hooked. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda have crafted something that I try and show off every chance I get, something I want everyone to be a part of--a fantasy-horror story of revenge and intrigue set in an Asian-mythology-inspired world is just too good to pass up, especially when it looks this good.
Fanart Friday comes to an end- After five years, I decided to close down my signature Crunchyroll column so I could focus on other projects. Fanart Friday - The Final Edition came on September 23, 2016, the exact fifth birthday of Fanart Friday, and it was great to say goodbye to the audience that was there every Friday for a half a decade. What's coming up next? Shaw City Strikers, a martial arts comic (and homage to shonen manga) I'm working on with some friends, and my new column BETTER NATE THAN NEVER. Stay tuned!
That one tweet- It's nice to see this tweet still making the rounds. The initial explosion was a sight to behold--it just goes to show that 1) being in the right place at the right time is a real thing and 2) you know you've made good content when people brazenly steal it and claim it as their own. Also, 3) you know you did a good thing when it makes actual Nazis mad.
PETER FOBIAN (@PeterFobian)
Crunchyroll x Funimation- My personal favorite anime couple of 2016. The partnership between Crunchyroll and Funimation may just be the biggest news for western anime fans since Crunchyroll itself appeared. It’s one of those “everyone wins” situations that’s almost unbelievable. More free streaming anime, subbed and dubbed, for everyone.
Westworld- I’m a die-hard Anthony Hopkins fan, love westerns, and love love love psychological thrillers with existential implications, so basically Westworld was made specifically for me and me alone. I’m extremely concerned with the direction the story is taking with the finale, but everything this season has been tremendous. Their use of a hybrid maintenance process/psychological evaluation to drive story is inspired.
Monstress- I have a love/hate relationship with American comics, and often take refuge in independent works. Monstress has me more excited about a Western comic than I have been since I started reading Powers. The world, designs, and style alone are so gorgeous I feel like I bought an art book, and the story holds a lot of promise with a supernatural revenge mystery with a predominantly female cast and divine implications.
Netflix Horror Serials: Stranger Things, Penny Dreadful, Hemlock Grove, Black Mirror- I’m not exactly a horror junky, but I’ve definitely spent a lot of time with the genre and couldn’t be happier about Netflix Originals diving in. After years of sitcoms, procedurals, and conspiracy shows dominating the environment it’s great to see some new blood (usually a lot of it) making its way out of cinema and into more available media. Not all of them are revolutionary works of art but they’re bringing in new ideas.
Captain America: Civil War- Like almost everyone, I’m a fan of the Marvel movies and feel like the Avengers movies turned over a new leaf with Civil War. Where previously they were the campier, less-directed collaborations of the more interesting personal narratives of the heroes solo adventures, Civil War was just right, reigning in the theatrics of Age of Ultron with a much tighter, character-driven story. I’m eager to see what the Russo brothers do with the MCU.
KARA DENNISON (@RubyCosmos)
Working in the Crunchyroll Newsroom!- I've worked as a subtitle editor/QCer for Crunchyroll's anime side for a while now, but this year I made the switch to the newsroom and it's some of the most fun I've had in ages. The people I'm working with are awesome (and a couple are old friends) and our chats throughout the day are both informative and hilarious. And hey, I can put on my resume that I've written about Tezuka's mouse porn.
(Re)Generation Who- This was my second year working with this awesome Doctor Who convention, and I was so pleased to be back with them again in Baltimore. I got to meet Peter Davison, Anneke Wills, Michael Troughton, and so many others who made the weekend amazing (not to mention re-meeting Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, and even more). Hanging out with them -- whether during an interview or at the bar -- is a delight and a privilege, and I can't wait to see what year 3 will be like!
SPACE.- Curiosity's 360 view of Mars posted as an interactive Facebook video. Watching the Pegasus XL rocket launch live. And the fact that the rest of the world is enthusiastic about it. I'm a big space geek and I always love finding more big space geeks. The fact that the majority of the people I encounter are just as ready to freak out about how awesome space is as I am is... well, AWESOME.
EVAN MINTO (@VamptVo)
Chapo Trap House- In the US, politics defined 2016, for obvious reasons. And for many like me on the left side of the spectrum, the political comedy podcast Chapo Trap House has served as an unexpected but welcome guide through the past year. But don’t let me get TOO sincere on you; the hosts have got a penchant for the ironic and absurd, as you might expect from a podcast named after a drug cartel that started off with analysis of pundits’ sexual pathologies and satirical praise for the Turkish deep state. Then again, between the brilliant comedy, they’ve inspired a lot of listeners like myself to get more involved in local politics, a feat that’s likely as baffling to them as it is to the political establishment they love to hate.
Zootopia- Who would have thought a talking animal Disney movie would steal the hearts of jaded adults like me in 2016? On charm alone, Zootopia is one of my favorite American animated movies of recent years, with its carefully observed and animated animal behavior. The diverse cast of animals allows the animators to portray a similarly diverse range of exaggerated personalities — the tiny, timid rabbit, the brawny, surly bison—and the breezy script puts them all to brilliant comedic effect. But what really impressed me was Zootopia’s social commentary, which uses a mess of stereotypes of both predators and prey to shine a surprisingly stark light on real-world issues of race relations and criminal justice. It’s classic Disney meets contemporary Disney!
Captain America: Civil War- I’ve got a bad case of Marvel fatigue (you’ll notice Doctor Strange didn’t make my list), but sometimes the Marvel Cinematic Universe still surprises me. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, back after the previous high point of the film series, The Winter Soldier, deliver a similarly gray portrait of the Avengers, with the character flaws of the famed superheroes laid bare. It’s not as political as I would have liked, but Civil War is a surprisingly personal film with a deliberately unsatisfying, morally ambiguous finale. And yes, though he feels like a bit of an afterthought, the movie also has the greatest on-screen Spider-Man yet. Homecoming couldn’t come any sooner.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story- We’re just one year into the new annual schedule of Star Wars movies, so I can still muster some excitement about Disney’s reimagining of one of my all-time favorite franchises. Rogue One stumbles a bit at the beginning, introducing too many characters and planets without justifying their presence, but once the team comes together and heads off to steal the Death Star plans, the movie really kicks into gear. Seeing a classic Return of the Jedi-style space battle is enough to awaken some strong nostalgia even from me, but it’s the thematic resonance with the later films that really makes it all work — the forgotten art of the force, the Rebels’ desperation in the face of the Empire, and of course, the sheer terror of facing Darth Vader.
SAM WOLFE (@_Samtaro)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story- Despite the release of The Force Awakens last year, Disney has already released a new Star Wars movie this year, and it’s a breed apart from what we’re traditionally used to. Rogue One took risks, and while some die-hard fans may have left the theater conflicted, the movie succeeded in exploring a side of the Star Wars universe never before seen on the big screen. This is the first time in history that two Star Wars movies have been released theatrically in two years consecutively, and although some fear that the brand might suffer from overexposure, it certainly hasn’t gotten stale yet.
Chris Niosi- A smaller story, but one that deserves recognition. Artist Chris Niosi, better known as “Kirbopher”, landed the role of Arataka Reigen in the English dub of Mob Psycho 100 this year. Niosi is known for numerous projects, including animation work on Skullgirls, lending his voice to several shows, and creating the web series TOME, a love letter to anime. This role, in my opinion, is significant because it cements Chris as an anime fan who made his dream of being an anime voice actor. Way to go, Chris.
A Personal Note- Look, 2016 was a rough year for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Without trying to sound too preachy, as we move into 2017, remember to be kind to one another. It’s very easy, and dare I say it, trendy, to be cynical and apathetic when the chips are down. Take time to recognize what you have to be happy about, and how you can make a positive difference in peoples’ lives around you. If anime has taught us anything, it’s that when somebody knocks you down, you stand right back up and look ‘em in the eyes. I hope everybody has a good 2017!
NICK CREAMER (@B0bduh)
Italy- I took a family trip to Italy this past spring, and visions of Venice’s nestled alleyways and Tuscany’s rolling hills have been dancing through my head ever since. The rural European aesthetic of shows like Kino’s Journey and Haibane Renmei has always been one of my favorite settings, and actually walking through cities that realized those majestic worlds felt like wandering through a dream. It was an inspiring trip, and I hope to one day return.
Westworld- I haven’t really been making enough time for the big western TV dramas, but I was able to catch this year’s Westworld, and I’m glad I did. Though I found the show’s focus on mysteries at the expense of all else a little draining, the fundamental world it established was a fascinating place, and the show built up to some remarkable dramatic high points. It’s the kind of messy but ambitious narrative I always tend to root for, and the fact that it was populated by icons like Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris certainly didn’t hurt, either.
The VVitch- I’d actually almost forgotten The VVitch came out this year, but it was likely the most gripping new film I’ve seen. In lieu of jump scares or gross-out violence, The VVitch constructed a breathing world that promised danger around every turn, where the fear and distrust of its human characters was every bit as terrifying as its supernatural predators. There’s something fundamentally ominous about the New England countryside - a sense of old secrets and old grudges, a place where humans are not meant to tread. By emphasizing the alien danger of the natural world and tethering it to a precise and claustrophobic moment in history, The VVitch stands as one of the most powerful horror films in years.
EMILY BUSHMAN (@yumpenguinsnack)
Personal Favorite Anime Food of 2016: Mushroom and Cheese Gyoza from Food Wars- This dish never made an anime appearance in this season of Food Wars! but, having read the manga, I really wanted to try this dish out. Soma teaches the gyoza folding method to a class of kids he's teaching, and he lets them fill the gyoza with whatever they want. One kid picked mushrooms and cheese, which at first seemed weird but in hindsight obviously worked out well. Chop the cheese and mushrooms finely and toss with some sauteed onion. Mix with salt and pepper. And simply wrap in gyoza wrappers. It's simple, it's fun to make with friends or on your own, and holy cow, is it amazing! Best of all, the ingredients are easily interchangeable with your own personal favorites, so it's a great recipe to experiment with. I told my housemates that they could eat all the extras I'd made...and sadly had nothing to show after an hour in the kitchen. I'd eaten them all.
Fan-favorite Anime Food of 2016: Katsu Pirohzki from Yuri!! On ICE- This was a big surprise for me. First of all, it's not the easiest thing to make at all. It requires a lot of focus, lots of parts working together, and an ability to handle sticky dough, in excess. Second, it wasn't actually all that amazing tasting. It's an extremely hearty dish, like a lot of Russian foods, and left me feeling over-full after eating one. I also found that I had to dip it in a sauce to heighten the flavor pay-off. For a recipe designer, the ideal is to have a perfectly seasoned, delicious dish, which isn't exactly what happened. But the story behind the dish makes it all worth it, in my opinion. Who would have guessed that this show would be so popular? I love the character dynamics, and the plot was just charming. Best of all, it inspired lots of people to try making this dish, to recreate the magic for themselves. I got more hits on this recipe than anything else this year on Crunchyroll, which is why I designated it the fan-favorite dish of the year.
Magical Roommate Favorite Anime Food of 2016: Sukiyaki from Princess Jellyfish- My roommate, Sarah, is my savior in times of crisis. When I have too much food, she always helps me eat it without a single complaint. So, I felt it was only right to give her a chance to choose her favorite recipe of the year. Princess Jellyfish is by no means a 2016 original, but I came across the recipe for this dish late 2016, and made it for my friends. We all love this show, and had all watched it together when it aired a few years ago. So, I had a hunch they'd enjoy a recipe from the anime, and I was right. It was an instant hit! My darling roommate, who I depend on to eat basically everything I make, elected this as her favorite dish of the year. According to her: "I like it cuz it was just as good as the one we had in Japan and I liked how interactive it was with not only the food but with our friends. I loved the veggies just as much as the meat and the sauce was to die for. It was super fun to eat with everyone and compete for the food with our friends."
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab- A brilliant sequel to a fantastic first book. The story focuses on a guy named Kell, one of the few remaining members of his kind of magic wielders, and his struggle to protect his adopted family from harm while also living free of their over-bearing protection. Along the way he makes friends with a cut throat thief who keeps him alive, mostly to suit her own desires, a prince who's too good at heart for his own good, and a dashingly dangerous ship's captain who's in the business for the keeping and collection of the deepest and darkest of secrets. I was startled to find that this book not only added onto the world building of the first novel, but did so in a way that skillfully integrated the events of the first book into the second. A heart-wrenching and gut-clasping read the entire way through. The first book in the series is called A Darker Shade of Magic. Not 100% necessary to enjoy the sequel, but it would definitely help.
Morning Star by Pierce Brown- A great cap to a fantastic space opera-y series. This story follows the life of one man, Darrow, and his quest to overthrow a government that takes care of the best of society at the expense of a those considered the lowest. Racism at its worst. What else is new in a sci-fi novel? It's a familiar plot carried out with the elegance and grace of a particularly dangerous chess game. This book takes no prisoners, cuts your throat, and leaves you to die. And while you're busy trying to return from the dead, it carries on carving a savage path of friends loved and lost, lives risked and gambled away, dirty, secret games played in the dark, and an ending that eviscerates you, heart and soul. The first in the series is called Red Rising. I recommend you start there, unless you like working your way backwards.
And that's a wrap for our three-part series! Be sure to check out Part One and Part Two if you missed them! If you're still in the mood for past CR Favorites, check out the previous years' features here:
What were your favorite "everything elses" of 2016? Remember, this is a FAVORITES list, not a BEST OF list, so there's no wrong answers--sound off in the comments and share your favorites with us!
Nate Ming is the Features and Reviews Editor for Crunchyroll News, creator of the long-running Fanart Friday column, and the Customer Support Lead for Crunchyroll. You can follow him on Twitter at @NateMing.