All The Things I Enjoyed This Year

For such a terrible year, we got a lot of good things out of 2017. Good movies, good TV and one of the best years for games we've seen this generation. As far as things I've sat in front of and consumed, I can't really complain about 2017 at all.

We've already seen some of our publisher Mark Serrels' favourite things, and Lifehacker's Jackson Ryan's. Here are some of my own.


TV

Bojack Horseman Season 4

It seems almost impossible for an animated series on its fourth season to be going this strong. I sat down in front of Bojack's fourth season expecting to be at least a little bit disappointed after the incredible season three, but it continued to deliver episode after episode of emotional ruin.

At this point Bojack is one of the only shows I trust to cover as many deep and complex issues as it does, while still being, you know, a hilarious TV show about a talking sitcom horse. It's relatable not in the pop style of Buzzfeed "things 90s kids will remember" listicles, but in the talent it has for depicting the inner struggles and trauma that make us all human (or, I guess, horse).

This season Bojack covered everything from family trauma to political process, while still laboring under the crushing specter of depression and the different ways it rears its ugly head. Diane's journey as a blogger was all too real (we're no Girl Croosh but that top stories chart is definitely a thing).

Season four wasn't all bleak, thankfully. Through Todd's journey it became one of the first pieces of major media content to openly identify one of its characters as asexual -- and then go beyond that label to examine some of what the experience of asexuality is actually like. As one of the lesser known and understood branches of the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, it was a huge step forward in representation.

If you haven't checked out the series yet, you need to. Bojack Horseman isn't just good comedy, or good TV, it's important. It uses its odd cartoon animal-populated world to get to the heart of what it means to be human, and even four seasons in it's still going strong.

I also liked... The Expanse Season 2, Stranger Things Season 2, Big Mouth


Video Games

Horizon Zero Dawn

How does a game stick so closely to the standard AAA action game formula yet still feel so fresh and interesting? Out of all the best games of the year, Horizon is the least original of all of them, but in being so proves games don't have to be novel to be good. You don't need a gimmick or a twist or some fancy new form of gameplay. All you need are strong characters, an engaging story, some kickass combat and an open world that inspires virtual wanderlust.

To me, Horizon is the first open world game that has successfully balanced its story and world elements. It draws you into Aloy's story from the beginning, gives you enough to get you invested in the character and the stakes, and then releases you into the world to explore. You roam the world for a while before coming back into the midgame story beats, and then it's time to conquer the rest of the wide open plains, mountains and jungle before you're gently gathered back up into the masterfully tense endgame quests.

Aloy is a triumph in a world where strong female leads are still rarely allowed to exist outside of an impractically sexy outfit or a shoehorned romantic plot.

Horizon is also one of the first games where I legitimately enjoyed the combat. I'm fond of a good shooter or hack'n'slash but I'm not usually the type to seek out combat where it's not compulsory. With Horizon, all that changed. I found myself seeking out overpowered monsters to hunt, just to try out a new ammo type or test a new combination of weapons and tools.

In most games I'm the sort of person to find one weapon I like, upgrade it to the max and then never use anything else again. In Horizon, I think I used almost every weapon on a regular basis, switching out between them all to set traps, adjust strategy and take down some huge machines.

I didn't even include a music section in this article because, surprise surprise, the album I listened to most this year was the Horizon Zero Dawn soundtrack. It's one of those rare games where the music, gameplay, visuals and story all just come together to make one beautiful whole. BRB, I'm gonna go start my third playthrough.

I also liked... Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, Metroid: Samus Returns


Comic Books

Monstress Volume 2

Monstress wasn't the comic that got me into comics (that was, unsurprisingly, Saga). But it was the comic that got my mum into comics. That's how good (and different) it is.

One of the best fantasy comic series around, Monstress tells a story of ancient magic and eldritch creatures, factional wars and racism, slavery and religious fanaticism.

It's the kind of thing I would love in a novel, but the lush and intricate art from Sana Takeda tells the story and builds Monstress's world in a way no novel ever could. Every single character is a cosplayer's dream.

Like most things I enjoy, Monstress is full of interesting female characters -- running the spectrum from problematic heroes and helpful side characters to devious villains and uncertain allies. With the series being both written and drawn by women, it just goes to show what great results come from supporting diverse creators.

The main character Maika is gruff yet strangely likeable as she struggles with her literal inner demons, fundamentally flawed in a way that only makes her feel more real.

Known as the Halfwolf, Maika exists somewhere between the two factions in the story -- the humans and the animal-resembling arcanics -- but can never be fully accepted by either. She looks too human for the arcanics to accept, but the humans see anything with even a drop of arcanic blood as 'other'.

While the 'fantasy racism' theme can often be heavy handed and poorly done, in Monstress it is well-handled, influenced by writer Marjorie Liu's experience of growing up mixed-race.

I also liked... Saga Vol. 7, Paper Girls


Movies

The Last Jedi

I was all ready to write a stirring paragraph about how Logan was my favourite movie of 2017 and how it helped redefine what a superhero movie could be -- and then The Last Jedi came and blew it out of the water. Sorry, Logan. The reasons I liked it, however, were largely the same.

The latest installment in the Star Wars saga has been strangely polarising, but many of the things others hated about it contributed to making The Last Jedi my favourite film of the year, not to mention one of my favourite Star Wars films.

In a trilogy that had already taken steps towards the predictable and formulaic, The Last Jedi wasn't afraid to break that down and redefine what we think of as a Star Wars film. I won't go into spoilers (you can read my extended thoughts here) but suffice to say the film was straight-up enjoyable to watch, and stayed with me long after viewing as I mulled over all the different plot points and what they meant for characters new and old.

After I found Rey so disappointing in The Force Awakens, I was thrilled to be given a movie that got me interested in her character and made me root for her like I wanted to be doing from the start. Plain and simple The Last Jedi made me excited about Star Wars again. When's the novelisation coming out?

I also liked... Logan, Annabelle: Creation


What did you like this year? Tell us all your favourite things in the comments below!


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