As 2020 explodes onto the scene in dazzling shades of media chaos, I was worried that I wouldn’t have time to go back and reflect on 2019. I don’t watch a lot of shows, and if you’ve listened to any of the podcasts that I’ve been on, you’ll know it’s because I don’t like how high risk they are. Whenever I get attached to a character or story arc, the show inevitably gets cancelled. I used to think I was safe from that by tuning into things on Netflix and other streaming services, but even they’ve gotten into the business of cancelling things, these days. On a positive note, at least things on streaming services get the chance to end properly (whether by short order season or film). That being said, with so many streaming services to choose from and so many things to watch, I suppose I’ve been avoiding shows because I feel overwhelmed by how many are out there. That being said, here is my very short list of things I watched this year. They’re not in any particular order, and some of them aren’t from 2019.
1. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans (Season 1)
I may not have time to watch many shows, but I always have time to watch anything relating to Gundam. If you ever wondered how Gundam has remained relevant in the forty years since its conception, give Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans a view. Not only is it full of action and beautifully animated, it hits a lot of themes worthy of discussion. The sins of the fathers inherited by the sons . . . do we inherit the wars and destruction of those who came before us? This show attempts to answer that question and so much more. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphan Seasons 1 and 2 are now available to stream on Netflix.
2. The Magicians (Season 3)
The Magicians is one of those rare shows that makes you glad you waited to watch it on a streaming service instead of on network television. I don’t mean that in a “I have to binge this” type of way. I mean you will be grateful for the ability to go back and watch certain things multiple times. Believe me when I say that The Magicians is full of those WTF moments that will leave you questioning if what you just saw actually happened. Don’t let people tell you that this is a Harry Potter knock-off. It’s far from it. The Magicians is streaming on Netflix, and you don’t want to miss it.
3. Kuromukuro (Season 1)
Good anime is a very subjective concept, in that its all in the eye of the beholder. Whenever people tell me I need to watch one, I usually just smile, nod, and never think about it again. Kuromukuro wasn’t recommended to me by a person, but instead by Netflix. After watching Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, Netflix thought I would enjoy Kuromukuro, and they were right. No, it’s not what I would call “good anime,” but it entertains and puts a twist on the mech genre that I keep going back to time and time again, because . . . let’s be honest, giant robots fighting other giant robots is awesome.
4. The Punisher (Season 2)
I know what you’re thinking . . . it’s starting to look like I only watch things on Netflix. That’s only half true . . . or mostly true. When I heard that the Marvel shows on Netflix were being cancelled, I remembered why I don’t like shows. Despite that, I still tuned into The Punisher‘s second season, and I was really glad I did. There were some things I wasn’t fond of, but the things I did enjoy far outweighed everything else. If the rumors are true, and Kevin Feige really is bringing the Netflix versions of Daredevil and The Punisher into the main MCU, a lot of people are going to be very happy.
5. Outlaw Star
It’s sad how the world feels so big and full of possibilities when we’re young, only to fade into an infinite loop of melancholy and sadness as we grow up and lose access to our imaginations. Nothing I’ve watched as an adult has had as much of an impact on me as Outlaw Star. Yes, I’ve seen it before. It was my favorite cartoon as a kid. I remember getting home from school and seeing it on Toonami. I loved it so much, my parents would set our VCR to record the unedited episodes on Toonami’s midnight run. Every time I watch this, it feels like the first time. With everything going on in my life last year, watching this again was like a breath of fresh air. The world has felt so small this year, but Jean Starwind and crew have done an excellent job of making it feel big again. We might never get a second season, but this show almost feels perfect just the way it is.
6. The Umbrella Academy
In a world where super heroes run rampant through every part of mainstream culture, The Umbrella Academy was a welcomed change to a genre without consequences. Where mainstream super hero films show only minor personal struggles with their heroes, The Umbrella Academy opens the box and dumps it all over the table. Netflix has brought Gerard Way’s comic book to life with vivid action, relatable monsters, and enough super drama to keep you watching every episode.
7. Kuromukuro (Season 2)
You have to look at the episode numbers carefully on Netflix anime. Kuromukuro is a series that packs a punch and makes you want to keep watching, no matter how many seasons are made. Even after a second season, I find myself wanting more. Season 2 ends on a cliffhanger, and my only hope is that Kuromukuro doesn’t disappear like Knights of Sidonia and becomes just one more reason I don’t watch many shows.
8. The Grand Tour (Season 3)
When it comes to car shows, The Grand Tour is second to none. Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond are back, and they hold nothing back in the third season of their Amazon Prime original show. From the streets of New York to the endless roads of China, season three of The Grand Tour has all of the car mayhem of the classic Top Gear episodes and laughs that can only be delivered by the trio who put the show on the map.
9. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans (Season 2)
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans finishes the series on a strong note. The tragic ending feels appropriate for a show with such heavy themes. While it doesn’t exactly leave things open for another season, one can only hope to see the return of Gundam Barbatos and the loved ones left behind by its pilot.
10. Russell Brand: Rebirth
I’m not sure if this counts as a show or a film or none of the above, but it was something I watched in 2019, and it was something I enjoyed. I’ll be honest, Russell Brand’s humor is something of a more intelligent nature, and when you mix that with his heavy accent, Re:Birth isn’t a stand-up comedy special for everybody. I had to watch it twice before some of the jokes landed, but when they landed, I laughed for hours after the credits rolled. If you’re a fan of Russell Brand, this is definitely worth your time.
11. Gundam Wing
Is there such a thing as too much Gundam? I don’t think so. Gundam Wing is another gem from my childhood that I went back to this past year. While some it felt a little stale in 2019, its characters were still fun to watch, and the mech battles made me miss my childhood. Wing Zero’s custom remodel from Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz is still my favorite mech of all time, and the model I have of it on my bookshelf reminds me why Gundam Wing is such an important series to me.
12. Game of Thrones (Season 8)
I feel like this one has been talked about to death. Game of Thrones‘ eighth season is legendary in the fact that nobody enjoyed the conclusion of the show, not even the people in it. Film snobs will defend it to the bitter end, but let’s be honest, nobody got what they wanted out of it. It was like a medieval version of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The build up was okay, but the finale felt lazy. Now I’m sounding like a film snob. Fight me in the comments.
13. The Big O (Season 1)
The Big O is another series from the Toonami of old. It’s also one that I never got around to finishing until I stumbled upon the box set at the Lvl Up Expo in Las Vegas last year. The Big O is not an anime for the simple minded. It’s an anime that takes a lot of thought to understand. What happens when an entire city looses their memory? Does civilization just rebuild? Do we form tribes? Or do we just fall in line? The Big O tackles these questions and so many more. It also has a lot of giant robot battles.
14. Stranger Things (Season 3)
I feel like I was the only person who felt let down by the second season of Stranger Things, which is why I thought season 3 was so amazing. The indie undertones that dominated the second season were brought full circle in season 3, completing story arcs that were left unexplored. Eleven’s development into the butt kicking, demi-gorgon destroyer comes full circle, and David Harbour’s performance as Hopper is a definite high point. But what I loved most about this season was the setting. I wasn’t alive in the early ’80s, but I do remember the shopping mall culture of the ’90s, and I loved every minute spent in the Starcourt Mall. Both the actors and writers have stated that Stranger Things probably won’t continue past season 5, and we’re getting close. So let’s hope that it ends on the high note that Game of Thrones didn’t.
Fun fact, the the voice of Trigun‘s Vash the Stampede is done by Johnny Young Bosch, who also played the second Black Ranger in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He also does the voice of Nero in Devil May Cry. Yes, none of this has anything to do with Trigun, but I don’t need to sing this show’s praises to tell you how great it is. Trigun is – in my humble opinion – the greatest anime ever made. This futuristic western is a hybrid of everything that made early anime great. I can’t recommend it enough. Watch it. Do it. You won’t regret it.
16. Westworld (Season 2)
Robots and nudity or is it nudity and robots, I forget the order of importance in Westworld‘s second season. After a phenomenal first season, Westworld‘s second season feels a little lackluster. Characters that were once interesting and full of depth have become shallow and violent. I did love the exploration of the different parks, and it was cool to see the Wild West meet the feudal era of Japan, but with all of the complexities of Westworld, they’ve opened a lot of boxes that I don’t think even the writers know how to the close.
17. The Big O (Season 2)
The Big O is like an anime version of Batman, but instead of the protagonist pulling boomerangs out of his butt, Roger drives a giant robot, and it’s the coolest giant robot to ever grace your television screen. The second season of The Big O takes the show to its conclusion, and all I can say about it that it’s cool, like good jazz on a warm summer night.
18. The Boys
What happens when you mix the gritty cinematography of the DCEU with extreme violence, corporate intervention, religion, and plenty of Spice Girl references? You get Amazon Prime’s The Boys. This show is . . . well it’s something. It’s something amazing that has something for everybody. If the Justice League spent less time fighting super villains and more time giving into the corruption that would inevitably come with being a corporate super hero team, it would look a little like this. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, The Boys explores the darker side of being a super hero and truly dives into that old saying that not all heroes wear capes.
19. InuYasha (Season 7)
I started this show when I was eight years old, and I am finally getting around to finishing it as a thirty-one year old man. That either says a lot about a show standing the test of time or a lot about how uninteresting it is. In either case, I watched season 7 of InuYasha, and it was more of the same. They’re still hunting Naraku, Sesshomaro is still a dick, and InuYasha can still taking down giant demons but is awful at talking to women. InuYasha is an anime, that’s for sure. Will I ever get around to watching the last season? Maybe sometime in the next ten years.
20. Carnival Row
Ever since Game of Thrones ended, there’s been a lot of talk about what would fill the fantasy void left behind. I’m not so sure Game of Thrones even filled that void. If anything, it was made worse by that ending. Carnival Row, on the other hand, might not exist on the epic scale that Game of Thrones did, but it’s one of the most interesting shows I’ve seen in a long time. Not only is it full of fantasy elements, but there’s a Sherlock Holmes vibe to it that keeps you on the edge of your seat. As for the acting, Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne are absolutely amazing . . . and I don’t use that term lightly. They own their parts in a way that I haven’t seen on many shows, ever.
21. Dragonball (Season 1)
It took watching this show as an adult to wonder why my parents ever let me watch it as a kid. Dragonball is a completely different animal from the shows that followed. I don’t mean that in terms of pacing and action. I mean that in terms of content and how appropriate it is for anybody below the age of eighteen. Granted, it’s all pretty harmless compared to most adult humor, but it certainly isn’t something that you should show kids. There’s nudity, crotch-patting, sex jokes, and plenty of adult innuendos. It’s like Spongebob, but aware of itself. Despite all of this, Dragonball is still a fun show with plenty of heart.
22. 24 Hours to Hell and Back
This sounds incredibly sad, but there’s nothing more relaxing to me than seeing Gordon Ramsey yell at somebody for having a disgusting kitchen. When he starts throwing f-bombs around at people who haven’t cleaned their kitchens in three months, I feel like I can really back up his passion . . . despite the fact that my kitchen has never been cleaned . . . ever. As a huge fan of Kitchen Nightmares and Hotel Hell, I can tell you that this is definitely worth the hour a week it’s on.
23. Star Wars: The Mandalorian
I have three episodes left to watch of this show, but after seeing Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, I haven’t quite been able to bring myself to finishing it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like the show. I’m just still trying to get over my disappointment in the latest Star Wars film. That being said, I did just start playing Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on Xbox One, and I am absolutely loving it. So it’s possible it will restore my faith in Star Wars . . . maybe.
24. The Witcher
The Witcher isn’t mean to be a comedy, but there’s something incredibly funny about it. Whether it’s the comical moments (or well placed swear words) in a really dark world or the dry personality of Geralt of Rivia (played by Henry Cavil), there’s something really endearing about The Witcher. This is the first show in a long time that I have been truly excited about watching each episode. I have enjoyed every moment in this world, and it pains me to know that we won’t get new episodes until 2021.