It’d be foolish to pretend that 2020 hasn’t been without hardship or undesired changes across the board. Nonetheless, as the saying goes, the show must go on. The same’s true for J-List. As bad as the year was, it wasn’t without its silver linings.
As we welcome 2021 with open arms, let’s take a look back at some of the works and topics that have been covered over the past 12 months. If nothing else, it’s a pleasant reminder that it’s not all doom and gloom.
Foreign Homages to Anime
The global impact of Japanese pop culture may be a no-brainer by now, yet just as fascinating is how it has inspired various countries to produce their own homages to anime and manga in the past twenty years. That being said, the results haven’t always been so successful.
Not every attempt at an anime homage has been successful, as seen with infamous Latin American blunder Bolivar el Héroe. Circa 2003. (Source: YouTube)
Works like the Indonesian film Beauty and Warrior (2000) have gone down in infamy as memes on YouTube for how they failed to capture anime aesthetics properly. You also have Bolivar el Héroe (2003), which is so bad that outside of Latin American circles, it’d be hard to believe that this “homage” got a theatrical release at all. Meanwhile, series such as the Filipino-Japanese production Barangay 143 (2018-19) showcase how, birth-pains and all, other cultures can successfully pull it off.
As seen with works like the Filipino-Japanese Barangay 143, it’s by no means impossible to capture the spirit of Japanese works while still retaining a distinct identity. Circa 2019. (Source: YouTube)
By no means are these the only examples out there. Yet for good or ill, they’re indicative of just how far otakudom has come internationally in the past two decades, even where you’d least expect.
The past can feel like a strange country, especially once you go past the proverbial nostalgia filter. Chances are, you’d find some hidden gems that have sadly been neglected. Other times, however, you’re reminded why the “good old days” aren’t as good as they’re remembered for. The past 20 years alone are more than insightful in that regard.
True, there’s dreck on par with Master of Martial Hearts (2008-09), failing both in “subverting expectations” and fanservice. At the same time, some entries of familiar franchises and creators hold up after many years, be it Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa (2005), or Makoto Shinkai’s 5 Centimeters per Second (2007). That’s not even getting to now-timeless classics like the late Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers (2003), or how so-called “disasters” such as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) have been vindicated to some degree in the past few years.
As derided as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was at its release, it’s easy to forget how groundbreaking the film turned out to be in hindsight. Even more remarkable is how the aesthetics also helped inspire the Mass Effect franchise. (Source: YouTube)
Looking back in time with fresh eyes can give you a chance to see just how anime and manga have evolved, and in some respects remained the same, over the years. If anything, 2020 gave us more time than ever to enjoy watching anime.
Gundams and Other Surprises
We’ve covered more than a few entries in the long-running Gundam franchise throughout 2020. Whether it be the myriad video games that have never left Japanese shores, the voluminous expanded universe, infamous Western blunders, or the recently completed moving statue in Yokohama, you’d find that the Gundam franchise is still highly popular.
Speaking of surprises, we’ve also seen some unexpected, yet pleasant developments. Despite the continuing impact of COVID-19, Demon Slayer the Movie: Mugen Train (2020) has not only broken domestic box office records on its opening weekend, but has recently overtaken Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001) as Japan’s highest-grossing film ever. Meanwhile, the seemingly long-dormant Axis Powers Hetalia has resurfaced, following news of a new season and manga volume in the works, all in time for the new year.
The trailer for the upcoming Hetalia season not only signifies the return of a seemingly moribund franchise, but also introduces several new personified countries, such as Portugal, Czechia (The Czech Republic), and Slovakia. (Source: YouTube)
These in and of themselves don’t upstage less positive news, be it censorship of anime and manga in Australia or the cancellation of all physical Comiket events for the year. Regardless, it remains comforting to know that there’s always a silver lining, even in less than happy times.
Here’s hoping for better days in 2021. Until then, stay safe and Happy Holidays!