Look, I’ll get around to my usual Top Five Games list probably next week since I’m now finally making headway in my backlog, and I might have enough material to do a Top Five Anime list, but for now I’m focusing on the best media I missed the first time around in 2015, because FUCK 2016.
Fuck this goddammed year. Fuck the past 52 weeks of never-ending misery, hatred, depression, and the erosion of the human spirit and all that feels good and worth living for in the world. In spite of what I know, I pray for 2017 to be just the little bit better, even though the mistakes we all made in the past 12 months are probably going to start biting us where it hurts starting next month. I won’t give this hateful year the satisfaction knowing I found a few good things in it, which is partly why I’m holding off on my lists until later, and why I’m looking back at last year: the outstanding year that was 2015.
Looking back on it, 2015 was an amazing year, and not just by comparison. Games, movies, anime; hell, even pop music was better. There was so much good shit, that I of course missed out on a few gems here and there, so I figured it’d be a good a time as any to list the best of what I missed. And with that said:
Best Missed Music: DEATH MAGIC by HEALTH
If you want the pop music I missed the first time around, go watch Todd in the Shadow’s best of 2015 list, since nearly all of it had music I ended up loving, after missing it for a year (with my personal standouts being The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”, Major Lazer & DJ Snake’s “Lean On”, and Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You”). As for music I found on my own, “Stressed Out” was a certain contender (yup, that came out back in 2015), as did “King Kunta” (yes, I’m slightly ashamed it took me this long to get into Kendrick Lamar. Only slightly, though; some things need time to age to perfection), but the one album I really got into was HEALTH’s third album, DEATH MAGIC.
The last time I heard these guys was the Max Payne 3 soundtrack, one of the few truly good things of a heavily flawed game. They did a rather good job, giving the game an rather fitting sound that I’d best describe as heavy-techno, as opposed/compared to DOOM’s tech-death metal, if that makes sense. DEATH MAGIC is unsettling good for the usually difficult third album, and the two standouts in it are “MEN TODAY”, and “STONEFIST”, the latter of which is probably what it sounds like when The Thing gets into a barroom brawl with The Hulk.
(Even by musical standards) it’s loud, sounds violent, and has a fair share of somewhat disturbing music videos to go along with it, but HEALTH has found their way into my playlists just through sheer raw oomph and power. Almost makes me wish for a Max Payne 4, just for another soundtrack with them at the helm.
Best Missed Show: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I’m not the biggest fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I love the original Iron Man, and I have soft spots for Captain America: The First Avenger and even The Incredible Hulk, but aside from its earliest entries, the MCU right now is kind of disappointing. It now produces films that are alright, but unsurprising, which is actually worse than bad in my opinion. Some have good soundtracks (Guardians of the Galaxy), fun 3D (Doctor Strange), but nothing groundbreaking, not like Donner’s Superman, The Dark Knight, Raimi’s Spiderman series, or even Fox’s X-men series (for the most part). Even Suicide Squad is more interesting: it’s not a good movie by any stretch, but its sheer, unabashed attempt to be a superhero exploitation flick at least makes it memorable, so much so that even DVD sales of it have been better than expected.
Even Captain America: Civil War didn’t do much for me, aside from give me hope that Black Panther might break the MCU’s meh streak (and annoy the racists that’ve taken so much from us. Actually, that should be everyone’s goal for the next four years: ridicule and annoy the worst of humanity, and sweet jesus start voting again, from midterm elections to friggin council seats). But while the movies are uninteresting, the MCU does have one ace up its sleeve: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Netflix finally got the first two seasons last year, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. My heart is still firmly with the CWDCU (Legends of Tomorrow is worth watching, guys! And even Arrow is good again!), but SHIELD has managed to make itself a worth opponent, by covering material the films won’t touch. HYDRA, InHumans, Cthulhu, Ghost Rider... my one main complaint is that they didn’t get Nicolas Cage back for a flame headed cameo, but hey, here’s to hoping 2017 will fix that. Amongst many other things...
Best Missed Film: Creed
Have you ever had that one film that you missed in the theater, but was so good on your living room television that it doesn’t matter where you saw it, as long as you sat down to witness it?
That was Creed for me. Easily the best Rocky movie (not a high bar to beat, I’ll admit), and quite possibly one of the best boxing movies ever made. The interesting thing about Creed though is that while it hits many of the same story beats we’ve seen in other sports movies, it achieves greatness not by reinventing the wheel, but by sheer presentation. The atmosphere, direction, and overall execution is what makes Creed one of 2015's best movies.
A wonderfully diverse cast, a side of Philadelphia we rarely see in media nowadays, a kick-ass soundtrack (in spite of Meek Mill being on it) and Stallone giving a performance we all thought was beyond him; Creed is a movie I needed in the month after the election. It is the movie that can get you up when you think you’re down for the count, and with its director going onto directing Black Panther, it actually makes me excited for the MCU again.
Best Missed Anime: Death Parade
2016 was not a great year for anime. If I’m going to make a top five list for it, it’s not going to be one I’m proud of. If you want proof of that, go back and watch Death Parade. I finally got into it this year, finished it last night, and god DAMN, it felt like a show I needed to watch. Despite being about death (shocking, I know), it has a life to it that not only makes it better than just about everything that came out in 2016, but also one of the best anime made this decade.
So why did I hold off on watching it, even with Anime News Network singing its praises to the high heavens? Its one, single flaw: a lackluster first episode. Which is almost insulting, given how the series goes from okay to great so fast it makes your head spin. There are many other pieces that’ve already detailed what makes Death Parade great, so I won’t (and honestly can’t) go too far into what’s already been said. Great character design and development, a world that feels truly unique, a wonderful soundtrack, and themes and a storyline that’s simultaneously depressing, and somehow inspiring. It might not beat SNAFU for my favorite anime of 2015, but I wish I’d gotten to it sooner, since it would’ve easily cracked my top five list for that year (sorry Noragami).
Best Missed Game: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
This game is not perfect. It loses too much steam in its third act, the story as a whole could be done better, the villains (while fun from a design standpoint) still leave much to be desired, and the modern day stuff needs to be figured out at this point. It’s probably for the best that Ubisoft is taking a year off to get this series back on track, but for a comeback effort, Syndicate, much like most of this article’s entries, deserves praise it missed out on. After the calamity that was AC: Unity, Syndicate not only felt like a game the series needed, but one the industry as a whole needs to look at and pay attention to.
Syndicate is wonderfully, beautifully diverse, and it’s one of the few truly feminist games out there: two protagonists, male and female, equal to one another. Jacob and Evie Frye are some of the series’s best characters, and while they aren’t perfect, much like the game they star in, they were a welcome breath of fresh air. And the game itself is another improvement in the series, with the best stealth, combat, movement, and environment detail ever in an AC game. Syndicate is the sole reason I’m still looking forward to what the franchise has coming next: it might be tired, but as Syndicate showed, it still has plenty of ground to cover.
And with that, so long to 2016. Dont’ let the door hit you on the way out.
You’re reading TAY, Kotaku’s community-run blog. TAY is written by and for Kotaku readers like you. We write about games, art, culture and everything in between. Want to write with us? Check out the Beginner’s Guide to TAY and join in.
TGRIP is a film student studying in Portland, OR. TAY’s resident Xbox and racing game fan, he also (part time) reviews and does opinion pieces on games, movies, television, comics, and anime. He also runs his kinja sub blog Work(ing Title) In Progress. You can follow this third person narrating weirdo on Twitter @Dennis_wglasses, and his Gamertag on Xbox Live is “Aventador SV”.