I’ve been awaiting the sophomore season of Netflix’s Russian Doll with both anticipation and dread. Anticipation because I thought season one was outstanding, one of the best shows of 2019. I only mentioned it briefly in a post back then (and gave it a solid Wow! rating). I meant to write a whole post about it but never did.
The dread came largely from how complete the story arc of season one was. It was hard to see more story there. Dread also came from how good it was — a very hard act to follow. Maybe best not to try?
Season two finally came out last month. My best reaction is something along the lines of “Huh?” but the phrase “muddled mess” keeps running through my mind.
One of many benefits gained when I cut the cable and subscribed to Netflix and Hulu was access to a very large catalog of Japanese anime. Until then I was largely at the mercy of the Cartoon Network cable channel and rented videos. While I’ve so far barely scratched the surface of the Netflix catalog, I have been steadily working my way through Hulu’s.
Recently I’ve enjoyed two there: Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? and xxxHolic. The former is a fun medieval fantasy adventure series (with expected twists and unexpected depth). Saying the latter is about a beautiful hard-drinking witch who grants wishes is accurate but misses the point.
It’s a lot more interesting than that.
I discovered, and become a huge fan of, Sherlock Holmes at an early age — somewhere in grade school. Too long ago to remember, so it feels like I’ve “always” been a fan. (Conversely, I can remember watching the first episode of Star Trek in 1966, so reading A.C. Doyle for the first time must be many years earlier.)
Per Doyle’s stories, Holmes has a well-defined center, but as adapted, extended, reimaged, even satirized, by others, his boundaries are extremely fuzzy [see The Real Sherlock Holmes].
There is even a Japanese anime version of Holmes: Case File nº221: Kabukicho.
For me, Japanese anime seems a gift that keeps on giving. Perhaps a better way to put it is that it’s a well that hasn’t yet come close to running dry for me. For one, there is a ton of Japanese anime and even Sturgeon’s Law gives good results on such a big catalog.
There is also that it seems, on average, more nuanced and perceptive than modern Western storytelling. Or it could be a combination of over-familiarity with our dregs and the same cherry-picking selectiveness that sometimes makes the BBC seem superior in contrast (it’s so not).
In any event, here are four I enjoyed recently and can recommend.
For broadcast networks that still observe such archaic traditions, the new “season” has begun doling out episodes. Over the years I’ve watched fewer network shows, although this year I’ve actually added two new ones (at least temporarily). I’m still watching the old three… and still questioning why I do.
It would be easy to dump the three old giant dinosaurs, CBS, NBC, and ABC. I haven’t watched the smaller ones (TNT, USA, etc) in years. Other than baseball, regularly scheduled TV broadcasts are decades in my past. I’m solidly about streaming these days — Netflix, Hulu, Prime. I’m considering adding Apple TV and HBO Max.
I’ve definitely taken to binge watching!
Last weekend I watched the final episodes of Lucifer, a show I’ve really enjoyed since it began in 2016. It’s based on a DC comic book character created by Neil Gaiman, and I’ve always liked his work, so it’s not surprising I’ve enjoyed this series. On top of that, it blends a bunch of my favorite story genres, plus it gets right one of the most important aspects for such fantastic stories: it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
In honor of the show ending I thought I’d also mention a couple other favorite shows I’ve been re-watching lately, Elementary and Boston Legal. I’ve always ranked the latter as a favorite favorite, but seeing the former again I’m experiencing the love all over again.
Got a couple of Japanese anime stories to mention, as well.
This post’s fill-in-the-blank title (given the “season” clue that we’re talking about television shows) might refer to any of at least three series, all coincidentally from Amazon Prime studios. In fact it refers to all three, although this post is only about two because I already wrote about Upload. As it turns out, I liked it best of the three U___ shows.
The other two are Undone and Utopia (the new one). I’d tried the former last year but wasn’t grabbed. This time I liked it better and binge-watched the whole season. The latter was dark and very murder-y. Both of them were… okay. I don’t quite recommend either, though.
What I do recommend (highly!) is the anime movie, Penguin Highway.
History, location, and religion aside, the Wikipedia disambiguation page for “Babylon“ has 52 entries under “Arts and entertainment” — 26 of which are songs (including one by David Gray that I rather like). Two entries, a novel series and an anime series (which I binged last night), link to the same page because they refer to the same very interesting (very dark) story.
By interesting (and dark) I mean it’s about good, evil, and whether the right to suicide is a good thing. The battles here are mainly intellectual and spiritual. A key point for the characters is the question: what is good; what is evil?
I also recently watched Jupiter’s Legacy on Netflix (Meh!), and I want to offer props to the most recent episode of Grown-ish, which I thought was compelling, well-done, and worth seeing.
For me, one of the challenges of writing a blog post is coming up with a title. A scan of my Index shows I like short and punchy (with a dash of clever if I can manage it), and I’m not above using puns (in fact, quite love them). I wanted to call this Channel Surfing, but I’ve already used that title. (In retrospect, I should have called that one TV Triple. If only I’d known.)
Earlier this year I read a lot (see: this, this, this, or this). Lately I’m watching more TV, trying to whittle away at various watch lists. (For a retired guy, I have a lot of TODO lists. Lists on multiple ebook platforms, lists on multiple video streaming sites, household lists, personal lists,… I even have a list of local breweries to try.)
Here’s a list of what I’ve been watching lately. And a cutaway about cutaways.
During the last two weeks I re-watched Cowboy Bebop, an award-winning Japanese science fiction anime classic created in 1998. In contrast with a lot of anime, the show is so adult in its themes that only 12 of the 26 episodes were aired when it premiered on TV Tokyo in 1998. The full series wasn’t aired in Japan until the following year on Wowow, a private, premium satellite network.
In 2001 it was the first anime title ever broadcast on Adult Swim, so it was the first experience many Americans had with Japanese anime. Since then, because of its visuals, music, and themes, it has earned international acclaim, both with critics and audiences.
It’s a definite must-see for any fan of anime or science fiction.