Well, it’s that time of year again. The end, I mean. Thank God we made it. I know it’s been a rough year, guys, but there’s been some good in there, too, and it’s important to celebrate that. We should always reward good behavior. With that in mind, I’m laying out my ten favorite things from 2016. Not necessarily things that were made in 2016, but things I became aware of in 2016. (I tend to run about five to ten years behind everybody else when it comes to entertainment.)
1. Death Parade
By far the best anime series ever made, contained in just twelve episodes. Whenever two people die at the same time, their souls go to a bar called Quindecim, where an arbiter forces them to play bar games against each other while he judges whether their souls should be reincarnated or sent to the void.
Death Parade played my feels like a blues man who’s sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his unearthly musical ability. After the last episode, I wished I was a smoker so I could have a cigarette. I still get chills when I hear the opening notes of “Flyer” by BRADIO, the show’s credits song.
A word of warning: If you watch the first episode and think it’s terrible, watch the second right away. I was ready to shut it off—mad at the writers for screwing up such a great concept, disillusioned with the person who suggested the show for thinking it was soooo amazing when it clearly was not—but Josh wanted to see the second episode. Now I think it’s the best anime ever made. The second episode is critical!
This is the coolest evolution the storytelling industry has gone through in a long time. A litRPG is a video game in a book. Not a novelization of a popular video game. A book about a gamer who is immersed in the world of an RPG. These books come complete with builds, quests, HPs, power-ups, mystical items, and gold. If you’re new to the genre—and you probably are since the genre is basically still a newborn—I suggest Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm. It’s all the fun and satisfaction of playing Skyrim without the hassle of moving your thumbs.
3. Welcome to Night Vale
I know Night Vale has been around and awesome for a few years now, but I didn’t hear about it until this summer when a friend suggested I give it a shot. The premise—radio broadcasts from a small desert town where all conspiracy theories are true—reads like someone sat down and wrote a show specifically for me. It is hilarious and wonderful. Each podcast is self-contained, but do yourself a favor and start with the first. You’ll pick up on so many more recurring jokes and storylines that way.
4. Gears of War 3
Again, I know. But I warned you ahead of time that I’m always about a decade behind everybody else when it comes to entertainment. (This actually does wonders for my video game budget. $60 on release day, $2.45 a year later in GameStop’s preowned bin.)
What’s so great about Gears of War 3, eden? I’m glad you asked. First of all, it’s my favorite kind of game: one where you and your giant futuristic guns go to town on inhuman monsters threatening the human race. Most of them even explode when you kill them. So satisfying. But the best part is you can play co-op. Up until we found this game, Josh and I had just been taking turns playing. Now we slay lambent together while cackling maniacally.
I know the cool thing in relaxology right now is adult coloring books; I’ll let you know what I think about them in my 2026 top ten. I’ve known about sudoku since high school when my sadistic math teacher used to give them out for extra credit. It’s only been recently that I rose above that trauma and tried them again, mostly because my nerdy, nerdy, NERDY robot of a husband downloaded Andoku 3 to our phone. Turns out it’s actually tons of fun and it really helps me unwind. And I think I know why: I spend so much of my brainpower every day on creative tasks where I have free reign and endless possibilities, but sudoku is so orderly and confining. There’s only one solution to each puzzle, and it’s so satisfying to solve it. If your analytical beast needs soothing, give sudoku a shot. The app is free here.
6. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a long time. The thing is, I never would’ve looked twice at it if Josh hadn’t begged me to read it. He found it this summer in a library throwaway box and now it’s his favorite book in the world. And with good reason. It follows Siddhartha from his childhood as the most promising Brahmin’s son to becoming a wandering Samana to giving up asceticism for a life of pleasure to the depths of self-loathing to finally finding enlightenment on the banks of a river. The language is so simple and gorgeous, and the words are so true, that every sentence resonates inside your soul as you read. And it’s less than two hundred pages. Don’t worry about it not being your usual genre, just try it. You’ll see.
7. The Southwestern United States (especially Las Vegas)
For those of you following along at home, my family and I live in a camper and travel full-time. This spring and summer, we crossed through the desert Southwest—Texas, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California. It’s some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. And as an added bonus, it’s hot! If you’re freezing all of the time like I am, then take my advice and move to the desert right now. You can thank me later.
Our favorite place within the southwest was Las Vegas. There’s just something about that town, a vibe of incredibly relaxed excitement. Even far away from the strip, you can feel it. And if light shows and casinos aren’t for you, there’s Red Rock Canyon, an amazing place to go rock climbing. We took the boys out there a few times while we were in town for some Rock Climbing 101. It was their favorite part of Vegas. Plus, if you’re a Fallout: New Vegas fan, it’s tons of fun to visit all the places you’ve been in the game.
8. Dengue Fever
I actually stumbled across this band while listening to Night Vale. They’re billed as a cross between Cambodian pop and psychedelic rock, but to me they sound like pure awesome. Currently, my favorite song by them is “Sober Driver,” but “Sni Bong” and “Cannibal Courtship” are tied in a very close second place.
This was Hollywood’s birthday present to me and nothing anyone says will convince me otherwise. Like most other Deadpool fans, I dreamed of and feared the day Marvel would finally give him his own movie. Would it be another Xmen Origins: Wolverine? Heaven forbid. But the studio actually nailed it. The writers pulled an awesome origin story out of the schizophrenic histories Deadpool tells in the comics, the cast was spot-on, and the soundtrack was perfect. If you’re in the mood for love and gratuitous violence, this is the movie for you. Whatever you do, though, don’t watch it with your kids.
10. Bungo Stray Dogs
Josh says it’s cheating to include this one because we haven’t finished watching all of the episodes on Hulu yet, but I already know that I love it. BSD follows an orphan as he becomes part of Armed Detective Agency, a group of people with supernatural abilities who solve crimes and take care of problems the military police can’t or don’t want to deal with.
It was developed from a manga, so the reactions and emotions are over-the-top and hilarious, but it’s got plenty of darkness, too. I feel the same way about Bungo Stray Dogs as I feel about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you loved Buffy and want to test the anime waters, you should definitely check it out. The characters are also all named after famous writers, so if you want a literary nerdgasm, look no further.
That’s my top ten. What about you? What new and exciting things did you find to entertain you in 2016?