2020. The year that wasn’t

Around about this time of the year I look back on the year that is in it’s last throes, and I have to decide what is newsworthy and what is better left forgotten. 2020 would probably be best lumped into the “better left forgotten” category as it was one heck of a disaster.  The dominating theme throughout this year could be summed up in one word:

PANDEMIC!

As I write this post Gloucestershire has been put into “Tier 4” lockdown, along with other portions of the UK. The Coronavirus has continued to rampage through continents leaving behind a trail of death, ruined economies, unemployment and civil unrest. The UK has started to vaccinate the most vulnerable in society but it may be too late to prevent even more deaths. The reality of this pandemic can be seen in the numbers, and I have more or less kept a running list since my first covid blogpost way back in  March 2020.  Unfortunately I did not record the global numbers but did capture the UK numbers as at 24/03/2020.  Coronavirus Cases: 6,650 Deaths: 335 Recovered: 135. Tonight the numbers look very differently, with  82,739,879 cases worldwide and 1,804,995 deaths.  I do not know whether I even contemplated seeing numbers like this 9 months down the line. 

I had my fair share of woes too. In February Tewkesbury flooded (again) and that forced me to cancel my trip to London at very short notice.  The funny thing is that on the day before Christmas we sat once again with floods, and this time around the water was even higher than it was in February.

I rescheduled my trip for the end of March but in the week that I was supposed to go London was locked down, the Embassy closed and I ended up self isolating for 7 days after I caught sinusitis. I ended up making a virtual trip to London instead
 

And there went all my grandiose plans down the loo. I had wanted to return to Stratford  and even explore Circencester assuming I was able to organise transport to the city. That never happened. The usual Mini Steam Fair, Medieval Festival, Mop Fair and Vintage Car Festival were all cancelled in town as the high street depopulated. 

In June the world was shaken by the abuse of power that ended the life of George Floyd. “I Can’t Breathe” became more than the last cries of a dieing man, but a global call against racism in all of it’s forms.  Parts of America erupted in violence and the continued abuse of power by police was thrown into the spotlight on numerous occasions. The situation was exacerbated by the POTUS who showed his true colours throughout the year. Now, having been voted out of office he continues to cling to power, doing his best to overturn the election results. It is the sort of thing I expect from African dictators and not from the “leader” of the Western World. 

By the end of June we were coming out of lockdown, eyes blinking and hopeful that we had beaten the virus. In July I ended up in hospital with what was seemingly a badly infected bladder and that left me exhausted and in a fragile state. I am still not 100% convinced that I was suffering from a bladder issue, but a follow up to the urologist did not happen.  I also tested negative for covid at that point.

Towards the middle of August the Embassy reopened and I was able to get an appointment for my passport renewal at short notice. Fortunately I had everything prepared so was able to make a trip to London at the end of August. The biggest surprise was how easily the renewal process happened and just over three months later I had a replacement passport!  It was even more surprising to see how empty London was.

By now Autumn was not too far off and the fear was that the virus would surge as we headed into the colder Winter months. That fear resulted in the UK going into lockdown again in September. A new variant of the virus has resulted in most of the UK now heading into what is known as Tier 4 tomorrow.  Even South Africa has gone back into lockdown as the numbers there surge too. At the time of writing the situation looks as follows:

And yet there are those who deny that there is a problem and that it is all 5G/Bill Gates/George Soros/Aliens/A hoax (Delete which is not applicable) 

As we headed into the last days of the year Winter storms started to dominate our headlines, and last Monday Tewkesbury had it’s first flood and snow of the season. 

The UK also managed to thrash out a deal with the EU at the last minute and consequently we have left. Bye Bye Brussels. 

Who did we loose this year?  Once again we lost a lot of important and not so important people during the year. Amongst others we lost Chuck Yeager,  Dame Barbara Windsor, John le Carré, Sean Connery, Diego Maradona, Kenny Rogers, Honor Blackman, Little Richard, Dame Vera Lynn, Ian Holm, Peter Green,   Diana Rigg,  Eddie Van Halen and  Ruth Bader Ginsburg,

The year has one more day to run, and knowing how things go I would not be surprised if these last few hours do not turn up yet another headline event. I hold thumbs in the meantime. 

DRW © 2020 – 2021. Created 30/12/2020

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December Anime Roundup

December is in its last throes, as is the current anime season, with a number of shows flighting their last episode this week. It was somewhat of a disappointing season though with very few anime that stood out for me. I did watch a number of shows that were from previous years or that I had missed before and some were excellent while others were dropped if I did not like what I was seeing. 

Adachi to Shimamura.  (Adachi and Shimamura),  was probably the best that I watched, and I have rated it an 8. However, if I really look at it rationally there was a lot wrong with the show. Had Adachi been a male he would have been labelled a stalker, and just why was there a randomly shedding alien in the series?  Still, it was an enjoyable watch and I never felt that it was something that I wanted to drop.  Interestingly that shedding alien girl seems to have a distant relative that appeared in  Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko way back in 2011. Denpa was a great anime and a sequel would have been awesome, but like so many other shows it never went further than that single season. 

Tonikaku Kawaii (Over the Moon For You) was nice. It was not a complicated story and the female protagonist was very likable and kind of sweet. Although I still ask myself whether she didn’t have an ulterior motive behind her marriage to Nasa.  If there is a 2nd season I would definitely take it up although the series did end with no real cliff hangers. I rated it an 8 and it is quite a favourite show of a lot of otaku. 

Kamisama na Natta Hi (The day I became a God) was never really a favourite, partly due to the agro female protagonist who was more irritating than anything else. Visually it was beautiful and it had a wonderful soundtrack. The last episodes more or less wrapped the show up and as far as I am concerned no 2nd season is needed. Something did not sit right with me and this anime and  I cannot quite put a finger on what I did not like apart from Agro-kun,  and while it was watchable it was not an anime that I looked forward to or  would rewatch. I did rate it 8 because of the visuals and soundtrack, but not for the storyline.   

Munou na Nana (Talentless Nana) was somewhat of a let down at the end. I did not feel that it provided any sort of answer to the many questions that it raised, and felt very incomplete and rushed towards the end. Was the series any good? not really, it started off reasonably well but did not deliver as far as I was concerned. Hiiragi Nana was quite a badass though but when they started to tell her backstory it was more of an afterthought than plot development. I did like the ED (Bakemono to Yobarete (バケモノと呼ばれて) by Chiai Fujikawa) but unless a second season comes along it is unlikely that I would rewatch this series. I downrated it to a 6 on completion. 

Outside of the seasons offerings I finished an anime called “Given” from Summer 2019 and it is about a boy that owns a Gibson guitar and who asks one of his school mates to show him how to play it.  The show is classed as “shounen-ai” and it is only at episode 5 where this starts becoming more clear. However, it was well made and interesting with a solid story and I ended up finishing it by the end of the weekend. I have rated it a 9 and possibly the only reason I did not rate a 10 was because it left more unanswered than answered. It was a great watch though and there is a movie out which I must go look for. 

I picked up  Maoujou de Oyasumi (Sleepy Princess in the Demon Castle) just after the 8th episode was flighted and binged it to catch up. A single minded princess (Kaymin, Aurora Suya Rhys) is  kidnapped by the evil Demon King and his minions and imprisoned in his castle. The anime is about the Princess and her attempts to get a good night’s sleep.

It was not a very complicated show with a complicated plot, but it was a fun watch and at times very funny. The Princess is somewhat single minded in her attempts to create the perfect bed and is almost oblivious to the seemingly evil demons (especially the dreaded Teddy Demons) and the demon king. Rescue is however at hand although he is somewhat of an idiot and not exactly the what the Princess has in mind. It is escapist entertainment and never becomes serious or complicated and it was an enjoyable watch with bright artwork and and amusing opening number. I rate it  7 although it rates 8.02 at MAL. 

I have also rewatched 5-toubun no Hanayome (aka Gotoubun no Hanayome, (The Five Wedded Brides) ) for the 3rd time, and I have to admit I really enjoyed the show although some of the last few episodes are iffy. Basically a genius high school boy gets a job tutoring dysfunctional teenage quintuplet girls (this can only happen in an anime) . I think part of the attraction is the 5 different personalities that were cooked up for the female protagonists. The million dollar question is: “which girl is going to get the guy?” and I wont comment on the answer because it is somewhat of a nebulous thing depending on whether you read the manga or watch the anime. Much to my joy it has a second season starting in January so guess what is already on my watchlist? My preferences? 1. Miku, 2. Ichika and 3. Yotsuba.  The other 2 quints (4. Itsuki and 5. Nino do not feature in my fantasy). I rated it an 8, not because it was well made or had wonderful visuals, but rather because it was a fun watch. I also read the manga but it started getting a bit too complicated for my liking. 

That more or less wraps up the season for me. There is still 1 episode of my last anime  that I have to watch and then I can call it a wrap. Inbetween now and when the new season starts I am rewatching Little Busters Refrain and once that is done will tackle Non Non Biyore Repeat once again. NNB has proven to be a solid slice of life that has been consistent in it’s quality and enjoyment. Sadly the manga is coming to an end so we may never know whether Hotaru and Komari become a couple. I look forward to the continuation of the series next year and hope that it does not end up as a heap of fillers and rehashes. 

There are those that have criticised the series as being bland and slow but they are few and far between. The nice thing about it is that it does not rely on fan service and pantsu shots to achieve anything. Besides, Renge would probably be very miffed if it did.

The other show worth mentioning is one that I have been watching with mild interest since I first saw it on Netflix. It is one of those shows that is seen as something that all otaku should watch and venerate. I do not always follow those norms but watched it anyway because there did not seem to be anything else worth watching at the time. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) is now in it’s final season and they are finally starting to show the backstory that explains a lot of why/who the Titan were/are.

I am not too far into it yet (3 episodes seen) and I don’t know whether this will settle the story for me, I don’t like loose ends and neither do I like random tangents being thrown into the works and so far have not made too much sense out of it. We will see how it goes as there are 16 episodes in the series which means it will all end in the first quarter of 2021. Then there will be countless OVA and specials and recaps. I may give those a miss. 

Little Busters Refrain is difficult to judge because it is really the conclusion of the Little Busters “franchise”. This is probably my third viewing of it and frankly it did not stand up as well as Angel Beats did and they both share similar elements. You can easily watch the first season of Little Busters as a standalone series, but Refrain really closes the story off. The premise is a group of boys (and a girl) grow up together, having formed a strong bond during childhood which they carry forward into their boarding school.  Their primary mission is to form a baseball team (appropriately called “Little Busters”) which they then populate with an odd assortment of girls, each with their own set of unique “issues”. Refrain really breaks this story and implies an alternate universe as it builds towards the climax. It is reasonably well written and visually good but drags on with some tired cliches that really become somewhat of a pain. Unfortunately Komari does have an excruciatingly irritating voice which detracts from the important part she plays in healing the traumatised,insecure Rin. However, the whole thing is really about friendship and overcoming your own dark demons and growing strong enough to face life with confidence.  It could have been very much better and I really feel that they lost the plot at some point. However,  it is still watchable but is not a tearjerker like Angel Beats is. I rated it a 7 back then and from a production/character pov it does rate higher but story wise it did not really come together for me as much as I would have liked. Producers: Warner Bros. JapanShowgate, Licensors: Sentai Filmworks, Studios: J.C.Staff

And that’s a wrap. Next year may prove to be great or mediocre when it comes to anime. It really depends on first impressions. Hopefully there will be some great stories out there and I have the following in mind to watch: Shingeki no Kyojin: The Final Season, Dr. Stone: Stone Wars, Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu 2nd Season Part 2, 5-toubun no Hanayome ∬, Beastars 2nd Season, Horimiya, Non Non Biyori Nonstop, Planetarian: Snow Globe, Girls & Panzer: Saishuushou Part 3.  However I will sample a few others and make up my mind as I go along. And just maybe will be posting about a new discovery when next I do my anime roundup.

DRW 2020 – 2021. Created 27/12/2020. 

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