I don’t really consume a lot of current media1, and have accordingly joked that if I made a best-media-I-consumed-in-2018 list, it would just be re-reading Sailor Moon and a bunch of video games from the early 2000s. But, digging a bit deeper, 2018 was one of the rare years that I did consume slightly more current cultural artifacts. So, why the fuck not: let’s list off the best of the best that 2018 had to offer me.
I’m not going into movies, because I watched very few 2018 movies (and in general, I am disappointed by movies). I would have included Mary and the Witch’s Flower, but that was 2017 somehow. Holy heck, this year was a horrifying blur. I did just see The Favourite, which I thought was very good, but it just seems a bit… inappropriate to make any sort of judgment call when I’ve focused so little of my time on film. Also, graphic novels/manga aside, I definitely did not read any 2018 books in 2018, so… there’s that. Okay!
- Sophie, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides:
- Sophie is bonkers. This album is bonkers. It’s glossy pop smashed up against glitchy aural destruction. It invites you to get comfortable and then betrays that invitation. “It’s Okay to Cry” was the tender lead-off single, followed by the harsh, unforgiving tracks “Ponyboy” and “Faceshopping”. If one was lulled in by “It’s Okay to Cry”, and not terrified soon after, said human has gone on quite a journey by the time they hit “Whole New World/Pretend World”, the perfect noisy culmination to this inexplicably cohesive album. Sophie has an enjoyable disjointed website.
- Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer:
- Holy hell, this album is everything. This honestly was what made me realize that good things did in fact happen in 2018, and that I did in fact consume said things. “Pynk” was the third single, but I feel like the video for that track really shot the whole thing up. It was very… pudendal, and this led to a bunch of TERFy types to latch on to it… Which led Monáe to clarify that her whole jam was for all women, trans women included. Which… yes, thank you. “Django Jane” is truly the power track from this album though. Here’s Monáe’s website.
- Ariana Grande, “thank u, next”:
- Okay, so the video has like a very squicky if not totally transphobic moment that’s hard for me to ignore. And I don’t think Ari has commented on it, which is disappointing. But otherwise, the video was this perfect nostalgic trip, and the song itself… Just this semi-petty ultra-feminine power-bop. I don’t know, I feast upon pop music often enough, but this shit hit me pretty hard. And like… basically everyone in the world latched on to it as well. Despite my reservations, if you somehow haven’t seen it, watch the video here.
I’m sure I listened to plenty of other 2018 releases that were good, but I can’t think of anything else that really hit me super hard? War on Women released Capture the Flag, and it’s’ fucking great and I will always support them, but I’m still so inclined to listen to their self-titled LP. I was going to say the same about Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s The Kid (vs. Ears), but that was 2017. This damn year, I’m telling you…
- Didn’t even realize this was one to come out
thislast year. The basic premise is that you have to travel through this Zelda-esque world one minute at a time. Acquired items stick with you, and more and more spawn points open up as you advance, but you will always die and respawn after one minute of play. It seems very gimmicky, and it kind of is – while the story does incorporate the cursed sword that keeps on killin’ you, it feels somewhat like a tacked-on explanation. That didn’t really bother me at all, however. The limitation was fun rather than tedious, and the overall storyline was enjoyable. I may play through it again at some point, as I think I finished it while missing quite a few little side stories. Charming little game. Here’s a website for that one.
- Dead Cells:
- Also a bit surprised this came out in 2018, though I guess I don’t really follow video game news closely enough to have a good idea of when anything is/was released. I believe I bought my Switch in July of 2018, and while I’d been planning to for a while, Dead Cells was an oddly strong deciding factor. I love roguelikes, and while I would say it’s a bit of a stretch to classify Dead Cells as such, it has a lot of the elements (permadeath, somewhat procedurally-generated levels, ‘inheriting’ from previous deaths) that make the genre a staple of mine. Gameplay itself is smooth, difficult but generally manageable, and full of entertaining writing. I’ve been caught up in some other games and haven’t jumped into Dead Cells in a while, so I’m sure I’ll be awful when I give it another go, but I look forward to continuously returning to this game when I’m not tangled up in something narrative-heavy. Give it a look-see.
- I’m still not quite through this one, so I don’t know… Perhaps it will ultimately disappoint me2, but the first six chapters have been a ton of fun. It’s that sort of… perfectly-executed platforming that one needs to pull off a speedrun of a normal platformer, say. Which, as a game requirement, could be incredibly frustrating. Celeste mitigates this through (as far as deaths/respawns are concerned) extremely short levels. A chapter is essentially made up of a ton of these tiny levels, so dying (repeatedly… like, I think I died over 500 times in chapters three and four each) doesn’t set back your progress much. Which, to me at least, makes it a pleasant challenge instead of utter frustration. I absolutely love the music in this game as well. Check it out here, or try the original Pico-8 game.
- This game is very, very sweet. You’re just this irritating little bard going around trying to solve a bunch of problems by singin’ them out when everyone around you is saying you should get violent instead. It’s a very musical game, and has some rhythm components, but they don’t really matter? They’re very simple and you can just screw them up until you don’t, which is great, because I am horrible at rhythm games. There’s some janky collision detection in the game, it has some mildly frustrating moments, but the point of it is really the narrative. It’s a lovely story, the art is great, and the music really brings the whole thing home. I enjoyed this far more than I anticipated. Cute little website here.
I didn’t include any rerelease type things in this list. I just finished Night in the Woods, which came out on Switch this year, and it kind of wrecked me… but it doesn’t count. Likewise, the Switch got a not-really-updated release of Katamari Damacy this year, which… is a conceptually great game, executed by a UX sadist. Also doesn’t count, though.
- Naoko Takeuchi, Sailor Moon Eternal Edition:
- Just get this out of the way real quick. Shouldn’t count, as it’s a rerelease, but it’s worth pointing out how absolutely perfect these issues are. New translations are great, the larger format is great, just… beautiful. Check ‘em out here.
- Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, What is Left:
- Reading this for the first time left me with a lot of questions. Reading this for the fifth time left me with a lot of questions. Reading this for the twentieth time left me with a lot of questions. It’s about a future (I suppose) where energy is harvested via memories. It’s freaky, it’s thought-provoking, and it’s quite lovely to look at. See some previews here.
- Joe Sparrow, Homunculus:
- Like What is Left above, this was released by Shortbox, which has released a bunch of other stuff that I love. Homunculus is just this tender story about artificial intelligence, friendship, and waiting. I can’t say much else for fear of spoiling, but it’s… very touching. The visuals are wonderful (and occasionally wobbly) as well. Here it is on Shortbox.
- Sarah Mirk, Eva Cabrera, Claudia Aguirre, Open Earth:
- A very lightweight exploration of polyamory in space. A bit erotic (NSFW, I guess it’s worth mentioning), but largely just a tale about a bunch of people working through what relationships mean to them in a post-Earth reality. It’s not super spacey, the sci-fi setting exists more for the sake of establishing a bit of isolation, and a reboot on the rules for relationships. Give it a look here.
I don’t think I actually read any manga that started in 2018 (and I know that Sailor Moon’s rerelease is a cheat), but I did spend a lot of time with two series that are still going as of 2018 – Delicious in Dungeon and Land of the Lustrous. Love them both, but if I had to suggest one, I’d highly recommend checking out Delicious in Dungeon, it’s such a wonderfully quirky premise.
2018 was… awful, and I can’t really imagine 2019 will be much better. But, hey, some really good stuff came out apparently, and sometimes that’s what we need to grasp on to. Don’t know if it’s escapism, inspiration, or just appreciating that others can find the energy to bring positive light into a dark world… but there’s no shame in finding little pockets of joy during hard times. And these were some of my favorite pockets in 2018.
- Certainly not an attempt at being one of the cool kids, I’m just… very behind on things. Always. ↩︎
- I’m approaching the bitter end of the game, and I’ve gotten to some screens where I don’t really feel satisfied after I beat them, just frustrated. Which is kind of what I was saying this game isn’t. But even at this point, it’s easy enough to set down and come back with a calmer approach after… blogging about it or whatever. ↩︎