Thursday, December 31, 2020

A look back at 2020

I used to do more thorough "end of the year" posts, with "best" and "worst" lists, stats, etc. The last time I did anything like that was at the end of 2016/beginning of 2017. I figured I'd try to get back to something like that at the end of this year, but less methodical.

So, here goes. As with just about everybody, the pandemic was an issue for me this year, although thankfully it hasn't directly affected me or any of my family members. Neither I nor they have gotten sick or lost jobs so far (although I did have a couple ER visits that were made scarier by the knowledge that, if things got worse, there might not be anyplace else to send me). I worked from home part-time, which was nice in some ways and sucked in others, and I've been back to my physical workplace for some time now, although meetings are thankfully almost all still virtual. I didn't go visit my parents in October/November the way I usually do, so I didn't have my usual vacation manga binge, but I still got quite a bit read during the year.

I got into needle felting at the end of the year, although sometimes I think I like the supplies and the books more than actually doing the felting. We'll see if I'm still doing this craft by the end of 2021, or if I have just have a bunch of rusty needles and a tub of unused wool and doll eyes.


I'm really proud of my offload stats in 2020 - I got rid of 61 DVDs and books, more than twice what I offloaded in 2019. My 2019 offloads freed up less than 2 feet of shelf space, while my 2020 offloads freed up about 3.5 feet of shelf space. Overall I need to do a lot better, especially when you consider how many books and DVDs I add to my collection each year (I'm not going to tally that, it would be too depressing), but still, this year's offload total was really good. It helped that I pushed myself to get rid of things I'd read and enjoyed, but didn't particularly think I'd want to read again anytime soon and figured I could easily get via interlibrary loan if necessary.

Best books I read:

This isn't a comprehensive list and doesn't necessarily mean I rated them 5 stars, but here are a few that I really enjoyed.

  • Exit Strategy by Martha Wells - Technically a novella rather than a book. This is possibly my favorite entry in the whole series. It reunites Murderbot with the humans from the first novella and has some good action and emotional moments.
  • Anime Supremacy! by Mizuki Tsujimura - I went into this having no idea what to expect and got the fictional stories of three very different but equally dedicated women in the anime industry. I've seen anime like this before, but I don't think I've ever read a book like it, and it was much appreciated. 
  • Sea of Wind by Fuyumi Ono - The second book in Ono's Twelve Kingdoms series, which I keep hoping will get a license rescue. I've reread this many times and will probably reread it yet again in 2021.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm, Vol. 1 by Miya Kazuki - This...actually isn't all that great, but I wanted to mention it because it's one of the few light novel series I've read several volumes of and still genuinely plan to continue, and not because I foolishly bought a bunch of volumes of it all at once.
  • So I'm a Spider, So What?, Vol. 1 by Okina Baba - This series started so well and so strong! Unfortunately, it couldn't maintain that momentum, so although I rated it more highly than the first volume of Ascendance of a Bookworm, my interest in the series as a whole has petered out much more quickly.

Best manga I read:

  • Sweat & Soap, Vol.1 by Kintetsu Yamada - This is much sweeter than the cover art led me to believe it would be. Although the premise seems to fade into the background pretty quickly after this first volume, I've still enjoyed what I've read of this series overall.
  • A Man and His Cat, Vol. 1 by Umi Sakurai - I'll have to see how later volumes hold up, but this first one was very enjoyable, a sweet story about an older gentleman who adopts a cat, something he'd originally planned to do while his wife was still alive.
  • Dekoboko Sugar Days by Atsuko Yusen - I'd actually have liked this more if it hadn't included explicit sex scenes. They meshed badly with what was otherwise a sweet and awkward romance.
  • BL Metamorphosis, Vol. 1 by Kaori Tsurutani - 2020 was a good year for manga with older protagonists. This featured a nice cross-generational friendship - I'd like to get back to it at some point, but first I'd like some warning as to whether Ichinoi, the older of the two main protagonists, dies at the end of the series.


My viewing stats for the year are really inaccurate - I'm bad about remembering to review stuff, and bad about recording that I watched things. Again, this isn't a complete list and doesn't necessarily mean I gave it 5 stars.

Best stuff I watched:

  • Mononoke (anime TV series) - This series is visually stunning. Yes, it has some extremely off-putting moments, but I still consider it very much worth watching.
  • Knives Out (live action movie) - I found this just as enjoyable on a rewatch as it was when I originally saw it in theaters, despite knowing all the twists and turns.
  • Violet Evergarden (anime TV series) - This is the kind of thing I'd rewatch if I needed a good therapeutic cry. There's so much grief and heartache, but it also pays a lot of attention to emotional healing as well.
  • My Roommate Is a Cat (anime TV series) - Another "healing" sort of series, although a bit less of an unrelenting sob-fest than Violet Evergarden.


And now for games, which I've kept even worse track of than TV and movies.

Best games I played (but haven't necessarily finished):

  • Disco Elysium - I haven't actually gotten very far into this and am pretty terrible at it, but the gameplay is fascinating. You set up your character stats so that you are a certain kind of very messed up detective, and then you go and try to solve a mystery - the same one each time, although having different skills means you'll have access to a different set of clues and way of doing things.
  • Baba Is You - As you shift words around, you change the rules of the game. For example "Baba Is You" means that you control the movement of the little Baba character. If you change it to something like "Key Is You," you control the movement of the key instead and Baba becomes stationary. If you can think outside the box and arrange the words in the right way, you can solve the puzzles. I'm currently stuck and haven't bothered to look for a walkthrough, but this is another one with fascinating gameplay. It's a simple but at the same time very difficult game, and it's rewarding when you manage to figure out the right thing to do. 
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons - I played this a LOT when I first got my Switch Lite, and discovered that my hands can't handle the Switch for very long. I've since stopped playing much - the last time I went into the game my house had cockroaches - but I still have fond memories of it and hope to get a full Switch and some good controllers at some point, so I can hopefully get back to it without destroying my hands.
  • Untitled Goose Game - Another game I played on the Switch. You're a horrible goose who enjoys ruining people's days. It's simple, but very fun.
  • Murder By Numbers - If you really, really like Picross, this is a fabulous game - great visuals and fun dialogue and stories. The only reason I haven't finished yet is because of a demoralizing glitch - I completed one of the cases and, since it was late, didn't want to start the next one and deal with a bunch of intro stuff I'd be forced to watch before I could save the game. Unfortunately, I must not have saved, or the game just plain forgot where I was, and so I was forced to have to recomplete that same case.
  • Stardew Valley - Yup, I got back into this, although I haven't played it since its latest big update. I've been trying to accomplish any achievements that felt reachable (cooking all recipes, befriending all villagers). I have hundreds of hours in this game, and it's safe to say that it's one of my all-time favorite. Although I wish that instead of updates, we could just get a whole new game set in another part of the same world - same sort of gameplay, but new secrets to learn and NPCs to get to know.
  • Cloud Gardens - Some would argue that this isn't really a game. There's a slight puzzle aspect - you have to arrange objects around your plant seeds to that you'll get enough growth to move on to the next scene - but it's really meant for people who'd just like to create pretty overgrown scenes while listening to soothing music.
  • Hades - Yes, I have jumped on the Hades bandwagon, and surprisingly I don't regret it. I've made six escape attempts so far and tend to die embarrassingly quickly, but I like to think that I'm getting better. Or the boons and other boosts are starting to help a noticeable amount. I actually managed to get through a few rooms without any damage. Granted, there are still times I literally run into enemy blasts while accidentally aiming in the opposite direction I intended. It's highly likely I'll end up turning on God Mode at some point, but for now I'm enjoying this, frequent death and all. The voice acting is great, getting new boons and power-ups is fun, and I like talking to the NPCs.

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