In terms of pure media enjoyment, August 2017 is probably the best I’ve had in any of my twenty-three August’s. Whether it be music, , wrestling, video games, anime, manga, or youtube, this month had me covered with some now all-time greats. And I just need to celebrate that.
Since this is the first “Month in Review” I’ve ever done, we should first establish some ground rules. The media in question does not have to technically debut in August 2017 but only the content it provided for that month is being taken into consideration. For example, a Television Series that debuted five years ago can make the list, as long as it debuted new episodes in August 2017, but only those episodes will be talked about. Also, since I’m tackling multiple different mediums here, this is not a ranking but a compilation of the most enjoyable entertainment I consumed over the course of the month. And because of that, in least of months like this one where there was plenty to love all around, I have opted to limit myself to one per medium. Though quite honestly, it mostly just worked out like that anyway, just a few got bumped to the honorable mentions. Speaking of, before we tackle the fave five, let’s take a quick look at those honorable mentions. And spoiler warning for all the below entries, though the amount varies on the entry.
Truth be told, Kairi Sane is not a piece of media, she’s a person. Hence why I decided to give her the distinction of main honorable mention. I could’ve counted the Mae Young Classic as a whole, but the four episodes that premiered were a bit inconsistent for me, that it wouldn’t have felt appropriate to give it the nod when it comes to wrestling. Kairi Sane, completely stole the event and my heart, in one singular match. No wrestler has ever left a better first impression on me than Kairi Sane (though I’ve seen clips of her awesome Elbow Drop beforehand, hence why I was excited to see watch the event). I mentioned on twitter that watching her compete for the first time was like falling in love, and I stand by that statement, she had me marking out with pretty much every action. The rotation after her spear that gave the move an extra amount of energy, maintaining the impact normally lost when smaller wrestlers perform the move. Both forearm shots (the running corner to a seated Tessa and the diving one) that give AJ Styles a run for his money. That running neckbreaker to a seated Tessa. That little march she did to the other side of the ring showcasing an untouchable amount of charm. And of course, the best Elbow Drop in all of wrestling history. All of that, I marked out for, I thoroughly enjoyed the match simply because all Kairi’s action were so entertaining and well-executed. Not to disparage Tessa but outside of her Diving Senton and the Double Code-Breaker, I can’t place any of her moves in the match. That fight was a spotlight for Kairi Sane, and I loved every second of it.
Moving on from concentrated gush fest, the other honorable mentions deserve notice too. The rest of them comprised the opening image used about. Youtuber Brutalmoose’s video where he just ate a bunch of Pizza Lunchables was my favorite youtube video of the month. I know that may not sound interesting, but he actually puts in a good amount of effort into eating, to supply funnier jokes without really devaluing the experience of just watching him eat, react, and joke. There’s an amount of polish to the unscripted events and honestly, I’m not sure why I feel the need to talk so elaborately about this, when saying it was the funniest new youtube video I saw that month would suffice. Here’s a link if you’re interested, though maybe start with his Kid Cuisine video since that one was probably funnier. Next we got two great songs, Illenium’s “Crawl Outta Love” featuring Annika Wells and Evalyn’s “Cherry Lambo”. The former is another example of Illenium’s incredible grasp on music production, Annika Wells vocals are beautiful and Illenium continues his trend of being one of the only person capable of making drops I actively like rather than just tolerate. The latter song I like even better, the contrasting lyrics make the song fun to listen to (I wanna work less but I wanna make more; want the West Coast with the little Wall Street) and the songs darker yet somehow inspiring meaning adds a lot too (“‘Cherry Lambo’ is about being lost and confused and freaked out and trying to just enjoy it a little bit and find some camaraderie in not knowing what the hell is going on.” ~ quote from Evalyn). Her vocals are fantastic too, I especially love how she alters her voice when she sings “Nasty” and “Sweet” to match her voice with the words, stand-out moment of the track. And the track, is just really addicting and fun to listen to. She only has two tracks out so far, but she is definitely someone I’m keeping an eye on because I like both tracks a lot (“Cherry Lambo” is better though). Finally, My Hero Academia. I’ll talk about this series more when I discuss my top ten favorite anime of 2017 later, so for now I’ll say it’s an honorable mention mostly because in August it only aired three new episodes and one of them was filler, which was still a serviceable episode but definitely a downgrade in quality from the show’s norm.
In terms of wrestling, there was plenty of good matches and segments to choose from. There’s the aforementioned Mae Young Classic, Breezango despite taking a brief hiatus still remain the only consistently amusing comedy in the company’s history, and the colossus main event of SummerSlam actually managed to live up to the massive hype surrounding the four highly promoted participants. However when it all boils down to it, the nod has to go to Ember Moon’s second shot at Asuka’s NXT Women’s Championship. I say this with no hint of hyperbole, this is easily one of the best women matches in the history of the company, and this is coming for somebody who’s been an avid supporter of women wrestling way before the days of NXT. The only reason I’m not out-right citing it as the best match, is because there’s a handful I missed, namely Bayley vs. Sasha, during my wrestling drought days.
Regardless, on its own, this is just an excellent match. Contextual speaking, this match had a huge advantage over most of Asuka’s previous defenses, in that there was actually legitimate expectation of her to lose the Championship. While I loved her triple threat with Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross at TakeOver Chicago or the Last Woman Standing against Cross on NXT, there was never any belief that Asuka would be losing the Championship. So those matches just naturally lacked the dramatic stake that this bout had. Asuka had reached the milestone number of 500 days (and WWE has a tendency to end reigns the second they reach a historic number, see The New Day), and her previous bout with Ember Moon required Asuka to actually employ heel tactics to win, shoving the ref to prevent the incoming Eclipse. For me, it seemed more likely that Asuka was losing going in, though I wasn’t certain, because it’s still Asuka and, maybe it was just fanboyism, but it didn’t feel right. I was largely pulling for Asuka here, and the two absolutely took advantage of their unique narrative (in terms of Asuka’s reign anyway) because everything from Moon’s Eclipse to the finish had me on the edge of my seat. It was a griping back and forth to the conclusion that had me invested in every second in a way no match this year truly has, even my match of the year, John Cena vs. AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble didn’t work me in the way that this match did. But the match wasn’t only great because of the closing sequence, but right as the bell rang Ember Moon pounced with a powerful kick, immediately setting the tone for the match, captivating me instantly, only making the ending segment all the more satisfying. And of course, Asuka’s victory only ensured that this will be a match I fondly remember for years to come.
Unfortunately, talking about Hunter x Hunter from August 2017 means talking about the end result of it, after ten more chapters, the series went back on hiatus. To be honest, even though I don’t necessarily enjoy returning to no new Hunter x Hunter content, I’m use to it. Further more, I’m of the, probably unpopular stance, that I don’t really need a proper conclusion. Hunter x Hunter already provided me the Chimera Ant arc, my all-time favorite story, and once Election arc tied up most of the threads from that in a satisfactory way, I view every additional chapter we get, as a bonus. Of course I’d love to get a proper conclusion but the series will forever hold a special place in my heart, and no amount of hiatus’ will ever change that.
But as for the actual content this month, it was really good. I won’t shy away from the fact that as a whole, I don’t think this run of chapters was as strong as the last run we got, and my favorite chapter this run came out in July, but it’s still been an enjoyable read. I really like seeing just how much reliance Kurapika is placing on the other members of the crew, seeing Bill & Oito mange to enact that plan together in order to fool Babimyna was really satisfying, and Lady Oito herself has developed loads this month. The way she had no qualms about ruining their strategies when someone’s life was at risk followed by her cold treatment to Kurapika until seeing Woble’s interaction with him served as a great way to make her more likable with her strong contrasting values to the rest around her while also showcasing the general warmth of the trio’s dynamic, particularly Kurapika and Woble, and how their relationship tends to inform her perception of Kurapika. The arc continues to remain incredibly dense with characters and plot threads, and while thematically it’s nowhere near defined yet, there are several threads that I feel could eventually take prominence. But even if they don’t, this is still really a really well-written crime thriller of sorts, if you can get ignore the amount of seemingly superfluous bodyguard characters. This unbelievably ambitious arcs is still clearly in its infancy, and whenever Togashi does return to the series (supposedly within the next year), I’m going to be really eager to jump back in, and hopefully, not require too much re-reading in order to follow the story again.
It’s hard to know exactly where to start with Rick & Morty, but I guess all I can say is that it’s definitely one of my favorite shows. It didn’t start off that way, as I didn’t enjoy the first episode very much but the show quickly won me over, and providing several of the most unusual episodes, and some of them rank among my favorite episodes off all-time. Season One’s “Rixty Minutes” is still one of the funniest, and absurdly sweet, episodes I’ve seen, and it’s mostly just a series of ab-lidded commercials. And that’s not even my favorite episode of the series, that honor probably falls upon “Total Rickall”, which is possibly the series best mix of clever concept and dark humor, as well as getting the most mileage out of the entire cast and the family’s dynamic. Despite season two hosting a lot of my favorite episodes, I was starting to have an issue with how the series would portray Rick in a positive light, with episodes like “Get Schwifty” as a prominent example.
Anyway, that is not a problem that has persisted in season three, which has very much shifted focused into analyzing the effects Rick leaves on everyone, and his own personal issues. And not in a way that seemingly forgives his behavior for his own inner turmoil either, but it plays off as an exploration of it. And I’ve been loving it. The episodes that best showcase this in the August episodes where actually the month’s opening and closing episodes, “Pickle Rick” and “Rest and Ricklaxation”. Which by no coincidence, are my two favorites from the season (with the premiere as a close third). The complete on the point psycho-analysis from the psychiatrist in the former was both cathartic hearing the show addressing the core issues but also a really funny manner of delivering that information. The latter episode’s manner of detailing it was far more interesting, with both Rick & Morty shedding off what they consider “Toxic” about themselves, which includes Rick’s love for Morty and any level of insecurity or worry in Morty. Of course, none of this matters if the series wasn’t still hilarious and creative, and I think an episode about Rick turning into a pickle and having an epic action blockbuster-esque takedown of an evil organization proves the series is still providing top-tier material.
I was first introduced to Neck Deep through WWE, as they used their song, “Serpents” for NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II, also known as the show where Asuka defeated Bayley. “Serpents” is also an excellent track, with more of an edge to it than “In Bloom”, but in never made me actively seek out their other songs. It remained in my playlist for quite some time but eventually it fell out in favor of other songs and I thought that would essentially be it. Fast forward to August 13th, while eagerly waiting for the reveal of my final entry here, youtube recommended me a video, the music video of Neck Deep’s “In Bloom”. Because I had nothing better to do and I liked “Serpents” a good deal, I decided to give it a listen to, and I’m so thankful that I did because not only is “In Bloom” still in my playlist, but early on it was my playlist.
“In Bloom” is a pop punk track and while I’m really bad at explaining musical from a technical standpoint, I don’t have any problem stating that “In Bloom” is must-listen to the fans of that genre, especially if you prefer the ones that seemingly veer closer to the pop side of things. Like I side, this isn’t really my element but that doesn’t mean I still can’t try to express my adoration for this song anyway. Before I begin, I’ll briefly discuss the few issues I have with the song and it’s shortlist. The only real down-point for me is the first pre-chorus’ lyrics simply being one line “Sometimes that is not enough” repeated three times in a row. I understand it’s intended to punctuate the point, but to me it comes across as a little lazy and definitely redundant, even though it’s interspersed with some tight instrumentals. And to be fair, there is some variety there, whether it be adding in the reinforcing “No” or stretching out the “Enough” to match the melody, but it’s still not enough to change my opinion of it being easily the low-point of the track. Another potential pitfall for some is that the track takes it’s time building things up. The first verse is substantially slower than the rest of the track, and the chorus doesn’t show up until over a minute into the track. Compared that to the time between the first and second chorus, which is a little over thirty seconds, essentially half the time. This however, is a strength of the song in my opinion. You see, this song’s chorus is an absolute powerhouse. I’m a bit of an odd-ball in the sense that I frequently find chorus’, and drops for that matter since I guess they’ve become the new modern-day equivalent, to be my least favorite part of songs. There are countless exceptions of course, and “In Bloom” is definitely one of them. It’s incredibly catchy and it completely changes the dynamic of the song. One of the best moments of this song is once the first chorus is over, the second verse begins with a quick “Wooo!” (that sounds more like backing vocals), which immediately sets the tone for the upcoming, faster paced verse. It’s like the song is signifying how the chorus influenced the track, that the pace needs to be faster than what it was to maintain interest. And it works, even the pre-chorus now tells a stronger lyrical tale this time, then repetition. The lyrics themselves, have their issues, but on a large I really like them. The whole chorus in particular is great, with my interpretation being centered around being in a relationship with someone while you’re rehabilitating or making strives to improve, but the scars from whatever issues you’re dealing with is causing your significant other to constantly bring them up, only furthering the damage and preventing the relationship to fully bloom. I would say I wish the verses tackled the relationship more than it does but focusing on the narrator’s problems more and the little bits we do get, are enough for me. The pre-chorus line “‘Cause the truth is, You’re the only voice I wanna hear in my head” does a lot to help establish when he’d remain in the relationship where his past problems are constantly being focused on in a more inventive way than simply singing “I love you” or something. While my obsession with the song has waned through many, many listens, it’s still a song I’ve been going back to, and has encourage me to listen to more of their discography. I’ve liked most of what I’ve heard though nothing’s even close to “In Bloom” for me, so I’ve mostly just stuck with this song. I’ve linked to the song up above on youtube, if you haven’t already clicked that then it should come to no surprise at this point that I’d recommend you listen to “In Bloom”.
Last but certainly not least, Sonic Mania. As with any long-time fan of Sonic, it’s been a bumpy road with the blue blur. Growing up the defining series of my childhood was Dragon Ball Z, but second place definitely went to Sonic the Hedgehog. While it’s impossible for me to say for certain but I’m fairly confident that Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is the game I played the most growing up, as Tails because my older brother was always player one. And as a matter of face, I own Sonic the Hedgehog 2 probably more than any other video games, and can plow through most of the game without losing a single life, granted that’s a humble brag because I’m not capable of getting all Chaos Emeralds around and the final boss battle destroys me. Unlike most however, I wasn’t necessarily clamoring for a return to classic Sonic, I’ve been clamoring to a return to Dreamcast Sonic if anything, since Sonic Adventure 2 Battle is my favorite in the franchise. Heck, I even prefer the Modern Sonic Stages in Generations. So while my expectations were high for Sonic Mania, they weren’t as astronomical high as they were for many others.
If you kept your finger on the pulse at all then you already know that Sonic Mania is one of the best games in the entire franchise, and it’s comforting to know that if I had set my expectations as high as the moon in the sky, it would’ve delivered. Simply put, it’s the best 2D Sonic game to date, and an absolute labor of love. The game masterfully recaptures the essence of the original momentum based gameplay, and reconstructs several of the franchise best levels and Hydrocity Zone, from its early days, revitalizing them all with fantastic remixes and unique gameplay mechanics, allowing each of the returning stage to provide a sense of nostalgia while still managing to be a unique experience. And speaking of those gameplay mechanics, every ACT of this games sports a distinct one. In Metallic Madness for example, the first Act of that zone features plenty of catapults sending you between the foreground and the background whereas the second Act scraps that in favor of a shrinking segment. This keeps the game consistently fresh, and giving each mechanic time to shine without outstaying their welcome. Variety is the spice of life and this game, not only do we see a transition in levels, Sonic Mania boasts a boss every Act, each one of them a distinct experience. I absolutely mean it when I say that I never played a platformer, perhaps a game, with a better collection of bosses. Now mind you, if what you look for in a boss fight is difficulty then you’re unlikely to agree with that sentiment. Granted, at the time of this writing I have not fought the secret final boss since I’ve primarily played with Tails and Knuckles and I don’t think you can access it with them unless you use the level select cheat, besides I only got the first four Emeralds but outside of presumably that fight, none of the boss fights are all that difficult, especially once you figure out the pattern. Still, the majority of them are really fun to fight and several of them are dreams come true. I’ve insulted Hydrocity Zone earlier, but the boss of the first zone is taken straight from the source game, except this time you’re controlling Eggman’s ship and it’s amazing. However the true gem for me, is Chemical Plant Zone Act 2, easily my favorite level in any 2D Sonic game, probably my favorite level in any Sonic game, and one of my favorite levels of all-time. Now if you grew up on Sonic and have not yet played this game, stop reading here. So the level itself is incredibly fun, the syringes that turn the poison into super bouncy platforms, those double helix elevator things, those moving wall pads you stick to and jump off of, it’s just awesome. There are so many moments in this level structured around pure speed, and I don’t think I encountered an instance where that lead to a cheap hit or anything, it’s a very well-structured level. But of course, what solidifies is the boss fight, a game of Mean Bean Machine against that titular Dr. Robotnik himself. When I first saw this I was flooded by so much nostalgia I was on the verge of tears, it’s been a long time since a game has made me that happy. There’s plenty more I could discuss, the incredible soundtrack composed by Tee Lopes, the return of Blue Spheres, the unlockables, the incredible story being the development team, but we’re approaching four thousand and there are hundreds of videos covering that, Antdude has made my favorite, so I’ll just say that in a year jam-packed with amazing games, for me, Sonic Mania is the game to beat.
So there you have, an excessively detailed look into my favorite new media that came out last month that I highly doubt anybody’s going to read all the way through. But regardless, it was fun to be able to celebrate all the great content that came out like this, and if you have anything you want to add to the discussion, feel free to in the comments below.