Girls Got Game’s Top Geek Things of 2016

It’s the cold, bitter truth: 2016 was a shitty year for everyone, so much so that it’s going to be one second longer than it ought to be. We were all scrambling for whatever bits and pieces of Fun and Happy that we could find to keep us afloat, and thankfully? Some fantastic, geeky things DID roll out this year. There’s has also always been a lot of stuff from ages past to fall back on when you need to. Some members of Girls Got Game would like to share their love.


SPACEDPANINI WITH DISNEY’S “MOANA”

Out of all the animated things that came out this year, Disney’s Moana pulled out all the feels for this poor soul. That’s saying something, because I watched a lot of them as a big fan of animation. 2016 was good to the toons.

There were a LOT of good ones this year, and some surprising ones too. The ones you expected to fail were decent/ok films (Angry Birds PUT DOWN YOUR PITCHFORKS, Storks, Trolls) or were actually begrudgingly brilliant (Sausage Party). There were also the nostalgic ones that made a big comeback (Voltron: Legendary Defenders), anything Steven Universe, the surprise hits that push you to think a bit and stays with you (Zootopia and Miss Hokusai), even those that somewhat miss their mark but were pretty good for what they were (Kubo and the Two Strings, Finding Dory).

It was very, very hard to choose from a brilliant lineup, but I decided to choose the one that broke my heart and lifted it up again.

Moana’s plot is as generically Disney as it gets. Surprisingly it’s not a Disney Princess™ plot. It’s a “Chosen One™ and Mentor get a Thing™ and go on an adventure to bring said thing to a specific place to destroy/purify it in order to save the world” kind of plot.

CLICK. IT.
There is this one scene which never fails to give me chills in its opening notes. It is the reveal of Moana’s ancestry and starts her journey. Most of the songs are found on Disney’s Vevo channel and as much as I want to share them all here I will respect people’s choice to keep this review spoiler free. Except for the one in this scene. The Majesty of this song pales in comparison to the other songs in the film but I believe its reveal, representation, and presentation is absolutely important and must be experienced. Please visit and watch the link. I insist.

The magic of Moana is in its presentation. Aside from the most beautiful animated water you will ever see in a film, you get the bright colors, an amazing score helmed by the one and only Lin Manuel Miranda. There’s also the brilliant Opetaia Foa’i of folk group Te Vaka and Mark Mancina. And have I mentioned its amazing animation?

Moana is a film that beautifully and respectfully represents the Polynesian culture, with engaging and relatable characters. HOLY MOLY, the characters! I cannot stress the importance of balancing representation and relatability in a story. The film and its characters gleefully dance on that line and smash those boundaries.

Moana, played by deserving newcomer Auli’i Cravalho, is one of the rare Disney characters who is both royalty and is actually shown leading her people, all in the first ten minutes of the film!

Concept Art of the Beautiful BEAUTIFUL Grandma Tala. She broke my heart and uplifted it again many times in this film. She made me cry.

In fact, Moana is set to be chieftain. (Before people cry political correctness, most tribal people descended from Polynesian wayfarers have egalitarian rite of leadership; females and males both have equal chances of inheriting the position, including tribes found in Southeast Asia). Not only do we see her motivations in discovering herself, there she is also taking the role of leadership seriously. She LEAVES the island because she was concerned over the well-being of her people and time is running out for them.

Her supporting characters are also well written. They establishes both the world and what is at stake from the first song. Her people love her and look to her as a wise Chieftain, her mother is understanding. Then her father’s love and motivation on keeping her on the island is justified, because it is an actual fear that you can relate to, if you are a parent or have someone young that you love.

Her grandmother, OMGOD her Grandmother! The beautiful Tala is the one that pushes Moana to understand both her lineage and the responsibility that comes with it. She even eggs Moana on her “Chosen One-ness” but gives her enough space to let her make that decision on her own. That right there is important. Moana wasn’t coerced by anyone or anything but circumstance.

“You are your father’s daughter; stubbornness and pride. Mind what he says but remember, you may hear a voice inside. And if that voice starts to whisper, to follow the farthest star, Moana that voice inside is who you are”.

Maui, Demigod of the Wind and Sea, hero of Men! You’re Welcome!

She is joined in her quest by reluctant demigod and folklore hero Maui, who is perfectly played by Dwayne Johnson. It may be surprising to people that he is a DIIICK but let me assure you he is somewhat tamer here compared to the myths I have read. This actually contributes to brilliant character interaction and slapstick on all the characters. He is such a lovable rogue and you will feel sorry for him. His chemistry with Moana changes from a reluctant mentor/student relationship to sibling-like playful banter. An inter-generational friendship and filial love in a family film is very important to showcase.

Other supporting characters are the necessary animal sidekick (lovingly made fun of by Disney in a ballsy way where Moana is pissed Maui calls her a princess), Maui’s sentient tattau/tattoo, who acts as his best friend and moral compass (the poor little guy has seen SHIT and it is not afraid to call Maui out), and finally the Water. Yes, the water itself is a character. A sassy, likable one at that.

Let’s not forget anything that talks about Moana’s ancestors and this film’s strong emphasis on the culture it showcases to the point that it MOVES the plot too.

I have never had a roller coaster of feelings for a Disney film in a good long while and it is deserving. Ron Musker and John Clements outdid themselves this time. Moana feels like Disney at the height of its Renaissance. It is, for example, the first time I have seen the songs integrated so seamlessly to actually push the plot forward.

I just love sea food, You look like Free FOOD
SHINY

Even the closest thing to a villain (I personally think Moana is one of the rare Disney films where there is no villain, just obstacles and that is okay), a humongous hermit crab named Tamatoa — played by Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords — gets a song. It sounds and looks annoying until the tail-end of the song, in which (slight spoilers) Tamatoa ruthlessly handles both Maui and Moana mocking them both physically and mentally for the short time he is on screen.

The resolution of the climax is very typical Disney, although they seem to be taking notes from Studio Ghibli and a hint of Prince of Egypt. Most people were kind of exasperated by it but I feel the resolution was necessary to bring the film to a close. Believe me, the film ended on such a beautiful note: one of hope.

If you are able to catch this film, please for the love of all the wayfaring gods, WATCH. IT.

Moana feels like coming back home. Could this animated year have ended any better?

 

DENICE ON “HAMILTON: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL”

Whoever thought that a hiphop musical about an American Founding Father would be considered genius work? But then, 2016 is the year when the world turned upside down. And truth be told, Hamilton is one of the reasons why this year should not be thrown to the bins just yet.

In a nutshell, Hamilton: An American Musical rekindled the love for Broadway and showtunes, even when said showtunes now have beatboxing and major JaRule and Kanye references. Widely considered by critics and fans as the most groundbreaking work on Broadway in recent memory, Hamilton has amassed its own rabid geekdom in the form of Hamiltrashness.

Hamilton may have debuted in Broadway in 2015, but it lent reprieve from the clusterfuck that is 2016 when it started getting all its accolades this year. From the Grammys’ Best Musical Album to creator Lin-Manuel Miranda only missing an Oscar to complete his MacPEGOT (MacArthur Genius Award + Pulitzer + Emmys + Grammys + Oscars + Tonys) to having a Broadway album dominate the Hiphop Charts, Hamilton pretty much saved the year from being expunged from memory. By September, Lin-Manuel’s mug has graced almost every magazine cover, and we’re not even complaining.

Ay, papi! <3

Hamilton, while being an American story of the guy on their $10 bill, appeals to an extremely wide range of people. History fans, Broadway enthusiasts and hip hop connoisseurs do not always mix, but these sets show appreciation for the intelligent storytelling, its complex verbosity, and its humor and heart. Not only that, it has also built bridges to history by making it relatable, not only in its modern music but also through a conscious decision to cast non-white actors in major roles.

In the Philippines, the Hamil-aria caught on, fast. In May, Filipino fans took to Twitter to use Hamilton references to describe how they feel about the presidential elections, and the hashtag #Ham4Halalan caught the attention of Lin-Manuel Miranda himself, who left a message on the Pinoy Hamilton fan page (Lin saying “Minamahal kita” is adorably squee-worthy). In the recent rally against the Marcos Burial, Pinoy Hamilton fans held up signs with the musical’s lyrics.

While getting tickets to the actual Broadway show is damn near impossible because it’s sold out until 2018 (but hey, if Trump can be President, anything IS possible!), there are many different ways to enjoy this masterpiece. The full cast album is available on Spotify, and the whole libretto was published in Hamilton: The Revolution (affectionately nicknamed The Hamiltome), complete with anecdotes and commentary about the whole musical. There is also the Hamilton Mixtape, in which huge hip hop artists lent their voices to singing and writing what is essentially fan art for the show. There are also sing-alongs and Smule sessions and the stray cosplay in your favorite convention. Pinoy fans may not have seen the musical in full just yet, but we do Rise Up.

JUDITH WITH “YURI!!! ON ICE”

I will preface this by saying that I have loved figure skating ever since I encountered the US National Championships on ESPN when I was a wee. I didn’t religiously follow the sport until much later, but I’ve been around long enough to experience two different scoring systems and multiple rule changes, as well as see the rise and fall (and eventual retirement) of many beloved and not-as-beloved competitive skaters. It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that I’ve waited for a figure skating sports anime for a long time now.

Cue in Yuri!!! On ICE (from here on out referred to as YOI). I saw the trailer sometime in May and was wowed by the animation and hints of a male/male pairing. “It’s gonna be like Free!, but on ice,” I told myself.

Fast forward to Q4 2016. How was it, you ask? My initial assessment was wrong and I was – and continue to be – so much happier for it. If I were to describe the whole anime in one word, it would be “Real”.

First off, the figure skating itself is amazing. Unlike its figure skating anime predecessors (I’m looking at you, Ginban Kaleidoscope), everything was so realistic thanks to Kenji Miyamoto’s choreography. People have scoffed at the inconsistent quality in the animation, but there’s nothing to criticize regarding the figure skating programs themselves. The jumps, spins, and footwork were all so on point – to the point that actual figure skaters have already covered some of the routines. If that’s not legit enough, YOI has the approval of elite figure skaters such as reigning world champion Evgenia Medvedeva and skate husbands Johnny Weir and Stephane Lambiel – the latter even lending his voice for a cameo in Episode 12. The legitimacy of the figure skating is so much so that I will fite anyone who dares insinuate otherwise. (ง’̀-‘́)ง

Triple axel+ Tano position = Hardcore.

Second, inasmuch as I love the figure skating, it’s only secondary to the main highlight of the anime – the actual story. Yuri Katsuki, a disgraced skater, goes back to his home town to figure out what to do with his life. Insert Victor Nikiforov, top skater in the world with five World titles under his belt (well, skating boots) flying in to train him on a whim. Together, they conquer the skating world! …Except not really.

What starts out as caricatures turn into characters – wonderful, flawed individuals with motivations of their own. It’s not just the two central characters either; even the secondary characters are given depth, and their stories are told in such an organic way. Instead of pelting the viewers with everything in one go, bits and pieces are revealed along the way – to the point that the viewers are surprised with the developments even if they shouldn’t be, because the buildup was there all along. If that’s not the mark of great storytelling, I don’t know what is.

This scene in Episode 2 will make So Much Sense down the line. Way. Down.

Third, the love and effort put into this anime is very palpable. Writer Mitsurou Kubo and Director Sayo Yamamoto are figure skating fans; it’s a well-known fact in the fandom. What’s remarkable, however, is that despite their love for the sport and the people in the community, they aren’t blind to its faults. “Fixing” it through creating their own alternate reality where everyone can just be is in no way a solution to this world’s problems, but it’s certainly nice to see what this world has the potential to become.

“Regardless of how people in the real world feel about this work, inside the world of this show, there will be absolutely no discrimination toward the things one loves. I will absolutely protect this world.”

So go. Stop whatever you’re doing and #treatyoiself by streaming it on Crunchyroll.

 

MARIELLE WITH “FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM”

2016 has been a bleak year, one that could use a little magic. Fortunately for Harry Potter fans like me, we got some in the form of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The movie takes place in the 1920s and follows magizoologist Newt Scamander as he arrives in America, suitcase full of magical creatures in tow.

While wandering around New York, a mischievous Niffler (a platypus-like creature with an appetite for shiny things) escapes and wreaks havoc in a bank. This draws the attention of former Auror Tina Goldstein, who then arrests him and takes him to MACUSA (Magical Congress of the USA), hoping to get herself reinstated. Her plan fails, and Newt discovers he accidentally switched suitcases with No-Maj (Muggle) baker Jacob Kowalski. Tina and Newt are able to find the suitcase, but not before more creatures escape and Jacob is injured. Tina takes Newt and Jacob to her apartment, which she shares with her sister, Queenie. Newt heals Jacob and shows him some of the creatures that live in his suitcase, then convinces him to sneak out and help him find and capture the rest.

After they manage to capture an Erumpent (a rhino-like creature with a fiery horn) in Central Park, Tina finds them and takes the suitcase back to MACUSA. Believing the suitcase and its contents to be dangerous, MACUSA officials order the suitcase to be destroyed and Tina and Newt sentenced to death. Fortunately, Queenie and Jacob are able to rescue them and the suitcase just in time. Together, the four capture the rest of the creatures.

Meanwhile, a mysterious and powerful force unleashes several attacks on New York City. Director of Magical Security, Percival Graves believes it’s the work of an Obscurus (a magical parasite) and enlists the help of Credence Barebone, the adopted son of Mary Lou Barebone, a No-Maj woman who believes that wizards are dangerous and should be eliminated. Percival thinks Credence’s younger sister is the host, but after another attack that leaves Mary Lou dead, Credence reveals himself to be the host. The Obscurus continues to attack the city, exposing the wizarding world to the No-Majs.

Newt, Tina, Queenie, and Jacob attempt to stop the Obscurus by talking to Credence and calming him, but are attacked by Percival. The rest of the MACUSA officials arrive and destroy the Obscurus, killing Credence in the process. They arrest Percival, who turns out to be dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in disguise.

The MACUSA officials magically restore New York while Newt releases his Thunderbird which causes it to rain a potion that erases all No-Maj New Yorkers’ memories of the wizarding world. Before Jacob’s memories are erased, Queenie kisses him goodbye, partially shielding him from the rain. Newt anonymously gives Jacob silver eggshells that give him enough funds to start his bakery, which becomes a huge success due to his pastries shaped like magical creatures. Queenie visits and he seems to remember. Tina is reinstated as an Auror and bids goodbye to Newt as he leaves for Europe, promising to visit her when he finishes writing his book.

Top Geek Things of 2016

 

After Deathly Hallows, it was a real treat to be able to return to the wizarding world and see it from a different perspective, in a different time and place. Eddie Redmayne is endearing as the awkward protagonist, and some of the best parts of the movie were just seeing Newt interact with the various magical creatures in his care.

Knowing that this is the first of four movies, I look forward to learning about more “Fantastic Beasts” and seeing them in action.

 


Did our fandom vomit of rainbows resonate with you? Do you have your own geeky thing that helped you survive 2016? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear all about it. <3

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Lee Flores
I'm a diversity advocate, games artist and graphic designer-in-training based in Australia. Somewhere in between all of that, I claim to be a decent healer in World of Warcraft or Overwatch, but there's always room for improvement. Sometimes, I also play or even DM a DND homebrew or two.
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One comment

  1. Great round up! I love how this covers more than a few things I enjoyed in 2016. (Though I would’ve loved to see Rogue One and Your Name in the list, though those honestly came up a little later in the year.)

    Here’s to a brighter (and geekier) 2017!

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