The Woot List, 2016

[W00T: a expression of joy after a triumph or obvious victory]

Well, to be honest, expressions of joy were few and far between this past year. We lost far too much awesome (Prince, Bowie, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, to name a few), and were besieged by hate and ugly pretty much the whole damned year. I guess it’s no surprise, then, that the things that moved me most in 2016 were all positive, uplifting stories – cause damn, did I need them. So while I enjoyed many a book this past year – A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire were two particular standouts – in 2016, it was really other mediums that inspired my few-and-far-between internal combustions of joy. And so, here are the things that amped me up and geeked me out this past year:

Yuri on Ice was my happy place. Not only a wonderful story about competitive ice skating, where the main character struggles to overcome his self-doubt, this anime also has a lovely, gay-positive romance, and a beautifully diverse cast of characters. With a kindness and humanity, this is a series that brings out the best in everyone in it, and even now I still just want to hug this show to death.

Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa) is probably the most successful movie you’ve never heard of. A smash hit across the pacific, Your Name is a visual feast – one that’s also a bit hard to describe. Yes, the story involves time-travel and body switching, but more than anything this movie is an ode to the power of human connection, and the hope and love and grace that wells from it. Inspired by the Fukushima disaster, Your Name is just a beautiful story, uplifting in all the best ways.

Haikyu!!! Never has an anime (and manga) been more worthy of its exclamation points. This manga-turned-anime about a high school volleyball team has pretty much everything I adore in a sports yarn – a scruffy upstart, an underdog team, oddballs that have to work together – but where Haikyu really shines is in its characters. This show does a phenomenal job of making you care, about everyone – from friend to rivals, coaches to jerks – and even better, in this story they all get to GROW, both as individuals and teams. All in all it makes for highly addictive, deliciously animated, volleyball fun.

And last but not least, Arrival. I guess you could say this movie incited a quieter type of joy in me, as this isn’t exactly a rah-rah type of story, but it is a very thoughtful and moving one. For me, I think the best science fiction always uses something alien as a way to examine ourselves, and in that vein, while Arrival is a movie about aliens, really it’s a story about us, about what it means to be human. And it’s a good one at that.

So, there you have it – my Woots of 2016. But honestly, it was painful for me, not to have any books I could put on the list this year – it’s just, the alchemy of full-on sheer insane glee is hard to explain. But, here’s hoping 2017 turns out better, in every respect.