Story Pile: The 2022 Summary

And here we are, on the last Story Pile day of the year. I would say ‘the last monday’ but honestly, I don’t know if it’s monday to you. It’s not monday to me. I don’t think I’ve ever written a Story Pile article on the monday it goes up. The joy of scheduling. Anyway, it’s the end of the year, it’s an arbitary cutoff point before I reorganise some stuff, what was this year like and also can I have a freebie sir thank you.

I watched a lot of stuff this year! I watched some stuff that kicked ass, some stuff that bored me, and some stuff I struggled to finish. This year featured a lot less hate-watching, and a lot more consideration of disappointments, with only a few Hallmark pieces to drag around because it’s fun to make fun of really bad media sometimes, and it’s easy, and it’s something to share with Fox.

One thing I watched a lot more of this year is anime. I feel like the past five years or so I’ve really fallen out of watching anime, something I used to love doing, and only this year did I really get back into the habit of trying to watch an anime on the regular — a single series a month, maybe, and binge on a few when I was of a mood. I joined a discord with an anime club channel. And the result is I watched a bunch of kick-ass anime! Not all of it got Story Piles this year. Maybe next year. I wound up weaving this into my organisation — every month, I would do one Story Pile on an anime.

But this isn’t about what I watched this year.

This is about what I wrote.

What articles did I write, in the Story Pile category, that I want you to look at? What are my top ten most proud of it articles I wrote? Let’s count ’em down!

As a sort of runners-up to the list, I’d like to start with articles I think of as ‘long boys’ — Wotakoi (part 1, part 2) and The Owl House (part 1, part 2) were both so good I wanted to spend more than a week on them, so they got two articles. These are both, in my opinion, fun and good to read, and have a bunch of good phrases (particularly, the message about fandom in Wotakoi). But on the other hand, they make numbering a list of ten hard so nyeh.

Martian Successor Nadesico

Know what’s to blame for this article? Spotify.

Sometime this year, I saw on tumblr a screenshotted tweet of someone realising the long-term spending on Spotify, and the way they didn’t own any of the music they had CDs of and cancelled their subscription and ran off. I don’t use spotify for music – I used it on my phone – but it did make me think that I had a pile of mp3s on my computer I hadn’t even organised in something like ten years, ever since I got a smartphone. This meant listening to a whole lot of songs for the first time in a while not being served by an algorithm, and a bunch of them were bangers, and it included the absolutely timeless classic of You Get To Burning.

That got me nostalgic for the source, and realising I couldn’t remember the ending of it. When I think about it, there’s something about the finale of Martian Successor Nadesico that slides off my memory. I’ve seen it now, all the way through, at least twice, but if you asked me how it ends I can give you a general wobbling about ‘oh they sorted out the uh, the war business,’ and that’s that. I mean, I watched it eight months ago.

Still I don’t need this series to have a great ending because a lot of what’s going on in the middle of it — this is a series with a lot to say about being an anime fan in a culture where that’s seen as immature.

Knives Out

Here my most significant feeling about the whole thing is about how to talk about a thing I liked and enjoyed, and also, how to talk about it in a way that was interesting without ruining the fun for other people. It got me thinking about the particular ecosystem of Commenting On Media Spaces, and that meant I wound up thinking about the things that went into this movie, or its historical context and all that until I realised that this particular ecosystem made it easy to dilute or forget the messages of this movie.

Particularly, I am proud of the final coda of this article, the last phrase, and it’s a phrase that I’ve been hearing myself repeating throughout this year.

The Story of Tiffany Aching

I’ve talked about how hard it is to write about Discworld stories (though I did write about Reaper Man this year), and this was an attempt to approach it. I really liked this approach, where I tried to talk to you about the story of a character through multiple books, and why, when presented with the homework of five goddamn books you might ask yourself ‘hey, how should I approach these?’

And man if Tiffany’s books aren’t sick as hell. They didn’t exist until I wasn’t a child any more, but I was heavily impacted by the Johnny books that could almost be seen as drafts for the Tiffany Aching stories. I don’t know how influential these books are going to get to be in the lives of others, but a big part of what they hold for me is realising that doing things for the good of others is important on its own.

House

I took my time ruminating on House. I thought rewatching it, it might be ‘this wasn’t so bad’ and that this would be a chance to talk about the way this series’ multiple different eras of narrative kind of represented different storytelling forms. Maybe there’s a single big question in the setting, or the story, maybe there was something I didn’t appreciate first time around.

What I didn’t realise is how stupid House is.

When I watched this series a second time I used the phrase privilege porn to describe the world of House. It’s about the fantasy of being so good, so exceptional, so privileged that you could just get away with anything, you could break all the rules, you could abuse all your coworkers, you could just dismiss everything that should keep you confined. That’s it, that’s the fantasy: Imagine being allowed to be a big shithead. Behold! Our shithead!

And it’s not… really very clever?

It’s just shitheady?

Fullmetal Panic

I wonder if there’s a thread that the majority of the Story Pile articles in this top ten appear to be looking back at things a long time ago. Maybe that’s just a byproduct of having a long time to think about them. But we got a new season of Fullmetal Panic last year, and I got all thinky about it, and that got me back to thinking about the theme of it.

Tomorrow is a favourite song and the anime it’s tied to is a favourite and yes, okay, I had to deal with some Anime Bullshit to go through it but damn if I didn’t like chance to finally talk about the Big World Conceit of Fullmetal Panic and how beautifully silly it is.

Revolutionary Girl Utena

I promise it’s not all just the anime I loved this year, but hey, check it out, it’s a classic 90s queer anime that I finally got around to talking about at length. I’ve been pretty hard on people treating anime where Two Girls Exist Next To Each Other as queer media, and maybe that’s tied to being someone who makes queer media who’s a little pissy that I don’t have international success based entirely on pre-existing exploitation of labour and distribution networks of thirsty nerds, but also that means for a time there I’d be pretty disdainful of a series like Utena as queer media, as if somehow this anime that I know for a fact got criticised for being ‘really gay’ in the 90s was somehow now, in the 2020s, ‘not gay enough.’

Anyway, I went back to Utena, I watched it again, I thought about my history with it. I also finally wrote down not ‘what people think’ but rather ‘what do I think‘ about the interpretation of an actual piece of media. Like I have an impression of the story Utena tells, why not share it? Why do I feel the need to couch it in ‘some people say?’ bullshit. It’s my fucking blog, you’re here to see my opinions and hear me make a joke about Touhou voring Dark Souls at least once.

Harry Chapin’s The Rock

This is a song I’ve heard my dad quote for my entire life and it’s always been part of my experience that he somehow gets all the way to the end of the story and never actually gets what the story is about. This is one of the scariest things I can still experience from my childhood, so I wanted to talk about it in Dread Month.

Violet Evergarden

I feel like this article on Violet Evergarden was a new standard for my Story Pile articles. Partly affected by the actual content of the series, and partly by it being a new year where I wanted to try and do a better job, this article has features I think of as hopefully being new standards.

  • There’s less of an intent to present my opinions as neutral or discovered. Instead, I talk about what I think and what I feel.
  • I break down a complex subject I think of in ‘second party’ terms; not being neurodivergent, I didn’t abdicate the question of whether or not Violet is neurodivergent, and instead talked about how I interpreted her.
  • I took the Age Bullshit element of anime on head-on.
  • I was able to, I feel, examine an important element of the series that has stuck with me, and try to convey it widely.

I think this article is really good and if I had access to good quality video of Violet Evergarden, I might make this into a video essay for putting on youtube.

Columbo

The question of Copaganda’s been on our minds in general lately, and what about how much of our media landscape is shaped by a literal protracted, commercial exercise from the United States police to try and present themselves positively, so much so that now they are the metaphor for positive heroic behaviour. And that can normally be easy for me to discard because, man, you watch shows like Law & Order or Homicide: Life On The Street and go oh yeah, cops are shitty, I don’t feel that compelled to put up with this series presenting them as not-shitty.

But what if there’s copaganda media you like?

I decided to confront that feeling here in this article about Columbo, which is a series I’m very fond of, and why it captivates me in ways that make me want to start making excuses. And yes, they are excuses, but it’s still worth interrogating and having a thoughtful relationship to the media we love. Check this article out, I think it covers a lot of interesting questions and why Columbo doesn’t make me feel bad to watch.

Moral Orel

I kind of knew this was going to be the article that wound up here when I started this list. I never expected to be so invested in Moral Orel, which I did in fact start watching once, found boring, and stopped watching early on. But I’d been given a reason to rewatch it — someone mentioning the way the series starts on achronic storytelling — and that got me to spend a night chaining through it and then I sat with my feelings for all of a day and I pulled open a new post.

I sometimes think of going back to that article and cleaning up some phrasing, making things more explicit, like I normally do, because that article was a draft and it was written on the hot fumes of how the show made me feel. It’s raw and it’s personal and it’s angry and I kind of love Moral Orel, a show I will never be able to watch a second time I don’t think.

The article’s a good one, and I think it has some really good ideas expressed clearly and well, too.


I hope this is some fun, and interesting stuff to read this break, and which you can see as a sort of summary of the kind of writing I’ve done this year and the kind of writing I hope to do in the year coming!

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