I have to admit, I’m pretty pleased that I got this list together before 2018 goes out with a bang. There’s a million end-of-the-year lists circulating online, and partially because it’s the season.
As someone who loves pretty dresses, romance stories, and robots in equal measure, I’ve been told my taste in fiction is kinda “niche.” I’m not sure if I should take this as a compliment, but I’ve also been asked on more than one occasion to supply an official list of recs.
So here it is: my list of recs. Consider this my go-to for shows that I’ve watched this year, and what you should watch, too. Especially if you’re an enemies-to-lovers or sci-fi horror fan like myself.
1. The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Genres: Gothic, Supernatural Horror.
Watch It If You Like: Haunted houses, angry ghosts, fractured family dynamics.
Content Warnings: Graphic suicide.
By now if you haven’t seen The Haunting of Hill House, you either don’t like horror or you’re purposely behind the curve. However, the series is just so good that I’m going to be cheap and recommend it again.
Without spoilers: A familial tragedy prompts the brothers and sisters of a fractured family to revisit an earlier event that shaped the rest of their childhood.
Netflix’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s classic story is by-and-large perfect. I honestly believe the media hype surrounding it is well deserved.
Tip: Read the book before you watch the show. That’s what I did, and I found it added a lot of meaning to each episode. The series captures the general aura of gothic doom that was present in the novel.
2. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (2013)
Genres: Anime, Biopunk, Mecha, Sci-Fi.
Watch It If You Like: Mechs, sci-fi adventure, sci-fi romance, portal fantasy, bio-engineering, floating cities, space pirates, and time travel.
Content Warnings: None.
I was recently introduced to this series when I was going through my anime craze post-Castlevania. A one-season show produced by Production I.G, Gargantia follows the young soldier Ensign Ledo and his sentient mech—Chamber K6821—after they crash-land on a far-future earth.
Ledo is initially confused at this planet he’s landed on, as he and his people thought that Earth was destroyed. Instead, he finds a thriving waterworld full of floating cities. He also befriends a young woman, Ami, and eventually falls in love.
The series is short, so you can watch it in a weekend if you need to.
3. Netflix’s Castlevania (2017-Present)
Genres: Anime, Dark Fantasy, Supernatural Horror.
Watch It If You Like: Vampires, vampire hunters, dysfunctional D&D parties, monster romances, witty dialogue.
Content Warnings: Extreme gore.
I honestly wasn’t expecting to get into this series as much as I did. Season 1 didn’t initially grip me, but when Season 2 rolled around I gave it a second shot. I liked it so much I found myself binge-watching the entire thing.
Based off of the video games Castlevania III and Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, the Netflix series follows last-of-his-line demon hunter Trevor Belmont. His family was in the business of killing monsters before the Church accused them of witchcraft and tried to wipe them out.
When Dracula—the most powerful vampire in the land—goes on a killing spree, Tevor, the magician Sypha, and Dracula’s son, Alucard, are forced to go on a wild, bloody chase to stop him.
The fight scenes in this series are to-die-for. The show has some of the best on-screen dialogue and in-depth characterization that I’ve seen all year.
4. HBO’s Sharp Objects (2018)
Genres: Contemporary, Psychological Thriller.
Watch It If You Like: Complicated, “unlikeable” women, family drama, murder mysteries, messy small-town politics.
Content Warnings: Graphic murder, self-harm, and themes of child abuse.
Based upon Gillian Flynn’s debut novel, Sharp Objects follows Camille Preaker—a down on her luck reporter—who is forced to return to her hometown and place of trauma to write about the murder of two young girls.
I loved this show because it gave me the messy, emotional, complex women that I’m always searching for on-screen. Camille also acts out the sort of narrative that is usually awarded to men—that of a working reporter or a private detective who’s drinking heavily and hiding their demons. I really appreciated this role reversal.
If you’ve got a weekend to watch it and you’re in a good headspace (seriously, some of the content might be triggering for some), I recommend checking it out.
5. Shin Godzilla (2016)
Genres: Disaster, Sci-Fi.
Watch It If You Like: Godzilla, disaster films, shockingly deep commentary about the nature of public service, giant lizards, memes.
Content Warnings: Watching the destruction of Tokyo was kind of traumatic.
I’m really angry with myself for not watching this sooner.
I blame my delayed introduction to this film on the fact that I’m a late convert to Godzilla. When I was growing up, all I was exposed to was the 1998 American adaptation. But this year I dipped my toes into the franchise when my co-hosts and I covered Shin on the podcast Metamashina. I loved it so much it honestly broke my mind.
Produced by TOHO and Cine Bazar, Shin Godzilla is the 31st installment of the Godzilla franchise. The movie re-imagines Godzilla’s introduction to the world by rebooting its origins in modern-day Japan.
6. A Quiet Place (2018)
Genres: Sci-Fi Horror.
Watch It If You Like: Alien invasion stories, nauseating levels of tension, very cool creature designs.
Content Warnings: Blood, gore, and jump scares.
Directed and starring John Krasinski, this post-apocalyptic film begins in 2020. Sightless creatures have overrun Earth to wipe out most of its inhabitants.
The Abbott family—two parents and three kids—have managed to escape by moving to an abandoned farm house. They communicate entirely in ASL to avoid detection, but when a series of mishaps occur they must work together to avoid being killed.
7. Kuromukuro (2016)
Genres: Anime, Mecha, Sci-Fi.
Watch It If You Like: Sci-fi action, robots, aliens, time travel, well-developed side characters, witty banter.
Content Warnings: None.
This was another series I was not expecting to be as good as it was. A two-season anime produced by P.A. Works, Kuromukuro follows an ancient samurai (Kennosuke) who is brought to the future to fight mech-weilding, intergalactic “ogres.”
Yes, you heard that right.
Once in the future, Kennosuke makes quick friends with the daughter of a UN facility director: the smart, no-nonsense Yukina Shirahane. Together they try to stop the ogres in our current era.
A thing I really loved about this series? Yukina and Kennosuke are deuteragonists, with their own complete and complex story arcs. The anime is also utterly hilarious and beautifully animated, with a rich plot and plenty of tropes for us fandom folks to cling to.
8. Altered Carbon (2018-Present)
Genres: Cyberpunk, Sci-Fi.
Watch it if You Like: Anything reminiscent of Blade Runner, class warfare, soft murder boys, and tragic romance.
Content Warnings: Blood, gore, torture, incest. Mentions of rape and implied rape (but not towards the main characters).
I’ve recommended this series so often I feel like I’m going to go blue in the face. Based on a 2002 novel by Richard K. Morgan, Altered Carbon takes place three-hundred and sixty years from now in a neon-soaked San Francisco. Human memory can be downloaded into disc-shaped devices that are placed at the back of the neck. These discs allow you to transfer your consciousness from body-to-body.
When Takeshi Kovacs—a former rebel fighter—is taken out of prison and inserted into a new body, he’s given a mission. He needs solve the murder of the richest man on earth. If he succeeds? He wins his freedom. If he fails, he goes back to prison, potentially forever.
Obviously, Takeshi takes the job.
9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Genres: Animated, Superhero.
Watch It If You Like: Superheros, Spider-Man, Marvel.
Content Warnings: None.
So I’m going to preface this rec by saying that I’m usually not a fan of superhero movies, and my knowledge on them is probably more limited than a diehard adherent’s. But Into the Spider-Verse took away everything I disliked about the genre, and left everything I loved: mainly the sheer artistic potential, and the core message that anyone can be a hero so long as they do the right thing.
Without spoilers: After the original Spider-Man dies, teenager Miles Morales must step up and take his place. An inter-dimensional portal opens up and allows other “Spider-Men” to fall through. Together the disparate heroes must work together to save the city.
Seriously, Into the Spider-Verse is such a beautiful film, from the soundtrack to the aesthetic to the characterization and on-the-nose humor. Please watch it.
10. Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms (2017)
Genres: CDrama, Fantasy Romance.
Watch It if You Like: Fated lovers, soulmates trope, reincarnation, gods falling in love with humans, fox goddesses, dragon princes, complex family dynamics, beautiful costume design, and happy endings.
Content Warnings: Suicide, attempted suicide, physical abuse, bullying, and post-partum depression.
Oh my god I inhaled this series.
To get this out of the way, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms does have its issues. The CGI is kinda funny. It’s debatable as to whether or not it passed the Bechdel Test. Even still, it was the most satisfying, fulfilling romance I’ve watched all year.
Clocking in at over fifty episodes, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms stars Yang Mi as the fox goddess Bai Qian and Mark Chao as the Celestial Dragon Prince Ye Hua. At the beginning of the series, Bai Qian is studying under the God of War, Mo Yuan. When a devastating war strikes and Mo Yuan is forced to sacrifice himself, Bai Qian falls into a deep depression at the loss of her teacher.
Nearly 70,000 years later, another mishap with the monster who destroyed her teacher causes Bai Qian to loose her immortality. When she’s sent to the mortal world as a human, she looses all her memories. There, she meets Ye Hua, the prince of heaven. The two of them fall in love.
While I sobbed buckets at more than one point during this series, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms is utterly and completely feminine in its gaze. It also has a happy ending.
And that’s it! That’s all for my list of recs in 2018. See you all in 2019. Hopefully I’ll come back with more content.