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From BTS to Animal Crossing: 20 Things We're Thankful For in 2020
Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend
In 2020, more than ever, we've needed sources of entertainment to occupy our time and provide respite from the worries and turmoil of the real world. As we enter the final stretch of this roller coaster year, we'd like to take a moment to appreciate the entertainment artists, shows, games and trends that brought smiles to our faces and helped us get through these stay-at-home days.
Even if you don't play Animal Crossing, you must've seen people looking for cheap turnips or selling stuff for Bells. While we were stuck at home, Animal Crossing: New Horizons arrived and allowed us to live our best imaginary lives, from creating our own island and visiting friends' villages to collecting bugs and catching fish.
Arashi joined the digital world last year by opening social media channels, putting their music on Spotify, and launching a Netflix docuseries. The seismic shift in Johnny's policy couldn't be timelier, because we needed that Arashi cheer this year, and they worked harder than ever to provide it. The J-pop titans delivered a steady stream of content – digital singles, English remakes, music videos, a new album, an online concert and their usual variety presence. This may not have been the final year the group or fans had in mind, but at least we got Arashi singing about hand washing out of it.
Remember that moment of genuine surprise and joy when Parasite won Best Film at the Academy Awards? Bong Joon Ho's acclaimed film came out in 2019, but early this year is when it made history at the major Western film awards, from the BAFTAs to the Golden Globes to the Oscars. For each win, the director delivered amazing, amusing (and impeccably interpreted) acceptance speeches. Of course, those on YesAsia already know this: "Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films."
COVID couldn't stop BTS from popping up here, there and everywhere! Aside from their Korean and Japanese album releases, the variety shows BTS in the Soop and Run BTS, and their Break the Silence documentary, the global sensations collected international awards and performed "live" at many ceremonies and shows, including the VMAs and BBMAs. They also shared a hopeful message to ARMYs all over the world with the incredibly fun and funky disco-pop single Dynamite, which became their first #1 debut on the Billboard Hot 100.
Don't try to tell us this aesthetic Korean coffee trend – supposedly coined by actor Jung Il Woo – isn't entertainment. In 2020, whisking coffee until your arm goes numb – and then switching arms – for the sake of an Instagram post absolutely qualifies as entertainment, not to mention quality exercise.
Gotouge Koyoharu's acclaimed dark action fantasy Kimetsu no Yaiba about a young demon slayer finished its run in Weekly Shonen Jump this May, right on time for everyone to finally get around to reading (or re-reading) it from the start. The best-selling manga volumes have been dominating sales in Japan, and the franchise launched the blockbuster film sequel to the anime series in October.
This MBC variety program brought us a lot of laughter, tears, comfort and, of course, great music in just 12 episodes. With the help of "managers" Lee Teuk and Kim Shin Young, trot queen Jang Yoon Jeong produced the first-ever trot idol group Super Five, which includes A.cian's Chu Hyeok Jin, Pentagon's Hui, Astro's MJ, Park Hyeong Seok and Mr. Trot's Ok Jin Uk. Besides entertaining with their formation and growth, the group cheered up audiences with their debut single "Hello" and its message of "Don't worry, everything will get better." Fingers crossed for another season!
Released in December 2017, Rain's Gang went viral belatedly in early 2020, generating loads of memes and parodies – and we've watched them all. Though the song's music video was originally mocked by netizens, the superstar not only took the ribbing in stride, he good-naturedly embraced it and went along with the fun. Like Rain says, we should all do "Three Gangs a Day" instead of just "One Gang a Day."
In a year full of uncertainties at every turn, Sucker Punch's breathtaking samurai action-adventure not only provided many hours of gameplay, it also answered many of life's burning questions. Questions like, what if Assassin's Creed was in feudal Japan? What if Kurosawa films were a game? What if open world was enjoyable? What if we had kept writing haikus after fourth grade? How many leaves are too many leaves? How much wind is too much wind? The one question it does not answer: Where are all these arrows coming from?
Yoo Jae Suk's Hangout With Yoo has been going strong since the start of summer. The comedian formed SSAK3 with K-pop icons Lee Hyo Ri and Rain, and then acted as the producer of the spin-off project group Refund Sisters with Lee Hyo Ri and three other top female soloists of different generations – Uhm Jung Hwa, Jessi and Hwa Sa. Thanks for hanging out with us and giving us flashbacks to old-school K-pop and Family Outing's national siblings!
Two years after NCT 2018 Empathy, SM gathered the boys of NCT 127, NCT Dream and WayV again in NCT 2020 along with new members Sung Chan and Shotaro. WayV's Xiaojun, Hendery and Yangyang also finally got officially introduced as "part of NCT." Now that we're up to date on the members, we just have to keep up with the endless content: NCT World 2.0, Welcome To Sun & Moon, Awsaz, NCT Chinese Lesson, music shows, behind-the-scenes, reaction and unboxing videos, live streams…
Online concerts have become the norm, and K-pop has taken it to the next level. While practicing "untact" (Korea's coined word for "social distancing"), idols have changed their concerts and fan meetings to live streaming format. Stages are elevated with innovative AR technology and visual effects, while real-time interactive tools allow communication with fans. We're still able to enjoy concerts at home and cheer on our faves with a virtual light stick. The lucky ones might even get picked to appear on a huge Zoom-like screen waving your real light stick!
The Boyz, ONF, Pentagon, ONEUS, VERIVERY, TOO and Golden Child brought an impressive series of large-scale stages on Road to Kingdom, which perhaps no one expected before the Mnet program aired in the spring. We were treated to a whole new level of creative, conceptual and jaw-dropping performances making use of the I-shaped stage, camera switch, different props and difficult choreography from some of K-pop's most underrated groups.
It takes a lot of time and resources to make those magical Ghibli films, so the revered animation studio isn't known to pass out images for free. But in this year when we all needed more Totoro in our lives, Ghibli came through. In spring, they released chat backgrounds so we can have Zoom meetings in Totoro's forest, Kiki's bakery, Arrietty's nook or even producer Suzuki Toshio's office. In autumn, Ghibli released hundreds – HUNDREDS! – of gorgeous high-res film stills for download, with only a gentle reminder from Suzuki to use them within the range of common sense.
Taiwan's pro sports leagues were among the first to reopen and stay open this year. Both the CPBL (baseball) and the SBL (basketball) were in play in April while the rest of the world shut down, providing fans everywhere with some much-needed sports. Taiwan baseball teams acknowledged the increased international attention by opening Twitter accounts, broadcasting with English commentary, and generally emanating the same old enthusiasm during these unnormal times. On top of baseball, the CPBL entertained with everything from robot drummers and mannequin spectators to those sassy mascots. Go Uni-Lions!
Thai BL series 2gether started airing in late February, right when COVID went global and lockdowns began. From February to May, this feathery-light 13-episode gay youth romance, conveniently broadcast on YouTube (and later Netflix) with English subtitles for viewers outside Thailand, offered a cute, funny and sweet watch for those stay-at-home, entertainment-starved days. A mere three months later, there was already an equally sweet five-episode sequel, Still 2gether, for pure fan service. Well played as always, GMM.
While we were all wondering if we'd ever get to travel again, Netflix dropped a travel show on us in the form of Twogether. The wholesome duo of Korean actor-singer Lee Seung Gi and Taiwan actor Jasper Liu hit the road together to Indonesia, Thailand and Nepal to meet their fans – after completing missions involving the cultural and natural landmarks of their travel destinations. Besides offering a vicarious trip, the Youth Over Flowers-style travelogue brought gentle laughs and positive vibes all around with its buddy adventures and hilariously awkward attempts at communication.
While Gang's virality was fueled by its unintentional comedy, My House's resurgence was all about appreciation. It began with a viral fancam of 2PM's Jun Ho performing the group's sleeper hit in 2015 – that video has now garnered over two million views. K-pop fans went crazy over the song, the dance, the lyrics and the stage presence, and wondered why they hadn't noticed this gem five years ago. Many hours were spent this year binge-watching old music videos and reminiscing the good old days of 2PM and second-generation K-pop idols.
Thanks to Miss Trot and Mr. Trot, trot became the hottest music trend in Korea this year, and we're all for it. From Song Ga In to Mr. Trot's Top 7, trot stars have become "idols" for not only the older generation but even younger audiences. Ratings go up every time well-known trot singers appear on a TV program, while shows like K-Trot in Town, Love Call Center and Mister Trot F4 Academy have successfully rode the wave of the trot revival. And let's not forget veteran Na Hoon A's record-breaking Chuseok online concert!
Just when we thought we were so over all these idol audition shows, Qing Chun You Ni reeled us in with a new season of surprises. The mentor lineup featured Idol Producer winner Cai Xukun returning to host and BLACKPINK's Lisa in strict teacher mode. The contestants delivered quality comedy, from the shamelessly cute and peppy antics of Esther Yu, to Jony J's eternal struggles with trainees who just can't rap. Most of all, the show embraced a refreshing lineup of both girly girls and girls who preferred shorts over skirts, with the talented and charismatic Xin Liu emerging as the center of THE9.
Published November 19, 2020
BONG JOON HO ACCEPTANCE SPEECHES
GHOST OF TSUSHIMA
HANGOUT WITH SSAK3 & REFUND SISTERS
ROAD TO KINGDOM
STUDIO GHIBLI ZOOM BACKGROUNDS
2PM in MY HOUSE
YOUTH WITH YOU 2
Published November 19, 2020