July Staff Picks: Action-Adventure Games, K-Drama, Grim Reapers, and Podcasts!

Jessenia Hernandez

Over the past few months, I’ve been slowly working my way through Hollow Knight, a 2D action-adventure game that has been as frustrating as it has been fun (frustrating in a motivating way, like any good video game, of course). You play as the Knight character navigating through the vast underground depths of Hallownest, an ancient fallen kingdom plagued by disease. Many of Hallownest’s inhabitants are bug-like creatures that you must defeat with your trusty needle-sword, and I’ve loved the Knight’s quick and agile fighting style. This game is heavy on exploration and the map upgrades only at save points, so sometimes you have no idea where you are or where you’re going next. While I’m not usually one for uncertainty in games—point me in a straight line to my objective, please—this has actually been a great practice in patience and simply enjoying the journey. I’ve had to repeat certain paths and boss fights for hours as I’ve gotten used to the mechanics and navigating the map, but overcoming hurdles has been that much more rewarding because of it. I also absolutely adore the aesthetics of this game. The characters are somehow both eerie and extremely adorable, and each unique section of the map boasts beautifully hand-drawn backgrounds with a distinct air of otherworldly magic. Hollow Knight does an amazing job of balancing the light and dark in every regard. As I experience the highs of defeating a boss after dozens of tries, I also wonder what sinister secrets the game still has in store.

Asmaani Kumar

My Liberation Notes is one of the most stunning testaments to the exhaustion which comes from a mundane, routine existence. Following the lives of three siblings trapped in hour long commutes and a mysterious neighbour, it’s about each of their journeys towards understanding what they want to be liberated from and how they can get there. The story is so grounded, real and even painful at times because of how close it mirrors reality by touching upon urban loneliness, feeling out of step, longing to be understood, trying to find purpose and even opening up past wounds. One of the things I’ve discovered of late is that there are some narratives that are in-built with grandeur and the hope of achieving something unbelievable, but narratives like My Liberation Notes are so much more about the limitations of our life and how we can make peace with them in our own ways.

With a brilliant cinematography and OST, a gentle plot pacing and relatable characters earnestly trying to understand their own motivations and intentions, this is one show that makes you want to live life differently, to do better for yourself. What stays with me after all these months is how liberating yourself and finding peace is a process, there is no end to it but it’s a journey that’s so important for us to take. And if this isn’t enough to get you started on it, here’s one of my favorite lines from my twin character, Yeom Mi Jeong: ‘Five minutes a day. If you have five minutes of peace, it’s bearable. When I hold the door open for a kid at a convenience store, and the kid says “Thank you”, that makes me happy for seven seconds. When I open my eyes in the morning and remember it’s Saturday, that makes me happy for ten seconds. Fill up five minutes a day like that. That’s how I survive.’

Dominic Loise

GRIM is a new comic book series about death and reapers from Boom Studios. It is about the working world of reapers, and writer Stephanie Phillips creates a rich inner mythology for this series that brings to the page something beyond people who punch a time clock in the afterlife. Artist Flaviano’s inviting style seamlessly blends not only different death concepts like the River Styx and Day of the Dead into the world of GRIM, but reapers who lived in different time periods all doing their part to collect the souls of the recently departed. Colorist Rico Renzi masterfully shifts the palette tones of each different world we travel in when reading GRIM while not shifting the focus off of the story.

What will keep me coming back to GRIM is not finding out the mystery of what happens after we pass away; the main story of GRIM is that reaper Jessica Harrow does not remember how she died. Or how she can be seen by the living at times. Phillips does an amazing job of setting up Jessica’s dilemma in the first issue while also world building the series. Jessica is also given a multi-dimensional supporting cast of fellow reapers to help her discover the secret of her death. I enjoy that the tone of the book is not all doom and gloom. These characters care about one another and show that there are friendships to be made no matter where you go in life or beyond.

Jaclyn Morken

I’m notoriously bad at starting things and not finishing them—books, TV shows, knitting projects, you name it. Most podcasts fall on that list too, just because I come in late and have so much content to catch up on. I’m someone who likes to consume media in chronological order, and I never seem to have the time or attention span to catch up on dozens of hour-long podcast episodes. But for You Can Sit With Us, I’ve been making the time. Ariel, Becky, Maggie, and Rachel are such delightful hosts, and it is so wonderful to hear a group of women speak so honestly—and hilariously—about their lives and experiences. It truly feels like being welcomed into a conversation between best friends. With discussions ranging from skincare and relationship advice, TV shows, and pets, to more serious topics like self-advocacy in health care, sobriety, and women in the public eye, this podcast has a little bit of everything. It’s the perfect way to take a break and wind down from the day!