Game Boy 001

As I wrote at the start of the year, I want to try something new this year on my blog, and so I’ve decided to try writing a weekly column/post, starting today.

I’ve quite enjoyed the past year and a half of blogging I’ve done, after a hiatus of a few years. I liked the exercise of writing regularly again, and it was fun to re-connect a bit with Japan (since the posts were mostly about Japan-related art, design, and culture, just like I did back in the day). But at this point, even though I’m still very much in love with those things, I’d like to write about something that is more connected to my current reality.

So what will I cover in these weekly posts? I’m not exactly sure yet, but it should mostly cover my reality of working in the games industry here in Montreal. We’ll see where that goes, but I imagine it’ll touch on events I attend, things I’m involved in — the public types of things — and whatever else I want to write about.

As for why I want to do it on a weekly basis, that’s actually what I was doing when I first started writing on the web — it was in the guises of a weekly column called “Johnny Sushi” that I was writing about my life in Tokyo (back in 1998), as part of a site I had built with a friend called Acadiespatiale.com (which is long, long gone), that was a celebration of Acadien culture (Acadiens, or Acadians, of which I am one, being the French-speaking people of the maritime region, mostly found in the province of New Brunswick).

And unlike what you might think, using the name “Game Boy” for the series isn’t a nod to Nintendo’s classic portable console — which is in fact the only mainline Nintendo console I never owned, although I did have a Game Boy Color (the model pictured) — but rather is in reference to the “Tokyo Boy” name I regularly used for a lot of the mini-blogs I ran on this site over the years.

My plan is to publish these every Wednesday. We’ll see if that sticks.

Winter 2018 Anime Season

After rekindling my enjoyment of watching anime on a regular basis in 2016, 2017 ended up being a huge bust for me — most seasons had little if nothing I wanted to watch, and the shows that did look interesting to me didn’t keep me watching for more than an episode or two. This last season sounded promising, and again, I was disappointed by everything, including Inuyashiki, which may be fine, but after one episode I didn’t really feel the urge to continue (even though I really enjoyed the manga series). But I haven’t given up yet, and although I’ll again say that I’m actually excited by a few series for the winter season, I’ve already watched the first episode for three of them, and it’s off to a good start. Here’s what I want to check out this season (as always, I get my info from AniChart).

Kokkoku
I watched the first episode of this today, and really loved where it ended. We’re presented with a family that is entangled in a kidnapping, and to address this, the grandfather manages to stop time — and that’s just the start of how interesting things get, when everything doesn’t go according to plan. I’m definitely looking forward to watching the second episode.

Ito Junji: Collection
I absolutely adore the horror manga of Junji Ito, and was so excited when they announced this anthology series — each episode is based on a short story by Ito. I watched the first episode, and it was fantastic. This was a safe bet for me, but I’m still glad it delivered.

Devilman Crybaby
This is a Netflix original that launched this past Friday. I’ve never watched any Devilman series (or read any of the manga), but as soon as I saw that Masaaki Yuasa was directing it, I got excited. I watched the first episode, and it definitely feels like something that is straight out of the mind of Yuasa (especially in style) — I’ll admit that it was quite a bit more sexualized than I was expecting. I’m looking forward to watching the rest.

B: The Beginning
This is another Netflix original, and it’s only set to come out in March. Sounds like a mystery/thriller — chasing a serial killer — in a high-tech setting. Definitely the sort of thing I might like, and it’s by Production I.G, so will check it out.

 

Analoging Into 2018

The start of a new year is a fun time to lay down some new initiatives. Call them resolutions, call them whatever you like, but I find that writing down something like this in the new year helps to focus on what you want to prioritize.

The biggest thing for me is something that I began doing in recent weeks. Over the past few years, I’ve found myself trying to digitize most of my media consumption. Leaving Japan marked the biggest push in that I got rid of most of my belongings — meaning all my books, games, CDs, etc. — and since being back in Canada I’ve felt like keeping that “luggage-less train” going.

I don’t want to suddenly start buying lots of physical goods, but I have been wanting to start rebuilding my board game collection — I’ve bought a few things here in Montreal, but mostly small 2-player card games — and in terms of books, I’d like to start building a nice reference collection of game-related books (like the nice coffee table style retrospective books I’ve drooled over in recent years).

I also want to write more. With a pen. On top of taking lots of notes in a notebook/notepad again — something I used to do a lot, but did digitally instead in recent years — I picked up a paper agenda for the year, something I haven’t done in years (I got this one).

I also want to get back into doing personal projects. It’s something that was a big part of my life in Tokyo, but then with the big move and change in career, it was put aside to better concentrate on this new personal journey. But as I wrote recently, attending a few events have rekindled my interest in being part of that sort of thing, and so we’ll see what happens — among other things, fingers crossed on a relaunch of the PechaKucha Night series in Montreal happening.

As for this site, following my return to blogging in 2016, I think it’s time to find a new thematic focus for the coming year. As much as I still love so many aspects of Japanese design and culture, it’s no longer my everyday reality, and I’d like to write a bit more about things that are part of my current “world.” I’m not quite sure what that’s going to look like, but it’s something I’ll be exploring over the coming weeks and months.

After living/studying in China in 1997, I moved to Tokyo in 1998, which impacted the following 15+ years of my life. Twenty years later, in 2018, I’m in a very interesting place professionally (I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow to continue on the various initiatives I’m involved in there, and seeing what else I can do to shake things up), and I’m excited to push myself even further on various fronts.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I love this movie so damn much — after my first viewing I came out feeling like this was my new favorite Star Wars film in the series, and after a second viewing, I loved it even more (noticing and appreciating more the dialogue that pointed to where we were heading). I truly enjoy it from start to finish, and both times I watched it I never felt any lulls or scenes that felt boring. It’s a joy to take in, from the fun tone, to the explosive and visually stunning action, and the insanely iconic sequences (Rey/Kylo in the throne room, Luke’s showdown). I’m just saddened that it won’t be Rian Johnson directing the next one (J.J. is back for episode 9), but I am that much more excited for the new trilogy he’s been announced to make.

Wet Woman in the Wind

I caught this recently when it was on Mubi (no longer available), an entry in Nikkatsu’s rebooted “Roman Porno” series, in which they’ve gotten interesting directors to make soft core films, given lots of freedom as long as they stay on a relatively tight budget. I quite enjoyed this, as it’s a sort of surreal black comedy featuring characters that, well, want to have sex in odd circumstances. I see that Mubi also has another film in this “Roman Porno” series, Sion Sono’s Antiporno, that I want to watch as well.

The Toys That Made Us

This is a very enjoyable 4-part documentary series on Netflix about the toys from my youth — G.I. Joe, Star Wars, and He-Man (and although I didn’t play with Barbie dolls, I did find that episode interesting to watch). My favorite toy when I was a kid (not counting LEGO) was G.I. Joe, and so that’s the episode that I had the most fun watching, and loved that they included Larry Hama as part of the interviews — I loved his G.I. Joe comic, as well as the animated series (which he wasn’t involved in). Great fun if you’re around my age and these were the toys you played with back in the day.

Blade Runner 2049

After finally watching it last night, my biggest regret is that I didn’t go see it when it was in theaters (I only watched two movies in theaters this past year, Thor: Ragnarok and The Last Jedi, twice for the latter). I’ve said many times that Denis Villeneuve is currently my favorite director, and this is just another example of what makes him so great. Not only is it a fantastic film on its own, but it really does feel like a direct sequel to the original, and I mean that on every level, like story, pacing, visuals, style, etc. Yet, it manages to feel current, with smart updates to the world that was presented back in the early 80s. I just wish we got more intelligent and mature sci-fi films like this.

Favorite Media of 2017

Just like I’ve done for the past 7 years (201020112012201320142015, and 2016), I like to end the year with a gigantic list of my favorite media that I consumed throughout the year. As I warn each year, this is not a “best of” list, but rather a highly subjective list of the stuff I really liked this year — I like the exercise of it all, because it gives me a chance to look back at what I took in during that year, and hopefully it can act as a list of recommendations for others. I stick to stuff that was released this year, and so there’s always stuff that falls through the crack (for example, all the 2016 releases that I only watched this year). For each category, I offer up an alphabetical top 5, and then include a few honorable mentions.

Favorite Games
Not only did we get an awesome new console from Nintendo this year, but three of my favorite games of the year were released on it — yeah, Mario Kart is pretty much the same game we got on Wii U, but it doesn’t change that I played it again just as much, and I still play it regularly. I’d say the two games that just missed my top 5 were Untold Stories and Uncharted: Lost Legacy (my favorite entry in the Uncharted series). I don’t include For Honor because I was too close to it, I include Destiny 2 for the campaign (I haven’t really played much post-campaign), and I do have a copy of Yakuza Kiwami but I haven’t played it yet.

  • Assassin’s Creed Origins (PS4)
  • Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
  • Yakuza 0 (PS4)

Honorable Mentions: Arms (Switch), Bound (PS4), Destiny 2 (PS4), Fast RMX (Switch), Ghost Recon Wildlands (PS4), Graceful Explosion Machine (Switch), Mario + Rabbits Battle Kingdom (Switch), Nier: Automata (PS4), Skyrim (Switch), Subsurface Circular (PC), The Fidelio Incident (PC), Uncharted: Lost Legacy (PS4), Untold Stories (PC)

Favorite Mobile Games
Let me start by saying that all these are played on iPad — I very rarely play games on my iPhone. I also include games like Super Mario Run that weren’t released this year, but still released new content this year (I love the “Remix 10” mode, which I still play). I included the Animal Crossing game because I played a lot of it when it was released, and was quite enjoying it at first, but I eventually tired of it.

  • Fire Emblem Heroes
  • Gorogoa
  • Monument Valley 2
  • Reigns: Her Majesty
  • Super Mario Run

Honorable Mentions: Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Card Thief, Old Man’s JourneyPhoenix II, The Elder Scrolls: Legends

Favorite Movies
I spent most of the year watching older movies, and so still have a lot of catching up to do with this year’s releases, but here’s what I liked from what I watched. And yes, Valerian is a deeply flawed movie mostly ruined by the casting of the leads, but I was wowed throughout by the visuals.

  • Atomic Blonde
  • Baby Driver
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • The Last Jedi
  • Thor: Ragnarok

Honorable Mentions: Alien: Covenant, DunkirkGet Out, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, LoganNapping Princess, T2 Trainspotting, The Incredible Jessica James, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Wonder Woman

Favorite Movies of the 1980s
To anyone who follows my media consumption, you’ll be aware that this year saw me invest the majority of my movie-watching time looking back at films (one hundred in fact) from the 80s, specifically for the years 1985, 1986, and 1987 (I also dipped into 1967 and 1977). Since that was such a big part of what I watched this year, I thought it would be fun to list my fave 5 of the 80s for each year that I revisited.

1985

  • Back to the Future
  • Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
  • Ran
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Weird Science

1986

  • Aliens
  • Blue Velvet
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Stand By Me

1987

  • Evil Dead II
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Good Morning, Vietnam
  • The Last Emperor
  • The Lost Boys

Favorite TV
Even though I list a lot of series below, this year saw me enjoying movies more than I have in years, which meant watching a lot less TV shows — or maybe it’s more a case that I ended up only watching stuff I really enjoyed. My absolute favorite TV series of the year was Twin Peaks — during the 16 weeks it aired, there was nothing I looked forward to more than Sunday nights for new episodes.

  • Game of Thrones
  • Halt and Catch Fire
  • Samurai Jack
  • Star Trek: Discovery
  • Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series

Honorable Mentions: Abstract: The Art of Design, Better Call Saul, Big Mouth, GameCenter-CX, GLOW, Master of None, Mindhunter, Million Yen Women, Mr. Robot, Samurai Gourmet, Santa Clarita Diet, She’s Gotta Have It, Stranger Things 2, The Get Down, The Good Place, The Toys That Made Us, Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later

Favorite Web Series
This is a new category, as I’ve noticed that I now watch and enjoy quite a bit of video content that’s produced directly for the web. For Jeremy Parish, it covers all of the amazing videos that he produces, from the various “Works” series to his enjoyable gin-soaked “let’s plays.”

Honorable Mentions: Jeremy Parish, New Territories, Screenland, The Manga Concierge

Favorite Music
Again this year, I only list my favorite albums, as I didn’t really pay much attention to singles. I will say that I feel like I didn’t spend a lot of time discovering new music this year, spending more time listening to older records, thanks to the “For You” section of Apple Music — and I did this happily, because I’ve always found that I spend too much time listening exclusively to new stuff, quickly forgetting older albums that I’ve enjoyed a lot.

  • Colors (Beck)
  • Drunk (Thundercat)
  • Django (Chip Tanaka)
  • Masseduction (St. Vincent)
  • Onism (Photay)

Honorable Mentions: Ash (Ibeyi), Halo (Juana Molina), I See You (The XX), New Energy (Four Tet), Rest (Charlotte Gainsbourg)

Favorite Comics
As with each year, my list tends to focus more on series, which is what I tend to read the most throughout the year, and then at the end of the year I check out the “best of” lists and catch up on all the great graphic novels that came out (which I’ll do again this year). I’ll also say that my American comics reading took a bit of a dive this year once I discovered my local library, and started binging on French-Belgian comics (bandes-dessinées, or BD) again.

  • Aliens: Dead Orbit
  • Batman
  • Mister Miracle
  • Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign?
  • The Black Monday Murders

Honorable Mentions: Britannia: We Who Are About to Die, Dark Nights: Metal (and various one-shots), Doomsday Clock, Extremity, Generation Gone, Groo (various mini-series), James Bond (various mini-series), Loose Ends, Magnus, Moonshine, Motro, Royal City, Savage, Secret Weapons, Southern Bastards, The Dying and the Dead, The Goddamned, The Wild Storm

Favorite BDs
What has excited me the most in the world of sequential art this year is that after an incredibly long hiatus (of practically two decades) I’ve gotten back intro reading French-Belgian comics since discovering my local library (or rather the one near the studio where I work, as well as access to the entire Montreal library network). I’ve been reading tons of books since the summer, but the majority has been older stuff, as I’ve been catching up on series I used to enjoy, and new ones that I’m discovering. But below are some highlights of what I’ve read that came out this year — I think that by next year I should be more up-to-date on my reading. Series title is followed by book title.

  • Carthago AdventuresZana
  • I.R.$.Kate’s Hell
  • KatangaDiamants
  • Soleil FroidL.N.
  • UndertakerL’ogre de Sutter Camp

Honorable Mentions: Lady S.Crimes de guerreLe Lucky Luke deJolly Jumper ne répond plusLe Spirou deLe Maître des hosties noires, Tebori (Tome 3)

Favorite Podcasts
For this category, the most captivating podcast for me this year was S-Town, and I couldn’t wait to listen to each new episode of A Twin Peaks Podcast (by editors at Entertainment Weekly) while the series was airing.

  • 8-4 Play
  • A Twin Peaks Podcast
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • S-Town
  • Waypoint Radio

Honorable Mentions: All Songs Considered, Designer Notes, Kotaku Splitscreen, The AIAS Game Maker’s Note Book, The Stack

Skyrim (Switch)

I’ve never been able to get into the Elder Scrolls series. My first try was with Oblivion, which I played for a while but far from completion. I then tried playing Skyrim when that originally came out on PS3, mostly caught up in the hype, and after about 7-8 hours I called it quits. On top of just not really being attracted to this drab world, I also very much disliked the combat. And so now it comes out on Switch, and I’m again hearing how good it is to play, and so I decided to give it another go (renting it from our studio’s game library). I play most of my Switch games on the TV — I don’t really bring out my Switch much — but for this, I decided to try playing it exclusively in handheld mode (figuring it wouldn’t really look great on the TV anyway), and I’m finding that I enjoy the intimacy it offers when played that way. I’ve only played about 2-3 hours, and I still think it’s a drab world to be in, and I’m still not crazy about the combat, but I’ve found myself enjoying the time I’ve spent with it so far. For the next week I’m going to be visiting my parents in my hometown, and I think this is going to be a fun thing to play on my Switch while I’m there.

Once Upon a Time in the West

I recently had the chance to check out the current show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts that focuses on the history of westerns, a genre I have always loved, and it of course put me in the mood to re-watch a bunch. My favorite westerns are Sergio Leone’s “Man with No Name” (or “Dollars”) trilogy, but I decided to start by watching his Once Upon a Time in the West, which I (embarrassingly) think I’d never seen. It’s a fantastic film, and I’m just so in love with all of the close-ups he does of the characters. I don’t think anyone does epic quite like Leone, and this movie is just another fantastic example of how he creates mood and iconic setups like it’s nothing. And the Ennio Morricone music, oh my. Also, to my great surprise, in the credits it shows that the film was written by Leone AND Dario Argento AND Bernardo Bertolucci. Wow. I also think Charles Bronson has the best western face ever.