Fall 2018 Anime Season

Coming off a relatively quiet summer season, I’m facing a fall season that has nothing I’m really interested in watching. The only thing on the list that I’m mildly interested is Ingress, and the continuation of Banana Fish, but even that, I only watched 5-6 episodes of the first season, and although I liked it fine, it never really grabbed me — I keep saying to myself that I’ll continue watching it, but I never do. Last season’s High Score Girl was fantastic though, and I still really enjoyed watching more Lupin the III Part V. There is more anime I’m interested in watching though, and that’s the stuff that gets added to Netflix. They recently added two new series I’m interested in watching: Last Hope (I watched the first episode and liked it) and Dragon Pilot — and I really liked the second Godzilla anime film as well.

Game Boy 013 – Rejection

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

About a month ago there was another game dev hashtag making the rounds, in this case, #ShareYourRejection (or rather, it wasn’t just tied to the games industry, but the examples I saw in my timeline were game dev-related).

I make no secret that it wasn’t an easy process for me to get a job in the games industry, once I decided I wanted to return to North America and work in games. I applied to countless companies — through their website — and would never hear anything back other than a confirmation of receipt, and then sometimes a notification that the position was filled, and that I would continue to be “considered” for future openings.

(There’s one company in particular — you can probably guess if you know my tastes in games — to which I applied for quite a few positions, with that type of response every time.)

Yes, at times it was feeling like nothing would happen, and that maybe my dream of working in games was a futile one. Despite that, I still left Tokyo without a job lined up, hoping that things would work out. My wife and I stayed at my parent’s home (in the province of New Brunswick) for just over a month while I continued to apply for positions — and at that point, I finally got some phone interviews happening.

How did I finally break through? I got so tired of applying through websites and nothing happening that I figured that I would need to try and get in touch with a recruiter directly, and that’s what I did. There was something that looked interesting at Eidos Montréal, and so I reached out to a friend who had ties to them, asking if he could get me the name of someone I could email directly. 

Following that first email, I got a reply that they’d be interested in talking to me, asking me what role I’d be interested in (they had a few they thought would fit my profile), and then I did a call with the recruiter, and then a call with the person who would become my manager.

The whole point of this post is to say that, yes, rejection happens, but if it’s something you really want and that you think you could really do, then you need to persevere and figure out ways to get through. And yes, getting in touch with a human being — instead of just a contact email or upload link on a website for your CV — has a much better chance of getting the attention of the company.

(Let me add that I did the same thing for Ubisoft, once I got laid off from Eidos Montréal, and that also worked out.)

I’m still a newbie in the industry — I’m at about 3 and a half years now, 2 and a half at Ubisoft, with a trajectory that went from Production Coordinator to Project Manager — but I’m always happy to share anything I can share with anyone who is also interested in doing the same. I have in fact already been contacted a few times by people asking me for advice, and I’m always happy to help out any way I can.

It’s maybe also worth noting that I did all of this once I was already in my 40s, and so it’s never too late. 

Alfred Hitchcock

On top of my year-based movie watching — I’m currently still in 1978 — I enjoy watching through other series of films as a Sunday night tradition. Following Bond and Indiana Jones, over the summer I decided to revisit a large chunk of Alfred Hitchcock’s work. I stuck to his color output (with the exception of Psycho of course), which starts in the late 40s. I’ve always been a big fan of his films — and his TV series, and even the Three Investigators book series that I loved as a kid — and it was really fun to do this, since I hadn’t re-watched most of them in probably a couple of decades. You’ll find below the full list of what I watched (and under this category).

Flavors of Youth

This is a new anime anthology film out on Netflix, and it’s an absolute wonderful watch. It looks like it’s a co-production with China (the settings are Chinese as well, and of the three parts, two are directed by Chinese directors), but feels a lot like the films of Makoto Shinkai (Your Name), with hyper-realistic backdrops, and beautiful use of colors and soundtrack. I think the middle part (about the fashion model) is the weakest, but overall I enjoyed this immensely.

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle

I quite liked the first Godzilla anime film on Netflix, that marked the start of trilogy. The second part is now out, and I really enjoyed this one as well. Just like the first movie, it’s a hardcore sci-fi take on Godzilla, and this one features even cooler mech-on-Godzilla battles. Do make sure to stay for the after-credit tease, as it’s a big one, and makes me that much more excited for the next film.

Like it’s 1968

The latest movie marathon I was doing was for 1968, and although I had initially told myself I’d do 10 movies, I’ve decided to stop after 7, which are all listed below (and can found collected here). There were still a few movies I would have watched, like Bullit (which I admittedly had already re-visited a few years ago), Yellow Submarine, and Barbarella, but I’ve had a hard time getting in the mood to watch them, so I think it’s better that I just move on to something else. Next stop: 1978.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

This Ghibli-like movie is made by an ex-Ghibli director (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who directed The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There, the latter a film I really loved), within a new studio, Studio Ponoc, that is definitely trying to be the new Ghibli (now that Ghibli isn’t making a lot of movies anymore). I liked it, and it’s a beautifully animated film, but there’s something about that almost feels like it’s trying too hard to hit all the Ghibli notes — as my wife remarked, so many aspects of the film remind you of other Ghibli films. But despite all that, it’s really well done, and it makes me happy to see a studio like this that will continue the Ghibli legacy.

Summer 2018 Anime Season

Coming off a season where I ended up watching quite a few things that I liked — especially Lupin the III: Part V and Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but also Megalobox (which I haven’t finished), and to a lesser extent Layton Mystery Tanteisha: Katori no Nazotoki File, that I watch with my wife — looks like it’s going to be a slow summer for me. But that’s fine, just gives me time to watch stuff from my backlog. Here’s what I will check out (taken from this list) — and to that you can include Lupin III and Layton, that are both still ongoing.

Banana Fish
I feel a lot of nostalgia for the original manga, which I remember reading in the old PULP magazine. I don’t really remember much about the story, so looking forward to watching this anime adaptation.

High Score Girl
The main reason I want to check this out is because in the trailer you see them play actual video games from the early 90s (which is the setting of the series), and that sounds like it could be fun.

Game Boy 011 – Ebb and Flow

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

I was going to start sharing my GDC thoughts this week, but there’s Japanese gaming in the air. This weekend marks the 6th edition of the BitSummit indie gaming festival in Kyoto, and that’s pretty much all I’m seeing on my timeline right now — people taking in cool indie games, and enjoying (drunk) social outings around town.

I won’t lie, it’s making me pretty fucking homesick right now (when you lived in Japan for over 15 years, it’s hard not to consider it one of your “homes” for the rest of your life).

But on top of BitSummit, this week also marks the release of Ebb and Flow, a fantastic new documentary from the team at Archipel. Archipel, composed of Anne Ferrero and Alex Zabava, is the duo that for the past few years has been producing the Toco Toco series, which I’ve highlighted and recommended on this blog countless times because I think it’s terrific — each episode focuses on a Japanese creator, and although quite a few of the episodes focus on the games industry, they touch on all creative fields. They also produced the excellent documentary Branching Paths, that takes a look at the growing indie gaming scene in Japan.

Archipel as a label was launched fairly recently, and is to be the home for all of the duo’s future videos, including more Toco Toco, and even more excitingly, what looks like more long-form videos.

Ebb and Flow — with the subtitle “Conversations on the recent momentum of Japanese games” — is a great exploration of the recent resurgence in popularity of Japanese games on the world stage (they point to the start of 2016 as a milestone date). It features interviews with the creators of all those games (Nier: Automata, Yakuza, Monster Hunter: World, Rez Infinite, Persona 5, and lots more), and I of course loved seeing my friend John Ricciardi (co-founder of the Tokyo-based game localization company 8-4) be included as well, to offer some context.

It’s easy for me to recommend everything that Archipel produces — every time I talk to Anne, I tell her I’m her biggest fan — but at the very least, if you have an interest in Japanese games, you really need to watch Ebb and Flow (and follow that up with Branching Paths, to see a similar story from an indie perspective).

Batman Ninja

This movie is insanely good, and by far the best animated Batman film I’ve seen. Created entirely by a Japanese staff, it’s a Japanese take on the Batman mythos, but with tongue lodged deeply in cheek, and with stunning visuals that although CG feel more like they were taken from traditional paintings (well, inspired by them at least). The whole story is batshit insane (you can quote me on that), and seriously fun — Batman and friends, and villains, are all transported to feudal Japan, and in the climax we have giant robot battles. We get Sengoku Batman even. This was just so much fun to watch, and a treat for the eyes.