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.

 

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

GameLoop & GCX

Today was an enjoyable day, taking in Montreal’s annual GameLoop “unconference” — “unconference” in the sense that as a group we crowdsource the sessions for the day, with each session then acting as a salon-type discussion.

After leaving Japan and moving to Montreal, it’s taken a while for me to decide to start attending this sort of event again. It was a big part of my life in Tokyo — from running the PechaKucha Night series there, my PauseTalk series, and then other types of talk events and workshops I organized throughout the years (and then there are all the events that I attended as part of the audience).

But after the move, my new goal was to concentrate on my new career path (working in the games industry) — you could also add to that the lack of knowledge I had about the creative scene here in Montreal. Then, a couple of months ago I finally decided to check out one of the events organized by the Mount-Royal Gaming Society, Art-UP (also prompted by the fact that my friend Renaud Bédard was one of the presenters), and it not only scratched the itch I had to experience this sort of event, it also made me want more, both in terms of attending and in terms of organizing.

It prompted me to reach out to the person (Nicolas Marier) who was organizing the long-in-hiatus PechaKucha Night series in Montreal, and not only did we hit it off on our first meeting, but it looks like things are brewing in a positive way to reactivate the series.

I then attended the Canadian Gaming Expo, with a day of talks that I found to be hugely inspiring (mostly revolving around indie game studios) — and it was nice to see a few of those presenters as participants in today’s GameLoop event.

It’s good to be bathing myself again in this sort of knowledge sharing — something I try to participate in and push at work as well — and I’m hoping that I’ll get to have a hand in organizing and supporting more events here too.

Moving on Up

Please allow me a bit of flag waving. First off, I was very pleased to see the following list by Forbes of the best employers in Canada, with Ubisoft Montreal (where I work) coming in at #6, and then #1 for the province of Quebec. I find it to be a pretty great work environment, and so it’s nice to see it recognized as such.

Also, this week marks my first official title change since I started working in the games industry in 2015 (following my move from Japan). After working as a production coordinator at both Eidos Montreal (on the Shinra Technologies project) and Ubisoft Montreal (first as part of the For Honor team, and then on the studio’s Game Operations Online team), I’ve now taken on the role of project manager. I actually did the transition back at the end of the summer, but it took a while for all of it to become official (it accompanied a level change, which I’m also very happy about).

Pictured above is the meeting room I book every week to watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at lunch time with a couple of colleagues — we started with episode 1 of season 1, and are now in the middle of season 2.

Napping Princess

As I mentioned a couple of times on my blog, I’ve been looking forward to watching this (the Japanese title is Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari). I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed, and found it to be a delight — definitely in the vein of Summer Wars and Your Name, if you’re looking to compare it to something (but not necessarily has good as those movies). It’s a tale told in parallel (mixing fairy tale and reality), and it all works beautifully. Very much recommended (my wife enjoyed it as well).

Texture vs. Magzter

A few months ago I wrote in jest that magazines are dead. They were sorta getting like that for me at least — with my digital-first lifestyle and reading habit, I was getting more and more frustrated by what was being offered in terms of proper iPad-formatted magazine editions.

And then I gave in.

Many a time have I bemoaned the PDF-like formatted magazines being offered by publishers — meaning, just taking your print edition and releasing it as is for iPad, which means constantly having to zoom in and out of pages to read the text. But the thing is, I really like reading magazines, and while it still wasn’t enough to make me want to seek out print editions (I buy one print magazine monthly, and that’s Monocle), I did decide to bite the bullet and test out a couple of “all-you-can-eat” digital magazine services — luckily, both services offer a free 1 month trial, so there’s nothing to lose in trying them out.

I’d seen Texture mentioned a few times, and the app looked slick, so I started with that. What’s great with Texture, is that although most of the titles on offer are PDF-like, the ones that do have proper iPad-formatted editions are actually included this — which is the case for a lot (if not all) of Conde Nast titles, like Wired and The New Yorker. The selection on offer is comprised of the majority of big titles out there. At $15 a month (for a subscription that not only gives you access to all titles, but also to all archives of each title) it seemed like it would be the more expensive option.

Magzter is the better known service — I’d heard it mentioned by a few people — and includes quite a lot more titles. That expanded inventory is a bit moot though, as the majority is made up of pretty much anything under the sun, and mostly international offerings that I have no interest in. But the worst thing here is that after I signed up for the free month (for the service that is $10 a month I think), I quickly realized that it doesn’t include access to most of the titles I’d want to read (and individual title subscriptions are not cheap). The one magazine that was part of that price tier — and also isn’t present in Texture — is gaming magazine Edge, which I used to read religiously but stopped when they turned their digital edition into the PDF-like model. What I did end up doing during that month was voraciously read through most of the issues I had missed (in the past year) before my free trial was up. I ended up falling in love with that magazine again —  with the intense reading getting me to a point where I guess I just accepted that zooming in/out is part of the process of reading these days, que sera sera — and so eventually subscribed again using Edge‘s standalone app.

The main result of this intense month of trial of these two services (back in August/September) was that, well, I fell in love again with reading a great number of titles, and so at the end I decided to keep my subscription to Texture, and I’ve been gorging myself on titles ever since — and since this is buffet-serving, I don’t feel bad about going through some titles in mostly browse mode, just reading bits here and there.

I’d still like to include more indie offerings to my diet — which would be in print, and tends to bust the wallet more — but I’m at least happy to find myself in a magazine reading mode that I haven’t found myself in for years (not since I ran The Magaziner, a website I used to share my musings about magazines).

Tokyo Signs

I don’t know how I missed this, but I’m in love with everything that Tokyo Signs has to offer — t-shirts, iPhone cases, a tote bag, and even a pair of tights, all inspired by Tokyo’s signage. The line is produced by Bento Graphics (led by my buddy Benjamin) and they promise items in the future. Via Spoon & Tamago.