Last week I watched a new indie sci-fi movie called Archive, that I really enjoyed, but I was especially taken by a song that was used during a scene (in which one of the main characters puts on the music and starts dancing). The track is called “It’s Time to Wake Up,” it’s mostly sung in French, and it’s from a band called La Femme (from a record called Psycho Tropical Berlin that was released in 2013).
This marks my tenth year doing this annual reflection on my favorite media of the year, which means you can also easily see what my favorite media through the decade was (see 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018). As always, this is a look at the media released in 2019 that I was able to consume this year that I enjoyed the most — it’s not a “best” list, and of course it doesn’t include all of the things that were released this year that I haven’t yet had a chance to check out, and that might have made the list if I did. Instead, take it as a big ol’ recommendation list of stuff that came out this past year that I liked, and so you might like it too. Each category kicks off with an alphabetical top 5, and then I include a few honorable mentions if there are other things I would like to highlight.
I feel like I don’t have as many games in this category as in past years, but I think this is also a reflection of me spending more time playing fewer games. That’s especially the case with Destiny 2 — I could have listed the Shadowkeep expansion to indicate a 2019 release, but instead, I’ve decided to include a “live” game for the first time in my year-end list, since that’s how I’m consuming it (playing through the seasons, etc.) Sayonara Wild Hearts is included here and not in mobile because the best experience of this game for me was through Apple TV with a controller. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe for me was such a revelation because it was the first time I played a Mario game completely in co-op (with two colleagues at work), and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing a Mario game.
- Destiny 2 (Stadia)
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch)
- New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (Switch)
- Sayonara Wild Hearts (Apple TV)
- The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch)
Honorable Mentions: Death Stranding (PS4), Far Cry New Dawn (PS4), Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch), Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch), Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (PS4)
Favorite Mobile Games
This is a category that comes and goes, as some years I see myself barely playing anything on mobile (and the stuff that I do play is usually on iPad, although my new iPhone XR has me enjoying playing games on a phone again). This year of course marked the introduction of Apple Arcade, and that got me back into playing mobile games in a big way. Below are my favorites so far, but there are still loads of games I haven’t had a chance to properly play yet.
- Assemble with Care
- LEGO Builder’s Journey
- What the Golf?
Honorable Mentions: Card of Darkness, Guildlings, Rayman Mini, Sky: Children of the Light, Steven Universe: Unleash the Light, Tangle Tower, Yaga the Roleplaying Folktale
Favorite Board Games
I introduced this category last year — following my re-entry into having a board game collection (after the purge I did when I left Japan) — and again, I include games from 2018 (that I didn’t include last year) and 2019, since I feel like board game releases are a bit of a slower thing, especially with the way Kickstarter is used.
- Architects of the West Kingdom
- Detective: LA Crimes
- Gorus Maximus
- Magic: The Gathering
Honorable Mentions: Hokkaido, Raids, Tower of Madness
Since I spend so much time watching older movies, I do tend to have more trouble coming up with movies that are new releases — and even for this list, six of the titles included I ended up watching over the past week, as I tried to play catch up with 2019 releases. As a bonus, I include my top 5 of movies released in 1989.
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
- The Art of Self-Defence
- The Irishman
Honorable Mentions: Alita: Battle Angel, Avengers: Endgame, John Wick 3: Parabellum, Joker, Klaus, Midsommar, Missing Link, Ready or Not, Us
Favorite Movies of 1989
- Dead Poets Society
- Do the Right Thing
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
- Mystery Train
- Patlabor: The Movie
No big surprise, but this year was again a fantastic one for TV. And yes, for the time I’m including a wrestling show — this year marked my return to wrestling fandom in a big way, thanks to the new AEW league, which is absolutely my favorite thing to watch on a weekly basis (and the only one of these shows I watch live).
- AEW Dynamite
- Formula 1: Drive to Survive
- The Mandalorian
- What We Do in the Shadows
Honorable Mentions: Black Mirror, GameCenter-CX, Game of Thrones, Fleabag, Jack Ryan, John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch, Killing Eve, Love Death + Robots, Patriot Act, Russian Doll, Saturday Night Live, Shameless, Star Trek Discovery, Stranger Things 3, The Boys, The Twilight Zone, The Umbrella Academy, The Witcher, Watchmen
Favorite Web Series
This is another category I introduced in recent years, and this year I feel like my consumption of web shows/content really did explode. And yes, wrestling content takes up a lot of space, with both the AEW and NWA weekly web shows in my top 5, as well as the Being the Elite series, that I binged to completion this year as I played catch up, and then a couple of more channels I follow regularly included in the honorable mentions.
Honorable Mentions: Abby Dearest, Archipel (channel), Chris Van Vliet (channel), Formula 1 (channel), Hundred Rabbits, Noclip, The Inside Line, WhatCulture Wrestling (channel), Yoiko no Maru Maru de Maru Maru Seikatsu
This is a really weird year in music for me. I did listen to a lot of new stuff, but I didn’t really spend a lot of time with most of those records, and so didn’t develop a lot of “loves.” I think it’s telling that according to Apple Music, my top 20 of most played tracks was entirely composed of hard bop — it’s definitely what I listened to the most this past year, and I continue to do so. And in the lead-up to my trip to Japan in November, I spent a month or two pretty much listening exclusively to my old Shibuya-kei favorites (Pizzicato Five, Cornelius, etc.) One of my new year resolutions is definitely to spend more time taking in new music.
- Flamagra (Flying Lotus)
- Hyperspace (Beck)
- I Know You Like It (Shinichiro Yokota)
- Reward (Cate Le Bon)
- When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Billie Eilish)
Honorable Mentions: Beat Tape 09 (Eevee), Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police (Juliana Hatfield), Ladytron (Ladytron), Outer Peace (Toro y Moi)
For the first time, I don’t include any honorable mentions in my comics list, and that’s telling. My interest in BDs (bandes-dessinées, or French comics) continues to eclipse my interest in comics, and I’ve seen my weekly reading list go down and down throughout the year. The absolute highpoint is Jonathan Hickman’s House of X and Powers of X series, my favorite comics in years (at least since Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and Avengers). Dawn of X refers to all of the separate Hickman-curated titles that have launched in its wake (X-Men, New Mutants, X-Force, Excalibur, Fallen Angels, Marauders), which I’m not as enthusiastic about, but still find them to be quite enjoyable (most of them).
- Dawn of X
- House of X/Powers of X
- Peter Cannon Thunderbolt
- Silver Surfer: Black
- Superman/Action Comics
My rekindled love of BDs (as of last year, when I started going to my local library) continues, and has grown, with this year being easier to include a lot of 2019 releases — although there are still some late-year releases that I’m sure would be included here (like the new Thorgal and XIII) but that I haven’t read yet. I do spend more time reading older releases (reading through a series) than new ones though.
- Amazonie – Épisode 4
- La Jeunesse de Thorgal – La dent bleue (7)
- Renaissance – Interzone (2)
- Retour sur Aldébaran – Épisode 2
- Stern – L’Ouest, le vrai (3)
Honorable Mentions: Alix Senator – Les Spectres de Rome (9), Carthago – Le Pacte du centenaire (9), Katanga – Dispersion (3), Lefranc – Lune Rouge (30), Soleil Froid – L’armée verte (3)
My rekindled love of wrestling is also evident here (what can I say, I’m hooked), as is my rekindled interest (since the Ayrton Senna era in the 80s) for Formula 1 — ignited by the excellent Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive (which got me excited about watching races again).
- 8-4 Play
- Pop Culture Happy Hour
- The Chris Van Vliet Show
- WhatCulture Wrestling
Honorable Mentions: All Songs Considered, Monocle 24: The Stack, On Margins
Yes, it’s finally that time of the year (see 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017) when I take a look back at my favorite media from the past 12 months. As always, this is not a “best” list, but instead a survey of some of my favorite media that released in 2018 that I consumed over the past year. I don’t take in everything, so there’s absolutely tons of things that I haven’t gotten to experience yet that I might like even more than what I have listed here (and I might even make some updates over the coming weeks). The purpose in me doing this is to take some time to look back at the year, and remember all the great games, shows, movies, etc. that I really enjoyed. Each category is made up of an alphabetical top 5 (a “favorite 5” if you will), followed by a few honorable mentions.
I think more than any other year, I had a bit more trouble putting this list together — and it has nothing to with the quality of releases this year. It’s in part because I didn’t play that many 2018 releases, which is partly explained by the fact that I got a PlayStation VR in the summer, and so spent a while playing a lot of older VR games on that platform. It also doesn’t help that Nintendo didn’t release much that I was particularly excited about this year. And of course, as always, there’s still loads I need to play. And where’s God of War? I really enjoyed it when I started playing it, but never got around to finishing it (got to about 10 hours), and I haven’t felt the urge to return and finish it — I think it’s a good game, but it just didn’t excite me as much as it did others. Also, I’m sure that if I would have played Yakuza Kiwami 2 it would be included, but after already playing Yakuza 0, Kiwami, and 6 this year, I wanted to take a break (but as you can tell, I love that series so much). Super Smash Brothers Ultimate makes my top 5 because I have so much fun bringing my Switch to work every day to play a few rounds with colleagues at the end of the day (I don’t particularly want to play it alone at home).
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4)
- Dragon Quest XI (PS4)
- Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4)
- Super Smash Brothers Ultimate (Switch)
- Yakuza 6 (PS4)
Honorable Mentions: A Way Out (PS4), Far Cry 5 (PS4), Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition (Switch), Hollow Knight (Switch), Into the Breach (Switch), Lightfingers (Switch), Magic: The Gathering Arena (PC), Onrush (PS4), Quarantine Circular (PC), Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PS4), Spider-Man (PS4), Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch), The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (PS4), Yoku’s Island Express (Switch)
Favorite Mobile Games
I don’t play a lot of mobile games these days, and it all happens on my iPad (except for Pocket-Run Pool, which I did play a lot on my phone), but I still had a lot of fun with these games. To be honest, my top game would be Gorogoa, but it officially released in mid-December of last year, so I don’t include it. For Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, I only played the first few chapters on mobile, but ended up buying it on Switch and continuing there.
- Alto’s Odyssey
- Donut County
- Hidden My Game by Mom 3
- Pocket-Run Pool
Honorable Mentions: Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, Reigns: GoT
Favorite Board Games
This is a new category, and the only one where I’ve decided to cheat a bit in terms of time of release. After getting rid of my entire card/board game collection when I left Japan, this is the year that I finally got back into playing regularly and building up a new collection. I feel like I didn’t buy enough games that were released in 2018 proper to just share that, so I’m sharing favorites that were released in 2017 as well. There’s tons more I’d like to play from this year though, and I expect them to hit my table in the coming months.
- Breaking Bad: The Board Game
- Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
- The Quest for El Dorado
- Ultimate Werewolf Legacy
Honorable Mentions: Deadwood 1876, Founders of Gloomhaven, Keyforge: Call of the Archons, Kingdomino: Age of Giants (expansion), Magic: The Gathering, The Legend of the Cherry Tree That Blossoms Every Ten Years
As with last year, with all of the old movie marathons I do, I tend not to spend that much time watching new movies, and so my list isn’t as fleshed out or exhaustive as it could be — going through what came out this year, I already have an incredibly long list of things I want to watch (and I expect I’m going to love Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse when I see it). But in terms of what I did watch that came out this year, here are my faves.
- Mary and the Witch’s Flower
- Mission: Impossible – Fallout
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
- The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl
Honorable Mentions: Apostle, Annihilation, A Quiet Place, Batman Ninja, Bird Box, Black Panther, Deadpool 2, Flavors of Youth, Halloween, Hereditary, Incredibles 2, Ready Player One, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Summer of 84, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Favorite Movies of the 1980s
Last year I watched a crazy amount of movies from the 80s (from 1985 to 1987), and so thought it would be fun to list top 5s for each of those years. This year, I only recently started marathoning films from 1988, but here are my 5 faves for the year.
- Coming to America
- Die Hard
- They Live
I think my biggest discovery and love this year was the treasure trove of international crime dramas on Netflix (like The Break, The Chalet, The Forest, and Trapped, among others). Although not included in my top 5, they made up a lot of my favorite viewing this year, but I still enjoyed a lot of other things.
- Cobra Kai
- Everything Sucks
- Jack Ryan
- Killing Eve
- The Terror
Honorable Mentions: Altered Carbon, Better Call Saul, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Bodyguard, Castle Rock, GameCenter-CX, GLOW, Hannah Gadsby: Nanette, Lost in Space, Norm Macdonald Has a Show, Saturday Night Live, Star Trek Discovery, The Break, The Chalet, The Forest, The End of the Fucking World, The Good Place, Trapped, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Westworld
Favorite Anime Series
I definitely watched less anime this year than last year, and it was pretty easy to come up with a top 5 — but these really are all series that I highly enjoyed.
- Devilman Crybaby
- High Score Girl
- Ito Junji: Collection
- Lupin III: Part V
- The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These
Favorite Web Series
Not much changed since last year, I still enjoy the same series, although I’m now including the Nintendo-produced “Let’s Play” series featuring comedy duo Yoiko (GameCenter-CX‘s Arino and his partner, Hamaguchi).
- Hundred Rabbits
- Jeremy Parish (NES Works, Super NES Works, etc.)
- Archipel (Toco Toco)
- Yoiko no Maru Maru de Maru Maru Seikatsu
As the years go by, so does the reduction in new music that I end up spending a lot of time listening to, to a point where I have more trouble filling up this category. There is a lot that comes out that I enjoy, but I just listen to the albums a few times, and then never end up revisiting them, which makes it hard to say that they’re favorites. I do listen to music constantly (“no music, no life”), but it’s very eclectic, spans decades, and I’d say this year I’ve developed more of an obsession for classic jazz (hard bop). But here are albums that came out this year that I did really like.
- Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (John Coltrane)
- DJ-Kicks (Mount Kimbie)
- Strangers in Dub (Burt Kaempfert Meets De-Phazz) (De-Phazz)
- The Beatles (White Album) [Super Deluxe] (The Beatles)
- The Pool (Instrumentals & Remixes) (Jazzanova)
Honorable Mentions: All Nerve (The Breeders), Do the Get Along (Holly Golightly), MassEducation (St. Vincent), Sparkle Hard (Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks), The Pool (Jazzanova), The Sunshine Beat, Vol. 1 (Tahiti 80), Time ‘n’ Place (Kero Kero Bonito), Woman Worldwide (Justice)
Each year I feel bad that I’m not reading more independents when it comes to English-language comics, but yeah, what I read regularly is the super-hero stuff. And this year again, the majority of my sequential art reading happened more on the French-language side, as I continue my weekly (sometimes more) visits to the library to pick up books new and old.
- Action Comics/Superman
- Doomsday Clock
- Mister Miracle
- The Green Lantern
Honorable Mentions: Dark Nights: Metal, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Hawkman, Heroes in Crisis, Justice League (as well as Justice League Dark and Justice League Odyssey), The Punisher
As mentioned above, my comics love these days continues to be on the French side (bandes-dessinées), as I continue to catch up on releases, reading through series. So because of that, I’m not reading as many new releases as I normally would, but these are still all books that came out this year that I really enjoyed. (The series name is followed by the book’s title or number.)
- Centaurus – Terre d’angoisse
- Il faut flinguer Ramirez – Acte 1
- La jeunesse de Thorgale – Le drakkar des glaces
- Retour sur Aldébaran – Épisode 1
- Tyler Cross – Miami
Honorable Mentions: Alix Senator – La Puissance et l’Éternité, Amazonie – Épisode 3, Carthago – Léviathan, Journal d’Italie – Hong Kong 2 Osaka, I.R.$ – Les seigneurs financiers, Mutations – Épisode 1
My list of podcasts has changed a bit this year, with my top 5 now including two new gaming-related shows I started listening to this year (Kinda Funny Games Daily and Kotaku Splitscreen). After skipping the second season of Serial, I quite enjoyed this year’s 3rd one. For Retronauts and What a Cartoon, these I don’t listen to regularly, but instead check for episodes with a topic I’m interested in. And I really do wish Noclip would release more episodes of its excellent podcast (just as good as its video documentaries).
- 8-4 Play
- All Songs Considered
- Kinda Funny Games Daily
- Kotaku Splitscreen
- Pop Culture Happy Hour
Honorable Mentions: Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Monocle 24: The Stack, Noclip, On Margins, Retronauts, Serial, The AIAS Game Maker’s Notebook, What a Cartoon
Chip Tanaka (better known as Hip Tanaka) created the gaming soundtrack to your childhood, and this week he’s releasing his first full-length solo chiptune album, called Django (and he’s present on the newly released Diggin’ in the Carts compilation). The Japan Times has published a great piece looking back at the man’s career.
It’s as if Toco Toco could read my mind. Earlier this year I discovered and fell in absolute love with the music of Soichi Terada (through the music of Shinichiro Yokota) — his Sounds from the Far East compilation is the record I’ve listened to the most this year (and I’m listening to it right now as I write this). Imagine my very pleasant surprise when I find that the latest episode of Toco Toco — my favorite documentary web series — is all about him. Thank you, Anne.
Alas, Tokyo Game Show is just around the corner, and it’s again going to be something I’m going to miss — along with the legendary pre-TGS 8-4 party and big Nakame drinkup at Otaru — but I’m still happy to see that there’s now a new cool event set for TGS week, organized by my buddies at Dangen Entertainment. Not only that, but the Indie Megashow Tokyo party/event will take place at my old PechaKucha stomping grounds of SuperDeluxe, so you know it’s going to have an awesome vibe (bolstered by live performances from Megaran and DJ Uppercut). You’ll find details here.
Eden was my favorite PixelJunk game, and not only am I quite looking forward to playing the follow-up Baiyon is working on called Eden Obscura, he’s also just released a new record, We Are, teaming up with plenty of musicians also working in the gaming space. My buddy James interviews him for Rolling Stone.