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).

New Territories

One of my favorite filmmakers, Anne Ferrero (Toco Toco TV, Branching Paths), is part of yet another beautifully produced series of video shorts/documentaries about Japanese culture. Called New Territories, it “aims at shedding more light on Japan’s art scene through the eyes of its local players, including artists, galleries, curators, writers, and more.” The first episode covers the Misako & Rosen gallery.

Yoko Taro

The latest episode of Toco Toco TV is definitely the weirdest one I’ve watched yet, featuring game creator Yoko Taro (Drakengard, Nier). It’s a fantastic episode, and fits Taro’s personality perfectly — from the strange scenes at home (pictured) to him typing nonsense on a computer at the studio (“I can’t see the cursor,” over and over again). I’d also love to visit that pinball place in Osaka. Anne has outdone herself on this one, and I can’t wait for the next episode, which will focus on Editmode, the company behind The King of Games clothing line.

The Manga Concierge

Anne Ferrero is one of my favorite creators of video content (Branching Paths, Toco Toco TV) and she has just launched yet another series you can watch on YouTube called The Manga Concierge. As the title suggests, each episode takes a look at a few manga series. The first episode is themed on games, and includes the titles Banjo no Polaris (about chess), Final Re:Quest (inspired by Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, with art that looks like an 8-bit game), and Gutshot (about poker).

The Latest from Toco Toco

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I haven’t posted about Toco Toco recently, but it continues to be one of my favorite web series, and so let me remind you that you should really check it out if you’re on the lookout for a beautifully produced series of documentary shorts covering Tokyo creatives. The last 3 episodes cover accessory designer KAE, fashion designer Nukeme, and animator ShiShi Yamazaki (pictured). And here’s also a reminder that director Anne Ferrero is also behind this year’s excellent feature documentary about the Japanese indie game scene, Branching Paths.

Toco Toco on Daisuke Ishiwatari

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Toco Toco is an interview video series directed by Anne Ferrero (who also directed the fantastic Branching Paths documentary), and the latest episode features Guilty Gear director Daisuke Ishiwatari. The series was recently re-launched and currently focuses on game creators — the previous episode focused on Suda51.