Isaac le Pirate

This week I bring up a wonderful series by Christophe Blain called Isaac le Pirate. It tells the story of Isaac Sofer, who initially sees himself as a painter, but ends up joining a pirate crew, which then leads to odd and sometimes grim and sometimes humorous situations. The love of his life also sees her story told while he’s away – as he struggles to get back to her – and we get to meet some other interesting characters as well (like Jacques, Isaac’s partner-in-crime, who gets a book named after him). The series is made up of 5 books, and although it’s never been said that it’s over, all 5 were released between 2001 and 2005. It’s well worth reading for its mix of humor, drama, and high sea adventure. I’ll also recommend Blain’s Gus series, set in the wild west.

Le Spirou de

Les aventures de Spirou et Fantasio is one of those classic series that most kids who grew up reading BDs have read – I loved the series so much that I even named my first dog “Spirou.” I continue to read the main series through its creator changes – with my favourite runs being by Franquin (1-19, 24) and Tome & Janry (33-46) – but what I’ll highlight this week is a spinoff series that started a few years ago. Referred to as “Le Spirou de” (The Spirou of) it’s composed of one-shots done by different creators who are allowed a more personal take on the characters. There have been 13 releases so far, and highlights include Yann’s Le tombeau des Champignac, Emile Bravo’s Le journal d’un ingénu, and Lewis Trondheim’s Panique en Atlantique – but they’re all really fun reads, and I love reading these “alternate” takes on such classic characters.

Thorgal

Yesterday, in the weekly team newsletter I help produce, I started including a “bandes-dessinées” (Franco/Belgian comics) recommendation column, and figured why not share it here too. Here’s what I started with.

I love the sequential arts, and have found myself reading comics, manga, and bandes-dessinées (BD) my entire life. After half a life spent in Japan, I drifted away from the world of BD, but since moving to Montreal I’ve been diving back into that world, discovering interesting new series, while also re-reading some of the classics – and I get all of these from one of our nearby libraries, since we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the Mordecai-Richler and Marc-Favreau libraries. Each week I’ll highlight one of these series – and yes, they’re all in French, but even if you struggle with the language, comics are a great way to practise your reading skills (and some of these may have English editions as well).

For this first column, I’ll bring up Thorgal, a series I’ve been devouring in recent months. It’s a fantasy series – with a touch of sci-fi – that tells the story of man who is raised in Viking culture, but later discovers that his roots lie elsewhere. Written by Jean Van Hamme (XIII, Largo Winch, Wayne Shelton) with fantastic art by Gzegorz Rosinski, there are 35 books in the main series so far (Van Hamme handed over the reigns to Yves Sente from the 30th volume), and a few spinoff series as well. I never got into Thorgal when I was a kid – I think I found it too dark at the time – so this was my first time reading it, and I love it. I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy, but the stories here are epic, with ongoing storylines that keep you looking forward to the next book, and the sci-fi inclusions are fun too.

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

White

I usually cover TV, movies, and games here, and this year I want to do a better job of keeping track of comics I’m reading, especially if it’s a new series. One of the recent new series I’ve been enjoying (2nd issue came out this week) is this series called White (which makes it horribly difficult to find online). It’s a super simple setup – plane crashes, one survivor is stuck on a floating wing, surrounded by sharks. Two issues in, I’m still finding it really interesting to read, and kudos to the writer on coming up with an idea like this that works.

Les vieux fourneaux

This is a French graphic novel that came out a couple of years ago that I was noticing in lots of year-end “best of” lists, and kept wanting to read. I was lucky enough to get it as a present in a gift exchange we did at work, and really quite enjoyed it. Lovely art and a fun tale of a bunch of geezers who come together in an unexpected way. I see now that there are two other books out in the series, and I really want to read them as well.

Let’s Speak English, The Book

I wasn’t aware of the web comic by Mary Cagle that this Kickstarter book project draws from, but from what I’m seeing on the Kickstarter page, it looks like a real fun series (as evidenced by the strip above). We are definitely many to have experienced the joys of teaching English in Japan (I did it for years, and it’s what gave me the time to develop my writing skills through my blog) and so it’s great to see something that celebrates and has fun with the activity, instead of just being negative about it. Found via Daniel Feit.

Favorite Media of 2016

Here it is, my annual post (here are the ones for 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) in which I list all of the media that I most liked in the past year. This is not meant to be a “best of” list. This is a highly subjective look back at the stuff that I experienced over the past year, and that tickled my fancy the most. I do it as a fun exercise to reflect back on what 2016 provided me in terms of entertainment, and hope that it serves also as list of recommendations. I restrict it to stuff that was released in 2016, and usually allow myself to do updates through the rest of December and into January, as the act of making this list usually makes me uncover things I missed out on. Each category is made up of an alphabetical top 5, followed by honorable mentions.

Favorite Games
This is always a tough one, as there are so many games I want to play every year, and I can’t, or I try to be patient and wait a few months for sales — I wouldn’t be surprised if The Last Guardian ends up here (once I play it), or maybe even Final Fantasy XV, which I am still quite looking forward to playing. Also, I was debating whether to include it here as a game or not, but the NES Classic Edition is definitely one of my favorite game experiences I’ve had this year.

  • Firewatch (PS4)
  • Inside (PS4)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4)
  • Virginia (PS4)

Honorable Mentions: Abzu (PS4), Bravely Second: End Layer (3DS), Far Cry Primal (PS4), My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (3DS), Oxenfree (Mac), Ratchet & Clank (PS4), Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20th Anniversary Edition (PS4), Stories: The Path of Destinies (PC), The Witness (PS4), Tom Clancy’s The Division (PS4), Trials of the Blood Dragon (PC), Unravel (PS4), Watch Dogs 2 (PS4)

Favorite Mobile Games
Some years I include this category, some years I don’t. This year I found myself enjoying enough on mobile to warrant its return. And although I don’t include it because I lost interest in playing it fairly quickly, I must admit that for a few weeks, I was having a blast playing Pokémon Go outside with friends. I include a mention of the device that I mainly played the game on.

  • Bullet Hell Monday (iPhone)
  • Legend of the Skyfish (Apple TV)
  • Mr. Robot:1.51exfiltrati0n.ipa (iPhone)
  • Pathfinder Adventures (iPad)
  • Super Mario Run (iPhone)

Honorable Mentions: Galaga Wars (iPhone), Hidden My Game by Mom (iPad), Reigns (iPhone), Triennale Game Collection (iPad)

Favorite TV
This year, even more than before, I found myself very rarely watching a series that airs weekly, as it aired — the exceptions are all in my top 5. Instead, I prefer to watch a show once a season is over, at my own pace (and I do most of my TV watching on Netflix).

  • Game of Thrones
  • Halt and Catch Fire
  • Mr. Robot
  • Stranger Things
  • Westworld

Honorable Mentions: Ali Wong: Baby Cobra, Black Mirror, GameCenter-CX, House of Cards, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, Saturday Night Live, Star Wars Rebels, The Get Down, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Favorite Movies
Seems like each year I find myself watching less and less current films, which means that I’m not including a lot of really good stuff that came out this year, but that I’ll probably end up watching in years to come. That said, I REALLY liked this top 5.

  • Everybody Wants Some
  • Miss Hokusai
  • Rogue One
  • Sing Street
  • The Red Turtle

Honorable Mentions: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Branching Paths, DeadpoolKingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, The Magnificent Seven, We Are Twisted Fucking Sister

Favorite Anime
Despite the fact I’ve loved anime since I was a kid, this is the first time I include an anime category in my year-end list. I guess I’d taken a bit of a step back from regularly watching new stuff over the period that I started writing these (from 2010), but this year saw me get back into it in a pretty big way.

  • Ajin
  • Dimension W
  • Lupin the Third
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin
  • The Great Passage (Fune wo Amu)

Honorable Mentions: Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture, Mob Psycho 100, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans

Favorite Music
When I was doing my Codex podcast, I’d also include a “Favorite Tracks” category, since I spent a lot of time selecting specific songs for the show, but since I haven’t been doing that, I’ll stick to favorite albums. Also, I feel like I didn’t really take in as much new music as I usually do. A lot of it had to do with me focusing on listening back to a lot of Japanese music from the 90s/2000s after I recovered some old archives, but also because I spend a lot of time listening to stuff from the “For You” page on Apple Music, which makes me happy because I’ve always had an issue where I don’t spend as much time as I’d like listening to older stuff (versus always being on the lookout for new music). I look forward to going through year-end “best of” lists and discovering albums I missed.

  • AIM (M.I.A.)
  • Bonito Generation (Kero Kero Bonito)
  • Jessica Rabbit (Sleigh Bells)
  • We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (A Tribe Called Quest)
  • Woman (Justice)

Honorable Mentions: Awake (Remixes) (Tycho), Cheetah EP (Aphex Twin), iii (Miike Snow), Epoch (Tycho), Motions (Best Killer Remixes and Produced Works by FPM) (Fantastic Plastic Machine), Skilled Mechanics (Tricky), The Hope Six Demolition Project (PJ Harvey), Puberty 2 (Mitski)

Favorite Comics
As with each year, my list tends to focus on the series I enjoyed the most throughout the year, and then at the end of the year I end up finding a lot of graphic novels I’d like to read based on the “best of” lists that pop up.

  • Batman (written by Tom King)
  • Billy Bat
  • Moonshine
  • The Black Monday Murders
  • The Vision

Honorable Mentions: Briggs LandDetective Comics, Green Valley, James Bond (written by Warren Ellis), Lake of Fire, Motor CrushOld Man Logan, OutcastSeven to Eternity, Southern Bastards, Southern Cross, Violent Love

Favorite Podcasts
Feels weird writing up this category and not including Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, which I’ve loved and followed for years, but this year found me taking a step back, only listening to a few episodes here and there — I still quite enjoy the interviews I do listen to, but still don’t end up listening to it regularly.

  • 8-4 Play
  • All Songs Considered
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • The Stack
  • Waypoint Radio

Honorable Mentions: CAGcast, Designer Notes, Glixel Podcast, Polygon’s Quality Control, Shall We Play a Game?

Christophe Ferreira

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I came across this interview (in French) with Tokyo-based Christophe Ferreira, a French person who works in the Japanese animation industry. It’s interesting to hear him talk about how he got his start — a difficult one, considering the incredibly low wages he received as someone starting out — and to see how he managed to stick with it, while at the same producing comics of his own, in the form of the series Le Monde de Milo, which he has just launched in Japanese as well.

The interview also led me to the discovery of the site Furansujin Connection, which was created to give support to French people working in the Japanese animation industry — and to also give info on how someone can get started. As with the interview, the site is all in French, but it’s a rather impressive resource for someone looking to make it in the world of Japanese anime.