I’ve already highlighted the art of Yuko Shimizu on this site — hey, even back in 2003 — but this tweet acts as a good reminder that she continues to be a fantastic illustrator whose work is a joy to take in.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Honorable Mentions: Galaga Wars (iPhone), Hidden My Game by Mom (iPad), Reigns (iPhone), Triennale Game Collection (iPad)
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).
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
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.
Honorable Mentions: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Branching Paths, Deadpool, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, The Magnificent Seven, We Are Twisted Fucking Sister
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.
Honorable Mentions: Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Alternative Architecture, Mob Psycho 100, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
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.
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)
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.
Honorable Mentions: Briggs Land, Detective Comics, Green Valley, James Bond (written by Warren Ellis), Lake of Fire, Motor Crush, Old Man Logan, Outcast, Seven to Eternity, Southern Bastards, Southern Cross, Violent Love
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.
Honorable Mentions: CAGcast, Designer Notes, Glixel Podcast, Polygon’s Quality Control, Shall We Play a Game?
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.
I’m embarrassed to say that despite my absolute love of manga (and comics in general), I’ve never once made it out to Comiket (“Comic Market”), the world’s largest comics convention, focusing on fan/unlicensed comics, and held twice annually at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center. I have plenty of friends who have gone, but reading this post from American comic creator Caleb Goellner was fascinating, as it was the first time I’d read about the experience of actually tabling and selling your books at Comiket. His extensive post goes through every aspect of taking part in the show, and also includes a bunch of tips based on what he learned — and the experience was positive enough to make him want to take part again.
My first steps leading to me getting into Gundam started earlier this year when I watched the episodes released so far of the OVA series Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin. This prequel series to the original 70s Mobile Suit Gundam anime really kicked off my interest and love of Gundam, and since then I’ve watched a few more series (always sticking to the “Universal Century” timeline stories), and I’m currently in the process of watching the Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam series.
Back to The Origin, it’s actually an adaptation of an original manga series, and I came across this Forbes piece that shares the news that you can currently read the first 30 issues/chapters in English for free online through publisher Kodakawa’s ComicWalker site. I’m quite looking forward to reading this, as it seems to include even more background story than what we’ve seen in the anime adaptation.
I’ve just discovered my new favorite TV series. Urasawa Naoki no Manben is a documentary series on NHK Educational that follows Naoki Urasawa – my favorite mangaka – as he interviews various manga creators. What’s especially interesting here is that the cameras follow the person over 4 days, as they are working on pages, and so the “interview” is basically Urasawa and the guest commenting as you (and them) watch the artist in action. Even if you can’t understand all of the Japanese, it’s fascinating to see these pages getting made, and all of the care and attention that goes into them. The episode I watched is with Kengo Hanazawa, the creator of I Am A Hero (a series I’ve recently been reading obsessively), and I was mesmerized watching him addressing issues like trying to give a creature more realism through the depiction of its muscles, or for the expression on a character during a pivotal scene. I can’t recommend this series enough, especially if you have any love for sequential art.
While I wait for the final volume of Naoki Urasawa’s Billy Bat to begin serialization this summer, I decided to explore his Master Keaton series. I’d read a couple of chapters a while back, and it hadn’t really grabbed me at the time, but this time, after reading the first few chapters, I started really appreciating the character and the types of stories that are told. At first I think I was disappointed because I wanted something that was more ongoing, like with Monster or Billy Bat, but now I really appreciate that each chapter is a self-contained story, and I’m digging the investigative nature of the series – along with the historical aspects (Keaton is an archeological professor at heart, but also works as an investigator for Lloyd’s of London). I’ve read the first 3 volumes of the original series, as well as the first few chapters of the Master Keaton Remaster series, which takes place 20 years later. Great stuff.