Something I haven’t done so far as part of these October horror marathons is watch something animated, nevermind anime, and so I decided to look up a few things I could watch, and this came up. I do remember that this existed, with the reputation of being one of those “dark and dirty” animated films from Japan, but can’t remember if I ever actually watched it or not. Well, despite this being included in lists of horror anime films, this ended up being much more porn-y (with even a tentacle scene, natch) than horror. The setting is actually interesting, with the idea that humans and demons have a pact they renew every couple of centuries, and I liked the ending, but all of it takes a back seat to sexual encounters throughout. Oh well.
I never got around to posting about what shows I checked out during this latest TV season, but I did do a Twitter thread about it, that I figure I’ll adapt as a post here. It’s getting more and more difficult to do a “start of season” post these days though, as a lot of these series that I’m watching are coming via Netflix, which just releases them whenever they feel like it.
Japan Sinks 2020 is one of those new Netflix series, and having watched it all I can say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. The opening credits sequence is a delight, and I really loved the pacing and overall mood of the show. Basically, a huge earthquake hits Japan, and it explores the aftermath. This was directed by Masaaki Yuasa, and it then got me to go and get caught up on all of the movies and series that’s he’s been producing in recent years, that I’ve been chronicling in this Twitter thread.
Based on the first episode, Deca-Dence takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting where humans are holding up in a moving fortress, to defend against the appearance of giant (and not so giant) monsters. My feeling was that I could go either way on this one, with the first episode being decent, and I was planning on giving it 1-2 more episodes. Well, I bounced off quickly, as I didn’t like the swerve it took in episode 2 (it’s a virtual game that weird cartoony bots/creatures are playing).
Dorohedoro aired in Japan late last year, but popped up on Netflix recently. I’ve watched the first few episodes and like it. It’s set in a weird post-apocalyptic world with forms of magic that deforms some people. I like the animation style — and it’s gory as fuck.
Great Pretender gets bonus points for its Lupin-like opening theme song. It’s about a Japanese grifter who in the first arc (of five episodes) finds himself in LA. It’s a very Lupin-like mix of humour and action, which is right up my alley (considering how big a fan I am of Lupin in general). I’m more than halfway through this first season, and I know that there are more episodes coming later this year. Again, it’s one of those Netflix series.
The only other series I wanted to watch this season was the return of The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited, which was put on hiatus last season after only two episodes due to COVID. I like this show (it’s still airing new episodes), and episode 4 was especially fun.
I’m filing this in the “On Anime” section because it seems to fit there, but what I want to recommend here is what has turned into my current favorite podcast, and that’s Patrick Macias‘ TokyoScope. It was launched last year through Patreon, and it took me until recently to finally create a Patreon account to subscribe, but I’m so glad I did. I’m still making my way through all the archives, but this is basically people I like (Patrick, of course, but Matt Alt is a regular throughout) talking about stuff that I like (Japanese pop culture, old and new, with a focus on classic anime). Listening to chats about old Godzilla films or just what was hot in 1979 is pretty much my jam, and it’s incredibly fun — feels like you’re sitting in the corner of a dingy izakaya with Patrick and friends, chilled mug of Yebisu in hand. Oh, and each post on Patreon that accompanies a new episode is always filled with great imagery.
And although I had already started my Leijiverse journey (that’s still going strong) before I started listening to the podcast, it was all the episodes with mentions of Yamato (Star Blazers) that got me to finally watch some — I decided to start with the fairly recent Space Battleship Yamato 2199, which is a retelling of the original series.
Over the weekend I started a re-watch of the original Captain Harlock series from 1978. I’m only 7 episodes in, but not only am I enjoying it, I’m also a bit surprised by just how dark and depressing it is, and yet this is what I always point to as my favorite animated series from when I was a kid (which I watched in French, under the name “Albator”). What is it that attracted me so much? Was it just that the characters and ships looked cool? How was I affected by all of the darkness and sadness that seems to feature prominently in every episode? I don’t have any answers, but it does mean that this is a series that, although there’s still plenty of cartoony silliness, I’m appreciating at this point in my life because of its mature themes.
Because of my obsessive nature, this has also caused me to do a deep dive into the works of Leiji Matsumoto, and yesterday I uncovered a 6-episode series called Ozma, that was produced in 2012 (for the WOWOW satellite channel, as part of its 20th anniversary), based on a pilot he wrote back in 1980, but that was never produced. I quite enjoyed it.
I am planning on watching a lot more of the Captain Harlock subsequent series and movies that were produced over the years, as well as other works based on Matsumoto’s manga. Another series I’ve already started watching on the side (I’m two episodes in) is called Gun Frontier. It’s a very weird 13-episode series that sees Captain Harlock as a gunslinger and Tochiro as a samurai, in a Wild West setting. Also, it’s more of an adventure-comedy kind of thing — compared to the dour space operas we usually see from Matsumoto. I’m also quite enjoying this.
At work I like to organize some fun times at the end of every week — I even have a name for it, the “Friday Fluke.” Part of it is getting a drink, relaxing a bit with colleagues, and playing some games (our go-to tends to be various forms of Werewolf). Last week I introduced a new part to it, and that’s to encourage everyone to do a presentation about something they’re passionate about using the PechaKucha format. The idea is to have fun and get to know each other better, so it can be about anything, like your favorite albums, a trip you took, etc. I kicked it off with a round-up of my 10 favorite anime series (not including movies), and so here’s what I came up with, in alphabetical order.
Or to me, Albator, as he is known in French, which is the language I watched it as a kid. I believe it was the 1978 series, and it’s my favorite cartoon from my childhood. It’s a bit surprising in a way, because I’m sure so much of it went over my head, but I was obsessed with Harlock’s ship, and my go-to building project with my LEGO blocks was to create giant ships that looked like it.
I always consider this as one of my very favorite series, and I think it’s as close to perfect as a series gets for me. Great characters, an awesome soundtrack, and fun space adventures. What else do you need?
Future Boy Conan
Another series from the 70s (and in fact, 1978 as well), I only watched it a couple of years ago, and found it to be hugely enjoyable. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, you do get a lot of proto-Ghibli feels, despite the admittedly crude animation (standard for the time).
Junji Ito Collection
I’m a huge fan of Junji Ito’s horror manga — favorites include Tomie and Uzumaki — and this is a fantastic adaptation of his short stories (each episode is made up of a few shorts). It was produced last year, but I already consider it a favorite.
I’m a longtime Lupin fan, and I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve seen, which includes various TV series, TV movies, and movies (Miyazaki’s Castle of Cagliostro is a fave). Most recently we got the Part V series, and it’s just as fun as any other Lupin series.
Based on the manga by Naoki Urasawa — one of my favorite mangaka — this anime adaptation is massive (over 70 episodes), and riveting. I absolutely loved watching it as it was airing, anxious to see where it would end up going (I had never read the manga, strangely).
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Well, it is a classic, and not for being a giant mech show, but rather for everything it did to deconstruct the mech genre, and mess with everyone’s expectations. I haven’t re-watched it since back in the day, but I am excited to revisit it when it shows up on Netflix this summer.
I’m a huge fan of Satoshi Kon’s films, and loved this series — the only one he created — just as much. Psychologically daring and visually aggressive, same as with his movies.
Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter
Goro Miyazaki — Hayao Miyazaki’s son — doesn’t get a lot of love, but I quite enjoyed this series he directed a few years ago, the only Ghibli TV production. The use of CG was criticized, but I thought he managed to create a lovely series, with a lot of fun character moments.
I usually consider my top 3 series to be this, Cowboy Bebop, and Monster. Just like Bebop, you get the fantastic soundtrack (here hip-hop instead of jazz), the great characters, and the fun adventure. Even better is how the hip-hop influences the aesthetics and pacing of the show.
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
Coming off a relatively quiet summer season, I’m facing a fall season that has nothing I’m really interested in watching. The only thing on the list that I’m mildly interested is Ingress, and the continuation of Banana Fish, but even that, I only watched 5-6 episodes of the first season, and although I liked it fine, it never really grabbed me — I keep saying to myself that I’ll continue watching it, but I never do. Last season’s High Score Girl was fantastic though, and I still really enjoyed watching more Lupin the III Part V. There is more anime I’m interested in watching though, and that’s the stuff that gets added to Netflix. They recently added two new series I’m interested in watching: Last Hope (I watched the first episode and liked it) and Dragon Pilot — and I really liked the second Godzilla anime film as well.
This is a new anime anthology film out on Netflix, and it’s an absolute wonderful watch. It looks like it’s a co-production with China (the settings are Chinese as well, and of the three parts, two are directed by Chinese directors), but feels a lot like the films of Makoto Shinkai (Your Name), with hyper-realistic backdrops, and beautiful use of colors and soundtrack. I think the middle part (about the fashion model) is the weakest, but overall I enjoyed this immensely.
I quite liked the first Godzilla anime film on Netflix, that marked the start of trilogy. The second part is now out, and I really enjoyed this one as well. Just like the first movie, it’s a hardcore sci-fi take on Godzilla, and this one features even cooler mech-on-Godzilla battles. Do make sure to stay for the after-credit tease, as it’s a big one, and makes me that much more excited for the next film.
This Ghibli-like movie is made by an ex-Ghibli director (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who directed The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There, the latter a film I really loved), within a new studio, Studio Ponoc, that is definitely trying to be the new Ghibli (now that Ghibli isn’t making a lot of movies anymore). I liked it, and it’s a beautifully animated film, but there’s something about that almost feels like it’s trying too hard to hit all the Ghibli notes — as my wife remarked, so many aspects of the film remind you of other Ghibli films. But despite all that, it’s really well done, and it makes me happy to see a studio like this that will continue the Ghibli legacy.