Categories
Anime Film Games Magazines Music TV Web

Favorite Media of 2020

For the 11th consecutive time (previously: 20102011201220132014201520162017, 2018, and 2019), here’s my massive look-back at all my favorite things that I consumed over the past year. As always, this is limited to things that were released in 2020, and it’s of course HIGHLY subjective — this is not a round-up of the best media of 2020, but rather a look back at stuff I really enjoyed this past year, because I like the exercise of doing it. And that of course means there’s plenty that came out this year that I haven’t yet had the chance to check out, and I’m sure I’m also forgetting things I did enjoy. So be it. Each category is made up of an alphabetical top 5, followed by a few honorable mentions if warranted. I’ve added some new categories, with some disappearing, like board games (because I barely bought anything in 2020, for obvious reasons) and French comics (since I’ve been mostly limited to what’s available digitally from my local library).

Favorite Games
Despite the list below, I will say that the highlight of my gaming year has been getting access to Game Pass when I got my Xbox Series S upon release, and catching up on tons of games I missed out on in recent years. And my most happy game times have been playing Forza Horizon 3 and 4 — these were the games that I was really sad I missed out on since I didn’t have an Xbox One, and it’s been a joy to dig into both over the past couple of months.

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Xbox Series S)
  • Hades (Switch)
  • Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity (Switch)
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Xbox Series S)
  • Warframe (Xbox Series S)

Honorable Mentions: Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch), Destiny 2: Beyond Light (Xbox Series S), Genshin Impact (PS4), Ghosts of Tsushima (PS4), Watch Dogs Legion (Xbox Series S)

Favorite Mobile Games
This is a category that comes and goes over the years, as some years I end up playing a lot of mobile games (mostly on iPad), and some I don’t. Up until about a month ago, I wasn’t planning on including it, since the majority of iOS gaming I did was on Apple TV with a controller (mostly Apple Arcade games), but then I got the Backbone One controller to use with my iPhone, and since then I’ve absolutely loved playing games on my phone, as it really does feel like I’m playing with a true portable gaming system.

  • Alba
  • Creaks
  • Legends of Runeterra
  • Legend of the Skyfish 2
  • Little Orpheus

Honorable Mentions: Marble Knights, Slash Quest, South of the Circle, The Collage Atlas, The Last Campfire

Favorite Movies
It was obviously a strange year for movies, with a lot of big releases being pushed back. But I did find a lot to like, even though I do probably spend more time watching older movies (through all the movie marathons I do) than I do new releases.

  • Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm
  • Da 5 Bloods
  • Possessor
  • Weathering With You
  • Wolfwalkers

Honorable Mentions: Altered Carbon: Resleeved, Beastie Boys Story, Bill & Ted Face the Music, Color Out of Space, The Go-Go’s, The Invisible Man, You Cannot Kill David Arquette

Favorite Movies of 1990
As I’ve been doing in recent years, here’s a top 5 for one of the movie marathons I did in 2020, for movies from the year 1990 (and I’m not done yet).

  • Die Hard 2
  • Goodfellas
  • Miller’s Crossing
  • Misery
  • Total Recall

Favorite TV
Yet another strong year for TV series, which made it difficult to narrow down what would make it to my top 5. But what is there is truly what I enjoyed the most — and if it had released a day earlier (and not on January 1), I would have included Cobra Kai.

  • AEW Dynamite
  • Long Way Up
  • PEN15
  • Primal
  • The Mandalorian

Honorable Mentions: Altered Carbon, Better Call Saul, Devs, High Fidelity, High Score, Lovecraft Country, Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, Raised by Wolves, Star Trek Discovery, Star Trek Picard, Ted Lasso, The Boys, The Last Dance, The Queen’s Gambit, Tiger King, Westworld, What We Do in the Shadows

Favorite Anime
Even though I’ve gotten back into watching a lot of new anime series as of 1-2 years ago, this is the first time I include it as a category — I guess I finally feel like I’ve watched enough to be able to warrant making a list.

  • Great Pretender
  • Japan Sinks 2020
  • Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!
  • Sing “Yesterday” for Me
  • Wave, Listen to Me!

Honorable Mentions: Dragon’s Dogma, Kimetsu no Yaiba, The Millionaire Detective Balance: Unlimited, Woodpecker Detective’s Office

Favorite Web Series
I do still spend a lot of time watching a lot of stuff on YouTube, to a point where this year I finally started paying for YouTube Premium because I couldn’t stand the insane amount of ads anymore. As you can see in my top 5, it’s pretty much all wrestling-related, except for the Formula 1 channel, which I tune in to watch the race previews, as well as First Practice and Qualifier highlights.

Honorable Mentions: “James Bond Revisited,” KanaChanTV (channel), Tokyo Explorer (channel)

Favorite Music
When I look at the automated list that Apple Music creates at the end of the year, it’s pretty much all composed of hard bop, which continues to be what I listen to the most, but I did enjoy quite a few new albums this year, as listed below.

  • Always Tomorrow (Best Coast)
  • Coriky (Coriky)
  • Dry – Demos (PJ Harvey)
  • Earth (EOB)
  • Everything Else Has Gone Wrong (Bombay Bicycle Club)

Honorable Mentions: Causers of This – Instrumentals (Toro y Moi), Domingo (Chip Tanaka), Fake It Flowers (Beabadoobee), Future Past Life (STRFKR), Giant Steps – 60th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (John Coltrane), Host (Cults), It Is What It Is (Thundercat), Ludi (Chassol), Mordechai (Khruangbin), Mr Experience (Donny Benet), Not From Where I’m Standing (Various Artists), Palo Alto – Live (Thelonious Monk), Seeking Thrills (Georgia), The King of Sudanese Jazz – Habibi Funk 013 (Sharhabil Ahmed), To Bring You My Love – Demos (PJ Harvey)

Favorite Podcasts
As with the web series category, my podcast listening is very wrestling heavy. My favorite new podcast though has been TokyoScope — I get a lot of enjoyment out of listening to Patrick and Matt talk otaku (and Tokyo in general) topics.

  • AEW Unrestricted
  • All Songs Considered
  • Talk Is Jericho
  • TokyoScope
  • Whatculture Wrestling

Honorable Mentions: Japan by River Cruise, Pop Culture Happy Hour, The Stack

Favorite Comics
As I mentioned in the intro up top, I’m not including picks for French comics this year, since I didn’t read enough 2020 releases (due to me not going to the library). As for American comics, again, I should probably seek out more original graphic novels (that I keep seeing in year-end “best of” lists), but I’m a weekly comic reader.

  • Batman
  • Decorum
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
  • Usagi Yojimbo (regular series and color reprints)
  • X-Men

Honorable Mentions: Hill House (comic imprint), Pulp, Strange Adventures, Rorschach, Spy Island, Star Wars: Darth Vader

Favorite Magazines
I love magazines, and I still read tons of them, but I’ve never included a category for some reason. The only two titles that I buy physically are Monocle and Konfekt (that just launched), and the rest I read digitally via Apple News+.

  • Edge
  • Empire
  • Konfekt
  • Monocle
  • Total Film

Honorable Mentions: Retro Gamer, SFX

Categories
Magazines On Something

On Magazines: Monocle

The first issue of Monocle (March 2007).

I’m quite vocal about my love for Monocle. I was truly excited when it first launched in 2007 (being an old-school fan of Tyler Brûlé’s previous title, Wallpaper), and have read every single issue since (well, I missed one issue a couple of years ago). It’s also the only magazine that I continue to read in paper form. I got a subscription to the paper edition of Wired last year, but let it expire as I felt I got absolutely nothing out of that edition over the digital one (that I get anyway through my subscription to Apple News+). Admittedly, for Monocle, reading it as a physical edition is also due to the fact that they’ve stayed away from a digital edition so far (other than putting article archives on their website, accessible if you’re a subscriber), but it’s a beautiful thing that I really enjoy digging into every month, and even though they’ve announced that they’re about to release a proper digital edition (in about two weeks), I plan on sticking with the paper edition (although that just means I’ll have access to the digital edition as well).

Why do I enjoy it so much? It’s a beautiful, thick book-ish piece of physical media that feels good to read. The paper stock feels right (especially compared to the paper thin joke that is the current Wired), and it makes the great layout design shine.

The beautiful Monocle Book of Japan, a love letter to the country.

I’m of course also a fan of what they’ve been doing in the book space, and on top of the few travel books I’ve already grabbed, for my birthday last month I treated myself to their new Monocle Book of Japan (that I loved to bits), as well as The Monocle Guide to Shops, Kiosks and Markets. I would like to eventually pick up all of their big books.

Even though I’ve been reading it for over a decade, it was only last month that I finally got a proper subscription. Price-wise, it came to about the same as getting it at the newsstands each month, but even better is that I finally started getting my issues when they get printed, instead of the month+ wait for the issues to reach our shores on newsstands. If you’re a fan of the magazine, a subscription is really the way to go, and it’s something that they’ve been pushing of late, to deal with the fact that the magazine wasn’t as available as could be due to the global pandemic — I imagine I would have missed out on recent issues if I didn’t have a subscription.

I could go on and on about what how much I love what they do — like the daily email newsletters they send out, the seasonal newspaper series they publish, or even their smart collection of goods (which are admittedly too pricey for my blood) — but I’ll end this rave of a post by simply stating that I’m grateful that it exists.

Categories
Magazines On Something

On Magazines: Haruki Murakami

I’ve admittedly — and strangely — never read a novel by Haruki Murakami. You’d think I would have by now, and I’ve certainly had the intention of doing so many a time over the years, but it’s something I’ve yet to do. I have finally read my first piece of fiction by him though.

Last week’s issue of The New Yorker — which I read through Apple News+ — featured a short story by him, and so I figured this would finally be my entry into his style of writing. And I liked it.

The story, “Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey,” tells the surreal tale of a man who meets up with a talking monkey in an onsen town, and over one evening shares a drink, listening to his strange musings on life as a talking monkey. It’s quite enjoyable, and reads quite smoothly and fast.

“Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey” by Haruki Murakami, from the June 8-15, 2020 issue of The New Yorker.

I do have quite a few books lined up currently — yes, I’m still on my quest to increase the number of books I read — but I do want to read one of his novels before the year is out.

Categories
Magazines

NJP

This past week I was incredibly happy and excited to receive the first issue of NJP, a new magazine by the creators of the Neojaponisme website. Full disclosure, the two masterminds behind the site (W. David Marx and Ian Lynam) are great friends of mine, and I was — if ever so slightly — involved with the launch of the original Neojaponisme website, but this is truly a thing of beauty, and I can’t recommend enough that you pick up a copy for yourself.

Cover of the first issue of NJP.

As I started reading the issue, as much as I was enjoying what I was taking in, I will admit that I did feel a tinge of sadness — bordering on jealousy — that I never managed to get a magazine project like this up and running. It’s no secret that I have a great love — bordering on obsession — for the medium of magazines, and it even resulted in an old website I used to run called The Magaziner. I always dreamed of producing some sort of indie magazine project, and what they’ve done with NJP is exactly the type of thing I had in mind — a beautifully designed “meaty” object with a strong theme.

But hey, at least someone is doing it, and I get to enjoy the results.

Categories
Games Magazines

K is for Kazdal

Jake Kazdal is a force of nature. And I’m lucky enough to have him as a buddy. He also gave me my first ever game credit — a thank you in his game Skulls of the Shogun, that he released under his indie studio now called 17-bit, but at the time called Haunted Temple Studios.

Jake Kazdal, as featured in the March 2019 issue of Edge.

I’ve spotted him a few times in Edge magazine over the years, but in the latest issue (March 2019) he gets his very own featured interview, which offers up a fantastic look at what it was like to work at Sega in the early days of the Dreamcast (one of my all-time favorite consoles). Take the time to read it to also get a look at what it’s like to be a foreigner running an indie studio in Japan (he’s based in Kyoto, as is 17-bit studios).

Categories
Magazines Personal

Texture vs. Magzter

A few months ago I wrote in jest that magazines are dead. They were sorta getting like that for me at least — with my digital-first lifestyle and reading habit, I was getting more and more frustrated by what was being offered in terms of proper iPad-formatted magazine editions.

And then I gave in.

Many a time have I bemoaned the PDF-like formatted magazines being offered by publishers — meaning, just taking your print edition and releasing it as is for iPad, which means constantly having to zoom in and out of pages to read the text. But the thing is, I really like reading magazines, and while it still wasn’t enough to make me want to seek out print editions (I buy one print magazine monthly, and that’s Monocle), I did decide to bite the bullet and test out a couple of “all-you-can-eat” digital magazine services — luckily, both services offer a free 1 month trial, so there’s nothing to lose in trying them out.

I’d seen Texture mentioned a few times, and the app looked slick, so I started with that. What’s great with Texture, is that although most of the titles on offer are PDF-like, the ones that do have proper iPad-formatted editions are actually included this — which is the case for a lot (if not all) of Conde Nast titles, like Wired and The New Yorker. The selection on offer is comprised of the majority of big titles out there. At $15 a month (for a subscription that not only gives you access to all titles, but also to all archives of each title) it seemed like it would be the more expensive option.

Magzter is the better known service — I’d heard it mentioned by a few people — and includes quite a lot more titles. That expanded inventory is a bit moot though, as the majority is made up of pretty much anything under the sun, and mostly international offerings that I have no interest in. But the worst thing here is that after I signed up for the free month (for the service that is $10 a month I think), I quickly realized that it doesn’t include access to most of the titles I’d want to read (and individual title subscriptions are not cheap). The one magazine that was part of that price tier — and also isn’t present in Texture — is gaming magazine Edge, which I used to read religiously but stopped when they turned their digital edition into the PDF-like model. What I did end up doing during that month was voraciously read through most of the issues I had missed (in the past year) before my free trial was up. I ended up falling in love with that magazine again —  with the intense reading getting me to a point where I guess I just accepted that zooming in/out is part of the process of reading these days, que sera sera — and so eventually subscribed again using Edge‘s standalone app.

The main result of this intense month of trial of these two services (back in August/September) was that, well, I fell in love again with reading a great number of titles, and so at the end I decided to keep my subscription to Texture, and I’ve been gorging myself on titles ever since — and since this is buffet-serving, I don’t feel bad about going through some titles in mostly browse mode, just reading bits here and there.

I’d still like to include more indie offerings to my diet — which would be in print, and tends to bust the wallet more — but I’m at least happy to find myself in a magazine reading mode that I haven’t found myself in for years (not since I ran The Magaziner, a website I used to share my musings about magazines).

Categories
Art Magazines

Browne’s Tokyoiter

The latest Tokyoiter cover, produced by Andrew Browne — see the original image here.

Categories
Art Magazines

Pink Boarding

I haven’t shared any Tokyoiter covers in a while — while they were preparing for their recent exhibition, the site had gone a bit quiet — but there have been plenty of additions following the show, and the latest one is the lovely cover you see here, created by my buddy Louis-Étienne Vallée.

Categories
Magazines

No Magazines, No Life (Not Anymore)

Magazines are dead.

I write this first line as someone who loves magazines to death — I used to run a site called The Magaziner, after all — and who looks forward to picking up the latest issue of Monocle each and every month. But they really are dying, aren’t they.

The latest sign for me was the conversion of the iPad edition of Entertainment Weekly from a properly produced iPad edition to something that is nothing more than a PDF. Yet another magazine I can’t read on my iPad anymore (I despise reading magazines this way, constantly zooming in and out on each page).

For me, the arrival of the iPad and of iPad editions of magazines was a godsend while I was living in Tokyo. Finally, a way to read western magazines without having to pay 2-3 times the cover price. Also, I quite liked taking in magazines imagery on a bright screen, and the monthly subscriptions were a great deal. I used to subscribe to a stack of magazines — to a point where it was difficult to get through all of them each month. Until last week, I still only subscribed to two: Wired and Entertainment Weekly.

But this isn’t just about digital editions. Looking at what you see in terms of mainstream magazines on the newsstands, most of them are nothing more than floppy pamphlets — Monocle is of course the exception, and it’s why I buy it (and it’s not exactly mainstream in the sense that there are only a very limited number of shops in Montreal that carry it). I looked at a recent issue of Rolling Stone — a magazine to which I had a physical subscription for years when I was younger, and then subscribed to on iPad until they switched it to a PDF-like edition — and it was barely larger than a comic book. Sure, there are still a lot of beautifully produced magazines on the indie side, but they tend to be high-priced and do not enjoy print runs that can sustain the industry.

Am I just old and cranky? Sure, probably.

When I did a Twitter rant recently about the changes in the iPad edition of Entertainment Weekly, a friend of mine commented that she was surprised I didn’t just read these magazines from their websites. I replied that I still have a love and appreciation for a properly edited and curated “container” (not a sexy way to describe magazines, but you get what I’m saying), but I think she’s right. If I can no longer get proper iPad editions of magazines, and I’m not interested in paying for flimsy physical pamphlets, then that’s probably what I should do.

What about Wired? It still has a great iPad edition after all. But in recent months I’ve found myself skimming more and more in each issue, to a point where I should probably just read the articles that do interest me on the web.

Magazines are dead. To me at least.

Categories
Design Magazines

Tokyo Magazine

Bento Graphics produced this lovely magazine/pamphlet for the Tokyo metropolitan government — you can download it as a PDF here.