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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

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Film TV

Thrillin’ and Chillin’ in October 2020

Following the October horror marathons I did in 2018 and 2019, I decided to do the same this year, and what a ride it was. I ended up watching much more this year than in the past (34!), which is especially surprising since that includes multiple episodes of a few series (Lovecraft Country, Ash vs Evil Dead, Creepshow, and The Haunting of Bly Manor). I think that what contributed to this was that since the start of the pandemic, I barely watched any horror — maybe not such a big surprise — and so even though I’d slowly started watching some recently, when I decided to dive in for October, well, I really dove in. So below are links to my short write-ups of everything I watched, or you can get to them all under the “October 2020” tag.

  1. Ash vs Evil Dead (Season 3)
  2. Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island
  3. Books of Blood
  4. Child’s Play (2019)
  5. Child’s Play 2
  6. Creepshow (Season 1)
  7. Creepshow Animated Special
  8. Death of Me
  9. Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack
  10. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
  11. Halloween: Resurrection
  12. House
  13. House II: The Second Story
  14. Lily C.A.T.
  15. Lovecraft Country
  16. Nocturne
  17. Peninsula
  18. Relic
  19. Seoul Station
  20. Spiral
  21. Spiral (Uzumaki)
  22. Suspiria (2018)
  23. Tales From the Darkside
  24. The Babysitter
  25. The Babysitter: Killer Queen
  26. The Dead Don’t Die
  27. The Exorcist III
  28. The Final Girls
  29. The Haunting of Bly Manor
  30. The Mortuary Collection
  31. The Rental
  32. The Trigger Effect
  33. Vampire Hunter D
  34. Wicked City
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Debaser TV

Creepshow Animated Special

I was very happy to see that this was going to get released this week — as I wrote in my other post about Creepshow, it’s what reminded me to go back and watch the rest of the series. This was quite good, especially the first story which is by Stephen King, and deliciously macabre — the second tale, by his son Joe Hill, gets good by the end, but the constant Twitter chatter by the main character annoyed me a bit. Also, this is more done as motion comics than purely animated, but it didn’t really make me enjoy it any less, as they did a good job of using this style to illustrate the stories, which both pretty much entirely revolve around long monologues. Well worth checking out.

Categories
Debaser TV

Creepshow (Season 1)

I had watched the first couple of episode of this Shudder-produced series adaption of the classic 80s anthology film during my October marathon last year, and only now have I gotten around to watching the other episodes. I’m glad I did, because as I wrote in that original post, this is a really fun series, and does a great job of telling the same sort of creepy (and occasionally silly) stories that the original film did, which makes me happy. I was reminded of the series with the recent announcement that a new animated Halloween special is getting released later this week (also on Shudder).

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Debaser TV

The Haunting of Bly Manor

I quite enjoyed last year’s The Haunting of Hill House, and so it was a no brainer that I was going to watch this sequel series. I’ve only watched the first episode, but I already prefer the setting — nothing like a big ol’ manor in the English countryside. I’ll of course need to watch a lot more before I can say if I really enjoy the series or not, but I think it’s off to a good start, with a great cast, and some already pretty spooky and creepy moments. It’s definitely great to have this drop in October, like last year.

Categories
Debaser TV

Ash vs Evil Dead (Season 3)

As I was going through my (insanely long) watchlist on Netflix, I realized that I hadn’t yet watched all of the third (and final) season of Ash vs Evil Dead. There’s no particularly reason for that, I’m sure I just got distracted at some point and forgot to watch the rest (I had only watched the first couple of episodes). It’s a happy discovery, as I’ve been having a blast watching it. The bad part though is that it’s making me feel upset again that they ended the show with this season. I’ll enjoy it while I can, I guess.

Categories
Debaser TV

Lovecraft Country

I’m not completely caught up on this series (I think I’m a couple of episodes back), but despite some episodes being less interesting than others (due to the nature of having different themes for each one), Lovecraft Country has been fantastic. I think an especially standout thing to point out is the the soundtrack, which mixes contemporary songs (or at least songs that aren’t tied to the 1950s setting) with specific sequences of the show — a truly inspired one was the use of “Whitey’s on the Moon” during the ritual scene in the second episode. But even more important is the role racism plays here — it’s shocking, it’s hard to take in, it’s disgusting, but it’s necessary to share and part of the horror. And I’m definitely happy to see more black creators and casts in the horror genre these days.

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Books Film Games Music TV Web

Favorite Media of 2019

This marks my tenth year doing this annual reflection on my favorite media of the year, which means you can also easily see what my favorite media through the decade was (see 2010201120122013201420152016, 2017, and 2018). As always, this is a look at the media released in 2019 that I was able to consume this year that I enjoyed the most — it’s not a “best” list, and of course it doesn’t include all of the things that were released this year that I haven’t yet had a chance to check out, and that might have made the list if I did. Instead, take it as a big ol’ recommendation list of stuff that came out this past year that I liked, and so you might like it too. Each category kicks off with an alphabetical top 5, and then I include a few honorable mentions if there are other things I would like to highlight.

Favorite Games
I feel like I don’t have as many games in this category as in past years, but I think this is also a reflection of me spending more time playing fewer games. That’s especially the case with Destiny 2 — I could have listed the Shadowkeep expansion to indicate a 2019 release, but instead, I’ve decided to include a “live” game for the first time in my year-end list, since that’s how I’m consuming it (playing through the seasons, etc.) Sayonara Wild Hearts is included here and not in mobile because the best experience of this game for me was through Apple TV with a controller. New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe for me was such a revelation because it was the first time I played a Mario game completely in co-op (with two colleagues at work), and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing a Mario game.

  • Destiny 2 (Stadia)
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Switch)
  • New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe (Switch)
  • Sayonara Wild Hearts (Apple TV)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (Switch)

Honorable Mentions: Death Stranding (PS4), Far Cry New Dawn (PS4), Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Switch), Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch), Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (PS4)

Favorite Mobile Games
This is a category that comes and goes, as some years I see myself barely playing anything on mobile (and the stuff that I do play is usually on iPad, although my new iPhone XR has me enjoying playing games on a phone again). This year of course marked the introduction of Apple Arcade, and that got me back into playing mobile games in a big way. Below are my favorites so far, but there are still loads of games I haven’t had a chance to properly play yet.

  • Assemble with Care
  • Grindstone
  • LEGO Builder’s Journey
  • Pilgrims
  • What the Golf?

Honorable Mentions: Card of Darkness, Guildlings, Rayman Mini, Sky: Children of the Light, Steven Universe: Unleash the Light, Tangle Tower, Yaga the Roleplaying Folktale

Favorite Board Games
I introduced this category last year — following my re-entry into having a board game collection (after the purge I did when I left Japan) — and again, I include games from 2018 (that I didn’t include last year) and 2019, since I feel like board game releases are a bit of a slower thing, especially with the way Kickstarter is used.

  • Architects of the West Kingdom
  • Detective: LA Crimes
  • Gorus Maximus
  • Magic: The Gathering
  • Root

Honorable Mentions: Hokkaido, Raids, Tower of Madness

Favorite Movies
Since I spend so much time watching older movies, I do tend to have more trouble coming up with movies that are new releases — and even for this list, six of the titles included I ended up watching over the past week, as I tried to play catch up with 2019 releases. As a bonus, I include my top 5 of movies released in 1989.

  • Booksmart
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  • The Art of Self-Defence
  • The Irishman

Honorable Mentions: Alita: Battle Angel, Avengers: Endgame, John Wick 3: Parabellum, Joker, Klaus, Midsommar, Missing Link, Ready or Not, Us

Favorite Movies of 1989

  • Dead Poets Society
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Mystery Train
  • Patlabor: The Movie

Favorite TV
No big surprise, but this year was again a fantastic one for TV. And yes, for the time I’m including a wrestling show — this year marked my return to wrestling fandom in a big way, thanks to the new AEW league, which is absolutely my favorite thing to watch on a weekly basis (and the only one of these shows I watch live).

  • AEW Dynamite
  • Formula 1: Drive to Survive
  • Primal
  • The Mandalorian
  • What We Do in the Shadows

Honorable Mentions: Black Mirror, GameCenter-CX, Game of Thrones, Fleabag, Jack Ryan, John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch, Killing Eve, Love Death + Robots, Patriot Act, Russian Doll, Saturday Night Live, Shameless, Star Trek Discovery, Stranger Things 3, The Boys, The Twilight Zone, The Umbrella Academy, The Witcher, Watchmen

Favorite Web Series
This is another category I introduced in recent years, and this year I feel like my consumption of web shows/content really did explode. And yes, wrestling content takes up a lot of space, with both the AEW and NWA weekly web shows in my top 5, as well as the Being the Elite series, that I binged to completion this year as I played catch up, and then a couple of more channels I follow regularly included in the honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions: Abby Dearest, Archipel (channel), Chris Van Vliet (channel), Formula 1 (channel), Hundred Rabbits, Noclip, The Inside Line, WhatCulture Wrestling (channel), Yoiko no Maru Maru de Maru Maru Seikatsu

Favorite Music
This is a really weird year in music for me. I did listen to a lot of new stuff, but I didn’t really spend a lot of time with most of those records, and so didn’t develop a lot of “loves.” I think it’s telling that according to Apple Music, my top 20 of most played tracks was entirely composed of hard bop — it’s definitely what I listened to the most this past year, and I continue to do so. And in the lead-up to my trip to Japan in November, I spent a month or two pretty much listening exclusively to my old Shibuya-kei favorites (Pizzicato Five, Cornelius, etc.) One of my new year resolutions is definitely to spend more time taking in new music.

  • Flamagra (Flying Lotus)
  • Hyperspace (Beck)
  • I Know You Like It (Shinichiro Yokota)
  • Reward (Cate Le Bon)
  • When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Billie Eilish)

Honorable Mentions: Beat Tape 09 (Eevee), Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police (Juliana Hatfield), Ladytron (Ladytron), Outer Peace (Toro y Moi)

Favorite Comics
For the first time, I don’t include any honorable mentions in my comics list, and that’s telling. My interest in BDs (bandes-dessinées, or French comics) continues to eclipse my interest in comics, and I’ve seen my weekly reading list go down and down throughout the year. The absolute highpoint is Jonathan Hickman’s House of X and Powers of X series, my favorite comics in years (at least since Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four and Avengers). Dawn of X refers to all of the separate Hickman-curated titles that have launched in its wake (X-Men, New Mutants, X-Force, Excalibur, Fallen Angels, Marauders), which I’m not as enthusiastic about, but still find them to be quite enjoyable (most of them).

  • Dawn of X
  • House of X/Powers of X
  • Peter Cannon Thunderbolt
  • Silver Surfer: Black
  • Superman/Action Comics

Favorite BDs
My rekindled love of BDs (as of last year, when I started going to my local library) continues, and has grown, with this year being easier to include a lot of 2019 releases — although there are still some late-year releases that I’m sure would be included here (like the new Thorgal and XIII) but that I haven’t read yet. I do spend more time reading older releases (reading through a series) than new ones though.

  • Amazonie – Épisode 4
  • La Jeunesse de ThorgalLa dent bleue (7)
  • RenaissanceInterzone (2)
  • Retour sur Aldébaran – Épisode 2
  • SternL’Ouest, le vrai (3)

Honorable Mentions: Alix SenatorLes Spectres de Rome (9), CarthagoLe Pacte du centenaire (9), KatangaDispersion (3), LefrancLune Rouge (30), Soleil FroidL’armée verte (3)

Favorite Podcasts
My rekindled love of wrestling is also evident here (what can I say, I’m hooked), as is my rekindled interest (since the Ayrton Senna era in the 80s) for Formula 1 — ignited by the excellent Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive (which got me excited about watching races again).

  • 8-4 Play
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • Shift+F1
  • The Chris Van Vliet Show
  • WhatCulture Wrestling

Honorable Mentions: All Songs Considered, Monocle 24: The Stack, On Margins

Categories
Film TV

Thrillin’ and Chillin’ in October 2019

As I did last year, I decided to do another horror marathon during the month of October, to put me in a proper Halloween mood. This year’s list of what I watched (see below) is a bit shorter than last year (20 vs. 27), but I think this year I ended up watching more TV series, which took up more time — and I ended up watching the second half (all made up of movies) during the final week of October. (I’m also watching more pro wrestling these days, so I imagine that affected things too.) So here then is the list of TV shows and movies I watched for this year’s marathon, and I can’t wait to do the next one — you’ll also find all my write-ups under the “October 2019” category.

  1. American Horror Story: 1984
  2. Annabelle
  3. Annabelle Comes Home
  4. Annabelle: Creation
  5. Ash vs Evil Dead (Season 3)
  6. Assassination Nation
  7. Costume Quest
  8. Creepshow (2019)
  9. In the Tall Grass
  10. Les affamés (Ravenous)
  11. Marianne
  12. Midsommar
  13. One Cut of the Dead
  14. Overlord
  15. Swallowed Souls: The Making of Evil Dead 2
  16. The Conjuring
  17. The Conjuring 2
  18. The Dead Zone
  19. The Purge (Season 2)
  20. Twilight Zone (2019)
Categories
Debaser TV

Creepshow (2019)

This is a new series that’s currently airing on Shudder, and it really does feel like a proper follow-up to the original movies. It really embraces the comic book aesthetic as well — all framing sequences are done in that style, including some bits during episodes — and it just feels fun to watch. Sure, it’s a bit on the low budget side — something you mostly notice when it comes to creature effects — but I think it suits the campy vibe of the series. I’ve watched the first two episodes (which are themselves divided in 2 half-hour episodes), and liked pretty much all of them — the one with the dollhouse was especially great. Well worth taking in of you were a fan of the original movies, or enjoy fun campy horror.