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Charles’ Anime Picks
1. March Comes in Like a Lion
Very rarely have I found media that’s both rip-roaringly funny and genuinely touching. March Comes in Like a Lion, a story about a shogi prodigy (think Japanese chess) trying to find his way in the world is just that. Memorable characters, beautiful artwork, and catchy music—all of which you’d expect from the spiritual successor to Honey and Clover—are the icing on the cake for a series that tackles issues like loneliness, adoption, neglect, illness, and poor parenting. This is the best anime of 2016.
A video-game-playing shut-in is spirited away to a fantasy world where he makes friends with would-be princesses and assassin maids, fights creepy cultic leaders, and dies agonizing deaths before restarting the “game.” Oh, and did I mention there’s an entire arc based on Moby Dick, but with flying whales?
3. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
A show that takes place in a world with some similarities to Sword Art Online. But Grimgar is far more intense and takes unexpected turns that advance the story of comrades learning to survive in a harsh world. The animation is very pretty and the show has lots of thoughtful, quiet moments, but be prepared, Grimgar is violent—most of all, to the viewer’s heart.
Jen’s Superhero Movie Picks
1. Captain America: Civil War
You can’t go wrong with a Captain America movie, but this one was especially awesome. Besides being action-packed, fun, and full of great characters (loved Black Panther!), it was relevant to the real sense of division that many people are feeling these days. The intro of a couple of new characters to the Avenger group and a storyline that I can’t wait to see developed really made this movie stand out in the Captain America series.
2. Doctor Strange
This movie was visually interesting and had super cool special effects. The storyline was compelling and thought-provoking. I like that Marvel is bringing out some of the lesser known guys like Doctor Strange. I also really enjoy seeing the birth of a hero and watching Strange come into his. The during credits sneak peek vignette was the best one yet (Yay Thor!).
3. X-Men: Apocalypse
I love Magneto (and Michael Fassbender), so any story giving insight into his character is good in my book. The scene with Quicksilver was the best part of the movie, and the theme of family was a good one—that’s really what the X-Men are, after all.
Kevin’s Animated Movie Picks
1. Kubo and the Two Strings
This movie is simply beautiful. The visual design of the stop motion animation evokes feudal Japan. It explores the importance of story and themes of love, loss, sacrifice, and redemption. It’s my favourite animated film in a year crowded with amazing entries.
Zootopia took us to another world populated by anthropomorphic animals. The structure of the story is heavily influenced by the classic film noir stories, but the bright colours and sheer inventiveness of the world-building made it an amazing journey.
With stunning visuals, a Chief’s awesome daughter (emphatically NOT a princess), an epic quest, amazing songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Alan Tudyk as a chicken, this is one of my favourites.
Honorable Mention – Sing! While not a great film, this movie has an exuberant third act which will sweep you away.
Victoria’s TV Show Picks
1. Stranger Things
This was one of the best shows I’ve seen in years. I binge-watched it over two days—twice. The acting was superb, the plot drew me in, the characters were original and delightful, and I still quote lines from the show on a regular basis.
2. The Muppets
Though this show only lasted one season, it brought me back to my childhood. I adore Muppet humor and this show had me laughing out loud. I loved seeing Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and the rest of the gang in 2016.
3. Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Sherlock and Watson are just as great in the original period as they are in modern. Seeing them and the rest of the characters in a period setting was an absolute treat, crazy Moriarty and all.
Jason’s Podcast Picks
“An ongoing tribute to the auditory glory that is video game music.” If you like music and video games (and who doesn’t?), you might enjoy VGMpire. Check it out at www.vgmpire.com.
“Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” Check out this science-themed podcast at www.radiolab.org. It’s one of those podcasts that gives you interesting facts to brag about to your friends.
3. No Such Thing as a Fish
The research team for the famous BBC panel show QI host this weekly wrap up of the most interesting facts they unearthed on the show’s behalf that week. If you like non sequiturs and dry British humour, this is a must-subscribe.
Honourable Mentions: Witch, Please, Infinity +1
Sheela’s Board Game Picks
I played the game earlier this year and it was an instant hit. As a sci-fi fan, I was finally able to frantically shout nonsensical sciency-sounding words as though my life depended on it. This game is fast and loud, with everything happening simultaneously and no waiting for turns. It doesn’t require deep strategy and the rules are easy to pick up.
2. Star Wars: Rebellion
It is an asymmetric two-player game in the same vein as Twilight Imperium. But instead of a civil war slog, you get to spend five hours crushing the rebellion or blowing up Death Stars! This game features two boards and over 150 detailed miniatures to carry out your schemes. If you like Star Wars, miniatures, and spending a lot of time in a room with one other person, then this might be the perfect game for you.
Backed by an enthusiastic Kickstarter, Scythe was an instant hit and its popularity has not waned. Scythe was in the top three of almost every game list this year. Based in steampunk 1920’s Europe, Scythe has a beautiful and interesting aesthetic. It’s an Euro-style game which focuses on economy and expansion more than direct conflict with other players. The game is momentum-based with little room for random chance, which allows the players a lot of control over their own fates.
Honourable Mentions: 7 Wonders: Duel, Sushi Go, Escape.
Dustin’s Video Game Picks
1. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Racism is alive and doing much better than many of us realized, as was evidenced in the global media both home and abroad. Deus Ex helps you understand how quickly things come off the rails in that kind of environment and what it feels like to fear the authorities that should be protecting you. It brings together solid controls, an unsettling environment and a host of engaging stories.
2. Final Fantasy XV
It turns out that even after 10 years, you can make a decent game. FFXV makes the list because it puts up a beautiful world, engaging characters and a story that spoke to me as a father, pastor, and gamer. Fans of Final Fantasy will be no stranger to sacrifice for others, but FFXV made me feel the pain of sacrifice and the cost of doing what was right.
3. Titanfall 2
It’s rare that an FPS presents a multiplayer that is engaging for newcomers, challenging for veterans, and doesn’t cause the internet exploding with hate. It’s even rarer when an FPS has a single player campaign that is worth mentioning, let alone engaging and compelling. Titanfall 2 brings both and with personality.
Special mention: That Dragon Cancer, Firewatch, Pokemon Sun/Moon, Overwatch, Stardew Valley.
Allison’s Book Picks
1. Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston
Okay, so I haven’t actually read this yet. But as soon as I get my hands on it, it’s obviously going to be my favourite book ever. Because Ahsoka. It details the events of what happened to her after leaving the Jedi Order.
2. Rust and Water by Justin Currie
This children’s graphic novel is absolutely beautiful, and illustrated by one of my favourite artists, Justin Currie (Chasing Artwork). A robot embarks on a treacherous journey underwater and makes friend with a mermaid, who becomes his guide through the unfamiliar world.
3. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Kendrick’s hilarious snark and life stories entertained me during the long hours of a road trip, so much so that the time flew by. Getting a glimpse into her life was fascinating, as she talks about her childhood, becoming a starving actor, and the not-so-glamorous aspects of fame. (Also, if you like celebrity autobiographies, check out Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). It’s my favourite.)