This week, we’re commemorating Earth Day by playing Norco, an indie adventure game about an oil town that’s feeling the effects of global warming. We’re also checking out “Tokyo Vice,” based on the 2009 memoir of the same name, as well as an AI-based sci-fi book and an anime series that’s the best we’ve seen in years.
Norco is worth the hype
Everyone privy to the indie gaming scene has been raving about Norco, and for good reason. What looks on the surface like a simple throwback point-and-click adventure game is actually a fascinating Southern Gothic noir mystery, with beautiful pixel art and poignant critiques on the climate crisis, thoughtful meditations on religion and deep affection for the real-life Louisiana setting for which it’s named. Apt comparisons to Disco Elysium and Kentucky Route Zero go to show what kind of impact this game is likely to have for years to come. Norco is available on Steam for both Mac and Windows.
‘Tokyo Vice’ is still one of the best
HBO’s adaptation of Jake Adelstein’s 2009 reporting memoir about covering crime in Japan’s capital city is one of the best procedural journalism stories in recent memory. It features Ansel Elgort as the Missouri-born expat maneuvering the often hostile and bureaucratic worlds he’s obsessed with understanding. The show deftly switches gears between an in-depth look at Japanese newspaper reporting and an exploration of the criminal underworld of Japan’s yakuza clans, with a great co-star performance from Ken Watanabe as Adelstein’s vice cop mentor. It’s available on HBO Max.
‘Klara and the Sun’ takes readers to the not-so-distant future
The latest novel from Nobel Prize-winning British author Kazuo Ishiguro is the best kind of literary sci-fi, doubling as both a heartfelt tale about the nature of human love and a grounded and realistic (albeit dystopian) take on the potential of artificial intelligence. Featuring Klara, an Artificial Friend bot tasked with overseeing a young and sickly girl of considerable means, the book explores a near-future where AI feels, reasons and navigates the world much like a child does, all the while trapped in a confounding life of subservience.
Dive into ‘Ranking of Kings’
Much like its lovable protagonist, this anime series comes off as unassuming at first glance, but it happens to be one of the best of the year. Mixing “Game of Thrones”-style political intrigue with a subversive take on classic Western fairy tales, “Ranking of Kings” somehow balances being as wholesome as a Disney movie while retaining the gruesome nature of the Brothers Grimm.
It stars Bojji, a deaf and mute son of two giants who was born with none of the strength of his parents. Yet the prince is nonetheless thrust into the role of hero and savior to his kingdom, all while plotting forces behind the scenes scheme for power. I can’t recommend this show enough, and its sense of humor and beautiful art style, courtesy of “Attack on Titan” animator Wit Studio, make it one of my favorite anime of the last few years. It’s available on Crunchyroll.
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