Thursday, 27 June 2019

Lets chat about Film: Lewis Jane

A few years ago, I used to interview my friends about their experiences with Video games on my blog. I kind of let the blog fall to the wayside a bit in recent years but have slowly been putting content back on it and writing much more in general. I always enjoyed getting people to discuss their relationship with games in depth and felt like I should try to do something else like that from time to time.

So this week I thought I’d start up what I hope is a reoccurring segment of my blog called ‘Let’s chat about film’. Hopefully this can create some decent discussions about film and enable others to get some decent recommendations along the way.  I thought I’d start with myself as I did with the previous interview blogs so forgive me if this sounds a little awkward.

How long have you been into film?

I have always enjoyed films but I would say I didn’t really get into them until around my early to mid teens. My Dad was always working a lot so we didn’t get to spend too much time together but when the colder months came around and he worked less we started to watch movies in the evening. They were usually actions movies like Terminator 2 or First Blood but they really got me into certain actors filmography.

From there as I got older, I would try and go to the movies with friends but found it was an expensive thing to do so I would usually watch whatever movies I could find on Sky Movies. It was only in the last 6 years or so that I’d bought a membership card for my local cinema and began to see movies at least 3 times a week. From there it just expanded to following certain actors, listening to film podcasts and more.

Unfortunately, I don’t go to the movies as much now but I still try to follow certain series like the Marvel movies or catch some Netflix original films if I can.

What was the first movie you remember seeing in the cinema?

I think it was Disneys Mulan. I remember my Mum taking me and my younger cousin to see it and being so excited. I don’t know why I was so excited I think it’s because I’d never been to the movies before that point. I can’t remember how I reacted during the movie but I remember being SO hyper after it and saying things like ‘that was amazing’ over and over again and demanding we go to Mcdonalds as they had Happy Meal toys of Mulan at the time.

I think it’s great that a movie can have that sort of effect on a child and get them so excited about what they’ve seen. I don’t really rate that movie too highly anymore but it will always have a place in my heart because of the way it affected me back then.

What is a cinema experience that really stood out for you?

This is similar to the effect Mulan had on me and I was only around a year older but It’s gotta be Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. I remember being friends with the neighbor's kids and they always had old Star Wars stuff, I was always fascinated by it but couldn’t understand what it was about and then one day they tell me there is a new one and I’m invited to go and see it, I was really excited to be able to see what this stuff was really about!

I remember the scene where Darth Maul turned that lightsaber sideways and showing that it was double-edged and me and my friends just losing our shit. I think this movie really got me into ‘proper’ films rather than just animated ones. I’d never seen so much going on at once on a screen and I was amazed at how it was all put together, so much so I’d watch the ‘making of’ documentary that was on the PS1 game adaptations disc countless times.

I know this movie gets a lot of shit but I’ve always enjoyed it. Is it as good as the older movies in the franchise? No way, but is it a great introduction for a child who was around 6 or 7 years old? Absolutely.

What if your favourite Genre of film and why?

I’ve always enjoyed Thriller movies but that can be a wide range I guess; I think it’s because of the suspense and generally they grip you within the first 15 minutes. If a form of media hasn’t gripped me that time frame I usually find it difficult to continue. Some examples I can give are films like Nightcrawler or Shutter Island.

I really enjoy the Superhero Genre too. It’s a lot better than it was in the early 2000s and I think we’ve had some real stand out movies within the genre in the last 10+ years like the obvious The Dark Knight and more recently Logan.

Do you feel there is an abundance of superhero media currently?

Well, yeah there are a lot of movies and if you take TV into account there is a hell of a lot out there to watch. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, Marvel seem to do this right where yes it’s a Superhero movie but it’s a Superhero movie in a certain genre. Look at The Winter Solider, that’s like a solid political thriller kind of movie or Guardians of the Galaxy is a sci-fi movie etc.

I think if they stick to that sort of model then it can work well. I like DC too but I feel they are part of the problem in what some consider an abundance of movies in the genre. They try way too quickly to catch up to Marvel and as a result released some sub par stuff. They worked well when they took their time with something like Nolans Batman trilogy and they seem to be heading back that way with this new Joker movie coming out later this year.

Is there any other form of media you feel would work well if adapted to film such as a book or game?

I recently read a short book called ‘The Electric State’ by Simon Stalenhag which follows a teenager and her robot on a cross-country road trip across a post-apocalyptic USA. The book was really short but featured art by the author that was just stunning. The story itself was good but I felt there was a lot more to tell about the world itself so I’d love to see that explored in a movie sometime.

Has a movie ever made you feel uncomfortable?

Yes, Nocturnal Animals is one that stands out in my mind a lot. It's a great movie and really worth watching if you haven't but the movie deals with a lot of tough subjects and doesn't shy away from showing them. I wouldn't want to spoil what happens in the movie but if you know the movie then you can guess what part made me uncomfortable.

It was so bad that I was really squirming in my cinema seat for a lot of the movie, I literally could not get comfortable because of what was happening to certain characters and I kept thinking how I would react if I were in the main characters shoes at that point.

Who is your favourite director?

I think for the consistency of movies from them that I have enjoyed it has to be Christopher Nolan. I got into his movies with the Dark Knight Trilogy and they are all fantastic in their own way but since then I’ve gone back and found that I really enjoy not only his previous work but his later work too.
Memento for example is such a fantastic movie and is one of those films you need to watch at least twice, the same for The Prestige which is a real mind bender. Other than that Inception was pretty good as was Interstellar but as someone who studied History and University, I really enjoyed his most recently movie Dunkirk.  I will always have time for his movies, he hasn’t let me down yet.

Who is your favourite actor/actress?

This usually changes a lot for me depending on what films I’ve seen at the time but at the moment it’s Jake Gyllenhaal. I don’t really rate Donnie Darko that highly but a lot of his work in the last 10 years has been great. Nightcrawler, Source Code, Nocturnal Animals and Prisoners are all some films I’d recommend if you’re into him. He is certainly a guy that has range and uses his range well, look at him be a super gaunt and creepy, obsessive guy in Nightcrawler and then see him play two different characters within Nocturnal Animals that both have you feeling for them in different but intense ways. It’s hard to explain but watch these movies man.

Where do you see film going in the future?

I would hope that they are still released in the cinema as some people seem to think the places are dying out (But I mean look how many people go to see Marvel movies, how can they be?) but I also hope there are more chances for films to be picked up by streaming services like Netflix. They seem to allow a lot of smaller Directors chances to work on higher budget movies like the recent I Am Mother on Netflix.

What is an aspect of film you feel is essential in helping the movie work well?

I think it’s the score or soundtrack really. With the right song or piece in the background it can really help sell the feeling of the character or set the mood for the world that we are viewing. For example you get pumped when Dual of the Fates comes on in Star Wars or when the soundtrack of Shutter Island kicks in at certain points you feel the anguish of the characters.

What is a film you would recommend to somebody and why?

Other than the Jake Gyllenhaal films I mentioned already I’d recommend Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless mind. There are a few reasons for this, the story is a bit confusing but a really interesting concept once you understand it, Jim Carey CAN act in a serious role and more people need to see that and it’s just one of those movies that really helped me get through some shitty breakups. If you’ve seen it you might understand why.  It’s certainly not a film for everyone but I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something a little different.

What is the next film you want to see at the cinema?

I think it has to be Spider-man: Far From Home as it’s out next week and I just adore the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is a lot riding on this movie to pave the way for the future of this franchise and I’m excited to see where they take it next.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Past and Present

Every day it's the same monotonous thing, I get on the train in a city I'm still unfamiliar with and make my way to work. Briefcase in hand and the same playlist on my phone. I usually have to stand the entire journey as it's always the work rush hour and my station is situated between a bunch of much larger ones. Important business people always seem to sit on one end of the train constantly punching into their phones and chatting to each other without ever looking up at the world around them.

On the other side of the carriage it always seems to be the labourers in their high-vis fluorescent green or orange jackets with their hardhats balancing on their lap. They're usually the louder people on the carriage but always seem to be in good spirits. The reason there are so many is because the city is expanding, you cannot go too far without coming across some road works or seeing a new building being surrounded by cranes.

I'm not from the city and find all of this a bit claustrophobic and daunting despite how big the city actually is. I moved here for a new start but feel suffocated by the concrete around me each day, the rush of people eager to get to work or get home in the evening and the overall crushing loneliness. It's funny that you can move to a place with a population your hometown could never reach in 100 years but feel no real connections to anyone around you. You sometimes feel like you don't really belong here.

I find myself staring out the train window much more often these days. Seeing the world whip by me as if it was not really there at all. I always start trying to picture who lives in the nicer residential areas closer to my own area.. Is it people who feel like I do? Is it families? Business people or anything else? Suddenly the scenery is a jungle of glass and concrete and buildings trying to be quirky just for the sake of having something different on the skyline. All these huge buildings that look like apartments and yet I bet nobody within them really knows each other or that the majority looking for homes could never really afford them.

It's fair to say It might take a while for this city to grow on me. I'm happy that I live on the outskirts where things are a little slower paced and closer to what I'm used to back home. I've got a nice park to cycle or walk around, I've got a local pub just a few steps away from home and there are some great cafes in the area.

The thing is, one of the reasons I came to this place was to get as far away as possible from the problems I was facing back home. You can't ever really outrun a problem you're having though, you either face it head on or you wait. Time can be the best thing for any problem in my experience, but of course with time it takes a while as you'll see.


One of the biggest things I ran from was my own regret and guilt and on these train journeys where you're stuck in a speeding tube watching the world go by you begin to remember that from which you ran from, no amount of music can drown that out. It had been over a year since I had left her and the regret had set in almost immediately after the point. You know you felt the way you did in the moment for a reason but you can't quite remember what that reason was anymore.

You start to think about other factors that pushed you to make that decision, the decision that totally ripped both your worlds apart for the moment. Was it related you your work perhaps? Was it Her or was it you? In hindsight it doesn't really matter who or what was the cause because it happened and as much as you might want to at times you can't reverse time.

I mull these thoughts over in my mind while I look around the train and I see someone that looks like her get off the carriage at the current stop. My heart totally stops as if I've been shot, but why exactly? There is no way she would actually be here on the other side of the planet and even if she was here in the exact same place as me, what exactly would I do about it and why would I let that effect what I was doing?

The truth is I thought I had seen her everywhere I went, from country to country on this worldwide trip to my final destination she was there, sometimes physically and sometimes in my mind. I would see the same platinum hairstyle on other girls in the different cities I had been to or even now on the train I was riding and It would just blind me into thinking that it's definitely her. The anguish of things that were unsaid at the time would come back to haunt me each time.

These thoughts would always present the question in my head ' could she forgive me if I just contacted her?' Id found myself on the cusp of the answer many times but I didn't believe I could ever forgive myself.

The train left the station and I continued on towards my destination. I worked near the beach and would always try to take a short walk across it before I got to work as a means of clearing my head. The crashing of the early morning waves against the sand were almost therapeutic to me at the time and immensely calming as if with each crash my mind would become clearer and clearer until it reset and had washed any issue away until the cycle would repeat. 


Days would pass but the same thing would happen, I would believe that I saw her and have everything come flooding back. How exactly was I meant to get over this hurdle in my life if I kept experiencing this? Was I going mad or something? I decided the next time this happened I would try and speak to this person. Almost as if to prove to myself this was not her and there was nothing to be afraid of. 

I got on my train from the city towards my apartment in the evening, I took my usual spot by the main doors of the carriage as there was again nowhere to sit and I saw someone with the same figure as her, the same hair and even in clothes that were her exact style. My heart jumped and I felt like my feet were magnetized to the floor, but what exactly was the problem?

Before I could speak with her she got up and got off the train at perhaps the busiest station before my own. I don't know what came over me but I ran out after her and into a huge seas of people, bikes and briefcases. I tried to follow her and felt like an absolute idiot 'you don't even know who this lady is, what the hell are you going to say to her?' I thought as I pushed through other commuters. 

I was about to shout her name as if it was really her but I felt a tight tug at my arm and turned around.

In front of me was a woman not that much older than myself who had the softest voice I'd ever heard, almost as if she was sorry for bothering me. 'Excuse me you dropped your briefcase down there when you ran through the platform... I guess you're late getting home from work or something but you're not going to be happy if you lost this right!?' She said in a really positive manner.

I felt positive just listening to her that I realized I had not yet replied to her for a number of seconds. 'Oh, yes I'm sorry I was in a rush but uh this isn't the correct station I'm actually the next one along. I'm not exactly late I just thought I'd seen someone is all but I guess I was mistaken'. It probably wasn't her but I'll never know and that's ok. 

'I'm Luke by the way, thank you for taking the time to find me and get this back to me, my boss would be pissed if I'd lost it.' I said as I extended out my arm to shake her hand. 'I'm Anna, don't worry about it I just hope someone would do the same for me in that situation' she smiled as she shook my hand. 'Well seeing as I'm not from around this area and the next trains not for anther hour do you know somewhere I could get some decent food?' I asked her enthusiastically as I was starving. 

'Oh I know a bunch of places, there's a great seafood place down the street that does amazing shrimp, I was heading there anyway if you wanted to join me... unless you think that's a bit weird y'know going with a stranger' she replied.  I smiled at her and was admittedly a little bit lost in her eyes when she said it. 'Well we introduced ourselves didn't we? so we're not strangers anymore! I'd love to join you'. We made our way out of the station and I felt a release. 

I felt like going through the things I had been through had finally had a purpose. They all lead me to this exact moment in time where I would connect with the right person and have a chance to start again, to truly be happy again. I didn't know what the future held from that point on but I was excited to go back into the unknown and see where it lead me and who I'd go through that with. I pushed the large exit door of the train station open and we both walked through towards the setting sun, I saw the girl I'd followed as I exited and I still never truly knew if it was her or not, but at this point it didn't matter to me anymore. 

I was moving forward.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Ultraman Season 1 (Netflix)

Ultraman is a new anime adaptation released on Netflix in April of 2019 and production as a co-production by Production I.G and Sola Digital Arts. It is based on the long running Ultraman series in Japan and acts as a direct sequel to the original live action show from 1966. The shows tend to revolve around an alien threat effecting Earth and Ultraman in one way or another being Earths defender.

Ultraman started as a Tokusatsu (Special effects) series in Japan in 1966 and was actually a semi-sequel to another show called Ultra Q which also aired in 1966 and did not include the Ultraman character. The series has since spun off into it's own entity and has enjoyed a long running success in Japan.

Now for me I've never watched a show in the Ultraman series but I am aware of it and the general story of the original show. I have however grown up with series similar to it such as Power Rangers which is the American version of Japans Super Sentai Tokusatsu series and Kamen Rider which America got as Masker Rider back in the 90's.

As a child I always had a huge affinity for Power Rangers until I was around 9 or 10 years old but then it was seen as a bit too childish so I stopped watching it through fear of ridicule. When I was around 15 and getting back into Anime again I discovered that a lot of the series I used to watch such as Power Rangers were actually Japanese in origin, I started to look into this further and found that they were allegedly much more 'adult and violent' than the versions we had in the UK.

I was interested so began to watch Kamen Rider which like Ultraman and Power Rangers had been running on and off for a large number of years. Now personally I don't find it that different to what we got in the UK in terms of violence etc so I think that was just people trying to justify watching a show that was aimed more at kids.  However I did enjoy the series I watched (Kamen Rider Decade, W, Kabuto, Fourze and 000s) because they were goofy, had some decent choreography and plot points and really they took me back to the nostalgia of watching the shows as a kid.

Really they are not that different to watching Marvel or DC movies now just on a much smaller budget so I don't see any shame in it, it's just as cheesy as any MCU movie can be. I haven't watched a series in quite a while though unless the Power Rangers movie from a few years ago counts, so take what I say with a pinch of salt.

I believe Netflix have been doing pretty good with Anime that they have had some hand in releasing, Devilman Crybaby remains one of my favorite anime released in the last few years and Aggretsuko has been a lovely short series to watch. I know there is a meme about their adaptations side of things like the live action Death Note movie (Which I actually enjoyed) being received poorly but I think they've been slowly releasing some gems recently, so how does Ultraman fare?

I found the characters to be generally well written, I really enjoyed the main character Shinjiro just being expected to become Ultraman because he has had the power passed down to him, whether he wanted to or not. It was great to see him be a complete novice to being a Superhero and how he would mess up quite a bit but always take something away from each battle or event and ensure that he did his best not to make the same mistakes again.

It was important for him to see that if he doesn't act or does not improve then people will and do get harmed. I also liked that his superior Moroboshi was much more accustomed to being Ultraman and was happy to not hold back in telling Shinjiro that if he can't or won't do something then he doesn't deserve to be Ultraman. I felt that was a huge catalyst in Shinjiro deciding to use the power he has rather than expect others who don't have the exact power set as him to do it and potentially suffer.

Moroboshi was your typical arrogant counter-character to Shinjiro. Shinjiro was the novice and heroic type whereas Moroboshi is the darker and more serious type. He has no issue with killing an enemy if it means the threat is neutralized and has no time for being nice to Shinjiro. Now at first Moroboshi to me was just the typical dick Anime character who hates the main character because they don't believe they had earnt the right to do X Y Z on their own.

As time progresses though, while we haven't yet seen his background story you can tell he is committed to protecting the Earth from any threat whatever the cost is, even if that means putting himself at risk. He seems to warm up more to Shinjiro over time as Shinjiro begins to get much more serious and I actually feel like they make a great team, Moroboshi actually shows some subtle respect to him which is great.

Hokuto is the third Ultraman in the show who we are introduced to during the seasons twilight episodes. I found him quite annoying and disliked him at first because he follows the typical archetype of an annoying character that would follow the main character around all the time and bother them. However as the show got to it's last few episodes and we saw exactly what his motives were he really grew on me, quickly becoming my favorite character so far.

Now there are other characters I enjoyed a lot but I can't really comment on them much without spoiling some really key plot points. I would like to mention though that this season has not had any interesting female characters... In fact I think there is only one who could be considered part of the main cast and she is not particularly well written. Perhaps that changes later on but it is a bit of a negative point so far.

I really enjoy when Superhero Media deals with the negatives that can come with being a hero. Much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Comics with Civil War there are issues surrounding those that get caught in the crossfire of Superhero battles. Yes they are necessary fights but the argument is, could more not be done to prevent causalities or destruction? Now this is not the only issue of course but it's touched upon in the show a few times.

One characters hatred for Ultraman comes from the original live action series where the hero and monsters used to grow to a giant size and cause so much destruction during their fights and because of that a family member got killed by falling debris.

It's interesting that many members of the public accuse the new Ultramen of just being Cosplayers and not true heroes, the public act in a way that suggests they really don't want the Ultramen around. It's interesting to see the perspectives rather than everyone just cheering them on all the time. I hope that this is explored further with the coming seasons.

I enjoyed the way the story progressed throughout the season but I do have a few issues with the show. I really do not like this new trend of Anime having this 3D animation style. I'm not saying it cannot be done right because examples like the recent Dragonball Movies have proven that it can but I feel that's because they are only really used during certain action scenes.

The problem with Ultraman is that this style is used throughout the entire show, it makes the characters look totally static and like a poor Video game cutscene. It makes a lot of the characters look expressionless and wooden,  personally it does not work for me.

A lot of the monsters they come across look like they are made of rubber or ironically have someone inside the suit operating them but I guess you could argue that is intentional because that's how it would be if it were a live action Tokusatsu.

While I dislike this style generally I will say it works for the actions scenes and the Ultraman suit designs,it actually helps the suits look more like some futuristic armor. Interestingly most of the fights are actually done via motion capture which is not something I really expected to happen for an Anime series, perhaps this is one of the reasons the action scenes look so good, or is that down to both this and the choice in animation style? Perhaps the animation will grow on me in time but If you look at the way the Manga is drawn it feels like a bit of a disservice.

So without talking too much more about the show what do I think about it overall?
I think it's a step in the right direction. It's got me hooked on a decent story in the Tokusatsu genre (Kind of) and has made me want to pick up the Manga. I do wish the animation style was perhaps more traditional but I don't think this is going to change. I would say if you're new to this kind of series this would be a good place to start but feel you could also just start with an actual live action series.

I feel happy that these Japanese heroes are becoming more accessible to viewers in the west and would LOVE Netflix to do a Kamen Rider series in this style if they could refrain from making it all 3D animation. I'm very excited to see what other Anime titles Netflix puts out in the future and hope you are too.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Tetris 99 (Nintendo Switch)

I have been utterly obsessed with this game since its release. Its so strange to me though as I've never actually played a Tetris game in my life. I was as surprised as everyone else when Nintendo announced this during its Nintendo Direct video on February 13th this year and have been playing it almost everyday since.

The game is 'free' if you have a Nintendo online subscription (along with the ability to play old NES games) which I think was a wise decision by Nintendo. I do not believe I'd pay the full price of a Switch title in the UK for this game or even the price of a budget title because I've never been into the series. I'm really happy they released it this way though because I've put so much time into it and gained a new love for puzzle based and competitive titles.

The aim of the game is to last as long as possible at a game of Tetris but the catch is you're against 98 other people. Every player has the ability to target others in order to eliminate them quicker, this is done by selecting what type of player you'd like to target such as players who are targeting you or players who have the most K.O's. It really is quite a simplistic game but I feel Tetris has always been that way, easy to grasp potentially hard to master and this puts a nice new spin on it.

I really don't care much for Battle Royale shooter games, admittedly I've not taken the time to play more than a handful of matches in something like Fortnite but it just does not do it for me. It's probably because I'm shit at non team based Video Games since playing the Lone Wolves game type on Halo 3 back in the day.

I never really thought about this being in the Battle Royale genre until I saw the memes online about it being the 'Fortnite killer'. In any case it's nice to see that Battle Royale doesn't have to just be FPS games right now, its kind of refreshing to be honest.

Now like I mentioned, I've been obsessed with this game every time I have a spare few minutes which more often than not turns into at least an hour or so. I'm currently living in Australia for a while and only took my Switch as any form console. That in itself is quite refreshing and has allowed me to take a step from always having too much to play back home and just focus on smaller titles when I feel like it.

This game and others like it are perfect if you're traveling but that kind of begs the question would I play this as much as I am if I was back in the UK with my Xbox One X and PS4? I certainly have many games that released during this period I'm itching the play and I can't help think that perhaps I would not have even given this game the time of day in that scenario.

I mentioned briefly that this game has given me a new love for puzzle based titles. I meant that as in it makes me want to focus more on them in the future if I can, but it's not my first rodeo with these its just been a while. I used to get obsessed with the Xbox 360 title Hexic HD which most people had pre-installed on their console.

Hexic and Hexic HD interestingly enough were actually designed by Tetris' creator Alexey Pajitnov so perhaps that explains my love for Tetris 99 in some way. I remember the countless hours I'd spend late at night playing Hexic HD on the 360 while listening to music. To this day I'm one of the only people I know with certain Achievements in that title.

I think the first time I played a game like this though was back on the Sega Megadrive (Genesis for USA), It was a sort of competitor to Tetris named Columns and was essentially an earlier version of Bejeweled (which I also enjoy, especially on long haul flights). I was terrible at it but with the Megadrive Collection on Switch perhaps I should go back to it some time soon.

There is not much more I can say about this game other than if you have a switch and pay for the Online functionality of it then give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised with it. Full disclosure though I still haven't come first place but I'm determined!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Subsurface Circular (Nintendo Switch: 2018)

A few months ago I played a really short game on my Nintendo Switch and I loved it. It's called Subsurface Circular and was ported to the Switch in early 2018. I saw it on sale for under £4.00 and thought I would give it a shot based purely on the synopsis of the game and the designs of its robots.
I had no idea it was made by Mike Bithell and his company Mike Bithell Games who made another short Indie game hit Thomas Was Alone (Which I would also highly recommend). I think if I'd have known it was made by him I'd have likely picked it up sooner than I did.

The game is a text based adventure game in which you play as a Robot Detective in the not too distant future who is tasked with solving a case in which many other Robots are going missing. In order to do this you as the player are confined to the underground rail network and have to talk to a number of other worker robots and solve short puzzles in order to crack the case.

The gameplay is entirely simplistic and the perfect sort of game to play on the Switch in tablet mode (Or on an Ios device). The game is presented as a question and answer scenario with the odd puzzle placed here and there but this is more of a quick look at the rail map or a decision on who to talk to first and which questions to ask that will open up answers to other passengers questions. I enjoy that the game never really goes too far above that in terms of the gameplay because it allows the focus to be on its narrative.

I adore the Robot designs in the game for a few reasons. They stick to a more or less humanoid form and keep a simplistic approach to their colour schemes and facial designs. I feel as though they are the 'right' amount of futuristic as they don't look too much like humans yet and I feel they would not be too out of places in a movie like Blade Runner. It is a shame we did not see much of the world above ground but I do like the focus the game puts on where it wants you to be and why.

To speak more about this I enjoyed that the game could do a lot of world building purely by the conversations you have rather than have you explore as you are only confined to a single train car. It's interesting to see what could happen in our future with the advancements in robotics and perhaps we too would have humanoid robots replace us in many aspects much like this game.

It's interesting to wonder would we give them as much or little freedom as is afforded to them in this game. It was quite harrowing in some ways to see what would happen to a certain unit once you had removed the limiters it was constricted in to by its creators by inputting a certain phrase. It was totally surreal to see a Robot feel some form of 'freedom' for the short time it was on the train with you and it was kind of heart warming to see some of them thank you for it.

I do wonder will there be a point where there will be rights for machines and Robots who are more or less also constricted by us to serve a certain purpose.

The final chapter of the game and its lead up are absolutely fantastic. I will try not to go too much into it as I don't wish to spoil the game for people who have yet to try it however it deals with a dilemma of do you upset the status quo and hope that a new future works itself out or do you keep with the status quo and not risk a terrible unchangeable  outcome but still be stuck with the parts of the your present 'life' that really are not that great.

To have one simple enough case lead up to a moral question such as this really shows how well Mike Bithell and the team are at weaving a great narrative. I am generally excited to see what they come out with next and only hope it can match this game or surpass it.

If I did have to try and critique an aspect of the game I would say it does feel a lot more like a visual novel at times as I feel I can't really lose. There is not a time limit to find the answer to questions in a chapter or anything like that so you really can just go at your leisure. There also is not an incentive to replay the game at any point other than perhaps the last chapter just to see the outcome of the other decision you make. However if you are into directors commentary you do unlock this for every chapter once you beat the game.

Overall Subsurface Circular is a great short game to play on a rainy afternoon or on your commute. It may also be a great title to start of with if you are looking to get in to the genre. I would highly recommend picking this title up on the Switch the next time you're heading to the Eshop!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam (1985)

It’s been a really long time since I posted here but I wanted to talk about a series I rewatched recently called Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam from 1985 which was the first in a series of sequels to the original Mobile Suit Gundam. I’ve been collecting the Blu Rays of the Gundam series recently as they have slowly started to come to the UK thanks to the fine folks at AlltheAnime and Zeta was one of my favourites when I first watched it almost 10 years ago.

Now I’ve seen pretty much everything Gundam related that’s been released but Zeta had always had that status for me that it was one of the highest points the franchise could hope to reach and from what I’ve seen online from the fan base this seems to be the general opinion.  I remember I really enjoyed it when I originally saw it but I feel almost 10 years is enough time to warrant a rewatch of the series and re-evaluate if I still hold it in high regard. So allow me just to pick a few things I liked as disliked about the show this time around.

I think right off the bat I need to mention how in love I am with the Mecha designs in Zeta. They are absolutely some of the best in the Universal Century and in the Gundam franchise itself. I have to say they know how to take simplistic designs and add to them such as the Gundam Mk II which is pretty much the original Gundam with only small ‘upgrades’. While this keeps the Mobile Suit looking new and perhaps sleeker it doesn’t hesitate to preserve some elements that made the original suit so iconic. 

To counter this point they are also not afraid to take what we are already familiar with and totally change it. For example the Zeta Gundam itself was different from anything we had seen up until that point. The famous Gundam head design was refined and the transformation gimmick gave a real sense of changing times for the series both in the show itself and to its fans. 

I am happy they kept with the general theme of the ‘bad guys’ having single 'mono-eyed' Mobile Suits even more so in this series because the Titans who are this shows antagonists used to be considered the ‘good guys’ in the previous series but have become their own entity not governed by the Earth Federation. By having them go back to using Mobile Suits typically associated with ‘evil’ and even having an in-show reason for this such as Zeon technology being more advanced I felt it really helped to emphasise that the Titans were to a corrupt version of the Earth Federation.

One of the best aspects of the show is Char now being a protagonist under the name of Quattro. Char was the primary rival in the original series whose motivations were never exactly clear until partway through that show. It was questionable whether he was evil or just saw things from another perspective. I find that is the case for many factions and characters within the Universal Century and feel this only boosts Chars appeal to fans.

In this show we see a new side of him where he has become a true leader and Father figure or Teacher to many of the younger cast members, specifically Kamille who I feel at times could either be the next Amuro or the next Char. I feel that Char can see this too and attempts to mould him in that direction. I would not say he is doing this for any ulterior motive I truly believe he sees it as his own way of paving the road for the next generation and Newtypes in general.
I find that the protagonist of the show Kamille shows real growth and development throughout the series. He is annoying at first and very childish but as the show progresses he really grows into an adult and a capable pilot. I think his progression raises interesting questions such as how a teenager would react in a literal war zone when they are the pilot of arguably the most important machine in the war. This of course is answered in the original series too but this time around Kamille is surrounded by people who have done this before and are in many cases Veterans.

Now while he does show he is a capable person over time he does have a number of missteps where he lets his emotions run wild. With examples such as when a friend is killed or when the love of his life is actually under the control of the enemy and has their memories tampered with. It takes Kamille a long time to start using his emotions as a weapon in order to benefit his faction but once he does he becomes a force to be reckoned with. 

Kamille most of the time as mentioned above shows that he could go either the way of Char or the way of  previous series protagonist Amuro. This is shown quite early on in the series when he loses Four Murasame in a situation quite close to that of what Amuro and Char went through when Lalah was killed in Mobile Suit Gundam. What is important and allows Kamille to stand out though is that he doesn’t specifically follow either characters advice and allows himself to pave his own way. By being able to do this he is not just a mirror image of his seniors he is his own person and a much more interesting character because of it. I feel this point is the main reason he matures throughout the show.

I also have to say I found Jerid likeable at times. Jerid was this aggressive rival to Kamille right off the bat purely because he thought Kamille was a girl’s name… While this starts off extremely petty each one of them continues to antagonise the other with Jerid always rushing into battle the moment he knows Kamille is on the battlefield. This has consequences for both characters though as each one of them end up killing those close to the other party.

Naturally this only intensifies their hate for one another but in a roundabout way it showed that Jerid actually was a good pilot and could continue to improve. At times it would even show he had leadership skills and those that would follow him. Personally, I feel he had the edge at times as he was continuously getting new mobile suits to pilot yet he really could have become a Newtype to rival Kamille if he had lived longer.

As much as I enjoy much of the characterisations in the show I do feel that some characters seem to have ridiculous motivations for what they do. The worst offender for this is Reccoa who was with the AEUG from the start of the show and was a valued member of the team, she was capable and another of those the younger team would look up to. The issue is she goes on reconnaissance and meets the antagonist Scirroco and immediately begins to almost love him.

Because of this she abandons the AEUG and joins the Titans, a group of people she has fought against for some time, a group she has seen commit countless atrocities. There are times early on when she joins the Titans that she is seen to disagree with their methods but eventually she becomes just as bad as they are, all because she wishes to be closer to Scirroco.

I find this utterly ridiculous and some could argue it is because Char does not return her affection early on. Regardless we have Emma who was originally on the side of the Titans but once she begins to see how they operate she joins the AEUG because she does not agree with what the Titans has become, this is a much more reasonable explanation for someone to join another faction!

I found the pacing of the series to be quite good as I never believed there to be an episode that was not warranted like I do with a lot of Anime nowadays. Everything that happened seemed to happen for a reason and if there were ever deaths they felt like they served a real purpose to the rest of the cast. 

The last two episodes are where I feel the pacing seemed ever so slightly rushed in terms of character deaths, in the space of only a few minutes you could have two or three major players bite the dust! I think you could counter this by saying this is to show you how terrible war can be and that no particular person is actually safe just because they are one of the main cast. Zeta Gundam does do this well to be fair the show ends with both sides pretty much obliterated. The Titans have pretty much all their major players killed and are disbanded, The AEUG is crippled with only one pilot being left and our protagonist is in a comatose state. I don’t know of many other series that leave the protagonists in a state such as this! It’s aspects like this that can make me see why a lot of the fan base consider this series to be depressing. 

Personally I feel it’s not that bad as it leads into an immediate sequel ZZ Gundam albeit with a new cast joining and being much more light-hearted. But I certainly agree that the ending to this series as a whole is depressing if you are to take ZZ out of the equation. I wonder if it is jarring to people who only watch these shows in English as ZZ was not dubbed yet the follow-up movie CCA was!

Now I should mention as a side note there are three compilation movies for Zeta that were released between 2005 and 2006, I have watched them and I don’t remember enjoying them as much as the series itself as they would primarily reuse old animation and just condense the story however they would randomly add newly animated scenes which at times totally changed what happened in the original version, for example certain people who died may now have lived. 

My issue with the compilations was that it was so jarring to go from 1985 animation to mid-2000’s animation, there was nothing wrong with how either worked and I really believe they should have just reanimated the entire thing as it would help flow of the scenes and their transitions. Failing that why not just do these compilations with the original animation back in the 80s…

So overall do I still feel like Zeta is still one of my favourite series in all of Gundam? I would say no, it’s still worth a watch and I don’t regret rewatching it because it allowed me to appreciate certain elements I missed previously but I feel like its status for me has changed dramatically. As I’ve said there are plenty of elements I love about this show but I find the motivations of certain characters to be utterly ridiculous, so much so that it really makes me question what the writers were thinking at the time.

I feel there is a lot of fluff in the series that otherwise could be trimmed down and the ending is severely lacking but I’d recommend it to anyone interested specifically in Universal Century Gundam series, it is a small piece of a much larger saga and it certainly has earnt its place as it has  monumental moments for the characters such as Char, Amuro and Kamille.

Zeta you’ve got a lot of flaws, but you’ve also got some of the best Mech designs in the entire franchise, you showed us how to continue the story of the original cast while bringing in the next generation along with them and ultimately you set up a lot of major elements for the rest of Universal Century, you’re worth the watch!