Track Review: Purity Ring featuring Danny Brown – Belispeak II

Electronic hit makers Purity Ring are back with a revised version of Belispeak, a single from 2012 album Shrines. Danny Brown has breathed new life into the track with a new hip-hop flavour and a faster tempo allows it to sit more comfortably next to Hip-Hop bangers from the likes of Kanye West and Chance The Rapper. Brown’s lyrics are some of the best in the game right now and are malleable enough to fit within the framework of Purity Ring’s ethereal style. Brown’s grimy, street lyrics could jar with Purity Ring’s dark and dreamy instrumentation but he manages to tie the two very different vocal styles together fairly well, relating the lyrics about “when my belly speaks” to Brown’s hunger growing up poor and then to his hunger in the rap game.

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Purity Ring bring new meaning to ‘Old School’

The autotune in the track feels a little unnecessary, seemingly thrown in for a little more 808’s flavour but ends up coming across just a little tacky. Neither artists need to use autotune as a crutch or a gimmick, and it only serves to actually make Megan James’ otherworldly vocals sound less impressive.

My swag is this big

The track doesn’t break new ground for either artist but what we have here is a perfectly serviceable fusion of indie electronica and southern slightly-trap influenced hip-hop. The biggest complaint I have is that the track is simply inoffensive and challenges neither fan base or artist. With that being said, these artists both show incredible potential and my fingers are crossed for potential future collaborations making good on the promise of this track and 25 Bucks, the two artist’s second collaboration on Danny Brown’s Old.

Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea, Episode One (DLC) – Review

Bioshock Infinite was one of the best games of the year and undeniably, one of the greatest stories ever told in a video game. It immersed you within a bizarre new world that was at once disturbing and beautiful. It was equal parts intense first person shooter and thrilling tale of prejudice, identity and redemption.  Infinite was an ambitious attempt at mixing many big ideas and science fiction concepts with exciting game play and it did so with mastery.

The city of Rapture is more visually stunning than ever

With the bar set so catastrophically high by Infinite and the original Bioshock it would be difficult for the first part of the planned two part DLC Expansion Burial At Sea to not disappoint. The game returns to Rapture, the underwater metropolis from the first game, except this time we get to see the city in full swing. In the opening half hour we join Booker and Elizabeth, albeit alternate versions of them, re-imagined as noir movie archetypes as they explore Rapture in search of a little girl who has gone missing. Fans who have played both games should already be putting together the pieces of what is really going on, but in classic Bioshock fashion the game keeps it’s story cards close to the chest, only giving you small snippets of clues before an ending reveal that even seasoned Bioshock fans will not see coming.

Many fans will be excited to see the fall of Rapture, witnessing the transformation from high flying technological marvel to an undersea mausoleum of the weird and grotesque, just as they did the city of Columbia in Infinite. Unfortunately we don’t really get to see that in Episode One, instead we get a snapshot of Rapture at it’s peak before being dropped into an already  destroyed portion of the city in the form of Fontaine’s sunken mall, that has now been turned into a prison for splicers. Hopefully we will get to see the eventual collapse of Rapture’s ecosystem but that spectacle is clearly being held back for Episode Two.

It’s still fascinating to see Rapture’s bizarre society in full swing

The gameplay is a half way house between the slower, more RPG inspired combat of the first game with the faster, pulse pounding whiz-bang action of Infinite. The result is… it doesn’t really work. The game faces you with tougher enemies than Infinite, forcing you to utilize both your Vigour powers and the regular weapons, however ammo and EVE (mana) is very scarce forcing you to scavenge every nook and cranny for scraps of ammo, health and mana. The combat is always manic but rarely that satisfying, and sometimes frustrating. On the plus side, I appreciated the return of the skyhook which is always a joy to use and the handful of new vigours and weapons are great fun to experiment with, especially the Range Wave Gun that pumps an enemy full of heat before having them explode and damage enemies around them in a satisfying deluge of fried guts.

The game also tries to incorporate some underdeveloped stealth elements. Once you have entered a new area, Elizabeth will alert you to the presence of enemies and suggests that you try to take them out quietly. You can crouch and sneak up behind an enemy and one-shot kill them with an execution but doing so will usually result in being spotted by other guards and as such amounts to little more than a throw-away mechanic. Game designers need to learn that stealth gameplay only really works when the entire game is designed around it, for example Far Cry 3 integrated stealth from the very beginning giving you multiple options for approaching and dispatching enemies as well as excellently communicating the locations of enemies with the ‘marking’ mechanic. Burial At Sea does a poor job at communicating to the player where the enemies are positioned leading to the stealth feeling frustrating and tacked on.

‘Old Man Winter’ is a new Vigour/Plasmid that allows enemies to be frozen in ice

The other major sticking point with this DLC is it’s length. I beat the first part in little over 2 hours, which isn’t great for a game that costs £11.99, and in fact may leave players who skipped the season pass to feel slightly ripped off. The short length isn’t helped by the pacing. I only really felt like I was getting to grips with the game’s feel as I came to the end and an out of left-field story sequence placed after the game’s first truly exhilarating encounter had me feeling like the game had abruptly ended before it had really begun. Which brings me to the game’s problematic ending, I won’t go in to too much details as one of the great joys of the Bioshock series is it’s unique storytelling, but needless to say the ending of Burial At Sea Episode One left me less than satisfied. The deluge of plot information is told in such a rapid flurry of exposition that I could barely get my head around it and am still confused at how the twist ties in with the ending of Infinite. I just hope that with Episode Two all will become clear.

A chilling cameo from Bioshock’s Sander Cohen is one of the game’s highlights

Right now, it looks like Part Two is going to have a lot to answer for if Burial At Sea is to be considered a worthwhile entry to the Bioshock franchise. When all is said and done Episode One simply feels rushed. The gameplay and story both have incredible potential but, partially due to the length, they both end up feeling underdeveloped. For some, it will be worth the price of admission simply to revisit the enigmatic world of Rapture once more with upgraded visuals, but for those still on the fence, perhaps it would be best to wait for Episode Two to decide if Burial At Sea is worth your time because right now, Episode One is only making a great case for the ‘Season Pass’ model being a very flawed system.

Fall Out Boy – PAX AM Days (EP) – Review

One of the front runners of the early 2000s Emo/Pop-Punk boom, California Quartet Fall Out Boy have always had a certain disregard for their reputation, often maligned for their penchant for sugary sweet choruses and melodramatic self-hating emo lyrics. FOB know their loyal and vocal fan base and have had no qualms with catering directly to them and no one else, slowly progressing over the course of their five full length releases to the theatrical, arena-conquering sound of Save Rock & Roll, an album that embraced the band’s cheesy side in an attempt to recall the classic Rock & Roll records of old.

Fall Out Boy sure can make a racket! ….I’m sorry

Needless to say the record was not exactly to my tastes, but it was not without it’s enjoyable moments, the titular soaring ballad featuring a guest appearance from none other than Elton John kicks off with chopped and screwed vocal samples of FOB’s first record before launching into a defiant boom-boom-clap chorus and some actually pretty inspirational lyrics (“You are what you love, not who loves you”), while you can’t truly appreciate the fist-pumping anthem The Phoenix until you’ve witnessed it destroying a festival crowd of several thousand.

With this unapologetic surge towards mainstream rock legend status, it seems odd then that at this juncture FOB would make such a pointed move to win back fans who dismiss the band as overproduced garbage with the stripped down, hardcore influenced EP PAX AM Days.

While this out of left field release is an admirable concept, it has mixed results. The 8 track EP is a brief affair, with all but one of the tracks coming in at under 2 minutes. Fall Out Boy are attempting to capture that hardcore sound albeit with their own melodic stamp with varying degrees of success. The guitar work is fast and aggressive with similarly abrasive drumming, recalling the instrumentation of NOFX and Gorilla Biscuits. After the layered, lavish production of Save Rock & Roll, this almost entirely live-recorded sound is an almost jarring change of pace. The instrumentation here is more Black Flag than Jimmy Eat World with power chords and brief, improvised sounding solos abound.

“Hold up bro, we can do hardcore.”

Both drummer Andy Hartup and lead guitarist Joe Trohman have previously played in hardcore bands and this experience shows in the 8 track’s driving rhythms and grooves. This project was tipped as a collaboration between the band and producer Ryan Adams (Weezer, Counting Crows) and his influence does shine through, although when it comes to production, the recordings are so bare bones one has to wonder what Adams actually did besides setting up the instruments and hitting ‘record’.

Most out of place here are Patrick Stump’s vocals. Stump has killer vocal range, which is probably a major contributing factor to FOB rising above the sea of similar bands, however here his theatrical vocal style often jars with the rough-around-the-edges instrumentation. The “Yeah I said the king is dead!” refrain of opener We Were Doomed From The Start is one moment where Stump’s vocals work, laying a bouncy hook over the dirty guitars, but on the very next track Art of Keeping Up Appearances his R&B influenced delivery seems entirely too clean to do the track justice, neutering a track that could have been a punk gut punch. On Eternal Summer Stump seems to channel Ire Works era Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan) with a half sung, half yelled defiance and slightly nonsensical lyrics. Stump’s inconsistent delivery is my biggest sticking point with this release and is ultimately what stops PAX AM Days from sitting comfortably next to contemporaries like Rotting Out; in the end the record feels less like a hardcore band and more like Fall Out Boy trying to sound like a hardcore band.

While it is impossible to separate Fall Out Boy’s previous works from this release it is an enjoyable yet inconsistent listen. It is at the least interesting to hear one of the world’s most prominent Pop-Punk groups attempt to capture a hardcore sound and a fitting tribute to said band’s punk roots. While it doesn’t always work PAX AM Days is an admirable attempt to win over disillusioned fans and who knows, maybe this will get people who say “I remember when Pete used to scream” to quit whining.

5/10

Best tracks: We Were Doomed From The Start (The King Is Dead), Love Sex Death

 For Fans of: Descendants, Gorilla Biscuits

Final Fantasy VII: A Retrospective Review

Every gamer thirsty for new exciting games fears the summer draught. Yes it is mid-June and the gaming stores have well and truly dried up and the release schedule is a barren wasteland devoid of any real moisture at all. Needless to say with much time to kill in this summer holiday my mouth was dry (ok, I’ll stop torturing this metaphor now). After taking Max Payne 3 for a short run and deciding that it was not at all my cup of tea (one sentence review: (I found the story dull, the characters unlikeable, the gameplay run-of-the-mill and needlessly frustrating) I began sifting through my old games collection to see if there was a game amongst the rubble that I could alleviate my boredom for the afternoon. That’s when I stumbled across my old PSOne games, and with them my two favourite games of all time: Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX. I decided that since I had never finished this game without abusing glitches (I used a glitch to get infinite megalixers for the final boss), it was time, now that I am older and wiser, to take on this game and truly dominate it.

Before I begin the review proper, a little background. Final Fantasy VII, released 1997, was a huge leap forward for Squaresoft’s (pre-Enix merger) flagship franchise bringing the epic role playing game into three dimensions for the first time on Sony’s Playstation, departing from Nintendo in favour of the increased memory capacity on the compact disc format. The game was also a step out of the series’ safety zone, departing from the tried and tested Tolkien-esque medieval style world, in favour of an almost futuristic steampunk aesthetic. With this drastically new format came the oppertunity to create a cinematic experience on a scale of which had never been seen before. Tetsuya Nomura, series veteran took on the role of character design for the first time as his manga style fit the 3D format. This game was also the first of the series to spawn multiple spin-off games and even a sequel film that tied up the aftermath of the game’s ending and gave fans the chance to see the cast and world of Final Fantasy VII in full CGI with voice acting. Other notable entries in the “Compilation of Final Fantasy VII” are “Crisis Core” a prequel starring Zack, which featured unique combat and a moving story, and “Before Crisis” an episodic mobile phone app available only in Japan that ran for several years. VII was the first in the series to boast full motion video cutscenes to mark significant turning points in the sweeping storyline and with this came some of the most memorable moments in the series, and hell, in gaming.

In terms of gameplay structure VII was not vastly different from previous entries to the series, the gamer was placed in the shoes of Cloud Strife, a galiant hero who must assemble a rag-tag team of unlikely heroes to embark on a quest, that would eventually decide the fate of the world they inhabit. The player explored pre-rendered environments, along the way collecting treasure and fighting monsters and formidable bosses. The 3-D playstation one sprites these days look very crude and will be a turn-off to many modern gamers. The battle system is turn-based, like most Final Fantasy games. When the player engaged in a battle, he or she was transported to a full 3-D environment in which they could see the characters of your 3-man party fight with their unique weapons or use fantastical magic or summon spells. The animations are extremley impressive for their time, this is also evident in the powerful Limit Break moves, one-shot attacks that would see the player inflict massive damage after his or her Limit gauge built up from taking in battle damage. The characters would gain levels through experience just like the other Final Fantasy games, however in this game building a balanced to party was a much more open ended affair due to the Materia system. In VII skills, magic spells, summons and just about every other battle command were assigned to character’s through energy-filled orbs known as Materia (this ties into the story, which I will get to later) and the materia would develop independantly of the character who was using it meaning that you could freely switch skills between characters, leaving it up to you how you organized your party, as apposed to previous games that would have characters already in preset roles. You could also equip, weapons, armour and an accessory to each character. the key to succeeding in Final Fantasy VII’s battle system was building a balanced team that could adapt to different opponents. This system had it’s flaws too, sometimes the story would dictate that you must use a character that you had previously not used, leaving this character underlevelled, unequipped and unprepared for the battles ahead. Fortunatley, these moments are few and far between and you will usually be able to make it through the situation, albeit more awkwardly than you would like.

But the real reason Final Fantasy VII connected with me and continues to be regarded as the best in the series by many fans is the story. The story took place in a world in which a tangible river of lifeblood flows through the earth, flowing through the planet and through it’s inhabitants. This energy known as the Lifrestream is the basis for the epic tale that unfolds. A corperation known as the Shinra Electric Power Company uses the lifestream to power their technologically advanced city of Midgar. Players assumed the role of Cloud Strife, a powerful mercenary who is recruited to a rebel faction known as Avalanche, who’s mission is to take down the Shinra to stop them from harming the planet any further. The game places the player immediatley in a moral grey area, to some Avalanche are freedom fighters, to others, they are terrorists. As the story continues each character’s motivations become clear and each of the colourful characters has their own backstory that is interesting and gives them a believable motivation for wanting to risk their lives in the battle against evil (with the possible exception of Yuffie). Final Fantasy VII featured a captivating cast of characters along with the hero, Cloud. Barret, the hotheaded leader of Avalanche and the first major black character in the Final Fantasy series. Tifa, a beautiful martial artist and Cloud’s childhood friend. Aerith a kind and serene young woman, who is also the last serviving of the Ancient race, The Cetra. Red XIII, real name Nanaki, a talking wolf-like creature, who is also the last of his own race. Cid, the recurring name appears this time in the form of a chain-smoking, foul-mouthed, and downright badass engineer who is the proud owner of the game’s airship, The Highwind. Cait Sith, a Shinra spy who eventually dedicates himself to helping Cloud and friends save the world. Yuffie, a spunky ninja girl who may or may not be joining you on your journey just to steal your materia. And finally Vincent, a mysterious vampire-like character and former member of the Turks, experimented on by the evil scientist Hojo.

 

VII was the first Final Fantasy game to explore themes of scientific experimentation on humans, nature vs. technology and the afterlife. Later in the game the true threat to the planet is revealed to be Sephiroth, one of the most frightening villains to appear in the series. Sephiroth is portrayed as a ruthless and brutal killer, of Joker-level insanity, in the pursuit of power and destruction to avenge the terrible experiments that created him. The story can seem rather bonkers from the outside especially when you consider the whole “super powered alien woman” plot twist (you have to play the game) but the game ties together all these bizarre plot threads in a way that no other game has. The only criticism I have is that there is such a rich mythology built up, it is at times hard to keep up with all the different plot threads that lead us to this point, even I as someone who has played the game multiple times and also all the spin-offs had found myself slightly confused at times.

VII was a groundbreaking entry to the Final Fantasy series and it is easy to see why it is still regarded today as the best Final Fantasy to date. While the game does feel dated today 15 years on (the blocky PS1 sprites and poor translation could be seen by some modern gamers as a barrier of entry) it still holds up well, providing an epic and moving experience that is truly unique and may just help you understand how the series became the gaming juggernaut it is today.

“Alright everyone, let’s mosey!”

TV Review: The Walking Dead Season 3 Part 1

The fundamental problem with setting an ongoing television series in a post-apocalyptic, zombie infested wasteland is that, at some point the show is simply going to reach a plateau of depression, a kind of “Despair Event Horizon” if you will. With the drama and danger ramping up in each episode is there only so long the audience can go without throwing their hands up in the air and saying “I’ve had enough!”? As Season 2 of AMC’s The Walking Dead shambled on it became clearer and clearer that this inevitable destination was where the comic book-based show was barreling towards.

The Walking Dead boasts an exceptional cast of actors.

The genius of The Walking Dead Season 3 (airing over here on Channel 5) is that it actually manages to pull the story back from this abyss and the audience along with it, ironically in an affecting twist by having the show’s main character, the rock by which the audience remains grounded, go almost entirely off the rails. Helped by the phenomenal Season 2 finale, 3 kicks into high gear right from the get go, eliminating the procrastinating feel that had dogged the show previously. Our rag tag group of survivors are off the farm and have survived a harsh winter, pushing their survival skills to the limits and forcing them to grow closer as a unit. Rick is still the de facto leader and without the constant challenging from Shane has become a more effective protector, with the help of the ever-loyal stoic fan favourite, Daryl. Carl is no longer a whiny pain in the backside and has been trained by his father to become a 13-year old zombie killing machine and Glenn and Maggie’s adorable romance brings some much needed joy and humanity to the group. Even Carol has become an effective member of the squad, dealing out her fair share of zombie headshots.

Breaking from the rather group-focussed structure of the previous seasons, Season 3 is actually split fairly evenly between Rick’s group who find shelter in an abandoned prison and Andrea, who having survived the storming of the farm is rescued by new character Michonne (a fan favourite from the comic books), a katana wielding badass and expert zombie slayer. The two stumble across an entire village of survivors, known as Woodbury which at first appears to be a safe haven but in true Walking Dead fashion not all is as it seems, especially with the town’s shifty leader known only as “The Governor” and a familiar face that is best left forgotten.

The opening episodes pull no punches, almost immediately killing off a significant character that simultaneously radically changes the group’s dynamic and addresses some of fan’s biggest complaints from Season 2. Rick is slowly losing his mind, as other characters are growing into experienced fighters; bonds are forming as others are eroded and the tension never lets up. The show is dark, no doubt but there is just enough light to keep the audience engaged and not let the show slip into monotony. The characters in Season 3 don’t spend episode after episode going back and forth over decisions, they are decisive, they take action, and the explosive results create some of the most thrilling viewing ever seen on television. The characters are clearly weary from a world in which humanity is dying and their actions reflect the claw of doom that is constantly looming large over them.

The ragged survivors are ready for war,

Like all good zombie fiction The Walking Dead is a show about the people rather than the zombies and with it’s engaging character development, expert pacing, shocking twists, pulse pounding action and unrelenting atmosphere, Season 3 truly comes into it’s own finally living up to it’s potential, rivalling even the best zombie films.

It all builds to a truly chilling cliffhanger ending that has me and many other fans on tenterhooks until the final half of this season airs in mid-February. Fight the dead. Fear the living. Love The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead returns 10th February on AMC.

Game Review: Ratchet & Clank HD Trilogy

Boy, am I a sucker for HD re-releases. Even though re-releasing the same games I bought 10 years is undeniably a cynical move, every time one of my favourite collections of games is released under the “HD Classics” banner it seems that the additions of HD visuals and trophies are enough to tide me over to giving up another £30 for that sweet, sweet taste of nostalgia. Most recently I have parted cash for the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, The Jak & Daxter HD Collection and the subject of today’s review The Ratchet & Clank Trilogy, a series of Playstation 2 platformers from Insomniac, the studio that would later be known for alien shooter Resistance.

Ratchet & Clank’s main gimmick is the plethora of crazy weapons.

Like any video game series, Ratchet & Clank has been steadily refined with each release to be the reliable source of platforming/3rd person shooting hybrid we know and love, and the R&C Trilogy are a great example of how game design can improve over time. After playing recent iterations of the franchise such as 2009′s A Crack In Time, the original game feels very primitive, the controls are loose and at times frustrating and the level design inconsistent, often repetitive. With that said, R&C deserves recognition for trying things that had not been done before, splicing together light platforming with creative weapon design, with some cheeky puzzle solving thrown in for good measure. This first game was praised for it’s colourful and cartoony visuals, that in HD and 60 frames per second, do still look pretty and the introduction of the series’ trademark humor  Originally released in 2002, Ratchet & Clank is unfortunately an example of a stellar game for it’s time that has not aged well. While there are still fun times to be had here, if you are looking for a platforming romp on par with more recent titles you may want to look elsewhere.

Snow rating: 7/10

Ratchet & Clank 2 is in some respects, two steps forward and one step back. This is the game that introduced weapon and armour upgrades, that gave you more of an incentive to use a variety of weapons rather than sticking to the reliable blaster and rocket launcher. A focus was put on collecting bolts (this universe’s currency) to acquire as many weapons as possible as the difficulty of enemies would scale quite considerably, the further you progress. The controls are noticeably tighter, the strafe mechanic is a life saver that makes the shooting a whole lot more natural and enjoyable. While the simple gameplay mechanics are addictive and polished, it still suffers from the same flaws as it’s predecessor; levels often feel repetitive and enemies are often overly tough, requiring 9 rockets to destroy and the platforming too basic, not offering the variety and creativity of games like Super Mario Galaxy.

The third installment is the best of the three.

Where the trilogy really shines is the final game in the collection Ratchet & Clank 3 (In America known as Up Your Arsenal, I guess over here that sounded too much like “Up Your Arse”). With many tweaks made to the core mechanics, 3 feels like the best parts of the first two parts with the fat trimmed. There are upgrades galore, weapons can be upgraded 5 times, 10 if you count the Omega upgrades unlocked after you finish the game as well as armor and health upgrades. Each weapon has a specific use and the unnecessary ones are cut, with the possible exception of The Infector. The combat is more satisfying, enemies are not needlessly tough, but still keep you on your toes, however the AI is still rather slow. The controls are tighter than ever and the visuals are so colourful and vibrant they practically pop off the screen (especially if you have the 3D mode turned on). The writing is the best it’s ever been and is genuinely laugh out loud funny in more than one occasion (especially when series staple Captain Qwark is interacting with his monkey friend Scrunch); there’s a good reason why bumbling villain Dr. Nefarious has been a recurring character ever since his introduction here. Flaws are still present, the levels can sometimes drag and turn into a plateau of destruction but the quicker pace of this game means that you rarely get bored. This game also features the addition of online play, a welcome distraction from the single player campaign. Ratchet and Clank 3 is a game evolved from the best elements of it’s predecessors and despite some small niggles, earns a place as one the best platformers on the Playstation 2.

Even Clank’s gadgets are upgradable.

For hardcore fans of the Ratchet franchise or fans of the Playstation 3 titles who wish to find out more about the series’ roots, this collection is well worth the price tag and gets a recommendation from me, but be prepared for flaws that are more noticeable with age. For anyone not familiar with the franchise I would recommend they play the Playstation 3 games (Tools of Destruction and A Crack In Time) before delving into this collection but for fans, The Ratchet & Clank trilogy is an enjoyable trip down memory lane.

Movie Review: Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone (Anime)

Evangelion 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone is a “rebuild” of the first episodes of classic 90′s anime television series Neon Genesis Evangelion which is often celebrated as one of the greatest science fiction anime series of all time. Having an interest in anime I was obviously eager to check this much praised series out however it seems that, in England at least, DVD copies of the original series are suprisingly hard to come by, so I opted to instead try the Blu-Ray release of Evangelion 1.11, a movie version of the series’ origin. This release is allegedly not a direct remake however, making some departures from the plot of the original series, however from fan reports You Are (Not) Alone sticks fairly closely to the plot of the original, with major changes coming in in the second part 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance.

The Rebuild of Evangelion films are sometimes referred to by fans as “REO Evangelion”

The story concerns a 14 year old boy named Shinji living in the futuristic city of Tokyo-3. In this dystopian future the human race is under a constant attack from celestial beings known only as “Angels” who intend to wipe the human race from the face of the Earth. Humanity’s only hope of salvation from these collosal monsters lies in the hands of gigantic humanoid robots known as Evangelion. Shy and insecure Shinji is asked to pilot one of the Evas by his estranged father as for an as of yet unexplained reason, the Evas can only be piloted by children. Shinji begrudgingly agrees and joins the fight for Earth with the defense unit NERV. Another child pilot is introduced named Rei, a girl who is even more introverted than Shinji, rarely communicating with anyone but Shinji’s father who shows her more affection than he does his own son.

1.11 is more than just a remake, it is a re-imagining of the story.

The set up for the film is very vague and leaves many questions that the viewer hopes will be answered; why can only children pilot the Evas? Where do the Angels come from? What is the human instrumentation project Shinji’s father talks about? While these questions linger they also keep the viewer hooked, hints of the bigger picture are dropped in here and there to wet the viewer’s appetite for what plot revelations are to come. The character’s are the main focus of the plot at this point and the characters set up in this film are likeable and interesting. Shinji may come across to some as whiny however the film does a good job of illustrating how heavy the burden of being a pilot bears on Shinji. Rei is emotionally distant yet interaction with Shinji begins to inspire subtle changes within her as she slowly realises that he is strikingly similar to her and that she is indeed not alone. While this relationship is built on further in the second film, we can see an unspoken emotional bond begin to form between Rei and Shinji in this film. While the plot is heavy and often very bleak there are enough tension breaking moments of comic relief that it does not become to depressing. Misato and her pet penguin Pen-Pen create a sense of home for Shinji and her bright outlook on life provides a nice contrast to the other serious characters. There are some smatterings of fanservice here and there that may make more mature veiwers groan but this is easily overlooked.

“Taste my hot pink fury!”

Regardless of how you feel about the story, one thing cannot be denied the animation in this film is simply gorgeous. The animation is fluid and intricately detailed, especially noticeable when viewed on Blu-Ray disc. The colours are vibrantly bright and the characters are animated with an energetic sense of fun. The Evas and Angels are a mixture of hand drawn animation and CGI which are blended together very well and is not jarring at all. The Evas are not your standard giant anime mechs, they are not hard edged and technological, but rather possess a unique organic quality, moving almost like enormous giants rather then robots, this allows the Evas to convey with fantastic detail the emotions of the pilot. When Eva-01 tears apart an angel’s torso and begins to stab it’s core the effect is raw and visceral, the mechs even bleed and have humanoid joints that can and are broken. As such the combat is not detached Transformers style, the viewer can connect and feel each attack with shocking impact. This makes each fight scene brilliantly exciting, this is too helped by the soaring orchestral score which builds tension with the ominous semi-religious choir.

I have a toy of this. It looks awesome. Seriously.

The biblical references in Evangelion are many and blatant  Shinji’s father comments that the Angels are humanity’s punishment for “eating from the fruit of knowledge”, every time an angel is killed they explode blood in the shape of a crucifix, hell the gigantic celestial being known as Lileth introduced in the third act of the film is even straight up described as a God. Almost every scene in the film contains some kind of religious reference if you look closely enough. What point, if any Evangelion is making about religion at this time remains a mystery to me but it’s my hope that this will be expanded upon in coming entries to the series. There are at the moment two Evangelion Rebuild films released and another two set for release that will conclude this iteration of the Evangelion saga.

Misato: possibly the hottest babe in anime.

As a newcomer to this franchise I found Evangelion 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone a great introduction to the mythology. While some of the many unique concepts introduced are difficult to get your head around at first, like most animes of this genre the more you watch the more you will understand the world and the more hooked you will become. I would sincerely recommend this film to any casual or hardcore anime fan who wishes to find out what all the fuss about Evangelion is about. If you are anything like me you will be watching this series intently to find out what direction this action packed and emotionally engaging anime will take in the future.