Tuesday, 28 August 2018
Evangelion: 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo leaps forward 15 years to explore interpersonal disappointments after yet another apocalyptic event. Shinji's rabid need to rescue Rei from the guts of Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance's Tenth Angel has resulted in a cataclysm known as Third Impact, an accidental apotheosis that has fossilised unbelievers and plunged what remains of mankind into destitution. The survivors of this revelation have split into two competing factions. The Evangelion support staff, led by Misato, have formed WILLE, a floating paramilitary convoy dedicated to destroying their rival group, NERV, and the mouldering ambitions of Shinji's father Gendo.
Shinji, freshly sprung from an orbiting cruciform prison, is immediately positioned as loathsome, a compromised object to be seized spectacularly then filed away from the unfolding action. Misato, previously Shinji's most stable and reliable ally, cannot bring herself to look at him. Shinji then has lost his anchor. His protests and questions are met with a pointed, conspiratorial silence. No-one is willing to tell Shinji what he's done or why they hate him. Although WILLE's mission is clearly one of atonement, there is little desire to include, or forgive, the child they all coerced into action. There's a repeated insinuation that WILLE has cause to believe that this being might not actually be their Shinji. Could he be an Angel facsimile or an artificial recreation birthed from the bowels of NERV?
You Can (Not) Redo talks about its male hero in terms of redundancy, too powerful to be left on the board but uncontrollable enough that no-one (human) dares trust him with responsibility. The predominantly female WILLE already has two ace EVA pilots anyway. Asuka and Mari may bicker constantly but they are also a fluid, complimentary attack force, able to act and react without the hesitation or dangerous introspection of the Third Child. Although more of a sketch than a binding contract, the next episode preview that follows 3.33's credits goes as far as depicting the pair united in one harlequin Evangelion, vanquishing wave after wave of generic imitations. You Can (Not) Redo then leaves Shinji to his own devices, pursuing two faint ideas of friendship in the carcass of his old headquarters. Vulnerable and desperate for connection, Shinji, the despised spare, pursues resolution and responsibility, attempting to expunge the horror he has blundered into.
Far be it from me to question Capcom's carefully planned release schedule, but why release a bare-bones remaster of PS2's first million seller Onimusha: Warlords a week and a bit before Resident Evil 2 is given the bells-and-whistles treatment? Still, it'll be nice to revisit the missing link between tank control Resident Evil games and Hideki Kamiya's fluid castle sweeping.
Outta nowhere comes a Streets of Rage sequel courtesy of Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games and DotEmu. Based on this tease, Lizardcube, the French development team who gave Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap a new lease of life, look to be working their luxurious, makeover magic with Sega's long-neglected Bare Knuckle series.
Thursday, 23 August 2018
Front-and-centre in the latest press release footage of Capcom's Resident Evil 2 remake is Claire Redfield, demoing her scavenged arsenal against a rampaging, thick-skinned William Birkin. Stick around until the end to catch a glimpse of part-time serial killer, full-time bent copper Brian Irons nosing his way into, what I assume, is an expanded Police Station sub-plot.
Wednesday, 22 August 2018
There's a sense of summation in this 15 minute gawp at Devil May Cry 5. Capcom, finally back on track after a dicey decade, pulling all their experiments together for one cohesive action adventure. As well as the series standard alley-oop gameplay, Hideaki Itsuno's sequel combines the colour-corrected wash of Resident Evil 6's urban sprawl with the ad-space chic found in Ninja Theory's underrated DmC: Devil May Cry (the Definitive Edition is essential for extreme action fans). You have to wonder though, given the obvious Big Smoke setting, are Capcom Dev Studio 1 ribbing their British predecessors?
VaatiVidya's extended look at Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice hints at a game designed around a similar energetic rushing as Bloodborne. Rather than hang back and wait for an opening, FromSoft's 2015 classic encouraged players to press their advantage, leeching back lost health by wildly hacking away at their cornered enemies. Sekiro goes one further, totalling interactive evisceration against a meter that can grant fallen heroes an instantaneous resurrection.
Saturday, 18 August 2018
Friday, 17 August 2018
Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance is writer-co-director Hideaki Anno patiently explaining to his audience why their demands for tidiness cannot succeed within the universe he has created. After a first instalment that lightly reorganised Neon Genesis Evangelion's opening salvo, this Rebuild hurries ahead, chopping and changing events and ideas from the latter half of the original television series, massaging them towards what initially seems like an emotionally and romantically healthier outcome for Shinji Ikari. You Can (Not) Advance finds our assailed, milquetoast hero teetering on the verge of a breakthrough with his indifferent father while also serving as an insipid Tenchi Muyo!-esque rallying point for the wider female cast.
This potential swerve into harem anime jangles along with a B-plot detailing Rei and a deflated Asuka's attempts to impress Shinji with their cooking. This idea of wilful subordination is then underlined by the pointedly flirty arrival of new girl Mari Makinami Illustrious, a third-party EVA pilot who actually enjoys the sensory overload of fighting fallen Gods while suspended in blood red primordial soup. After literally parachuting in on Shinji during a private moment, Mari cannot help herself. She climbs all over the frozen Third Child, sniffing him like a curious animal. Elsewhere, Gendo Ikari works a complimentary strand, attempting to bring his son and Rei closer together in pursuit of some new, unknowable objective. A jealous Asuka pouts at this plot's apparent success and, still smarting from her failure to vanquish every attacking Angel alone, ends up skipping Rei's dinner party to test an unstable American Evangelion Unit.
Naturally, since there's a chance for emotional stability in play, everything goes to hell, eventually resulting in a situation in which Rei and her Evangelion are consumed by a particularly dangerous Angel. Shinji, for once, actually wants to fight, to take back his ingested friend. Unfortunately his desires, as interpreted by the Unit-01, are so powerful that they end up warping reality. We are reminded that Shinji is positioned as a hero character purely because he is the biological element required to drive a useful monster. He has no finer human qualities or restraints because he has never had a healthy example to base his identity on. Shinji's interiority is that of a shuffling, invisible maid, predisposed to silently tiding up after other, messier people. He is, essentially, Mr Stevens from The Remains of the Day, a passive, stunted observer, unequipped to seize on his longings because he's never been taught they could matter. And so it follows that when Shinji does fight for his latent, underexplored wants they are amplified into something dangerous and insane.
Tuesday, 14 August 2018
Like the television series it reconfigures, Evangelion: 1.11: You Are (Not) Alone is a giant robot story stripped of the superficial heroics and pat wish-fulfilment you typically find in a battling titan show. Earth is under siege, invaded by a race of heavenly aliens who view humanity as vermin. Mankind's only hope are child pilots driving massive, heavy armoured artificial humans who are able to meet these Angels in single-combat. Unfortunately for the selected children, climbing inside these towering monsters is a sacrificial act. Their strength and agility may be amplified to celestial levels but so too are their worries and neuroses. To reflect this contextual shift, You Are (Not) Alone is assembled with a brisk, bullet-point distress that unfolds like an anxiety dream.
Shinji Ikari, a Milhousian dud perpetually dressed for school, appears in an abandoned city currently functioning as an arena for a futuristic-but-overwhelmed military and an invincible, skeletal alien. Before he's had a chance to fully take in his irrelevance, Shinji is scooped up by Misato Katsuragi, a confident, attractive (so doubly intimidating) Lieutenant Colonel who works with Ikari's emotionally remote Dad. Before long the boy finds himself in a high-intensity data room staffed by scientists and military personnel. Shinji surrounded by dozens of professional adults, all united in thought, working towards one withering expectation. He has been selected to do the impossible. Shinji is to undress, climb inside a building-sized battle clone then attack the rampaging monster - one a sub-nuclear land mine couldn't phase - and save the city.
Like Anno's other feature-length truncation Gunbuster: The Movie, the accelerated logic of three-act film compounds this re-telling's dreamier qualities. Transforming city Tokyo-3 resets and recovers thanks to unseen collective action and, since seasons never change on this off-kilter world, it's difficult to get a sense of how much time is passing between sorties. Shinji is stuck in a purgatorial prison, ignored by a disinterested father and struggling to connect with his closest contemporary, a robotic teenage girl named Rei. Rather than deconstruct the conceits underpinning his film, writer Hideaki Anno (co-directing alongside Masayuki and Kazuya Tsurumaki) embraces, even accentuates, the absurdities built into the super robot sub-genre. The sheer horror of Shinji's task, presented to him before he's had any possible chance to prepare, is played terrifyingly straight. Shinji, a spare child called in when the preferred pilot is too injured to continue, exemplifies a kind of anti-heroic inactivity. This informs his place within the wider piece. He hasn't pursued this life. He has, God help him, been chosen for it.
Monday, 13 August 2018
Friday, 10 August 2018
Monday, 6 August 2018
Picking up where Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters left off, Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle flirts with a vivid sense of anthropological despair before relaxing into another well organised but ultimately doomed sortie. Nominal hero Haruo Sakai awakens from the previous film's devastation in a primitive, unfamiliar environment, his wounded body throbbing and glowing from the mysterious medical treatment he has received. Haruo has been rescued by Miana, the friendly descendant of the humans who have been able to survive for twenty millennia in the company of a monster so profoundly powerful that it has forced the Earth itself to abdicate its biological determination.
Since this universe's Godzilla has developed a dominant, symbiotic relationship with its host planet, it makes sense that mankind's artificial response would follow suit. A tie-in vinyl toy depicted the latest Mechagodzilla as a skulking Zoid lookalike, bristling with spines and pincers. Turns out this was a red herring. City on the Edge of Battle's Godzilla replicant is a much more exciting proposition - an oversized, self-replicating industrial city that has sprung up around the remains of humanity's doomed robot. Luckily for Haruo and his plucky away team, the smoke-choked megalopolis proves to be heaving with a wondrous nanometal that can be used to turbo-charge the military equipment that the King of Monsters made short work of in the previous film. Plodding gun-platforms are transformed from clacking bipeds into soaring, luminescent raptors.
Although a little more generous with its narrative scraps than Planet of the Monsters, including the promise of a space dragon for the third chapter, City on the Edge of Battle is basically iterative, sharing its predecessor's flaws as well as its strengths. Characters continue as lumpen drafts, shuffling along their arc with a rigidity that prevents any sense of investment. Directors Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita have again delivered a film with a sumptuous, phosphorous colour palette that transforms basic monitor gazing into blazing examples of digital imagery. Beautiful in repose, City on the Edge of Battle struggles with action and interaction. Rather than obliterate the film's titanic computer generated sets, explosions are painted over the buildings, obscuring the moment when they burst and yield. A key beat where Godzilla's largest dorsal fan is harpooned, and apparently shattered, is rendered as two metal lances disappearing into a cloud of fire. City on the Edge of Battle has no pop.