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Alt:Mag is a website for anybody whose interests may fall on what might be seen as the less conventional side of life, away from what might be considered ‘normal’. We aim to create an environment for readers to celebrate their interests rather than feeling embarrassed or alone about them.
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Little Nightmares: Three Years On, Mysteries Are Still Being Unraveled


Little Nightmares was an instant hit upon its release back in 2017. While in some ways it seemed to follow in the footsteps of Playdead’s Limbo (2010) and Inside (2016), it also quickly proved to be like no game we’d ever played before.

We’re thrown into the world of Little Nightmares without much explanation, save for what was posted on the official website – we know who Six is, or, at least, her name, and we knew that we’d be coming face-to-face with a number of quite literal nightmares, like the Janitor and, eventually, The Lady. And while these behemoths of the game are undoubtedly terrifying, the game has the kind of atmosphere that, on its own, is enough to chill you.


As Six, we awaken in a darkened room, in what appears to be the bowels of a ship, known as The Maw. From the first note, the music of the game is truly an experience – it sets the tone for every chapter and keeps us on our toes, reminding us that we can never really relax. Each room is shrouded in shadows, and the sheer mystery of where we are and exactly what we’re trying to do only deepens the further we go. It seems we’re trying to escape, but why? From what? Who is the Hanging Man? Who is anyone? And, of course, why are we so desperately hungry? Three years on, these questions still seem to have no discernible answers.

As we progress the game does seem to throw us hints, but the answers are still hardly set in stone. For example, we see the Janitor wrapping up children and transporting their bodies to the Chefs in the kitchen. It’s presumed that he’s raising them to be cooked, and fed to the Guests of the Maw. While this seems plausible, we never see him kill a child, and we never see the Chefs cutting up or cooking a child’s body. The seed is planted, but what grows from it appears to be up to us, the players. Some even think that the Janitor is friendly, inexplicably trying to save Six from whatever she’s running towards.


I doubt it.

But that’s part of the fun (or horror, depending on how you see it) of Little Nightmares. We’re given all the elements of a story – the characters, the setting, the atmosphere – and we’re allowed to run with it. The possibilities are truly endless. It’s even been posited by many fans of the game that Six isn’t benevolent at all, despite how sweet she may seem. After all, she does attack and eat one of the helpless little Nomes, and even absorbs The Lady’s power by eating her. Could it not be true, then, that Six is the titular little nightmare?

She very well could be, at least in my mind. The Lady may seem sinister, but perhaps she only seems that way thanks to the framing of the game. Framing is everything, after all – she looms over us throughout the story, a giant compared to Six, and we know she has incredible, devastating power. But what, exactly, is the nature of her power? How did she come to wield it? And what’s with all the bloody masks?


So many questions, and so few answers. And while it’s certainly frustrating having no answers, I almost don’t want them. It’s a paradox, I know, and an annoying one at that.

I like being left to wonder exactly what Little Nightmares is really trying to tell us, if anything. Some theorise that it’s a direct reflection of our own society, one where the elite gorge on luxuries while others go hungry and suffer beneath a terrible system. Some theories question whether The Maw is home to a gluttonous God, one that feeds on the unsuspecting Guests. It’s thought by some that The Lady is keeping the world safe by endlessly satisfying the entity – if so, that would make Six the one who ultimately wreaks its wrath upon the world, and thus, she really would be a little nightmare.


These theories all have equal merit it seems, and that’s how I’d like it to stay. There’s something brilliant about having no answers because it keeps the questions circling your brain, and in that sense, a story never really ends. That’s why mysteries like Jack the Ripper and the Roanoke Colony persist, because they’ve never been solved. These events regale millions of people centuries after they’ve happened. They retain a strange kind of legendary status because, quite simply, they’ll never die.

No doubt, with the imminent release of Little Nightmares II some more hints may be offered up, and some mysteries within the Little Nightmares universe may be solved. But until then, here’s to not knowing.

Little Nightmares is available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC for various prices. Little Nightmares II will be available this year for the same platforms.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Movie Review)


Sonic the Hedgehog is 2020’s attempt to break the video game movie adaptation curse. Its plot plays it safe, leaving it up to the leads to provide the entertainment for fans and families alike. The result hits with a much more delightful impact than expected, making me wish I was born 20 years later so I could grow up watching this movie with wonderment. 



In essence, Sonic the Hedgehog is a fish-out-of-water buddy adventure; Sonic, the anthropomorphic blue hedgehog gifted with super speed, has been hiding out on Earth for a while to escape from being found by a tribe of echidnas who want his power. Partnered with a small-town cop, an on-the-run road trip ensues as they escape the power-hungry madman that is government scientist, Dr. Robotnik. Does that sound familiar at all? If so, that’s because Sonic the Hedgehog’s story is what feels like the 101st of its kind. That and a couple a plot holes that get wider the more you think about them, Sonic the Hedgehog shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is; but in actuality, the screenplay is not where its charm lies.


After a character redesign that led to the film’s delay, the titular Sonic himself is as adorable as he is lovable. Ben Schwartz, the hedgehog’s voice actor, has always been able to bring a cartoonish, lighthearted cockiness to even his live action roles. Blended with this Sonic’s mix of confidence, vulnerability and child-like fascination with Earth’s delights, the film’s scenes that focus on the importance of friendship and loneliness are enough to melt the most stubborn of hearts. 


Keeping the cast small allows Sonic the Hedgehog’s exchanges to be more focused and quick, providing an opportunity to showcase the writer’s talent for witty dialogue. James Marsden, playing the small town cop, works well in being the everyday straight man who’s a bouncing board for Sonic’s larger-than-life personality. Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik comes off as a return to form that we haven’t seen from him since 2003’s Bruce Almighty. Carrey injects the character with the same animated, zany flair and energy that put him on the Hollywood map in the 90’s. 


Bolstered by well-done effects shown off in entertaining action sequences, boredom never rears its ugly head in Sonic the Hedgehog, making the 99 minute runtime feel just about lean and entertaining enough to be a great time for everyone. Fans of any of the classic SEGA games will get more joy out of it than others, but there’s something on offer for all thanks to the extraordinary personalities of its lead characters and the actors behind them. It doesn’t do much to change the formula, but it does a lot in making video game movies stand tall with what else is out there.

8/10

Alt:Mag's Movies to Watch Out for in 2020


We come to it at last. Earlier this month, our writers came together to discuss the things we’re looking forward to this year. First, we told you the games we’re waiting to play. Then, we showed you the TV series we’re going to tune into. Now we’re going to take you to the movies. Ben, Adam, and Harry have made time to talk about the films they’re going to see in 2020. So, grab your mates, grab your snacks, and have your tickets ready – as Christopher Lloyd said in Back to the Future, you’re gonna see some serious shit!




A Quiet Place Part II - Paramount Pictures, TBD 2020 (Picked by Ben Williams)

The brilliance of John Krasinski's A Quiet Place is still fresh in Ben's mind. The 2018 film - a horror show involving killer aliens with hypersensitive hearing - was a huge success, earning unanimous acclaim and over $340 million at the box office! Now, the Abbott family's fight for survival is set to continue. "Initial news of a sequel was met with sceptisism," says Ben, "with the first film already seeming like a complete story on its own. Thankfully, the trailers have quelled the suspicions. Part II's story is going in a sensible, yet still suspenseful, direction." After the harrowing events of the first film, Evelyn Abbott (played by Emily Blunt) leads her family out of the farmhouse and into the open. Their struggle is greater than ever, because now Evelyn has a newborn son to care for - and there are more threats in the outside world than the monsters they met on the farm. "With Emily still leading, and a whole family in tow, Part II is sure to be a heart-pounding thriller that expands the world we first saw in 2018," says Ben. "A world where you must depend on absolute silence for your survival!" A Quiet Place Part II was originally planned for release on March 20th - but unfortunately, Paramount has put it on hold thanks to the coronavirus. They haven't yet decided on a new release date, but we'll let you know when they do!




No Time to Die – Universal Pictures, April 2nd (Picked by Adam Thorley)

The life of a spy is something many have fantasised about: espionage, danger, and white-knuckle thrills wherever you go. Many film series have given us a glimpse of that dream, but one dwarfs them all: our very own Bond, James Bond! Adam’s waiting to see No Time to Die, the twenty-fifth entry in the landmark franchise, which sees Daniel Craig return as 007 for the fifth and final time. “Following the events of 2015’s Spectre,” says Adam, “Bond has settled down in Jamaica, leaving the Secret Service behind. But, his retirement is short-lived – when the world is in danger once more, Bond leaps into action to find a missing scientist. With new villain Safin (played by Rami Malek) on the rise; tension between himself and 00’ replacement Nomi (Lashana Lynch); and his lover Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) harbouring a deadly secret, Bond’s latest adventure looks set to be intense, emotional, and unmissable. Craig’s final outing as James Bond could be the best yet!” No Time to Die was set to release this April, but the coronavirus has struck once again. The good news is that Universal has a new date in mind - Craig's final mission, should you choose to accept it, will now begin on November 12th in the UK and November 25th in the States.



Dune – Warner Bros. & Legendary Pictures, December 18th (Picked by Harrison Fleming)

Until now, Harry’s had surprisingly few titles to choose from – but now that we’ve reached films, he’s in his element. “There are many films I can’t wait to see,” he says. “But the one I’m most excited for is Dune.” Frank Herbert’s bestselling novel is being brought to the screen once again, this time by visionary director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival and Blade Runner 2049). “I’ve followed the film’s production since it first began last year,” says Harry, “and it looks like Denis is finally giving Dune the cinematic treatment it deserves – he has the vision, he has the budget, and unlike David Lynch, he’s done his homework!” Denis plans to film Dune in two parts (a wise move given the book’s length), and a few lucky sand dogs got to see some of his handiwork last month. Author Brian Clement was one of them, and he thinks the film will blow us away “the way The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars did” when they first hit cinemas. It’s a good omen because the original Dune novels are often compared to Tolkien’s Middle-earth; and they inspired a great many things in the Skywalker saga. “If Denis plays his cards right,” says Harry, “the new Dune will be just as big as Star Wars – if not even bigger! Disney and Lucasfilm had better watch out.” At the time of rewriting, Dune is the only film on our list that hasn't been directly hit by the coronavirus. It may face competition if any films are rescheduled for Christmas, but the spice will flow on December 18th as planned.

Are you anxious to go out in the woods with Evy Abbott? Or perhaps, you're pumped for Daniel Craig's last mission as James Bond? Are you excited to set foot on Arrakis again? Or are there any other films you're waiting for this year? Leave a comment here on on Facebook and Twitter, and tell us what you're going to see at the cinema!

Alt:Mag's TV Series to Watch Out for in 2020


January has been and gone, but for the Alt:Mag team the excitement is just beginning. The new year promises a landslide of new hits, and we've all been busy choosing which ones to talk about in a series of features covering things to watch out for in 2020! In our first feature, we talked about four video games making their way to our consoles this year. This time, we're gonna discuss some TV

Alt:Mag's Games to Watch Out for in 2020


2020 is here at last, and with it the promise of new things – whether it’s a new start, new opportunities, or simply a new you, the new year has something for everyone. As for us, there are three things we’re most excited for at Alt:Mag: new games, new TV shows, and new films. In this feature – the first in a three-part series – we’ll be hearing from our writers which video games they’re

Every Harry Potter Movie Ranked From Worst To Best



Warning: this article contains some spoilers. But Deathly Hallows, Part 2 came out 8 years ago, so how have you not watched them all already?

The golden question of mankind. We've all thought about it. "Which Harry Potter film IS the best?". These seven magic words cross each of our minds as soon as we're old enough to even comprehend such a conundrum (usually age 10 or so). It's hard.

Frights in Disguise: Unintentionally Scary Pieces of Media


Last year we discussed "four games that hide their horror", but that was all about video games that were built to be intentionally scary but hide their frights beneath an otherwise cute exterior, to fool the unsuspecting. If you hear mutterings about their scariness through their grapevine, you might be able to get away unscathed. But what happens when a piece of media; whether it be a movie or a video game, isn't created with scares in mind, but something within its content manages to scare your socks off anyway? We've rallied our Alt:Mag writing team to help bring some of these stray spooks to your attention!
 
Monster Hunter - Picked by Harrison Fleming

Have you ever met a Deviljho in Monster Hunter? Imagine you're playing a high-rank quest, perhaps hunting a Great Jaggi. You're about to creep up on your target when, suddenly, the music turns sinister - but the Jaggi hasn't seen you. You look behind you, and there it is... an abomination worse than anything from Jurassic World. And it's about to have you and that Jaggi for dinner! 
The Deviljho has many cute and funny nicknames, but don't be fooled. Ten years after it first appeared in Monster Hunter 3, it continues to strike fear in the hearts of beginning and seasoned hunters. Its sheer strength, atomic breath, and ferocious appetite are scary enough - but the worst thing is you're always bound to run into one when you least expect it. If you're feeling brave, you can find Big Jho in the newest game, Monster Hunter World. Be careful though, he has some new tricks up his sleeve... 



Batman: Arkham Asylum - Picked by Ben Williams

Moving on to become one of the seventh generation's biggest franchises, Batman Arkham Asylum defined the superhero genre in gaming; and it wasn't just because of its groundbreaking combat and adventure elements that made becoming the caped crusader so breathtaking. Masterfully paced and implemented, there was one part of the 2009 Batman story that still sends eerie chills down my spine to this day. Normally sending fear into the hearts of criminals, this particular section looks into the fear of Batman (Bruce Wayne) himself and it belongs in its own horror film.
Subtly afflicted with the effects of the Scarecrow's gaseous fear toxin, we begin to see the Dark Knight facing his worst fears as if they were reality. He sees the dead body of Commissioner Gordon, facing the idea that, like with his parents, he was once again unable to save those he cares for. Continuing to walk through the Asylum, the eerier music continues to escalate whilst masses of insects scale the walls. Opening another set of cold, metallic doors, Batman finds himself in an empty morgue.
Nothing seems too irregular, that is until you make Batman walk around. As you continue to make him stroll around the room designed for the deceased, you begin to hear whispers. The mutterings of child-like ghosts increase, in tandem with the morgue almost coming to life; as the cold lockers where bodies would be stored open and shut wildly on their own. Finally, when you walk through another door to leave this room of nightmares, Batman enters an identical yet-thankfully silent morgue. The other key difference however is that there are three full body bags lying ahead. 



Giving you a sense of suspenseful unease, you’re urged to hesitantly walk over to the zipped-up corpses. The first is none other than the decaying, rotting body of Bruce Wayne’s own Dad, Thomas Wayne.

“Father….” Bruce mutters in a vulnerable down.

Thomas’ corpse turns and responds, almost angrily, “you should’ve stood up to him, son, like a man!”

Bruce goes across to the other bag, parallel to his father’s. Upon opening it he finds the elegantly dressed, ghostly corpse of his cherished mother, Martha Wayne.

“Mom….” Says Bruce in a tone of heartbreak.

The corpse turns its pale head, looking with clear, unseeing eyes as she cries, “help us, Bruce! Don’t let us die!”

At last, there is nothing else to do but approach the third bag, to discover what horror remains. Batman opens the bag and the horrifying, piercing gaze of the Scarecrow jumps out, making Bruce fall to the floor in delirium. Batman soon stands back up, his senses regained. Scarecrow and the bodies of his parents are gone.




Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day - Picked by Lewis Cox

Not many people would argue that the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and his pals in the Hundred Acre Woods aren't some of the most wholesome children's tales to ever grace our screens. I for one still have a nostalgic soft spot for Pooh and pals, and the 2018 Christopher Robin movie gave me so many damn feels.
But there is a part of my happy childhood memories watching Winnie the Pooh that I have learnt to suppress. A little section during Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day known as "Heffalumps and Woozles". I once got told by someone that I was ridiculous for saying I found it creepy. Watch this shit and tell me that it doesn't unsettle you at least a little. Even a twinge of discomfort?


As a kid I felt traumatised watching my favourite yellow bear get taunted by the titular Heffalumps and Woozles. They shift in and out of existence, they contort and change, and they do so at a very alarming speed, as if the knowledge that you couldn't escape the fuckers wasn't drummed into your head enough. They do things that things in reality, you know, don't.
The music is discordant and the vocals are mocking, with a use of echo/reverb on them that just adds to the "you're in an unfamiliar, uncomfortable place lol" vibe that the entire scene carries. Oh, and there's a nice dose of heights too, in case you weren't tormented enough. And don't get me started on that bloody honey (sorry, "hunny") pot with human legs and its bloody Joker (2019) laugh. There's no reason it needed to laugh like that. That's not cool, man.
The reason why media for kids is so generic is because generic and normal is what makes kids feel safe and comfortable. As you tip your toe into the horror genre, you start to learn that taking us away from familiarity - from our comfort zones - is often what causes the best frights. Disney managed to utilise one of horror's favourite scaring conventions for a scene in the middle of a kid's movie. Thanks for the trauma, Disney.



The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask - Picked by Liv Gamble

On the surface, Majora’s Mask doesn’t look too threatening. Many of the promotional images, and a lot of the cover art for the game, isn’t exactly what many of us would call scary. At 9 years old, fresh-faced, naïve and going in blind, I definitely wouldn’t have called it scary. I’d just finished playing Ocarina of Time and figured it was time to try Majora’s Mask – another fun little romp with Link!



How wrong I was.

Majora’s Mask may have elements of fun concealed within but rest assured it’s a horror game, through and through. From the very first second you begin the game, you’re transported into a strange world where time doesn’t quite run right, where you’re threatened and manhandled by the Happy Mask Salesman before you can say ‘quit game’, and where the people of Clock Town panic and suffer under a darkening sky.

Oh, yeah, and if all of that wasn’t bad enough, you have three days to save this backwards world from this gigantic, hellish nightmare:



Yep. That’s the moon. Save Termina (oh, come on – even the name is one letter away from the word ‘terminal’) in three days, or let it be crushed under a grinning hunk of rock. At this point I’d be willing to get the hell out of there and leave Termina to its fate, but there’s just one thing – you can’t leave.

So it’s up to you to swim the poisoned waters of the swamp, face-off against ruthless pirates and literally enter the valley of the dead in order to save this hell-world. You’d better make good use of the skip button, otherwise you’ll be treated each time to a clip of Link howling in pain as the various masks contort his features. Speaking of masks, there’s one in particular that sends this game from scary, to bone-chillingly terrifying; the All-Night Mask. As the name implies, it keeps you awake if you wear it. Sounds fine, right? Wrong. According to one of the Gossip Stones dotted around Termina, it was originally used as a torture device – forcing people to stay awake for days, weeks, months on end…

I know what you’re thinking; what the hell is wrong with this game, right? Did Nintendo have an emo phase, or something? And this is normally the part where I’d disagree, because Majora’s Mask is a fantastic game in its own right. But that doesn’t stop it from being all kinds of messed-up.
 

One last thing, if you were, by some miracle, doubting this game’s capacity for horror: While you’re travelling the valley of the dead, you’ll come across a house. Moaning, mummified corpses known as Gibdos are circling that house. Inside, a little girl is trapped. Her father is trapped inside with her, and he’s becoming one of those things. Not only is this game terrifying, they had to bring children into it. Thanks, Nintendo.

The Quiet Relatability of Rilakkuma and Kaoru


Released fresh from the Netflix original factory in April, and armed with enough cuteness to give a puppy a run for its money, Japanese stop-motion series Rilakkuma and Kaoru is a perfect show to sit down and watch after a long, tiring day. It'll turn your frown upside down with its cute antics, while also making you nod along with its inoffensive relatability as it covers the many niggles of adult life.

Created by San-X, the show focuses on the life of an office lady called Kaoru. Her work is stressful and she feels unimportant in her job role. She's indecisive and she worries a bit too much. She feels left behind as her friends have gone on to lead much more involved, successful lives, finding love and having children. Then there's the problem that she's older and too sensible to be invited along to anything the younger women are doing in the office. However this doesn't mean her free time isn't lacking in excitement, because living in her small apartment is Rilakkuma, a brown toy bear who spends his days eating and sleeping (his name literally means "relax bear"), as well as Korilakkuma (basically a smaller, female version of Rilakkuma) and Kiiroitori, Kaoru's pet chick who really loves to keep the place clean. How did these two bears end up living in Kaoru's apartment? Did they simply show up one day? Did they come down from space in a UFO? We don't get told until the very end of the series, but sometimes, we don't need questions like that answered straight away. Sometimes it's simply okay to accept things for what they are, and that is what makes Rilakkuma and Kaoru such an uninvolved but calming watching experience. I mean, who wouldn't want these cuddly teddy bears living in their apartment? Why question something like that? Especially when it looks this damn good too.



The hard work from the show's creators is constantly on display. It was revealed in a behind-the-scenes video that ten seconds of this show's animation can take an entire day, a fact that just makes everything all the more impressive. The show's presentation is bursting with life and colour, featuring expertly crafted scenery depicting the sleepiness of rural Japanese suburbia. If it wasn't for the stop-motion characters that inhabit it, I'd be convinced I was looking at something real. Speaking of characters, Rilakkuma and the gang, whose adorable antics take up a large share of the show's screen time, all look and move like cuddly toys brought to life, all complete with fluid movements that match their sizes and personalities. Rilakkuma moves heavy and lethargically, while Korilakkuma is much more energetic to match her smaller size and enthusiasm. Kiiroitori jumps around frantically, not just because he's a chick, but because he is often prone to bossiness and a temper. Along with their movements, the facial expressions and sounds these cute characters make manage to convey their emotions perfectly. This bunch really are the star of the show, with their cute little routines and attempts to be helpful providing the highlight to any episode.
When it comes to human characters, they're all represented using dolls. They remind me of something from a Tim Burton animation (Coraline, Nightmare Before Christmas, etc.), although definitely nowhere near as grotesque-looking. There are occasions where the dolls pass into uncanny valley territory (creepy fortune teller, ghost girl), but it's usually only to emphasise the eccentricities of their characters, and nothing that will keep you up at night. Kaoru herself looks like a perfectly normal office lady. Her simple, plain, but endearing appearance sets her aside from the other human characters in the show, and in turn makes her easier to relate to.


In the average episode of Rilakkuma and Kaoru, Kaoru will find herself in a typical adult life-related predicament. The inconvenience caused and its resolution will be the main focus of each episode, but its never anything dramatic or life-changingDramatic tension in this series is overall pretty minimal, and the stakes are never raised to any serious extent. You see, Rilakkuma and Kaoru seems to be another production in a wave of shows from Japan that are affectionately referred to as "iyashikei", a Japanese word that can be translated to "healing". These shows often involve little to no conflict, and place emphasis on the little delights in life - with the aim being to relax and soothe the viewer. I've discussed one of the forerunners of this genre previously on Alt:Mag, the absolutely wonderful anime Laid-Back Camp, but it can also be seen in other anime shows like Girl's Last Tour and K-On!. On a surface level, the average viewer might see shows in this style as not being all that deep, but in the case of Rilakkuma and Kaoru, if you take a step back and think about it all for a second, it is a much more relatable show than you might think. Often in life we find ourselves in Kaoru's situation: we get tunnel vision about the simplest of dilemmas and wonder how we'll ever find a way out. We waste hours of our lives stewing about such inconsequential nonsense, before finding our solution through a series of simple happenings, or someone helping us to see past it by thinking another way. In this series, Rillakkuma and the others are the metaphorical shoulder Kaoru can lean on. Their simple, easy existences and lack of responsibility make them the polar opposite to Kaoru's stressful adult life, and sometimes she needs to see things through their simplistic lense in order to get the clarity she has been so desperately in search of. An example of this is seen in episode four, where Kaoru has trouble making decisions, and envies Rillakkuma and the other's ability to just simply pick the thing they want without the added stress. The episode ends with her learning from Rillakkuma and the others that she doesn't always have to pick between things all the time, and can instead have more than just one thing. A simple solution to a simple dilemma, but the mountain that Kaoru makes out of this tiny molehill is bound to be relatable for many.


Netflix have really become a trusted name when it comes to exclusive shows, and in an attempt to broaden their content, they've slapped their name onto some brilliant and unique Japanese shows; anime, live action, etc. Sanrio's Aggretsuko is a particular highlight from their catalogue (seriously, if you've not seen Aggretsuko, you need to watch it) as well as the absolutely amazing Hi Score Girl (I swear I will finish my review of that at some point). It's clear Netflix has some clout when it comes to endorsing shows, and Rilakkuma and Kaoru is continuing in this trend of quality. If you've had a rubbish day at work, I guarantee it'll make you feel better, making you think just a little as you smile a lot.

Let's Talk About Rebuild of Evangelion


This year, the people at Netflix threw us a bone and a curveball. For the first time in eleven years, the acclaimed anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion is now available to stream worldwide. But, there’s a catch – it’s been given a new dub with an all-new cast and a retranslated script. And fans and newcomers aren’t taking the change well. The new dialogue is stiff, and the performances lack the punch and polish of the original dub. To top it all, the music’s been changed in places – all because Netflix didn’t want to pay the extra money for it. I watched the first six episodes and didn’t want to keep going, which is all the more upsetting because I’m a newcomer. However, my first taste of Eva wasn’t to be my last. The next day, I found an alternative in my local second-hand shop. It wasn’t the original dub on DVD, but another version of Eva I’m just as glad to have found. If you’ve been let down by the Netflix version of Eva – and you can’t afford the out-of-print box sets – keep reading. I’m going to tell you about my alternative: Rebuild of Evangelion.


Known in Japan as Evangelion: New Theatrical Edition, Rebuild’s a film series based on the original anime. Hideaki Anno, Eva’s creator, is the films’ chief director and writer; and most of his crew from 1995 returned to make them. The original concept artists, animators, Japanese voice actors, and original composer Shiro Sagisu are all back with some new hands to help them. They all gathered at Anno’s request for one purpose: to remake Eva as he originally intended. In 1995, Anno and his crew were held back by budget cuts, strict deadlines, the limits of hand-drawn animation, and Anno’s own struggles with depression. The series’ production suffered, and it took a much darker turn than Anno had planned – until, at last, it ended on a bleak note with the film End of Evangelion. Since then, it’s been loved and hated even by its own creator. However, he’s not done with it yet. After End’s release in 1997, Anno’s fortunes changed dramatically – he’s now the head of his own studio, Khara (which includes his returning colleagues from the original series), and he’s happily married. He still grapples with depression, but now he has a strong network of friends, family, and fellow filmmakers to support him. And if that wasn’t enough, his career’s been given a boost by none other than the King of Monsters. Anno wrote and directed 2016’s Shin Godzilla, which became the most successful Japanese Godzilla film of all time! With his recent success – and a little help from today’s technology – Anno is ready to recreate Eva as it should’ve been. And he’s making the most of his new resources to do it.


In 2007, Anno proved he meant business with his first Rebuild film: Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone. The film takes viewers back to the series’ beginnings, with Shinji Ikari’s first dealings with the mysterious organisation NERV. Shinji’s estranged father Gendo forces him to pilot the biomechanical Eva Unit-01 to protect Japan from monstrous aliens called Angels. Shinji goes unthanked by both Gendo and the people he protects but finds friends in two of NERV’s members: his guardian Misato Katsuragi and fellow Eva pilot Rei Ayanami. 1.0 follows the events of the series’ first six episodes, but it’s far from a simple rehash. Every scene is reanimated from scratch, blending traditional animation with CGI. Most animated works suffer when they do this, but Eva’s an exception – it benefits from the new technology immensely and uses it to improve on scenes from the anime. Operation Yashima, the climax of episode six, is a fine example. One of the least exciting battles in the original anime is now a stunning, thrilling finale! A few scenes were cut to pick up the pace but, having seen the film and the episodes it covers, I can honestly say it made the right cuts. I saw the episodes on Netflix and didn’t want to go on… but when I saw 1.0, I didn’t want to stop. It was released on DVD as 1.11 – an extended version with improved animation and additional scenes for newcomers – and you can find it online at the average price of £10. If you’re lucky, you may even find it for less (I bought my copy at CeX for £3). I highly recommend 1.0 to fans of the original series because of its fantastic dub. Two actors from the original series' first dub return for the film: Spike Spencer and Allison Keith; the original English voices of Shinji and Misato!


Two years after taking us back to Shinji’s world, Anno took it in a new direction with Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance. Shinji and Rei are joined in their fight against the Angels by two new pilots: Asuka Langley Shikinami and Mari Makinami. The girls couldn’t be more different – Asuka hates having to team up with Shinji and doesn’t try to hide it, but Mari is nicer… yet keeps her true intentions close to the chest. Meanwhile, Rei plans to bring Shinji and Gendo closer together with a dinner party. Her plans are ruined, though, when the test run of a new Eva unit goes terribly wrong. While 1.0 adapted the series’ first six episodes faithfully, 2.0 took the key events of the next thirteen and made them its own. The result is a film that played on fans’ expectations then subverted them in surprising and shocking ways. It was acclaimed for this and for its new portrayals of Shinji & Co. – one of Anno’s intentions with Rebuild was to rewrite the characters without his own emotions affecting them. His efforts paid off handsomely, but of course, it doesn’t stop them losing it when all hell breaks loose. 2.0 was released on DVD as 2.22 and is now out-of-print, but you can find copies online from £10. And fans will be pleased to know the cast of 1.0's dub return along with another familiar face: the original English Asuka, Tiffany Grant!


In 2012, Anno took Rebuild into brand new territory with Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo. Fourteen years after his last battle in 2.0, Shinji awakes in a devastated world. Humanity is on the brink of extinction, Rei is nowhere to be seen, and Shinji’s surviving friends have turned against him. Misato is now the head of WILLE – a new organisation bent on destroying NERV – and threatens to kill Shinji if he ever pilots an Eva again. Crushed by their hostility, Shinji escapes from WILLE and returns to NERV’s headquarters, where he finds his father with a new pilot in tow: the mysterious Kaworu Nagisa. Gendo tells Shinji he must pilot a new Eva unit with Kaworu to restore the world – but keeps the boys unaware of his true intentions. When it was released, 3.0 received mixed reviews for its new direction and darker tone. Some considered it even bleaker than 1997’s End of Evangelion. However, there are crucial differences between the two films. When he made the original series, Anno faced hardships at every turn. They drove the series, and End, down a much darker path where there were no happy endings for Shinji & Co.. But, things have changed since then. Anno’s in a better place now than he was twenty-four years ago, and now his characters are too. Although their world is on the edge of collapse, 3.0 leaves Shinji and his friends in a position to do something about it. And their story is far from over. At the time of writing, 3.0 is the only film that hasn’t gone out-of-print. It was released on DVD as 3.33, and you can buy it new for as little as £5.


The final film is being made as we speak. Evangelion 3.0+1.0 (a.k.a. Final) is due to arrive in Japan next June, and it promises to bring Rebuild to an explosive and satisfying finish. There aren’t many details at present, but a post-credit teaser in 3.0 gave us enough to guess where the story is going. Having played into his father’s hands, Shinji has lost the will to live. However, Asuka literally drags him back to WILLE as the war between them and NERV reaches its climax. Misato rallies her remaining forces for a final battle – but whether Shinji will fight alongside her remains to be seen. Although it was announced in 2012, Final has been over seven years in the making. Anno succumbed to depression again after 3.0’s release and almost cancelled the last film. Fortunately, Toho stepped in and offered him the chance to make Shin Godzilla – and the rest is history. Shin Godzilla’s success gave Anno a badly needed morale boost, and now he’s back at work on Final. In fact, the Japanese cast are recording their lines now! Sadly, we in the West will have to wait a while longer. When Final’s released next year, it will be another year or more before we get an English dub. When we do, though, there’s one thing I hope for above all else: a comeback by the cast of the last three films. Studio Khara and the films' English cast don't always get along, but it's widely agreed that their dubs are much better than the recent Netflix dubs. An iconic series like Eva deserves to go out with a bang - and as far as dubs are concerned, there's one cast with the skill, experience, and above all, the passion to see it done. Spike Spencer, Allison Keith & Tiffany Grant became famous for their work on the original series, and they outdid themselves with Rebuild. Let's hope Anno feels the same way and allows them to come back for one last turn.


Have you seen the Rebuild films? Are you eagerly (and patiently) awaiting the last instalment? How do you think they compare to the original series? Leave us your comments or tell us what you think about them on Facebook & Twitter.

Why Breath of the Wild is a Breath of Fresh Air


Ever since the release of the very first game, The Legend of Zelda, in 1986, every single instalment has followed a pretty linear structure. Side-quests aside, the games force you along a set path in order to progress in the story. Even against the vast backdrop of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess, Termina in Majora’s Mask and the Great Sea in Windwaker, there’s still that structure that you have to follow – the second temple can’t be defeated without beating the first one, this objective can’t be tackled without this item, etc. Some places can be explored to a degree, but you can’t progress in the main quest unless you’ve ticked the right boxes. The story is set. Your path has already been determined.

Then Breath of the Wild came along, and suddenly, we had something completely new – a completely open-world Zelda game.


Polarising? Yes. There are those who praise it as the best of all the Zelda games, some who argue it doesn’t really feel like a Zelda game, and those who have been left feeling indifferent. Sure, the same arguments have been made about a lot of the games, particularly the Oracle games and Skyward Sword, but Breath of the Wild has introduced an entirely new concept for a Zelda instalment. Nintendo have changed the game, and they changed it good.

Because, differences of opinion aside, Breath of the Wild just…works. Before I even get into anything else, the visuals are indisputably stunning – important when it comes to creating a world that people should want to explore. For me, part of the appeal of the game was how beautiful and crisp everything looked. Even the tiniest things, like the little bulbs of apples that hang from the trees, have been painstakingly created, and it shows.


And then we come to the sheer size of the world. I’d be lying if I said I had any idea how gigantic the world would be before I played the game. I’m accustomed to the likes of the worlds in Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time, and sure, while neither of their versions of Hyrule are particularly small, they’re still dwarfed by the one in Breath of the Wild.

As is par for the course with Zelda, there are the specifically tailored areas where the different races reside, like the Gerudo and the Rito, but there’s so much more than that. Getting from Point A to Point B is no longer a quick trip across Hyrule Field. There are wetlands that stretch for what seem like miles and forests that are easy to get lost in, not to mention the hundreds of tiny, hidden nooks that you’ll want to explore.


Best of all, you can go wherever you want, whenever you want. Sometimes, yes, you’ll need to find certain items to traverse certain areas but they’re all accessible, if you know where to look. Nothing is blocked off, not even Hyrule Castle. Yep, that’s right. Once you’ve obtained the Paraglider, you can walk right up to Calamity Ganon with nothing more than three hearts, a branch and a pot lid and take him on. You won’t win, obviously, but the point is you can try, and having that option is great. You can also liberate the four Divine Beasts in whatever order you fancy. There’s a recommended order, but it’s nothing definitive. Again, you can go wherever you want, whenever you want. No Zelda game has ever been that open before.

And then there’s the obvious thing that really is the icing on the Zelda cake – Link can climb, and I don’t just mean up ladders or vines.


For years, Link couldn’t even jump, unless it was off the edge of a platform or with the aid of certain items. He could walk, run, ‘hyaa!’ and that was about it – until Skyward Sword first introduced the concept of a stamina bar in a Zelda game. That in itself was refreshing. But Breath of the Wild suddenly has Link Assassin’s Creeding across Hyrule, and it suits him. As a strong, adventurous swordsman, climbing seems like something he’d not only be able to do, but would have to do. As much as I love Ocarina of Time, nobody should simply be able to walk up Death Mountain as if they’re out for a Sunday stroll. The clue’s in the name, people.

Naturally, with the world being so vast, there are endless side quests and numerous detours from the main quest that you can take if you’re so inclined. There are tribes of monsters to fight through around every corner, shrines to seek out and defeat if collecting the spirit orbs is your thing, and characters dotted all around the landscape that need your help in some way or another, including the famous Great Fairy sisters. You can buy new clothes and accessories to add to Link’s outfit or dye his clothes whatever colour you want. You can tame and keep up to five wild horses, all with their own markings, temperaments and speeds. There’s the Yiga clan, the challenges presented to you by the Koroks (not to mention the whopping 900 Korok seeds you can search for throughout the game), and of course, the extensive list of food you can scavenge, and the even more extensive list of meals and elixirs you can cook from that food. Oh, and don’t forget the memories of Princess Zelda that you can recover if you look in the right places.

The list goes on. And on. And on, and on, and on.


Breath of the Wild is the kind of revamp that the Zelda franchise seemed ready for. That’s not to say that it was struggling in any way, although Skyward Sword and Tri Force Heroes weren’t exactly knocking the ball out of the park – but admittedly, the franchise’s formula needed a little tweaking.

Don’t get me wrong – as a huge fan, I love any and all of the Zelda instalments by default. They’ve all brought something new to the table, and some of those things have worked, while some, unfortunately, haven’t (I’m looking at you, Spirit Tracks). But for me, playing Breath of the Wild was genuinely exciting. It reminded me of the way I felt at ten years old, playing Ocarina of Time or Windwaker for the first time, feeling the thrill of it all and really, fully losing myself in them. That’s what good games do. They tell stories that make you want to keep playing, that make you forget you’re even playing at all. Nobody can deny that Breath of the Wild is a good game – if you need reminding why, just go back and read this entire article again. But most importantly, it’s different. Nintendo took those decades-old rules, tossed them straight out of the window and now here we are with the biggest, best-selling Zelda game of all time – a title that Breath of the Wild fully deserves.

 
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