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Interview with Hiroshi Fujiwara: Thunderbolt Project, Culture, and Design

October 4, 2018 8:00pm
by Eddie Lehecka

There are few figures from Japan who carry as much global significance in mainstream culture as Hiroshi Fujiwara. Considered in some circles to be the godfather of ura-Harajuku culture, he has a long-storied history in the worldwide streetwear scene and is seen by many as an influencer in the most literal sense. From his work as a brand owner, independent designer, and even as a tastemaker in the fashion industry, his presence has been felt through collaborations with some of the biggest brands in the world including Louis Vuitton, Nike, and Levis.

Most recently he has teamed up with The Pokémon Company to bring the world "THUNDERBOLT PROJECT BY  ◼️◼️◼️◼️◼️ & POKÉMON", a collaboration of the highest caliber with one of the world's most recognizable franchises. We were given the opportunity to sit down with him ahead of this weekend's Hypefest event and chat, and as a longtime fan of his work I couldn't help but jump at the opportunity. Continue reading below to see his thoughts about streetwear culture, the internet's impact on the industry, and his upcoming collaboration.

OTAQUEST: Thank you for sitting down with us today, as a longtime fan of your work I appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation. To start things off, many of our readers in America who aren’t familiar with the Japanese streetwear scene may not be familiar with you or your body of work. How would you describe yourself and your design philosophy to someone who isn’t already familiar with your work?

Hiroshi Fujiwara: I’m not good at explaining myself, but I started DJing in the early 80’s and I was really inspired by punk music. I think many people don’t realize that punk and hip-hop have very strong connections, and I was really into that scene. It was the whole culture, music and fashion, which might not be as connected anymore but back then it was a really strong moment for both and I was growing up with it.

OTAQUEST: You started your career in fashion with your clothing brand, GOODENOUGH, and in the early 2000s you shifted from that to being very focused on collaborations with the founding of fragment design. What do you like about the creative process that occurs when collaborating with others?

Fujiwara: I wasn’t really trying to create a collaboration brand or anything, because there was a time where collaboration wasn’t really necessary. No one really cared. It was just based on my friendly relationships with different companies.

When I visited New York my first time in 1982 I went to the Tiffany store, because I liked the movie (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), and there was nothing I wanted to buy but there was a Montblanc pen and Rolex Watches. I wondered to myself “Why are they selling these, they are not Tiffany products”, so I asked the staff and they told me that they recognized Rolex as the number one watch brand and Montblanc makes the number one pen so they decided to carry them. They included a Tiffany logo, and I thought that was a really great concept. It was one of the first collaborations like that which I saw.

Then when I was doing GOODENOUGH I always carried a PORTER bag at the time, so I called up their company and asked if I could make a bag. That was the start of collaborations for me. I continue to try to do the same kind of thing, if I like something then I’ll ask the company to either make something for us or if we can do a collaboration. If they say no then maybe I’ll just make something similar by myself. But basically, when I stopped doing GOODENOUGH I became really independent and decided I would rather just work with other people and companies to do that kind of collaboration product.

OTAQUEST:  You’re known as a key player in bringing hip-hop culture and streetwear to japan. Being that you have been around that scene since the beginning how do you feel it’s different now? What are your thoughts on how the culture has evolved over the years?

Fujiwara: I think information technology changed so much. Now you don’t have to go anywhere, you don’t have to travel. That’s a really big thing. I think the mindset is still the same though, people want to be the first to get a new product and want to get things that are very rare. The mentality is all the same.

OTAQUEST: Do you think the design process or the type of work that comes out now has changed over the years?

Fujiwara: Maybe it became bigger, but not really changed.

OTAQUEST: So in relation to that, is there anyone or any company operating currently who’s work you enjoy right now in either music or fashion?

Fujiwara: I really enjoy everyone, UNDERCOVER, NEIGHBORHOOD, LOUIS VUITTON, etc. They all have their own mind and their own originality. So I’m really lucky to get to work with them, and maybe steal ideas sometimes *laughs*

OTAQUEST: In the past you have said that you feel the internet has taken the experience out of shopping and searching for stuff, and you’re the type of person who has done some very creative pop-up stores like THE POOL and what you’re doing currently with THE CONVENI. Do you think that because of the way the internet has changed behavior that creating an experience is really important in your own work?

Fujiwara: Yeah, I think so. You have to go there or be there in person to really get the whole experience.

OTAQUEST: Do you think that changes the consumer mindset in doing so?

Fujiwara: I really hope so. But you kind of have to explain that you have to be there. People think “I saw it, so I was there” when in truth they only saw a small picture online. Like even The Louvre in Paris, if you go there are so many things to see. Even if you only see the Mona Lisa in person, it’s still different that just seeing it on the internet. I think you really have to go there and feel it.

OTAQUEST: Does that thought about the experience influence your work at all?

Fujiwara: Yeah, I don’t really know how to explain how but I really enjoy doing it. THE CONVENI for example is actually a difficult project, it’s really hard work because you have to keep thinking about what’s next. For example this is a new thing I’ve done *pulls a small coin out of his bag* It’s Bitcoin chocolate. Bitcoin melting in your mouth *laughs*. I had read that the Bitcoin design is public domain so I thought it would be cool to make. This kind of thing is really fun to do.

I also don’t really think so much about when I’m working with a company on a collaboration about how I can make something bigger or sell a ton of product. I just want to give a different image to them, so it doesn’t have to be a huge project, just something different.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

消えてなくなるビットコイン。 #coinchocolate

A post shared by fujiwarahiroshi (@fujiwarahiroshi) on

OTAQUEST: You’ve said in the past that you don’t feel like revival culture or pop-culture really exists anymore thanks to the internet.

Fujiwara: Yeah pop-culture I think was really finished in the 90’s.

OTAQUEST: From my perspective I’ve noticed that as of late younger audiences have had a fascination with time periods that they never had a chance to experience themselves. One that I find to be really interesting is that Bubble Era & City Pop music has been really prominent in the west. A good example is Mariya Takeuchi’s “Plastic Love”. It wasn’t a huge hit when it first came out in Japan but right now it’s all over YouTube and has millions of plays, and it’s helped inspire a genre of music called “Future Funk” that’s been growing worldwide. Do you feel this kind of false nostalgia is creating a different kind of pop-culture then?

Fujiwara: Yeah I think so, it (revival culture) was always kind of like that. Before the internet it was harder to search for things but it was always like that. I’m glad to hear that something like Japanese city pop music is seeing a revival, because I never thought the concept of a true revival was ever going to come back again. It’s really good to know.

OTAQUEST: In the past you’ve talked about the idea of treasure hunting when it pertains to different cultures & experiences. Knowing now that City Pop has had a chance to flourish in another country, do you think that the internet has created a different kind of treasure hunt?

Fujiwara: Yeah, but maybe-not in the most positive way. You’re not really going somewhere to do the treasure hunting so maybe it’s lost the atmosphere and impacted the way people travel. But then again, it’s something else so it’s not actually positive or negative.

When I was traveling around I would think “If I find something I want, and I have the money then I really have to buy it, because I might never see it again”. But now if you wait like 3 months you can find anything on eBay all the time, so it’s kind of losing the what made that buying experience special. In terms of distance, I think it’s like the distance between someone & eBay is no different than the distance between me and my closet. If I have a pair of Jordans in my closet it might take several hours to find them, and it’s a pain in the ass. But then there’s eBay, so if I want something again I can get it easily.

OTAQUEST: Do you think that concept of “nothing is really exclusive anymore” has changed the way that people consume fashion now, in the sense that a lot of brands will make things very limited to keep the demand high?

Fujiwara: Well, you say very limited but I don’t think it’s really like that. Maybe now Nike can make 10,000 pairs of sneakers and someone will still say it’s rare, but that’s not really the case is it?

OTAQUEST: That’s true. But there’s also a movement, and it’s always kind of existed but I think it’s probably more apparent now than it used to be, where people will buy collaboration items or rare streetwear items and they’ll keep them unused and display them. Almost like appreciating fine art. What do you think about that kind of mentality?

Fujiwara: I kind of understand, because I’ve always been like that. Maybe the tastes are different but I’ve always had that kind of otaku mind. I want to collect, or maybe not really collect, but keep things if I really like them. So I understand if people buy Supreme or something like that and just want to keep it.

OTAQUEST: Do you think that’s changed how designers create though? Like maybe some people are looking at their work in fashion as being more like art, rather than specifically fashion.

Fujiwara: I don’t know, I hope not. Personally, if I buy something I want to wear it or use it.

OTAQUEST: Considering things like THE CONVENI or your recent work with LOTTE’s Bikkuriman, you’ve collaborated on a lot of different products over the years, and of course you’re known for fashion. Is there any medium you haven’t had a chance to work in or a product that you haven’t designed that you want to have an opportunity to try your hand at?

Fujiwara: I would love to design something like one floor of a luxury hotel.

OTAQUEST: There’s been a trend in the west lately where a lot of Japanese properties have been used for collaboration recently. Supreme did Akira, Adidas is doing Dragonball. What do you think about that idea of using something born from Japan that might not be as well known to the mainstream for a collaboration, and do you think it’s a trend that will continue?

Fujiwara: It’s not like Japan is so “Far East” anymore. It’s really part of the international scene now so it’s bound to happen. It’s the same as us using Mickey Mouse or Snoopy, instead it’s Akira or Hayao Miyazaki. So I think the idea is very similar now.

OTAQUEST: Moving onto some questions about the Pokémon collaboration, THUNDERBOLT PROJECT,  how did the project come to be and what was the process to getting it all started?

Fujiwara: The Pokémon Company asked me if I was interested in doing a collaboration, and I wondered “What can I do for Pokémon?” I saw Pikachu and its theme is thunder or lightning. So I thought, I can use my logo for Fragment with things like the Pokémon tails, and then I got back to them and we talked about it.

OTAQUEST: Were you familiar with the franchise or played any of the games prior to them reaching out to you?

Fujiwara: Yeah, I had been playing Pokémon Go a bit.

OTAQUEST: Since you play Pokémon Go what do you think about the Augmented Reality experience it provides?

Fujiwara: I didn’t know much about Pokémon before I started playing it, but as a game Pokémon Go is amazing. Using the latest technology and incorporating it into a game that anyone can pick up and play, I think that’s amazing to be able to go anywhere and catch what you want.

OTAQUEST: Do you think there’s an application for AR in fashion?

Fujiwara: Yeah definitely, I’ve always wanted to do that kind of orientating thing. It never happened, but I wanted to something like that with Nike using all of the Nike stores around the world. Something that would have made you go to many locations and scan a QR code to see how many you could visit. It may be on a different scale, but it’s kind of the same thing with Pokémon Go. You really have to go all over the world to catch everything.

OTAQUEST: Is there something about the Pokémon franchise that you think lends itself to doing a streetwear or high fashion collaboration?

Fujiwara: I think there’s a lot of potential with it. I’ve been asked by a few luxury brands about using Pokémon characters, so I think it’s similar to Mickey Mouse or Snoopy in that way. I wasn’t really sure if I would use Pokémon for myself, I had never thought about wearing something with Pokémon, but once I did it I was happy with the result. I kind of surprised myself *laughs*

OTAQUEST: You’ve collaborated with so many really famous brands in the past but most of them were fashion or lifestyle oriented and Pokémon is more of a pop-culture icon in a different way. How does the experience in collaboration with a high end fashion property differ from working with something like Pokémon?

Fujiwara: I think of it more like hitting a balance, if you do something really high fashion then it’s good to do something like Bikkuriman or Pokémon. It didn’t really change how I approach the design, I just though it was something I needed to do. I really like so many different things.

OTAQUEST: You mentioned Pikachu earlier as an idea that inspired your designs but are there any other characters that you think have an interesting design?

Fujiwara: This project will keep going on for maybe like 2 years, so we have a lot more to come.

OTAQUEST: You’re on the board for Hypefest, and I thought it was really interesting that they reached out to represent the Japanese side of fashion especially since streetwear is so prominent in America and there are already so many brands to work with. What was the process like working with them to select who to include for the event?

Fujiwara: Kevin (Ma, founder of Hypebeast) had asked me to be a member of the board, along with Sarah (Andelman, of colette). I don’t quite think the idea was about being tired of the same things, but I think they just wanted to bring something else to the event. Maybe not everything at hypefest will be what real street kids want, it’s not specifically just sneakers or anything like that, it’s more about sharing fashion and culture.

OTAQUEST: So maybe it’s like the idea of forcing people to leave their comfort zone?

Fujiwara: Yeah, I think that education is really important and also interesting. To know what’s behind street culture, or really what’s going on right now in different places.

OTAQUEST: Talking about Hypefest in relation to THUNDERBOLT PROJECT, and about the idea of education and bringing things that people might not expect, was there a specific thought process behind using Hypefest as the place to debut your collaboration with Pokémon?

Fujiwara: It was really just the timing. When Pokémon had asked me to do it I had Hypefest going on as well so I asked them if we could debut it there. It was just perfect timing.

OTAQUEST: Do you have a hope for what the response will be for something like this at Hypefest?

Fujiwara: Surprise. I like to surprise people.

OTAQUEST: What can we look forward to seeing from you next? Or is there anything you’re working on that you’re excited about?

Fujiwara: I’ve been working with Moncler, that’s a two year project, so there are a few more collections I’m doing. I have a few projects with other luxury brands in progress. Steiff, the Teddy Bear, that’s really cool and coming out next month.

We'll be following Hiroshi Fujiwara's exploits down the line in full here on OTAQUEST, starting this weekend with the multiple activities he has going on at Hypefest in Brooklyn, New York. We're beyond excited to see the more than 30 pieces being dropped at the event from his new collaboration, as well as THE COVENI popup and other collaborations he has going on during the weekend! Be sure to also enter our contest for your chance to win a Pokémon Let's Go  Nintendo Switch Bundle, complete with the exclusive pre-order bonuses from Pokémon Center Japan!

About THUNDERBOLT PROJECT BY  ◼️◼️◼️◼️◼️ & POKÉMON

A joint project between Pokémon and Hiroshi Fujiwara called the THUNDERBOLT PROJECT has begun. This project will sell limited-edition items in a variety of regions, starting with an October release at the HYPEFEST event in New York. With this unprecedented collaboration, we will send a “Thunderbolt” throughout the world! This project is scheduled to continue into 2019 and beyond. 

THUNDERBOLT PROJECT © 2018 Pokémon

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Nintendo Celebrates Over 1,000 Games on Switch

November 15, 2018 6:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

Only two years into its lifecycle and Nintendo is already celebrating the release of over 1,000 games on the Nintendo Switch. That's no small feat, especially given the Wii U failed to even reach the four-digit mark within its entire lifespan. But with that being said, what are all these games, and just how did Nintendo come to the conclusion that they had achieved that milestone? While it certainly doesn't answer that overarching question, Nintendo UK did release a celebratory video to highlight just a portion of the games that made it possible.
 


Opening to the tune of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the trailer quickly directs viewers attention towards a slew of other in-house and AAA titles for the Nintendo Switch. All in all, however, we only see a total of 12 games showcased in this trailer -- 11 if you don't count Pokémon: Let's Go! as two games -- so that only further begs to ask, just what are the other 9,988 titles? Well, it would turn out its a lot of different titles, including over eight games that feature the word "Mario" in their title. 

It's a lot of indie titles, it's a lot of AAA action, and it's probably a sizeable amount of fun overall. Whatever it is, the Nintendo Switch actually has a decently sized library -- though I'm not gonna go and vouch for all of the games in that library. While the number of titles on the console sits around the 1,200 mark, it's quite quickly catching up to the likes of Sony's PlayStation 4 which holds around 1,800 titles, as well as Microsoft's Xbox One at 1,700 titles. 

I probably couldn't name more than 30 titles on the Nintendo Switch, but them keeping track of over 1,000 is definitely an impressive feat, and one that the company should probably give themselves a pat on the back for. We're sure we'll be seeing that number increase over these next couple of years too, so until then, we'll be sure to keep you up-to-date on all (maybe not all) the latest releases, as they happen.

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David Productions to Helm Adaptation of ‘Soul Eater’ Creator’s ‘Fire Force’

November 15, 2018 4:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

Is it me, or is it getting a bit hot in here? Perhaps it’s something do with the recent announcement of an anime adaptation of Atsushi Ohkubo’s Fire Force manga, which has left me a little more than hot under the collar in anticipation.

Launched in 2015 not long after Ohkubo’s long-running and incredibly popular series Soul Eater came to end, Fire Force takes place in alternate Tokyo which is terrorized by “Infernals” - fire-based destructive beings that threaten the very existence of the human race. To counter this threat, special firefighting squadrons comprised of people with special abilities are formed, and it is into one such squadron that our protagonist, Shinra Kusakabe, enters with the intention of helping people as well as solving the mystery behind his family’s death in a fire some years ago.

Despite the changes that Ohkubo has had to endure as a creator - not only a stark departure in subject matter from Soul Eater but also changing magazine from Monthly Gangan to Weekly Shonen Magazine - these have not had an adverse effect on the series. Rather, it has continued to entertain since it’s inception, both due to the author’s own creativity as well as his decision to slowly open up the story and it’s world over time. It’s also been a solid success for Magazine, in which the series shares pages with such heavy hitters as Hajime no Ippo and The Seven Deadly Sins.

With that in mind, it’s very exciting for me to be able to say that after nearly three years of publication - which is a pretty long time considering Ohkubo’s previous successes - the manga has finally been picked up for an anime adaptation. And helming the project will be none other than the now legendary David Productions, who aside from being almost single-handedly responsible for the recent Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure boom, have also seen considerable success with their recent adaptation of Cells at Work.

Given David Productions’ incredible track record, I have no doubt that the Fire Force adaptation will be a very good adaptation, if not even better than the original manga - after all, there’s plenty of things for the talented staffers at David Productions to work with, from the inventive character designs to the multitude of fire-based abilities that can only benefit from full animation. They’ve also demonstrated in recent times that they’re not afraid to change elements of the original for the sake of a good adaptation - something that far too many studios are far too afraid of doing.

As a result, even though details on the adaptation are very scarce - with no staff or even a release date being shared - I can’t help but be incredibly stoked for what should be an excellent adaptation of a great manga. If you’d like to check out the manga in the meantime, then Kodansha Comics are translating the volumes into English, here.

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Fans Stranded in Saitama After ‘iDOLM@STER’ Concert

November 15, 2018 3:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

When you’ve just spent four hours sweating buckets at a concert, just about the only thing you want to do is have a bath and go to sleep - not get stranded in the middle of nowhere. But that’s exactly what happened to many fans of the iDOLM@STER series who went to one of the franchise’s concerts last weekend.

Saitama prefecture’s MetLife Dome played host to the sixth annual iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls (or Deremas) concert, and while this may have been one of the biggest venues for the franchise yet - with an overall capacity of around 36,000 people - it certainly seems as though the public transport system was not prepared at all for the mass of people that were to descend upon it.

That being said, arrival at the venue went very smoothly for fans, as people tend to arrive at different times depending on if they want to purchase goods before the live or not, but it was after the live that true chaos descended on the station, as the whole stadium poured out at the same time towards Seibu Kyujou-mae station, all tired and all wanting to head home after a fun, yet no doubt exhausting live event.

The sheer mass of people quickly overwhelmed the station, and far from the crowd thinning once the trains started departing, it only grew - leading to some truly “hellish” scenes being posted on social media.



It’s unclear what the problem was, as the station staff had clearly done what preparation they could beforehand, having put out fences to funnel the crowd towards the entrance gates, but the sheer mass of people quickly shut down the entire station. This also lead to two of the lines that pass through the station, the Seibu Yamaguchi and Sayama lines, to have to cease operations entirely, which led to trains further back along the line to be delayed considerably. According to some fans who were waiting towards the back of crowd, it took nearly an hour and a half for them to get home from the end of the live - and that’s to say nothing of those who were further along the line than them who simply wanted to get home from work on that Friday night!

Regardless of why this abject failure on the Seibu railway company’s part happened, it’s clear that the organizing staff for iDOLM@STER concerts, and concert staff, in general, will have to seriously consider whether or not to use the MetLife Dome again for their events. It’s simply something that shouldn’t be happening, especially when downtown Tokyo can function so well despite far more people being concentrated in the stations during rush hour. As one Twitter user put it, “iM@S may be the best, but Seibu Kyujou-mae is the worst!”.

Source: Matomame

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Daichi Miura’s Theme Song for 'Dragon Ball Super: Broly' Embraces Hypebeast Goku

November 15, 2018 2:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

With the theatrical release of Dragon Ball Super: Broly drawing near, we're starting to see more and more content from the film revealed to drum up hype -- one of which includes the release of Daichi Miura's theme song for the film, "Blizzard". If you haven't had a chance to check out the theme song, I'd definitely recommend it. Despite its ice-cold name, the track is a total heater, and I'm sure the sequences in which it appears during the film will be equally intense. But that's not the most important part of the track; instead, I'm going to direct your attention to Super Saiyan Blue Goku on the cover.


 


Released as one of two alternative covers for the single release of "Blizzard", Goku's looking fresh in his 19 A/W blizzard fit from hair to toe. Honestly, it looks like the sort of cover I'd expect to see anywhere but an official Dragon Ball release, but I'm completely for it -- especially if we get some new streetwear pieces out of it too. On the flip-side, we see vocalist Daichi Miura rocking a similar fit for the standard digital edition of the single release.

With the street fashion industry pulling numerous cues from both anime and manga over recent years, it's exciting to see a reverse inception of such styles. Screening in theaters across Japan as of this week, and set to begin screening in North America from January 16, 2019, Dragon Ball Super: Broly is shaping up to be on a whole other level, and I can't wait to check it out. Those interested in checking out even more on the upcoming film, be sure to take a look at its official website.

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[Review] Everything Falls Into Place in Tetris Effect

November 15, 2018 1:00pm
by Matt Mirkovich

At the intersection of music and video games, there are two names that immediately come to my mind. The first is Naoki Maeda, credited with birthing arcade games like Beatmania and Dance Dance Revolution, Maeda and his team successfully married the gameplay elements to the music, making addicting arcade games that you still see regularly played in Japan and America a full twenty years after their inception. The second, is Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the creator of games like Rez, its successor, Child of Eden, Lumines, and Meteos, who wove the visual elements together with the music in an attempt to convey the sense of Synesthesia, a phenomenon that people describe as being able to ‘see’ music.

His first attempt at that, Rez, was a cult title from the Dreamcast era, and ever since its release I have followed each and every title that Mizuguchi has worked on, from Every Extra Extend to Ninety-Nine Nights, and I thought that the Lumines games released on the PSP would be the end all be all of Tetris rivals. But what happens when Mizuguchi gets to put his hands directly on Tetris? Well, you get Tetris Effect.
 

I don’t think I really need to explain Tetris, but let’s just get this out of the way. It’s the same gameplay it has always been, blocks are falling, create lines of blocks to eliminate them from the field, and if they reach the top, it’s game over. Okay, that’s done. But what is it that makes this version so special? The original is still a classic and is regularly played at a competitive level amongst seasoned pros, along with all variations of Tetris: The Grand Master. Tetris is a game that has endured. But it is with the touch of Mizuguchi, bringing the element of Synesthesia blending the visual and audio elements to create an experience that is very much different from anything that came before it, but still maintains that intense satisfaction that one can experience by playing Tetris.

If there’s a ‘preferred’ way to experience Tetris Effect, I would have to recommend it be played with a PSVR headset, if only for the immersion factor alone. Tetris Effect is a beautiful game from both a visual and audio perspective, and as a fan of Rez VR, I knew what I was getting in to; but at the same time, I still wasn't prepared for what I was about the see and hear. Even from the initial trailer for Tetris Effect, I knew this was going to be something special, and across the game’s ‘Journey’ and ‘Effect’ modes, the experience is nothing short of phenomenal. Even without the immersion of VR, the teams at Monstars and Resonair have outdone themselves. But let’s get into the how and why.

The ‘Journey’ mode is the base game for Tetris Effect -- spread across 27 different stages, broken up into three to five song blocks, each grouping boasts a wide variety of visuals and sounds. The first course starts with what could be considered the game’s theme song, ‘Connected,’ an uplifting pop song with undersea visuals set to the backdrop of the earth, and after clearing the requisite number of lines, the song in the block comes up, ‘Pharaoh’s Code,’ with its own set of unique visuals and sounds, and this continues through to the final stage, ‘Metamorphosis.’ The gameplay for Journey mode is best described as Tetris meets Lumines. One thing Lumines loved to do was alter the speed of the blocks to keep gamers on their toes, and they’ve brought that over to Tetris Effect with what I consider to be a pretty good success. It keeps things interesting and doesn’t just smother the player in faster and faster speeds like a normal round of Tetris would. If I’m looking for that classic flavor of Tetris gameplay, then it’s over to the ‘Effect’ modes.

In Effect mode, players can find a number of different game modes, like Infection, that requires players to clear the ‘infected’ blocks in order to keep things from spreading out of control, or the classic Marathon mode, where 150 lines need to be cleared as quickly as possible. Effect mode also features weekly community events that allow players to contribute to a weekly goal by playing the requisite modes, participating in these events will unlock new avatars that can be used to represent your player on the global leaderboards. In addition to this there is a personal leveling system, and clearing different stages will award experience points toward your level, and while there is the chance for duplicate avatars to get picked up, those duplicates result in bonus experience, which is a nice addition, since it’s very likely that some of these avatars are going to be ‘rare.’
 

So, to say Mizuguchi has some experience with combining visual and music elements to great effect is something of an understatement, and this is especially true with Tetris Effect. Every stage in this game has visuals to match the audio component, and they intersect in interesting ways. Playing the stage, ‘Da Vinci,’ players are sent flying through the air with the tetrominoes displayed as gears that turn with each line clear, and the sounds of tetrominoes falling compliments the music track. Each level does this to varying levels of success, and to say there is a ‘bad’ track in the bunch is nearly impossible. The different styles may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is certain to be one track out there at the very least every person can latch on to. The discordant piano of Downtown Jazz, or the EDM festival sound of Celebration, the work put down by composer Noboru Mutoh, and the Hydelic group is a master class in video game soundtracks that to me, only compares with Keiichi Okabe’s NieR: Automata soundtrack in terms of ‘near-perfection.’

The VR functionality of Tetris Effect is what really separates this game from its peers and elevates it to ‘Game of the Year’ contention. When you combine the immersion of playing Tetris with the visual and auditory elements, it left me in a state of something short of ecstacy. And to try to describe that feeling is complicated. I feel like this effect is going to vary from person to person, but for me, it’s about a sense of control. To play Tetris Effect is to take control of a very chaotic situation, and when I’m clicking, and the game is going my way, the game responds in kind with explosions of color and sound. It’s incredibly easy for me to find a rhythm while playing this game, I’m tapping my foot, I’m bobbing my head, the tetrominoes are falling in time with the music. It all melts together into this sensation that is both calming and euphoric, which is something I haven’t experienced since, maybe the first Lumines game.

The medical term ‘Tetris Effect’ is described as the result of intense focus and repetition, as studied with the use of the game Tetris, people who played the game could remember seeing the tetrominoes, even after playing the game, out of the corner of their eyes, or as part of their dreams. Playing Tetris Effect is like experiencing one of those dreams, as Mizuguchi and his teams at Monstars and Resonair have woven music and impressive visuals wrapped in the Unreal Engine into one of the most visually arresting games released in this current generation of hardware. It’s not enough that I tell you that you need to play Tetris Effect, you need to experience it -- there really is nothing else like it.

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'Alita: Battle Angel' Live-Action Movie Receives New Trailer

November 15, 2018 12:00pm
by Lachlan Johnston

If the neon-tinged stylings of the upcoming ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL live-action Hollywood adaptation are your kind of thing, then you're in luck, with an all-new trailer for the film releasing earlier this week. Scheduled to hit theaters across North America on February 14, 2019, the upcoming film adapts Yukito Kishiro's 1990 manga series Battle Angel Alita and brings its cyberpunk setting and dystopian world to life in a blend of live-action and CG content that's sure to be a spectacle. 
 


Focusing on the fast-paced sport of the future, Motorball, the latest trailer highlights Alita's struggles with her past, as well as the threat it presents to her present. The film looks visually incredible, with director Robert Rodriguez seemingly doing an excellent job of representing the source material onscreen. The film is described by 20th Century Fox below:

From visionary filmmakers James Cameron (AVATAR) and Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY), comes ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, an epic adventure of hope and empowerment. When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate doctor who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious history while her street-smart new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) offers instead to help trigger her memories. But it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue to her past – she has unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family and the world she’s grown to love.

Set to release in theaters across North America on February 14, 2019, this might just be the film to keep an eye on at the beginning of next year. Those interested in checking out even more information on the film, including staff listings and theaters, be sure to check out the film's official website.

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‘Evangelion Pub’ Set to Serve Themed Food and Drinks in Ikebukuro

November 14, 2018 5:00pm
by Jacob Parker-Dalton

With Neon Genesis Evangelion being such an integral part of modern Japanese culture (at least in the pop culture sense), perhaps it was only a matter of time before it was combined with another age-old Japanese tradition - that of the ‘izakaya.’

Loosely translating to ‘pub,’ izakaya are a mainstay in Japanese nightlife as not only do they serve alcoholic drinks at very reasonable prices but also a wide array of special food designed especially to accompany a cool beer or highball. So you can bet we were excited to hear that the legendary Evangelion series will be opening an izakaya of its own - but not without a distinctly Evangelion flavor, of course.

Set to open November 16 in Ikebukuro, the ‘Evangelion Pub’ will be serving up more than 30 different Evangelion-themed food and drink items for fans of the series to enjoy. The menu will draw inspiration from scenes and famous lines from the series for its offerings, such as the “I Mustn't Run Away! Super Spicy Mapo Tofu Bowl” and the “Anta Bataaa? Asuka’s Corn Butter” dish. 


Furthermore, the various drinks on offer - many of which are themed after the Evangelion units themselves - are all only 390 yen, which makes the pub very competitive with the cheap prices of other, regular izakayas. What’s more is that ordering a drink will enter you into a prize draw, from which you can receive a special calendar for the year ahead.

And speaking of the year ahead, this year is a rather special one as it will mark the last year of the ‘Heisei’ era, with Japan’s current Emperor abdicating at the end of the year, thus bringing in a new, as of yet unnamed era presided over by his son, Naruhito. To ring in the end of this historic period, the pub will also be hosting an event with none other than Yoko Takahashi on December 26, who lent her voice to the series’ original opening song, A Cruel Angel’s Thesis. 

Other events are set to be announced (including a ‘rock-paper-scissors grand tournament’) so keep your eye on the official Evangelion website for more details, here. The full menu for the pub can also be found here. You’ll have until January 6, 2019, to check it out.

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