[Anime] Neon Genesis Evangelion – Review

evangelion-poster1This post is the final installation in a series of posts on Neon Genesis Evangelion and has no spoilers.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 can be found here.

Part 4 can be found here

Part 5 can be found here

Baring the conceits and contradictions of the human heart to the world has always been central to the success of any story. Even the simplest story needs something for its readership or audience to grab on to, to relate to, to buy into. We no longer live in simple times. Stories in our day and age are complex, cloak-and-dagger games of expectations and counter-expectations, building audience expectations while hiding authorial intent until the last possible moment.  Yet, a plot twist, no matter how ingenious in its conception, will still fall flat without a powerful core concept that resonates with the audience. Much of the success that Neon Genesis Evangelion has enjoyed, rests on its ability to expose in its characters the ugly vulnerabilities that all of us know exist in ourselves. It is an intimately psychological story centring on mankind’s complicated relationship with the very borders that define them yet keep them apart. The greater story of an impending alien invasion and mankind’s struggle to survive is ultimately little more than window dressing, a mechanism that allows for an exploration of the human condition within the bounds of the story.

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[Book] Mistborn: The Final Empire – Brandon Sanderson [2006]

Title: Mistborn: The Final Empire

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Published:  July 17, 2006

Rating: 8.0/10

What happens when a lovable criminal crew like the one in Ocean’s Eleven is tasked with taking down the evil Empire from Star Wars? You get the plot of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire and it is every bit as absorbing as it sounds. The book follows Vin, a street orphan with untold potential as she is pulled away from the harsh street life to a world of revolutions, intrigue and criminal activity. However, Mistborn isn’t just about mixing two very different genres together; in fact, that’s just the simplest way I have of introducing the otherwise layered and complex world that Sanderson has created. The book challenges some of fantasy’s oldest conventions, and when combined with Sanderson’s unique yet accessible world makes for an amazing opening to what promises to be an excellent trilogy.

Click here for full review

[Music] The Life of Pablo – Kanye West [2016]

tlopAlbum: The Life of Pablo

Artist: Kanye West

Released: 14 February, 2016

Rating: 6.5/10

If music is truly a reflection of its maker’s mind, then perhaps it really shouldn’t come as such a surprise that Kanye West’s latest effort, The Life of Pablo, is more mess than masterpiece. In an era where excellence in the genre is found in thoughtful, intricately assembled albums (To Pimp A Butterfly) and in powerful, avant garde production (Dirty Sprite 2), Kanye West’s confusing attempt at creativity misses both marks. The Life of Pablo, in truly Kanye fashion, draws parallels between figures as bafflingly disparate as Pablo Picasso, Pablo Escobar and Kanye West. The train of thought is clear; Kanye wants to show the constant struggle between his material and spiritual sides; a fight between his body and soul. It’s an interesting idea and if executed properly could have given the world another glimpse into Kanye’s infamously troubled psyche. Tragically, all the album amounts to is lost potential and a garbled message. The album is more experimental than any of West’s previous efforts, with a variety of styles and sounds deployed – and as is the case with any experiment, the results aren’t always pleasant. The trouble is that the album’s nature and diversity, along with the confused ideas Kanye infuses into it, leaves the album feeling scrambled, patchy and forgettable. Yet, for all that there are still bright spots to be found in The Life of Pablo even if most of the album is destined to be endured instead of enjoyed.

Click here for the review

[Books] 1984 – George Orwell

1984Title: 1984

Author: George Orwell

Genre: Political fiction

Rating: 8.5/10

There is little I can say that hasn’t already been said about the political and cultural impact of George Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984. Such is the stature of Orwell’s masterpiece that even today, almost 70 years since the novel’s publication and 30 years from the bleak future it depicted, the term ‘Orwellian’ is still routinely used to describe draconian laws and societies. There is much to say about the way this novel, more so than any other in the last century, has shaped the way the layman perceives his government but those essays have been written by authors more knowledgeable and insightful than myself. Yet, in focusing so heavily on the novel’s merits as an anti-totalitarian manifesto, its merits as a literary work sometimes lay forgotten. As a story, 1984 is a simple but unforgiving one; there is scare little optimism to be found in Orwell’s oppressive vision and the then-future world the novel depicts is just familiar enough to be deeply unsettling.

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[Music] Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples

summertime 06Album: Summertime ’06

Artist: Vince Staples

Released: 30th June, 2015

Rating: 6.5/10

Gangsta rap has been around, in some form or another, for the better part of the last 30 years and while the specific musical trends of the various hip-hop eras have come and gone in the intervening years, thematically, not a whole lot has changed. The artists involved have consistently maintained a certain pride in the harsh violence of the environment that raised them while still acknowledging that same environment’s desperate hopelessness. In this regard, it can feel like everything that Vince Staples says on his 2015 debut studio album, Summertime ’06, has been said before and better. Yet, there is an underlying current of listless resignation passing through much of the album that sets it apart from the confident defiance of its more storied predecessors in the genre. This despondence is accompanied, very fittingly, by some of veteran producer No I.D’s most intriguing production work – a sullen, suppressed resentment runs through the album’s sound and ties the whole project together very convincingly. The final product is far from perfect but it is a worthy attempt nonetheless.

Click here for the review

[Music] Overgrown – James Blake (2013)


homepage_large.b7213934Album:
 Overgrown

Artist: James Blake

Released: April 13th,  2013

Rating: 7.3/10

A crackling fire, hot chocolate and warm blankets on a cold day in the middle of winter – those the images that British electronic musician James Blake evokes in his sophomore album, Overgrown. Like its predecessor, Blake’s self-titled James Blake, Overgrown is introspective and creative but what the older siblings lacked in polish and overall cohesion, the younger sibling has in spades. In Overgrown, each track is like the centrepiece on a wedding table – carefully hand-sculpted in order to create precisely the kind of effect its multi-talented singer-songwriter creator had in mind. The result is an album that flows very naturally in a gentle stream of soulful melody, taking you on a journey through your own thoughts as Blake sings songs of loves lost. It is an album hauntingly beautiful in its melancholy, reminiscent at times of Radiohead in days long past; a yearning reminder that change comes for us all.

Click here for the review

[Music] Dopium – U-God (2009)

dopiumAlbum: Dopium

Artist: U-God

Released: June 23, 2009

Rating: 5.8/10

Good but just never good enough seems like the perfect way of describing U-God, his music and his career. Even when the legendary Wu-Tang Clan was at the height of its fame, U-God was never its most prominent member. In a collective filled with some of the most talented artists the genre had to offer, it seemed that he never had what it took to truly distinguish himself from his contemporaries. Unfortunately enough, he ended up just being known as that guy with the deep voice and his first solo album, Golden Arms Redemption, was lost in the torrent of Wu affiliated albums that saturated the hip-hop market in the late 90s. If you think that his 2009 release, Dopium, was created just to keep him even marginally relevant, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong but you would also be selling the album short. Dopium bears some of the hallmarks of the group’s early efforts but amazingly, none of the lethargic malaise that has tainted their more recent efforts. There are some solid bangers in this album and while U-God himself tends be stood up by his more talented guests, the album as a whole is altogether better than anyone would expect from a rapper long forgotten by the mainstream.

Click here for the review