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Marvel at SDCC 2019: Phase 4 and Beyond

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Marvel went above and beyond expectations with their Hall H presentation at this year’s San Diego Comic Con. With announcements of movies and television productions for the next few years, we got a good look at what Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is shaping up to be, so let’s take a look at everything announced and teased. We will start with the film reveals, and follow those with the upcoming array of Marvel shows.

Black Widow

Release Date: May 1st 2020

Directed by Cate Shortland

Written by Jac Schaeffer and Ned Benson

Starring Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/ Black Widow, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/ Red Guardian, O.T Fagbenle as Rick Mason, and Rachel Weisz as Melina

After years of high demand for a Black Widow solo movie, we finally got some concrete details during the Marvel panel, as well as some new cast member confirmations and a release date for the long-awaited title. Rumours suggest that the film will explore Natasha’s previously mentioned excursions in Budapest, an event that both Black Widow and Hawkeye have referenced in The Avengers and Avengers: Endgame. One notable confirmation from the panel was that the film will be set after Captain America: Civil War and before Avengers: Infinity War. Some brief footage shown at SDCC which revealed the film’s main antagonist: the classic Marvel villain Taskmaster.

Black Widow has always been a character shrouded in mystery, with a few glimpses here and there of her backstory. Despite the character first coming to the big screen in Iron Man 2 over ten years ago, we still don’t have a full grasp on her character. After her death in Endgame, it seemed like she would forever remain an enigma due to her sacrifice, but Black Widow is an opportunity to delve into her character one last time before she bows out of the MCU (presumably??). Here’s hoping that her solo movie will not only be the female-driven narrative we have been waiting for, but also a film that gives Natasha the justice she deserves.

Eternals

Release Date: November 6th 2020

Directed by Chloe Zhao

Written by Matthew K. Firpo and Ryan Firpo

Starring Angelina Jolie as Thena, Richard Madden as Ikaris, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, Salma Hayek as Ajak, Lia McHugh as Sprite, and Don Lee as Gilgamesh

The Eternals movie was announced back in April 2018, and at SDCC we got confirmation for the cast members and director. The Eternals are a strand of humanity with superhuman resilience and strength (as well as other more individual abilities) created by Celestials after experimentation on archaic humans millions of years ago. They defend the Earth from various threats, including Deviants, who are the evil versions of the Eternals created at the same time by the Celestials. Other than that, little is known about where the story is going to go. Kevin Feige said in 2018 that he wanted the story to focus on the characters Ikaris and Sersei, but details at the moment are pretty limited. More info is likely be released next year, as it is the second film in the Phase 4 lineup.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Release Date: February 12th 2021

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Written by David Callaham

Starring Simu Liu as Shang-Chi and Tony Leung Chiu-wai as The Mandarin. Also starring Awkwafina in an undisclosed role.

Shang-Chi has been in line for his own movie for a fair amount of time now. Stan Lee wanted to make a movie back in the 1980s with Brandon Lee in the title role, but thirty years later, the Marvel martial arts expert is finally get a film of his own. The character is known for his martial arts abilities, earning himself the title of Master of Kung-Fu. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may sound like a mouthful compared to most Marvel movie titles, but this one has some particularly interesting implications. The Ten Rings are a terrorist organisation in both the comics and movies, and they have been directly affecting the main players of the MCU for years — such as Tony Stark, who they kidnapped in Iron Man under direction from Obadiah Stane.

It seems like a direct confrontation with the terrorists has been a long time coming, and the Shang-Chi film will be tackling it head on. Another interesting element of Shang-Chi is that it is introducing the real Mandarin (rather than the phony actor one from Iron Man 3). The Mandarin is a well-known villain from the comic, and whilst the Iron Man 3 version was a unique twist on the character, fans of his comic book iteration are sure to be pleased that he is finally getting a proper introduction in the MCU.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Release Date: May 7th 2021

Directed by Scott Derrickson.

The writer has yet to be confirmed.

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange, Benedict Wong as Wong, and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch

Although it hasn’t been confirmed as of yet, Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejiofor may well be reprising their roles as Christine Palmer and Baron Mordo.

Another rather monstrous mouthful of a title, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will be the sequel to the 2016 Doctor Strange, which introduced the Sorcerer Supreme to the MCU, as well as expanded on the concept of magic.  Taking place in a post-Endgame world, the film will see Doctor Strange on a journey through the multiple universes that were hinted at by the various timelines and travel between them in Endgame. The good doctor won’t be alone on his travels either. Wanda Maximoff, also known as Scarlet Witch, has also been confirmed to be a part of the sequel. This could be interesting, as Stephen Strange could easily take up a mentoring role for Maximoff, whose magic appears to be getting stronger in every film that she is in (she almost singlehandedly took down Thanos in Endgame). The two could make for an interesting double act due to their powers.

Kevin Feige also announced that the film would be Marvels first horror movie, which could be an exciting new genre to add to the MCU. With director Scott Derrickson confirming that the villain Nightmare (the creepy Dream Dimension leader who thrives on torturing dreaming humans) will be included in the film, it seems like Multiverse of Madness could be a completely fresh take on Marvel’s superhero formula. It also has an interesting link to one of the upcoming Disney+ Marvel shows, but more on that later.

Thor: Love and Thunder

Release Date: November 5th 2021

Directed and written by Taika Waititi

Starring Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie.

The quirky titles just keep coming with the last film announcement officially confirmed for Phase 4. Thor: Love and Thunder will be the fourth Thor film in the MCU, and Taika Waititi will once again be returning to the director’s chair. One of the biggest surprises of the Hall H presentation was Waititi announcing that Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster will be taking the mantle of Thor at some point in the film, becoming a female Thor similar to the The Mighty Thor storyline from the comics. The introduction of a new Thor makes it likely that Chris Hemsworth will be stepping down from the role, possibly to do some adventuring with the Guardians of the Galaxy, seeing as he left with them at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Portman has some big shoes to fill if this is the case, but it is refreshing to see a female take over a leading superhero role from a male.

Another big reveal from the panel was the Valkyrie will be the first LGBTQ superhero in the MCU. Whilst LGBTQ characters have been suggested in the MCU before, Valkyrie is the first major character to be confirmed as such. It is encouraging to see such a major studio bringing more diversity to their films, both on and off screen (many of the Phase 4 films have brought on female directors as well as directors and writers from different backgrounds and ethnicities). After being crowned as king of New Asgard, Valkyrie will be searching for her queen in Love and Thunder (I have my fingers crossed for Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel taking up the position). It looks like Thor: Love and Thunder could shake up the MCU in a creative and contemporary way, with a good deal of eccentricity thrown into the mix thanks to Taika Waititi’s unique and hilarious style.

Blade

Starring Mahershala Ali

The last announcement in Hall H was the confirmation that Marvel is developing a new Blade movie with Mahershala Ali in the title role.  Nothing else is known besides that, but it was a great surprise to top off the vast array of Marvel news that we were given. Ali is a superb actor and a brilliant choice for the part. It’s awesome to see him join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s hoping that we get more news on the new Blade film soon.

Kevin Feige confirmed that we will also see Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 in Phase 5 of the MCU, and hinted at new Fantastic Four and Mutants movies.

***

Whilst this was a big presentation for movies, there was also a good deal announced in regards to a slew of Marvel series set for Disney +. Let’s take a look at what Marvel will be bringing to the small screen in the upcoming years.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

Release Date: Autumn 2020

Directed by Kari Skogland

Written by Malcolm Spellman and Derek Kolstad

Executive Producer: Kevin Feige

Starring Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Solider, Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, and Daniel Brühl as Zemo.

The first of several Marvel shows that will be exclusive to Disney’s upcoming streaming service, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is pretty self-explanatory in that it will focus on Sam Wilson (Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) from the Captain America and Avengers movies. As to what the show could entail, I have no doubt that the role of Captain America will play a significant part. With Steve Rogers choosing to live out his life with Peggy Carter in an alternate timeline at the end of Avengers: Endgame, the helm of Captain America is currently unmanned. It is suggested that Sam will take the role, as a now-old Steve hands over his infamous shield to him at the end of Endgame.

However, both Sam and Bucky have taken up the shield in the comics, so it is possible that the title role could go either way. The characters have had some pretty funny interactions with one another, being brought together by their separate friendships with Steve, and having something of a love/hate (but mostly hate) relationship. A ‘buddy cop’ style of show wouldn’t go amiss for their personalities, but a more serious tone could also work if done well. From what we’ve heard so far, it seems to be more of a political thriller style show, possibly in the same vein as Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

The plot will certainly have strong ties to the MCU, which is suggested by the return of Daniel Brühl as Zemo from Captain America: Civil War. With the creator of the John Wick series on board as a writer, we know the show will have some incredible action sequences, and hopefully some interesting character development for its title characters.

WandaVision

Release Date: Spring 2021

Jac Schaeffer as showrunner and writer of the pilot episode.

Executive Producer: Kevin Feige

Starring Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch, Paul Bettany as Vision, and Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau.

The romance between the Vision and Scarlet Witch was one of the more important plot points of Avengers: Infinity War, and this relationship is sure to be expanded on in WandaVision. The show will be set after Avengers: Endgame, but little else is known. There are a few different ways in which the show could go, however, as the two characters were a couple in the comics for a good long while. In fact, they were even married and had children. Could the show demonstrate their domestic lives? One main obstacle of this theory is the fact that Vision is currently dead, of course, but with his name in the title of the show itself, he is sure to be brought back somehow.

In Infinity War, we see Shuri finish her work on Vision just before Thanos’s army invades and the mind stone is ripped from Vision’s head. Obviously the plan fails when Thanos snaps half the universe into oblivion, but with the world being restored after Endgame, perhaps Shuri will be the one to bring Vision back? No matter how he comes back, what is certain is that the android will be reunited with Wanda. Feige stated in the presentation that WandaVision is unlike anything that Marvel has ever done, which makes it all the more appealing. The show may well be a unique take on classic romance whilst also incorporating some sci-fi or mystical elements due to Vision’s robotic nature and Wanda’s growing powers.

The show will also have some links to other MCU films, with Teyonah Parris playing a grownup version of Monica Rambeau (Carol’s adopted niece) from Captain Marvel. The show will also play a part in the lead-up to Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, in which Scarlet Witch will play a role. Perhaps we will see Vision there too, or Doctor Strange making an appearance on the show? Scarlet Witch is a personal favourite character of mine, so I’m looking forward to this one.

Loki

Release Date: Spring 2021

No writer or director confirmed yet.

Executive Producer: Kevin Feige

Starring Tom Hiddleston as Loki.

Arguably the most anticipated Marvel show coming out, Loki will follow the god of mischief, who gained something of a cult following after his introduction in the first Thor film. After Loki had his neck snapped by Thanos in Infinity War, we thought we had seen the last of him; however, when the Avengers in Endgame travel back in time to the 2012 Avengers film, we see Loki escape from custody following his fight with them, Tesseract (the space stone) in tow. Kevin Feige confirmed that this alternate Loki is who the show will focus on, as he jumps around various time eras (and possibly dimensions)

That is all we know so far, but it is an interesting premise considering it could create multiple timelines with various different events, depending on just how much trouble Loki gets himself into. It could also be interesting to see how different this Loki will be from the one who was throttled by Thanos, as he hasn’t gone through the character arcs he had in Thor: The Dark World or Thor: Ragnarok. This is 2012 Loki, who is still very much hellbent on villainy rather than the slightly calmer and more tolerant Loki who was killed. Loki may well be a fantasy-based show or have a more comedic element, but we will have to wait until more details emerge.

What If…?

Release Date: Summer 2021

Executive Producer: Kevin Feige

Starring Jeffrey Wright as The Watcher. Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier, Josh Brolin as Thanos, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, Sean Gunn as Kraglin Obfonteri, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine, Taika Waititi as Korg, Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, Djimon Hounsou as Korath he Pursuer, Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster, Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta, and Chris Sullivan as Taserface.

In the only animated series in the line-up, What If…?  will be similar to the comic book series of the same name in that it will delve into various alternate realities within the Marvel Universe. Like the comics, the show will be narrated by Uata the Watcher (voiced here by Jeffrey Wright). Watchers are extra-terrestrial beings tasked with gaining knowledge of the universe, and Uata has the ability to see multiple realities, making him the perfect narrator for the “What If” stories. The comics touched on several interesting alternate storylines, such as “What If Gwen Stacey Had Lived?” and “What If Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four?” and “What If Iron Man had been a Traitor?”

The show will likely be incorporating more of the MCU into the show rather than the comics due to the cast and the characters who are set to be initially involved, but the possibilities are vast for this series, and it may well end up following some stories from the comics if it is successful. With at least 25 MCU actors reprising their roles for the show (I’ve listed the confirmed cast above), and no doubt more to be announced, What If…? is a project that could be a dream for long-time fans of the comic series — animation and MCU fans alike.

Hawkeye

Release Date: Autumn 2021

No writer or director confirmed as of yet.

Executive Producer:  Kevin Feige

Starring Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye

Hawkeye has always been relentlessly mocked for his role in The Avengers. He fought alongside a genius/billionaire/playboy/philanthropist in a super suit, a super solider who has punched Nazis, a literal God, a giant, green superhuman, and an ex-Russian spy who could kill you with a glance. All the while, he was there with his bow and arrow. Well, who’s laughing now?? Still everyone probably, but at least Hawkeye is getting some rightfully deserved love and attention with the announcement of his very own Disney + show, humbly named Hawkeye.

Hawkeye will focus on Clint Barton training up his protégé from the comic books, Kate Bishop, to take over the mantle of Hawkeye following the events of Avengers: Endgame. This could be a good way to lead into the Young Avengers in some way, either via television or film, as Kate was a prominent member of the team in the comics. The show will also explore Clint’s time as the assassin, Ronin, a persona he took on after losing his family to Thanos’s snap in Infinity War. This is a good way to delve more into a side of Hawkeye that we only got a glimpse of in Endgame — the ruthless and merciless side. It could also explore Clint dealing with the grief of losing Natasha in Endgame, as the two were incredibly close, and her death is sure to have taken a toll on him.

There is no confirmation as to whether the rest of the cast will return to play his family, or who will be taking on the role of Kate Bishop, but we will be keeping an eye out for details as they are announced.

To watch the best bits of the Hall H Marvel Presentation, check out the video below.

Antonia Haynes resides in a small seaside town in England where she has lived her whole life. She's a simple girl with a passion for zombies, writing, film, television, drawing, superheroes, Disney and, of course, video games. Her ideal day would consist of junk food, fluffy pyjamas and video games because quite frankly going outside is overrated. Follow her on Twitter on @RainbowMachete

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Let’s Discuss the Revamped Sonic the Hedgehog Design

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The internet has breathed a collective sigh of relief following the release of a new trailer for the upcoming Sonic The Hedgehog movie. Some leaks a few weeks back that turned out to be correct showed the design that we see but the trailer shows a lot more of the new redesign of the world renowned video game character. The movie has been the subject of much attention-mostly negative- after the initial trailer was released six months ago. The first trailer (which initially announced a release date of November 2019) was incredibly poorly received due to the odd design choice for the titular character. With small eyes, a tiny snout and human teeth, the original design was weirdly realistic and resembled an odd humanoid rather than the blue cartoon hedgehog that we all know and love.

The first design for Sonic looked a bit like a child in a Sonic the Hedgehog suit. Creepy to say the least.

The new trailer shows off a brand new look for Sonic which is far more in sync with what we already know for the character. He is definitely an animated character, with the exaggerated features that he has always had in every other iteration. The movie itself still looks cheesy as hell but it looks like a tolerable, even kind of enjoyable sort of cheesy.  The controversy surrounding the terribly received first Sonic design has been so prolific that some even argued that the whole thing has been a marketing ploy and that the character was never meant to look as bad as he originally did. Whatever the case may be in terms of what went down behind the scenes of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, it is clear that even if the film is terrible it will attract a substantial audience of people just curious as to how the whole thing is going to turn out. As a fan of Sonic since the 90’s when I was little, I’m probably going to be one of those people.

Sonic is now appropriately cute, fluffy and more in line with his usual style.

I’m still kind of hoping it can break the curse of the video game movie-like Detective Pikachu did- but alongside the aforementioned cheesiness, it looks like a pretty generic movie aimed at kids rather than diehard fans of the Sonic franchise. Flop or not, at least Sonic is looking far more adorable and less like he might murder you in your sleep. It also shows how the filmmakers were willing to listen to their audience and implement changes following feedback. Incredibly vocal feedback at that.

The comparison between the two designs shows just how much the animators have worked to create a brand new Sonic. Their hard work has certainly paid off.

Sonic the Hedgehog is due for theatrical release on February 14th, 2020.

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Anamanaguchi – [USA] (Album Review)

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Few acts boast such renown amongst uber-nerdy video game enthusiasts as Anamanaguchi. Unveiling their debut EP ‘Power Supply’ in 2009, the Chiptune pioneers have pushed their unique brand of 8-bit powered Rock and Pop across various releases, including 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game soundtrack, and 2013’s Kickstarter funded 22 track LP ‘Endless Fantasy’. And with ‘Endless Fantasy’ being their last LP (excluding their stuffed to the brim ‘Capsule Silence XXIV’ compilations), to say fans have anticipated ‘[USA]’ is an almighty understatement.

Six years is a while, so has Anamanaguchi’s latest batch of tracks been worth the wait? Seasoned fans Harry and Kyle are on the scene to offer their takes, from how ‘[USA]’ stacks up against the band’s other offerings, to its effectiveness as an artistic whole.

Background With Anamanaguchi

I first heard Anamanaguchi around 2010. At the time I was neck deep in my Slipknot phase (a phase I’ve yet to grow out of judging by how much I replayed ‘We Are Not Your Kind’ this year), so their goofy electronic schtick didn’t tick my boxes. But as time passed I developed a stronger fondness of them, so much so that I enthusiastically backed their 2013 LP ‘Endless Fantasy’ on Kickstarter. Now I’ve seen them live twice, followed their progress over the years, and can proudly proclaim my superfan status. – Harry

The late 2000s saw a shift in pop culture: suddenly, geek chic was all the rage. G4 was at the height of its popularity, pixel art infested countless pieces of media, and video games were undeniably cool. Few other pieces of media encapsulate this cultural zeitgeist more than Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game. Based on the popular comic by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the Scott Pilgrim game featured Anamanaguchi’s crunchy pixelated Rock sound, which melded perfectly with the colorful 16-bit beat-em’-up gameplay. Older Anamanaguchi albums are more than just music: they’re a trip back in time to a brighter, more innocent era of pop culture and gaming. – Kyle

Introducing [USA]

I was excited for ‘[USA]’, but that’s stating the obvious based on my prior words. The LP kicks off with its titular track, introducing affairs with an amalgamation of predictably glitchy bleeps ‘n’ bloops. It’s straight up Anamanaguchi, their Chiptune flair intact. This is good, as Anamanaguchi sans Chiptune is like spaghetti sans sauce (still awesome, but lacking a key ingredient). “USA” is chanted as instrumentation morphs stylistically, crescendoing in dynamics and tempo, and setting the stage for the lead single.

“Lorem Ipsum (Arctic Anthem)” is an LP highlight. Stepping out the gate with Vocaloid-y singing, an aesthetic of grandiose gorgeousness is speedily cemented. This later juxtaposes with the rapid-fire rhythms of Luke’s drumming and manic synthesizer arpeggios that run around like an 8-bit-ified (Sega Master System) Sonic the Hedgehog. This mental meld of melody, Drum and bass, and all manner of other musical magic finally sinks into a sea of atmospheric spookiness, concluding in an out of left field (yet utterly engaging) way. “Lorem Ipsum (Arctic Anthem)” avoids predictability through each and every beat of its journey, but nails catchy accessibility to a tee. A masterclass in creative songwriting, it sets ‘[USA]’s’ bar sky high. – Harry

The weeks to ‘[USA]’ releasing were positive ones, marked by enticing singles like “Lorem Ipsum (Arctic Anthem)” and “Air On Line”. Anamanaguchi’s distinct Rock-flavored Chiptune style had undergone a stylistic shift in the band’s 2013 release ‘Endless Fantasy’, where the band shed off some of its punk flair in favor of dreamier synth tones. In the six years between LP releases, Anamanaguchi experimented with singles and EPs featuring sonic palettes characteristic of modern J-Pop (“Pop It”, “Miku”). While the band stretched its legs with poppier beats, it did mark a further departure from the traditional Rock-oriented sound that had defined much of their earlier work.

‘[USA]’ in many respects displays a return to Anamanaguchi’s roots. Tracks like “On My Own (feat. HANA)” and “Air On Line” boast driving guitar riffs, thumping drums, and fluidly complex intricacies. Yet, it’s more than clear that Anamanaguchi has evolved beyond their geeky beginnings to cultivate an airy soundscape of bright pastel colors and crystal clear tones. It doesn’t always hit the mark, but the highs that ‘[USA]’ can reach prove that the guys have still got it. – Kyle

Negative Bits

Unfortunately, said sky high bar is scarcely met again throughout the rest of ‘[USA]’. Plenty of tracks, like “The C R T Woods” and “Overwriting Incorporate”, are serviceable, but fall short of the laser focused compositional direction and melodic magnificence that Anamanaguchi are so super slick at. ‘[USA]’ suffers from banality, with tracks like “Tear” and “We Die” meandering noisily without focus, and big chunks (particularly the interlude-like tracks “Speak To You [Memory Messengers]” and “Apophenia Light [Name Eaters]”) feeling akin to ‘Capsule Silence XXIV’ cuts (i.e. decent demos, but not kickass LP standouts). – Harry

Much like Harry, I found a large chunk of the album rather dull to get through. Admittedly, Anamanaguchi has an undeniable talent for their synth instrumentation. However, what pushes their work beyond generic electronic music is their ability to anchor that instrumentation to a melodic through line built on catchy hooks and unexpected turns. “Lorem Ipsum (Arctic Anthem)” is one of the few tracks that manages to pull off this floaty, ethereal sound because it moves forward with purpose and constantly engages your curiosity. The same can’t be said for several of the other synth-heavy tracks, too lost in their own sound to offer anything truly engaging. – Kyle

Positive Bits

Nevertheless, there are flashes of brilliance here. “Sunset By Plane (feat. Caroline Lufkin)” is Anamanaguchi firing on all cylinders, delivering energetic poppy bombast in spades. Porter Robinson’s co production is evident in “Air On Line”, resulting in a smooth stomper of happy hooks. “B S X (feat. Hatsune Miku)” incorporates choppily glitched-out singing from the iconic Vocaloid, serving as a pseudo-sequel to the 2016 single “Miku”. “On My Own (feat. HANA)” sees Anamanaguchi’s Chiptune/Pop/Rock melting pot bubbling away again. And speaking of Chiptune, it’s wonderful to hear mountains of 8-bit eccentricity throughout ‘[USA]’, proving even as their sound matures, Anamanaguchi still celebrate where they came from with beaming pixelated smiles. – Harry

As a whole, ‘[USA]’ still deserves a place worthy of praise in Anamanaguchi’s discography. Porter Robinson only collaborated with the band for “Air On Line”, but his style bleeds wonderfully into tracks like “Up to You (feat. meesh)” and “Sunset By Plane (feat. Caroline Lufkin)”. The kawaii-infused J-Pop rhythms and hooks are infectiously catchy, but don’t let that fool you: Anamanaguchi haven’t lost their edge. “B S X (feat. Hatsune Miku)” and “On My Own (feat. HANA)” show that the band can reach back into their deep musical pockets and bring out their signature hard Chiptune Rock to surprise you with something intimately familiar. – Kyle

Final Thoughts

In typical Anamanaguchi fashion, ‘[USA]’ is ambitious from start to finish. ‘Endless Fantasy’ is bloated, but stylistically spot on, whereas ‘[USA]’ trims the fat, but gets a little lost in its journey. Glistening gold sits alongside stale pies, and that description is a fitting metaphor for elements of ‘[USA]’: it’s odd, and doesn’t make much sense (and perhaps that in itself is a metaphor for the real life USA?).

Still, when Anamanaguchi’s latest is good, it’s really good, and there’s bundles of genius in the 8-bit boys yet!

Check out, stream, buy or consume ‘[USA]’ in your preferred capacity by clicking HERE!

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Star Wars Fan Films Embrace the Essence of A Galaxy Far, Far Away

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There is no doubt that dedicated fans are capable of creating brilliant, fan-made content, but the Star Wars fan base has a habit of going above and beyond in making incredible works of art that often surpass official entries in the franchise. Two relatively recent short fan films — one released last week, the other released in March of this year — are great examples of this.

The first is a 1970s/80s-style cartoon from YouTuber Wilkins Animation called Dark Empire Episode One: The Destiny of a Jedi. This animated short is incredibly reminiscent of classic cartoons — so much so that it is difficult not to feel a pang of nostalgia upon watching it. The style gives off a He-Man vibe due to the quirky animation, stellar voice work, and vibrant colour scheme. The story is set after The Return of The Jedi as Han, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO embark on a mission to save Luke and Lando, who are stranded on war-torn Coruscant. I won’t spoil anything in case you want to check it out for yourself, but the story is engaging, and I couldn’t help but feel that I wanted to see more when it came to an end.

Have a watch below if you want to see more, and to check out Wilkins Animation’s Patreon to support their work, click here.

The second fan made film is a slightly older (from March 2019) one called Battle of the Dreadnoughts, by YouTuber EckhartsLadder. The film is significantly shorter than the 12-minute Dark Empire cartoon, clocking in at about three and a half minutes. It depicts a space battle between the New Republic’s Viscount Class Star Defender and the Empire’s most dangerous of all its weapons, the Eclipse Super Star Destroyer. Battle of the Dreadnoughts may be short, but it is astounding in quality. Upon my first viewing, I was certain I had accidentally clicked on a scene from the movies rather than a fan-made project. The accuracy, attention to detail, and sheer scale blew my mind and — as with the Dark Empire animation — left me wanting more from the content creators involved.

Check out EckhartsLadder’s Patreon here and their Twitch account here.

There is no doubting the talent of the Star Wars fan base, but these two films in particular are incredible works of art both in their own right and as Star Wars fan projects.

For more Star Wars, have a read of our Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer breakdown.

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