A review of A New World: Music from Final Fantasy – seven leading pieces from the Brisbane performance.

The New World Players perform music arranged from the 30 year history of Final Fantasy. These eleven musicians, and one conductor in Arnie Roth, toured through Australia before their international tour continues overseas. This post is a short review of the Brisbane performance, and a list of some of the Final Fantasy pieces the ensemble performed.

Their sound allowed the audience a chance to hear the music of Final Fantasy in a new way, which I guess is where the title “New Worlds” stems from.

Alternatively, several of these pieces were new, and performed for the first time in Australia, or performed for the first time worldwide.

Some of the leading pieces, those I thought defined the event, that the ensemble performed that night were:

1. Two Final Fantasy traditions – The Victory Fanfare and the Chocobo Medley

An exacting string section, precise percussion, and energetic brass and woodwind performers worked together flawlessly alongside a solo guitarist (and ukulele expert!) to strike up a brilliant version of these well know themes. The victory fanfare marks the end of each battle in the Final Fantasy games. Hearing it live gives an insight into the technical work behind even the simple or smaller musical scores. Chocobo’s, for example, are brought to life with a simple but playful melody, which the Ukulele expert played with chill precision, and a bit of swagger.

2. The Gold Saucer piano arrangement

Benyamin Nuss’ solo piano performance invigorated and expounded the sounds and themes of Final Fantasy. In particular, Nuss premiered a piano arrangement of the Gold Saucer theme from Final Fantasy Seven, and it was a fun surprise. Nuss other performance from Final Fantasy Seven stunned the audience.

3.The Those Who Fight piano arrangement

This and high energy battle theme performed close to the end of the second act turned the piano keys from fiery to incandescent. Nuss’ high-speed performance earned lengthy applause from the audience.

5. Temple of Chaos theme

Audience members can find a closer glimpse into the technical construction of each piece. Delving into history, an arrangement of the Chaos Shrine from the first Final Fantasy game displayed the technical brilliance of the New World Players, and the attention to detail that series composer Nobuo Uematsu, and Tsuyoshi Sekito.

6. Ivalice Landscapes

An arrangement of separate pieces from Final Fantasy Twelve marked the end of the first act. It wove a journey through the vast and complex world of Ivalice, from the Estersands, through the Salika wood, to the booming waves of the Phon Coast, into the gloom of the Feywood, and away through the mists of Nabudis. This was definitely an exotic and moving piece.

7. Safe Haven (Camp Theme)

From the first game, all the way to the most recent game in the series, the performance include a piece from Final Fantasy Fifteen, which is impressive, considering the game was released only recently in November, 2016. A relaxed arrangement of Tetsuya Shibata’s music, which contrasted with the more active and emotional sounds in the performance such as To Zanarkand, and the popular One Winged Angel.

Overall, the sound quality was polished, capturing the atmosphere of adventure, whimsy, and magic embodied in the music of Final Fantasy. For more information on the Final Fantasy New Worlds tour, the ensemble website has more information.

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Comics Review – Earth 2 #14

Earth 2 #14: Battle Cry

(Some minor poilers for Earth 2 #14 follow)

The heroes from Earth 2 are taking the fight to Steppenwolf – the villain behind the catastrophic, worldwide attack that saw the death of Earth 2 Batman, Earth 2 Superman, and Earth 2 Wonder Woman. The comic book steps up it’s pace, and has remarkable and high-profile artwork

The comic book characters found on Earth 2 were created under the shade of World War two. Comics writer Gardner Fox conceived of the Justice Society in the winter of 1940, after the war in Europe began. In that year, the war in Europe began, and comic books mirrored the changes in society around them.

Art

Two full page artworks feature some of the best artwork on Earth 2 so far, and point out just how different the World Army is from Alan Scott’s fledgeling society.

The Society – The Green Lantern, Doctor Fate, and The Flash – fly across a field of long, green grass. They are on their way to fight against Steppenwolf. Energy and air displaced by The Flash’s high speed running creates a blur effect, and a negative space in the artwork as the grass is brushed aside, which draws the reader’s eye around the page. Colours here are ecstatic and varied: midnight blue, viridian, crimson, gold, sky blue. Combined with the penciling, it’s a startling image.

The World Army group – The Sandmen, Red Arrow, and the Atom – decimate the field. Steppenwolf’s army and the grass they stand on, burn down to brown kindling, ash and charcoal. Thunderclouds fill the sky, and the Atom’s giant-sized fists glow orange. Red, Orange, and Yellow are traditionally warning colours, and they are on display here. Since many of these character designs were drafted over a year ago, seeing them matched together now indicates good long term planning. The abundance of black further underscores the stealth of the characters, and their dark prowess.

Panels two and three of the second last page are significant. The comic art follows the actions to the second, as we see Wesley Dodds – The Sandman – with his gun raised. The following panel has the gun lowered, removed from the panel. As the eye moves across the page, the effect of time passing, of seconds ticking by, conveys the power of the moment: Dodds is not going to attack Allan and his allies.

Cast

Wesley Dodds leads a group of spies known as the Sandmen. This is based on the 1940’s character “The Sandman”, who’s signature crime fighting style was anaesthetic gas, which he used to render criminals unconscious – the sandman sending miscreants to the land of dreams.

Earth 2 sees Dodds reinterpreted as more stand-offish, and with a desire to lead.

Alan Scott – Green Lantern – notices that Dodds has established himself as the leader of a group that dresses like him, and looks up to him for orders and direction. Indeed, the other heroes of the world army – Red Arrow and The Atom – ask Dodds for approval before acting.

Scott chooses to defer to Dodd’s leadership. This diplomatic move serves well, as Dodds lowers his weapon, and seems to  accept that Doctor Fate, The Flash, and The Green Lantern are on the side of the World Army.

What this says about Alan Scott’s character is he has an ability to appraise a situation, and his pick up on others desires and wants. The outcome of the war could conclude with the return of the Justice Society to DC Comics. Alan Scott would make an ideal leader.

Themes, Ethics, Values.

Issue #14 of earth 2 marks the beginning of the war that defines the Justice Society of Earth 2 – The fight against Steppenwolf. There are themes of propaganda, and of the costs of war, in addition to some ideas on cooperation.

Commander Amar Khan of the World Army, who makes a brief appearance, states that he was reluctant to take the war to Steppenwolf. Doctor Fate comments on the costs of war, but seems eager to head directly to Steppenwolf to start the fight.

Green Lantern and his allies started the comic on the run from the world army – he comments that if they fight Steppenwolf, his broadcasting corporation – a worldwide media force – can spin and publisise their war effort positively.

Propaganda and war costs are touched on, briefly but no elaborated. It’s the comic’s artwork that holds more meaning: the contrast in tone between the Justice Society and the World army is a comment about the values of acting openly and with transparency, versus stealthy and secretive tactics.

Transparency is a positive and empowering. Secrecy is negative, dark, and subversive: standing in the way of cooperation.

 A Bit more on Earth 2 #14

Where is Hawkgirl? While the diversity of the cast has gone through re-drafting and overhaul after a bout of long term planning from DC comics, the heroes on the battlefield are white, male characters. Granted their age, sexuality, and psychology has diversified, but there are still no women here. It’s like the message is that female heroes can’t fight wars.

This is the start of a war that will define Earth 2 – more characters are on the way to lend their support. It promises to be a story worth reading again in a trade paper back format.

Earth 2 #14 is published by DC Comics ($2.99). James Robinson (w). Nicola Scott (p). Trevor Scott (i). Pete Pantazis (c).