To be clear, Blik-0 1946 is not a game or an app, but instead a book with accompanying music. This puts me in both a unique position, and an awkward one. While I’m familiar with the author’s prior musical works (as so many are), I do not have much experience in reading and reviewing children’s books.
Blik-0 1946 is written and scored by Nobuo Uematsu, famed composer of the Final Fantasy game series among other accomplishments. It is illustrated by Hiroki Ogawa, who has both an artistic and musical background. Blik-0 is the story of a scientist that makes a weaponized robot to be used during World War II. The robot is built with a brain and a heart, so it can both learn and feel. The Doctor, who loves his creation and fears what it could do, pacifies the robot and makes instead a companion. Blik-0, his robot, then goes on a journey about learning what it means to be human and to deal with human emotions.
The story is in many ways similar to Pinocchio, in that it features a typically non-living object that has human emotions and thoughts. He wants desperately to be human, and even manages to fall in love. It deals with sacrifice, separation, depression… There are many somber tones scattered throughout the book, and indeed it is a fairly sad tale. For the sake of not spoiling things, I won’t discuss the plot that much as it is a short book. But I can tell you I was disappointed.
Having a story authored by someone who has been so close to so many great narrative projects, it seems out of place to have an almost lifeless plot, even if the book is about a robot. The setting is irrelevant, and the story could have taken place at any time. The overall writing structure can be a tad confusing, with long dialogues just zipping back and forth between participants without clarification on who is talking. It can be dizzying at times.
The illustrations consist of very muted, earthy tones, all of them featuring Blik-0 in some regards. While they are cute and sometimes quite charming, they are inconsistent. Some feel like simple sketches, while others really pull you into the scene. When the illustrations are good, they are great. When they aren’t, they are completely forgettable.
The music that comes with the book consists of three tracks. The first, which shares a title with the book, is easily the best of the three and is played at the beginning prior to reading a single word. With staccato drums picking away behind a haunting melody, this is prime Nobuo. As the track moves into a happier movement, it eventually collides with the chaos of the drums before. It is definitely a track worthy of any of the games he has composed before, and those who appreciate his music will feel right at home here. It sets the tone for a dramatic story, and opportunity that the authoring simply doesn’t deliver on.
The other two tracks, Ah, But Why? and So Close feature robotic Japanese voices serenading the reader to very happy electronic music. The first of the two feels a tad flat, a melody in the bass with a constant rain of electronic treble breaks away to the main melody. It feels like a very pop-meets-synthesizer mash up, but it lacks the charm of the final track and the depth of the first.
So Close‘s robotic duet is extremely enjoyable. A very high-toned love song between two objects that shouldn’t feel love, the slow beats and soft background tones really make this feel like a great ending theme to the book. Both songs have the lyrics translated for you in the book, so you never have to worry about missing out on the meaning.
While the book is a bit lackluster, the music can definitely be worth the listen, and some might even find themselves adding this to their soundtracks for playing a game like Portal. All three tracks are available for purchase independently of the book on the iTunes store, so if you are just looking to listen and don’t care for the story, that option is available to you.
As far as stories go, this one lacks some substance. The illustrations are hit-and-miss, but it’s the music that’s the main attraction here. Anyone recognizing the name Nobuo Uematsu would be remiss not to at least give the soundtrack a try on iTunes, but the story does add some context to that final track that is oh-so-sweet.