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Death Stranded


One of the things we do here at punchup.com.au is to generate buzz. Most of the copy work we engage in is from companies seeking to create a general level of content and interest in a product they're releasing, so they engage people like us to create companion pieces that follow the general theme of the campaign without blatantly being advertised.


Recently we were asked to provide such a service for Death Stranding, the new game from the legendary Hideo Kojima. As it turned out, the client decided to go in a different direction to what we were originally engaged to provide, which is fine in a free society. No hard feelings, we're all professionals here.


But as a result of that the IP for the content we wrote reverted to hot little hands of punchup. It's gone back to the fatherland. And in the interests of our adoring public, we thought this was too much fun to sit around gathering dust. So here's some decommissioned content

for Death Stranding in which Damo goes on yet another of his extended rants about Pepsiman. Enjoy.


Many questions, few answers


In one of the most anticipated events of this decade, noted video game director/visionary/crazy person Hideo Kojima is back with a new title - Death Stranding.


As usual, it’s chock full of Kojima’s unique artistic style of ‘throw everything at the wall and see what sticks’.


For instance: ‘Why am I carrying around this creepy baby?’ you might ask. The real question is why every other game doesn’t have a creepy baby. There was a creepy baby-shaped hole in the universe and Hideo Kojima said ‘no, this will not do.’ Kojima is a lot less about ‘why’ and a lot more about ‘why the hell not’.


Why else would you have expectations if not to subvert them, after all?


Take the soundtrack to Death Stranding, for instance. What kind of soundtrack would one expect from a video game called Death Stranding, a tale of la condition humaine, set in the wasteland of a post-apocalyptic America where the dead roam free?


Would you expect some sort of baroque nightmare? Some sort of classical, orchestral score with strings and antique organs? A leitmotif of sorrow summoned into existence by the tortured genius of a Hans Zimmer or a Tyler Bates? No, this is Kojima we’re talking about.

Death Stranding’s soundtrack features artists such as Glaswegian synth-pop trio CHVRHES, whose bright and airy keyboards and lilting vocals contrast starkly with the heavy lore of Death Stranding. Then there’s the electro-pop of Au/ra, the tooth-rattling bass of Bring Me The Horizon, the gossamer vocals of Flora Cash. None of this is what one might have expected coming into a game with the words Death and Stranding in the title.

Why else would you have expectations if not to subvert them?

The thing is...it works. This incongruence in the soundtrack balances the palette. Going all-in on the dark and heavy would have been too much. It would have been too much indulgence in misery. But by leavening the subject matter of the game with an uplifting soundtrack Hideo Kojima keeps the levels balanced. Once again the tactic of ‘why the hell not?’ is the correct one.

So in honour of Hideo Kojima’s approach to art, which seems to be some sort of combination of bingo and a ouija board, here are some of the unlikely combinations that turned out to be greater than the sum of their wholes.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito

Readers will probably be familiar with these two actors for entirely different genres. Arnie is famous for being the ageing but still hewn-from-stone action hero from movies such as the Terminator franchise, while Danny DeVito is living large (wordplay!) on his inspired run on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

But what younger readers might not know is that both were also huge (wordplay!) stars back in the 80’s and 90’s.

Danny DeVito had a golden age in such films as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Batman Returns, and L.A. Confidential, while Arnie starred as a hewn-from-stone action hero in the Terminator franchise.

Anyway, at some point in the crazy 80’s there was an impromptu meeting in a Hollywood elevator between a group of movie producers. One of them, jokingly, suggested that it would be “totes hilare” if Mr Universe - Arnold Schwarzenegger, was teamed up with the world’s tallest dwarf - Danny DeVito, in a buddy movie. Everyone else, to the surprise of all, agreed.

And so we got the film Twins, in which Arnie and Double-D are, you guessed it, twins. “Only our mother can tell us apart!” goes the throughline of the film. As it happened Twins was a box-office smash and was followed by a spiritual sequel - Junior. Lightning didn’t strike twice, however, and Junior disappointed at the box office, not having the legs of Twins (wordplay! Danny DeVito is really short, you see.).

This saw the Schwarzenegger/DeVito power combination put on indefinite hiatus, although a sequel, “Triplets”, has been in development for a number of years and will presumably be released when the Seals of Asmodeus are broken and Gog and Magog rise from the depths to lay waste to the cities of men.


Stan

While I can think of a potentially more jarring musical collaboration - Gilbert and Sullivan teaming up with Children of Bodom perhaps - those are just figments of the imagination. For unlikely collaborations that have actually happened, you can’t really get more opposite ends colliding than Marshall Mathers teaming up with Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong, aka Dido.

Cast yourself back to the beforetime of 1999. Dido is the unchallenged queen of dentist waiting rooms; her brand of saccharine, inoffensive crooning the go-to staple of anywhere your grandma might go shopping.

Meanwhile, Eminem had just released the seminal Slim Shady LP and changed the music world forever, cementing himself as the undisputed king of hip hop/horrorcore.

So we have two singer/songwriters at the top of their respective games at the turn of the millenium. Eminem the working-class hero from 8 Mile, bridging the racial divide, and Dido from...Kensington, one of the most affluent suburbs of London. So, logically, the two of them team up for a duet based upon the fictional angry rantings of an obsessive fan of Slim’s, who is writing his own epitaph as he enacts a murder-suicide of his pregnant girlfiend by drunkenly driving his car off a bridge. And again...it worked. The song was a smash hit and helped propel two already potent musicians into further superstardom. Little known fact, Dido’s White Flag is actually a companion piece to Stan, detailing the point of view of Stan’s girlfriend. Maybe.

Pepsiman

What happens when you combine pre-MCU superheroes, jazz-fusion, the T1000 from Terminator 2, Japanese corporate mascot culture, the Y2K panic, and the world’s second best-selling carbonated, cola-based beverage? You get Pepsiman!

Pepsiman is the corporate mascot for Pepsi if you’ve not worked that one out yet. To get an idea of what Pepsiman is, think of Superman - the same kind of build and mannerisms. Then picture Superman if he were made out of molten silver, like the T1000 if it were painted in the blue and white standard of the Pepsi corporate colours.

His only clothing is a large silver chain he wears around his neck, to signify his eternal servitude to his corporate masters.

Frighteningly, Pepsiman has no face. Where his face should be is just a blank, featureless orb of liquid metal - to look upon the visage of Pepsiman is to gaze into the abyss and contemplate the infinite void.

Oh yeah, and he shoots Pepsi out of his fingers.

Pepsiman starred in a series of commercials throughout the 1990s. These commercials all followed a similar plot, wherein some unfortunate soul would be experiencing a thirst-related mischief only to be saved by Pepsiman bursting through the roof and spraying them down with, one imagines, body temperature Pepsi.


Disturbingly, one of these commercials featured the Gulf War (it was the 90s), where a United States Marine was dying of thirst in the Iraqi desert only to be saved by the timely appearance of Pepsiman. This raised a lot more questions than it answered, although one has to admire the civic duty of a superhero with such a specific set of powers still getting out there and doing what he could.

Pepsiman is something that should never have worked. Indeed by many metrics he doesn’t work. But there’s just something about the way that Pepsi manipulated all the levels - campness, earnestness, self-effacing humour, uncanny valley level terror, that makes Pepsiman utterly charming.

His theme song, which consists solely of a repeating jazz-fusion loop interspersed with people shouting “Pepsiman!” is something we should have sent on the Voyager space probe.


Archie and The Punisher

The tragic tale of Frank Castle is known to pretty much everyone these days. A war veteran whose family is murdered by mobsters, leaving him with nothing left to live for save vengeance. So he takes said vengeance by cleaning the streets of America with all of the guns and absolutely no mercy.


One of the original anti-heroes, The Punisher is never fully heroic nor ever truly villainous. He’s more of a primal incarnation of the Greek concept of nemesis - a righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent.

The Punisher has been used by Marvel throughout the years as, variously, an anti-hero, an antagonist, and a morally dubious character whose actions cast a social commentary on the Machiavellian, ends justifying the means, murky grey area of our post 9/11 loss of innocence.

So it might have come as a bit of a surprise to find Frank Castle turning up, guns and all, in the fictional town of Riverdale - home of everyone’s second favourite redhead, Archie.


(Everyone’s favourite redhead being, of course, Jake Busey)

This comic crossover plays out with the Punisher being sent by the government to capture a criminal by the name of Red, who has the misfortune of looking exactly like Archie. What follows is a hilarious case of mistaken identity as the Riverdale teenager is hunted in the night by a gun-toting psychopath with zero empathy and a loose definition of what ‘captured alive’ means.

As with all cases of mistaken identity the two have a bit of a laugh when the whole mess is cleared up. Then Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica decide to help Castle with his extrajudicial, off-the-books wetwork operation as they rack up hundreds of constitutional violations in a disregard for due process and the rule of law. Ah, those crazy kids. What shenanigans will they get up to next?

Bánh mì Vietnamese rolls, one of the original fusion cuisines. Asian greens, spicy pork (while it is possible to get meats other than pork, you would be incorrect in doing so) and a traditional French baguette. This humble roll unites the eastern and western worlds and shows us the endless potential mankind has if only we can set aside our differences and work together.

The bánh mì not only happens to be one of my favourite lunchtime staples, it is also one of the few foods that manages to tickle my obsessive, Dan Carlin-esque, love of history.


Vietnam has been the fulcrum of so many of the crucial events in modern history. Vietnam has spent time as a Dutch East India Trading Company base, a Catholic mission, a French colony, a part of the Japanese Empire, and there was, of course, the...unpleasantness...during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Most of our modern world can trace a line, in some way, through Vietnam.

The bánh mì roll is something that wouldn’t have existed without this turbulent history. This antipodean food, this meshing of the hemispheres, is only made possible through such conflict. The French forcing their culture on the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese fighting back for their own identity, the diaspora of that cultural blend fleeing the war and winding up on our shores to bolster our own culture with a unique lunchtime staple.