On June 13, 2016, Hideo Kojima presented a trailer for his new project, now called "Death Stranding". The trailer was at once disturbing, yet strangely beautiful, and very mystifying. I was immediately entranced. I had to know more. I found myself rewatching the trailer several times catching new elements each time. What follows is my findings from my own analysis of the trailer, as recorded on that day.
I am very interested in seeing and hearing what others thought about this trailer, it seems deliberate in it's attempt to draw it's viewers in and let them guess towards it's intentions. There certainly is a method to Kojima's madness and it will be very enjoyable to unravel it. Let me know what your own theories and ideas are, let's put our heads together and figure out this fascinating, strange thing!
Right from the get go we already start to see elements alluding to the stranding, as well as death. A lot of marine animals have been washed up on shore, and left stranded, out of their element, and dead. As far as setting goes, unless this this trailer is completely metaphorical in nature, I'm probably going to go with perhaps this is an "in-between" life and death world, where Reedus' character has been cast out from the 'sea of life' as you will, and left 'beached'; unable to return, or really ascend (like those other silhouettes at the end of the trailer.)
There are a few symbols of being 'trapped' or 'locked' in this trailer. Reedus' Character (i'll refer to him as The Man) is tethered by what appears to be an artificial umbilical cord to the child. He wears a shackle on one of his wrists, with the other end dangling, clearly closed. He also wears a necklace of six locks around his neck.
I'm not sure what to make of the infant really, other than it clearly means a lot to the Man, so he seems 'tied' to him, in a certain manner. Of course the immediately noticeable thing is that the infant's 'umbilical cord' is connect to the Man's abdomen which is...not how that usually works. Perhaps that reflects some form of natural responsibility that he felt towards this infant? Or maybe it's even more metaphorical, and the infant represents innocence? The trailer did start with a William Blake quote after all.
The manacles are interesting because it appears to me that the one on the Man's wrist and the one that is dangling from it seem different. His has some strange edges to it, as well as a red light that is not present in the other. It's also worth noting that there is a blue flickering light inset on the offhand one. What this speaks to me is that it's not representative of the man being 'free', as the manacle is still closed, and I don't think it's supposed to be locked around his other wrist. I think that it represents that he is also tied to something else, and that it is still keeping him prisoner, or 'stranded'.
The locks around his neck, while also symbols of being trapped, or 'stuck', is interesting because there are six them. We also see the five figures in the end, floating, clearly not 'stranded' like the Man is. It may be a simple explanation, but I am inclined to think that each of the locks represents a connection that is keeping the man 'stranded' and that they need to be unlocked for him to truly be 'free'. Perhaps what can undo those locks are those people? At this point you probably ask me "But Jazzy, there are six locks, and only five silhouettes, what gives?" Good question! I'd wager that perhaps the Man himself has the 'key' to unlock that particular lock, or perhaps it is the infant who can unlock it. Or maybe, what if all the figures are actually different aspects of the Man? Hmmn. Interesting, but I'm inclined to not believe it, because they are in such a different state than the Man is (i.e. not stranded). There is another clue that could also dispel that theory...
Leaving a Mark
The Man is clearly marked with several handprints along his body. However, it seems that these handprints are actually just outlines of hands, whereas the rest of the Man's body is rather dirty with what could be soot or grime. Where we actually see the hands are the cleanest part of the Man's body. The infant, once it disappears also appears to leave inky handprints on the Man which the dissolve to form clean outlines. It's also worth noting the hands are different shapes and sizes.
So what could this mean? The fact that these handprints are of different shapes and sizes, and are actually almost "cleaning" the man, if indeed they all appeared like the infant's prints did, it makes me want to think that perhaps these are all people that left an 'impression' on the Man. Maybe they belong to five silhouettes at the end? If so, then that could tied into the six locks around the Man's neck as stated above, which would make sense, since then the infant would be responsible for one of the locks as it also left a mark on the Man.
No Belly Button
Alright this one is a little weird but it might be simpler than I think it is. The Man has no belly button, instead he has a cross shaped scar where it should be. Considering that he was tied to the infant with an artificial umbilical cord and we never actually see how, perhaps this referring to a 'severance' of that kind of 'connection'? That's as far as I've really gotten into this without googling certain surgeries.
To summarize my current theory then: The Man has been stranded from Death by his ties to his past life. These are symbolized by the locks he wears around his neck, of which he must go on a journey to find redemption and unlock that which binds him. These 'keys' may very well be held by the infant and the five figures seen hovering in the air on the horizon at the end of the trailer. There is clearly some kind of technological bent on this as well. The manacles appeared near-future tech and the artificial umbilical cord were certainly a hint at something.
What kind of game is this then? "Tactical Redemption Journey" would be my fair shake. The font and title at least speak to me like this is some kind of horror game, but I don't think it is something like Silent Hill or Resident Evil. It seems more calm and contemplative. Perhaps there are stealth elements where you are skirting around your inner demons. Perhaps it is an adventure game. Maybe it's an open-world. It's too early to tell. The exciting thing though is that at least to my knowledge, this seems like something far different than anything Kojima has done before, and I am very excited to find out more in the months to come.