Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fullmetal Alchemist

For some time I’ve been thinking that I need to write a blog about Fullmetal Alchemist, but I never could decide which series to write about, or whether to cover them both together.  Then I decided that both series are so outstanding that they deserve to each have a blog post.  So here I go.  Today it’s the first, original Fullmetal Alchemist.

This series takes place in a universe where magic is commonplace.   There are people who can manipulate matter and convert it from one form to another.  These people are called alchemists, and although their abilities are pretty special, they are still governed by certain rules.  One of those rules is “equivalent exchange” which says that you cannot create something from nothing, or to gain something you must give up something else.

Two of the alchemists are the brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric.  The boys father disappeared when they were small and their mother died from a disorder before they were teenagers.  They found a teacher and studied alchemy and then tried to use it to bring their mother back to life.  It turns out that human transmutation is the biggest taboo in alchemy.  The spell went wrong and Al lost his whole body.  Ed saved Al by fixing Al’s soul into a suit of armor that happened to be nearby, but the cost of that action was that Ed lost an arm and a leg.  So Ed has an “automail” arm and leg, and Al has a suit of armor for a body.

The brothers swear to study and travel and find a way to regain what they have lost.  In order to do that, Ed takes the military exam to become a “State Alchemist”.  Even though this makes him a “dog of the military” it opens doors to the brothers that would not otherwise be opened.     State alchemists receive a name from the Fuhrer upon becoming state alchemists, so Ed becomes the “Fullmetal Alchemist”.  Ed and All begin searching for an elusive “philosopher’s stone” with which they believe they can regain their bodies.

Along the way on their quest Ed and Al are helped by several people, including Colonel Roy Mustang who is a State Alchemist also known as the Flame Alchemist, Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, and Maes Hughes.  They are hampered in their quest by a group of individuals who are after the same thing they are after, the philosopher’s stone.    These people are near-immortal Homunculi, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath and Pride, each of which has special abilities.  The homunculi in the original series are created by people attempting human transmutation.  Their strength and abilities comes from eating philosopher’s stones.  Many of them take orders from a person called Dante, although at least one, Greed, works only for himself.

Ed and Al discover in their research that the major component of the philosopher’s stone is human lives, so at that point they essentially give up their personal quest and work to stop the homunculi, one of whom, Pride, is their country’s Fuhrer.   The series is 51 episodes long, so a lot happens along the way that I haven’t gone into here.   This original series starts out following the manga, but probably decided not to wait when they caught up to the manga.  The series diverges radically, creates characters who never appear in the manga and does not include many characters who are in the manga.  Even so, the series is pretty awesome.  The music from the series is excellent, the plot line keeps you involved all the way along, and is very unique, and the characters are awesome.   The only negative in the series is the death of Maes Hughes which borders on a token death.   Well, there’s another thing I consider a negative:  Although Al regains his body, he and Ed end up in different universes and All has no memories of their quest together.  I could have wanted the end to be a little more satisfying than that, but at least neither of them died.

As usual with a series of this complexity, this blog doesn’t do it justice.  I highly recommend you watch this one – both of the Hagane no Renkinjutsushi series, actually.  I’ll post a blog about the other one at another time.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Wow, I am sooooo behind on blogging.  I should be able to turn that around, now that I’m moved into my new house and back from vacation.  The trick of course is that I haven’t been watching much anime during this time. 

Today I thought I’d talk about one series I did watch, AKB0048.

I liked this series.  I almost didn’t watch it because it’s very cutesy.  As you can see from the picture below of two of the main characters, Nagisa and Chieri, the shine in their hair and the sparkle in their eyes is heart shaped!  I almost couldn’t get past that when I started watching, but the series sucked me in.

Partly that’s because of the music.  I’m partial to anime music and series about music and idols tend to attract me.  This series has good music.  The premise is pretty unique also, and of course, I like a unique premise.

It goes like this:  In the far future, entertainment in any form has been banned from many planets in the galactic human civilization.  A group of idols called AKB0048 exists to combat the entertainment ban by singing and dancing in shows that they hold by arranging them with rebel groups from the planets.  Occasionally the idols also have to fight to protect themselves and their fans from the DES, anti-entertainment forces.  AKB0048 has existed for centuries and at the time of the series is recruiting for the 77th generation of singers.  The plot follows the new group of singer-wanna-be’s as they struggle to become new members of AKB0048, first as understudies, and eventually as “successors”.

Becoming a member of AKB0048 is referred to as becoming a successor because it entails taking the name of one of the original members of the group.  For instance the captain of the current successor group is Takamina the 5th, the fifth person to hold the name of the original AKB0048 member, Takahashi Minami (Takamina).

The plot is interesting in itself and they also go into back story on many of the characters, so despite is cutesy appearance, the story line has enough depth not to be boring.   They deal with the current members’ struggles to maintain their places as successors and not ‘graduate’, as well as the focusing on the understudies’ struggles to come to terms with themselves and their co-recruits as they strive to become AKB0048 successors.  The cast is quite large, including the new group of singers, shown in the first picture, and the entire current group of successors, shown in the second group picture.  There is also a really cool dancing coach named Ushiyama, shown wearing the hat in the picture above, and a manager/producer/priestess who watches over all the girls and struggles with her own demons.

I enjoyed the series a LOT more than I expected to and I recommend it.