Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei, also called The Irregular at Magic High School, or The Poor-performing at Magic High School, is obviously about a high school full of students who can perform magic.  The classes and student are split into those who are exceptional at using magic (blooms) and those who can barely use magic at all (weeds).  The story follows a brother and sister named Shiba Tatsuya and Shiba Miyuki.  Miyuki is an exceptional magic user, and of course, Tatsuya is a weed.

As it turns out though, Tatsuya isn’t really inept at magic.  His magic is just so advanced and different from the usual magic that he performs poorly on standardized magic tests.  Plus in addition to having pretty amazing magic of his own, he’s a wizard at programming, especially programming the CAD devices which are used by magic users to focus and amplify their magic spells.  They also hint along the way that Tatsuya is not quite human, as he can reset himself when injured and has very few human emotions, except for his feelings for Miyuki.

The series is composed of three story arcs.  The first arc deals with the siblings entering the school and meeting their classmates.  It also deals with the whole blooms/weeds things and the inter-school prejudices, while introducing the cast and setting the stage.  Tatsuya is quickly found to be much more than he seems and he and Miyuki quickly become involved in the school, with Miyuki becoming a member of the Student Council and Tatsuya becoming a member of the Student Disciplinary Committee. 

The second arc covers a multi-school magic competition and not only do both Miyuki and Tatsuya compete in the various “games”, but Tatsuya ends up doing the programming for most of their school’s students’ CADs.  In the end he also foils a lot of plots intended to keep their school from winning the competition, which they do win.  In the final battle game, Tatsuya is accidentally killed by the top student of one of the other magic schools, who also happens to be the next head of one of the most powerful of the Ten Master Clans.  Tatsuya uses his most powerful magic skill, and regenerates himself instantly, so no one knows he should be dead, although most everyone is amazed he didn’t die.  

The final arc involves an attack on the magic users during another competition between the magic schools.  During this final arc, Tatsuya, Miyuki and the magic-using students demonstrate clearly that magic-using warfare beats normal, mechanical warfare all hollow.  In addition, Tatsuya’s spell which allows him to reset himself, allows him to reset others also, both people and things, if he gets to them within 24 hours of the damage.   He saves a couple of students’ lives this way.

I found two things about this series irritating:  one was the brother-sister love issue.  Miyuki is head over heels in love with Tatsuya and doesn’t bother to hide it.  It’s almost sickening early on but luckily they tone it down a bit as they go.  Either that or I got used to it.  The other thing was the series creators need to explain every magic spell in detail.  The characters all do a post-mortem discussion of each spell and how it worked along the way.  That little series quirk almost made me stop watching the series. 

Despite those two issues, the story was interesting enough to keep me watching.  Or maybe I kept watching to try to figure out exactly what Tatsuya is.  His family is not very happy with his existence and tends to ignore him for the most part, except for Miyuki who worships him.  He is also a secret operative for a special magic-using section of the JSDF.   Plus his magic and computer abilities often seem more than human.  

I ended up not getting all (any) of my questions answered.  Like why does Miyuki control Tatsuya’s powers?  Before the final battle, she releases the limiter on his powers. So, the series ended abruptly with a lot of things up in the air, including with me having the same question I watched the series all the way through in order to find the answer to:  Who or What is Tatsuya?  Still . . .  I’m glad I watched it, although I probably won’t watch another season if they continue it.   

Monday, December 22, 2014

Witch Hunter Robin

Witch Hunter Robin is set in a world where people with extrasensory powers, known as the “craft", are considered to be “witches” and to be evil.  An organization called Solomon, with ties to the Roman Catholic Church, exists to monitor these witches, people with the genetic ability to perform the craft, in case their powers should awaken.  If that happens, they usually lose control and go mad.  Solomon (STN) then hunts down these witches and removes them from society, for their own safety and the safety of society.  STN also uses a massive database to monitor all relatives of known witches since they carry the genes for witchcraft.

Robin is a special witch hunter, raised and trained by the Church in Italy, and sent undercover to Japan investigate the whereabouts of an item which holds the secrets of the craft.  Robin herself has the genetic craft ability to use fire as a weapon, which also puts her at risk, with the possibility of awakening as a witch, siding with the witches against the STN and being hunted with the other witches.  At the beginning of the series, Robin joins the Japanese branch of STN, STN-J.  She begins to know and work with the people there, including the overall STN-J administrator, Zaizen, and his immediate underling, Kosaka.  She works as a partner with the senior Hunter of the group, a guy named Amon.  The other members of STN-J include three more Hunters, Sakaki, Karasuma and Dojima, and one guy who stays at the base and does all the computer work there named Michael Lee.

The early series is Robin getting used to the work and integrating into the team, and features several witch hunts.  Robin uses her fire power to protect and to attack.  The other hunters wear a small crystal vial hung around their necks that contains a substance in it called Orbo.  Orbo is produced by the STN-J at their Factory and it neutralizes craft attacks from witches.  They also shoot the witches with orbo-containing bullets to stop them and make them powerless.  Robin hates orbo and won’t wear it or use it.

Along the way, Robin begins to look for the item she was sent after and the search leads her to  information about her past, and then things get interesting.  Robin discovers that her father essentially created her with witch genes and she actually is a witch.  An attack on the STN-J headquarters ends with Amon disappeared and Robin on the run, being hunted as a witch herself.  It’s a little hard to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad guys for a while. 

During the time she’s on the run, Robin stays in contact with the other STN-J hunters and finds that things are not all well within the organization and Amon is still missing.  Eventually Amon shows back up and turns out to be working with the Church, being sent to hunt Robin.  A confrontation between Robin and Amon is basically the series climax, as she convinces him that she is at heart a witch hunter, despite also being a witch.  Amon agrees to work with her, setting himself up as her one-day executioner if she should ever turn.  In the meantime he decides that he cares enough for her to trust her to do what’s right.
Together, and with the help of the loyal witch hunters, they go to the Factory to bring down Zaizen-tachi – who it turns out was behind the attack on the STN-J.  In the raid to topple Zaizen’s little empire they discover that he is not just removing witches from society, he is rendering them down to produce Orbo.  They destroy him and his Factory.
The series basically ends with the destruction of the Factory.  Karasuma, Sakai, Dojima and Michael Lee go back to doing their job hunting witches for the STN-J without Amon and Robin, who “died” in the Factory destruction.  So although the series ends with the “death” of the two main characters, you are definitely left with the feeling that they are alive and out there hunting witches somewhere.  And life goes on.  This series is a really good one.  Great animation style, outstanding music.  Good plot, just twisty enough to keep you guessing, especially when you’re trying to decide if Amon is a good guy or a bad guy.  I definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Le Chevalier D'Eon

Another post about an old series today.  I haven't watched enough of the new series to post about them yet.

Le Chevalier D’Eon takes place in 18th century Europe, predominately in France, as you can probably assume from the title.  The story follows the events in the life on a young man named D’Eon de Beaumont.  As the story begins, D’Eon has just found out that his older sister Lia has been murdered.  The plot basically follows his attempts to find her murderers and bring them to justice.

Lia, it turns out, was working for the King of France, Louis 15th, so D’Eon is recruited by Louis also.  His quest for justice for his sister can also be of service to the Crown.  He gains three friends/comrades along the way, another knight named Durand, an older knight who also taught D’Eon and Lia to fight, named Teillagory, and a young boy named Robin, who is also a servant of the French Queen, Marie.  These four follow the bad guys trail from the French Court, to the Court of Elizaveta and then Catherine in Russia and the Court of King George III and Queen Mary in England. 

This anime is full of the intrigue and plotting in all the major courts in Europe and England and has a host of characters related to each court.  D’Eon-tachi encounter, and sometimes get involved in, plots in all the courts as they follow a Russian spy and then later Maximilien Robespierre, following the trail of intrigue and death.

The anime is also full of magic.  D’Eon channels his dead sister Lia, and she often takes over his consciousness, especially during fights.  Several of the characters, notably Robespierre, are referred to as Poets, and can wield the magical Power of the Psalms.  Lia was also a Poet and could wield that Power and continues to do so when she’s in control of D’Eon’s body.  A book of power called the Royal Psalms is one of the items the four comrades eventually try to recover.  It belongs to the French royal family, but seems to spend a lot of time being passed around by multiple people.

In the end, everyone betrays everyone in this anime.  Durand and Teillagory both betray D’Eon.  The French King Louis kills his own Queen, Marie, which turns Robin into a revolutionary rather than a supporter of the Crown.  D’Eon finds that Lia and Robespierre were at one time lovers, and that Louis has been using D’Eon.  Louis isn’t even actually of royal blood and Robespierre is – one of the reasons Robespierre works against the crown.  Yet even with all this intrigue, D’Eon maintains his loyalty to his King – the only character who does basically.    The plot is often convoluted.

This series was okay.  The music and animation style are good. It’s not a great series, but the story kept me interested, probably because I spent so much time trying to figure out exactly what was going on while D’Eon stumbled from one intrigue to the next.  I didn’t like that everyone betrayed everyone eventually.  There was also a lot of death in this anime, including main characters.  D’Eon survives it, and Robin moves on as a revolutionary.  It didn’t feel like a satisfying ending though.      

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Barakamon is a fun, slice of life series taken from a manga.  It follows a few months in the life of a professional calligrapher named Handa Seishu.  Handa is 23 years old and is a renowned calligrapher.  However his calligraphy is exact, precise and emotionless.  In the opening episode he punches out an older man who is an expert in calligraphy and curator of an exhibit, who tells him his calligraphy is stiff and empty.  Handa’s father and his agent/friend send him into exile to an island, to get his act together.  While there he’s meant to repent his sins (the punching) as well as learn to express emotion in his calligraphy and make it less like precise school forms, and more full of life.  Essentially he’s looking to re-invent himself.

Handa is initially lost on the island, without the amenities he’s used to, and not knowing how to go about achieving his purpose for being there.  Initially he is pestered unmercifully by a 7 year old girl named Naru, and two teenage girls, Miwa and Tamako, who used to use the room he’s staying in as a secret base when it was unoccupied.  He’s also resented by a high school boy named Hiroshi, because Hiroshi’s Mom makes meals for Handa.  These four are the principle islanders that interact with Handa, however most of the islanders interact with him along the way.

Everyone on the island refers to Handa as “Sensei”.  The plot line of this series follows the day to day interactions of Handa with all the various islanders, as well as following Handa’s struggles as he tries to re-invent his own calligraphy style, in time for a new calligraphy competition.  Along the way, Handa’s agent, Kawafuji, comes to visit to see how he’s doing, and brings along a high school calligrapher named Kousuke, who idolizes Handa.  Kousuke actually beat Handa in the last competition, even though he’s 5 years younger, and although he idolizes Handa, he doesn’t really want him to change his calligraphy style.
Handa eventually becomes friends with the islanders and forms a special bond with Naru.  When he leaves the island to apologize to the elder he punched and gain his forgiveness, as well as to submit his work for the next exhibit, Naru is devastated.   Handa almost decides not to return to the island, thanks to pressure from his mother and agent, but in the end, with his father’s support, he goes back to the island.

This is a nice slice of life series, with many funny spots, especially in the interactions between Handa and Naru.  It’s interesting enough to keep me watching and entertained.  Although it’s not what I consider one of the great series, I’m glad I watched it.  It’s definitely worth the time.   

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Aldnoah Zero

Aldnoah Zero is a mecha anime series.  The premise is this: during the exploration and colonization of Mars a hypergate and other advanced alien technology was discovered.  The discoverers kept the technology for themselves and their friends, and with this over-whelming advantage, created a new empire, the Vers Empire on Mars.  To keep the average Martian colonist happy and working, they ruling class created a need for a war with Earth, to take over earth and its resources.  In the ensuing battles, the Moon is partially destroyed in a hypergate explosion known as Heaven’s Fall.  A truce is called in the Earth/Martian War.   The Moon remnants create an asteroid belt/field, where the Martians and their alien technology (aldnoah) power build orbital stations/castles.  The truce holds for 15 years.

That’s the back story.  At the time the series takes place, the Martian Princess, Asseylum, comes to Earth to cement the truce and start building bridges of friendship between the Earth and the Vers Empire on Mars.   Unfortunately, the Orbital Knights (Martian royalty in earth orbit) want to resume war with Earth and take all its resources for themselves.  They plot to assassinate Asseylum and make it look like it was done by the Terrans  – thus starting the war over.

Their plan essentially works.  Asseylum survives the assassination attempt though and is rescued by another main character, Inaho.  Inaho is a high school boy who is a genius battle strategist.  He comes up with plans that save them all even in the heat of battle.  He is seemingly emotionless, but ends up liking Asseylum.  The third main character is a Terran who is essentially a slave of the Martians.  His name is Slaine, and he is fiercely loyal to princess Asseylum, as she saved his life several years before the series starts.    He and Inaho work against each other for most of the series, even though they’re both trying to keep Asseylum alive.  Inaho is also trying to save Earth and his friends, while Slaine is waffling back and forth between helping and hindering the Martian Lords.  Slaine discovers early in the series that it was Martians who tried to assassinate Asseylum, and he tries to stop the war by taking that information to the Emperor.  Unfortunately, Slaine is unaware the Emperor has already thrown the Terrans to the wolves once, and won’t hesitate to do it again, even at the price of his granddaughter’s life apparently.

Other characters include Inaho’s friends and sister, who is in the military, and various members of the military, as well as the various Orbital Knights.     With the Aldnoah power, the Martians have a massive advantage, and only Inhao’s adeptness at battle strategy and his acute ability to notice details and pick up on minute weaknesses, keeps the good guys with the Princess in tow ahead of the Martians.  The Princess can alter her appearance, so early on only Inaho knows who she is.   Then the gang comes across a Martian battleship stranded after the first Earth/Martian war.  The Terrans have been unable to use it because it requires Aldnoah power.  Asseylum however has this power, so she admits who she is and uses her aldnoah to power the Martian battle cruiser.  They escape to the headquarters of the combined earth forces, which is on the shattered remains of the Moon. 

Asseylum tries to stop the war, from the allied headquarters, but it quickly becomes clear that the Martians want the war.  The head of the Orbital Knights conspiracy comes after them with all his power, and they make a last stand against him while trying to get Asseylum into his Orbital Castle.  As Princess, she can shut down his power if she can get to its source.  They actually manage to achieve this, and essentially win this crucial battle, but at a pretty high cost.  Asseylum is shot multiple times (missing, presumed dead).  Inaho, crawling to her body, is shot multiple times by Slaine, who then walks away from both of them.  End of series.

As series ends go, it’s one of the worst I’ve seen.  I just sat there thinking, what the hell?  Kill off two of the three main characters in the last episode?  Why did I watch this?  Only, there’s another season coming, supposedly in January.  And they end this last episode with the statement that Asseylum is missing.   So I suppose I’ll have to wait until January to see who’s really dead and who isn’t.  Irritating though.  If everyone ends up dead, or they don’t have another season, then this series will go down as one that I wish I hadn’t watched.  I HATE it when they kill off the main characters.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Zankyou no Terror

Zankyou no Terror, or Resonance in Terror, is a great series.  It’s short, only 11 episodes, but for this particular series, that’s the perfect length.  The story follows two young men who are terrorists.  They call themselves Sphinx and begin the series setting bombs in highly visible places.  They always announce that a new bomb has been set and seem to enjoy taunting the police about their next crime.

Along with each bomb that Sphinx is setting in various places in Tokyo, Sphinx contacts the police before the bomb goes off with riddles to solve.  If the police can solve the riddles, they can locate the bombs and prevent them from going off.  Sphinx and their riddles come to the attention of a very smart, but semi-disgraced police detective called Shibazaki.

The two young men that make up Sphinx actually have no names except Nine and Twelve, and they are the main characters in this series.   At the first bombing, a young girl named Lisa is trapped in the building.  Since Twelve had previously run into Lisa and liked her, Sphinx give her the option of joining them as an accomplice or dying in the bombing, and Lisa chooses to live. 

At first Lisa is horrified to be an accomplice in the bombings, but later she runs away from her bad home situation and Nine and Twelve take her in.  She accepts them and becomes part of their group.  Even though Nine isn’t happy about involving another person in what they are doing, he and Twelve both end up rescuing Lisa at various points in the series.

It turns out that Nine and Twelve were part of an experiment, taken as orphans and subjected to all kinds of brain-washing and medical experiments intended to produce super-humans.  Twenty-six children were taken and experimented on, and 3 survived the experiments.  Nine and Twelve escaped, and a girl named Five was taken by the Americans when the experiments were discovered and shut down.   

Nine and Twelve are using their terrorist attacks to gain the attention of the police, with their final goal being to bring to light the experiments on the children, and also to bring to light that the Japanese government is secretly producing atomic bombs.   They even detonate an atomic bomb to make their point.  Of course, this final goal isn’t revealed until the final episode.  However, Nine and Twelve are very careful with their bombing attacks, so that on one dies and few people are hurt.  Property damage tends to be fairly extensive though.

Nine and Twelve’s plan works at first, and Shibazaki is beginning to figure them out, until Five, as an agent of the Americans, enters the picture to help capture them.  Five has their level of intelligence, but she doesn’t care if anyone dies, as long as she beats Nine, her eternal rival.   Nine and Twelve end up having to actually stop their own bombs and also stop Five’s planted bombing in order to protect lives.

The interactions between the characters are really good in this series.  The series is intense in places, often a race against time and a struggle to see who can out-plot who.  It’s paced perfectly though, and the music is totally outstanding, as expected of music by Yoko Kano.  It’s also a tragic series, because the three surviving children are living on sufferance.  The experiments done on Nine, Twelve and Five mean that they won’t live long, and they’ve only outlived their companion children because all three have a goal they intend to accomplish before they die.  So of course, they don’t survive the series – which I hate.   Lisa and Shibazaki survive and Shibazaki helps them achieve their final goal.  So despite the deaths of Nine, Twelve and Five, I enjoyed the series very much and recommend it.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Otogizoushi is a story in two parts.  The first half of the story takes place in Heian era Japan, and the second half in modern day Japan.  The main character in the story is a young girl named Minamoto no Hikaru.  Her family is involved in the doings of the Court, and the Court requests that her brother Raikou take on a mission for them. Because her brother is ill, Hikaru takes his place on a quest to save the Capital and the country. 

Hikaru, posing as Raikou, is joined on her quest by  a number of companions, including a loyal retainer named Tsuna, a warrior named Sadamitsu, an onmyouji named Urabe, and a young boy named Kintaro.  Their quests involve collecting five Magatamas, glowing stone/gems in the shape of curved teardrops.  These Magatama represent the five elements (metal, earth, water fire, wood), and used correctly they will save the Capital and the country, which is increasingly in the throes of drought and starvation.  The Magatamas are scattered in different places among different enemies, so recovering each one is a small quest in itself. 

During her missions, Hikaru’s brother Raikou dies.  Once again at home, she mourns him by playing her flute, and attracts the attention of a court dancer named Mansairaku.  During the story, Mansairaku comes to care for her and Hikaru falls in love with him.

When all the Magatamas are collected, Hikaru-tachi learn from Urabe that Abe no Seimei, the great court onmyouji, is planning to use the Magatama to destroy the Capital and country, not save it.  Urabe dies bringing them this information, and the companions set out to stop Abe no Seimei.  They discover they must first battle their way to where he is casting the spell.

Hikaru manages to get to him and confront him, only to find out that he is none other than Mainsairaku, the man she loves.  No matter what she says to him, he will not stop his spell, believing that the Capital must be destroyed.  Hikaru cannot bring herself to kill him, so when he completes the spell, she begins playing her flute and walks into the center of the spell.  Mansairaku embraces her, she drops the flute and it breaks the Magatama of fire, ending the spell.  Hikaru and Mansairaku are engulfed in the spell’s remains and disappear.  Only Sadamitsu and Kintaro survive the battles and destruction.

The second half of the story finds Hikaru as a high-school girl who happens to also be the landlady of an apartment building.  She wears the broken piece of the magatama on a necklace around her neck as a family heirloom, of course not knowing what it is. Her companions from the Heian era are reincarnated also as boarders and friends in this age.  Hikaru’s brother, Raikou, has been missing for a year and she begins to start looking for him, with her all friends adding their various talents to help her. 

Weird occurrences begin happening around her and a mysterious man, who is Mansairaku, shows up and alternately leads her into trouble and gets her out of trouble.  Hikaru doesn’t recognize him, but occasionally feels like she knows him.  Mansairaku apparently has lived all those years since the broken spell, waiting for Hikaru to be reborn so that they can together make right the balance that was messed up by the broken Magatama, and prevent the unbalanced forces from once again destroying Tokyo.  Hikaru and her friends, with Mansairaku’s help, manage to fix everything, Raikou comes home and Mansairaku finally is able to end his life and disappears.

So.  This was an interesting story and kept me watching, but I seriously didn’t like the ending – either ending.  Of course, being a “happily-ever-after” person, I wouldn’t like the fact that Hikaru and Mansairaku never do get to be together.    And I didn’t like the fact that he so badly betrayed her in the first half of the series after acting like she was important to him.  The premise was interesting though and I suppose I’m glad I watched it. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Shion no Ou

Shion no Ou is another series built around a game, this time around the game of Shogi. The main character in the series is a junior-high girl named Shion, and she is a shogi player.

Shion has an odd history.  She comes from a family of shogi players, and when she was 5 years old, her parents were murdered.   Shion was found with no memories of what happened, unable to speak and holding a bloody shogi piece, the king.  (thus the title, Shion’s king).  Shion is adopted and raised by a neighbor family, the head of which is also a professional shogi player.  So Shion grows up communicating by writing on a tablet and learning to play shogi despite her history.  Her parent’s murder was never solved and both Shion and the police involved in the case are still trying to solve it.  Shion is pretty sure it was a shogi player who did it, which is part of the reason she plays.
The characters in the story include other shogi players and masters, Shion’s adopted family, and the police involved in the case.   The shogi players who are Shion’s rivals and sometimes friends are Saori and Ayumi.  Ayumi has a secret, in that he is actually a male shogi player, but he pretends to be a girl and plays in the female league to earn money to help care for his sickly mother.  The top shogi master is a player named Hani Makoto, referred to by most people as Meijin.  A number of plot elements revolve around Meijin, including a rivalry with his younger brother Satoru, who plays shogi, but not professionally. 

The plot line of this series surrounds the game of shogi.  Shion qualifies as a professional shogi player at the series start, and because she’s very good, she begins to be stalked and threatened.  The plot follows her progression as Shion and her friends strive to advance in their standings and play in tournaments.  It also follows Shion’s attempts to find her parents killers and as she gets closer, her slowly remembering what happened that night. 

A large part of the series involves an unrestricted shogi tournament being held, which allows males to play females and non-professionals to play professionals.  The plot advances through the games of this tournament.  Along the way the police are working to solve the murders too and building a case against the murderer with the help and interaction of the various shogi players. 

In the final game of the tournament, Shion plays Meijin.  He works to unnerve her and as the game progresses she remembers the night her parents were murdered.  It was Meijin himself who murdered them.  He apparently removes anyone who could threaten his position as Japan’s top shogi player.  When Shion remembers and beats him at shogi, she regains her lost voice and the police arrest Meijin for the murder of her parents.  

Although as a rule I’m not fond of series built around games, this one doesn’t go overboard into the game of shogi itself, so it’s very watchable.  In addition, the side story of the police unraveling the mystery surrounding Shion’s parent’s murder is interesting in itself and keeps you guessing throughout the series.  Also the series music is really gorgeous.  I recommend watching this series.     

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is the second Fullmetal Alchemist series.  I almost didn’t watch it because I liked the first series so well.  I’m incredibly glad I did watch it, since I think I ended up liking this second series better.  From what I can tell, the first Fullmetal Alchemist series ran ahead of the manga, so rather than do filler arcs and wait on the manga, they diverged and created their own story line.  This second series on the other hand, follows the manga. So the first roughly 7-8 episodes of this series are the same as the first 2/3rds of the original series.  Then this series becomes its own.

The story here follows two young boys, Edward and Alphonse Elric.  These two are alchemists and can do magic.  Their father disappeared when they were young and their mother died, so they are on their own.  They find a teacher named Izumi to teach them what she knows of performing alchemy.  When they’ve learned as much as they want to from her, they go home and try to use alchemy to bring their mother back from the dead.  Human transmutation however is one of alchemy’s big taboos, mainly because alchemy works on the basis of equivalent exchange.  To create something you must use something of equal size or value. 

In the process of attempting to raise their mother, they open a GATE between the living and dead, and Ed loses a leg and arm to it.  Alphonse loses his whole body.  Ed manages to keep Al’s soul alive by binding it to some nearby armor, but Al’s body is lost.   So Al exists as a suit of armor and Ed has a metal (automail) arm and leg, which are provided for him and maintained by a neighbor girl named Winry and her grandmother.    Ed and Al begin a quest to find a fabled philosopher’s stone, with which it is rumored that great things can be done, including retrieving Al’s body and Ed’s arm and leg.
In order to gain access to military records regarding the philosopher’s stone, Ed tries out for and becomes a State Alchemist, known as the Fullmetal Alchemist.   This gives him access to records, but also makes him answerable to and order-able by the military.  There he falls under the supervision of a Colonel named Roy Mustang and his squad of soldiers.  Roy is also a powerful alchemist known as the Flame Alchemist, and he and his soldiers become Ed and Al’s allies along the way.  

Other allies Ed and Al gain as they go include people who start out as their foes for various reasons, often because they are also going after the philosopher’s stone.  Two of these are a prince and princess from the neighboring kingdom of Xing, Lin Yao and May Chang.  Another original foe and later ally is an Ishballan man named Scar.

As the story proceeds, Ed and Al begin running afoul of a group of artificially created humans called homunculi, who were created and are led by a shadowy figure known as Father.   As they go, Ed and Al discover that the main ingredients for creating philosopher’s stones are humans.  Once Ed and Al discover this, they stop trying for the philosopher’s stone, but are already deep into the battle with Father and the homunculi.  Father and his group are creating a massive transmutation circle out of the entire country of Amestris, so that the lives of the entire population can be used to create the ultimate philosopher’s stone and make Father the “perfect being”.  To do this, along with the entire population of Amestris, Father needs as human sacrifices strong alchemists who have attempted human transmutation and survived and opened the GATE.  These human sacrifices include Ed, Al, Izumi, Roy, and Ed and Al’s father Hohenheim.

In the end, the good guys prevail, although it’s a near thing with everyone working together at various points around Amestris, and Ed fighting Father in his new younger body.  In addition, Ed manages to retrieve Alphonse and his body from the other side, so Al is whole again.

This is the bare bones of a very complex story, and doesn’t do all the side stories and back stories justice.  And the music for it is pretty awesome also.   I really recommend you watch this one all the way through.