Posts Tagged ‘Anime’

Anime Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (Part 1)

This is going to be a spoiler free review. Part 2 of this review will be a spoiler-filled review of the entire story.

When I was in high school, the orignal Fullmetal Alchemist was one of my favourite shows. I would watch it on Adult Swim (back when Adult Swim showed a lot of anime) and loved it up until around the second season. By that point, the manga had been available in America for a while and in typical Ryan fashion, I bought every single volume I could get my hands on (by the end of high school, I had around 500 volumes of manga). A few episodes into the second season, the anime spun off completely from the manga and developed it’s own way of ending the show without waiting for the manga to finish, and the whole thing ended very bizarrely and rather crappily, don’t even get me started on how terrible the movie was.

When Brotherhood was announced, the creator of the series, Hiromu Arakawa stated that this new show would be made considerably closer to the original story in the manga. Needless to say, I was stoked. The closer story to the manga makes the whole anime much more of a cohesive experience, it also doesn’t have the odd tonal shift between parts like the original series has. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is much more messed up throughout than the original series was.

For those of you not in the know, both Fullmetal Alchemist series are about the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, who attempted something impossible. The two tried to bring their mother back to life through alchemy, which is forbidden by everyone. The transmutation backfired and Alphonse lost his entire body and Edward lost his left leg, Ed gave up his right arm in order to get Al’s soul back and bound it to a suit of armour, making Al become a living suit of armour. Ed was fitted with prosthetic auto-mail by the brother’s childhood friend, Winry, and the two set off to find the legendary Philosopher’s Stone in order to regain their bodies. Alchemy is bound by the law of equivalent exchange, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and the Philosopher Stone is able to ignore this rule and also achieve human transmutation. The show is not just about the journey of the Elric brothers, though, it’s also heavily about the military government of the land of Amestris, where the story is set, and a number of it’s members such as Colonel Roy Mustang, Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, and my personal favourite, Maes Hughes.

The show manages to blend comedy with some incredibly disturbing story developments and characters. It’s not the kind of show that one should watch unless they want philosophy and violence throughout. Due to the pacing of the story this time around and the fact that it covers the first 26 episodes of the original series in under 13 in Brotherhood, it gets to the more messed up (and sadder) parts of the story much quicker. Brotherhood ran for 64 episodes, four side OVA’s, and a side-story movie.

The animation is just about as good as any other anime that has a large budget, it’s very fluid, and expressive, but the style is much closer to the style of the manga than the original series was. It manages to capture a number of the aspects of Arakawa’s art such as her very particular ways of drawing mouths and even her way of colouring the art. This ultimately comes down to personal preference, but I really like the art style for Brotherhood more than I like the style of the original. The music is very similar to the music of the original, in fact, most of the music is the music from the original, just re-orchestrated. This, like the art style, is a personal preference as to which version people like, I don’t really have much of an opinion as to which is better. The music is good, but I don’t really notice it very often. Like the original, the dub for Brotherhood is rather spectacular, and this one is just as good as most of the voice actors for the big characters came back to do the dub for Brotherhood. I will honestly say that the dub is better in Brotherhood and it is mostly because of the better story and overall better writing. The show doesn’t stoop to the same amount of somewhat annoying humour as the original did and that makes the dub overall much more pleasing to watch.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood overall is a much better series than the original show. The story is overall better and more coherent and the dub is fantastic. The music and art style are debatable, but if you are going to watch a Fullmetal Alchemist series, I would highly suggest you watch Brotherhood over the original.

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Anime Review: The Slayers

I used to be into anime a lot more than I am now. It used to be something I was completely obsessed over, I would watch every single episode of anime that would come past me on TV (which unfortunately made me watch a large number of unmitigated dreck) and at one point was spending $40 a week on manga. My love of anime has declined over the years, partially through the fact that I almost stopped reading manga entirely when I went off to college and partly because most of the anime that has been coming out recently has been almost entirely terrible. I usually have to go back in time if I want to be able to watch some genuinely good anime, and that is exactly what I did this week.

One of my friends has been cosplaying as Lina Inverse from Slayers at Otakon for the past two cons and my group of friends is planning a Slayers cosplay group for next year. I decided to cosplay as Gourry Gabriev, but there was a problem with this: I had not seen Slayers before (or to be more precise, I had not seen any Slayers with Gourry in it (I had seen some of the OAV’s and the first movie)). Netflix very recently put all of Slayers up on Streaming, so it was time to finally remedy the lack of Slayers in my life.

Slayers follows the adventures of Lina Inverse, a very powerful but greedy sorceress. She will help anyone who asks for it, but always for a price, and is always out there looking for her next treasure score. Lina will take on anyone who gets in her way and will even seek out groups of bandits, eradicate them, and take their loot. It is precisely this kind of act that gets her into trouble in the first place and has her get saved by the great but incredibly simple swordsman, Gourry. Gourry is the kind of person who will not be able to remember anyone’s name (even the names of ancient evils that he helps to put down) unless they are able to provide him with the food he craves. They are joined on their quests by the shamanistic sorcerer, Zelgadis Greywords, who was granted immense power, but was turned into essentially a living stone statue in the process, and Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun, a princess of Seyruun and a self described “hero of justice.” Her attempts at being a hero are usually overdone and are decidingly silly, but her heart is in the right place.

The first series of Slayers (there’s 5 of them now), merely named Slayers, follows the forming of the main group and their battles against a powerful sorcerer who hopes to resurrect the dark lord Shabranigdo in order to restore something important to him. What I find to be very interesting about this show is that the story described above is only the first half of the season, the rest of the show is something that cannot really be summarized without some major spoilers.

Slayers is a show that is immensely watchable. It has some strong ties to Dungeons and Dragons, and draws much of it’s humour from using what is essentially the framework for a D and D campaign, with all of the stereotypes that come with it, and turning everything on it’s head. Lina will help people out, but usually ends up causing even more damage in the process, sometimes even destroying the entire town that she was hired to save with her immensely powerful signature spell, the Dragon Slave.  She is also loud and brash, as compared to other sorcerer’s in other fantasy stories. She may be as powerful as Gandalf, but she has none of his restraint or wisdom. Zelgadis is a character who does great acts of good, but considers himself to be one of the bad guys, despite travelling with the good guys. Amelia always stays on the side of “good” even if that side involves betraying her friends. The villains are even polite! Slayers is a very funny show, most of which stems from the fact that nothing is quite as you expect it to be, but also the fact that Lina and Gourry are black holes when it comes to food. The show is very silly, but that just adds to it’s charm.

Slayers is definitely one of the best shows to come out of the 90’s and is one of the best shows in all of anime. It’s funny, action packed, and simultaneously original but familiar to anyone who has ever played a tabletop fantasy RPG. If you haven’t seen it, change that. Seriously, all 5 series are on Netflix and you can get the first three series (that’s 78 episodes) off Amazon for only around $26. If you don’t like it, well you are going to be up the creek without a paddle as there is going to be a bunch of Slayers related content in the coming weeks as I work through all of the Slayers series.

Mermaid Knife-Fight

THREE WILL ENTER… AND THREE WILL PROBABLY STILL LEAVE: Seriously, a knife fight between three mermaids would just be silly, unless it was this mermaid:

But that is completely out of the scope of this blog post.

As you may remember from my last post, I wrote:

If this plot sounds somewhat similar, it should. It is loosely based off of the Little Mermaid, but is actually slightly closer to the original story than the Disney movie that everyone knows, but that is a topic for another day (Thursday, actually).

If this is the only version you know, shame on you.

See, I did write that! But as you may have already guessed, I will be comparing Ponyo to it’s original source material and the 1989 Disney animated-film.

FROM HERE ON, I AM EXPECTING THAT YOU HAVE SEEN PONYO. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IT, STOP READING NOW OR YOUR EYES WILL BLEED! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

To start this comparison, I need to make sure that everyone knows the original story written by Hans Christian Andersen, becuase the original story will definitely be unexpected to anyone who hasn’t read it, due to it’s sheer darkness (the summary was lovingly ripped from Wikipedia):

The Little Mermaid lives in a utopian underwater kingdom with her father the sea king; her grandmother; and her five elder sisters, born one year apart. When a mermaid turns 15, she is allowed to swim to the surface to watch the world above, and as the sisters become old enough, one of them visits the surface every year. As each of them returns, the Little Mermaid listens longingly to their descriptions of the surface and of human beings.

When the Little Mermaid’s turn comes, she ventures to the surface, sees a ship with a handsome prince, and falls in love with him from a distance. A great storm hits, and the Little Mermaid saves the prince from a near-drowning. She delivers him unconscious to the shore near a temple. Here she waits until a young girl from the temple finds him. The prince never sees the Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid asks her grandmother whether humans can live forever if they do not drown. The grandmother explains that humans have a much shorter lifespan than merfolk’s 300 years, but that when mermaids die they turn to sea foam and cease to exist, while humans have an eternal soul that lives on in Heaven. The Little Mermaid, longing for the prince and an eternal soul, eventually visits the Sea Witch, who sells her a potion that gives her legs, in exchange for her tongue (as the Little Mermaid has the most intoxicating voice in the world). Drinking the potion will make her feel as if a sword is being passed through her, yet when she recovers she will have two beautiful legs, and will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before. However, it will constantly feel like she is walking on sharp swords, and her feet will bleed most terribly. In addition, she will only get a soul if the prince loves her and marries her, for then a part of his soul will flow into her. Otherwise, at dawn on the first day after he marries another woman, the Little Mermaid will die brokenhearted and disintegrate into sea foam.

The Little Mermaid drinks the potion and meets the prince, who is attracted to her beauty and grace even though she is mute. Most of all he likes to see her dance, and she dances for him despite her excruciating pain. When the prince’s father orders his son to marry the neighboring king’s daughter, the prince tells the Little Mermaid he will not, because he does not love the princess. He goes on to say he can only love the young woman from the temple, but adds that the Little Mermaid is beginning to take the temple girl’s place in his heart. It turns out that the princess is the temple girl, who had been sent to the temple to be educated. The prince loves her and the wedding is announced.

The prince and princess marry, and the Little Mermaid’s heart breaks. She thinks of all that she has given up and of all the pain she has suffered. She despairs, thinking of the death that awaits her, but before dawn, her sisters bring her a knife that the Sea Witch has given them in exchange for their long hair. If the Little Mermaid slays the prince with the knife and lets his blood drip on her feet, she will become a mermaid again, all her suffering will end and she will live out her full life.

The Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the sleeping prince lying with his bride and, as dawn breaks, throws herself into the sea. Her body dissolves into foam, but instead of ceasing to exist, she feels the warmth of the sun; she has turned into a spirit, a daughter of the air. The other daughters of the air tell her she has become like them because she strove with all her heart to gain an eternal soul. She will earn her own soul by doing good deeds, and she will eventually rise up into the kingdom of God.

I believe that the next step is to do a character comparison.

  • The Little Mermaid is of course, Ariel in the Disney film and is Ponyo in her respective film. The biggest departure goes to Ponyo due to her incredibly young age, but both stories don’t have the aspect of the Mermaids traveling to the surface at age 15. In both the Disney film and Ponyo, Ariel and Ponyo are both forbidden from going to the surface by their overprotective father.
  • The Little Mermaid’s sisters have never really had any part in either film adaptation. In the source material, they tell stories of the world above, but in the Disney film, they’re just sort of there. They don’t really do anything that progresses the plot except for one line that informs Triton that Ariel is in love, but they at least get names. Ponyo’s sisters (none of which are named, but that’s more due to the fact that Granmamare seems to breed like a fish) actually do something. They are genuinely helpful (and adorable) characters, but just like the Disney film, they don’t tell stories of the human world. They actually seem to be much younger than Ponyo herself, which is a pretty big departure.
  • The Sea King is Triton in the Disney film, and is somewhat separated into both Fujimoto and Granmamare. Fujimoto is closer in personality to Triton, with the whole over protectiveness thing, but also has some aspects of the sea witch in that he is a wizard and makes deals with people to change them.
  • The prince is Eric in the Disney version and Sosuke in Ponyo. The prince didn’t really have much of a character in the source, so there was a lot of room to expand it. Disney pretty much took his character directly from the story, so he’s incredibly milk-toast. Sosuke, on the other hand, actually has some substance to him. He actually feels like a person.
  • The Sea Witch is a fairly benevolent character in the original story, her potion has a downside, but she’s not malevolent. This is a complete opposite of the character of Ursula, who is, of course, the villianess of the Disney movie. She obviously takes on a larger role and is the reason that the ending to that version is so different from the source. The sea witch in Ponyo is split up the same way the sea king is, with aspects of her character being in both Fujimoto and Granmamare. Granmamare’s test at the end of Ponyo is what makes that movie feel much closer to the source for me. Her test is that if Sosuke truly loves Ponyo, that she will turn into a human permanently and they will live happily ever after, but if he doesn’t, Ponyo will turn into sea foam. The movie ends happily, but the seriousness of the consequences lets the darker side of the original story shine through, but I have found that that lets the film shine in a better light.
  • The Temple Girl is a character that has sort of appeared in the Disney film, but is not nearly the same character as she is in the original story. This character is weird due to the fact that she is the reason that the source material does not end happily, but she isn’t a villain. In the Disney version, her character is basically who Ursula changes into in order to force Ariel to fail at their deal, but she isn’t a princess and Eric hasn’t met her before, she’s a “normal girl” who hypnotizes Eric in order to marry her.

If it sounds like I am hating on the Disney version of the story, I’m not. I love that movie to death (despite it’s flaws), but I do believe that Ponyo is a better film overall. I would like to see a straight up adaptation of the source, though, it’s so delightfully twisted that it would make a great film for adults (of course, I could easily say this about any fairy tale), but I doubt that it will ever happen.

Thursday will not be the final trip report (I know, I just keep stretching this out), it will be a massive news post, so be prepared.

Also, if anyone sees any glaring mistakes (whether it is grammatical or factual, I don’t care), please speak up. It would be greatly appreciated.

The Cliff by the Sea Seems Like a Pretty Cool Place

I really want this poster, it's so classy.

FROM RYAN’S MOVIE ADVENTURES: I saw Ponyo with some friends on the night it came out (14/8/09) so this article is a wee bit behind, unfortunately. I need to get better at keeping my articles more relevant.

But anyway, Ponyo (also known as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) is the acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki’s tenth feature length film and it is a stunning piece of cinema. For those of you who are a fan of him, which I’m expecting most of my few readers to be, this is most definitely more on the My Neighbor, Totoro side of his film spectrum. The film is very light and fairly fluffy, but don’t let that description stop you from seeing it. It’s most definitely going to be nominated for the Best Animated Feature at the 82nd Academy Awards (and will probably lose to Up, but that is definitely not a slide against Ponyo).

Disney did not do a very good job on advertising this film (which is really surprising, due to Disney’s mastery of the art of advertisments), all they had to say was that it was based off of the Little Mermaid and that it starred Hannah Montana’s little sister and every little girl in America would have instantly dragged their parents to the cinema to see it. Disney could have made so much money off of it, but they missed the boat (ha ha, nautical humour!).

Ponyo and Sosuke admiring Ponyo's unintentional handiwork.

Now if my inane ramblings are (theoretically) over with, maybe a short plot synopsis would be in order. Don’t worry, people who haven’t seen it (what’s wrong with you?), I’m not going to spoil the ending. I’m not going to give too much away, so cool it. Ponyo (Noah Cyrus, yes Miley Cyrus’ little sister, ugh), a little goldfish, lives in the ocean with her father, Fujimoto (Liam Neeson, it’s Qui-gon Jinn!) and her hundreds of little sisters. Fujimoto is a human sea wizard who is a very snappy dresser, but wears very visible face make-up including rouge and eye shadow and looks like he’s trying to be a transvestite, but is failing horribly in the clothes department. No, must stop getting side tracked! Blog post! Blog post! Ponyo is your fairly standard, young, female character: she wants more than what she has and is damn well going to get it. She, of course, escapes and ends up getting caught in some trash (oh noes, blatant environmental message! I wonder if there’s going to be as much ire for the shallownes

s of this message as there was about the message in Wall-e?) and is saved by Sosuke (Frankie Jonas, and yes, he is related to the Jonas Brothers). What follows is an adventure that has Ponyo using her magic to transform into a little girl, she falls in love with Sosuke, and unintentionally causes the major “antagonist” in the film, a massive storm that floods most of the island that Sosuke lives on. She receives help from her wizard (and human hating) father and her pseudo-goddess mother, Granmamare (played by Cate Blanchette) to set things right.

Ponyo (in her goldfish form) and her many, many sisters.

One scene of the movie I would like to go into some depth on, though, is the running on the waves scene. In the film, after Ponyo uses her magic to turn into a little girl, she uses more of her powers and creates massive waves (that are actually fish made of water) that swarm towards the small island that Sosuke lives on. Throughout this scene is some of the best animation I have ever seen in a cel-animated film. Everything is so seamless and fluid. Ponyo jumps form wave to wave with such grace and dexterity and it is quite the sight to behold. I think that this is the Miyazaki film flying scene of this movie (becuase there wasn’t an obvious one), but I could be wrong (but that rarely happens).

This is my new desktop.

If this plot sounds somewhat similar, it should. It is loosely based off of the Little Mermaid, but is actually slightly closer to the original story than the Disney movie that everyone knows, but that is a topic for another day (Thursday, actually).

There was two nagging doubts in my mind when it came to this film when I read the dub cast list, and that was the inclusion of a Jonas and Cyrus sibling as the main roles. I wasn’t suspicious just because they were related to four musicians that are completely destroying music like a cancer (okay, that’s a lie. I was suspicious), but more because they didn’t have any sort of major acting roles before, let alone any dubbing experience. All they had been in before this was their siblings respective television abortions, but I was pleasantly surprised that someone of relative talent came out of both the Jonas and Cyrus clans. I guess they can’t all be terrible. The rest of the cast was fantastic, here’s the cast (minus the additional voices) for your reading pleasure:

Cate Blanchett – Granmamare
Noah Lindsey Cyrus –  Ponyo
Matt Damon – Koichi
Tina Fey – Lisa
Frankie Jonas – Sosuke
Kurt Knutsson – The Newscaster
Cloris Leachman –  Yoshie
Liam Neeson – Fujimoto
Jennessa Rose –  Kumiko
Lily Tomlin – Toki
Betty White –  Noriko

Granmamare is pretty cool.

The most interesting aspect of the film is not the story, but the art style that was used for it. All of the backgrounds look like they were done in coloured pencil and it makes for a very nostalgic feel. They are absolutely stunning and a beauty to behold, and what makes it more interesting is that Miyazaki himself drew all of the backgrounds! Talk about commitment! The characters are beautifully animated, but they don’t stand out as much as the backgrounds.

The only other aspect of the film I would like to mention is the abosolutely atrocious remix of the film’s song.

Here is the real version:

Here is the version you want to stay away from:

Sosuke really likes his boat.

Now, I am not a weeaboo (some people may argue with me on this, but they are wrong and I am right). I don’t instantly think that the Japanese version is better (even though it usually is) and I am perfectly fine if the dubbing is done well, like all of the Miyazaki films I’ve seen. What I have a problem with is when the song is remixed into a crappy pop and over-synthesized shell of it’s former self. The original song is adorable and one would feel perfectly fine with it being stuck in their head, the other one would just make you wish for death in a brutal fashion.

But seriously, Ponyo is fantastic and everyone should see it. It’s great for children, it’s a perfect date movie and it seems that it has a wider release than any of the other Miyazaki films have had previously. Go see (and love) this movie.

One last thing, when I first saw Lisa’s driving, there was Eurobeat blasting in my head and I was getting way too pumped up. She could seriously be a character in Initial D and would fit in perfectly.