Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood"

I've tried to watch this show a few times, but never got past a few episodes.  I think the idea of watching a long show like this was a bit daunting.  But I had some time off recently and thus decided to try it again.  I managed to watch the show on Netflix, reaching episode 52, thinking, wow how is this going to end so fast?  Then I realized there was another season of 12 episodes that Netflix doesn't carry.  I tried to watch on Hulu, but alas, I really hate Hulu (all the commercials) and I wasn't going to go the subtitle route (only subs available for last 12 eps) since I had already watched the 52 episodes on Netflix dubbed.  I broke down and got a Funimation elite subscription just to finish the series.  
There are two main plots.  Edward and Al try to bring back their mother from the dead using alchemy.  Of course it's a big fail and Al loses his body and Ed loses an arm and leg in the process.  Al's soul is trapped in suit of armor and Ed has to use prosthetic arm and leg.  They join the military as state alchemists in order to find a philosopher's stone which may help the regain their bodies.  In addition to Edward and Al looking to find the stone, there is also a compelling military and political storyline involving a decades-long plot for world domination.  I really enjoyed watching this complex and complete story.  The multiple characters, each of which has their own back story, are likable, even some of the bad guys. Edward, Al, Winry, Roy, Hawkeye, Alex, Olivier, and the evil crew of almost immortal homunculi were extremely well characterized.  The action scenes were well animated.  The alchemy battles were cool and sometimes even a bit horrifying (especially when Roy used his snap flame alchemy).  I liked how the state alchemists had ethical dilemmas in regards to their roles in the Ishvallan war.  The never-give-up attitude and bonds of friendship and family lay the moral foundation for this complete story.  The end actually has an end, thanks to the fact that it's based on a completed manga.  I also tried watching the first "Fullmetal Alchemist" but never finished that either.  I have read that it is also good and deviates from the manga unlike "Brotherhood" so I will try to watch it again sometime.  Thumbs up for the epic movie-ish background music and catchy opening and ending theme songs.  In conclusion, it's a compelling, entertaining, emotional action anime that I wholeheartedly recommend.  Will we ever see anything as ambitious and successful as this?  I hope so.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Shin Sekai Yori"

I had tried to watch the show while it was being simulcast, but never got past episode 3.  I just got bored with it.  After listening to a rather glowing review on an anime podcast, I decided to try it again.  I am glad I did.  I ended up doing a marathon watching of the rest of the 25 episodes.  Watching the show is incredibly suspenseful because the show is one big mystery that keeps you hooked till the end.  Throw in some likeable characters who aren't afraid to actually make decisions, some interesting time-skips, a mysterious world built around a tightly controlled dystopia where everyone is psychokinetic, mutant animals, missing children, acceptance of same sex pairings among adolescents, a true atmosphere of dread and horror, and a satisfactory conclusion, and you have a winner.  I think this type of show benefits from a marathon style watching because each episode usually ends on a cliffhanger and the maintenance of the tension is easier when shows are watched back to back.  This is based on a single novel which helps it avoid the open ended ending trap with a lot of anime.  There is a true feeling of horror sometimes which I rarely feel with anime.  It's a great drama/horror/mystery.