Sarazanmai just kicked off and it is 1000% Ikuhara from the start and shows no signs of stopping. At this point you can pick out some of the major themes he is going to examine and guess and some others but betting on details specifics is a fool’s wager. Heck, even after an Ikuhara show has finished fans will be debating points about it until the end of time. I myself have watched the first episode of Sarazanmai three times in an attempt to try to find some of the obvious threads to pay attention to as well as hopefully catch some of the more subtle paths as well. I did notice something I was not excepting that gave me a new insight into Ikuhara as a storyteller.
Category: Character Studies
Fullmetal Alchemist: Comprehension, Deconstruction, Reconstruction
I recently had to take a Friday off of work after I had spent most of Thursday expelling the contents of the digestive system. That meant I spent a good deal of two days mostly lying in bed. While the experience was hardly pleasant it did give me a good deal of time where I needed to entertain myself passively as I recovered. This gave me a good chance to knock out a very vital title in my pile of shame.
A while back Kate and I were asked if we could get the other host of the Speakeasy to watch one show what would it be. Kate said that she would get me to finish Fullmetal Alchemist. Fullmetal Alchemist was an odd case in my library. I started watching the original TV series but then the overwhelming outcry was the original manga was better. (If this is true is a matter of contention I will touch on later in the post.) So I put the TV series on hold and started reading the manga. I played with the idea of watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood but I was already decently invested into buying the manga and I heard that while Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood only got really good when it got into new material as the first parts of the story were extremely rushed since they were in the 2003 TV series. The problem was that halfway through the Fort Briggs storyline I got outsourced at work and my pay was significantly cut. This meant that I stopped buying a lot of manga series and one of those titles was Fullmetal Alchemist. I always meant to finish off the series but I just never got around to it.
So Fullmetal Alchemist fell into this limbo where I had gotten fairly far into the story so there was a drive to finish off the series but starting over from the beginning was a bit of a pain in the ass. I’m definitely in that position with Nodame Cantabile. I was really hoping that someone would get the itch watch Fullmetal Alchemist and I could tag along with them but that never happened. So I was in limbo until I got sick. It seemed to be the perfect catalyst. It also worked really well since I was a little loopy during the episodes I watched on Friday but that was mostly when I watched the part of the story that I had experienced multiple times. By the time I was generally feeling better on Saturday I had caught up to where I was in the manga. I then just spent the next week finishing off the series.
Now a LOT of ink has been split on Fullmetal Alchemist. If you want a complex analysis of the themes, characters, and plot it is not too hard to find. I instead wanted to just go over five things I noticed since I watched all of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in 2019. There are certain observations that are easier to make a full decade after the show premiered. Some might only be possible with that much distance. That is worth talking about thanks to perspective.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Forward: I know it is an overused phrase to use for lame posters but it was just too apropos. Also I technically wrote most of this post 4 years ago when Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches anime was on TV but I decided to finish it since I JUST finished the 3rd season of the Rin-ne anime which inspired me to finally finish this.
Remember when Kyon from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya was a popular character? For a while he spawned he spawned about a dozen similar anime leads who were similar stoic with a bit of sarcastic edge to them. This is hardly a phenomenon solely centered around anime. Success tends to breed equal amounts of homage, inspiration, imitation, and plain and simple copying in media. I think it was just Kyon that made me mentally track trends like that in anime more than anything else I can easily remember.
Most of the time when people notice a trend like this it tends to inspire a good deal of cynicism. When you see a dozen characters all with a very similar character in a short period of time it does really make it seem like media has completely run out of ideas. Add on top of that the fact that the Johnny-come-latelys often never match up to the original only exacerbates that feeling of despair. I myself try to find similar characters who on the surface seem like they are doing the same thing but instead find a way to distinctly find their own niche. There is no real lessons to be learned from the first case that is not immediately obvious after you learn it the first time. The blind copying of a trend is just as easy to criticize as it is to do. The far more interesting examination is an analysis of the cases where similar characters are able to differentiate themselves or even fill different roles.
The characters who recently brought this to the forefront for me are Sakura Mamiya from Rin-ne and Urara Shiraishi from Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches. At first they seem remarkably similar. They are both young ladies who seem to be the only characters who constantly keep an almost robotic stiff upper lip despite the strange supernatural activity happening around them. They both act like straight-men for the rambunctious characters around them. They both also seem to be fairly unaware of the romantic interest that the male lead has for them.
It is really easy to assume that these characters are merely carbon copies of the other. A closer examination will show that they are actually very different when you examine them beyond the simple examination you would make in a snarky image post.