Fullmetal Alchemist: Comprehension, Deconstruction, Reconstruction

hisui_icon_4040 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.
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No Case Too Small: Fullmetal Alchemist

The case in question is episode 10 of Fullmetal Alchemist

narutaki Fullmetal Alchemist actually features quite a lot of mysteries and investigations like fraud and serial killers, not to mention the overarching search for the Philosopher’s Stone. Still, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a detective series.

But one favorite trope appears in this early episode, the calling card dropping phantom thief, in this case she is called Psiren. Ed and Al happen upon in one of the town’s they are passing through. It is revealed quickly in a fight with Ed that Psiren is using alchemy for her capers.

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Ongoing Investigations: Case #198

narutaki I had the pleasure of reading the wonderful U.S. release of Heart of Thomas. It is an over-sized hardcover, it is quite a heafty book.

But I have to say the cover is less than appealing, I think it is the muddy colors. The story though, the story is magnificent and great and you will forget all about that cover. Interior art is crisp and there are a few limited color pages within as well. Hagio Moto’s artwork is stellar with moments were it is incredibly 70s (like the eye glints) but with an overall timeless quality to it. Good page layout rounds out this classic release.

Set at a boys boarding school in Germany, the story starts in grim fashion with the suicide of a young man named Thomas. The next day a letter is delivered to the boy he was in love with, Juli, and just a few more days later a new student who bears a striking resemblance to Thomas appears. All of these things bear down on Juli who is harboring a secret and just can’t seem to move past it or Thomas’s death.

The complexities of the relationships in the series making it outstanding . Juli’s relationship with his past, Oskar’s relationship with his father, Erik’s with his mother. And then all the friendships and love that surround it all, everyone is dealing with a lot of emotions.

All the boys at the school have their demons to grapple with. And despite the ominous tone of the first half or so of the manga, characters are able to grow and move through these things leading a positive if not a happily ever after ending. I really thought it was going to all end in tragedy and I don’t think I would have enjoyed that.

I feel really grateful that I was finally able to experience this seminal manga.

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I can’t say I am ever exactly sure what to expect from Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic. I am still fairly in the middle of the road on the show even after watch episodes 8 through 11 but I do have to say it keeps itself from being complete formula shonen action. But for all the surprising little differences it has this last batch had one thing I could not have ever expected to be touched upon in a shonen fighting anime. Magi decided to touch upon the economics of large-scale debt,  monetary politics, and shady investment baking. It’s not exactly Spice and Wolf levels but it sort of threw me off guard that it was a plot element at all.

My roommate and I agree that the greatest obstacle any of the characters in this series need to overcome is not trapped dungeons, vile monsters, or enemy sorcerers. It is the fact that they tend to make some very odd principled decisions and then stick with them no matter what evidence is thrown at them until the last conceivable second. Morgiana spends forever getting over her slave mentality and it is a refreshing end to the aggravation when she finally through off those mental shackles. I wanted to like her right off the bat with her cool fighting style and shapely curves but they make it really hard.

So you figure it is the standard shonen prejudice against women. But Alibaba is just as bad with his fanatical devotion to his old friend Kassim who is repeatedly shown not to be acting in his best interest. I know they were childhood friends and that Alibaba has distinct guilt issues but man oh man. He seems determined to believe this guy has a white knight until the bitterest of bitter ends. Normally I don’t mind such things but it seems more out of an almost silly naivete more than some insight into his former friend’s true character.

I think I might have dropped Magi but my roommate will throw it on in the living room which then makes it simpler to watch than to ignore. Still the series keep wandering into this realm where I want to like it more. It has a unique setting, some interesting plot elements, and Morgiana being a wonderful mixture of sexy and competent. It just never reaches that vital stage where I love it. It just keeps dropping out one step before it can deliver the goods.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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