Mariofan's Rising Sun Reviews

Mariofan169

King Bowser
Good afternoon/evening/morning/nothing if you live in some timeless limbo, Shroom readers! This is the hub for Rising Sun Reviews, my bi-monthly section where I review anime series, movies, OVAs, and everything else animated from the Land of the...well, Rising Sun. Not only will this thread serve as a nice collection of all of my reviews for your reading pleasure in the future, but here is where you can go for slightly smaller reviews, opinions on anime news, and even posting suggestions for future reviews! And of course, you can use this space for providing me feedback, comments, and other thoughts.As my first contribution for the Shroom, I hope youll enjoy these as half as much as I am trying this out!

As a bonus if youre curious, heres the complete list of every anime Ive seen over the years.

(Also, the reason this is bi-monthly is because its very taxing trying to finish a series, especially a particularly lengthy one, and then write a full review on it within one month, but thanks to recent changes in my personal life, perhaps this could change...? Well see!)

Archive
Issue 142, January 2019 - Trigun
 
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Uniju

Hazukashii serifu kinshi
your plan to watch list is making me cry
 

Uniju

Hazukashii serifu kinshi
it's like three times the size of your completed list
 

Mariofan169

King Bowser
Yayoi Takatsuki said:
it's like three times the size of your completed list
perhaps you do have a point, actually

I just put down every show that’re considered good (and some that’re horrible but worth watching anyway) so I would have plenty of options, but in retrospect it might be a bit bloated. I’ll probably cut it down in the near future
 

Mariofan169

King Bowser
July’s review is well in progress, but I’m going to make the September issue special by making it reader’s request! Give me some anime series you would like to see covered, and I’ll pick one of them to watch and review.
 

Hibiki Tachibana

Gekisou Gungnir
Forum Moderator
Chat Operator
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Kaguya Shinomiya said:
July’s review is well in progress, but I’m going to make the September issue special by making it reader’s request! Give me some anime series you would like to see covered, and I’ll pick one of them to watch and review.
symphogear you chucklefuck
 

Mariofan169

King Bowser
After some thinking, I've made a decision for RSR's next step: I've realized that moving to a forum-based platform would be better for me in the long run. Several reasons for this: deadlines will no longer be a worry (especially with how much my irl workload will kill me next few months), not having to wait every two months to publish something, tech restrictions due to helicopter parenting bullshittery, the list goes on. Basically, I want to publish reviews as freely as I can while being able to cover a mix of small and large shows more easily. I'll still have a review up for Issue 150, but after that, I will be resigning so I can publish my reviews exclusively on the forums. I implore you all to consider signing up for the Critic Corner, since the number of sections will be sparse after I leave and Anton could certainly use the support. You can make a review section about literally anything you're passionate about, and even if I'm ending up leaving, I can definitely say it was an enjoyable experience. My ideal goal will be to put up a review after each show/manga I finish.

...Starting now as a bonus review!
 

Mariofan169

King Bowser

For those who aren’t in the know, Devil May Cry is an action video game series produced by Capcom that’s been around since 2001. The star of the show is Dante, a demon hunter who shoots and slices devils and ghouls while doing it in the most badass way possible. As in, this is the same guy who killed dozens of demons in midair using an entire motorcycle. The gameplay is all about executing stylish and flashy combos for as long as possible, gaining “stylish” points the more complex you make them. As someone who’s beaten every game in the series (besides the second one, try to avoid that one as far as you can throw it), I can wholeheartedly recommend them if you’re itching for crazy, mindless action, as nothing quite comes close to them besides maybe the Bayonetta series, which I’ve been meaning to get to but have always been stopped by the second game’s damned Wii U exclusivity, but I digress.

I could go on for ages about each game, but sadly, they’re not what I’m talking about today. For the Summer season of 2007, studio Madhouse released Devil May Cry: The Animated Series, a 12-episode anime set between the first and second games. Instead of adapting a specific game, the series sets about on discovering Dante’s day to day demon hunting life when he’s not on a big adventure. Showing what the hero does between games is an idea with real potential for a video game adaptation, especially when games don’t see much anime series unless it’s a visual novel. Does it work? Not exactly.

Like I said, the anime’s main focus is shedding some light on the smaller jobs of Dante as he tries to stay afloat when faced with crippling debt, with each episode showing a different mission with new characters and new conflicts. It’s basically a “monster of the week” format, which is where the hero, according to local binge addiction source TV Tropes, “faces an unrelated monstrous threat once per weekly episode”. There’s some episodes that deviate from this formula, and coincidentally they’re the only ones I could describe as relatively decent, but for the most part, it’s very...boring, the best way to describe it. That’s not to say every Monster of the Week series is cut from the same mediocre cloth; Neon Genesis Evangelion focuses on a different Angel (the evil alien race the protagonists face) each episode, but it’s often interlaced with important character development or, even better, clues towards a bigger mystery that’s promised to come to a head towards the end. Sadly, that’s not the thing here. The lack of development is another can of worms for later in this piece, but none of the episodes hint at a greater threat or mystery. They don’t build off of past episodes either, as characters and plot points mostly don’t return (until the finale arc anyway), making them very standalone. The only sense that there’s any sort of continuity here is a character from the first episode that briefly shows up in every subsequent episode and a pretty inconsequential recurring villain, so there’s really nothing stopping you from watching these episodes out of order, which is probably a bad sign. With no sense of continuity or foreshadowing, it’s easy to not feel motivated when there’s no Big Bad Climax to be hyped for. Truth be told, I had to shift into Ludicrous Speed in the last few episodes, speeding by and only listening to the important bits of dialogue and action because of how depleted my tanks of care were. I guess this makes me look like a lazy critic, so rest assured, I’ll try not to do this with future reviews. Especially with shows that aren’t trash

But it’s fine as long as the standalone stories themselves are interesting, right? Not here, of course. With a video game adaptation that touches on untold stories of Dante’s career, there’s a lot of potential to be had. The video game series’s lore isn’t exactly the deepest stuff (it’s a stylish action game, after all), there could be some interesting premises that expand on the worldbuilding and provide more insight on certain plot points. What happened instead is that most of the episode plots have jack all to do with the lore of the video games, so often I felt like the only thing that linked this anime to the games was the fact that Dante was there, not to mention a couple of other characters that debuted in the games. There were only two episodes that built on existing lore; one had the two main female characters from the first and third games, Trish and Lady respectively, cross paths for the first time and explain why they’re so familiar with each other in the fourth game, and another episode introduced two former apprentices of the Legendary Dark Knight Sparda, Dante’s father….they were killed off in the same episode, but damn it, it was good progress. But besides those cases, most of the stories hardly felt like they came from the video games while failing to be engaging at the same time. I’m especially disappointed a certain perfect opportunity for an episode plot was entirely missed. Dante’s origin story is that he and his brother, Vergil, were the children of Sparda, a demon, and Eva, a human, and their house was set ablaze because of that unholy union, leaving Eva dead, Sparda more ambiguously dead, Vergil a runaway, and Dante on his own. It’s a vital part of Dante’s character arc, but it’s never shown in full detail until the fifth game, which came out this just this year and 12 years after the anime. But because we DMC fans can’t have good things, this event wasn’t even hinted at in the show. There wasn’t even an appearance from Vergil, my personal favorite character in the games and an all-around badass, though I guess it makes sense considering he was in a pretty bad state in that point in the timeline. Still sucks, though.

Now, there’s two versions of Dante in the game series. The one most people think of when he comes to mind is the cuhrayzee, partying, hard rocking deviant personality he has in the third, fourth, and fifth games, but in the first two games, although he still makes the occasional joke, he’s more subdued and emo and overall is sort of a blank slate. Unfortunately, it’s this latter version of Dante that’s shown in The Animated Series. In the games, Dante isn’t really known for having depth or character development for the most part, but this is more acceptable post-DMC2 where you just revel in Dante’s wild antics. DMC1, meanwhile, had a frankly dull story because Dante took everything seriously and said almost nothing for the whole game, and it’s almost the same here. Hell, he doesn’t even execute any of his trademark moves or stylish battle sequences from the game, as if the series were afraid to make itself look cool.

Fortunately, he still cracked plenty of jokes in every episode, so that he wasn’t completely moody and edgy. In the end, I suppose I don’t mind that they used this version of Dante compared to the more famous party rocker Dante, but it would have been more forgivable if they tried to explain why he was so depressed for the first half of the franchise timeline. But, like many other potential story ideas for this show, the writers flopped on the couch with their favorite bag of Doritos and said “Nah, I’ll do it later”. I already explained how Dante is mostly a static character in the games, but he still has the small moment of development once every game. Here, he’s the same character from the first scene of the anime to the last, with hardly any character growth or drastic changes. It’s a weird thought when a main character feels like the backdrop of his own show, but indeed, he barely has anything to do with the plot of each episode. Other notable episodic series, like Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, have stories that make the characters feel involved or tie into their past. You’ll find no such thing in DMC The Series; Dante is merely a vehicle for one-off characters’ stories, a solution to their devil-plagued problems who doesn’t learn any lessons. There’s even one episode where the Extras of the Week confuse Dante for another person, so the plot’s not related to him in the slightest! You’ll be hard-pressed to find any sort of investment in Dante.

There’s only five other characters that make enough appearances to constitute a main cast, but for the most part, they don’t really pick up the slack left by Dante. Lady from Devil May Cry 3 is a personal favorite of mine, and luckily she’s in half of the episodes, but the anime’s apparent disdain of anything over the top doesn’t give her much room to flap her wings, and Trish from the first DMC shows up sometimes, but….to be honest I never cared about her in the games so let’s move on. Patty Lowell is a young girl that becomes Dante’s roommate for the entirety of the series after being rescued in the first episode, but she might as well been left alone. She serves no other purpose than to be the annoying comic relief, doing nothing to help out Dante and constantly putting Dante deeper into debt. There’s Morrison, Dante’s agent who appears in a good number of episodes, but he doesn’t have any real personality and might as well just be a prop. And while there is a main villain of the series, his presence is so laughable it might as well not matter. For the majority of the run, he’s only a minor demon who doesn’t do anything more than mildly inconvenience Dante and friends, leading to his rise to godlike power in the final episode to have pretty much no buildup and no reason to care. Also, he has a stupid name. Not that important, but it’s worth pointing out.

Luckily, nothing’s lacking in the animation department. Madhouse is practically the best there is when it comes to good ol bloody violence, as shown with Black Lagoon, Hellsing Ultimate, and my previously reviewed Trigun, so putting this series in their hands was a very fitting choice. Although the action choreography isn’t as good as it could have been, as this was DMC1 Dante where things were relatively down to earth and he wasn’t nailing demons in the head with cue balls, it’s pretty fluidly put together and has nice shot composition on occasions. The music is...serviceable. It’s nothing fantastic, but it does the job just fine. The OP song is a banger of a track, even if the visuals that accompany it are rather dull. A good rule of thumb is that an OP needs to have both strong visuals and music for it to be something truly great. The Japanese voice acting was good, though it’s hard to pick up on the nuances of a language I don’t speak. The dub is something of a mixed bag, however. It uses Dante’s regular voice actor, who perfectly fits in the role like it’s a glass slipper, but the actors for all the extras and one-offs are average at best and amateurish at worst.

Lastly, I want to pick up a few idiotic but critical character fuck-ups that I can’t help but share. One episode features a genie demon that refuses someone’s (let’s call him Kerry) first three wishes, but upon saying “drop dead” to his brother after losing a game to him, the demon grants that unintentional wish and kills the brother. Kerry thinks it was his fault for a crime he didn’t really commit, and with nothing else to go off of, he’s arrested and taken to prison. But the police did have something to go off of: the demon killed his brother by spitting acid at him and melting him into nothing but a skeleton; a regular person couldn’t do this by any conventional means! There was even a witness who saw him disintegrate, so Kerry shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place! Another episode has a demon named King who kills gamblers by taking their souls if they lose a game against him. To get more prey, he invites Dante to a high-class poker game on a cruise ship. It would make sense if Dante was a proficient gambler, but he’s not shown gambling in either the games or anime. So we can assume King only invited him because he knew he was a devil hunter, so in other words, he was basically asking for his death! The dialogue in this anime is pretty true for a DMC adaptation, but the writing everywhere else….isn’t the best with logic, to say the least.

With an anime this mediocre, it’d make sense that Capcom would want to ignore it as much as possible in the games. Sure enough, when the fourth game came out the next year, it didn’t have even the slightest mention of the events of the show. Turns out it was canon all along when Patty and Morrison made small appearances in the fifth game (albeit Morrison inconspicuously had his race changed from white to black, but it still counts). The bottom line is: if you’ve played a good deal of the series and you like what you saw, then it wouldn’t hurt to check this out if you’re really curious, but if not, then you probably shouldn’t bother. There’s much better gritty action anime worth investing your time into, especially from the same studio. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s more along the lines of aggressively average. Probably worse, as it’s better to be laughably bad, where you have fun riffing at it along the ride, than to be average, where there’s almost nothing to make fun of. In other words, this show didn’t hit the jackpot.
 

Mariofan169

King Bowser
Sorry mate, only review anime/manga series from Japan (unless enough people pester me to cover RWBY or smth).
 

Mariofan169

King Bowser
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This is going to be a short one, folks. Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou, or the English title Daily Lives of High School Boys if you want to keep your tongue intact, is a 12 episode series adapted from the manga by Yasunobu Yamauchi and produced by studio Sunrise, famous for shows such as Cowboy Bebop and Love Live and for being the guru of the mecha genre with the likes of Gundam, Code Geass, and Valvr[redacted]. This series centers around a trio of…..well, high school boys (the leader Hidenori, the emotional Yoshitake, and the intellectual Tadakuni) and their interactions with their fellow classmates and the ordinary world around them in particularly unordinary ways. We’re talking pretending to be in an RPG, trying skirts on, hosting a Q&A session with the audience, the list goes on.


If you’ve read a manga volume before, there’s a good chance it had a comedic, newspaper 4-panel comic at the end, otherwise known as 4-koma. This series is basically that format but for 12 whole episodes, with each one comprised of several skits with different stories. The main specialty of Danshi Koukousei is taking typical anime cliches and turning the tables mach speed at them. What’s normally a character running late to school with a piece of toast in his mouth is now someone eating a full course meal while running. What used to be boring ol riverbank conversations about romance and whatnot is now characters throwing cheesy prose at each other while thinking “what the HELL am I saying”, so on and so forth. There’s also no fourth wall to speak of, as the high school students often times lament the fact that they’re in an anime and even talk to Yamauchi’s editor at one point. It also helps that the main characters are in an all-boys school, so the moe (a term used for overly cute female characters) element that’s oh so prevalent in slice of life shows is a thing of the past, allowing for more jokes about dumb guys doing dumb high school shit. It’s certainly filled with gut busting setups and punchlines, and I could probably say it’s one of the funniest anime I’ve seen in a while.


Buuuuuut it’s still very much a comedy anime, and comedy in this medium is something I have very mixed feelings towards. When I think of a good comedy show like, say, Seinfeld or Arrested Development, I can count on the characters getting into wacky situations while passing the time with witty banter and clever writing. But more often than not in anime, I’m only really amused by the situations, not the humor. I don’t remember that many Seinfeld quotes, but if I took the time to memorize a bunch of them down, I’m sure I wouldn’t break a sweat using them at least 4 times a day, but lines in comedy anime aren’t exactly as memorable. I’m sure the writing is something that feels more natural to Japanese speakers, but when translated to English, it just comes off as stilted and something people wouldn’t say in real life. When there’s not a physical gag on the screen, 90% of any comeback to a humorous thing someone says or does, like making puns or being creepy, is another character telling them to “Stop making puns/being creepy!” and just restating the first joke. This show in particular is like the Junji Ito (a famous horror manga artist I might cover...eventually) of comedy: for the majority of the story, I only feel slightly amused or creeped out, but when the end comes, I feel a big burst of emotion (in Ito’s case, fear, and in this show’s case, laughter). It’s not what I look for in the optimal comedy, where it’s consistently funny for the entire episode.


But that’s not to say you’ll enjoy it. In fact, while Danshi Koukousei did little to lift my disappointment with comedy in anime, I still enjoyed a lot of the jokes and the characters were endearing enough to stay. If you want to dip your toes into the genre, then this certainly isn’t a bad choice. It helps that the skits are so self-contained that you could just start and end wherever you please.
 

Mariofan169

King Bowser
DISCLAIMER: Full spoilers for Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 and, less so, Brotherhood below. It's practically unavoidable. If you're already familiar with one or both or you simply don't care, read on ahead.


It’s not too often when you hear of a manga that gets more than one adaptation, and when you do, it’s usually a classic manga and the adaptations are well spaced out. Which makes it all the more unusual when you see a manga that gets two adaptations between *five years*. Fullmetal Alchemist is a beloved fantasy/supernatural series created by Hiromu Arakawa that received two anime series from Studio Bones (behind such series as My Hero Academia, Mob Psycho 100, and Soul Eater), one lasting from 2003-2004 and the other from 2009-2010. The latter, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, was one of my very first anime series and to this day is my all time favorite. I probably should cover it in full detail one of these days/years, but it’s the number one series I recommend to people getting into anime.

This, however is not that series. Brotherhood was actually made to be a 1:1 adaptation of the manga because of how unfaithful the first series was. You might have heard a term thrown around by anime junkies called “filler”, where a series catches up with the manga (usually shounen series like Dragon Ball or Naruto) and makes episodes with entirely original stories until there’s enough material to cover from the manga, and for the most part those episodes are terrible (keyword “mostly”, I’m convinced the episode with Goku and Piccolo driving cars is better than everything else in Dragon Ball). Well, not only is Fullmetal Alchemist ‘03 almost entirely filler, but the creator of the manga even approved it herself! Since ‘03 started airing 2 years after the manga started, Arakawa figured the anime would eventually overtake its source material, so she gave her blessing to the studio to branch the story off into its own thing, even designing characters specifically for this. Nothing better than official filler, huh? While this is arguably a better route than spacing out arcs adapted from the manga with dozens of filler episodes (looking specifically at Naruto with its entire filler arcs), you may recall that one of my past anime, Black Butler, tried the same thing and failed miserably at it. So, let’s go in with an air of caution.

The world of FMA, set in pseudo 1910’s Europe, revolves around the science of alchemy. No, not old medieval men in wizard robes trying to turn rocks into gold. Alchemy here is basically a form of magic for reconstructing and deconstructing matter; in other words, using the environment around you to make whatever you want. However, alchemy is restricted by a certain Law of Equivalent Exchange: “To create something, something of equal or lesser value must be given.” That hard truth is what brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric learn one fateful night when they tried to bring back their late mother with the forbidden technique of “human transmutation”. As a price for committing the sin of resurrecting a human soul, Ed loses not just his leg, but his brother’s body. In a desperate bid to bring him back, Ed sacrifices his arm to transfer Al’s soul to a suit of armor. They didn’t even revive their mother; in its place they summoned a malformed, mangled abomination that looked like their mother, talk about false advertising. The brothers burn their house to the ground to symbolize that there’s no turning back, and years later, Ed, now with a mechanical arm and leg, becomes a State Alchemist (an alchemist officially sponsored by the military) for one single purpose: to find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, an artifact that supposedly bypasses equivalent exchange and could maybe, just maybe, bring Al’s body back. Little do they know, a conspiracy involving a group of artificial beings known as Homunculi is taking form around the entire country…

This is a trickier series to review, and all because of something I could have avoided entirely. It’s hard for me to not go into this without comparing it to Brotherhood, which is probably setting the bar way too high since it’s my personal favorite and I doubt anything will take that spot anytime soon. I will give ‘03 some credit: its beginning episodes are much better than Brotherhood’s, but only by default. You see, ‘03 adapts the manga with varying levels of filler until a certain point where they decided it would be best to part ways with its source material and go entirely original. For the episodes that actually covered the manga, they attempted to cover them faithfully and succeeded. Meanwhile with Brotherhood, the studio didn’t want to spend too much time animating the episodes already covered by the first anime, which could be a result of budget constraints, keeping a hard episode limit, or simply not wanting to bother with the redundancy. Thus, Brotherhood’s first 14 episodes with the same events that happened in ‘03 ended up being rushed with varying results. Some episodes were 1:1 in terms of similarities, while other mini-arcs were left half-baked due to a lack of character development, especially a particular gutpunch of an episode which doesn’t leave much time for its one-off characters to breathe before disaster strikes.

Some episodes from ‘03 which were manga chapter adaptations were even cut out altogether, and even if they weren’t critical to the overarching plot, they still forced certain characters to start on the wrong foot. For example, in ‘03, there’s a train hostage episode that’s important for setting up a major side character, Colonel Roy Mustang, as an utter force to be reckoned with, but as it’s cut in Brotherhood, our first impressions of him in the latter episode are that he’s an incompetent fool after an enemy’s rain power leaves his flame alchemy useless. Brotherhood also omits the origin episode for a character named Yoki who becomes more prominent as the show went on, setting up for potential confusion when he actually debuts. Buuuut this probably isn’t as big of a deal because 1. He’s a butt monkey whose only contribution to the plot is hitting one of the most dangerous Homunculi in the series with a car and 2. In the same episode he first shows up he gives a brief (albeit biased) recap of the episode that was cut. Long-drawn tangent aside, what I’m getting at is that ‘03’s beginning is better than Brotherhood’s only because it actually bothered to do the manga justice.

Before we start to tear this anime a new one, it is important to note that the characters brought in from the manga are not bad at all. Edward Elric, the main character, is smarter than the average shounen character and uses his vast pool of chemistry knowledge against his foes, often leading to smart and unique solutions to fights. As he’s also just a teenager, he’s frequently up at arms with himself over how to accomplish his goal in the most moral way possible and the harsh realities of the world. Between this and his more cynical approach, you could say he’s even more realistic than most shounen characters, making him a pleasant MC to follow. All of the other heroes have similar depth to them, and they’re all memorable in their own unique way, whether it’s Edward’s childhood friend Winry who gushes over mechanical stuff in the most adorable way, or general Alex Louis Armstrong, who’s nothing but a 2-ton pile of sheer *manliness*. Especially impressive when the character count is around 40 or so.

One other positive thing I’d like to point out is the atmosphere. Brotherhood was more of an epic, grand scale action-adventure type series, but here in ‘03, we have more of a dark, personal tale. Not to say that Brotherhood isn’t disturbing often, but ‘03 just doubles down on it; an entire village succumbs to a disease that turns their skin into stone, a daughter is forcibly combined into her dog by her father, limbs are ripped off left and right...these are just a sample of the messed up happenings, here. The story also makes sure to not shy away from adult themes such as the brutality of war, mass genocide, discrimination, and even rape at one point. It’s even enough to the point where Ed is visibly depressed by the end of the series. This series is certainly not for the light-hearted, but it definitely pays off by showing it’s not afraid to take the gloves off.

It’s when the story starts to introduce new characters that things get a bit...messy. First off, it’s important to note that after the point where ‘03 deviates from the manga, Brotherhood continued to build a massive cast of supporting characters that each had their own personal arcs and were mostly fleshed out, even the less important ones. Meanwhile, ‘03 sort of falls back on characters and settings that were already established, which feels like a real missed opportunity when there could have been more worldbuilding. The only original character who wasn’t a Homunculi (or their leader, more on that mess in a bit) is Frank Archer, a malicious colonel who screws around with the Elrics for a bit before turning into the Terminator. And yes, it’s as fucking ridiculous as it sounds:



But it’s the main villain team known as the Homunculi, based on the seven deadly sins, where new characters really take front and center, and to say they’re polarizing is an understatement. Four of them, Lust, Gluttony, Envy, and Greed, are more or less the same as they were in the manga. One of them is based on an existing character from the manga, but at the same time, not exactly. While Fuhrer King Bradley, the ruler of the country the story takes place in, took the moniker of Wrath in the manga, here he’s instead known as Pride, but boy does it not matter in the slightest. This fact is revealed extremely late into the series, and when he has his only fight in the last two episodes, he hasn’t built up any menace or connection to the characters for him to really be much of a threat. (On a side note, said final fight was a miracle of sheer stupidity. For context, Homunculi could only be defeated if they’re sealed with a piece of their human remains, as they’re formerly people who were tried to be brought back via human transmutation. Well, not only did Bradley keep his remains, a skull in this case, in a safe in his own house, he gives the key to it to his *son* for no goddamn reason whatsoever, and during the fight, he rushes to his father to conveniently give him his skull, barely allowing the person fighting him to win. Bravo, Bradley. Bravo.)

Then there’s Wrath, the result of Izumi, Ed and Al’s alchemy teacher, trying to revive her dead child through human transmutation. Wrath comes off as more of a nuisance than an actual threat, as he’s a little kid whose only trait is wanting to steal Ed’s body so he can become human, if that would….actually work. Not to mention he can be rather annoying as hell sometimes when half of the things he does towards the end of the series is bawl over his mother….or rather, who he thinks she is. Meet Sloth, what was spawned when Ed and Al tried to bring back their mother. She was….alright. For the majority of her time, she wasn’t given much development, but she was focused on more right before her death. Most of my hate for her probably comes from the fact that, despite Sloth trying to kill him on multiple occasions, Al legitimately protected her because he thought she was his mother. Frustrating, indeed.

Now, I might as well hold off on comparing the main antagonist to Brotherhood’s because…..well, I don’t need to. Even if I watched this before Brotherhood, her many flaws would be as clear as day to me. Dante, instead of being the hard-rocking demon hunter from Devil May Cry (sadly) is introduced as a frail old woman whose only apparent connection to anything is being the teacher of the Elrics’ teacher and doesn’t do much of anything until she’s seemingly killed off a few episodes later. Before I go on, you might be familiar with a trope used by modern Disney/Pixar movies such as Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6 that’s reviled by literally everyone: the twist villain. For the first two thirds of the movie, a certain character would act innocent and helpful to the heroes’ side, but in the third act, it’s shockingly revealed that he/she was actually the villain all along, with no hint of foreshadowing beforehand. There goes the equivalent exchange again; in order to gain temporary shock value, the story loses any sort of development for this character as a villain and investment for the climax, and sure enough, it’s the same case here. By the time there’s 7 or 8 episodes left, Dante returns and declares that she’s the leader of the Homunculi like it’s totally been hinted at the entire series ooooooo isn’t this shocking, guys? It just seemed like the series realized they didn’t have a main antagonist and threw one in at the eleventh hour instead of building one up throughout the entire series, and as a result, I just didn’t care when the final confrontation happened because Edward didn’t have any sort of connection to her. Did I mention that despite her being the main villain of the entire story, she dies offscreen like a wimp? I mean, it is hilariously fitting for a last-minute big bad, but it’s embarrassing all the same.

This lack of connection also applies to Conqueror of Shamballa, the movie that was meant to be the ending to the series. Long story short, the majority of it has Edward running around in real-world 1920s Germany, something which wasn’t shown until the second to last episode (so yes, Hitler is technically a FMA character), and that’s where the movie’s villain comes from. I wouldn’t have a problem with the main conflict having nothing to do with the show if the movie wasn’t, you know, sold as the conclusion to it. It’s basically a typical shounen movie under the pretense of getting Ed and Al back together after they were separated during the final episode.

But luckily, this series would be much more inexcusable if it weren’t for the aesthetics. Arakawa’s artstyle, while relatively simple, is very pleasing to the eyes and has a more realistic feel that sets the characters apart from other series. The animation, especially after the first few episodes is very crisp and fluid, especially for something from the early 2000s compared to today. The soundtrack isn’t quite as good or memorable as Brotherhood’s, but it’s still a wonderful orchestral collection that go along with each scene quite well. As for the four OPs, I kind of agree with Anituber Glass Reflection that as the animation gets better, the songs get….less so. The first OP, "Melissa", is a positive banger that’s brimming with early 2000s nostalgic energy, but everything after that is hit or miss, to say the least. It’s hard to talk about the dub without mentioning the….incidents from Vic Micgnogna, Edward’s English VA, but what’s not hard is to agree that he gives a very fine performance, with most of the other cast being just as good, and it’s certainly one of the best dubs out there (in fact, people say that it’s one of the *only* good dubs, which might have something to do with the fact that some anime fans tend to only find dubs good when they’re for a show in a Western setting, but that’s for another time).

I’m not at all saying that the 2003 adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist is the worst there is. The characters are enveloping, the beginning is better than that of Brotherhood’s, and the aesthetical aspects just knock it out of the park. No, it’s not necessarily bad, just...disjointed. It’s the equivalent of a rebellious teenager who runs away from his parents’ house, only to have no idea what to do once he’s out. The idea of separating entirely from the manga was a very bold idea at the time, but in the end, the manga is what the series needed to survive. Not only are the new villains a complete joke in terms of writing and development, but the ending was rushed to hell and was the culmination of the story in the second half jumping from place to place with no real direction. But it’s still Fullmetal Alchemist, and there’s certainly some gold to be found here in the characters from the manga and the themes, so if that interests you and you’re not deterred by these flaws I just mentioned, then I’d say go for it, just….don’t expecting a fulfilling conclusion. I’ve seen people recommend newcomers to watch ‘03 up to Greed and then move on to Brotherhood, but even then, there’s plenty of drastic changes that would confuse you after the switch, but it’s up to you whether or not you want a better paced starting point. All in all, just like Ed’s half-mechanical body, ‘03 is shiny on the surface, yet incomplete.
 

Mariofan169

King Bowser
so i saw a whooooole bunch of anime movies in my attempt to clear my dvd backlog to justify buying some of them six months to a year ago without watching them, let’s talk about them



The first movie I saw was the 2013 film The Garden of Words, directed by the acclaimed Makoto Shinkai. I can call myself well-acquainted with some of him more famous films, as I was overwhelmed with emotion by 5 Centimeters per Second and underwhelmed with hype backlash by Your Name, and this movie reaches a sort of middle ground. Garden of Words is about an aspiring high school student named Takao who hopes to be a successful shoe designer (no, he doesn't have a foot fetish....I think), but feels he’s bogged down by the monotony of a daily school life. As a result, whenever it’s a particularly rainy day, he skips class and takes a visit to a local park, where he whiles away the hours by sketching designs. But one day, he meets at his usual spot a woman named Yukari, a 27-year-old who’s grown similarly disenchanted with her job and escapes to the park to unwind with chocolate and beer. Having dreams for a more meaningful future in common, the two characters, 12 years apart, strike off an unusual friendship…..that’s unfortunately not explored much. While it’s true a relationship like this isn’t heard of in most media, especially anime, the story doesn’t really go into it in much detail, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the majority of the movie. The first half, which has most of the scenes with Takao and Yukari in the garden together, is carried by moments of quiet introspection and strong character interaction. While their relationship doesn’t quite go to the romantic level, the dialogue is natural enough that you would have no problem believing a friendship between these strangers with such a relatively large age gap. This movie’s strongest area is without a doubt its gorgeous visuals, using many different techniques to sell its photorealistic backgrounds and genius lighting effects, making this probably the best looking out of Shinkai’s films. The movie also heavily uses rain as a theme and general aesthetic, which I’ll always approve of because goddamn does rain in anime look cool. The music is fine enough, it drowns out the movie at times and plays a bit too much but it’s good piano music that’s practically a mainstay of romantic anime like this.

And yes, I said romantic, because once the idea of Takao and Yukari comes into view, the movie just starts to become undone. The lowkey conversations of the first half were fine enough, but then the film decides to bring in a larger conflict when there wasn’t a place for it. Spoiling the second half here, but it’s eventually revealed that Yukari is actually a teacher at Takao’s school, and the reason she was constantly skipping school was because she was the target of constant bullying and gossip for….some reason. It feels forced in that it’s not touched upon beyond that, and by the time we see the mother of all melodramatic anime endings with Takao yelling at her through tears why he hated her for not opening up, I didn’t really feel anything from it from how rushed it was. After all, Garden of Words is only a whooping 46 minutes long, more out of Shinkai’s weird choice than any budget or adaptational constraints. It just feels like an unnecessary limitation more than anything, and if he had to stick to 46 minutes I’d rather have the mellow park conversations for the entire length, especially when later scenes such as one where Takao picks a fight with Yukari’s bullies do nothing but contrast with the otherwise relaxing tone of the movie. Not to mention that for the majority of the film, their relationship was implied to be pretty damn platonic, so to come right out the gate and say that this guy had a crush on this 27 year old all along with no foreshadowing comes off as extremely half-baked. Overall, Garden of Words is a visual marvel and the beginning shows some real promise, but ultimately, this movie is a classic case of biting more than you can chew and should have been about twice as long to justify the sudden drama. Or maybe this is just fatigue from realizing all of Shinkai’s films are the same, who knows. Check this out if you want, but I would much sooner recommend 5 Centimeters per Second, it’s only 20 minutes longer but manages to say a lot more with the short time it has and is genuinely phenomenal. For this, though, I'm giving The Garden of Words a solid 7/10.

Expect my next review to be up this weekend, where I’ll be talking about naked cyberpunk robots that aren’t, in fact, played by Scarlett Johannson.
 
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