July 8th, 2006

net zombie!


Looking through the list of connected peers on a BitTorrent for downloading a fansub, I see two IPs from Japan.
Why would someone who lives in Japan want to download a fansub?

Finished series: Full Metal Alchemist

We've been watching Full Metal Alchemist. My first-episode review is here.

FMA is a long series: 51 episodes, plus a movie. Most long series either derail into endless side plots, using tons of stock footage. FMA is not like that -- not at all.
The series maintains a narrative thrust that is impressive. There is never a dull moment, and the focus is always on advancing the plot. There aren't even flashback episodes! There is a lot of plot too.

The series is about two brothers, Edward and Alphonse, who seek the Philosopher's Stone. They both are alchemists, and they need the stone to be exempt from the principle of equivalent exchange. When they tried to resurrect their mother, Ed lost his leg and Al lost his body -- Ed paid with his arm to bind Al's soul to a suit of armor. And now they are looking for a way to get Al's body and Ed's body parts back -- but they need to bypass the equivalent exchange clause of alchemy.
Under the patronage of Colonel Roy Mustang, Edward becomes a State Alchemist, which means he gets a stipend of the government, but with the provision that he will need to make himself available in case of war. The government, by the way, is a fascist-like military state (the 'king' is called 'führer'...). Some people in the miltary are looking out for the greater good of the people, but there are some unsavory elements for whom an order is an order...

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The designs are pretty simple, but the animation is quite fluid. Sure, there are some scenes where you know they have skipped some animation to save the budget (you only see the back of the head of talking characters in some scenes...), but that's not any worse than with other series and so doesn't really detract. And there is no stock footage.
Every episode advances the plot, and the series is exciting all the way through. There is a lot of stuff going on, and the action plays itself out on multiple levels: there are the fights Ed and Al get into, but there is also the more subtle political infighting going on in the military. Add to that the conspiracy of the homunculi, and you get an explosive mix that gives quite the rollercoaster ride.

It is clear that this series was made with a Western (American) audience in mind. All the text in the series is in English, for instance. (Try to read Ed's letter to Winry after he has passed the State Alchemist exam!) There are also no typically Japanese idiosyncracies present -- there are no bathing scenes, there are no fireworks festivals, there are no temples or shrines. This also makes it very easy viewing for people not as versed in the typicalities of anime.

Good points:
- Excellent and exciting plot;
- Decent animation and passable designs, no stock footage!
Bad points:
- Quite a lot of characters and plot-threads to keep track of.

All in all, there's not much to dislike here. A 9.