For the most part we all amble through the world of anime choosing to watch various shows ranging from niche to divisive. There are a couple of shows out there though that seem to be requirements of being an anime fan, shows that are universally accepted (pretty much, I’m sure there are people out there that do disagree) as fantastic. Apart from the show I’m going to review in this article the only example I can really think of is Clannad: After Story. That aside the focus of this article is the number 1 rated anime on both MAL and Hummingbird (check out my profiles in the links!), Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood is the definition of universally loved. Through the last two weeks, I’ve been on the journey that so many have loved and now I’m going to let you know what I thought of it. Given how many people have watched this and how much I would have to miss to avoid spoilers, in this review I won’t be holding back.
At the beginning of our story Ed and Alphonse Elric tragically lose their mother to an illness, after their mysterious father had disappeared, not to have been heard from for several years. The two boys are alchemists, following the principal of equivalent exchange and decide to dedicate themselves to finding the secrets of human transmutation (a taboo of alchemists), in order to bring their mother back to life. After several years of research and training, the two boys attempt the alchemic exchange to bring back their mother. [Spoiler] The experiment fails. Not only do the boys not revive their mother, creating instead a hideous, dying humanoid, but Ed loses his leg while Al loses his whole body, only for Ed to give up his arm to attach his brother’s soul to a suit of a armour.
One of the biggest gripes of the common anime fan is that the length of a show is too short or maybe too long. Some people get angry with the amount of filler episodes in a show while others get frustrated that shows that could have been brilliant did not have enough time to develop all of the important characters.
I’ll start by addressing the issue of shows being too long. Before I started writing this article I did a quick search for the longest running anime show of all time- apparently a show called Sazae-san has been running in Japan since 1969 and has clocked over 7000 episodes. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, let’s have a look a bit further down the list… ah, One Piece. Now this is not a show I have ever watched and as such I would not want to pass judgement on it all in anyway, however, I can imagine that it would be easy to complain because of it’s 681 aired episodes to date. I am tempted myself to ask question like: ‘Is every episode relevant?’ or ‘Is this an anime that is showing one story or a series of stories with just one character?’. Either way, to the One Piece delinquent, it would need some explaining before I decided to go ahead and start watching it.
In all seriousness, I am not sure that I could cope with the amount of filler episodes that a show like this must have by necessity of it’s length. And more than that imagine tuning in to your favourite long running show only to find that the very exciting story has been interrupted by a trip to the beach (I might not know lots but I know about beaches and anime). I couldn’t imagine anything more frustrating, not only would it ruin the flow of the story but it would also be a waste of time.
So I’ve just started watching Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, so this will be the last review for the next couple of weeks or so, but rest assured there will be plenty of content around such a big show when I’m done! I’m also trying out a new idea for my reviews by recommending the best track- fitting seeing as Deadman Wonderland has a couple of great ones and hopefully we’ll be able to keep it going. It’s worth saying before we get started that Deadman Wonderland got cancelled half way through and as a result won’t have a second season which my review does reflect. Let me know what you think of the review and feel free to dispute it through whatever social media you like!
Deadman Wonderland starts as it means to go on. Our hero, Ganta, sees his entire middle school class brutally murdered by a mysterious red man. As if that’s not bad enough, he is then accused and found guilty of this massacre and sent to Japan’s one and only privately owned prison, Deadman Wonderland. From the outside the prison is designed to seem like an amusement park where the inmates are made to complete gruesome events to entertain the masses. As Ganta soon finds out however, the prison has an even darker side, where ‘Deadmen’ are kept, these are people that have been infected with the branch of sin virus and can use their blood as a weapon. The Deadmen are forced to fight each other for a select group of researchers and other questionable people. Ganta, after two of these battles, joins up with a rebel group of Deadmen who are trying to escape the prison and tell the world it’s dark secret. If you’re looking for a positive here, you’ll struggle, but Ganta’s childhood friend, Shiro, a bubbly, over-excited, sweet loving girl, unexpectedly turns up (no really, we never find out the explanation, but there is an answer) to provide comic relief and generally help Ganta out.
The plot of Deadman Wonderland focuses almost solely on the main character and protagonist, Ganta, though there are moments where we get an insight into the story behind Shiro’s background. After the oh so gruesome beginning in the classroom, Ganta is questioned and promptly arrested by police before being stitched up in court by his own lawyer who happens to be the promoter of Deadman Wonderland.
Fate/Stay Night is one of those shows that has been around for a while and you hear a lot of good things about. Don’t think that those things go to their extremes though, it’s nine years old and people have recommended plenty of other things over this. You get it though, not new, not awful- surely worth a watch?
Ten years ago an area of Fuyuki City was inexplicably burnt down with the only survivor being a young boy, Shiro Emiya. After being saved and taken in, he promises to uphold his father’s ambition of being a ‘champion of justice’. As it turns out, Shiro’s father is what we call a magus (magician, wizard etc.) and has passed a degree of his power onto his son. ‘A degeee’ is just the right way to talk about it, as Shiro can only do one type of magic which is viewed by the other magus’ as largely useless. The story focuses upon the ever recurring ‘Holy Grail Wars’, a battle royale of the sorts between pairs of masters and servants to gain the Holy Grail, an object which can grant the user anything they want.
In the beginning Shiro is clueless. Actually, he’s always clueless.
As with most anime, our main character (though some bad things have happened to him a long time ago), starts off living an extraordinarily normal life. This very quickly changes as he is selected to be a Master in the Holy Grail Wars and accidentally summons his Servant, Saber. Between the two of them they have to defeat the other masters, which unsurprisingly they manage before meeting an unseen and much greater challenge at the end of the series. As it happens, Saber has already been involved in the Holy Grail Wars before, fighting with Shiro’s father, coming very close to winning before the Grail was destroyed (or was it?!) burning down a large area of the city (see, it’s come full circle).
There are plenty of ways to access dubbed and subbed anime on the internet, regardless of what country you’re in. This ranges from official websites offering subbed only, stream cast content such as Crunchy Roll through to less than legal sites such as Anime Freak with a seemingly limitless catalogue of shows.
It struck me though that, as a student in a dark corner of the UK, I am in no way contributing to the anime industry. As I pointed out some sites are totally legal, with revenues coming from adverts, while others, such as Netflix, are based on subscription fees. I’d be lying though if I said I used these sites all of the time; besides anything else the majority of dubbed content isn’t available online legally for any price.
Following on from my post a couple of weeks ago listing out my top 5 anime so far, I thought I’d start re-watching them (because, you know, they are my favourite) for the purpose of reviewing. First up is the #2, Future Diary, otherwise known in Japanese as Mirai Nikki.
To avoid giving away any spoilers, I will give a background from our protagonist’s, Yuki’s point of view at the end of episode 1.
So essentially, we’re talking about a Battle Royale: 12 people fight it out to the death, in this case to succeed the God of Space and Time. The story’s main two characters are the ‘games” first and second participants- Yukiteru Amano and Yuno Gasai. Each player in the game has a diary that can tell them certain aspects of the future that will in some way aid them in surviving through the game. Yuki is the typical anime loser turned hero with the help of his psychotic yet incredibly cute stalker, Yuno.
Yuki is entered into the game by his ‘imaginary’ (or not as it turns out) friend and God, Deus Ex Machina. With his newly gained diary he is given the knowledge of everything that happens around him before it happens. It is just after he is first targeted that he meets Yuno, who rather gruesomely, helps him survive. The story isn’t particularly split into arcs as such as most of the diary users get at least a couple of episodes to interact with the lead characters. It is not until the last few episodes that this pattern stops.
So last week I finished the mecha show, Infinity Stratos. Before I say anything on this anime more specifically, I should probably point out that I’m not a big fan of the mecha genre. I get why big robots with swords and guns and all other manner of exciting and explosive weapons is attractive to a lot of people, but it’s not something that has really ever overly interested me – animated or otherwise. Regardless, I decided I’d give Infinity Stratos a go given some of the positive reviews I’d read, plus I’m a big fan of both Brittney Karbowski and Josh Grelle.
The back drop to Infinity Stratos goes something like this. A few years ago a type of human controllable robot was developed call the Infinity Stratos, or IS for short. Along with their only be around 350 of these robots, the biggest restriction of these machines was that they can only be controlled by women. Our story takes a boy, Ichika, the brother of pretty much the best IS pilot ever, who turns out to be the only guy that can control an IS. We join the world when he starts at the IS training school in Japan.
Infinity Stratos is unashamedly a harem show and before I say anything on how well that works, if you don’t like harems, then don’t watch this.
No escaping the fact that this is a harem.
After discovering he can use an IS, Ichika joins the IS academy where he meets various people (all love interests), saving them from various bad guys and each other. I can’t say there is anything really unique about the plot line, although it does seem reasonably well paced and each character plays their part in the story well, even if it is a little rushed.
It occurred to me that if you have been reading this you might be wondering what I’m basing all of my reviews and idea on upon so far, so I thought I’d fill you in on my top 5 for enjoyment. According to My Anime List so far I have watched just 20 different series, plus 1 OVA and 3 specials.
#5: A Certain Scientific Railgun S (Season 2) As you will have seen from my recent review, I really enjoyed the second season of A Certain Scientific Railgun. I thought the character development was really good and that it used the previous season to really add to the overall quality of the production. The focus on the main character was also really good and made me more invested in the series as a whole. On a less deep level, the action scenes were frequent and fantastically well done summing up the stellar artwork and animation throughout.
Mikoto Misaka attacking the vending machine: well there’s an idea?
Back on Tuesday I finished watching the second season of A Certain Scientific Railgun. In my review of the first season I said that, though this was essentially a spin-off of A Certain Magical Index, it would not matter if you chose to watch Railgun first. After watching season two, though I still think it would be possible to watch Railgun first, I feel that by watching Index beforehand you’ll appreciate the events that occur in this season of Railgun a lot more.
On the whole, the background is pretty similar to how it was in the first season. The main characters from the first season return, however, there is a much stronger focus on Misaka, particularly through the first sixteen episodes.
The quality of the storyline in anime seems to vary considerably with some shows having a real depth to them, while others appear as if they have been thrown together overnight. Either way, the quality of any show can only be portrayed through the actors and in the case of anime, voice actors.
In Japan there are around 130 voice acting schools with over 60% of global animation output originating from the country making the talent a very big business. A trawl through any internet forum will almost always confirm the greatness Japanese voice actors and thus, a general preference to watching shows with English subtitles rather than dubbed with English voice actors.
Personally, even before I started watching anime, I have found watching foreign language films and shows difficult, primarily because of having to read and watch at the same time. A basic difficulty that I have been told becomes easier with practice. It would seem watching anime in ‘sub’ is the done thing, particularly with Japanese shows.