Wednesday, November 24, 2010

FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST [Season 1 Part 1]


Under stormy skies, Edward and Alphonse Elric exploited the clandestine science of Alchemy in attempt of the forbidden - To resurrect their dearly departed mother. But every art form has its taboos and every science its laws not to be broken. The tragic failure of the young brothers unleashed an unholy reaction that ripped their bodies apart and their innocence asunder. Four years later, an evil lurks behind the false face of freedom, its growth unchecked. A lone State Alchemist combs the countryside in search of a mythological stone. If found, the stone could amplify natural talents and harness a power equal to the restoration of things once held precious, now lost. If found, the stone would also allow the State Military to senselessly obliterate countless more in the ongoing struggle. The youngest State Alchemist in history is soon faced with the harsh truth: The power to create is but a breath away from the power to destroy.
[From the backcover of Fullmetal Alchemist: Season 1 Part 1]

Original Japanese Title:
Dubbed by: Funimation
Animation: BONES
Manga adaption?: Yes, "Fullmetal Alchemist" by Hiromu Arakawa.
Rating:TV PG

{I, the reviewer, give Fullmetal Alchemist: Season 1 Part 1, 10 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

When this was highly recommended to me, I first picked up volume 1 of the manga and fell in love with it. After that I knew I had to try out the anime. I ended up watching it with one of my online friends Steena-chan. The first 4 episodes were up at Funimation's official site in English, and we both had decided to watch it together. So we set up a time, logged onto Gmail to chat, started the episode at the same time, than discussed it afterward. Sadly, in the middle of ep1, the power decided to go out for a few seconds, but thankfully Funi remembered close to the spot I was kicked off of, so I was only about 11 minutes behind Steena-chan.

Both of us enjoyed the first episode, and I decided to continue and go ahead and watch the other 3 episodes. After that I picked up volume 2 of the manga and fell in love with it even more, because the second volume did better than the first. After that, I finally decided to purchase the first half of season 1 boxset and continue on with the anime (though I still intend to follow the manga).

The anime did an excellent adapting job to the manga so far from what I've seen. They did a good job at expanding on some of the arcs, and the filler episodes were written very well and enjoyable to watch. I also liked how the arc with the Sewing-Life alchemist was expanded, because you got to get more attached to the little girl Nina and more of a relationship is built between her and The Elrics. We are introduced to many characters that it becomes hard to pick a favorite because they're so loveable and well-developed, each with their own unique personalities and ways of interacting with others.

Why not talk a little about what the anime is about, shall we? It starts off on a stormy night, back when the brothers were young boys, using alchemy to bring their mother back from the dead. But as it fails, Edward screams in horror. Not only is his brother gone and left leg taken, but he sees the thing that he and his brother had created and screams in horror again. Then we're in their present time when Ed is 15 and Al is 14, and they find a desert village who follow a prophet named Cornello of the Sun God Leto. He is said to do miracles, even bring the dead back to life! Of course, that says "bad news" to The Elrics and they investigate, and find out Cornello's true intentions. When this arc ends, we rewind back to when The Elrics were kids. You get to see their relationship with their beloved mother, Winry's pain when she loses her parents in the war in Ishbal, and Ed's detest for his father who walked out on them when they were very small. When their mother dies, we see in more detail what happened on that stormy night when they attempted Human Transmutation.

Alphonse wakes up to find himself just a soul trapped in a suit of armour and his brother bleeding where his right arm should be. He has sacrificed it in order to save his brother's soul and trap it in that armour. After that, Ed's on a mission to become a State Alchemist, and despite some obstacles, becomes the youngest State Alchemist in history, being only 12 years old. After the coal-mining arc, we are back to when Ed is 15 and Al is 14. Still seeking the Philosopher's Stone, it would seem they have reached another dead end, until they meet a small-town doctor who might be the one who knows how to make the stone! That's when things really start to get intense. Especially when the killer Scar, who thinks he's doing God's will by killing alchemists who have "strayed from the path" shows up again.

An interesting aspect about the story is how Edward openly admits he's an agnostic (it's only really mentioned in the first arc). You'd think an anime that follow a character who openly proclaims that would make Christian viewers feel a bit uneasy, but you may be surprised how well it is handled. I think it was handled even more well than how it was presented in the manga. There is a scene where Alphonse says "Maybe there is something more out there, something we don't understand". Ed mutters to himself "don't count on it", of course. However, what's interesting is in one of the episodes, Ed says "I gave up believing in that stuff a long time ago" which seems to give the idea that Ed used to believe in something, but probably because of all that pain and suffering he and his brother went through, doesn't anymore. So, I see Edward as someone who is agnostic because of all he's gone through, not just because he's a prodigy scientist. Although what he says in the first arc is a bit bothersome, you never ever hate Edward, in fact, you'll probably find yourself caring and feeling bad for him because of everything that's happened.

As you watch the anime, you will feel the pain and sorrow The Elrics feel when they lose their mother, and the horror of what happens to them in their attempt to bring her back from the dead. With them you will be horrified and disgusted at what some alchemists do, root for them when they engage in fights, and laugh whenever Ed goes on his rants whenever someone calls him short or mistakes Alphonse as the "Full Metal" alchemist. This is a brilliant story that can easily become an anime legend someday. It has an equal balance of serious and hilarious moments, and they can easily switch off almost seemlessly, never cheapening the moment. Whether you're a veteran anime addict or new to the scene, you should totally check this out!

Recommend?
This is a masterpeice, and despite it being grusome at times, it's an amazing experience you should totally see!

I certify this *ANIME NEWCOMER WORTHY* because the plot's easy enough to understand and since they don't have Japanese names you don't have to worry about mispronouncing anything.

[VIEWING PLEASURE]

[MUSIC]
The soundtrack is excellent and fits the show perfectly. The first OP and END are good, but the second OP and END sequences are even better!!

[SUB VS. DUB]
I'm gonna have to say dub on this one. The dub is amazing, with perfect voice acting that matches the characters. The sub isn't bad, but I don't feel that Ed's voice really matched (maybe 'cause he was played by a girl in Japanese?).

[MOVIES/MANGA]
1 movie "Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror Of Shamballa". Manga series "Fullmetal Alchemist" by Hiromu Arakawa.

[RELATED TITLES]
"Premium OVA Collection" for the first series, and the remake "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood".

[DVD EXTRAS]
Textless Songs, Production Art, Japanese Commercials, Image Gallery, Character Profiles, L'Arc-en-Ciel music video "READY STEADY GO", Tofu Records Commercial - L'Arc-en-Ciel, and Bonus Anime "Spiral" episode 1. The guidebooks this thing comes with are awesome!

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
Lots of "h" and "d" used throughout, but not too overdone. God's name taken in vain about twice. (This is based on the dub translation, I think it's a little worse in the sub).

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
Havoc is always seen with a cigerette in his mouth. In the coal-mining arc episode, the Inn serves alcohol. Roy and Maes sometimes have conversations in a bar.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
Lust usually wears clothes that show her cleavage line. The worst it gets is in the "Phantom Thief" episode when Edward accident grabs one of Psiren's breasts (not on purpose, he's not used to pinning down female enemies). She also unzips her top to reveal her alchemy on her chest (as revealing as a bikini).

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
There's quite a bit of violence and blood in this anime. In an attempt to bring back their dead mother, Alphonse body is completely "taken" (not bloody though). Ed loses a leg and you see blood where it used to be. When Alphonse wakes up in an armour body, he sees Ed holding his hand where his right arm used to be with alot of blood (he gave it up to save Al). Scar is a guy who kills State Alchemists by blowing them up from the inside (not really any gore, but there's blood splatter). Twice it is implied Gluttony eats someone alive (it just blanks out and you hear the chewing).

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
Edward and Alphonse Elric try to bring back their dead mother with the use of alchemy, however, it failed and learn that what they did was wrong, so throughout the series, bringing the dead back to life and human transmutation is looked down upon and ridiculed. Alphonse is just a soul trapped in a suit of armour. "Alchemy" is a scientific art form that has the appearance of magic. You can view it as either magic that uses science or science that looks like magic. They use "transmutation circles" and it looks similiar to hexagrams. In the first arc, there is a false prophet Cornello, so-called prophet of the Sun God Leto, who is said to do miracles. Ed says how he doesn't believe in God, so he's agnostic. However, it appears Alphonse may feel there is something more. There are enemies named after the seven deadly sins (Lust, Gluttony, Envy, and so forth). "Scar" is an Ishbalan killer who kills alchemists who have "strayed from the path of God". The Ishbalans believe in one God; Ishbala. Despite Scar's character, it doesn't seem like they are saying those who believe in a god are psycho killers, he's just a character who "thinks" he is doing God's will, and though he doesn't admit it, seems out for revenge. In the "Phantom Thief" episode, there's one instance when Psiren becomes a nun to save a church (this is for comic relief because she's such a con, and is in no way offensive because she's an obvious fake).

*EPISODE LIST*
1. Those Who Challenge The Sun
2. Body Of The Sanctioned
3. Mother
4. A Forger's Love
5. The Man With The Mechanical Arm
6. The Alchemy Exam
7. Night Of The Chimera's Cry
8. The Phiosopher's Stone
9. Be Thou For The People
10. The Phantom Thief
11. The Other Brothers Elric (Part 1)
12. The Other Brothers Elric (Part 2)
13. Fullmetal vs. Flame
14. Destruction's Right Hand
15. The Ishbal Massacre
16. That Which Is Lost

TSUBASA ALBuM De REProDUCTioNS [Artbook 1]



In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the phenomenon known as CLAMP---a prolific collective of four female artists who are now among the most popular manga creators in the United States---here's a deluxe, gorgeously designed book featuring more than one hundred pages of color art, plus a five-page original Tsubasa manga that will appear only in this book!

[From the backcover of Tsubasa Album De Reproductions]

Artwork For: Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles [Manga]
Artist: CLAMP
Extras: 5-page Omake and Illustration Comments

{I, the reviewer, give Tsubasa Album De Reproductions, 10 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

"Tsubasa Album De Reproductions" is the first of 2 artbooks for CLAMP's mega-crossover Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles. This book features a little over 100 beautifully illustrated color artwork for the series! There's even a bonus 5-page one-shot and comments on each image and where they first appeared.

Each illustration has it's own theme and story behind it. You can tell that CLAMP spent alot of time and effort into drawing these. You can't help but stare at one picture for a long amount of time, just analyzing it, seeing all of the wonderful little details. Some illustrations are simple, but beautiful, and there are others with incredible detail and elegance. There's an image of Syaoran and Sakura during summer time playing with a water hose, which is simple, yet one that could easily be called a favorite. There's an elegant picture of Ashura with an instrument with flowers everywhere, full of incredible visual detail. There's heroic pictures, such as Kurogane protecting Princess Tomoyo from a rain of arrows with his cape! There's mystical illustrations, such as Syaoran seeing the other "Syaoran" as his reflection, or the one where he's holding a scale with fire and Sakura's feather with a bird surrounding it's wings around him. There's action or energenic pictures, such as Kurogane, Fai, and Syaoran with weapons, or Syaoran jumping really high in the air. Then there's somewhat romantic pictures, where Syaoran and Sakura are holding hands. And also, "family pictures", such as the gang looking like they're about to go to a party, or when they're all in the car exploring and Kurogane is looking at the map in frustration as if they're lost, or when Sakura is fishing with Kurogane.

Though this artbook is a bit pricy, it's well worth the money! My brother and I really get a good use out of this book, we've went through it I don't know how many times. Every time you go through it, you notice some wonderful little detail. And also, be sure to read CLAMP's commentary on each illustration. They talk about their idea for the drawing, special care they took, and even mention some of the detail they put into the illustration or tried to. For example, there is an image of our travelers sitting on tree branches watching shooting stars. By reading the comments I learned that the clouds they drew in the illustration were made to look like wings coming out of their back. I had never noticed this before, so I turned the page to it and found that they indeed did look like wings! By noticing this, it added more beauty to the illustration. As an added bonus, we have a really funny 5-page omake called "World Of The Untold Story #8" exclusive only to this artbook where the guys have to find a gift for Yuuko as a returning favor for Valentine's Day. It's a really cute and funny story, despite it being short, and seeing each one show their gift and to see if Mokona approves or not.

Overall, this was worth the buy! Whether you want to stare at it and admire the lush detail and heart CLAMP has put in their artwork, or to have references pictures to draw fanart, don't pass this artbook up! Even if you've never read Tsubasa, if you enjoy detailed, elegant, beautiful manga illustrations, you're sure to appreciate this book.

RECOMMENDED?
Every fan of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles should have this! In fact, if you enjoy seeing beautiful and lush manga-style art, you should get this book!

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
Bonus comic contains none.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
In the illustration of Yuuko, she's holding that smoking pipe she always has. There's also an illustration of Kurogane relaxing, and there's a bottle champagne.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
There's a couple of pictures with Kurogane's shirt unbuttoned. An illustration of Yuuko, she's in a bit of a sexy pose, but it's actually very tame.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
There's many action illustrations where it looks energenic, but no battles are seen engaged (the closest would be Kurogane blocking arrows with his cape to protect Princess Tomoyo). Weapons are present, but no fighting.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
Several illustrations there are magic staffs present, but actual magic use is not shown. In the illustration of Syaoran holding a scale, CLAMP mentions he holds the scale like Justice from the tarrot cards. In the illustration of Tomoyo standing in water of lotus flowers, CLAMP said they wanted to make her look god-like.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

AMAZING AGENT LUNA [OMNIBUS 2]


Agent Luna has been undercover at Nobel High School for most of the school year, and as the year nears an end, her assignment takes on added complications. Her Control agent is now her science teacher, the gym teacher knows her secret, her friend Oliver's father works for the evil Count Von Bruken, and Von Brucken's son Jonah may be Luna's greatest hope. With her secret on the verge of being exposed, Luna begins a dangerous alliance with Jonah--who may also turn out to be her first boyfriend! And when Luna's friend Francesca decides to make some new friends of her own, she discovers Von Brucken isn't the only villain at Nobel High!

Manga-Ka: Story by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir, art by Shiei.
Distributor: Seven Seas Manga
Format: Right-to-left
Rating: All Ages

{I, the reviewer, give Amazing Agent Luna [Omnibus 2], 7 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

In the two-volume conclusion of Luna's first year at Nobel High, things start to get more complicated. Luna is having nightmares about the man she had to kill in order to protect the secret of her identity. Her crush, Jonah, also the son of the enemy, has always known that the ninja girl's true identity was Luna. Oliver's dad has been hired by Von Brucken to steal some important files. Not only that, but there's a raging girl on the loose who looks exactly like a famous movie star!

While the first 3 volumes was more light-hearted, the story starts to get deeper here. No, it doesn't become dark or anything, but these 2 volumes are alot more serious than the previous 3. It's very interesting and engaging, and very hard to put down once you pick this up and start reading it. The action scenes are rendered alot better than the previous volumes, but the flow could of been alot better. The art is still as great as ever, very impressive for a profressionally published American made manga. The character devlopement is done quite well; we learn of Francesca's feelings for Oliver, however he doesn't seem to notice because he's too busy being ticked off at Jonah for always hanging around Luna. We don't see too many of the popular girls, but they do make an appearance, and it was nice to see Francesca stand up for herself and her friends. The relationship between Dr. Andy and Control start to get a bit uneasy. Control appears utterly obsessed with the mission, almost what seems above Luna's feelings, and Dr. Andy almost can't take it anymore. We also learn about Von Brucken's plans and the reason for the owl cloning. And at the end, we learn the identity of where Luna's DNA came from.

Overall, I enjoyed it very much. The ending, however, was a complete cliff-hanger, leaving you with an unsatified feeling and wanting more. I also felt really bad for Oliver. However, the creators said they did that on purpose to leave it open for a possible continuation, starting with Luna's second year. And apparently, they already started, because I saw Volume 6 up for sale at Amazon.com! Let's hope the second year was as engaging as the first!

Recommend?
If you read the first 3 volumes, you'll want to read the next 2.

I certify this *MANGA NEWCOMER WORTHY* 'cause for an American made manga, it has good art and plotline, and is a good introduction for new manga readers into the wonderful world of manga!

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
2 "d" and God's name taken in vain about 10 times.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
I don't remember any.

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
Nothing beyond a kiss. There was a scene when discussing Project Scion you see an undetailed naked body. Also, Dr. Andy hangs out with Oliver's mother at the dance. Even though he and Control aren't really married, they play married for the mission and so it looks as if he's cheating on her.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
There's alot of fighting, most of them without serious injury. However, there is an instance in one fight scene when Luna's gives another ninja a cut on the face and there's just a little bit of blood. Also, the rampaging clone coughs blood on her hands.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
As stated for the first omnibus, Luna was genetically enhanced to be the best secret agent. There are these two boys who takes a hair strand from a movie star so they could clone her as a date for the Spring Dance. This clone ends up going on a violent rampage.
(SPOILER! Project Scion is all about cloning Nobel High students and replacing them with clones that have their minds switched with an agent of Von Brucken's.)

*CHAPTER LIST*
File 17: Bad Hair Day
File 18: The Perfect Mate
File 19: Clone Wars
File 20: Doctor's Orders
File 21: Twists and Turns
File 22: A New Direction
File 23: Two Weeks Later
File 24: Family Secrets
File 25: Project Scion
File 26: The Big Dance
File 27: Epilogue

FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: Volume 1


Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art, and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost and arm and a leg...and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders...even to kill. Except his powers aren't unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher's Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are...
(From the backcover of Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol.1)

Manga-Ka: Hiromu Arakawa
Distributor: Viz Media
Format: Right-to-left
Rating: Teen

{I, the reviewer, give Fullmetal Alchemist (Volume1), 9 out of 10!}

COMMENTS

I remember asking for manga recommendations at a certain forum. I listed what kind of manga I was looking for and what sort of content I don't want. This was one of the titles recommended to me, despite it not exactly fitting the content system. However, I am glad that I gave it a chance, because this has become one of my ultimate favorite series!

It's about two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who are seeking a way to restore themselves back the way they were. What happened to them exactly? When their mother died, they tried to bring her back to life with the use of alchemy---but the resurrection failed, and it left the boys torn apart. Edward lost his leg, and to save his younger brother as his whole body is taken, he gives up an arm to trap his soul in a suit of armour. Now they are on a quest for The Philosopher's Stone, a special gem that is said to boost alchemical power so you can bypass the law of the equivilent exchange.

The first arc is in a desert village, where the people follow a so-called prophet of the Sun God Leto, a priest named Cornello, who is said to do miracles. They meet a girl named Rose who is a faithful follower of Cornello and is seeking him to grant her a miracle, her dearest wish - to bring her boyfriend back from the dead! Edward, the main character, states he is an agnostic and says he doesn't believe in unproved theories such as God. One might think that a manga that follows an agnostic character might put Christian readers on edge, but I was quite surprised at how well it was presented. It doesn't feel like the mangaka is trying to down believing in a higher power. To me, I see Edward as just a character who happens to be agnostic, and probably is that way because of all the pain he's gone through. And despite not believing in God, when he shows Rose what happened to him when they attempted human transmutation, he says "This is what happens when you trespass God's domain". It's interesting he would say that, considering he claims to be agnostic. The mangaka did a really good job at how she presented Edward and the situation, and how the first arc is handled.

The story really gets engaging by the coal-mining arc. The brothers try to stay at this Inn at a coal-mining town that is being overtaxed by a man named Yoki. Edward is thrown out of the Inn because they don't like anyone who is apart of the state. I felt this was the most entertaining and fun to read! And the third arc deals with the brothers on a train that is suddenly high-jacked! At the end of this volume, we are introduced to another State Alchemist, Roy Mustang, also known as The Flame Alchemist. And after the story, there's three funny 4-koma strips as an added bonus and a preview of the volume 2.

I loved this volume! I had so much fun reading it. It's written so well with amazing characters, an engaging plot that is very deep, and it also has so many hilarious moments! You won't be bored at all in any section of this manga! This is probably one of the best manga ever written that is bound to become a classic! Now I see why so many people love it! I am now one of them.


Recommend?
You should totally check this out! You should go read it now!

I certify this *MANGA NEWCOMER WORTHY* because even though it is an authentic Japanese manga from Japan, it is not set in Japan and the names used are simple names common to us (but forgeign to the Japanese), so you don't have to worry about unfamiliar names you're not sure you're pronouncing right. Plus, the plot is very deep and engaging, but it's not hard to understand.

[CONTENT CARD]

[LANGUAGE]
The words "d" and "h" said multiple times throughout. The worst it gets is one word is completely censored, so feel free to imagine whatever it is.

[TABACCO/ALCOHOL/DRUG USE]
In the coal-mining arc, the Elrics are at an inn that serves alcohol. There was even a scene where they try to get Edward to drink, but you see him push the cup away saying you shouldn't give alcohol to minors ('cause he's 15).

[SEXUAL CONTENT/NUDITY]
The character Lust wear an outfit where you can see some cleavage.

[VIOLENCE/BLOOD AND GORE]
On the first page we see Edward calling for his brother and you see him without one of his legs and it's bleeding where the limb should be. There's alot of fighting and punching and smacking around, with some blood. At the end of the first arc, Lust kills someone by having her fingernails extend and go right through his head. Gluttony then eats his dead body, but that is not shown.

[RELIGIOUS MATERIAL]
This series has alot to due with an art known as "alchemy", however, it is presented to be more science than it is magic because, unlike magic, there is the law of "equivilant exchange", meaning to obtain something of equal value must be lost. So it's scientific in a way that you can't make things appear out of thin air. So it's more like "science that looks like magic" or "fantasy magic that is scientific" however you wish to view it. Also, the "transmutation circles" look a little bit like hexagrams. The two brothers, when they were younger, attempted to bring back their dead mother, but it failed. In the manga's first arc, the brothers come to a town that worship the Sun God Leto and follow a priest named Cornello who is said to perform miracles (however, it's just alchemy). The main character, Edward Elric, states that he is agnostic and a scientist like him doesn't believe in unproved theories such as God. However, despite this belief, when he reveals his automail limbs to show the price of human transmutation, he tells Rose "This is what happens when you trespass into God's domain!". There are villains in here who are named after the Seven Deadly Sins (Lust, Gluttony). Ed's brother, Alphonse, is a soul trapped in a suit of armor.

*CHAPTER LIST*
Chapter 1: The Two Alchemists
Chapter 2: The Price Of Life
Chapter 3: The Mining Town
Chapter 4: Battle On The Train