Twitch here, with group 2 of the Great Anime Experiment. The results of the previous installment were less than promising. After finding only one show I was willing to watch for more than the required two episodes, group one turned out to be an abysmal failure. In the interest of perking the odds, I decided to focus on iconic anime for the next sample group. In this edition I will rate: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Trigun, and Initial D.
UGH!: Asinine story, structural problems, cardboard characters. There are serious problems.
Meh: There isn’t any major with the plot or writing, but the story just didn’t grab me.
More!: Solid and intriguing storytelling and characterization meets pretty, pretty pictures. Warrants at least two more episodes.
Hell Yeah!: Amazing art, cool music, and a story that makes me weep from the sheer beauty and complexity. I don’t care where the writers are going, I’m going with them!
As always I will watch two episodes from the first season of each show before making a decision.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009) Bones/FUNimation Entertainment
What it says on the tin: FMA: Brotherhood is the second adaptation of the manga Hagane no Renkinjutsushi. In all versions, FMA tells the story of the Elric brothers and their quest to develop a Philosopher’s Stone, a powerful gem that will unlock the secrets of alchemy. By creating a stone, the brothers hope to recover their human bodies which they damaged in an alchemy experiment as children. Full disclosure: I did watch a few episodes of the first adaptation during it’s original 2004 run on Cartoon Network.
Episode 1 and 2: Episode 1 begins with the Elric brothers’ attempt to capture Issac McDougal. McDougal is a rouge alchemist known for his ability to freeze things, even airborne water molecules. The main focus of the first episode is the brothers’ struggle to work together as part of a larger group of alchemists employed by the military. Oh yeah, and there’s the bit about Ed having a metal arm and leg, and Al not having a body at all. Episode 2 goes back in time to show how the brothers losing their bodies and joining the military.
Why it Rocks: Like it’s predecessor, the relationship between the Elric brothers is the heart and soul of the series. In the line of duty, Ed and Al are more capable than any boys their age should be. In their free time, they are best friends, and they look after one another in a way that is truly touching. The writers chose to introduce several of the main characters during a 30 minute fight. It’s perfect. At their core these alchemists are just warriors who use magic as their weapons. I will admit, I was skeptical about the need for a redo of a series that had been so popular, less than a decade after the original. The characters and many of the things that happen to them are the same, the tone is different. FMA: Brotherhood feels heavier than the original, which concerns me. There is one near universal truth about anime: the resolution is never as happy as the beginning. Even in the happiest anime, things tend to turn for the worse before the finale. The world of FMA: Brotherhood is already dark. Even the artwork tends toward gritty, shadowy realism. How emotionally crushing is this show going to get before the end?
Trigun (1998) Madhouse/FUNimation Entertainment
What it says on the tin: Vash the Stampede is a wanted man with a habit of reducing entire towns to rubble. His legend is matched only by the obscene price on his head. The destruction around Vash is always the result of one or more bounty hunters pursuiting him. Vash is a fun-loving, doughnut-munching pacifist!
Episode 1 and 2: Episode 1 kicks off with Vash evading two groups of bounty hunters, each after the $$60 billion price on his head (that is not a typo). Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson are two insurance agents desperate to stop Vash’s expensive trail of destruction. Hilarity ensues when it becomes clear that nobody is sure what Vash the Stampede looks like, or even what weapon he carries. The only word to describe the destruction in the first episode is “epic”. Despite Vash’s best efforts the entire town of Felnarl is reduced to smoldering rubble. In episode 2, Vash takes a job as a body guard in the mansion of a water baron. He’s surprised to find that his new boss wants him to pretend to be…Vash the Stampede. Through a combination of skill and dumb luck, Vash brings down his tyrannical boss. Unfortunately, he destroys the neighboring town in the process.
Verdict: Hell Yeah!
Why it Rocks: What makes the series so entertaining is Vash’s ability to stumble through gunfights, chaos, and destruction, and make every lucky move seem deliberate. Sometimes, even he seems surprised by his dumb luck. The first two episodes don’t lay the groundwork for anything complicated down the road, but there doesn’t need to be. The visuals and jokes are the real stars here. Simply put, Trigun is fun.
Initial D (1998) Studio Comet/FUNimation Entertainment
What it says on the tin: Takumi’s nights working as the delivery boy for his dad’s tofu shop turned him into a formidable driver. His determination to be the best turned him into a street racing legend. Behind the wheel of his modified Eight-Six, he schools all comers with his amazing drifting technique and downhill expertise.
Episode 1 and 2: Episode 1 and 2 introduce Takumi Fujiwara, and his street racing friends. The action begins when a well known team, the Akagi RedSuns, show up and challenge the local race team. The local team has nobody who can challenge the RedSuns, until word gets out about a nocturnal racer with super drifting skills. As episode 2 ends, the local team befriends Takumi, but remain clueless about his driving talents.
Why it Rocks: Remember what I said about Trigun being good fun? Initial D is crazy good fun. The jokes aren’t as over the top, but there is something endearing and amusing about Takumi’s cluelessness. The animation holds up well all these years later with one exception: the occasional 3D renderings of the cars. No doubt these visuals were cutting edge in 1998, but in an age where 3D dragons are a weekly occurrence, boxy cars with no shading look odd. My one complaint is the pacing. At the end of episode two, no character development has happened, and none seems to be coming. That’s likely to be the pace of the series, given that the first season alone is 26 episodes.
There we have it. Three series, three positive results. I see a pattern here. Three anime, three positive reviews, all series aimed at male audiences. I think I require another variable. See you with the next round of The Great Anime Experiment! Next up? Shoujo anime.