Tag Archives: Fullmetal Alchemist

The Anno Age: Moving On From Hideaki Anno (Part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

IV: His, Her, and My Circumstances

Anno’s burnout after Evangelion is well-known. Many fans have interpreted the last half of the End of Evangelion as nothing less than a raised middle finger at fandom, the product of a cynical and angry mind sick of otaku pandering and the merchandising juggernaut that the franchise had already become. Death threats that were emailed to the studio, along with graffiti sprayed outside Gainax offices, flashed by in the film. The suicide anthem “Komm, Susser Tod” played over scenes of the earth’s destruction told of a level of suicidal self-hatred that is still unsurpassed to this day in anime songs. Reputedly, Anno wrote the original lyrics in therapy.

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So when Anno decided to follow up this festival of nihilism with a high school love comedy, adapted from a shoujo manga, fans like me must have been puzzled. Moreover, he interviewed dozens of high school students in preparation for the project, in order to get in touch with the youth he felt alienated from in his time as an animator.

The result, Kare Kano (or His and Her Circumstances), is both a masterpiece of genuine comedy, genuine emotion, and genuine wasted potential. It was even more ragged than Evangelion in its production quality, littered with lengthy recaps, animation lapses, and later a resorting to figures mounted on popsicle sticks. Anno was fired two thirds into its production, under pressure from the unhappy manga-ka. The ending was essentially still shots from the manga with voice overs.

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And yet: I felt transported back into high school once more, with all of its highs and lows, as I watched Kare Kano. Jon, who had given me Evangelion in the very beginning, commented: “this is just like our school.” We had been in the International Baccalaureate program, which was filled with overachievers like Yukino and Arima, perfect on the outside but seething with vanity and insecurity on the inside. The types were immediately recognizable to us. I laughed heartily at the way Yukino’s perfectionist mask slipped at home, and felt heartbroken over Arima struggling with never feeling good enough in front of his distant, formal family. They are perfect for one another in a way few anime couples are, and it was easy to root for them.

Some of the best moments in the series, though, are the quieter ones, where they are in clubs, preparing for the festival. I felt the joys of slice of life, a genre that had yet to fully coalesce in anime at the time. The two of them were not always obsessed about their relationship; they had lives outside of each other and I felt that, as imperfect as it was, Kare Kano presented the most comprehensive emotional account of high school I had seen. I still feel the same way.

Though Anno was only partially involved in a way, his work had once again opened a door: a realization that beyond the emotional trauma of Evangelion and the heroics of Gunbuster, anime could also simply depict ordinary life well too. Other titles would continue that tradition—Honey and Clover, Toradora, the good parts of Sakurasou, to name a few—but Kare Kano arguably helped make that possible.

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Doesn’t that pose look familiar

V: Interlude

Kare Kano was Anno’s last anime for many years, as he began to experiment with art house film, to varying degrees of success.

After college, I began to drift from anime fandom. There were only so many times one could rewatch Evangelion, Gunbuster, and other titles. The new titles that were being released at the time, the early 2000s, were of only sporadic interest to me. It was the golden age of the harem and dating sim anime, with the slice of life age waiting in the wings, and while I watched and enjoyed some of them, no title ever captured my head and heart the way Evangelion had. Fullmetal Alchemist came close, but was compromised by a muddled ending. I watched part of Ideon to see the inspiration Anno had taken for Evangelion, but I got a formulaic robot show instead. RahXephon is a polished show and compelling in its own right, but it is still just a response to Evangelion at the end of the day. It cannot exist independently from it: for one, Anno and its director, Yutaka Izubuchi, are good friends….

Shiki-jitsu: that's so Anno
Shiki-jitsu: that’s so Anno

I remember trying hard to track down a copy of Shiki-jitsu, Anno’s second live action film. I remember little about the film itself, other than a red umbrella and Anno’s continuing obsession with trains. The wild creativity that had fueled such emotionally intense experiences in animation felt tired and even tame in the much larger world of film. As a fan of arthouse cinema as well, and judged on those terms, I found Anno’s work lacking in emotional resonance. The symbolism was clumsy. Not even Shunji Iwai, who starred, could save it. The idol was toppling.

Welcome to the NHK and Honey and Clover brought me back into anime fandom. I remember thinking that the former title was as intense as my memories of the latter parts of Evangelion, but this time grounded much more closely in real life, in the ennui of being in your 20s and the desperate search for meaning. Honey and Clover also did that, in a more poetic and gentle way. Looking back, there was something very teenage about Evangelion’s angst, one that I couldn’t identify with anymore: the raw wound of youth mellowed with age into wistful melancholy, a mood that H&C and the best slice of life shows capture so well.

So by 2006, arguably the last golden year of anime in the past 10 years, I was back in anime fandom once again. But my Age of Anno was over.

Is this what we've come to? (Then again they once did sell
Is this what we’ve come to? (Then again they once did sell “LCL Fluid” OJ…)

VI: You Can (Not) Return

It was announced not long after that that Anno would return, to remake Evangelion. Nostalgia stirred within me when I heard the news. By this time, Anno had married, inviting his mentor Hayao Miyazaki to his wedding. He had given a controversial interview with the Atlantic decrying porno manga readers, Japan’s lack of military forces, and the overall lack of maturity in society. The article praised Evangelion as being as influential in Japan as Star Wars was in America. I was amused, and wrote a commentary article in the early days of Anime Diet about it. Anno, my old hero, still had a whiff of the orneriness that had created those unfiltered works I had so loved, once. But it was now directed toward the outside world, and in a way that was utterly conventional: the opinions of an ordinary center-right middle-aged individual in Japan.

Which is why, despite their flash, polish, and excellent choreography, there seems something exhausted and lifeless in the Evangelion remake movies. Maturity, age, and happiness appear to have smoothed out Anno’s edges. Shinji is still confused and hurt, but not for too long. Asuka is no longer tortured with feelings of inadequacy and rejection, just angry. Rei wants to cook now. The only element that is original to the series–the new girl Mari–is hardly even a character. An attempt to steer the story in a new direction in the third film falls flat by no longer being focused on the vital heart that beat throughout the original series: the search for identity and place to belong in a collapsing world that places impossible expectations on you. The operative emotion in the new films, instead, is guilt: after everything is already collapsed, how do you put the pieces back together?

Anno, reputedly, felt tremendous guilt after having finished the lengthy Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water series in the early 1990s. He thought he might be wasting his life making subpar children’s entertainment, though the amount of creative control he managed to wrest from NHK in the concluding episodes still surprises me: it is almost a direct foreshadowing of Evangelion in every aspect. The darkness had already begin to creep up on him, but he used that darkness as fuel, which propelled him toward his masterwork.

Yes, this is from Nadia.
Yes, this is from Nadia.

The problem is that he stopped there. Anno would never make another original work after Evangelion: everything since then has been an adaptation (Kare Kano, Love & Pop, Shiki-jitsu) or remake (Cutie Honey, Eva). It is as if he had only one story in him, and left with nothing else, he has returned to that story to try another variation. Now older and wiser, presumably, but Evangelion was and is not supposed to be a work of age or wisdom: it was a cry of frustration that resonated with an entire generation of frustrated Japanese youth in the 1990s. That, more than pictures of Ayanami Rei, or merchandising, was what made Evangelion so enduring and popular, even outside anime circles. No anime had been so emotionally and psychologically raw, capturing the zeitgeit of the post-bubble years.

And no anime had so spoken to me so directly, in those weird drifting years between childhood and adulthood, a time that is now wrapped in emotional gauze by the anime nostalgia masters like PA Works, Makoto Shinkai, and a million lesser imitators. Otaku today, it seems, prefer the safety of such works, and there is a place for them: I enjoy many of them myself. I watch a story penned by Mari Okada and recall the more melodramatic moments of my teenage years, when every emotion is new and explosive; I watch Makoto Shinkai or Ano Natsu de Matteru and remember the yearning romanticism of those days.

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But it was Anno who spoke to the fear, the shame, and the self-loathing: the parts of life that cannot be borne for too long by anyone, but need to be brought to light and confronted. A human being cannot live in that state forever, which means that a show like Evangelion, and the Age of Anno, has a built in expiration date for a fan. We all, hopefully, grow out of it, as Anno himself has. Now he’s a successful husband, voice actor, dramatized character, car salesman, and more. But he was our companion once, the one that understood, and thus, in its own way, gave real comfort.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.
That’s how the light gets in.

–Leonard Cohen

Porno Graffitti, Live at Anime Expo 2013

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Prominent J-Rock band Porno Graffitti performed their many anime songs and others live at Anime Expo 2013 this year. Both Monsieur LaMoe and Shizuka were on hand to cover it, with Shizuka taking photos along the way. These are their joint impressions of the show.

LaMoe: So when the concert started–yes, that’s right, I’ve heard this song before, their debut piece, “Apollo.” That completely blew me away. I heard this song more than a decade ago, but it still sounds so vivid and fresh! It made me nostalgic, that speedy and powerful that I still remember so well. It’s amazing how Akihito projects his voice! I’d never heard him sing live until now, and it was incredible. He’s close to 40 years old, but still jumping and running around during the entire show. Such admirable stamina! Listening to the live performance is so much better than listening via iTunes with earbuds on.

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Later they played “Saudade,” which is a song that has a Latin feel to it. The word “saudade” is the fundamental feeling behind bossa nova music, the music pioneered by Antonio Carlos Jobim. But “Saudade” did not sound like bossa nova at all, but more like Santana-like Latin music with a very J-pop sound. They told us during their press conference that the word fit their song, so the mood was still recognizable.

And then there were the recognizable anime songs, especially from Great Teacher Onizuka and Bleach, that made the crowd go wild. Yes, when I first heard “Hitori no Yoru” (the GTO opening song), instead of “Lonely, lonely,” I heard, “loli, loli.” So, I thought it was about a lolicon song, just like The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” Yup, Mr. Onizuka is a lolicon! “Loli loli, I want to see you~♪” Darn! But turned out that was only my soramimi (“mishearing” literally “empty ears (空耳)”). But seeing the crowd dancing to a lolicon song would’ve been so hilarious.

And that Fullmetal Alchemist opening, “Melissa,” oh, such nostalgia. Yup, this anime was from a decade ago! Reminds me… Ah, so good. Yeah, listening to the anime songs live felt so great after all.

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Shizuka: Porno Graffitti delivered an incredible performance for their fans, keeping the energy high within the crowd, as they got the audience to sing along in “Century Lovers” and swing towels (which had been thrown into to the crowd) like cowboys swinging lassos during “Mugen.” But I wasn’t just impressed by Porno Graffitti’s ability to keep the crowd excited – I was equally impressed by their dedication to the music, as the lead singer of Porno Graffitti took out and played a real harmonica during “Winding Road!”

And then, “Melissa” played. My (and probably most fans’) most anticipated song, it was so much better performed live that all I could do was bask in the music. The audience’s response to this song after it was over was so strong that Porno Graffitti played this as their last song in an unexpected triple encore!

It was a give and take relationship between Porno Graffitti and the audience. With Porno Graffitti giving such an energizing performance, the audience gave an incredible show of support through their towel-swinging, “porno-porno” cheering, and frenzied hand-waving back to Porno Graffitti. I’m sure they weren’t ready for rabid American fans, as Porno Graffitti had to tell the audience to quiet down so their voices could be heard at the end of the concert… so they could announce that they would be back!

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LaMoe: Between the encores everyone was screaming, “Porno, porno, porno!” That sounded really weird, but refreshing. It’s something just lost in translation in Japanese. The word porneia (πορνεία) originally meant “fornication” or “sexual immorality” in Greek. Yes, as a rock band, that’s the name it should be. The term”rock’n roll” also meant “fornication.” So, it’s a music for fornication. They provide the kind of music that gets everyone horny. Yes, sexual burst, an outlet for the daily repression of capitalism!

Set List

  1. Apollo (Debut song)
  2. Koyoi, Tsuki ga Miezutomo (Bleach 3rd movie ending song)
  3. Matataku Hoshi no Shita de (Magi 2nd opening song)
  4. Hitori no Yoru (Great Teacher Onizuka 2nd opening song)
  5. Anima Rossa (Bleach 11th opening song)
  6. Saudade
  7. Winding Road (Ayakashi Ayashi ending song)
  8. Ai ga Yobu Hou e
  9. Century Lovers
  10. Mugen
  11. Melissa (Fullmetal Alchemist opening song)
  12. Haneuma Rider
  13. Music Hour

Encore:

  1. Agehachou
  2. Dilemma
  3. Melissa

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Otakon Day One – Kikuko Inoue Panel Q&A, Pt 2.

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Part 1 is here.

Kikuko Inoue is a famous seiyuu associated with many popular anime. Her past performances include Belldandy of Aa Megami-Sama, Kasume Tendou in Ranma 1/2, Rune Venus in El-Hazard, Kazami Mizuho in Onegai Teacher, Lust in Fullmetal Alchemist, Miria in Claymore, Grace O’Connor in Macross Frontier, Akane in Higurashi, and Cecile in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. She answered questions at Otakon.

Inoue was also accompanied by Hidenori Matsubara, the character designer of Ah! My Goddess, the show Inoue is best known for.

Continue reading Otakon Day One – Kikuko Inoue Panel Q&A, Pt 2.

Otakon Day One – Kikuko Inoue Panel Q&A, Pt 1.

Kikuko Inoue is a famous seiyuu associated with many popular anime. Her past performances include Belldandy of Aa Megami-Sama, Kasume Tendou in Ranma 1/2, Rune Venus in El-Hazard, Kazami Mizuho in Onegai Teacher, Lust in Fullmetal Alchemist, Miria in Claymore, Grace O’Connor in Macross Frontier, Akane in Higurashi, and Cecile in Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion. She answered questions at Otakon.

Onee-chan

Continue reading Otakon Day One – Kikuko Inoue Panel Q&A, Pt 1.

Mortality in anime and manga

Two things have me thinking about death: Ray’s commentary on  the unappealing nature of sentient, disposable objects, and Kabitzin’s review of Kishimoto’s latest round of killings. (SPOILER ALERT for both that article and this one.)

Ray’s already put Akikan in a coffin, but bear with me while I drive the nails in.  You know, I can’t help but think of an old Garfield strip whenever I look at this show.

Jon: What if our appliances could talk?  That would be great!

Garfield: No it wouldn’t.  Every time a lightbulb burned out it would be like a death in the family.

This is largely what is wrong with the idea of sentient disposable objects – to wit, if they really are sentient, your characters have exactly two options: either love them and care for them and be heartbroken all the time, or be callous bastards.  (Or, you know, psychotic satsujin angels. I was assuming they weren’t doing the killing themselves, but the world of anime is large.)

Dokuro-chan: more terrifying than a yandere.

Continue reading Mortality in anime and manga

Staff for new Fullmetal Alchemist Series Announced

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From the Anime News Network:

The new television adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s “dark fantasy” manga will premiere in Japan in April. Aniplex producer Ryo Oyama said that the production began on the series around last spring, and Irie added that the script for the 18th episode had been written as of December. Irie said that the project will be the first work by the BONES animation company’s new D Studio and that the creators are still casting the voices.

Irie had previously directed Kurau: Phantom Memory, opening animation footage for the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime and Soul Eater, and episodes of Alien Nine and RahXephon. Hiroshi Ohnogi (Kekkaishi, Noein, Macross Zero) is supervising the scripts, while Hiroki Kanno (RahXephon, Yu Yu Hakusho The Movie: Poltergeist Report) is designing the characters. Akira Senju (Mobile Suit Victory Gundam, Red Garden, Rampo) is composing the music. Besides Oyama, MBS’ Hiro Maruyama, Square Enix’s Nobuyuki Kurashige, and BONES’ Noritomo Yonai are producing.

Mike’s Take

Interesting: they are taking the route that Hideaki Anno took with the new Evangelion movies–starting up a new studio/group rather than sticking with the original folks that did FMA (it looks like another department within Bones in this case, which has a fine track record, I might add). It’s also interesting how this was one of the things supposedly leaked by the “internal document” from Bones that actually turned out to have a lot of truth.

I saw FMA a number of years ago, and it quickly became one of my favorite series. It was frequently unflinching in its portrayal of terrible ethical and emotional dilemmas, as well as the sincere love between brothers; though it had filler from time to time, the core story was one of the most engaging and compelling I’d seen in some time. I wonder if the new series is going to basically pick up where they had to stop adapting the manga in the first version, or if they are going to start over again but with more of the manga to adapt than before. And it’s awesome that’s it coming out so soon, in the next spring season. We shall certainly try to review it.

(Yay…this is the news filler type post I said I would do in lieu of any other articles if I couldn’t come up with anything. Look at me trying to keep those resolutions!)

Rental Magica 1–All That Background Info For…

Look out, it’s Yuki Nagato! Oh wait, wrong show

…something that looks like a combination of Bleach and Fullmetal Alchemist. This looks like the shounen action show with more style than substance, much like Black Cat. At least it’s easy on the eyes with some of the better character design in all the new season’s offerings.

Continue reading Rental Magica 1–All That Background Info For…

Yaoi doujin artist arrested.

From The Diet 3 Daily

Sept 26, Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. Earlier today, the local police arrested Minami Takayama, a 35-year old unmarried women who’s been drawing yaoi vampire doujinshi for 15 years.

The police chief reported that the local branch of the “Shin Mobile Morality Squad” has been secretly tracking this woman’s underground sales of her work to girls and women ranging from 14 to 45; from middle school girls to middle-aged housewives.

“She has been secretly selling indecent materials of sexual activities depicting men on men, men on boys, boys on boys, men to boys, and boys to men,” said Chief Watanabe. “Her work would’ve been acceptable if she were selling them in certain conventions in Tokyo, but she insisted on breaking the rules and the social stigma and selling outside these conventions.

“We think her abnormal behavior has something to do with her 2-year study abroad in America.” Chief Watanabe added.

“Freedom of speech is good, but too much of it can be really bad.” Commented Ms. Yoshida, a local housewife. “Thank my ancestors I refused to deal with her when she came to my house asking me to buy a copy of a ‘new and innovative read’ for housewives. I just said no.

“And I would like to encourage all bored housewives to watch drama, date younger men online, and play with boys from your local middle and high schools. Trust me, it makes the life more interesting that way.”

Police found 10000+ copies of yaoi doujinshi work from at Takayama’s home. It’s reported that her room is full of posters showing male characters from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hellsing, Fullmetal Alchemist, Kujibiki Unbalance, Prince of Tennis, and others.

She faces 5 years in prison with a stiff 450000 yen fine.

Related News

Another Anime great ascends to Otaku Heaven.

From ANN

Bones Co-Founder Hiroshi Ōsaka Passes Away at 44

Posters on the 2ch message boards have noted a mixi social community site’s diary entry that reported the passing of Hiroshi Ōsaka, the co-founder of the BONES animation studio and animation director of several works including The Vision of Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop, and Fullmetal Alchemist: The Movie – Conqueror of Shamballa. Animation director Kazuaki Moori (Pokémon, The Daichis – Earth Defence Family) confirmed on his official website’s diary that his colleague Ōsaka passed away on the morning of September 24.

Ray’s take: actually I don’t know if he’s an anime great, but at least he’s in Otaku heaven. One can find his presence when he travels to Gaia, I guess. Someone get Ed to revive him! One thing I notice is that a lot of creative artists in the anime industry die young. Damn…