Tag Archives: Fullmetal Alchemist

Side Comments of the Month XIII

Side Comments of the Month XIII

All children need a sweater with their names emblazoned in large letters.

1. You know why I like HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver? Because here’s a show that talks about everything a week late, and it makes absolutely no apologies about it. In this speed-obsessed world, oh my God, I have found a kindred spirit.

The show seems designed not to butt heads with Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Last Week Tonight is a weekly show; it deals more with international politics; there hasn’t been a celebrity guest promoting a new book. As an occasional Daily Show fan, this is great. I don’t need to divide my loyalties.

I love Oliver’s outsider view of American politics. It’s amusing that it takes a British comedian to tell an American audience what half the world already knows: “Hey, you guys, you aren’t the center of the universe. Really.” I enjoyed his insightful background on the Indian elections and his insinuations that Pom Wonderful Juice is made with Pomeranians. (The cheeky corporate response can be seen here.) In less than two months, the show has tackled everything from the death penalty to dictators with mommy issues.

Alas, his teeth are awful, his hair is sometimes unkempt, but oh, he does have nice dimples. Not convinced yet? As part of the show, John Oliver also posts silly things on Twitter, like this photo.

 

2. I really miss Space Brothers. Every time Saturday rolls around, I torture myself with the thought, “Will there be an episode tonight?” and the answer is always a resounding no. I can’t remember when an anime hiatus bummed me out so much, mainly because I’m not used to watching an ongoing series.

Ginko smokes too much.

As a consolation prize, every week there’s a new Mushishi episode, and that’s great. The second season of Mushishi started broadcast in Japan last April. It’s amazing  that there’s a seven-year gap between the first and second seasons. Can you imagine a live-action series with a seven-year hiatus? Me neither.

Mushishi focuses on a myriad of supernatural creatures called mushi. Mushi can mimic the abilities or needs of “normal” life forms but they are invisible to most sentient beings. Most mushi can cause major havoc when distressed or disturbed.

Ginko, a white-haired, chain-smoking itinerant medicine man, spends his time researching the various mushi. Ginko’s the only main character and he’s usually a passive observer, when large themes like love, betrayal, death, and disfigurement unfold along the Japanese countryside. The mushi often acts as catalyst to emotions already brewing in the hearts of normal men and women; Ginko’s just there to document the action.

Mushishi is sometimes tranquil, sometimes terrifying, but it’s always thought-provoking. Even the unsettling parts of Mushishi have a calm, dream-like quality to it. I can imagine lots of people being bored out of their skulls with Mushishi. But I like it.

 

Artwork by HBO illustrator Robert Ball. See more of his gorgeous work at beautifuldeath.com.

3. As usual, I’m not going to comment on the latest Game of Thrones episode. I’m going to observe, however, that George R.R. Martin and HBO are now a rare Western example of the “Overtook the Manga” trope. This happens when a television show’s ongoing production is moving faster than the writing of the original material. A show facing this predicament has limited options: create filler arcs, go into alternate continuity, or stop production in order to be a faithful adaptation.

Game of Thrones is simply too popular to stop production. As a live-action series with a cast that ages in real time, this is simply unthinkable. By revealing the plot points (and possibly the ending) of his unfinished novels to the series writers, George R.R. Martin pulled off a Hiromu Arakawa. I’m relieved and excited Martin did this, so the show can keep to their schedule and wrap up ahead of his publication timetable.

(For those unfamiliar with Hiromu Arakawa, she’s the mangaka behind Fullmetal Alchemist. She knew that production on the anime series would go faster than the manga, because FMA was a monthly title. It was gutsy for her to reveal the entire plot of her unfinished series to an entire production crew. What if they “spoiled” it for her readers? What if they didn’t respect her thematic vision?

For FMA, Arakawa’s gamble paid off. The animators decided to create their own arch-enemy and the ending of the first adaptation has a starkly different conclusion than Arakawa’s manga. They killed off characters and created new ones yet somehow managed to keep the flavor of the franchise. I don’t know how many people still love the first anime adaptation but when it first came out, it was pretty damn good.)

Right now, no one can predict where or how A Game of Thrones is going to go. It already has padded out scenarios for some of the main characters. The next seasons will definitely blend book canon, filler, and perhaps some ludicrous leg-pulls. Now knowing Martin’s plot, will HBO pull off a good pragmatic adaptation? Will it just completely fuck everything up? After the show is done, will Martin just turn around and say, “damn it, that’s not what I told them”?

Has anyone else realized that if George R.R. Martin dies now, in situ, the HBO ending might be the only closure millions of readers will ever get?

I repeat: I’m both relieved and excited. I’m also terrified.

Film Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Film Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

A slightly different version of this entry originally appeared on my old blog on January 6, 2010.

This review has some mild spoilers. To read them, highlight the invisible text with your mouse. 

 

I’ve been waiting since summer, with equal parts of excitement and trepidation, for the new Sherlock Holmes film. I saw the trailer months ago and I was aghast. I was quivering with fear and excitement.

Yes, I love Guy Ritchie’s first two films, and I worried about this complete stranger when he got married to Madonna. Yes, I like Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law a lot, but they are not the first actors to come to my mind when I think of Holmes and Watson. So there was a lot of fangirl hand-wringing on my part.

Months ago, I made a pact with two other Sherlockian friends to watch the film so we could bash it apart together. I was even prepared to do this: I had re-read through two-thirds of Leslie S. Klinger’s New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, and stopped with the less-than-stellar stories in “The Casebook.”

Alas, that pact remained unfulfilled. Right now, TJ is in Manila, I’m visiting the US, and Rain is marooned somewhere in the Middle East. I had to watch this film by myself.

What can I say? After trying to zero out all expectations, I was actually pleasantly surprised. After hemming and hawing about it, I have now accepted that I like it. And yeah, I’d probably watch it again.

A tiny screen capture of Sherlock Holmes. A Warner Bros. image.

There, I said it. Let all the purists wring my neck. There’s something about this adaptation that reviewers either violently love it or hate it. I think I’m one of the few who like it with some reservations, but even saying so will definitely result in some violent reactions. Whatever.

Why do I like it? I appreciate all the little details that show that the filmmakers did their research, down to the obvious bits like Holmes never wearing a deerstalker and not saying “Elementary, dear Watson.” I appreciated the more subtle bits, like Holmes shooting V.R. (Victoria Regina) into his apartment wall, the existence of Watson’s long-suffering bull pup, Mrs. Hudson and the Baker Street Irregulars making an appearance, and the detailed explanations behind each deduction. Yes, Holmes was a pugilist and a master of martial arts. These details are all true to the short stories and the novellas. Hell, even bits of dialogue are lifted directly from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, like Holmes yelling “data, data, I can’t make bricks without clay!”

I even like their theory on why Holmes would let Watson pack the gun. This is one of the few mysteries in the Doyle stories I feel is never satisfactorily resolved.

What I didn’t appreciate, though was the obvious toying with fans. There are old fans who have argued this question to death, and there will be new fans who will argue it out all over again: Holmes/Watson or Holmes/Irene Adler?

Crazy people on the internet argue about stupid things like this, and I feel that this film was trying to please both the straight and the yaoi fanbases, and failed miserably. I read somewhere that the filmmakers wanted to highlight Victorian homo-eroticism and the gay reading of the Holmes/Watson relationship. If that was so, why is so much time dedicated to Adler in final cut? Did they chicken out at the last minute?

I’m only going to shout this once, but here goes: GUY RITCHIE, YOU TROLL. I’M GLAD YOU RECOVERED FROM YOUR MARRIAGE TO MADONNA, BUT REALLY, YOUR FILM WILL FEED THE SHIPPER SHARKS FOR YEARS.

I guess the guy doesn’t realize that people have been arguing about Holmes’s sexuality since Reichenbach. Hmm.

The film does have some warts, though. I got the feeling that Robert Downey Jr. didn’t have the time to learn the violin, and that aspect of Holmes’s was served up to the comedy gods. I felt that Watson’s limp wasn’t convincing (then again, Watson in the stories couldn’t remember if he was shot in the leg or shoulder…) I wish they used some other plot other than Evil Secret Society Wants to Rule the World, but evil secret societies are a favorite with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Perhaps my only real complaint about the movie is that it rips off Fullmetal Alchemist. The moment Holmes drew a pentagram on the floor with chalk, I was thinking, “Edward Elric, here we come!” The murders, the map, the alchemy symbolism, the need for five sacrifices… ah, I believe I’ve seen that all before. I’m definitely giving Fullmetal Alchemist too much credit here—they obviously drew on the same sources for inspiration—but still. A few plot twists would have been refreshing.

But that’s the problem with adaptations, right? That there’s little breathing space for originality while dealing with such a well-loved character?

Holmes himself would think it’s a three-pipe problem.