Anime Me! #6: Fullmetal Alchemist

Anime Me!  #6: Fullmetal Alchemist (Brotherhood)

For the sake of this review this week, I am combining the 2003 anime (known as Fullmetal Alchemist) and the 2009 anime (also known as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood).  They are both based off the 2001 manga of the same title.  The only difference being, the 2009 anime follows the manga story arc much closer and is currently still ongoing, as the 2003 anime was altered due to being produced at the same time as the manga itself.  Thus there are some major changes in the story arcs.  Believe it or not this was done on purpose and with permission from the creator, Hiromu Arakawa.  In an interview she explains that “…she would not like to repeat the same ending in both media, as well as to make the manga longer to work more in the development of the characters…”

Simply put I felt the original anime, even though it differed quite a bit from the finished manga, was one of the top notch Shonen anime of all time.  The 2003 anime spanned 51 episodes, and even culminated in a theatrical film that ended the story arc.  It was very engaging and exciting through out.  That being said, I was hesitate when I learned that a “reboot” of sorts was planned in 2009.  I was worried that the reboot was going to altered too many things, as is the “new” wave of Hollywood remakes in this day and age.  I was gladly and pleasantly surprised to find that the 2009 anime was following the manga much better than it’s original did.

The series itself, in both versions, follows the story of two alchemist brothers, Edward  and Alphonse Elric, who want to restore their bodies after a disastrous failed attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy.  You see, in their failed attempt, they paid a heavy price.  Edward loses a leg.  Alphonse on the other hand loses his entire body, nearly dies, and is only saved by his brother quick thinking.  Unfortunately by saving his brothers life (by affixing his soul to an empty suit of armor), Edward also loses his arm.

As you can tell, this anime is not exactly for anyone young and the scene above is very graphic and may not even be for everyone.  Such is life, and I am glad this pivotal scene remained as the common running theme of having consequences for every action (even well intended ones) still rings true.  As we pick up the story we find that Ed has equipped himself with metal prosthetics with the help of his mechanic and childhood friend Winry Rockbell, and Al is still affixed to the suit of armor.

Speaking of the suit of armor.  A common running gag within the series is Ed’s reactions to people calling him short, or people mixing him and his brother up.  Some people they meet already know of the Elric brothers and know that Ed is the oldest of the two.  But when they see Al’s very tall suit of armor, they just assume he is Ed because of his height.  Since Ed has a short fuse when it comes to his height, there is always an argument over the subject.

A few years after their failed attempt, the boys get involved with the State Military, because of their talent with Alchemy.  In this world, you soon realize that Alchemy has become much more prominent and relied upon scientific technique.  They take the opportunity to learn as much as they can in order to discover a way to return their injured and broken bodies along with their deceased mother.

Now if you are watching both anime, you will notice quickly that exact scenes and characters are changed in Brotherhood, but pretty much remain identical to the 2003 anime.  That is until you start reaching the 17th-18th episode.  You will then be treated to an entirely different story arc.  Some seemingly minor characters from the 2003 anime become much more prominent in Brotherhood, and some others are killed off.  After the stories diverge it really does become 2 separate animes, both very enjoyable.

As of today’s date, there are 57 episodes (60 that I know about) in the 2009 anime version, with many more to come.

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Anime Me! #5: Angelic Layer

Anime Me!  #5: Angelic Layer

Officially marked as a shōnen style anime, this weeks review is Angelic Layer.  It is the anime I introduced my own daughter to, and she cannot get enough.  First off, originally developed by CLAMP. an all-female group formed in the 1980’s.  They are one of the most acclaimed group of artists in Japan, and very rarely make appearances.  Due to their work, they are credited as part responsible for the manga explosion in the United States.  They have an uncanny ability to write towards male and female readers and because of that will always straddle that line between shōnen and shōjo manga.

This title is CLAMP’s first work to use a different art style.  There is less emphasis on detail and more on posing and gestures.  This kind of artwork would be used on later titles, and become some of their most well known and popular series.  The manga was adapted into a 26-episode anime series produced by Bones which aired on TV Tokyo from April 2001 to September 2001.

Angelic Layer introduces us as the viewer to a universe that CLAMP will go to again and again in different and later series.  This notion that multiple titles and characters exist in the same world becomes part of the charm for most of their titles involved.  Some of CLAMP’s other works which are interconnected include Chobits, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, Cardcaptor Sakura, Clamp School Detectives, as well as one of there current running anime Kobato.

The primary character and protagonist of the story is Misaki Suzuhara, a seventh grader who just moved to Tokyo to live with her aunt.  She is inspired by a video she sees on a jumbotron outside of Tokyo Station and becomes infatuated to learn as much as she can about the popular live game called Angelic Layer.  The game itself is based on dolls, called “Angels” that can move and fight via mental control across a stage/ring called a “Layer”.  She meets many different characters, who all seem to be interconnected throughout the story.  While all this is going on, the meat of her back story takes shape, as she deals with not only adjusting to her new surroundings and budding relationships, but also her past about her mother, whom she has not seen in years.  Like other manga and the anime based on them, Angelic Layer’s ending as well as relationships were changed.  So I’ll stop there to avoid spoiling you any further.  LOL!

What I do extremely like about CLAMP’s work is the interconnection of the different series.  For instance Angelic Layer is a de facto prequel, without actually being one, to another CLAMP work called Chobits You can pick up each of these titles and understand the story with out the other, but can be happily surprised when certain characters or places make appearances.  The manga shows much more of this, but the anime has some information about certain characters as well.

For Angelic Layer specifically, it was the first opportunity to show my daughter something I enjoyed watching and she, enjoying it along with me.  The story itself is easy to follow, even with all the character relationships, and back story weaving in and out of the main plot.  Most of the “Angels” and trainers (called Deus) are female with one or two exceptions.  While the over all moral of the series is “believing in yourself is essential in accomplishing your goals”, there is more than enough action as the game itself can be a combination of boxing, wrestling, and video games all rolled into one.

By far Angelic Layer was exciting, emotional, action-packed, and hilariously funny as any anime can ever get.  It was the first CLAMP anime I watched, and it set me on a path to find more of their works to view.

Anime Me! #4: Chrono Crusade

Anime Me!  #4: Chrono Crusade

This week, I bring to you Chrono Crusade.  Easily one of the best presented anime on my all-time list.  The shonen manga was written and illustrated by Daisuke Moriyama.  The individual chapters were published in eight tankōbon volumes by Kadokawa Shoten from December 1999 to September 2004.  The anime itself first aired on Fuji TV in Japan on November 23, 2003 and ran for 24 episodes until June 10, 2004.

Of quick note, you will sometimes find the spelling of the name to be different.  Sometimes it is “Chrono”, and others “Chrno”.  In a bit of an embarrassment, Moriyama’s publishers during the original serialization apologized for the typo.  It has since been corrected as well as the logo itself has gone through a rehaul to be less confused with other stories that use the word “Chrono” in the title.

After the first few episodes you start to feel like it’s the same story.  It starts to have a “villain of the week” type plot in every episode.  As anyone who knows me, knows I don’t look fondly on “villain of the week” stories.  But the moment you feel this, it switches up and give you a swerve.  An actual story, lol!

Chrono Crusade is set in 1920’s.  The division between rich and poor is growing day by day during WWI.  At this time, a darkness is rising influencing the choices of mankind.  A fictional organization known as the Order of Magdalene fight demonic forces across America.  The main characters of Sister Rosette and her demon partner Chrono are part of this organization.  The main story arc that is revealed breaks up the seemingly “villain of the week” episodic nature, and starts driving that arc right through the end of the series.  We see that Sister Rosette and Chrono have more of a past than we are led to believe and they are connected spiritually as well as “physically” (I really do not want to spoil any further).

Sister Rosette Christopher is an impulsive, 16-year-old, and the protagonist of the story.  She seems like any other 16 year old, considering she is a demon hunter.  Except the swerve I mentioned earlier, involving her “contract” with her partner.  Again, I will not spoiler any further.  But from the moment we learn of the contract, the series switches from a “villain of the week” type story to more of a character driven one.  While her character is altered more in the anime than in the manga.  I feel it, in no way changes her character for the purpose of the story.

The anime follows the manga story through the events of Vol. 4, but it really diverges during a crucial point in the plot and as a result, creates different arcs and endings.  Most anime that diverges from the manga story, I have always felt falls flat.  In this instance, the only aspect that I disagree with is the final confrontation between Aion and Chrono.  While I will not reveal specifics, it feels way too fast for the build up it gets throughout the series.  I won’t reveal anything further, but I will say, it’s not even the end.

Let me say this.  I have NEVER watched a more emotional scene than the final 10 minutes of the final episode.  I DARE anyone, who has sat through the entire series, to watch the final scene…and NOT cry.  ANYONE!

Anime Me! #3: Black Lagoon

Anime Me!  #3: Black Lagoon

This week, I bring to you one of my all-time favorites.  Black Lagoon.  This is one of those rare animes that I have just immersed myself into.  I have the original Japanese manga books, as well as the English translations.  I have the anime DVD’s, as well as the anime soundtrack.  So it’s not going to take a genius to figure out, I love this anime.

Black Lagoon is a manga series written and illustrated by the great Rei Hiroe, and published in Shogakukan’s Sunday GX since 2002.  The anime series based on the manga aired in Japan from April 8, 2006 to June 24, 2006.  It totaled twelve episodes.  The second season was called Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage and ran for another 12 episodes beginning on October 2, 2006.  The third season was just recently announced as Black Lagoon: Roberta’s Blood Trail, and has been slated as an OVA.

The story follows a team of misfit mercenaries known as Lagoon Company, who smuggle goods around the seas of Southeast Asia.  They are located in the fictional city of Roanapur in Thailand.  Their main means of transport is an 80-foot Elco-type PT boat named Black Lagoon.

Each episode basically consists of the team taking on a variety of missions in various Southeast Asian locations.  What really draws me into the anime is that the stories take on a realistic view.  Such as if cars or other vehicles are destroyed in one episode, they remain destroyed in subsequent episodes.  Even some instances were some injuries will continue on in later episodes.

We begin the anime with the introduction of Rock, your mild-mannered Japanese businessman, and he’s been used by his bosses in a situation he wants no part of.  While you immediately feel sorry for him.  It won’t be the last time he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He joins up with Lagoon Company and immediately gets at odds with most of them because of his moral compass.

While female anime characters are not exactly rare.  You will NEVER find one as tough, or as strong, or as talented as Revi.  She is the muscle for Lagoon Company and the protagonist for the series.  She is of Chinese descent and is very skilled with firearms.  What makes her character rare, is that she enjoys killing her enemies.  While normally calm, she tends to have some sort of internal emotional instability.  You can see this flourish with her interactions with Rock.  You can immediately tell, both of these characters need each other.  Rock needs Revi’s strong backbone, and Revi needs Rock’s moral stability.  This of course causes many fights, some very violent.  One of which almost costs Rock his life.  But it is soon realized that without each other, both characters just wouldn’t be the same.

But the anime doesn’t stop there.  Chock-full of many characters, and all of them are given a sort of depth, especially in the manga.  Some do border on cliche for anime, such as nuns & maids (both of whom are skilled in firearms).  But the characters never show any sign of just being thrown into the story.  Each has a purpose, and each are used to the fullest.  THAT is rare in any story telling in this day-and-age of old, tired, retread remakes.

Another aspect I enjoy is the humor.  A very dark humor that involves adult themes such as drugs, alcohol, guns, sex, and murder.  All usually during very violent scenes and gun battles.  One of my favorite is the Rock, Paper, Scissors game Revi plays with another character.  They are playing to see who will start killing first.  When Revi loses, she begins to whine like a child.

On the flip side, there are scenes of great depth, and thought.  The submarine scene with Rock and Revi comes to mind.  It is the first real instance where both Rock and Revi explain to each other their views.  Some scenes concern themselves with philosophical thought as well as emotions, actions, and responsibilities.

It’s a real treat to find an anime that can satisfy you with action, violence, thought, depth, and humor.  Quite literally you’d be lucky to get one of these with most.  With Black Lagoon, you get it all.

My Sketchbook: Nabiki

I just couldn’t wait, since our new post this past Monday of my Ranma 1/2 review.  Below is a sketch of one of my favorite characters to pose.  Nabiki Tendo, from Ranma 1/2.  She is the middle sister of the Tendo family, and older sister to Akane.  She initially was interested in becoming Ranma’s fiance until she realized (at least at first) that “he” was a “she”.  I always liked her character, and enjoyed the trouble she caused Akane.  Usually for a buck.  LOL!  That aside, you can see two sketches below.  The close-up of her face was a sketch I completed in about 12 minutes.  I wanted to keep it simple and fast, which is why I never went in to complete her eyes.  Maybe I will one day.  The other is a pose I saw from the anime itself, where she had just woken up.  This was more of an exercise in trying something different.  I liked the pose simply because it was a character in an everyday situation.  Simply waking up in the morning.

As you can see when I was doing most of my drawing during this time, I just wasn’t comfortable completing eyes yet.  Something I did eventually get over.  LOL!  These sketches were some of my favorites, just because of the character.  You will see though in later drawings I get more detailed with shading and how cloths lay on the body.

In this instance, I just wanted to draw Nabiki.

My Sketchbook

I’ve been messing around with my style lately, actually over the last few years, lol.  But more recently I have gotten myself to a more anime style.  I’ll post some of these every so often, mostly exercises and poses of some of my favorite characters.  To start, one of my most recent is a sketch I did right off the internet.  It was a pose and I wanted to see if I could duplicate it.  Maybe some of you anime fans will recognize it.

First off, I realize her right forearm on her chest is a bit disproportionate.  This exercise for me wasn’t about being exact, but being fast.  This from beginning to end took me approximately 21 minutes to complete.  I have others that are more refined, some detailed, some just quick sketches.  I’ll share my sketch book with you.

I try not to use an eraser.  But if your more comfortable with one, I’m not judging.  Get yourself a couple light, medium, and dark HB pencils if you plan on creating detail, or dark areas.  But for a quick sketch like the one above, a simple #2 will suffice.  Eventually I would love to get a set up so I can record video of me drawing.  But for now, I just want to share as much as I can.

Please enjoy!

The Job Interview #1

Thanks to the NEPA Job Fair I attended last week, I was able to acquire 2 job interviews.  Both were completed yesterday (Monday).  Well I survived, and they went pretty well.  I have always felt that if I can attain an interview, get face time with the employer, the job is mine.  It is just a mental attitude I have always brought with me.  You can be nervous, you can be worried.  But if you do not believe that you can get the job.  Then you won’t.

Now that isn’t to say I have gotten every job from every interview.  Your always going to be rejected at some point during your career search.  The idea is to not take it personally.  It happens, move on.  The way I handle being rejected is actually simple.  Call the employer and politely ask them why you were not selected.  Ask what the deciding factor was.  Do not argue or try to change their mind.  The decision has been made.  Your just asking for information to help you in your future interviews.  Maybe you were too nervous, or someone else was more qualified.  You just will never know unless you ask for this information.

I will always prepare answers before the interview.  You’re never really going to know what is going to be asked, but you should always be prepared for certain questions.  You’ll almost always be asked questions straight off of the application or resume.  Such as schooling, education, work experience, etc.  Of course you will almost ALWAYS be asked that one question that makes you state something negative about yourself.  It can be worded so many different ways.  Something you’d like to change or improve about yourself.  I have even been asked before if there was anything I did not like about myself.  I call these trap questions, as it forces you to answer something you may not want to.  Not to mention it’s not something everyone prepares for.

NEVER state anything negative about yourself during an interview.  NEVER!

Even if you are asked point blank.  Turn the question around and make it a positive.  The most common trap question in my experience is when you are asked, “Is there anything you feel that you need to improve upon?”.  Try your best to word the answer in a positive way.  My answer has always been that I am constantly improving and expanding my knowledge.  I have always believed that anyone who doesn’t seek to improve themselves in all aspects of life becomes stale.  Depending on where I am applying, my answer would obviously slightly differ.  I may quote some different programs I know or different skills I may have learned over the years.  But the idea is to NEVER state something about yourself in a negative fashion.  Be confident.  But also be loose.

Remember you would have never gotten the interview if the potential employer didn’t think, on some level, you’d fit well.  The purpose of the interview is to place a face on the application or resume.  They want to know you.  So be honest, but be positive!

Now with my interviews over yesterday.  I am glad to say that I have been offered one of the positions already and the second I am still waiting on.  I was honest and up front with the employer and I stated I still had interviews to attend.  I asked for some time to think it over, and was granted that.  Now just because I have gotten these interviews and even an offer, it doesn’t mean my search is over or I can take a break.  I sent out 3 more resumes in between each interview yesterday.  Now if your happy with the job offer, take it!  Congratulations.  If your still unsure, and you have time to think, the hope is to attain multiple offers and take the best one suited for you.  This is the position I am hoping for.  If the second interview doesn’t come through.  I can always accept the position offered to me, and continue my search if need be.

When it’s all said and done.  Be positive.  Every interview you attend, is experience you gain for the next.