That Bearded Bastard
Welcome to the all things anime post! Hopefully, with your help, we will successfully navigate the occasionally convoluted world of Japanese cartoons and manga (Japanese graphic novels).
A funny thing happened on the way to this article. Fueled by too much caffeine and a desperate need for sleep I managed to force my computer to eat the lovely article I had written. It was all about Sailor Moon and my seething envy of all those who attended the recent Anime Expo. We’ll have to get back to those in a future post.
I blame that bearded bastard.
Mostly because it’s a terribly entertaining catchphrase, and who doesn’t need a catchphrase for their arch enemy? Also because it’s one of those exceptionally versatile exclamations. Try it. Trust me.
Interestingly enough, a Google search for images of “that bearded bastard” will actually return photos like this one. I feel like sometimes Google magically predicts my needs and gives me pictures of Joe Manganiello.
I will never complain about my search engine again.
So, Fullmetal Alchemist, Brotherhood, an anime series based on the manga written and illustrated by the exceptionally talented Hiromu Arakawa. FMA Brotherhood is actually the second version of FMA to have been released as an anime. Its earlier predecessor was released concurrently with the manga. But, about halfway through the series the manga got ahead of Arakawa’s writing so the first anime series deviated from her storyline and ended up in a completely different place with an entirely different conclusion. If you were to choose just one of the two to watch, I would recommend FMA Brotherhood simply for the fact that the story follows the manga, and the animation is slightly higher quality.
The series itself revolves around the lives of brothers Ed and Alphonse Elric as they learn and wield alchemy, the force of equivalent exchange. Their search for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone that will enable them to regain their original bodies is the primary story arc. The world they inhabit, Amestris, is governed by a military complex with Fuhrer King Bradley, military hero, as it’s leader. In order to gain access to higher levels of learning and information that may lead them to the Philosopher’s Stone, Ed chooses to become a state alchemist. State alchemists are the dogs of the military and the primary reason the current regime was able to stay in power through a civil war that took place a few years before the story begins.
While the Elric brothers are central protagonists, I found that it was the other characters Ed and Al befriend along the way who made many of the comedic highs in each episode. Not all of these secondary characters are alchemists. Winry works to master her skills in automail, the art of constructing advanced metal mechanical prosthetics. Riza is a sharpshooting sniper. Gene Havoc is the chain-smoking, gun toting, romeo of Central Command. Even among alchemically gifted characters there are distinctions based on the specialization of alchemy a person chooses to practice. Roy Mustang possesses the skill to use flame alchemy, but, his skill to manipulate his chosen element depends on the presence of an ignition source. He wears his transmutation circle on a glove, enabling him to cast fire alchemy at will. This also makes him completely useless if he gets wet. “All powerful flame alchemist, itty bitty impractical cloth ignition source.” *think Genie in Aladdin*
Major Armstrong is one of my favorite supporting cast members.
With the perfect curly-q of hair on his forehead, his penchant for tearing off his shirt in order to better show off his abundant musculature, and the way in which sparkles magically appear all around him every time he poses, he makes a stellar comedic character.
The fact that his non-alchemist sister can beat him in hand to hand combat is icing on the cake.
May Chang and Shao May.
Tiny girl who wields powerful alkahestry.
Her best friend and traveling companion is a miniature panda who mimics all of her actions and emotes.
The character that can hand out a scolding or a smack-down as necessary.
Her tragic reason for breaking the first rule of alchemy serves as the driving force in her interest to help the Elrics defeat the big bad.
Olivier Armstrong, the Northern Wall of Briggs
Capable of commanding the most dedicated fighting force in the realm and defending the Northern border.
In one of her signature badass moves she stabs an attacker in the arm (with her trademark Armstrong family sword) to steal his gun so that she can shoot another attacker with it.
All without the use of alchemy.
I could probably go on to mention something about every character in the series, but I have to leave some things for you to discover for yourselves!
FA has a masterful interplay between it’s comedic elements and the darker themes of betrayal, loss, and the personification of the seven deadly sins. Happily the resolution of the series ties together all the various plot twists and secondary story arcs and provides a great little epilogue as well. I highly, highly, recommend this series as being well worth the time to watch or read!
Have a favorite series you’d like to bring up for discussion? Questions about the genre from those of you new to anime? Send them my way!
Next time: What I’m watching now. And what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t mention this anime…