Well, this is interesting. Hiroumu Arakawa (of Fullmetal Alchemist fame) has done cover art for the Japanese edition of a novel by some Irish writer I’ve never heard of. Here it is, courtesy of ANN:

 

'The Demon's Lexicon' apparently features Roy Mustang.

'The Demon's Lexicon' apparently features Roy Mustang.

Sarah Rees Brennan (who is a prolific fanfiction writer) must be pretty happy about this. Usually I’m not all that excited by Irish writers (for example, James Joyce can go and leap off a cliff), but this has me sort of intrigued. Can we get the English version with the Japanese cover, by any chance? Because that would be awesome.

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All together now: Awwww.

All together now: Awwww.

 

 

 

ULTRA SPECIAL MINI REVIEW OF FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD EPISODE 03: It’s all right. The humour doesn’t work as well as in the manga. Let’s hope they get to the good stuff faster. 6/10)

‘Awesome-ness’, a nebulously defined concept at the best of times, is a fragile thing in the anime world. Some shows start off great and then plummet downhill in the third or fourth episode, while others simply burn out slowly over time until everything that made them unique has been buried underneath flashbacks and stupid transforming enemies (I’m looking at you, Naruto and Bleach). I was kind of worried that Eden of the East might lose it’s awesome and become altogether more crappy – given how fantastic the first two episodes were, it seemed almost impossible that the fickle anime gods wouldn’t reach down to trip it up just as it should be hitting its stride.

Thankfully, that hasn’t happened. Eden of the East’s third episode continues to amaze with generally high production values (ignoring one or two minor quibbles) and a tightly woven, multi-threaded plot. I am literally desperate to see the next installment, which says good things about Eden’s future DVD sale prospects.

This episode opens with the rather odd discovery that Akira lives (or lived) in a shopping centre and continues to get stranger from there. He appears to own an adorable dog with a pair of fake wings on its back (Oldboy reference?) and possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of movies. Which makes sense, given that his enormous, retail-focused home features a rather large cinema. It also features one of the swankiest apartments I’ve ever seen, in real life or in fiction, and a large room full of discarded clothes and mobile phones. That one last one seems to be where Akira’s baffling photo of several hundred naked men was taken, and we later learn that everyone he supposedly killed there was a NEET. (The subtitles said NEET, but the actual dialogue may have used one of the Japanese terms.) Akira and Saki settle down for a quasi-romantic night of movie watching, but the second Selecao, Detective Kondo, inrerrupts and steals Akira’s phone. He’s apparently trying to erase his own memories to restart his life, and claims that the vast fortune loaded onto a Selecao’s phone is important for more than just buying chewing gum – if it runs out, someone comes around to kill the phone’s owner.

Unfortunately he doesn’t say what exactly the whole Selecao business is about, but that will presumably come later. We also get another brief glimpse at Saki’s increasingly odd family, who will probably start playing a bigger role in the story from the next episode onwards.

 

"I wish this was an iPhone..."

"I wish this was an iPhone..."

 

 

Eden of the East continues to distinguish itself with an understated but very unique approach to animated storytelling. The movie name-dropping is clearly an extension of the studio’s intentions, as the entire show comes across more as a live-action film that was turned directly into an anime than anything else. It would be easy to imagine this as an American mini-series, although it would probably lose all of its charm and a good deal of its sophistication in the conversion process. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say that there’s never been an anime quite like it, as long as nobody turns into a demon in the finale or anything.

Having said that, this episode did have some rather worrying dips in quality in the artwork department. Akira’s body seems slightly ‘off’ in several shots, and there’s one brief scene after Kondo beats him up where the animation just goes to hell completely. It’s not a major issue, but I should point out that there hasn’t been any budget-straining frenetic action onscreen so far. Let’s hope the staff aren’t cutting corners for any reason. There’s also a pretty contrived plot development in the last two minutes or so of the episode, one that comes out of nowhere and seems to happen more because it would make the rest of the story easier than because it was a naturally progression of what came before it. It might be explained later, but there’s a particular character involved who really could have done with being introduced (if only briefly) in the last episode.

Still, there are minor complaints. Eden of the East deserves to be watched by everyone and, more importantly, it deserves to be bought by everyone who watched it when it comes out on DVD. This kind of quality doesn’t come along very often, and it’s a welcome respite in a season full of licensed panty-shot montages and moeblobs.

Conclusion

The Good

  • Some of the mysteries raised in the first two episodes are actually being answered. Huzzah.
  • Excellent pacing.
  • Generally very good artwork and animation.
  • The characters continue to delight, although Saki still needs a bit more fleshing out.

The Bad

  • Occasionally inconsistent animation.
  • The last two minutes feel very contrived; major plot development comes out of nowhere.

Rating: 8/10

 

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Epic Sick

April 22, 2009

I have the third episode of FMA:B sitting on my hard drive, along with the first two episodes of that restaurant show (I’m interested, despite the weird middle-aged-men-in-glasses fetish). Unfortunately I don’t have the energy to watch or blog anything, because I am, as the title of this post might suggest, ‘epically sick’. Expect updates as soon as my immune system gets off its ass and starts pulling its weight. In the mean time, I’ll say that I have mixed feelings over BONES’s decision to start back at the beginning of the FMA timeline. Yes, that’s a good idea, but why not do it for the first episode?

(Oh, and I decided to visit 4chan earlier today. Sweet Jesus, how does anyone spend more than five minutes in there?)

Xam’d: Lost Memories (or Bounen no Xamdou for the Japanophile ‘elite’) was a bit like Eden of the East, in that it was an entirely original production with an awesome opening. The original song, from the brilliantly-named Boom Boom Satellites, rather memorably implored the viewer to Shut Up And Explode, a sentiment which is sadly not echoed in the new television broadcast opening. It’s also by Les Satellites, though, which means that watching it twice will leave it permentantly entrenched in your brain. Try for yourself, if you dare:

 

 

Now if only we could some opening songs that actually went well with the in-show background music…

Casemods are cool, right? Well, actually, no they’re not. Most of them involve sticking hideous multicoloured LEDS all over a case that was designed by someone who mistakenly thought motherboards and high-performance RAM should be put on display. But those ‘gamer’ monstrosities are just ugly- to make a casemod truly creepy apparently takes Japanese sensibilities. 

Behold the Maid PC Case:

 

 

Tastefully designed to make you look like a sex offender.

Tastefully designed to make you look like a sex offender.

 

I’d like to say that I have no idea who this kind of thing is for, but that would be a lie. It’s for the lower order of being who resides on 4chan or the less respectable anime blogs, the kind of person who might also be interested in a breast pillow or some sort of weird shit that turns your bath into a ‘sensual’ gel. I enjoy the occasional touch of Japanese weirdness as much as anyone else, but if I saw any of this stuff in someone’s room I’d smile, nod, and then back away slowly – assuming, of course, that the wall-sized posters of half-naked moe girls didn’t tip me off first.

Oh, and the maid case costs just over $500. I could buy a whole computer for that much.

(Excuse the lack of screenshots, I’m currently without my own computer.)

If a new series’ popularity can be accurately judged by the number of fansubbing groups who are willing to cover it, Eden of the East has gotten a whole lot more popular in the week since its first episode was released. The premiere trickled onto torrent sites at a snail’s pace, something that was made far more annoying by the low quality of the initial fansubs (the English ones, at least), but the sophomore outing seems to have attracted a lot more attention. Which is good, because this series really deserves to be watched.

After learning that Tokyo has been hit by a missile in an apparent repeat of the ‘Careless Monday’ strike ten years previously, Akira and Saki leave Washington D.C. and travel back to Japan. Akira still has no memories of his past, but he does have a rather extraordinary cellphone . It contains over eight billion yen and lets him contact Juiz, his self-proclaimed ‘secretary’, who seems to be able to do literally anything he wants. (It also looks pretty crazy and would definitely draw a lot of attention in real life.) The super-phone seems to be driving the plot at this point, and a lot of people have been trying to connect it to the many symbols and phrases tossed around during the energetic opening credits. Given that Eden is only going to be eleven episodes long, it’s not surprising that some of these hooks are already coming into play. We’ve now been introduced to another character with a ‘noblesse oblige’ phone, who helpfully informs us (with the minimum of expo-speak, mind you) that Akira is the ninth member of the ‘selecao’. We still have no idea what exactly that is, but he also has access to Juiz’s services and, unlike Akira, has managed to retain all of his memories.

While it’s a relief that the plot is moving along at an acceptable pace, some of the developments in this episode were rather jarring. Saki’s family (I think) are glimpsed briefly near the beginning before vanishing, and the selecao-cop expends quite a bit of energy tracking down Akira only to do absolutely nothing when he finally finds him. It could just be that I managed to get some shoddy subtitles (courtesy of Desire again), but his actions just didn’t make much sense. And although I enjoy the way Saki’s past is being doled out in small portions, it’s still very difficult to really connect with her at this point. That’s going to be a problem if, as this episode hinted quite strongly, things take a turn for the romantic between her and Akira.

Still, those are minor gripes. Eden’s production values are still fantastic, and the bloody scene at the end is intriguing and beguiling in all the right ways. I still have no idea where the plot is ultimately going to go or how the Tokyo missile attacks will become relevant, but I’m definitely going to stick around to the end. This episode is also notable for doing some rather daring things with current events; Saki shows Akira a photograph of the ‘Freedom Tower’, a building that is actually under construction near where the World Trade Center originally stood, and mentions that the internet rumour-mill blames America for the original Careless Monday attacks. The world of Eden of the East is believable enough that these apparently throw-away allusions will probably develop into some political commentary. If so, we could be in for something even better than the very well made action series the first two episodes have suggested.

Conclusion

The Good

  • Great animation and art.
  • Seems to be revealing the backstory and explaining its mysteries at a sensible pace.
  • Firmly grounded in the real world, despite the magic phone and amnesiac secret agents.
  • Great final scene.

The Bad

  • Character motivations are pretty hazy in one key scene.
  • Some of the background music is a bit repetitive and forgettable, but is at least never intrusive or annoying.

Rating: 9/10

I’m currently in England, where the tyrannically socialist government has blocked access to BitTorrent and all other forms of free expression.

Actually, I just don’t have a laptop with me, and I’m not about to fill someone else’s hard drive with my animes. I’ll get to the second episode of Eden of the East (don’tsuckdon’tsuckdon’tsuck) when I return in a few days.

Speaking of BitTorrent, how about that Pirate Bay ruling, eh? I’m surprised its shockwaves have not torn the internets asunder.