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Watch & Learn: FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST BROTHERHOOD #51

May... you cute little fool.

  For a guy who does all the dirty work, Kimblee stays oh so clean...
 For a guy who does all the dirty work, Kimblee stays oh so clean...

Hey hey! Who called it about Pride using Morse code? Well, it's not exactly Morse code. They come up with a clever, timeless alternative in “slash and dot” (or whatever it was) instead, so as not to beg the inevitable questions of when, where and how Samuel Morse existed in this world... but I was still right, and Al still showed how empty his head really is (get it?) by letting the evil little bastard drum on his it all that time. Then again, I'm actually a little appreciative that the cast of this show is big enough for some of the characters to be downright stupid when the situation fits. Al won't bash his powerful enemy's skull at a vulnerable moment because he's too much of a gentle soul to harm sweet lil' Selim, and May's gullible's enough to lead Envy right back to an even greater source of power because she's 12 or something, and 12-year-olds are notably easy to dupe.

And speaking of her - - how absurd was the animation in that one shot where she's dodging and parrying all the zombies in the sewer? I’m always startled by the quality of rendering in anime, even in a weekly show likes this. Just throwaway scenes like that and Olivier dueling with Sloth looked like full animation you rarely see outside of features.

  Why does everybody insist on calling that thing a cat when it's obviously a tiny panda?
 Why does everybody insist on calling that thing a cat when it's obviously a tiny panda?

Getting back to what I was saying about the characters, though... even with the big cast, I'm consistently impressed by the strength of the dramatic challenges these characters are put through. In writing theory, they talk about how it’s important to push your characters into areas they don't want to be in and Al's scenes in this episode put him through so many in such a short amount of time. His compromises of his limbs, his mercy for the lion, his finally having to use a stone he's morally opposed to, his going Super-Saiya... he goes through such a wringer in just one scene!  

One character who desperately needs to go through a dramatic arc, right now, is Armstrong - - and it's an arc to redemption and self-respect. I'd say he's halfway there after his intervention with the Sloth fight, but he's still got a ways to go for me.

I'm told that the new intro and outro are the final ones, and they honestly feel anticlimactic. The previous ones showed fun hints of the future, sure, but this all-but-shows what I imagine is going to be the denouement in the last episode. I can practicality fill in the lines the older Ed's going to utter when he retreats to the idyllic homestead in the country.

Watch this episode, “The Immortal Legion,” below and decide for yourself, then read my comments on the previous episode here.  

       

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of  HYBRID BASTARDS!  &  UNIMAGINABLE . Order them on Amazon   here  &   here .  Follow him on Twitter:  @tompinchuk

Roldanon Jan. 21, 2011 at 2:40 a.m.
Yeah i agreed with you Tom, after hearing that OP the first time but damn does it fit this final arc perfectly. I also love that scene when May needs to dodge those Zombies. Just the way she moves just makes it even better.
rubberluffyon Jan. 21, 2011 at 7:47 a.m.
May is gullible, desperate and a kid, a terrible combination.  Envy played that real well.
 
Al has his work cut out for him, getting ready to take on both Pride AND Kimblee.
 
I really like the final opening, it is my second favorite after Golden Time Lover.  I first felt that it was a strange choice to end on, but each episode made me appreciate it more and more.  And the ending is by Shoko Nakagawa, who did the Gurren opening, and I really like it.
FoxxFireArt moderator on Jan. 21, 2011 at 9:27 a.m.
Well, this is my firs time being involved with these articles since I've finally caught up on FMA: Brotherhood. Technically, I'm an episode ahead on Episode 52.
The animation quality really is top notch for a lot of this series. That's BONES for you.
 
I actually didn't realize what Selim was doing Morse Code until last episode. I had one of those realization moments. Those are always cool when a series can get you to do that.
 
Ohhh, don't you go worrying too much about Alex stepping up. He pulls something off next episode that actually had me saying out loud. "Daaaannnmm....". I do still love that Olivier. Damn, that's a cool character. Arakawa may of killed off Martel quickly, but replaced her with someone just as nice.
 
When you watch Kimblee, I always start to think the same thing. If you can tattoo your hands with transmutation circles, why is it you don't see more State Alchemist do that? You'd think that would be pretty damn handy in combat. I'm thinking maybe the type of array you have will dictate the type of alchemy you can use. Kimblee loves making explosions, so, he wouldn't mind that.
 
@rubberluffy:
This opening is good, but my favorite was the first time. The other two the songs just never felt right.
VanTeslaon Jan. 21, 2011 at 10:21 a.m.

After this ends I suggest viewing GTO(great teacher onizuka ) for comedy. 
 
Code Geass for some robot action/comedy/drama. 
 
MS Gundam Z(great space drama of old). 
 
Tenchi Universe for comedy/action/harem. 
 
GITS(Ghost in the shell) season one. 
 
Darker than Black season one. 
 
zaldaron Jan. 21, 2011 at 1:12 p.m.
vote for ghost in the shell.  If you haven't seen that yet you REALLY need to.  And the second movie is a great one for learning since I felt like I had sat through a graduate level course in western philosophy when I watched that movie.
vergiliuson Jan. 23, 2011 at 9:21 a.m.
@zaldar said:
" vote for ghost in the shell.  If you haven't seen that yet you REALLY need to.  And the second movie is a great one for learning since I felt like I had sat through a graduate level course in western philosophy when I watched that movie. "
Speaking as someone currently in graduate philosophy, honestly, it's not all that deep.  GitS raises some interesting philosophical questions, and then just assumes certain answers without argument--the philosophy is rather superficial, in other words.  It's more of a sci-fi show than a philosophy show...i.e. what it's doing is asking "what if?" and then building a world around those assumptions, rather than grappling with difficult questions.
 
It's a fun show, absolutely, and reasonably well-written, but it plays fast and loose with philosophy.
zaldaron Jan. 23, 2011 at 6:27 p.m.
@vergilius said:
" @zaldar said:
" vote for ghost in the shell.  If you haven't seen that yet you REALLY need to.  And the second movie is a great one for learning since I felt like I had sat through a graduate level course in western philosophy when I watched that movie. "
Speaking as someone currently in graduate philosophy, honestly, it's not all that deep.  GitS raises some interesting philosophical questions, and then just assumes certain answers without argument--the philosophy is rather superficial, in other words.  It's more of a sci-fi show than a philosophy show...i.e. what it's doing is asking "what if?" and then building a world around those assumptions, rather than grappling with difficult questions.  It's a fun show, absolutely, and reasonably well-written, but it plays fast and loose with philosophy. "
Ah I assume for someone in philosophy it would be that way.  But look at normal TV shows or really any other anime and it is certainly better than any of that.  I mean it is even deeper than the matrix right?.  I am also talking about the second movie GTIS: Innocence specifically.
vergiliuson Jan. 23, 2011 at 11:57 p.m.
@zaldar said:

" @vergilius said:

" @zaldar said:

" vote for ghost in the shell.  If you haven't seen that yet you REALLY need to.  And the second movie is a great one for learning since I felt like I had sat through a graduate level course in western philosophy when I watched that movie. "
Speaking as someone currently in graduate philosophy, honestly, it's not all that deep.  GitS raises some interesting philosophical questions, and then just assumes certain answers without argument--the philosophy is rather superficial, in other words.  It's more of a sci-fi show than a philosophy show...i.e. what it's doing is asking "what if?" and then building a world around those assumptions, rather than grappling with difficult questions.  It's a fun show, absolutely, and reasonably well-written, but it plays fast and loose with philosophy. "
Ah I assume for someone in philosophy it would be that way.  But look at normal TV shows or really any other anime and it is certainly better than any of that.  I mean it is even deeper than the matrix right?.  I am also talking about the second movie GTIS: Innocence specifically. "
The first Matrix and GITS: Innocence both play around a bit with an idea that goes back to Descartes (and probably earlier, I'm not sure); what if there were some entity beyond yourself controlling your perceptions--how would that be different than "reality?"  This leads in to questions like "which is the dream , which is real?" Or "what makes 'reality' so special anyway, if it is just perceptions?"  The point is that that is the very question that's being ignored--is reality "just" perceptions, or is there something else going on?  Both films show you "here's what it would be like for someone to fool your senses perpetually," but they don't ever examine the underlying question.  This is sort of forgivable in The Matrix's case because it's sort of a straight forward "gospel/messiah story in cyberspace," whereas GITS has pretensions of being something else.  I guess this might not be the show's fault come to think of it...many people watching it seem to think "the reality presented here is a realistic representation of what the future will look like," and see it as relatively "hard" sci-fi, whereas the most it could conceivably be justified to be said to do is to present one possible alternative as to what the future might be like if certain things were true.  For instance, for a large portion of Innocence, the major is a disembodied conciousness and we're supposed to just accept that this is possible...whereas I was shouting "What does that even mean!?" at the screen (in my head, of course, lol).  It isn't clear that consciousness is separable from one's physical form.  If it isn't separable, every time the major downloads into a new body, she is, in fact, being duplicated and then the original is being killed.  This issue is sort of touched on when they talk about "ghost dubbing," but as far as I have gotten in the series they haven't explored the implications of that nor have they applied the principle evenly...it was just the one standalone episode.
 
The other thing that bugs me about the show is this idea of a "ghost" (being somewhere between "soul" and "living consciousness."  If there is such a thing, it pretty problematic to me that it can travel over data cables.  The concept also seems to directly contradict what the rest of the show seems to be saying...i.e. that consciousness (being "really" alive) is just an information process, and that, for instance, the Tachikomas are just as capable of it as anyone else.
 
If you're interested in this sort of thing, I would suggest reading up on "The Chinese Room" thought experiment which I think does a very good job of framing the issue (understanding the setup will help you better understand exactly what is in controversy (i.e. the elephant in the room I think GITS is ignoring).
 
In terms of philosophical depth in a "normal" TV show or another anime...well I don't watch much "normal" TV so I can't really comment, but here would be several anime that have greater philosophical depth:
 
Death Note (the ethics of vigilantism and law enforcement)
Code Geass (more explicitly in the second season--an individualist refutation of the philosophy shown in Eva, especially about the implications of the unbridgeable gap between different people [which instrumentality was meant to close])
Revolutionary Girl Utena (a feminist critique of shojo in general and the magical girl genre in particular--granted, this is in a sense better called literary criticism than straight philosophy, but it is philosophically informed literary criticism)
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (Mathusianism vs humanism, voluntary cooperation vs coercion, the limits of government capability, a loving commentary about the portrayal of masculinity in the mecha genre)
 
What all those shows share, incidentally, and what GITS lacks, is that they follow the "show-don't-tell" rule.  Very occasionally a character will go off on a rant about why they think they're right, (well, in Death Note's case, more that occasionally, but still) but we are consistently shown what sort of factors the characters are weighing when they're faced with problems.  The show is raising a question and a character is making a decision about that question.  The audience of course is free to disagree with that decision.  In GITS, on the other hand, there are these underlying interesting philosophical questions, but the "correct" answers are dictated to us and everything that happens in the plot only occurs in the context of those questions being resolved.
 
I feel I'm being too abstract so let's try an example.  Suppose the situation is our protagonist is presented with an unarmed captive.  This person is certainly guilty of a large number of crimes, and mostly likely just plain evil.  A show like Death Note, Code Geass, Utena, or TTGL would have the protagonist make a decision about whether to execute the person who was at their mercy or not.  GITS would presupose that the answer was "well obviously you shoot them, what are you an idiot?" and then spent the next 20 minutes showing us the exact means of execution in fine detail, while everything going on is left completely unquestioned by anyone involved.
 
Another example: in Gurren Lagann, we are shown two contrasting approaches to dealing with adversity--Rossiu (post-time-skip), the head of Rossiu's village, and Lordgenome (pre-time-skip) have one answer, and this causes them to act in a certain way; Simon and Kamina have a different answer, and this causes them to act in a different way.  We see the different approaches play out and conflict with one another, and what the consequences of each approach are (with the caveat that again, we are left to disagree with the show's portrayal of how things would actually turn out).  What GITS would do is leave out the entire arc where Rossiu starts acting like an officious bastard (and hating himself for it) and instead have a sidekick character give us a list of things the Dai-Gurren Brigade assumes about ethics.  "It is not permissible to force people to act in their own interest."  "Continuing change and growth accompanied by risk (or even inevitable doom) is preferable to violently enforced stasis, even if this coercion brings safety."  I think it is pretty clear that the Dai-Gurren brigade does believe those things, but we never had to be explicitly told.  It was just embedded in the fabric of the story.
 
Anyway, I think I've already written too much...if there's anything here that needs clarification, let me know.  I guess I'd like to close by remarking that I think GITS does a very good job in terms of fleshing out what a world in which its assumptions hold true would look like, and that I do like the show, I only have a problem with calling it philosophical when really the show isn't about philosophy so much as it is about solving mysteries and having shootouts with crisp animation and good music.  There are philosophical elements, but it is definitely plot-driven.  You could, for instance, make the opposite philosophical assumptions and the show would probably still work , with only minor rewrites.
zaldaron Jan. 24, 2011 at 1:37 p.m.
@vergilius:  wow....man am I going to love talking to you...but I am going to have to think a bit and then reply in more detail.  I disagree on some of your shows as being more philosophical and the idea that you could have a consciousness without a body is something they just accept and has to do with the Japanese belief in a soul.  Have you read the manga?  It is most interesting in the things he just accepts this being an example.  I will have to think more and rewatch the movie, which I need to do anyway.  Have you read a series of books called the prince of nothing?  If not you should.  They are written by a Canadian philosopher and are most interesting.  I disagree with his philosophy in some respects (I am a chemist so I certainly believe there is a reality beyond my perceptions that my perceptions can give me info about...the idea that the universe would somehow not exist without me or another human is ludicros and vain) but they are definitly interesting. 

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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is the second anime series based on Hiromu Arakawa's original manga. Edward Elric with his brother Alphonse failed to resurrect their mother. Now, they travel across the country with their alchemy to restore their bodies as they hunt for the mythical Philosophers Stone and correct their mistake.

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