Tag Archives: quest

Fullmetal Alchemist (2017 Movie)

Netflix/Warner Bros./Oxybot Inc./Square Enix

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric find their lives forever changed when their childhood attempt to use alchemy to resurrect their mother ends tragically, with Ed losing a leg and an arm and Al losing his body entirely–only Ed’s quick thinking and sacrifice binding Al’s soul to an old suit of armor in the house. Years later, Ed has become an Alchemist for the military in order to access their resources, and the brothers travel the country searching for the Philosopher’s Stone, the one thing they are convinced will help them get their bodies back. But stranger and larger forces are at work in the country, and the two find themselves treading into murky waters, thick with government intrigue, homonculi, and people who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

First of all, thank you Netflix for making this available in the U.S.! Secondly, I have seen such a polarized array of reviews that I feel I need to write my own review in two sections–the first discussing who should and who shouldn’t watch this movie, and the second discussing what I personally enjoyed and my general impressions of the movie. You should know before going into this that Fullmetal Alchemist is a Japanese live-action movie based generally (not precisely) on the manga and anime series of the same title. It’s not exactly the same story, so don’t expect that; rather it is an adaptation of the story crafted to suit the live-action movie format, and I believe it does that very well. Also, it’s Japanese–Japanese actors, Japanese language, subs only. Moreover, the acting style and the humor shown here are very Japanese–tastefully done, but stylistically distinct, so if you don’t like that, pick something else to watch. But if you’re interested in a creative, well-cast, cinematically gorgeous adaptation of this beloved story, Fullmetal Alchemist (2017) may be worth your checking out.

For myself, I truly enjoyed this movie a great deal. I felt like the cast was chosen well and portrayed their roles excellently. The acting was very well done, keeping the darkness and tension of the story present, but balancing it with appropriate humor, friendship, and hope. Again, since this is an adaptation, certain characters don’t come up at all, and others don’t get as much attention and screen time as they might in a different format; however, I felt like the characters they chose to focus on and the way they wove their stories together told the story well and kept distractions from the main storylines to a minimum. With the plot itself, again, they adapted it, taking pieces from both Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, while also doing some things unique to this particular movie, but I felt that the story they chose to tell was crafted well. Additionally, the ending point is conclusive enough for me to be okay leaving it there, but it leaves things open enough for the possibility of a sequel. . . . We can hope, right? Visually, this movie is absolutely stunning. The countryside where this was filmed is just gorgeous–a lot of it shot in Italy as well as some in Japan. The CGI is also incredible, like, seriously breathtaking. And the music is really beautiful as well, quite suited to the sweeping beauty of the country. My only minor complaints are that I would like a little more Al cuteness and open brotherly bromance (both of which are there, I just want more), and I could do with less fiery violence at the end (although that’s an important part of the big finish, so it’s kind of excused). But seriously, I was very impressed with the 2017 live-action version of Fullmetal Alchemist and would recommend it to anyone who likes Japanese live-action films and who isn’t going to nit-pickingly compare this to the anime, because if you’re that person, you won’t enjoy this. At all.

Written by Hiromu Arakawa/Directed by Fumihiko Sori/Produced by Yumihiko Yoshihara/Screenplay by Fumihiko Sori & Takeshi Miyamoto/Music by Reiji Kitasato/Starring Ryosuke Yamada, Atomu Mizuishi, Tsubasa Honda, Dean Fujioka, Ryuta Sato, Jun Kunimura, Fumiyo Kohinata, & Yasuko Matsuyuki

 

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So You Want to Be a Wizard

Author: Diane DuaneSo you want to be a wizard

My rating: 5 of 5

Young Wizards, vol. 1

When Nita finds the book in the children’s section of the library (where she’s hiding from the bullies who find beating her up prime entertainment), she thinks it’s probably a joke. . . . But maybe not. Either way, she takes the book home, captivated by its promise of a life of magic and imagining the power that would give her over the bullies that make her life a misery. Reading the Oath aloud, Nita soon finds that becoming a wizard is no joke, but it’s not the blast of fulfilling power over the petty worries of her life either–rather, it’s so very much more. Nita befriends another young wizard, Kit, and the two embark on an adventure, a quest even, that will alter their perceptions of life, magic, and themselves in ways they can’t begin to imagine.

I knew So You Want to Be a Wizard had the reputation of being a great fantasy novel, but I had no idea it was so enjoyable, or I would have read it much sooner. It’s a children’s story–and is totally appropriate for kids–but has deep-rooted messages and a mature enough writing that older readers can enjoy it as well. I’m tempted to compare this story to Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. It has that way of looking at things, that sense of describing a reality more true than real life–and in doing so, of giving a greater weight and meaning to life. And maybe that’s just my perspective and no one else would get that impression upon reading this book. In any case, this story is a wonderful fantasy featuring the age-old struggle between light and darkness–with the fate of the world resting squarely on the shoulders of two kids, a displaced white hole, and a bedraggled animated Lotus (car). I do have to say, this is the first story in which I’ve ever had real friendly feelings for a white hole or a car, which just shows the quality of the writing. I am looking forward to reading the rest of Duane’s books, and highly recommend So You Want to Be a Wizard to any of you who enjoy a solid fantasy.

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Samurai Champloo

Manglobe StudioShorewood Standard Ocard1

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: MATURE AUDIENCE

In a mad series of events including a bar fight, a fire, and a couple of near executions, 15-year-old barmaid Fuu loses her home and her job–and recruits two young samurai to accompany her on a harebrained quest to find a “samurai who smells of sunflowers.”  Seriously, if they didn’t owe her so much, you’d really have to question the reason of Mugen (a rakish vagabond with an obviously rough past) and Jin (a mysterious ronin who clearly has some dark secret) in following her. Not that they do it particularly well. Although they do mostly follow the same (usually hungry) path together, it seems like any mention of women, food, or a ready fight will draw Fuu’s two bodyguards away. Not that you can entirely blame them. . . .

Samurai Champloo has got to be one of the most ridiculous by fun anime that I have watched in quite a while. Just to give you an idea: it’s the only anime I can think of in which you can hear both enka and hip-hop, sometimes in the same episode! Music really is a significant factor in this story, so if you’re a music geek like me, that’s a fun factor. Similarly, the story is this huge mish-mash of history and absurdity. You totally can’t accept it as historically accurate, but at the same time, you can get a good idea of some of the major events and issues that were present in the Tokugawa (Edo) Era of Japan. But then you get all kinds of random hip-hop cultural references thrown in as well–like punk kids who beat box around town. The three main characters are fantastic, definitely the carrying force of the story. Fuu is all ditzy and cute; I could see folks being bothered by her damsel-in-distress sort of role, but I personally didn’t get that feeling so much. Jin is totally badass and scary in the quietest, most subdued way possible. Mugen, on the other hand, is equally scary, but in a noisy, rowdy sort of way that contrasts strongly with Jin’s manner. Maybe that’s why they’re always at each other’s throat. . . . In any case, the interactions between these three characters provide the majority of the humor and heart of the story, although there are plenty of outside forces causing action. Lots of impressive sword fights. And I will say, you need to be in the right mood to watch this show, because it’s just that sort of story. As for the art, it’s mostly really attractive, although a bit older; there are a few spots where the faces get somewhat distorted, like an assistant was left with the responsibility to draw them, but it doesn’t really detract from the story. The voice acting is excellent; I especially love Kazuya Nakai’s work with Mugen (well, I love his voice acting in general, but he does a particularly good job with this character). Only other thing I’d like to note is that this really is an 18+ show–there are lots of mature themes, sex, drugs, violence, etc. Lots of violence. But if you’re an adult who’s in the mood for a fun samurai anime, Samurai Champloo has a lot to offer.

Written by Shinji Obara/Directed by Shinichirō Watanabe/Produced by Takatoshi Hamano, Takashi Kochiyama, & Tetsuro Satomi/Music by Nujabes, Tsutchie, Fat Jon, & Force of Nature/Voiced by Kazuya Nakai, Ginpei Sato, &  Ayako Kawasumi

Note: This anime has two seasons for a total of 26 episodes.

 

 

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The Squire’s Tale

the squire's taleAuthor: Gerald Morris

The Squire’s Tales, vol. 1

My rating: 5 of 5

Imagine spending your entire childhood being raised by someone who can see the future as clearly as you see the past and to whom the past is as dim as the future is to you. You can imagine, it would give you a different perspective . . . and cause you to accept that when that person says something’s going to happen, it will. Thus it is that Terence, who has grown up with the unusual hermit Trevisant, doesn’t question the old hermit when young Gawain rides up to their hermitage and Trevisant declares he will one day be a great knight. Nor does Terence argue greatly when the hermit sends him packing to be Gawain’s squire. And thus begins an adventure that will span the reaches of Arthur’s kingdom and beyond . . . and a lifelong friendship, whatever protocol may say about the relations between knights and squires.

I love The Squire’s Tale; actually, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read it by now, or how many times I’m likely to read it in the future. This is a book that only gets better the more you read it, although it’s a delight from the first. This book is a refreshing conglomeration of random traditional stories about Sir Gawain, knit together into a single story told from the perspective of Gawain’s squire, Terence. I love what Morris does with the stories–they all work together well and are told with an immense sense of humor and good sense. Moreover, they showcase that which is absolutely best about this story: the characters, especially Gawain and Terence. They’re both just really enjoyable characters to read (and people I’d actually like to meet in real life!)–practical, good-humored, men of character and courage, insightful, and not over-ready to bow to social norms just because they’re the norm. This book is very clean, and would be absolutely appropriate for late elementary and up, but I think The Squire’s Tale will be appreciated by some adults even more than by children; I know I often find insight into who I am and why I do things when I read this book and the others in this series. In any case, if you haven’t read this yet, you should check it out!

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The Eye of Zoltar

eye of zoltarAuthor: Jasper Fforde

The Chronicles of Kazam, vol. 3

My rating: 5 of 5

As usual, Jennifer Strange has her work cut out for her. As though being the under-age leader of a successful guild of magic-workers (all older than herself) weren’t enough, now she’s got a flesh-eating monster that they accidentally set loose on the town to catch. And one of her best workers managed to get herself held for ransom in the neighboring kingdom–a kingdom known for being intentionally dangerous. Oh, and she’s got a bratty princess to babysit, AND the most powerful wizard of the past few centuries (he’s lived that long) is threatening war against Kazam unless she finds a mystic jewel that may or may not exist! Time to declare a quest, for sure. Why is life never simple?

Ever since I first discovered Fforde’s Chronicles of Kazam, I have consistently been delighted beyond all possible expectations, and I must say that in The Eye of Zoltar he outdid himself. The combination of humor, quirk, and thrilling adventure is balanced perfectly, making this a quest tale with something for everyone. Added to that, you have all the fun and amusing details and satire that so characterize Fforde’s writing, and the Chronicles in particular. The characters as well  make this a tale to remember, and even the ones who start out being annoying rather grow on you. (And then you’ve got the characters who start out annoying, grow ever more annoying, and eventually get their just desserts to universal cheers.) Because (spoilers) a large portion of this volume takes place out of country, a number of the characters from the previous volumes don’t show up much–I really missed Tiger’s constant presence, for instance. And I will warn that this volume is kind of dark–not that the previous volumes were all sunshine and rainbows, but you know. . . . In spite of that, I think The Eye of Zoltar is an excellent fantasy, and I would highly recommend it. And hey, it comes with a promise of a follow-up volume which is bound to be more cheerful, right?

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