Tag Archives: seinen

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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The Ancient Magus’ Bride (manga)

Mangaka: Kore Yamazaki/Translator: Adrienne Beck

Status: Ongoing (7 volumes currently)

My rating: 5 of 5

For her entire life, Chise Hatori has been able to see fey and spirits, beings that no one around her was even aware of. You can imagine the troubles she’s had because of it. Now she finds herself orphaned and sold at auction to a strange magus with a rather horrifying skull-like visage. But surprisingly, Elias (the magus) doesn’t want to just use her for her powers–although it turns out she has some rather rare and significant powers indeed. Rather, he invites her to live with him in his home in England and apprentice under him. And gradually, Chise blossoms, going from a sad old woman convinced she brings misfortune to everyone around her to the youthful girl she should be, capable of loving and caring for those around her with a smile. And she’s not the only one who’s changing because of her presence there.

Apologies for the cruddy summary; this has to be one of the weirdest and most difficult to summarize stories I’ve come across to date. One of the reasons I’ve not read this before–most of the summaries I’d read sounded pretty awful. The trouble is that The Ancient Magus’ Bride is different from basically any manga I’ve read before, although there are certainly elements that remind me of other stories. It has a good bit of back story that develops gradually, for one thing. Also, a great deal of the story is a gradually developing drama that reads almost like a slice-of-life story–just with magic, lots and lots of magic. I really love the flavor of the magic that’s used here; it’s heavily tinged with older English folklore, enough so that it’s easy to forget sometimes that this is actually set in contemporary England. I would say that the story’s flavor is equal parts Fullmetal Alchemist (which is totally weird, I know), xxxHOLiC, and English folklore–it sounds crazy, but it’s a really beautiful combination in practice, kind of a josei/seinen magical slice-of-life story. I absolutely love the way the characters grow and develop over the course of the story, as well as the ways their relationships change over time. It’s both heartwarming and dynamic. The art goes along with this well, being unique and attractive in a clean, seinen sort of way. I would highly recommend The Ancient Magus’ Bride, and I look forward to what the mangaka will bring with the remaining volumes.

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A Girl on the Shore

Mangaka: Inio Asanoa girl on the shore

My rating: 2.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience/18+

Koume, a middle-school girl aching from being used and abandoned by the popular Misaki. Keisuke, a middle-school boy whose parents are never home and whose brother committed suicide a while back. The two come together again and again, using each other, seeking something more, something satisfying, something bigger. And while it’s uncertain whether they’ll find what they’re looking for in each other, it’s true that their relationship will change both of them in ways they never expected, although whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen.

I’ve really enjoyed Inio Asano’s manga in the past, particularly the well-loved Solanin. From the back cover and the reviews I’ve seen, I guess I was expecting A Girl on the Shore to be something similar, although of course I expected it to have some more mature content, being rated 18+. I was quite disappointed to find the majority of the book is exactly that: mature content. There are all the elements of a great story present, and in other circumstances with the proper development I could have easily rated those elements a solid 4.5 of 5. Koume and Keisuke are both interesting, complex characters that tell us something about ourselves. Keisuke has all sorts of stuff going on with his parents and his deceased brother that could have been developed more. Koume not only has permissive parents and an unsatisfactory relationship with Misaki, she also has an interesting female friend in her class and an old childhood crush/friend which were all present but needed more development. The whole idea of feeling incomplete and looking for something bigger in life is something I think we all can relate to, something that could have really been developed. And may I just mention, Asano-san’s art is gorgeous and life-life in an amazing way. So why a 2.5 instead of a 4.5? The reason is that all of these amazing aspects of this manga are only sparsely developed, giving way throughout to huge sections of very explicit sexual content between these two kids. Now I realize that they’re having sex and trying to find something important in that relationship is an important part of the story development, but there are reasonable limits, even for an 18+ manga. And for me, A Girl on the Shore crossed those limits, not only because it had too much explicit sexual content but perhaps even more so because it left important story elements relatively undeveloped to make room for that content. Disappointing in the extreme, although you may find it otherwise. I’m sorry to say that I can’t really recommend this manga although I generally love this mangaka’s work.

 

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Kokoro Connect Hito Random

Kokoro Connect vol 1Author: Sadanatsu Anda

Illustrator: Shiromizakana

Kokoro Connect (light novel), vol. 1

My rating: 4 of 5

The five members of the Cultural Research Club were pretty much thrown together into this nonsensical club through a variety of circumstances, but in spite of that they generally have fun together. But  Taichi, Iori, Inaba, Aoki, and Yui get to know each other in ways they never expected when an unexplained phenomenon strikes their club. In short, they find that their personalities (memories? souls? essences?) will randomly switch between the bodies of other club members. It’s so ridiculous that it’s hard for even them to believe at first. Certainly it’s not something they could even try to explain to parents or teachers–what could they possibly say? Thus, they make the best of the situation, but even with the greatest care they can take any number of deep secrets are inevitably going to be revealed. Will it even be possible to look each other in the eye with all that’s happening?

I really enjoyed the first volume of the Kokoro Connect light novel. I’d heard so many good things about the anime that I really wanted to read the original story, and it was definitely worthwhile. At first it seems like a silly (in a good sense) high-school story–people with overdone characters, lots of jokes, that sort of thing. And even in the serious parts, some of this atmosphere is preserved. But the fact is that there are serious parts. Anda-sensei tries to really delve into how disconcerting this sort of phenomenon would actually be, how it would affect your very sense of self over time if you kept switching between different bodies, different lives. Although far from perfect, I though this aspect of the story was well considered–it certainly sparks greater consideration in the reader. The characters–besides just being great characters–are well suited for this particular story I think; in any case I enjoyed them. If you enjoy light novels that mix high-school antics with serious psychological and philosophical considerations, Kokoro Connect Hito Random might be a fun read for you.

Note: I have to confess, I read the fan translation from Baka-Tsuki for this one. I’m longing for (and actively working towards) the day when I can read the original Japanese novel, but I’m not there yet. Although the translation here is a smidge rough in a few places, overall it’s quite readable, and the translators do a lot to make the “someone in someone else’s body” thing actually readable. I’m still holding out hope that Kokoro Connect will get an official English translation, especially since the manga has been released.

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Fading Hearts

Created by: Sakura River InteractiveFading Hearts

My rating: 4 of 5

In the years since the Y2K disaster wrecked havoc on the small country of Sorayama, Ryou has shown an incredible amount of initiative and determination, working to support himself so that he can get away from the terrible foster care conditions experience by so many orphans in the aftermath of the disaster. He’s also shown a true commitment to his two best friends, Rina and Claire. But now that they’re in high school, things are becoming more complicated for these three friends. The girls are keeping secrets from him. Ryou has never told them about the freelance programming he does to earn his living. They’ve got an awkward love triangle developing between the three of them. Ryou’s other good friend Alex has rumors floating around that are totally inconsistent with the guy Ryou knows–yet that are just about believable. Not to mention the rumors flying about of giant monsters in the nearby forest and of a truly magical girl named Mystica. It’s hard to know what to believe, sometimes; harder still to make the right choices.

Fading Hearts is a unique video game that combines elements of several different game types: visual novel, dating sim, life/work sim, and RPG, possibly a few more. The premise is that the choices you make (point and click from a list of options, usually) will alter the direction the story is going, and even the genre of the game. It’s true, although I think a lot of people see that advertised and expect huge story-altering changes with each decision–and then they get disappointed or upset when they play it again, make different choices, and end up with similar story lines for large parts of the story. The way it seems to work is more that there are a few major decision points like that, but on the whole, the story is directed by the accumulation of the small choices you make over time, so the alterations you see are more gradual. Also, there are a lot of subtle things you can choose to do (like, with your spare time) that will make surprising differences–in other words, try random stuff and see what happens! Seriously, I liked the game mechanics, and I enjoyed the story also. You’ve got friendships and romance (if you choose to pursue it), otaku culture, work and school, and some really random mahou shoujo stuff mixed in. And yes, you can end up dying in this game; I have. I liked the characters–Rina and Claire are interesting, if stereotypical in some regards, and even Ryou (whom you play as) actually has some solid character built into him. Plus, the art is an attractive anime-style design. Minor points off for a soundtrack that can get repetitive and that seems to randomly trail off into silence and equally randomly start playing again (this tended to startle me), but it wasn’t enough of an issue to make the game unenjoyable. And honestly, I figure there’s a good bit more to the game that I’ve yet to uncover, considering the list of accomplishments I still have to unlock (all of which are story-centered). I think that for those who enjoy visual novels but would like a little more interaction and control–and for those who like sims but prefer more story–Fading Hearts would be a fun choice.

Note: This game is available on Steam and directly from the Sakura River website.

 

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Yotsuba&!

Mangaka: Kiyohiko Azuma

Hey, hey! Yotsuba and Daddy have just moved into town. Yotsuba’s sooooo excited! There are so many things to learn about and places to explore. Lots of people to meet, too. Like Jumbo–he’s sooooo big! And the new neighbors are really nice; their Mom even gives Yotsuba ice cream. Yanda needs to stay away, though; he makes Yotsuba soooo mad! Anyway, Yotsuba and Daddy are going to have lots of fun in their new home!

If the above summary seems excessively hyper and silly, well, let’s just say that it fits the story perfectly. Yotsuba&! is an adorable seinen manga focusing on the daily life of five-year-old Yotsuba, a little girl with more energy and emotion than most folks can handle. The story is super cute and super funny–it literally makes me laugh out loud almost the entire time I’m reading it. I think one of the things I love most about Yotsuba&! is that it gives a realistic, unbeautified picture of normal middle-class life in Japan; it’s probably the most honest slice-of-life manga I’ve ever read. The art lends itself to the mission of bringing a piece of daily life quite excellently through highly-detailed, beautiful yet mundane scenery and stylized yet expressive characters. Another great thing about this manga is that, while it’s technically seinen (young adult male demographic), in actuality it’s totally appropriate for any and all demographics–you could give it to a little kid or your grandma with no problems at all. Yotsuba&! is captivating, sweet, funny, innocent, and adorable–probably the best seinen manga I’ve read to date–and I would highly recommend it to anyone, period.

Note: As of the time I’m writing this, Yotsuba&! is still an ongoing series with 12 volumes currently available in English. Normally I would shy away from writing about a story until it’s finished, but: 1) I can’t wait; I love this story and have to share! 2) I think this story is episodic enough that it doesn’t make a difference. It’s just as enjoyable even without the “ending” since there isn’t really any strong overarching plot.

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Gisou Honey Trap

Mangaka: Vanilla Yoshizawa

When his mom rather abruptly goes to join his dad in Paris (that’s just how she is, let’s face it), Keiichirou finds himself staying with his uncle and twin girl cousins in Japan. How nostalgic–he stayed with them like this once before, when they were quite little. Only he can’t remember that time at all. And the twins–Marie and Tomari–are clearly angry at him for not keeping a promise made back then. Which he can’t remember making. And wait, one of the twins is actually a boy?! What on earth is going on?!!!

Well, I must say that reading Gisou Honey Trap was interesting, although I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. I think to the extent that I was able to see it just as itself–as opposed to in the context of other manga and genres–it was interesting, touching, and funny, if a bit too ecchi for my taste. The trouble is that it tries to be ecchi seinen romantic comedy/harem (like Negima!  or Papa Kiki!) mixed with gender bender and shounen ai–which ends up being just a bit too sketch, if you follow. And a bit confusing. Still, the basic story was solid and internally consistent, the art was nice (typical seinen romcom), and the characters were solid, especially the twins. The tsundere-yandere double-hit was good for the comedy side of things, although the yandere part got a bit scary at times (which is kind-of the point, but still). I would say that for mature audiences who are interested in a short manga with some weirdness but some cute romance too, Gisou Honey Trap might be a fun diversion from the norm.

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