Series That Were Almost Good (But Decided to Suck) – Part One
Plenty of series make decisions that you don’t dig, but in the end you can shrug them off. Most series do this and we still like or love those series.
Then there’s the series that you like for the most part, but there’s something fundamentally wrong with it that keeps you from enjoying it in the end. Maybe there’s some plot element that gripes you to no end. Maybe the “message” that the anime’s trying to get across rubs you the wrong way. Maybe it’s a character that pisses you off and makes you wish you existed in said anime so you could murder him and his entire family.
Some series suck despite the fact that they don’t suck. Let’s start with a series that almost everyone else seems to love (And isn’t Bakemonogatari, despite the picture used above.).
FMA commits two cardinal sins. I could forgive one and move on, but I’m including it here to further my damnation of the series.
1) The humor. It sucks.
I’m all for anticlimactic shit, pulling the rug out from under situations, and otherwise undermining people’s best laid plans. I love the anticlimactic humor of Occult Academy and stuff like that. But FMA’s humor downright ruins what it intends to be tense, dark, serious moments. It isn’t like Academy, where said moments were never meant to be serious from the get-go. FMA wants you to be fully involved in the dangers Ed and Al deal with, but half the time something happens that’s supposed to be life-threatening or whatever someone makes with a short joke or a “you’re too young to be an alchemist” joke or something that breaks the tension. The problem is that they revert right back to the seriousness as if said joke never happened. This isn’t a way to lighten the mood or defuse a situation or anything like that. It just comes off like the writer has a lousy sense of comedic timing. But that’s the forgivable thing about FMA. If that was the only thing that griped me about the series I wouldn’t think much of it. It wouldn’t be a personal favorite, but it’d be decent.
2) I loathe the way alchemy is portrayed in FMA the way I loathe the way vampires are portrayed in the Twilight series.
Twilight takes what is an inherently sexual, bestial, primordial creature and turns it into a metaphor for right-wing abstinence propaganda. It isn’t a reimaging of the vampire the way Anne Rice reimaged the concept back in the 70s and 80s, this is a fundamental disconnect from the very nature of the vampire.
FMA does the very same thing with alchemy. Loosely speaking, alchemy is just as much about spiritual transmutation as it is about transmuting matter into other matter. The alchemy of the real world turned into a metaphysical ideal that was all about transcending the mortal world and turning man into something new and superior.
Ed and Al achieve this. Especially Al, since he gains an immortal, metallic body. Al is the personification of everything that historical alchemy wanted to achieve, yet FMA portrays this achievement as something bad. Yeah, the means by which they achieved their forms was pretty seedy, but why would you borrow a concept, turn it into a shounen fighting/power system, and then go out of your way to say “nope, the ideals of alchemy are bad” like it’s some sort of “say no to drugs” campaign. The entire series is spent trying to “cure” Ed and Al of the fact that they’ve achieved what others couldn’t. I get that what happened to them is bad in the context of the series, but why use alchemy to tell this story? It’s akin to having an anime where everyone has Super Buddhist Powers, the main character achieves a state of enlightened satori, but said character then says “fuck this enlightenment shit, I wanna go fuck some girls and become impure again.” Except nowhere near as cool as I just put it. I’d actually like that anime.
I’m sure I’m the only person who feels that way, and I’m cool with that.
That said, I like a good chunk of FMA. There’s some good action scenes. The homunculi are pretty awesome. Hughes was a pretty snazzy character as well, and his death was one of the few from any anime that had any sort of emotional impact on me outside of me laughing in delight. But the above two issues are far too fundamental and engrained into the series for me to enjoy it as a whole.
Yep. Fullmetal Alchemist sucks.