oyceter: (fma - hands hold fast)
[personal profile] oyceter
I had caught up on this back in 2007, but lately [livejournal.com profile] rilina's been saying there is much awesomeness going on, so I went back and reread the entire series. I had watched the anime back in 2006; a year after that provided some distance when I read the manga, but not enough. I remember being almost hurt by some of the changes in the manga, even though the manga is the original.

Fast forward 2 years, and it's been so long since I've seen the anime that I'm finally able to read the manga as its own entity.

So far, my impressions from 2007 largely hold: the manga doesn't make me as worried for all the characters that the anime does, the manga has much better women, and the manga has much, much better worldbuilding. I love the anime, but really, it's not that hard to beat the anime for worldbuilding that makes sense. The alchemy in the manga series feels more forgiving, and I do actually think Al will end up with his body back (I'm hoping, on the other hand, that Ed stays with his automail).

However, even though I don't feel the same sense of danger for the characters, the larger-scale plot is much more threatening than that of the anime. And that's where I think Arakawa excels. She actually looks at issues of war and genocide and weapons of mass destruction, and although her treatment isn't always as radical as I want it to be, it's still refreshing to see manga in which non-Japanese POC exist and which talk about imperialism and colonialism.

Giant spoilers

It feels so weird reading "Oliver" instead of "Olivia"! I did check the katakana, and yup, it's pronounced "Olivier." She is still made of awesome, although I'm a little sad that she's been relocated to Central. On the other hand, I am looking forward to more snide comments about Roy Mustang and lots of cool politicking.

I also realized on rereading my older entries that I had completely missed what the tattoo on Hawkeye's back was. It's not nearly as sinister as I thought it was, and it makes all the comments about "I've got your back" between Hawkeye and Roy much more entertaining. And OMG! The reveal about Selim! That was excellent indeed. So far, I think he's the creepiest homunculus, even more so than Envy in his real shape.

I still have no idea what's going on with Hohenheim and Father, although my current theory is Sekrit Twins. Because really, that's all the manga is missing so far.

And although I vaguely remember it from before, the reveal about Amestris not only being a giant transmutation circle, but being founded solely to be a giant transmutation circle continues to be awesome. I remember looking at the map in the anime and thinking it was unnaturally circular in shape, and it turns out there was a reason for that!

I am not annoyed at the portrayal of racial tension between the Ishbalans and Amestrians, but I'm not entirely happy either. Don't get me wrong; I love having canonical POC in a Euro-inspired fantasy world. On the other hand, I keep thinking that almost all stories I read about racial tension have a killer/hater from the side being discriminated against and how those stories frequently use that character to do the "See, both sides do it!" And then they can go on to messages about forgiveness and healing and moving on. Here, it particularly annoyed me because the person who had to do the forgiveness wasn't Scar, but Winry. And of course it sucks to have your parents killed, but the entire narrative is weighted to make us feel sorry for Winry, so that when she says she doesn't forgive him but that she needs to move on, the effect is to minimize the damage on the Ishbalans. Ditto with mixed-race Miles who joins the Amestrian army in order to show them that Ishbalans are not that scary.

I fully believe things like that would happen, of course, but it all works to take away from the enormity of the Amestrians' attempted genocide of the Ishbalans, the fact that most of the Ishbalans are in refugee camps, and etc. It puts the focus on Amestrian acceptance of Ishbalans when I felt it should be on, well, reparations and apologies.

That said, I think Arakawa goes further than most mangaka would; I like very much that even though the initial reason for the war was faked, she never denies the responsibility that all the military members bear. I like that she takes characters we like—Hughes, Mustang, Hawkeye, Armstrong—and makes them into the villains. They're not as bad as Kimblee, obviously, but she also doesn't shy away from the fact that no matter how much they disliked what they did, they still were out there attempting to exterminate the Ishbalans.

I just wish there were more Ishbalan characters who weren't Scar.

I'm equally not-annoyed-but-not-entirely-happy with the Xing people we've seen. I was trying very hard not to notice, but I can't help picking up on the many times when Lin is drawn with lines for eyes. It does help that May and Lan Fan have the normal big manga eyes, but still somewhat nidgy for me. I'm hoping we'll see Lan Fan again, and although May could be an annoyingly cute girl, I actually like her a lot. She's cute! I cannot help it! And her idealizations of Ed and Al crack me up! I'm also kind of happy about the idea that Xing alchemy is actually the original alchemy that Amestrians have taken and basically perverted.

I also have some floating thoughts about disability and ablism in manga, from the frequency of sacrificing limbs and eye loss to ... something. I am not sure yet. I feel manga definitely has more people with disabilities than other things I read, but that those disabilities are also treated more as angsty backstory rather than disability. As in, you very rarely hear about how so-and-so who sacrificed his arm for such-and-such still has phantom pain at night or hates asking for help with particular things. On one hand, I think this could be a plus, as in they are not All About the Disability as PWD frequently are in YA problem novels. On the other, I'm wary about the use of disability as a metaphor for angsty backstory.

I find FMA interesting because although Ed and Al clearly do have angsty backstory connected with their disabilities, the manga also addresses things like Ed having to do rehab when he first got automail, or the teeth-grinding moment that always occurs when Winry reconnects his nerves after working on his arm. I also like that we see a range of people with automail, from angsty backstory automail to the people Winry outfits in Rush Valley. But yes, mostly questions and no conclusions from me.

Other completely random notes:
  • I had completely forgotten how awesome Arakawa's various author notes and omake are! She's up there with Yuki Kaori and Mori Kaoru for me. (Although sadly, no eyes on a plate yet. That may be something only Yuki Kaori would do anyway.)

  • I kind of wish the manga had Roy kill Winry's parents as well. It plays in much better with notions of complicity, whereas having Scar do it falls into the "The oppressed person is awful too!" for me.

  • Now that Al's going off by himself to warn Winry, Scar, and co., I hope he gets to do some stuff by himself.

  • I am not super-fond of Winry and Ed eventually being paired up, or Winry being used against them, but I love Winry working in Rush Valley and clearly having a life outside of the brothers.

  • I continue to love Roy and co's telephone code talk and secret plans, although I'm really worried for them! It seems like everyone knows about them now, and Bradley's got them in a very bad position currently.

  • I am desperately hoping Trisha has a Big Secret of her own. Otherwise, she is kind of boring and I have zero idea why anyone would have stayed with Hohenheim without some sort of Big Secret.

  • That said, Hohenheim is temporarily off my "Who is eviler, Gendo or Hohenheim?" evil fathers list. I still think he sucks. Just... not as much as Ikari Gendo right now.

(no subject)

Fri, Jul. 10th, 2009 10:09 pm (UTC)
torachan: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] torachan
I think manga tends to use disability the same way fanfic does, and it's usually pretty appropriative and bleh because of that.

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (and i am funky)
Posted by [personal profile] lady_ganesh
Although I do give them credit for showing it at all. I am rewatching Twin Peaks, and am shocked there are not one, not two, but three disabled characters at all, treatment aside, because that's three more than I've seen in almost anything (and two more than I've seen in most American media with disabled characters).

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 12:27 am (UTC)
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (havoc (FMA))
Posted by [personal profile] lady_ganesh
Oh, yeah, completely.

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 12:28 am (UTC)
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] lady_ganesh
ETA except I can't edit: The one place I have really liked disability in a modern US show is Breaking Bad, though I'm not familiar enough with CP to be able to say if it's perfect or not.

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 04:10 am (UTC)
meganbmoore: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] meganbmoore
I am watching TP for the first time now! (I admit that my main thought so far is that I have total shame about how terribly i would have crushed on James at 13.)

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (havoc (FMA))
Posted by [personal profile] lady_ganesh
My great shame is that I have thought once or twice that Leo is kind of hot. I remind myself that it is purely based on looks and a certain superficial resemblance to Chang Wufei but I nonetheless am slightly embarrassed.

The actress who plays Donna's mother-- the one in the wheelchair-- is Zoey and Emily Deschanel's mother IRL.

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 04:33 am (UTC)
meganbmoore: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] meganbmoore
*sigh*

Yeah. When Leo shows up, I think about how he's hot until I remember who he is and the hatred takes over.

The actress who plays Donna's mother-- the one in the wheelchair-- is Zoey and Emily Deschanel's mother IRL.

Which would explain why she looks so familiar!

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 04:35 am (UTC)
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (and i am funky)
Posted by [personal profile] lady_ganesh
He does know how to cast good-looking actors, both male and female, that David Lynch. I'm remembering how much I wanted to look just like Audrey.

Yes!

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
meganbmoore: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] meganbmoore
I sometimes get distracted by the pretty and forget what's going on.

(no subject)

Fri, Jul. 10th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (and i am funky)
Posted by [personal profile] lady_ganesh
From what I've gathered, Havoc actually starts playing a greater role in the main plot after his injury, so I'm curious as to how that will play out in the main plot. I do love the way people with disabilities are mostly accepted as they are in this world. (I sometimes wonder how adamant Ed would be about 'getting his body back' if Al wasn't literally bodyless.)

I liked having Mustang kill Winry's parents better too, although the flashback volume is so awful and horrifying about what the Amestrians did I'm not sure I'd be able to forgive Mustang the way I did in the anime. I don't know what that says about me.

No one ever sucks as much as Gendo.

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 12:07 am (UTC)
lady_ganesh: A Clue card featuring Miss Scarlett. (and i am funky)
Posted by [personal profile] lady_ganesh
El, Al and Izumi! You should not play with alchemy at home, kids. (But of course that's more angst.) Yeah, I'm not sure exactly what happens in the long run with Havoc, but I'm at least grateful he's not immediately sidelined. (Didn't Havoc roll his eyes at that too?)

It's words to live by!

(no subject)

Fri, Jul. 10th, 2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
inkstone: Samurai Deeper Kyo's Yuya sighing over a book, caption: reading is money (reading)
Posted by [personal profile] inkstone
Whenever you gather those thoughts on disability and ablism in manga, I will be there to listen and offer observations! I read another shounen manga in which there is arm loss and it is tied to a rather angsty development in the plot! And the fact that I was shocked by it because it actually showed the character experiencing phantom pain! This is the first time I'd seen that in recent memory and as we all know, I read lots of manga in which people loss limbs and eyes!

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
sarasusa: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] sarasusa
Would that be Real by Takehiko Inoue? I love that series so.

Oh, wait, no, you said ARM loss. Never mind. ::slinks off::

(no subject)

Fri, Jul. 10th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
lnhammer: lo-fi photo of a tall, thin man - caption: "some guy" (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] lnhammer
In another couple volumes, you'll get the reveal on Hohenheim and Father. (Or at least, the first one -- for all I know, this may be an All Wrong misdirection.) It was ... not what I was expecting, but made Complete Sense in context.

---L.

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)
meganbmoore: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] meganbmoore
I have to say, one of my huge beefs with the anime is that they had Roy kill Winry's parents, primarily because the way it played out made that storyline all about him, and Winry secondary (and her feelings and dealing with it were about his angst, not her), whereas the manga makes it 100% about her.

Other than that, though, I pretty much completely agree with what you've said (especially regarding the women...the manga is entirely why Hawkeye is my favorite anime/manga character) though I always equated Lin/Ling's eys with the "sneaky person/something up their sleeve" shorthand.

(no subject)

Tue, Jul. 14th, 2009 02:49 am (UTC)
meganbmoore: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] meganbmoore
It's funny, because you talk about not being worried about the characters in the manga as much, but all the Angst O' Doom in the anime kept me caring anywhere near as much about them and their dangers and relationships there as I do in the manga, and I hadn't read as much of the manga at the time.

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 06:58 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] parallactic.livejournal.com
On the other hand, I keep thinking that almost all stories I read about racial tension have a killer/hater from the side being discriminated against and how those stories frequently use that character to do the "See, both sides do it!"

Ditto. I always think it would be more interesting if the side being discriminated against chose appropriate targets; and then we'd have questions about vigilante justice, and non-egalitarian legal systems that favors one group over another.

I agree that manga has unrealistic portrayals of disablism. The only manga I can think of where disablism is sort of addressed is Tamura Yumi's Chicago had a guy lose his leg, gets a prosthetic that allows him to keep doing crazy action-packed stuff, and then shows him working out to keep his leg muscles. The heroine comments that while prosthetics are top of the line and allows you to do a ton of stuff, people's limbs still end up atrophying eventually.

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
rilina: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] rilina
I am having trouble commenting because I forget what stuff happens in vol. 18 and what happens later. But yes, though the original anime has a very special place in my heart, I have come to adore manga as a thing of its own, especially because Oliver generates her own field of awesomesauce.

And yes, Ikari Gendo remains in a special category all of his very own.

(no subject)

Sat, Jul. 11th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
sarasusa: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] sarasusa
Though I don't have much to add, I'm really appreciating both this post and the comments thereon. I did prefer Roy as Winry's parents' killer, but do see the point about the sidelining of Winry.

I also liked the Sloth/Trisha connection, which gave Trisha a bit more play (though not enough).

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