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FullMetal Alchemist and CardCaptor Sakura

May 1, 2005

I’ve been watching two anime series recently. I recall thinking a few years ago that, having watched shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion and the unsurpassable Cowboy Bebop, what could the art form possibly offer me any more? With old favorite exceptions like Ranma 1/2 or Tenchi Muyo, series that focus on relationships and “wacky happenings” aren’t really my bag. Macross Plus and Ghost in the Shell are perfections of the animated feature form.

So I ask myself, what is there left in the anime art style? FullMetal Alchemist and Cardcaptor Sakura answered my question.

Full Metal Alchemist is a set in an vaguely technological empire. There are steam trains available for mass transit and cargo, and well developed religious and governmental hierarchies. The twist to the world setting comes from the practice of alchemy. The magical/science discipline is supported by the state, and the practicers of the art are given titles relating to their specializations within the field. The Full Metal Alchemist is a young man of only 12 years of age named Edward Elric. He travels with his younger brother, Alphonse (Al), who is embodied in a suit of metal armor. Al’s physical condition and the loss of one of Ed’s arms is the result of a tragic mistake the boys make in the wake of the loss of their mother. That mistake and the aftermath of their decisions leads the boys into a quest that hooks them up with the state alchemists and sends them looking for the fabled philosopher’s stone. Great dialogue, an interesting plot, and beautiful animation combines to make Full Metal the adult show I’ve been most involved in since Bebop.

In a very different vein, Cardcaptor Sakura is a cute, light, and funny magical girl series. The show revolves around Sakura and her friends and family. Late one night, Sakura accidentally breaks the seal on a book containing a deck of magical cards. The cards are the physical embodiments of magical forces wrought by a great spellcrafter named Clow. Sakura also wakens the guardian of the cards, a magical beast named Keroberos (or Kero for short). With Kero and her friend Tomoyo at her side, Sakura’s life revolves around keeping up with her schoolwork, practicing her cheerleading, and keeping her magical battles against the Clow cards a secret from the norms. Cardcaptor Sakura is an incredibly charming show that captures your interest because of the premise and beautiful animation. What keeps you interested, though, are the friendships Sakura maintains and the quietly charming life that she leads in an idealized suburb in Japan. The world she lives in doesn’t exist, with magic and unconditional friendships around every corner. Sakura is a comfortable balm for people used to cynicism or corny schlock passing for real magic.

Once I’m done with either of these series, I’m going to whip forward and check out the new Ghost in the Shell series via Netflix DVDs. I’ve specifically been waiting on watching the series so that I could see more if it in a row. I hope it will be worth it.

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