Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
I am a huge fan of the original anime series Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s a near-perfect vision of what anime should be. It has drama, humor, love, action, suspense, you name it, it has it. It was so good, in fact, I proclaimed it to be one of the greatest anime of the 2000-2009 decade.
Something very common in anime is for a popular manga to be animated before it has concluded. This happened with the original Fullmetal Alchemist series. Once the animators hit episode 34, they had caught up to the manga. They then had to create a brand new ending to finish the series. Fast forwarding several years, the manga has been completed. Not wanting to miss any chance at milking a cash-cow, the series was remade, from the beginning, to tell the entire story.
This, unfortunately, was a huge mistake. The first 34 episodes of the TV series (I don’t know how many books of the manga it took) is compressed into a mere 13 episodes. The content is told in an extremely hurried fashion. While the previous series used these episodes to introduce us to the characters and to slowly build the drama, the new series rushes through everything so quickly it doesn’t have a chance to breathe.
“That’s OK,” I told myself. “On future rewatches I can watch the first 34 original TV series episodes, and then watch the new series starting at episode 14 to see the entire story.”
The problem with that is the animators of the original series came up with a way better mythology and ending than the creator of the manga. For example, the primary antagonists for the Elric Brothers are the Homunculi. They are these undead, super-powerful, nearly indestructible creatures. In the original series they learn that to kill a Homunculus, they must destroy the remains of their original corpse. In the new series (and manga) they learn that to kill a Homunculus all they need to do is FIGHT IT REALLY REALLY HARD AND EVENTUALLY IT WILL JUST DIE! Lame.
Another problem comes with the ending of the series. In the original, the Elric Brothers find themselves separated between two worlds, but resolved to be reunited some day. In the new series, they save each other, but Edward loses his ability to perform alchemy. Apparently, each person has a certain amount of magical bullshit in their soul that allows them to do alchemy. This, of course, completely contradicts everything that was said before, how they had explained that alchemy was a science and could be done by anyone with knowledge of it.
This is exactly the same shit George Lucas pulled in Star Wars. The Force was a mystical power that encompassed the universe and could be used by anyone with proper training, but then in the prequels it got changed to fucking Midichlorians and only certain special people could use The Force. It’s fucking bullshit. Not to mention it’s a convenient deus ex machina for the series.
The last complaint I have is that the new series has way too many goddamn characters, and in the end devolves into a typical Shonen mess. The battles rage on and on with no end in sight. The battles outlive their shelf lives and ultimately become boring. The final battle must be at least 10 episode long, if not longer. I got fatigued watching it. It was a completely unnecessary way to pad out the length of the show.
On the positive side, the series has fantastic animation, trumping what we had in the original. The acting, music, and directing are also quite good. But when the story starts out as incredibly rushed and ends being dragged out, it’s clear that someone should have done a better job with the pacing. Overall, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood was an OK watch. Interesting, sure. Better than the original anime series? Not a chance.
Fuck the “original ending” and fuck “being closer to the manga.” The original Fullmetal Alchemist anime is the only way to go.
Just like in the case of Fullmetal Alchemist, the original Hellsing manga got an anime adaptation before it had concluded. Once again, the animators had to come up with their own ending. The original Hellsing TV series was a fucking trainwreck. A disaster of epic proportions. The animation degraded into crude stick figures shooting at each other. The story was nonsensical at best, and a million threads were left unresolved. The final villain came out of nowhere, and looked completely ridiculous. Suffice it to say, I was excited that the Hellsing manga finally got a more accurate adaptation.
Hellsing Ultimate, while a million times better than the original anime, was still a massive disappointment.
The first three episodes were great. They had slick animation, were paced well, had great acting, and were all around a blast to watch. In these early episodes were are introduced to Alucard (that’s Dracula spelled backwards for those of you not paying attention), the ultimate vampire and secret weapon of the Hellsing organization. He recruits a new vampire, Seras Victoria, and goes around killing the shit out of bad guys. He revels in carnage, and his unique ways of dispatching villains was fun to watch. His nemesis, a Catholic Priest named Alexander Anderson also shows up, and gets involved in a fight that is the highlight of the entire series.
After the first three episodes are over, things go downhill fast. At first, there was a mystery plot with the Hellsing organization trying to figure out who was turning so many humans into “ghouls.” Eventually, that plot thread is completely forgotten. We learn who is behind it because it was the main bad guy, The Major, but the purpose is never addressed. This kind of sloppy writing plagues the remaining six episodes of the series.
The biggest problem is Alucard gets stuck on a slow-moving ship that is headed toward England. Meanwhile, The Major and his army of vampire Nazis (yes, you read that correctly) firebomb the hell out of England. This goes on for episode after episode. The bad guys are blowing shit up and wrecking everything, and the audience is waiting for Alucard to stop them. Alucard doesn’t even show up for the next four fucking episodes. Nobody is watching Hellsing Ultimate for The Major or Integra or anyone else for that matter. Well, maybe Seras because she has big tits. But, no, the only reason anyone is watching this show is to see Alucard, THE MAIN CHARACTER, kick ass. And not having him in four episodes out of 10 is a massively idiotic mistake. I don’t care if that’s how it went in the manga, fucking change it!
The series languishes when Alucard is off-screen. Meanwhile, Nazis go around killing everyone, and the series devolves into a non-stop parade of violence porn. Severed heads, severed limbs, close-ups of gunshot wounds, blood exploding everywhere, it gets ridiculous. It almost becomes a self-parody, but it doesn’t because the show takes itself too goddamn seriously. If it had become self-parody, then the violence might have been enjoyable. But watching all these people getting soaked in blood for an hour at a time eventually becomes unwatchable.
Random thought: In the series mythology, only a virgin can be turned into a vampire. Our villains are an entire army of vampire Nazis. Do they really expect us to believe that all these seasoned, adult veterans of WWII were virgins? Give me a fucking break.
In the end, the series gets even more ridiculous. The vampire Nazis fight against the Ku Klux Klan, Alucard shows up and turns into a teenage girl, Walter becomes evil for no reason whatsoever, and some other nonsensical shit happens until eventually the show whimpers to a pathetic ending.
Sometimes sticking too closely to the original material can be a bad thing. In a perfect world, Hellsing Ultimate would have cut out the more ridiculous plot points, would have toned down the violence porn, and would have brought Alucard back sooner. Hellsing Ultimate could have been great, but is hampered by too rigid of an adherence to a manga that wasn’t telling that great of a story to begin with. Alucard is cool as hell, but the story he’s stuck in just doesn’t live up to his potential.