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Serious Animation

I watched Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood this week, finally, for the first time. Behind doesn’t even begin to describe my current status as an anime fan. If this is a taste of what I’ve been missing in the last few years, though, I’m going to be making a lot more time for watching.

I previously posted this on Tumblr:

So I’m watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood for the first time. I can’t get over how much darker it is. Everything really hits you in the guts. It’s what good storytelling should be, and the original series pales when compared to this one.

I thought that knowing some of what went on in the beginning might save me some tears, but…yeah. Hughes dies? RIVER ON MY FACE. Never fucking fails.

This reminds me how much better the Japanese are at thought-provoking storytelling in animation than anyone else. They’re not constrained by this “animation is for kids” bullshit that a lot of people seem to subscribe to. Animation is such a limitless creative medium for storytelling. It should be used more often.

I had watched just under half by then. Now? I still can’t get over how good this is. And that bold passage? That’s what I’d like to talk about.

FMA:B is a HUGE accomplishment. The author and animators and every voice actor that worked on that series should be proud. I laughed. I cried. I screamed “YES!” and “NO!” at the TV. You marvel at the sadness of Edward and Alphonse attempting to transmute their mother and losing almost everything in the process, and you think that it can’t get much worse than that and it does. It gets more heart-wrenching and cruel and amazing as it goes onIt doesn’t pull punches. Every little twist hits you right where it hurts and it doesn’t stop when you can’t take anymore. Each time someone dies it pulls on your heart a little, and most of them do not go gentle. They go hard and bloody and messy. They go down fighting.

Why don’t animators other than the Japanese use this medium to its fullest potential? Fuck if I know. Animation is amazing. The potential for storytelling is almost endless. The creative freedom that it gives you is staggering. Why isn’t it used more often?

I think that people are just scared, to be quite honest. I think that the whole ‘animation is kid’s stuff’ mentality runs deep, and I think that a lot of big wigs think that we’d rather have live actors. Like…take Avatar: The Last Airbender.  When I first heard that there was going to be a movie, I was excited. I thought, “Ooh, maybe we’ll get to see Zuko’s journey to find his mother. That would be awesome!” Of course, that was before I found out that it would be live action. My first reaction was, “WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU DO THAT?” Is animation not enough for the big screen?

When we finally watched it (on DVD, because I couldn’t bring myself to actually see it in theaters), I couldn’t even make it all the way through. It just…lost everything that was good about the series.

Don’t get me wrong. There have been decent live action adaptions of cartoons. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies weren’t bad if you were a kid at the time they came out. But on the whole? Yeah, there are some things that should stay animated for the sake of things. Avatar is one of them. And comics? I can actually say that I liked most of the comic book movies that have come out in the last, oh, 30 years, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more animated ones.

I think that writers, directors, and producers need to stamp out this way of thinking. There is no reason why American animation can’t raise itself to the standard that Japanese animation has held to for so many years. All we need is good stories and people with minds open enough to try it out.

You know what I think would be amazing animated? The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. If you’ve seen the graphic novels, you’ll know why. It would solve a lot of production problems. It would solve casting issues. It would be something the likes of which America hasn’t seen from anyone on American soil. There’s no reason why it can’t be done. And yet, if pitched, it would probably get shot down.

Ugh, it just frustrates me. The world’s most versatile medium is wasted on children’s shows and comedy.