Monthly Archives: September 2012

Mini-Post: Please excuse this INFLUX OF FMA FANART!

First I will reveal my favorite amongst the supremely large selection:

I scoured the internet and could not find the artist. Please help me credit the artist so my conscious may be cleared!

And now I reveal the link to which I have found this fanart. It is from a French blog that I can partially read. It is also exclusively Edwin. You have been warned.

We now resume your regularly scheduled programming.


Females in Fullmetal Alchemist

Sorry for the lack of posts last week. Our dear Lieutenant Basil, who was scheduled to post, is in Korea having a grand old time with first graders throwing things out windows and receiving random free food from random acquaintances with minimal English-speaking skills. Let’s all show our support for Basil by sending her love through the Potted Led email:

And now that that’s out the way, let’s move on to my latest Netflix venture: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. This show gives me all the feels. SO MANY FEELS!

Anyway, I’d like to talk about the portrayal of some of the female characters. Because most of them are given Traditional Roles for Girls in adventure stories, but they’re totally human and have agency and allowed to be both feminine and badass in their own way at the same time. It’s excellent. Let’s talk about a few of my favorites, shall we?

As always: spoilers ahead.

true story

Izumi Curtis

When Izumi stopped the flood in Rosembool, she told the crowd she was just a housewife passing through town. She’s the wife of a butcher and sometimes seen sharpening knives (then throwing them). Many years ago, she wanted a child, but her husband and she were unable to conceive one for a long time. When they finally conceived, the baby died, and Izumi attempted to bring the baby back to life via human transmutation. Instead, Izumi lost parts of her inner organs, rendering her nearly bedridden on those days she’s not sharpening knives.

Essentially, she’s the sickly maternal figure, but she’s a foil to Ed and Al’s mother, who is also a sickly maternal figure just not in the least bit dangerous. Then again, Trisha didn’t survive a month in the Briggs Mountains by stealing military food rations. Izumi is the alchemist that agreed to be Ed and Al’s alchemy teacher because they were orphans. As such, she’s given a fair amount of respect from the boys, so we the viewers see her in an authoritative light.

Izumi is my favsies, if only because her husband acknowledges that she’ll kill you via flying knives.

Awesome fanart is awesome.

Riza Hawkeye

Everybody knows Hawekeye has feelings for Mustang. It’s not exactly a secret. This would worry me because if you’re watching an action/adventure-heavy story, then the majority of the women are probably going to be defined by their romantic relationships. As a young woman with romance fairly low on the Life Priority List, this is something I’ve noticed. Which is why Hawkeye is such a relief to be in this position.

Yes, Hawkeye is the second-in-command to her One True Love that wields quite a bit of power over her, but this does not mean she’s afraid to undermine his authority on multiple occasions. She saves him from various idiotic situations (like Mustang’s first encounter with Scar, in which he forgets that it is raining and his alchemy is useless in the rain) and scolds him more than once (such as when he risks being associated with a group of military soldiers following a soulless body). Hawkeye is not defined by her relationship with Mustang, and it is such a breath of fresh air because she totally could be.

For the record, Hawkeye is defined by her sharpshooting skills. Characters will say something sneaky like “We got the hawk’s eyes on us” and the entire group will relax a little bit. She’s awesome.

We can do it!

Winry Rockbell 

Winry is even more at risk of being there only for the sake of being a romantic interest. She’s pretty much the only girl the same age as Ed and Al that associates with them often. She’s not very helpful in a fight, she’s only there to fix up Ed’s automail. You might be surprised what she contributes to the story.

The major world as it concerns the audience in Fullmetal Alchemist is split in two concerns at the beginning of the series: the military government of Amestris and it’s victims (mostly Ishval). Ed and Al, Our Main Protagonists, are narratively obligated to be connected to both sides of the conflict to remain neutral. Ed takes care of the connection to the government by being a State Alchemist. Al can’t be connected to Ishval if the narration wants to keep his relationship to his brother as close as it is supposed to be. And so their childhood friend Winry serves as that connection: her parents were killed during the Ishval conflict.

In addition to this, she’s a notable automail mechanic, as seen through many, many people admiring her work, especially in Rush Valley. Perhaps most importantly, as Maes Hughes happily points out in Brotherhood, she’s the emotional support behind Ed and Al’s convictions. She will always be there for them.

The best thing about these women? There’s not a single bouncy boob in sight. I love a good show without fan service, don’t you?

Mini-Post: Reason to Love Full Metal Alchemist #7

Major Alex Louis Armstrong strips and educates you about the Armstrong Family Heritage as he pounds you with the alchemy techniques passed down the Armstrong line for generations.

These sparkles are also passed down the Armstrong line for GENERATIONS

The rest of the Full Metal Alchemist cast question his methods every time the shirt comes off.


The Stories We Tell

In which Uta takes a long and winding road in explaining some of her problems with the Inheritance Cycle.

Recently, I stayed in Istanbul for a week. It was a good time (outside of the creepers–there are creepers in Istanbul. Some of it is the fact the Turkey has a much more open culture. Some of it is dudes being creepers). Museums were visited. Food was eaten. Cats were stared at wistfully as I debated whether or not it was safe to pet them. Friends were made based on a mutual interest in cats outside of a restaurant and anime.

One of the best things I did was take a guided tour. (But watch out–the prices are listed in euro, which means it’s twice as expensive as you think it is. Happy lira.) We went to some museums, a mosque, an old church and on a Bosphorous cruise. One of the things I was most excited about was the city wall part of the tour. I did my undergrad thesis about fortifications. I wanted to learn me about some Greek fortifications. Which were only breached twice in all their history.

Unfortunately, we did not see them up close. We drove along them. And I just need to realize that most people are not interested in the same things as I am to the same level of depth I’m interested in them for. But it was all good. I learned about Sultan Mehmet II’s glorious conquest of Constantinople and…well, mainly Sultan Mehmet II’s glorious conquest of Constantinople. And it was glorious. He was 21 at the time, which makes him one of those overachievers who have beaten me so soundly I can’t even complete. There’s also a museum documenting this conquest. Pay attention enough in touristy Istanbul and you’ll hear the story.

And it is a story. It’s one of the many stories that can be told. There’s another story, the more comprehensive story of the overcoming of the walls of Constantinople, in which they were also breached during the fourth Crusade. And another story of how they were built by the great Greek emperors. And another story, recounting the same events as the story I was told, about the tragic fall of the Byzantine Empire.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the story I was told. It was based on historical fact and was extremely interesting. And, in all seriousness, who could expect to be told that last version? “Hey, guys, isn’t it terrible how the Turks took over Turkey?” That would be an awkward tour.

But I was mildly surprised, if only because I expected a disinterested discussion on walls, rather than what I was given. I’m certain that the tour didn’t specifically set out to create the narrative that they did. It was most likely the product of the person who decides on what to put in the tours throwing together what they thought was important, and on a tour, you can’t really get all of the nuances of 1500 years of history. And, all things considered, that one time Crusaders took the city or all of the times various groups failed to take the city are less relevant than the reason that Istanbul is Turkish today.

The thing is, what I wanted out of the tour is the exact opposite of what I want in (most) books. What that tour was would make a great novel. You have a boy-on-the-cusp-of-manhood finding himself in a position where he both wants to siege Constantinople and has the resources to do it. So he freaking does. And he breaks through that wall and takes that city. And 500 years later, people are still talking about him. Dress that up a bit, maybe add a few dragons, and you’ve got the most exciting fantasy story ever. It’s even already set in the medieval period, so you don’t even have to do anything. Though, it isn’t set in pseudo-Western Europe, so that may be a hindrance. (I kid because I love. And also because I’m a little sick of pseudo-medieval Western Europe. I want the pseudo-Ottoman Empire sometimes.)

This is what I want when I read the Inheritance Cycle. I want the story of Eragon, a poor farmer boy who happens to find a dragon and goes on crazy adventures and fights an evil empire. That’s fun. It’s not ground-breaking or earth-shattering or anything else that destroys the landscape, but it’s fun.

The series Paolini was intent on writing was what I wanted out of the tour. It’s filled with backstory and subplots and philosophical contemplations. All of this is interesting world building (except when it isn’t, see my last ramblings about the esteemed author’s ability to create religions), but it’s not ultimately an entertaining story.

To put it another way, in Istanbul, I was told the story of Mehmet II. In the Inheritance Cycle, I think I’m being told the story of Eragon, but I’m not entirely sure. Most of the story focuses on Eragon and Saphira, but the reader is occasionally taken off to random places with other characters. For example, my least favorite part in Inheritance was having to read about Roran and his siege. Even ignoring the fact that a rebel organization chooses an untrained peasant to lead one of their most important sieges, this section really irked me. I didn’t, and still don’t, understand why the reader had to go with Eragon’s cousin, rather than staying in the head of the main character. Most characters don’t have their own chapter. In the first book, Roran is absent after Eragon leaves Carvahall, so it’s not as if Paolini set them up as co-leads. True, you do end up following around a few other characters for a while, but I can’t really find a good reason for this, outside of the author want to show you something cool that Eragon can’t be around for.

In other words, it’s as if the museum of the siege of Constantinople, rather than showing you the mural of the battle, first diverted you to a room to learn about Mehmet’s cousin the healer* for 100 pages. As a history, it’s interesting to learn about things that non-sultans did. Story-wise, why do I have to care about the guy without a dragon?

This isn’t to say that what Paolini wanted to do was impossible. Other authors have done it. Tolkien basically created a world, with characters that just happened to be running around in it. The thing is, Tolkien wasn’t a teenager. He was an adult with an adult perspective on the world who took years creating Middle Earth. Those same nuances that are hard to capture while driving past a wall or spending 20 minutes at a museum (it was really small, don’t worry) are hard to capture in your youth. Balancing characters is also a difficult task, which I believe needs to be done consistently, rather than switching perspectives merely to write another epic battle.

In the end, I can’t fault Paolini for wanting what he did. We all want our stories to be epic and the greatest thing in all of literature. In the fantasy genre especially, there is a tendency to err on the side of in-depth rather than tour-version. But I think I’ll always ultimately see the Inheritance Cycle as a series a little two ambitious for what it is. It’s that 45 minutes I spent learning about those walls if the tour guide had attempted that full history.

*Did not actually exist.

Mini-Post: The Frogman