Spring 2009 TV Cartoon Roundup: PART 2

I ain’t no joke, I used to make the mic smoke, now I slam it when I’m done and make sure that it’s broke.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Boy, this Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood sure is Fullmetal Alchemist.

I went into this remake wondering why such a project needs to exist. I came out twenty-two minutes later appreciating some prettier background art and wondering why such a project needs to exist.

Of course, I’m being facetious about not knowing why Bones has remade one of the biggest international hits anime has had in recent memory (2003).

The story I get about Brotherhood is that it’s to be a closer fit to the original manga, which is slated to finish soon. Not having read the manga, I can’t comment on the veracity of that claim. I can comment, however, that the new alchemist character created exclusively for Brotherhood has a pretty cool gimmick to his transmutation powers. It’s a pity the first episode pulls a plot twist that apparently will render him rather inconsequential to the rest of the series. Oh well.

If the first episode is any indicator (which it frequently is not), then this remake knows its audience and isn’t going to be attempting to bring in any new viewers, starting in the middle of the action around the point at which the original series diverged from the manga. Visually, Brotherhood shows a greater degree of attention towards background art compared to the original’s rather stark backgrounds, especially indoors.

I am still not sure why this project needs to exist outside of an opportunistic grab at mad bank. Kind of a cynical statement on the state of anime in general in that the allocation of animation and art budget goes to projects like this and Dragonball Kai, the other big-name closer-to-the-manga project this season (which, admittedly, has no new animation work, but rerecorded voice work, HD transfer and new music), rather than on new promising properties and un-established directors and staffs. Biggest anime of the season/year.


Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z-Hen

I called dibs on this one, because it comes absolutely guaranteed to be memorable: Giant Robo director Yasuhiro Imagawa returns with robot anime with free reign on one of the greatest anime franchises in history, the epoch-making super robot Mazinger Z. If this had simply been a straight remake like Mazinkaiser in Imagawa’s grand style, the show would have been great entertainment and worthy of just about everybody’s time. But Shin Mazinger is ambitious beyond anybody’s expectations: as Giant Robo was a massive crossover celebration of the works of Mitsuteru Yokoyama, Shin Mazinger is the biggest, loudest Go Nagai fanfiction ever.

The first episode is a nearly incomprehensible highlight reel of what’s to come in the series. Imagawa starts with a “finale”: what looks to be some kind of apocalyptic last battle between every single Mazinger hero and villain, with a number of original characters and people pulled from other Go Nagai sources that I’m not even cool enough to recognize. We’re deep in the action here, and characters are being introduced rapid-fire while the world crumbles around them and Kouji Kabuto shoots Domon Kasshu monologues at his enemies. Even diehard fans aren’t going to know what the hell is going on here, outside of “oh my god, that’s–“. To be fair, this is the desired effect, as the show promises to start properly next week. Will this story come together? Giant Robo certainly did, and in this unusual case, faith in the director is likely warranted.

Besides, can you really fault a series that opens with a “hey kids” conversation between the hero and the audience, just like Uncle Go used to do?


Dragon Ball Kai

It’s a depressing thing to think that much of the promise a re-edited, HD remastered cut of Dragon Ball Z lies in the fact that it’s a known quantity: afterall, it’s fucking Dragon Ball Z. In a season that is ripe with potential Rideback-esque letdowns, we all know exactly what we’re getting into with Dragon Ball Kai. The eternal 12 year in all of us will be excited to re-watch the series that we all loved in younger, stupider times. That nostalgia will be at odds with our more cynical side, which argues such a re-release is silly and indicative of not just the creative bankruptcy of the industry but the absolute dire straits we’re in when a slightly edited Dragon Ball Z sounds like a good idea.

But we’ll still watch it despite the fact that they went and changed the OP and ED themes to generic J-trash, because secretly we all kind of like Dragon Ball Z and had always wanted to watch it without all the filler.

The HD remaster is nice, but it’s still 20 year old TV animation so it can only do so much, but it still looks better than the washed-out CG color palettes that get passed off art state of the art Japtoons these days. The rerecorded voice tracks won’t do much for you unless you were the kind of hardcore fan who actually cared that much about Dragon Ball Z. The loss of Cha La Head Cha La is regrettable and the new HD OP animation isn’t a quarter as badass as the original but idiots will still “ooh” and “ahh” over it just because it’s HD.

But none of this really matters, because it’s still just Dragon Ball Z.



  1. Brotherhood is earning Funimation the “Special Achievement In Trying” award. They’ve arranged to provide the show streaming for Americans with English subtitles starting on April 9th. Cool, right? Well, I guess it would be if the show hadn’t aired on the 5th, with fansubs available hours later. I understand it’s a lot of work to arrange these sorts of Internet streaming rights — and Funi aren’t the only ones making these arrangements — but it’s going to be really hard to compete with the fansubbers when they can still do HD versions the same day the show airs while you’re left doing SD streaming days later.

  2. In the case of Shin Mazinger “hey kids” actually stands for “hey 30+-year-old manchildren with your noses pressed up against the TV screen.”

    The Chogokin advert that played immediately after the ad break animation ONLY PROVES MY POINT.

  3. More stories should begin with ‘Hey, kids’ (or indeed 30+-year-old manchildren): ideas are often best tested by summarising them pithily in a sentence or two, and I reckon it’s good to see a story’s premise take the same test.

  4. I’ve only read the first few volumes of the FMA manga but i can say that the last anime really diverges from the source material about 18-20 episodes in as well as having about 2-3 made for the anime “filler” amongst those while also changing parts of the story drastically.

    This new one wont be all too great for at least a dozen eps or so.

    Also, I have high expectations of Mazinger as they’ve already promised us what we’ll expect.

  5. Personally, I’m still really skeptical about the new FMA anime venture. FMA I certainly wasn’t the first time a show based on a hot manga property outran its source material and came up with random bullshit to pinch it off, but I was always very impressed by how well FMA I pulled it off.

    In the course of the second season of the first FMA, you had not only the greatest re-use of almost every single one-or-two-episode minor character ever (the archvillain alone was a twist of writing thrift-shop genius!), and not only did you have a twist-ridden climax with almost convincing pathos, but also a surprisingly gutsy and conclusive downer ending in which the heroes DON’T summon the power of friendship and Japanese pseudo-existentialism to live happily ever after! (Which was quickly retconned by the movie, of course. Gotta keep that cash cow milked!)

    At a point where most shows fall apart, FMA I made a decisive rally — and still enjoys my respect as one of the most unironically enjoyable shonen shows I’ve ever watched.

    Perhaps I will catch up on the manga to see if I will be similarly impressed by the “real” conclusion of FMA, but somehow I doubt that will happen.

  6. You guys miss a bit about Mazinger:

    “The show isn’t without its downsides — there’s the obligatory moé girl (and she’s a completely blond loli covered in a godly aura, sugoi mary sue desu!), the big-breasted sidekick a la Yoko from Gurren Lagann (but this one rides a bike) and the main character Kouji Kabuto looks like he walked out of a generic Shonen Jump series. It’ll be interesting to see if they manage to pull off something interesting or if it turns into a pandering suckfest like Imagawa’s last project, Getter Armageddon.”

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