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Shelf Life
Milos & Otis

by Erin Finnegan,

My horse did not win the Kentucky Derby (what happened, Sabercat?) but after that I watched Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, so Saturday was not a complete loss.

Zac talked about Star of Milos on a recent ANNCast. He fell asleep after the opening action sequence, but I had the opposite experience…

Shelf Worthy: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (Blu-Ray + DVD)

The Shonen Jump summer movie formula sticks new characters into a movie and involves the TV series' protagonist in a plot that doesn't affect continuity or grow the protagonist as a character. Star of Milos has that plot, but somehow I did care about the new characters. (Note: FMA ran in Shonen Gangan magazine, not Jump.)

The film opens with an unusual double flashback. A girl named Julia remembers being evacuated from war-torn Milos Valley as a child, then wakes up from her dream-memory to the night when her parents were killed by a werewolf-like creature. The bulk of the movie follows Julia years later, at age 16. At first I thought the double flashback was jarring, but later I realized it drew me into the plot and helped me sympathize with the new character.

In a dramatic prison break Ed and Al chase an alchemy-using prisoner, Melvin, and wind up investigating the case as the fugitive runs to Table City, heretofore unmentioned in FMA. As Ed and Al ride the train into Table City, there's a tremendously long action sequence. I've seen a lot of anime chase scenes on trains, but this may be one of the best. Action piles on top of action until finally Al lands at the bottom of a giant trench surrounding the city. Even if you hate the rest of this movie, it's worth watching for this sequence.

Unlike Zac, I was willing to buy Table City as a setting for a couple of reasons. First, the Elric brothers often visit random cities with crazy alchemy problems, so I thought it was well suited to the series. Second, I totally bought the city's conflict. Table City is located on the border between Amestris and Creta, and the two countries have been at war for centuries. Currently Table City is occupied be the Amestrians, but it's considered a Holy City of the Cretans, who are now oppressed as forced labor, and made to live in the slums in the trench surrounding the very city they dream of retaking.

The world of FMA already contains brutal racial and national conflicts, so Table City fits thematically into that universe. It seems all the more brutal that the fight is over such a tiny city in a larger FMA geography. In one touching scene, the Cretans bury their dead, and one of the village elders explains to Ed that they have funerals like this every day. Like Ed, I felt grateful I wasn't born into such a troubled nation. As usual, I was impressed with FMA's poignant mirroring of real world conflicts.

There are several twists in the climax of the film that took me by surprise and struck me as good writing. It's my understanding that the screenwriter, Yūichi Shinpo, is a mystery novelist, and I think this comes through in the film's ending.

Zac is right about the shaky pencil line animation, especially early on in the film, but I had a different take on the shaky lines. I instantly read it as a cost-saving measure, to make up for the time and expense of many, many totally awesome action scenes. More cells means more expense, after all (even if those cells are virtual). The animation reminded me of a more polished Birdy the Mighty: Decode style of action, where climactic scenes are super-sketchy and perhaps done by a guest animator. Although I suspect these scenes were rushed into production, (Shinpo mentions only having a week to come up with the plot) I consider the sketchiness a strong choice rather than an outright mistake (as some column readers seemed to think of Birdy).

Ed and Al don't find further clues into reviving their bodies, but I haven't finished watching Brotherhood yet, so I was grateful for the lack of continuity. I also liked the parallels in this story; Ed and Al help another pair of siblings struggle with the truth behind how Philosopher's Stones are created.

I'm eagerly recommending the film to friends and loaning it out as soon as possible. I look forward to re-watching it in the future - it's easier to rewatch this movie if I want to revisit FMA than to re-marathon both TV series.[TOP]

While Star of Milos took me by surprise, I was a little let down by Golgo 13 Collection 3.

It seems as though the first two collections of Golgo adapted some of the better or more memorable Golgo stories, and the animation team was down to some of the less great stories for collection three.

I love Golgo 13, but after 38 episodes, all the jumping around to different time periods is starting to get to me. For example, in episode 32, one of the villains (insomuch as there is anyone who isn't a villain in Golgo 13) has a character design that looks like something out of the 1970s Josie and the Pussycats cartoon. In the previous episode, Golgo flew on a modern commercial airliner. Sometimes ladies wear go-go dresses, sometimes Golgo uses a laptop to research his clients. I wish they would commit to the time the stories take place and give us a year at the beginning of the episode. It would be more work for the design team, and it would mean admitting Golgo never ages, but I think the show would look better for it.

Episode 36 takes place in Monte Carlo, and uses what looks like a guest character designer. The super-rich gamblers at the casino are drawn with a line style that's totally different from the rest of the series so far. It looks cool, but it also looks like it was hard to animate the stylized faces. They look right in still poses, but the characters' faces morph grotesquely between poses as they move. The poor animation ruins what would have otherwise been a very cool episode.

I complained about the dub in my reviews of the previous sets, and it continues to be ridiculous in Collection 3, but after a while I started to have more sympathy for the dub crew. The more ludicrous looking minor characters get more campy voices and/or accents (while Golgo is always voiced appropriately and sensibly). The series is a seemingly bottomless pit of bad New York thug accents, no matter where in the world the episode is set. Strangely, one episode set in France features no French accents at all.

Normally, I like that Golgo is so predictable. I like the formula, but this set let me down. It's like being given an unceremonious second helping of a food you like, “I heard you like Golgo, have some more Golgo.” Maybe it isn't the predictability I like, but the tiny surprises in the show that feel missing from this collection. There were more impressive episodes in the first two sets. Not that there aren't memorable episodes in this set, they're just not memorable in a good way (for example, Golgo is memorably hired to shoot an animal and an antique in different episodes) . [TOP]

And so Golgo was more of a let-down than a treat this week. I hoped I could balance out Heaven's Lost Property Forte by watching a character I knew I liked…

Heaven's Lost Property Forte is both better and worse than season one.

Generally, I don't like softcore porn. I'm not that interested in breasts (I have my own pair), so to me a bad movie with some boobs in it is just a bad movie. In this case, an unfunny comedy with a dozens of bouncy breasts is just an unfunny comedy. I prefer pornographic material that's honest with itself about being pornography. (I gave We Without Wings and Rin ~Daughters of Mnemosyne praise for being more explicit.) The first two episodes of Forte are more explicit than season one, and I respected the show more for that.

What bothered me about the first season was the slave imagery. Forte moves away from the slavery thing, but there are new troublesome angles. We're introduced to Delta, an unintelligent buxom blonde sent to kill Tomoki. In more than one early episode, Tomoki trumps Delta by groping her. It's both a symbolic defeat and a punchline, and it bothered me. If it was funny, I wouldn't be annoyed.

I found Tomoki more sympathetic in season one. In Forte his character goes downhill. The turning point may be a Moby Dick parody scene wherein Tomoki is afraid he'll die, so he writes a note to Ikaros saying that if he survives, he'll propose to her. The life threatening situation involves Tomoki diving to grope giant breasts. I think it's beyond the pale to propose to the girl you like on the condition that you survive groping another girl. The proposal seemed like a one-off gag, but it's treated with bizarre dramatic weight for the rest of the set.

I'm not against jokes done in poor taste. I'm a long time fan of Beavis and Butthead, I own Ping Pong Club, and I double-dog-dare you to watch Meet the Feebles. I'm just more into gross-out punchlines like in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt than boobs as punchlines. In Forte, boobs and the groping thereof are overwhelmingly the most common gag.

Inversely, Nymph's flat chest is another seemingly bottomless well of comedy for the writers. Instead of laughing, I felt bad for Nymph. She's saved everyone's life several times, and her worth as a person is reduced to the size of her bust line. Nymph is intelligent and a more rounded character than blank-slate Ikaros or dumb-as-rocks Delta. It troubled me when she looked genuinely hurt in those scenes.

To be fair, in Forte we also get a lot more plot; we learn more about the Synapse. The scheming Sugata takes on a much less comedic roll as he explores the Synapse. I like Sugata as a character and wish he had more screen time. Instead, Sugata's sidekick Mikako Satsukitane gets more scene-stealing moments. In one episode she mentions failing ethics class, and later answers moral questions in a quiz show exclusively with the phrase, “I'd kill them all.” I thought this was uncustomarily hilarious for this show. Jamie Marchi does a great job making Mikako sound sultry in the dub.

Forte is definitely more perverted than the original. That said, I seem to have a dispute with Japan over the definition of the words “pervert” and “perverted”. Maybe it's a cultural or translation problem. As an American, I see many of Tomoki's interests in sexuality as totally normal. Most heterosexual teenage boys are interested in breasts. It's not accurate to call Tomoki a pervert for his desire to touch breasts... (Indeed, if that's all it takes, what does Japan consider “normal” for teenage sexuality?) True, he clearly crosses the line when he builds pipes all over town allowing him to look up girls' skirts from the safety of his room. The show stops itself from extreme perversion in episode 12, as Tomoki decides not to spy on girls going to the bathroom, even when given a chance to do so without getting caught. I guess I'm glad they drew the line somewhere.

I suppose if you're interested in boob-based erotic comedy, this is your show.[TOP]


Next week I'll see you guys with a look at Ōkami-san & Her Seven Companions.

Just a heads up, I'm taking May 28th (Memorial Day) off from Shelf Life, as I'll be on the road, visiting friends.

This week's shelves are from Jahmere:

"Hello I'm Jahmere and I wanted to show off my current collection to the readers of shelf life!

I've been collecting anime since 2004, ever since I bought a used copy of Fighting Spirit Vol.1. As the years passed and I got better jobs I started to collect a lot more. My absolute favorite things on this shelf would be the Blue Seed collection, City Hunters 1&2 (I'll find you someday 3&91), Infinite Ryvius and Utena boxsets, and the soundtracks I have from Gunparade March, Fafner, and Noir. Not pictured is a stack of DVDs that I get from the podcast I host on anime3000.com called 2 Guys and a Mic. Also not pictured are my Gunsmith Cats manga. Love the show and the manga.

Hope you enjoy the shelves!!!"

Nice shelves!

Want to show off your stuff? Send your jpgs to [email protected] Thanks!

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