AEL: FMA ch.6, SU ep, BSSMC 36, Unbound, JatH 16

Fullmetal Alchemist chapter 6 — The glimpse of Trisha we get in Edward’s dream at the beginning of this chapter makes me think unflattering thoughts about this and many other visual stories (particularly manga and anime).

A character that doesn’t appear much (only in flashback, for example) may not get a lot of the creator’s time and thought in any or all aspects of design. The creator may, therefore, rely on tropes and various forms of shorthand for visual design, characterization, and character history. This isn’t necessarily a problem or poor writing, but it does rather depend on the significance of that character and their scenes.

If there is any significance to the character or their scenes, whatever design details the creator chooses to give them will stand out even more than those of a more complexly designed character, simply by being emphasized in their relative solitude. So a creator needs to take care which tropes and shorthands they employ in such cases.

And in a lot of manga and anime — including this scene featuring Trisha Elric — a female character makes a brief appearance and is characterized (often both visually and in demonstrated personality) solely by generic, traditionally feminine traits.

Let me hasten to disclaim any intention to denigrate femininity or the writing of traditionally feminine characters. It’s just that when this shorthand shows up — especially in a character you can be pretty sure you’re not going to be seeing much more of — you know you’ve hit a dead end right there. This character is never going to get more interesting.

“She wears a plain modest dress with an apron, has plain long hair tied demurely to the side, and smiles sweetly at her son as she tends the garden” will remain the extent of her characterization, because with that she has achieved stock status and need progress no further. We may know Trisha’s sons were lovingly dedicated to her because she was their mother, but we will never get a hint of individuality to suggest she was in any way an interesting person we might like as well. And for someone with such a huge influence on the story we’re currently reading, that’s pretty pathetic. Pretty refrigerated.

Now, you could say that, because this presentation of Trisha is part of a dream Edward is seeing, the way she appears and acts characterizes him far more than it does her — that we can draw from this scene an idea of his attitudes about femininity and how he perceived his mother… and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. But it still means his mom got fridged, and is also perhaps ascribing more depth to the scene than is really there.

On a different note, can we please ever have a Lust that doesn’t present as female? -__-

OK, here’s a thing that drives me crazy that’s pretty exclusive to manga and anime: a character that has not appeared yet — and perhaps will not appear for some time — is referred to by other characters, very unnaturally, in the vaguest possible way. “Our teacher,” Edward constantly says to refer to Izumi… and while I get that the reader kinda needs to know that the person he’s talking about is their teacher, it seems unnatural for Edward to talk that way to Al.

Would it really be so bad to refer to her by name, for the sake of more realistic dialogue, and just let the reader wonder/guess/not know yet what her relationship to them might be? The context in which they always mention her makes it pretty clear that she’s at least some sort of mentor in alchemy to them… does it actually need to be more explicit than that before we get the flashback later to their training?

Maybe this is conservation of detail at work. Maybe the writer hadn’t decided on the character’s name yet. Maybe it’s supposed to be a surprise, for whatever reason. But seriously this trend annoys me.

Steven Universe episodes — I want to take Sworn to the Sword and shove it right into the face of any lazy creator that claims there just wasn’t time as an excuse for… whatever. If these folks can pack that much character development, worldbuilding, and emotional impact into an 11-minute episode, then fuck you and your there just wasn’t time. Truly one of the best episodes of anything ever to air.

Sailor Moon Crystal episode 36 — In the original anime, it was always exciting to get to the climax of a story arc, because there would be a lot of emotional drama and sometimes music video fights taking place. But here? It’s like, Oh, crap, we’ve left the interesting stuff behind. Now we have five episodes in a row of shouting each other’s names in horror.

Gee, it sure might have been convenient in the previous series if Sailor Senshi could just casually fly like that…

There’s a lot of really wince-worthy unison dialogue in this episode. Also, it must get very inconvenient to call each other by full senshi names more than just occasionally. “Super Sailor Chibi-Moon” is quite a mouthful for the middle of battle (though perhaps not as much as “Hiten Mitsurugiryuu Anything!”).

And for all I’ve complained about this episode and this series, I’m really, really happy they took the obvious step to make the Chibi-Usa/Hotaru relationship more overtly romantic. I ship them so.

One thing that always puzzled me a bit about the original series was that it made constant references to romance — particularly in image songs — but there was very, very little onscreen romance involving main characters. Peripheral characters fared a bit better, but they didn’t get image songs. It always seemed more than a little weird to me. So allowing Chibi-Usa and Hotaru to be (at least implied to be) romantic seems to fit… somewhat belatedly.

Because, ironically, there’s been a lot less emphasis on romance in Crystal, a series in which we’ve actually been allowed to have Shittennou/Inner Senshi romance and this Chibi-Usa/Hotaru development. Go figure.

Unbound — Sometimes this series feels absurdly self-indulgent. It’s like, “Books AAAHHH BOOKS I LOVE BOOKS Books are great! What if we could HAVE STUFF from books BOOOOKS books that would be so AWESOME What are some things we could pull out of books? BOOKS Books books.” But when it backs off from that a bit, it’s a pretty effective showcase of the possibilities of such a world, and I really enjoy it.

The relationship between Gutenberg and Ponce de León is fascinating. Of course I’m a romance fangirl and magnetically drawn to teh ghei, but their circumstances and the combination of reserve and affectionateness between them really makes them interesting beyond that. I was shipping from the moment Juan kissed Johannes back in the first book, but I haven’t been able to figure out exactly what their relationship was.

At times they seemed like exes that might like to get back together, but at times it seemed more like they never actually got together in the first place — as if it was something Juan wanted that Johannes was never on board with (though he put up with Juan’s constant flirting pretty well). And then at other moments it seemed like they really were together — or at least as “together” as Johannes’ can’t-stop-can’t-rest-I-literally-haven’t-even-slept-for-years lifestyle would allow them to be.

In any case, I loved reading about the two of them around each other. I mentioned before that Gutenberg is more or less insufferable (though Jim did a good job making him a bit more sympathetic in this book where we see him in a more personal setting), but I do like Ponce de León. As such, I was very sorry for him, at least, when Gutenberg died.

Given the nature of the two characters, I was expecting them both to die, but I figured it wouldn’t be until the last book. So I was a little surprised, at least at the timing. And I did grieve, if only for Ponce de León’s loss. But you know what pissed me off royally? How not one single one of the people with him — even freaking Nidhi! — appeared concerned for him, or even seemed to notice how that event must have torn him apart.

Admittedly something might have happened offpage; and admittedly he might not have wanted, or been in a place to accept, comfort from anyone. But it really seems like nobody even said anything to him. And freaking Isaac didn’t even drop a hint that he might be aware that Ponce de León was suffering for the longest time!

OK, but back to Gutenberg. Specifically, back to Gutenberg The Fanfiction Author. Um, yes, please? Thank you forever, Jim? Yeah. In my desire to see fanfiction recognized as a valid form of literature with as much artistic potential as any other, I don’t get thrown a lot of bones. And to see the inventor of the printing press portrayed as an active fanfiction author, and his powerful immortal sorcerer boyfriend(?) specifically saying, “There’s nothing shameful about fanfiction…” That means a damn lot to me.

Also, it was unbelievably adorable to realize that when Gutenberg was complaining about not enough people having read Harry Potter and the Goblin’s Scepter yet, it wasn’t just a libriomancer trying to produce an artifact that he believed might be able to save the world; it was also an anxious writer waiting for the first response to a beloved project.

Then, it might have made me cry a little to think that one of the very last things Gutenberg experienced in his life was a verbal review of that beloved project from his boyfriend(?). I adored that entire scene.

Jem and the Holograms issue #16 — Yes! This is exactly the kind of snarking-but-cooperating type of interaction I wanted to see! Jem and Pizzazz insulting each other but then performing a perfect mash-up? Yes yes yes!!

One of the most interesting things about the TV series was always the psychology of Jerrica and Jem, and, though it’s gotten going somewhat slowly, it’s promising to be just as interesting here. It was fascinating to see that, after Jerrica talked about perhaps being a little afraid of becoming Jem again and wishing she could just perform as herself (and regretting that she couldn’t), Jem’s personality was even more forceful than before — she was far ruder to the Misfits than she needed to be, I believe as a direct result of Jerrica’s insecurities. I’ll love to see how this will all play out.

Oh, and the moment between Pizzazz and Blaze that I was looking forward to after the previous issue? LOVED IT.

Another thing I always wonder while watching the show is whether any fans of the Holograms and/or the Misfits are followers, as well, of the rivalry — the way people follow real-life rivalries between rappers, for example. It must be pretty entertaining to watch, though I don’t know how much of it makes its way to news outlets.

In the comic, much as I adore it, I still feel the pacing and over-arcing storytelling hasn’t been as good as it could have been. I don’t have a sense of how well known or successful the Holograms are at this point, what/how much they’ve released, or even how much time has passed over the course of the story.

I have no idea whether the relationship they’ve been developing with the Misfits is something that’s likely to have been documented by the media and observed by the fans. However, I have to imagine there’s some awareness of the tension between them, and there have to be some people that have been posting bandslash about them on AO3. Which is why I laughed out loud in pure delight at the “STIMBER!” moment. What a realistically awful word! But it’s lovely to know that I’m not the only one that’s been shipping those two for years :D

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