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I've forgotten how beautiful this song is. It's been a long time since I watched Evangelion, in fact, a long time since I've watched anything of the power of the anime I watched from the time I watched Evangelion. But the song is something that brings back a lot of memories. Or maybe I've been going soft these last few days. Gonzo has finally done good work with Chrno Crusade 22. I've been waiting to see what they'd do with this part of the manga for a while now. I was hoping, if they could get one thing right from the manga, and for the larger part they haven't, they would get this right. And they did.

Stella's death was always one of the most horrible and beautiful parts of the closing chapters, and interestingly, one of the few places where a good whack with the CG could make what is a fantastic battle scene, stupifyingly better. Stella's final sacrifice to her sister, the one that cost both of them their lives, left us with the final image of both of them crystallized at the end of Chapter 56, in the crumbling ruin of Eden. Episode 22's answer to that is actually a more dignified end, and one less lonely. Chrno and Azmaria are there to see her off, Chrno to cover the corpse and Azmaria to sing. Stella leaves gracefully. Her last battle is there in all its maddened glory. I am totally blown away by the frame-by-frame workings of Fiore's scythe. It moves so quickly. It slices, it dices, it's gorgeous. I want one. <-- Hampy's Rule of the Good Nemesis Says, "All the best anime opponents use a scythe."

Episode 22 also begins a slightly more fractured redemption of the whackjob Gonzo has created in its adaptation of Chrno Crusade. St. Rosette comes off as being frightening in this episode, there's still too much judicious fan service in all the wrong places, but she now exudes proper creepiness, rather than squeaking hentai starlet distress as in the previous two episodes. The religious aspect that Gonzo's version takes on (with good and bad consequences, but mostly bad) finally looks like its going somewhere. For one thing, we finally have a proper mob with pitchforks at the church door. Why is the church hiding the demon Chrno? Good question. Where is Chrno? Better question.

On his knees. "Not making the same mistake as the last time," to quote Elder from the manga. Even if they don't come to the same epic drama that the manga ended on, CC anime will at least end with the same intent. That is more than I could ever really expect at this point. The very lastest thing I wanted was for this to turn into another Peacemaker Kurogane. June 2nd. That's 8 days away.

I often wake up from dreams only to go back into them, I think, they are good reasons to dream. Finally picked up Hagane no Renkinjutsushi, which mokie has been trying to make me watch for the better part of a month. Another Gonzo production here, so I politely deferred and went for the manga it's based on instead. Nope. No disappointments whatsoever.

There are a few things that will addict me to a manga right from the start. Good art is a definite plus. Characters I can get into, that's a good plus. Plot, if there's a good plot that manages to start from the first volume, and this one's hard, that's a plus. Premise. If there's a good premise, I'm there.

Fullmetal Alchemist starts off with the last point and moves up the ladder in good time. Imagine if you will an atheist fantasy, in an atheistic fantasy world where the laws of balance are understood by an upperclass of scientists enough to play God, and God's players are the ones, for once, the people holding destruction in their hands. FMA has strange metaphors at work, very good, hard, thinking metaphors, of the power of creation being also the same as the power to destroy, the want to create without destroying (but how can we?) and in the omnipresent context, the greed and sins of humankind.

Edward and Alphonse Elric are brothers attempting to transmute the body of their dead mother back to life. A body is water and elements even a child's allowance could buy, and with the right impetus, what could stop them? But the law of exact exchange is not met, and Ed loses a leg to the process, while his brother loses his entire body. In an act of desperation, Ed binds Al's soul to a suit of armor, which further costs him an arm. This is how we meet them three years later, broken bodies with a resolve to regain everything they lost, through the one thing that would allow them create without having to repay, the Philosopher's Stone.

The characters are well-drawn and well-planned. Arakawa-sensei has a good eye for all his characters, and takes pains to make even the briefest appearances meaningful for everyone. There isn't a single character in the series that doesn't appear forgotten or there for the sake of being there. Dialogue is quick and at times very energetic, the quiet moments are picked well and never are ponderous. Explanations are done in action, so we're not left with too many glaring moments of vast explanation mid-battle. As of Volume 4, there's only one place where that happens, and that's to poke fun at the manga habit of stopping mid-battle to explain the story. Yes, FMA is seriously funny. It has an endearing dry wit, with lots of natural humor that never, ever feels out of place, even when the moment in question is a goofy skit about Japanese dairy farmers and the fact most of us find drinking stuff that comes out of a cow's tits...tantalizing. I do not ever want to think of milk like that ever again. But I have to. It's all FMA's fault.

Then, there is the omake and gaiden included with each volume. That's four omake for four volumes, and one gaiden each for Volumes 2 and 4. The omake are weeeeeeeird. We are talking outtakes and character backtalk weird, with omnipresent Arakawa-sensei in cow avatar weird. We are talking about cats and dog stew, and poking fun at military women in mini-skirts weird. Speaking of which, I feel extremely vindicated a manga finally points out the extreme folly of making military manga women wear mini-skirts. Naturally, the character who says this gets clobbered by his male peers the moment he suggests women should wear mini-skirts and men should all be expelled from the military, but hey, I feel vindicated this manga does not have military women in mini-skirts. You are welcome to go get shot at now.

There is even a wry poke at X-Force for some as yet unknown reason. Does a member of the extended cast interestingly called "Havok" have to fall in cheesy love with a mysterious woman named "Polaris"? Wished I knew. And then there are the 7 Sins, one of who is wrapped in the lovely yet dangerous packaging of Lust.

The art features detailed backgrounds, nothing crowded, with a curious habit of reminding me of Asterix. There's always something going on in the background worth looking out for, if nothing else, something to "ooh!" with. Characters, as I mentioned earlier, are distinct and easily recognizable, partly thanks to the wonderful use of variety noses. No pointy noses and doorstop chins here, all characters get a specific look that keeps them apart. Of course, I'd get miserable without a good drape of trenchcoats/cloaks and a nice head of hair, myself, so it's probably a good thing Ed has both, and Lust has The Hair. This isn't the sort of manga you walk into expecting to get flabbergasted with character prettiness (they might even take a while to get used to, the art's pretty different from a lot of them), but it has its moments.

In an amusing turn of events, our heroes spend as much time reading as they do fighting. Action scenes are pretty much all hand-to-hand combat, with or without the joy of good blades. FMA has amazing close shot hand-to-hand combat. In the way Rurouni Kenshin has wire fu and Chrno Crusade has demon fu, FMA does have hand-to-hand combat. So, it's all very nice.

FMA manga is currently unlicensed. I use the manga viewer originating from Toriyama's World. TW does a sympathetic scanlation, with a good eye for the hidden nuances, I think. It's worth reading.

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