Wednesday, November 24

The Calm Before the Storm

Earlier this week I finally got to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1... perhaps the last movie I'll watch in a theater this year. Perhaps that's a good thing, to end 2010's movie-watching memories with a good, perhaps even great, film.

This penultimate chapter in the Potter movie series is, of course, only the first half of one whole movie that adapts the seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling's worldwide hit series of children's books. Unlike most every other film in the franchise, this chapter has none of the trappings that one would think part and parcel of the Potter saga- a jolly train trip to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the expected magical pranks and sight gags along with the requisite wide-eyed expression of wonder from Harry and the gang (which happened so many times even after several years of being around magic and sorcery on a daily basis). There's little to no laugh-out loud comedy, no silliness or mirth in the current state of things in the Wizarding World. Though refreshingly still bursting with familiar faces as most of the Potter cast return, the reunions are somber and guarded.

The movie opens with heartbreaking scenes of silent farewell- from Hermione Granger literally erasing herself from her muggle (non-wizard) parents' memories to Harry watching the Dursleys depart forever from Privet Place, to the Weasleys' hiding out in a remote camp, away from their usually warm and cozy homestead. The situation truly is dire, and the enemy is very real and very, very serious. Voldemort and his Death Eaters are in control, and they seem to be taking out anyone in their way in very quick and easy fashion. All that's standing in his way is Harry- a clueless youth being protected desperately by a small band of loyal friends and associates in the Order of the Phoenix- an organization that is losing members daily, that has already lost it's leader one movie ago.

Before even the first thirty minutes is up, no less than three characters- all recognized and beloved, two of whom have been in the films since the beginning- are maimed or killed. As the opening monologue from Bill Nighy's Minister Rufus Scrimgeour intones, "These are dark times."

What follows is a short respite of forced normalcy, before the core trio of Harry, Hermione and Ron are forced on the run on the cold streets of London, complete with a chases and a magical firefight that seems more at home in the Jason Bourne films, albeit with spells and curses rather than bullets. It doesn't take long though for the trio to vanish off into the wilderness, far away from the cities and hunters, and into a time of seclusion.

It's this part of Hallows Part 1, the extended time spent in the middle of the forest by themselves, that this film is, depending on the viewer, at it's best or worst. For some it may be something like Harry VS Wild. Or the Potter Witch Project. But for those who let the mood of the scene take you, it's pretty atmospheric and powerful, showcasing some of the best acting from the young actors yet in these movies. The forest scenes are deathly quiet, with minimal music, if any. The young wizards are left alone with no clues on how to progress, the fates of their friends and family unsure. Their only trump card is that in their possession is a Horcrux- one of the pieces of Voldemort's soul that are the keys to his destruction. Unfortunately, like some ring from another fantasy series, the object seems indestructible, and worse, corrupting. Before the lengthy forest sequence ends, friendships are tested to their limits and the trio won't be leaving their refuge intact.

As this is only half of one book, an incomplete chapter, it's still a good testament to the script that there's still quite a few action scenes as well as a good finale with a fair bit of climax, ending with an event that is heart-piercingly sad and personal. It's a quiet moment of profound sadness and loss for Harry which does wonders into making sure that any viewer who has loved these films and characters will not be able to wait to get to the next and final chapter of this series for some well-deserved comeuppance.

While previous Potter films have consistently shown differences in directorial and visual style, this Potter's striking difference is in the tone and dark mood, an oppressive aura and feeling of defeat that you see or feel rarely at this caliber in any film franchise. Really, did you think that the Fellowship of the Ring or The Rebel Alliance had it bad? Harry Potter has it worse, in his own right! As usual though, the uniform and consistent excellence of production quality, characters and performances and the sheer brilliance of the execution in bringing Rowling's continually-evolving world to the big screen are things that I continue to enjoy with this series.

One more film to go, and it's all over. Man, July 2011 should be so profoundly glorious and, as well, profoundly sad.

Monday, November 22

My Story So Far...

It's been a while since I last posted on this blog. Things have happened, or not happened as the case may be.

I haven't been able to post much here, since, well, blogging on the personal journal isn't as eventful as it was before, and sadly, the circle of friends and readers that once made this kind of intimate writing has long since gone. On the comic side, I haven't been as active as I was before in terms of local indie publishing. For the most part I write for comics these days, but don't do the art. It's proven to be, for the most part, a lot more profitable, if not as creatively satisfying.

For the most part I've been game-blogging on my other current blog, The Lone Gamer. It's proven to be fun and continues to be my daily writing stint. However, I do miss the days when I could just blog about lunch or something weird that comes to mind that doesn't involve videogames.

The longtime, long-standing Angel Ace website is gone. Poof. Dead. Nada. Gone without so much as a goodbye or a whimper, aside from an entry in Facebook. It has been lingering all these years, but now it's really gone. I just declined to pay the bi-annual fee and it was no more. Well, in the end it was for the better. I can do better.

So what happens now?

2010 is pretty much gone. Too late for this year. But I think I may make 2011 a bit different. I'll try my darndest to get back into making comics next year. With the help of some friends, and perhaps the egging of some fans (if they're still out there). I want to make something all new. Or something familiar. Or both. We'll see.

In any case, I don't think I'll be taking down this blog anytime soon. It's still here for me to post on, to take down my thoughts, to rant or rave on whatever comes to mind. Anyone and everyone is welcome to chime in.

And that's all there is to say right now. Later then!

Monday, September 6

Pixar-esque Pinoy Animation: RPG Metanoia

Just saw this earlier today, and I have to say I'm intrigued. Haven't seen this on TV, nor have I heard anything about it. That should change soon, since this is by Star Cinema, so there should be a budget behind this. Apparently from the trailer I can surmise that this is an MMORPG-esque adventure. The style has a Dreamworks type of look to it, but the quality is impressive if you base it on past stuff from local animators. I particularly like how the Hero apparently uses a Yo-yo as his weapon... very Pinoy (since the weapon was supposedly invented locally). I'll want to see this in full, if I can tear myself away from home and actually venture into a movie house in December Crowded Mall Season. The only things I see though that can derail from this being awesome is if they borrow too much from foreign stuff. Here's to this flick having it's own unique style and flavor apart from the usual anime, Western or European cartoon. For now, anyway, color me intrigued and hopeful.

Sunday, July 25

Avatar: The Legend of Korra

The next Avatar is ready to bend the world to her iron will.

As disappointed I am with Shyamalan's lackluster Last Airbender, I am now quite excited and elated upon hearing news of Avatar: The Legend of Korra (this may be just a working title at this point). Just announced recently upon being greenlit by Nickelodeon, this sequel to the acclaimed Avatar: The Last Airbender animated series is ready to start the cycle all over again and surely please fans of the original, like ME!

So far it's known that Legend of Korra (LOK) will be set 70 years after the events in the first Avatar series. Korra, the new incarnation of the Avatar and Aang's reincarnation, is a rebellious, headstrong teenager who originally hails from the Southern Water Tribe (Katara and Sokka's neck of the woods). Unlike Aang, at the start of the series Korra has already mastered Waterbending, Earthbending and Firebending. Her main quest is apparently concerned with finding an Airbending teacher- not an easy task when the Last Airbender, Aang, is dead. Not to fear though, since Aang and Katara DID have a son named Tenzin, who may be the new Last Airbender (or there may be more, who knows?). Intriguing stuff!

Other bits of info being thrown about are that this new series may actually be a mini-series instead of a full show, and that it will have many flashbacks and references to the first Avatar show- in effect, the old gang may be appearing still despite either being very very old or very very dead. Perhaps we'll learn if Zuko ever found his mother and other loose ends.

Anwyay, given the caliber and quality of the first series, I've no doubt that Korra will surely be another classic and favorite of mine, once it debuts sometime in 2011. I'll be keeping my eyes out for every scrap on this one, but for now I'll be content with just carrying the original Avatar show with me all the time on my iPhone or iPad. Heheh...

Sunday, July 18

iCame, iSaw, iPad.

I'm gonna need a bigger pocket.

As if getting a couple of iPhones, an iPod Touch and a desktop iMac hasn't qualified me as a Mac addict, now I've gone and passed the point of no return. I bought an iPad. Yep, the oversized iPod Touch. I may have mentioned once, twice or perhaps ten times in the past that I would never get Apple's tablet- "I can't picture myself taking this out of the house!" I said. "What would I use it for?" was another statement. Yeah, back then I never saw myself wanting or using this seemingly extraneous, uncategorized machine. For a person who usually wishes to travel fast without anything weighing me down, even just the Pad's 1.5-lb. weight seemed too much.

Well, what can I say? In the past, years ago, I also said I never saw myself ever needing a cellphone with a color screen. Silly me.

Anyway, one reason for my sudden turnaround was caused by the recent news of the reception problem with the iPhone 4- I just got turned off to this device whose basic functions can be affected by simply holding it a certain way. So I found myself gravitating towards the iPad. I was happy with my 3GS, and would be for the near future. But I needed a tech toy to occupy myself.

So here I am with the iPad. As I expected, it's gorgeous- a slate of black glass and aluminum that once again feels so solidly high quality in the hands, as with the past Apple iDevices. After my first week of using the thing, I can easily say that the iPad has changed my whole way of doing things. It has, effectively, unseated my iPhone 3GS as my portable media center, online connectivity device (through WiFi only though), entertainment device and productivity tool. My phone's still sure to be my constant companion, but now I am relegating more stuff to the Pad so my phone can remain, well, a phone.

This includes watching videos, although now I can enjoy the gorgeous HD content available in full resolution- something that the smaller screen of the iPhone (or any phone, for that matter) could never do (even the iPhone 4, arguably, retina screen regardless). Surfing the net, keeping connected to social networks and sending emails is now far easier and more pleasurable with the Pad, although I am limited to WiFi- but this is by choice as well. In terms of productivity, the iPad is a viable tool for me to type out Word documents (typing documents on a phone is, while doable, ultimately impractical), thanks to the larger screen, larger keyboard and better battery life. Then I can send out copy and documents via email, making it a useful tool for work as well as personal matters. Need to write a review and post it asap? Done. Need to write out copy for work? Just get to a WiFi spot, type out the script and then email it to the office. Done! Waiting in between commercial shoots? I'll play a game. Or ten games. Or sketch out some pages. Or watch a movie. Amazing.

And the battery life! I have to say, the iPad blew me away with how awesome the battery is. You can just work or play on this thing for hours, it outlasts any laptop to my knowledge.

That all said, the iPad isn't perfect of course- it doesn't have the power or versatility of a full computer, but what it can do it does well, and all in a pleasantly fun and engaging package that I just can't get enough of. Funny that this thing which I thought was so useless has turned out to be a great investment that I am totally enjoying right now. I can see myself making full use of this on my next TV shoots, on long road trips or anywhere boredom may strike.

The iPad has made me a believer. Don't honk it right away unless you've tried it yourself first- this device is a winner. You may not need it at first, but give it a chance and you may want it. And then you might not be able to do without it.

My iPad's a 64 Gigabyte WiFi-only model, bought at 40K in Greenhills. Got a nice spiffy leather book-type case which was a bit pricey, but worth it.

Friday, July 9

Life, Love and Loss in the Gutter: Arnold Arre's Kaye for Komiks Review

Arnold Arre's second film is a biting, often humorous tribute to the local Indie Komiks scene.

A couple of nights ago, I braved yet another stinky cab and Fort Boni rush hour to make it to Arnold Arre's debut screening of Kaye for Komiks, his second short film and outing into the world of moving pictures. As with Chapter:-One, the venue was the underground theater at Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street. But unlike last time, the house was PACKED. As in, the place was made for about sixty people, but there were well over a hundred confirmed guests for the night, and most of them came. It only added to the enjoyment, in any case.

In contrast to his first short film (which was of the horror/suspense genre), Kaye for Komiks is one part tentative, opposites attract romance, two parts local comic book industry documentary and one part retelling of Arnold's own experiences as an indie comic book creator. Filmed mostly at the Sputnik X comic book store in Cubao, the main story is about the relationship between a jaded, failing local comic book creator (Mihk Vergara) and a bubbly ex-advertising artist (Cathy Ferolino). In between we're also treated to various interviews with some luminaries of Komiks, such as Gerry Alanguilan and Leinil Yu.

Running at just short of an hour at about 57 minutes, K4K moves by fast at a quick pace. Edited tightly and containing elements of green screen hocus pocus and even some bits of animation (complete with art from Arnold's past illustrated works and some other local titles), the film has a slightly off-kilter, surreal visual style that fits well into the comic book theme, and is downright impressive for what is basically a one man (well, one man and wife) operation. But even ILM effects would be for naught if the central figures had no charisma, and thankfully that's no problem here.

For (as far as I know) first-time actors, Mikh Vergara and Cathy Ferolino shine as the leads, and thankfully not just because they're just pretty faces that stand up great even to Arnold's VERY intimate camera (though they are indeed easy on the eyes).

Vergara is able to convey the martyred air of the struggling, world-weary artist he's portraying, through his eyes and the gravity in his words. A lot rides on him delivering in the film's most intense moments, and he passes with flying colors.

Ferolino's Kaye on the other hand, is all sweetness and light, a bubbly outsider looking into a world she knows little about (at least, initially), and carrying on with just an open smile and bright eyes. Again, as far as I know her performance works because partly it's real (she's probably mystified in real life by all the comic book geeks and oddballs surrounding her on set), and partly because there's a sincerity and genuine quality to her smile and the look in her eyes.

The other members of the cast, from the Jay and Silent Bob tributes (played by none other than Sputnik's owners) to odd characters and weirdos encountered throughout the film, are as usual composed of Arnold's friends and associates, all looking and acting with the exuberance of pizza-and-soda-laced performers. There's even an appearance by celebrity R.J. Ledesma as a 'childstar-turned-comic book legend'. Once again, somehow, you know people had fun on the shoots.

Kaye for Komiks is an entertaining watch and in my eyes a definite notch up from Arnold's first work. Once again, he tells a complete and satisfying story, laced with drama, comedy and anecdotes from a world he once played in (and should again, I hope), along the way regaling viewers with his own visual flair and comic book sensibilities.

It's also a story very close to my own experiences (very much akin as I am to Arn as well in the Komik Industry), but that doesn't mean you have to be a komikero to enjoy it. I can't wait for his next issue then. What's next Arn? Action Movie? Sci-fi Extravaganza? A Pinoy Lord of the Rings???

After watching this, I can easily believe the possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, July 6

Full Metal Alchemist Ends Again! (Anime)

Seeya, Ed!

It was just several weeks ago that I posted about the ending of the Full Metal Alchemist manga, and now here's the ending of the anime version. Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood takes its final curtain call at Episode 64. The last ep was all epilogue, giving the cast of characters their due desserts and resolutions. The anime version alters/improves on some aspects from the original manga ending. All in all, it was a great send-off, and the emotional parts were handled superbly with the gravity and emotion needed for a good impact.

It's nice to note that FMAB's endings, at least for the main heroes, are not vague as is often the case with anime. It's no surprise who ends up with who, but more with that they actually show us quite a bit, which is lovely. From all indications, the lands of Amestris, Xing Et Al are in a new Golden Age, free of machinations by evil forces, open to exploration and adventure. Who's willing to bet that Ed's kids will grow up to be master alchemists like their dad, uncle and granddad? Perhaps if Arakawa-san sees it fit, we'll see the next generation of Elrics go on their own adventures someday.

There's actually a bit more FMAB to come, surprisingly- apparently there's a movie version coming, though what it contains will probably be more of a summary of the series rather than any continuation. It will be nice to see what it turns out to be, I guess.

In any case, it's been a wild ride. Few titles hit me with the impact that FMA has, and none but FMA has hit me like this TWICE. Awesome, just freaking awesome. Good thing I can always rewatch and enjoy this classic anytime. Later then!

Wednesday, June 30


Evil has left Malacanang.

It's the start of a new era, hopefully what the martyred population of the Philippines has been waiting several years for.

Just as the US found hope with President Barack Obama, Filipinos are pinning their hopes on the new President Aquino.

All I can wish for is that he is true to his parents' legacy. No good son would betray such a trust.

Congratulations, President Noy.

Let the new journey begin.

Saturday, June 12

Full Metal Farewell

Ed and company take their final bow.

AND... it's over.

The final chapter of Full Metal Alchemist (manga) was released recently, ending a long and celebrated run of this much-beloved, popular and critical manga hit. Nicely enough, it ended with mostly a positive note- it's just short of a Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy ending, but at the very least, everyone got their just desserts for the most part, leaving the world of Amestris, Xing and even the shattered land of Ishval on the way to a brighter tomorrow. In a nice divergence from the original anime, the manga (and eventually the second anime) ends with the two brothers actually going their separate ways and lives, instead of throwing everything away (including a poor girl named Winry) just to stay together. I can't see this world being revisited anymore, it's pretty much done with an ending that leaves little to interpretation or need for continuation. All's well that ends well. Now all that's left is to see this ending animated in Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

Goodbye, Ed, Al, Winry, Roy, Riza, Scar, Lin, May and the rest. Thanks for an amazing ride.

Friday, May 14

Join the Brotherhood!


I just read the penultimate chapter of the Full Metal Alchemist manga, and what can I say? This freakin' title rocks. Let blasted Bleach give you 18 measly pages per dole-out... Hirasawa-san is clocking in at 60+ pages per issue in these last few installments. It is sad to note that FMA will most surely be ending with next month's supposedly mammoth last chapter, with what will probably be mostly epilogue to the long and colorful saga of the Elric Brothers, their friends, allies, associates and enemies, and the lands of Amestris and Xing. That's a lot of people and plots to join up, but it's been awesome. I don't know how it's going to end- it could go for the stereotypical Japanese melancholy ending- there will be a victory, but with a price. I'm not so much worried for Ed as I am for Al... but knowing Edward Elric, he's not going to stand by without his brother, whole and alive, standing with him at the end. But we'll just have to see, won't we?

It's amazing to note that as the manga ends next month, the anime- Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, which has been doing an awesome job of adapting the pages to animated life, will also be wrapping up. Supposedly the anime will end at episode 63, which leaves only 7 more to go. With tons of stuff happening in these final manga pages to be squeezed into these last few episodes, I am thinking maybe the final ep or so will be an hour long or so. I hope they manage to get everything and everyone in. Once it's all said and done, this series has surely made it's mark. I'm gonna enjoy this title till the sky falls down. Awesome stuff.

Tuesday, May 11

The People Have Spoken

Yesterday, despite the sweltering El Nino heat and long queues that tested patience and resolve, Pinoys headed off to polling precincts to participate in the National Elections. Me? I waited two hours before I was able to cast my vote- once I was there it took several minutes for me to finish as I painstakingly tried to keep my markings within the egg-shaped selections. Not easy, considering that the spaces for your selections are tiny, and you're provided with a felt-tip marker that can easily blot out and potentially invalidate your vote. Thankfully though my ballot was accepted no problem, so I headed home with satisfaction.

Today it seems that Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has won by a large margin, with him being the only one in the way of 'Erap' Estrada from reclaiming the presidency. Yes, I voted for Senator (and soon President) Aquino, in the same hope that everyone else who voted for him- the hope for change, the hope for a new government that should combat corruption and graft, what many of us feel are the main shackles keeping our country the poor, sick man of Asia. So far, so good. But even when the proclamation is done and the new regime takes over, it's still not over. We've got a long way to go before the taint that the current government has left on our society can be erased, if ever.

But at least we've taken the first step.

Saturday, May 8

War is Hell

A whole new theater of operations...

I loved HBO's Band of Brothers. No, that's a lie. I freakin' ADORED it. It was pretty much Saving Private Ryan the TV series, but in becoming that it was so much more. The Men of Easy Company were a great bunch of soldiers and characters to follow through America's war against Nazi Germany, from the iconic Richard Winters to foot soldiers like Shifty Powers, each episode was a mini-masterpiece of the horrors, highs and lows of war, from Market Garden to Bastogne to the Eagle's Nest. To this day I can still watch any episode ('cept maybe the Doc-centric one...) repeatedly with anticipation. And so it was that I expected HBO's follow-up series, The Pacific, with great anticipation. I mean, how could it fail? The same production team and philosophy, just with a whole different setting and enemy for the US soldiers to face. It is, supposedly, the most expensive mini-series by HBO and Tom Hanks' production so far, and it shows in the cinematic epicness and grimy, bloody texture of the whole story of the US marines and their efforts to defeat a suicidal, brutal enemy in the Imperial Japanese empire.

That said... I have to say... it has come up short.

As much as I would like it to be as great as BOB was, it just isn't. The Pacific has the same quality production values, a cast that gives their all to convey the terror and filth and horror that was the war against the 'Japs'... but it just doesn't get to me as well. Which is weird since this series is set in a place closer to home, within the theater of World War II in Asia.

Perhaps it's in the characters- the series centers on three main soldiers, none of whom resonate with me that much. Most everyone else is either forgettable or looks the same as everyone else, too covered in blood, dirt, mud and grime to be identifiable. There is little company or banter in the marines, not like it was with Easy Company's likable band of grunts, not enough humor to balance the heavy weight of near psychotic fear, constant dread and manic depressiveness each soldier seems to evoke as they fight against a ruthless enemy willing to fight tooth and nail for every inch of soil in the islands they defend.

Then there's the action. For the most part the first several action setpieces are set in darkness, with the Americans' guns blazing away at an enemy we rarely ever see. The Japanese are voices in the distance, silhouettes that appear in a flash, then melt into piles of corpses in the morning. There is little thrill, cinematically, in these scenes for me. It's like this isn't a war between equals, between men of opposing beliefs- it's more a bloody face-off between hunters and packs of wild animals that need to be exterminated. instead of the thrilling, tactics-laden and brilliant encounters in Brothers, such as Easy's initial capture of Nazi cannons, or even the helter-skelter rush for safety in the chaos of Market Garden, we get smaller skirmishes and shadowy run-ins in the jungle, with the action obscured by darkness or the simple confusion of who's onscreen or what the heck is happening. And really, there's not much excitement in watching machine gunners or mortar crews (who seem to make up most of the cast) at work. The airstrip battle (which was portrayed in the videogame Call of Duty World at War) is one rare point so far where we actually see a stand-up, real battle. Still, there are two episodes left unseen which will hopefully have at least one or two more sequences of considerable action.

I guess it's to be expected that the Japanese are nowhere near the same enemy as the Germans were. Where the Nazis were more tactical, strategic enemies who used heavy armor and efficiency, the Imperial Japanese were known more for savagery, brutality and fanatical zeal... hence suicidal Banzai charges into machine gunfire. They were totally different psychologically, which in some aspects makes them a more terrifying enemy. However, I guess it makes it a bit of a backfire on The Pacific as a whole since you kinda need to be a bit masochistic to want to watch it repeatedly (unlike Band of Brothers)... the replay value gets killed a bit.

In the end, The Pacific isn't horrible or bad by any means- in terms of production values it's right there with it's brother series. Perhaps it's just in the simple fact that compared to Band of Brothers, the war in Asia is just not as palatable or 'pleasant' to watch. War is hell indeed in the Pacific. Perhaps too hellish, even for the small screen. I guess fighting the Nazis is just a lot easier to watch.

Thursday, April 15

Komikon Summer!

I don't have anything ready yet, but I'll probably be at UP this weekend to pick up the latest Pinoy comics and komiks. Maybe I'll even finally decided on my next comic there as well. I've got several ideas, but I haven't quite decided yet what to do. Decisions, Decision! Gotta decided soon so I can get something out by October. We'll see!

See you there, Komikeros!

Monday, March 8

Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood

Anime Awesomness.

Years ago, when I was still neck-deep into anime, the original Full Metal Alchemist anime was one of my favorites. I remember loving the quality of the character designs, the animation, the world and the storyline, even though ultimately it disappointed with a depressing 'ending' that dragged out into an iffy series of OAVs and an even more depressing movie. Yeah, it was only until recently that I realized how crappy FMA really was- when compared to Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood from renowned anime production house, Studio Bones.

What is apparently a very straightforward adaptation of the original (and still ongoing) manga by creator Hiromu Arakawa, in so many ways Brotherhood is a massive improvement over its predecessor anime. The scope of the story is so much broader and complex, thankfully without having to resort to bringing the action to our own mundane Earth.

After losing their mother to illness years ago, brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric innocently commit an act forbidden by the laws of alchemy- human transmutation. In the process Ed loses an arm and a leg, while Al loses his entire body, reduced to just his bare soul, quickly attached by his brother to a suit of armor. Though still young and inexperienced, the two brothers later set off on a journey to reclaim what they have lost by finding the legendary Philosopher's Stone. This quest will bring them into contact with the darkest forces in their land, as well as many who will become friends or enemies as their personal crusade soon becomes a war for the survival of their country.

To match the epic scope and story, the cast of characters both evil and good properly enlarged as well. Not only do we have the Elric Brothers and Roy Mustang's loyal officers to root for- Brotherhood gives us a literal army of allies and comrades for Ed and Al, many of them once only seen in the original manga. There's the Ice Queen of the North, Olivier Armstrong and her battle-hardened troops, newcomers from the foreign land of Xing- Lin, Ran Fan, Fu and May, rebel Chimera and so much more. Characters like Scar, Izumi Curtis, Tim Marcoh and Zolf Kimblee become so much more complete and in many ways endlessly more bad-ass and awesome than they ever were in the original. The Homunculus have never been as scary and powerful- King Bradley, formerly Pride in the first anime, is now ten times more deadly and powerful as Wrath in Brotherhood. Then there's the new Homunculi- the 'real' Pride and Sloth. Now these villains aren't just underground, secret enemies- their reach goes far deeper and higher than ever before. At the heart of it all, the mysterious and enigmatic, seemingly omnipotent Father, whose sinister agenda is still to be fully revealed.

Nearly every episode of Brotherhood is an event to be savored since it debuted last year. The direction, the drama, the characters, the humor, the action and the music all reek of top quality, rarely seen in such a great degree. I can't count how many great moments have gotten the hair on the back of my neck perking up in delight as with Brotherhood. As the manga closes Brotherhood looks to capture it as well in a suitably awesome endgame that has just begun in the most recent episode.

If there's a title I can say encapsulates everything awesome about anime, certainly FMAB is one excellent example. I'd go as far as to say that this may be my favorite Japanese anime ever, placing it alongside my other non-Japanese animated series all-time fave, Avatar: The Last Airbender. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting an anime show to watch and get into. Join the Brotherhood!