Sunday, June 15, 2014

Antonio's Anime Roundup

Even back when I watched with a little more frequency, I was always just a casual fan of anime.  However, I'm the kind of person who still keeps up with things I don't partake in much, so -- especially in the recent years that I didn't watch anime at all -- I made sure to pay attention to the stuff that was getting praise and kept a running list of shows I wanted to check out eventually.  One of the things that kept me from diving in for a long time was that I only watched English dubs, and most sites that provided streaming availability for the anime on the list only offered subbed versions.  (This is a very controversial preference to have, since many anime purists think people who watch dubs are the devil's spawn, but hear me out.  I'm not afraid of subtitles.  I watch foreign films all the time.  But with something like anime, where the art style and animation are so important, I'd rather not have to be looking at the bottom of the screen most of the time.  It's just easier to binge when you don't have to worry about reading subtitles.  Plus -- and this is probably the most upsetting reason for subtitle lovers to read -- I prefer the sound of English voice acting.  Many people find dubs to be flat, but I think that the original Japanese voice acting is often too emotional.)  My recent love of Space Dandy reignited my interest in returning to that list, so I've gotten over my aversion to subbed anime and have begun the process of working through the long list that I've compiled over the years of shows to watch.

One thing I've noticed in this process is that anime is so watchable.  I've been burning through some live-action hourlong American TV, and once I started going through my anime list, I put off everything else because it was just much easier to watch multiple episodes of an anime in a row.  Here's the first rundown in a continuing series of reviews of anime on my gigantic "to watch" list:

Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day (streaming on Crunchyroll & Hulu)

This was the first anime that I watched in my effort to get back into the medium, and I chose it because I really latched on to the premise.  Anohana is about a group of childhood friends who drifted apart when one of the members, Menma, died in a tragic accident.  It picks up with them in high school when Yukiatsu, the most isolated of the group, begins to see Menma's ghost and attempts to bring everybody back together, even though nobody believes him.  With a premise like that, it's no surprise to learn that the show has a reputation of being a "weepy," a status that proves to be its biggest problem.  Anohana is very melodramatic, and the more it attempts to make you cry, the less effective it actually becomes.  After a while, you begin to wonder why everybody is still hung up on these petty squabbles after nearly a decade, and the amount of responsibility that everyone feels about Menma's death reaches comical levels.

In its better, more subtle moments, Anohana is an excellent exploration of grief and how losing a friend can irreparably damage you.  But it's not just about losing a friend in the sense that Menma is dead -- there's also the loss of friends who are still alive and well, living in the same city, and sometimes even attending the same school.  Due to its rock solid animation, the show is able to rely on facial expressions and body language to convey so much more than when it's shouting to the skies.  Almost anybody can find something to relate to in Anohana.  For those who've had friends from whom they've grown apart, watching the distance that has grown between these people who were once inseparable can be painful; for those who've wished they could reconnect with old friends, the process of these characters slowly reuniting is wonderfully cathartic.  Clearly, there's plenty of good in the show, it's just marred by some poor choices that get in the way.

Grade: C+

Attack on Titan (streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Netflix)

When I was looking back at my notes for this show, there were more negative comments than the grade at the bottom of this write-up implies.  Attack on Titan is a very flawed anime.  Chief among its problems is the extremely choppy pacing.  This is a major issue in the initial episodes, where it has to skip many years to get the main characters where they need to be for the sake of the story.  But the decompressed storytelling carries throughout the entire 25 episodes, with constant use of cutting to extremely long flashbacks in the middle of action-packed moments.  The sense of whiplash is frustrating -- one second, the narrative is moving at a blistering pace, only for it come to a halt for boring exposition.  Despite the show's maturity, it's still steeped in shounen trappings, from its hot-blooded emoting to a character like Mikasa being super-powered with no explanation.

Attack on Titan falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to its characters.  It faces the "boring male lead" problem with Eren, who cycles through the same three emotions: anger, confusion, and angry confusion.  Mikasa is "cool" because she kicks butt, but she's not much of a character, and she gets sidelined for large swaths of the show.  Of the main trio, the only one who grows and has an arc is Armin.  To make up for this, the show is packed with a bevy of side characters who get shuffled in and out of the story.  On one hand, the sprawling ensemble takes away from having fully fleshed out characters, but on the other hand there are some really fun archetypes.  Sometimes the show just tells you a character is cool, makes them seem cool and expects you to therefore think they're cool, and it occasionally works, especially with Levi's Special Operations Squad.  Other times, characters don't even get to make their mark before they're brutally killed.

But the show gets credit just for how insanely watchable it is.  (So watchable that I blazed through the entire thing in one weekend.)  Part of that is because of the excellent action scenes, which are a perfect storm of interesting elements.  First, they involve the titans, which will surely become iconic anime creations.  They're like zombies, but faster and much larger, and their terrifying strength and mystery make the stakes of the setpieces higher.  To deal with these formidable foes, the characters use these 3D movement devices -- a combination of cables, blades, and harnesses -- that allow for fluid traversal.  Each action scene is so exciting that you'll find yourself wondering when the next one is coming as soon as the previous one is over.

Saying that Attack on Titan is an all-brawn show, however, would be ignoring the fact that it has some intriguing ideas that exist outside of the fighting.  For example, it does some excellent world-building in just 25 episodes.  Everything about the infrastructure of the walled cities, the organization of the military, and the mechanisms involved in fighting the titans feel so thoroughly conceived, as evidenced by the additional information provided in the interstitials of each episode.  The show is also great at examining how war affects society, particularly those who give themselves up to fighting even though the odds are stacked against them.  This is a rough, brutal world that these characters live in, and the way it chips away at their souls is palpable and effective.  At times, Attack on Titan runs into the Walking Dead problem of over-expressing the bleakness of its world through dialogue, but for the most part they're able to convey it through the emotions of the characters.  Most importantly, the show also provides a great metaphor about class difference via its walls.  Each of the walled cities house citizens of different levels of wealth, and the show pointedly depicts just how ill-equipped the rich people are in the innermost city to understand the threat of the titans.  The act of the titans breaking down those walls might be a subtle indication of where the story is heading in its second season.

It's easy to see why Attack on Titan was such a breakout success.  The premise of the titans is like a weird amalgamation of the zombie and mecha genres, but with its own creepy spin.  There's action, there's blood, there's shouting -- it's no wonder Adult Swim picked up the dub to air in America.  But unlike some other crossover hits (see: the last show reviewed in this post), it has the quality to match the hype.

Grade: B+

Mushi-shi [Season 2] (streaming on Crunchyroll, 1st season on Hulu)

Back in 2005, season one of Mushi-shi premiered in Japan to enthusiastic praise.  It was lauded for good reason, as the show felt unlike almost any other anime.  Mushi-shi wasn't an action show, it wasn't slice-of-life, and it wasn't a romantic comedy.  It was just Mushi-shi -- strange, beautiful, powerful Mushi-shi.  For years, it seemed like the show's existence was meant to follow the path of its main character, Ginko: appearing out of nowhere, making lives better, and then moving on.  But almost a decade later, it has made an unexpected return, and it's just as hypnotic and brilliant as ever.

Because it has no serialized narrative, there's no need to worry about the 9-year gap causing you to lose any story thread.  If you wanted to, you could just hop into this season without having seen any of the first season.  Over the last few weeks, it has delivered 9 wonderful episodic tales, rich with themes and material to unpack.  One of the recurring ideas in the show is how nature is capable of great awe and great danger alike.  It does this through the use of mushi, these tiny creatures that cause mysterious, almost supernatural phenomena.  Many of the mushi are a metaphor for grief, loss, and pain; manifesting themselves in human hosts that are going through these struggles.  Mushi-shi is basically the best procedural on television, mostly because the mercurial nature of the mushi allows the show to offer a wide spectrum of tones from episode to episode.  One episode can be relaxing and peaceful, and then the next can be terrifying and thought-provoking.

Even if you don't care about the subtextual stuff going on with Mushi-shi, the surface elements are fascinating enough.  Each episode is such a full experience: the art is lush, the animation is fluid, and the music is haunting.  But the best technical aspect of the show is its incredible sound design.  In episode 7, you can hear the buzzing of bugs, and the way they sound is so specific to the kind of endless, scorching summer day that's being depicted.  Mushi-shi is a once in a decade -- literally! -- anime.  Why aren't you watching this yet?

Grade: A

One Week Friends (streaming on Crunchyroll and Hulu)

One Week Friends is another of the new Spring season anime, along with season two Mushi-shi, that I'm keeping up with weekly.  I could lie and tell you that I chose to watch it solely because of the premise -- a boy named Yuki Hase attempts to befriend Kaori Fujimiya, a girl in his class who starts off each week by forgetting the memories she shared with her friends in the previous week -- which puts a fun spin on the amnesia trope.  But really, the thing that made me watch is its art style.  I love the art style of One Week Friends.  I mean, just look at that picture.  The pastel colors, the character designs, the soft focus backgrounds -- it's perfect.

The show starts out well too, with its gentle pacing and warm interactions between Yuki and Kaori.  But it takes a turn that I'm not sure is intentional, when what was once cute becomes a little off-putting.  The show's central question right now seems to be: Is Yuki a creep?  He starts to seem awfully possessive of Kaori, getting jealous of any new friend she makes, particularly if they're a male.  Luckily, the show keeps his best friend, Kiryu, around to give some perspective.  He might be this anime's true point of view, rightfully calling out Yuki for his creepiness and over-anxiety.

So far, One Week Friends has done a good job of slowly building out its world.  The premise might've seemed limited at first, but they've skillfully introduced new characters and provided some interesting layers to Kaori's memory loss.  In the last week or two, it's gotten a little too slice-of-life, but the most recent episode drummed up enough drama to keep me interested.

Grade: B-

Puella Magi Madoka Magica (streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Netflix)

One of the most important factors in enjoying the deconstruction of a genre is knowing that genre enough to recognize the components that are being broken down.  I basically have no experience with the magical girl genre of anime aside from viewings of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura as a child, so it's a testament to the quality of Madoka Magica that I still found the show very effective.  Part of that is because it has so much to offer outside of mere deconstruction.  It looks like a regular magical girl anime at first glance, from the cutesy art style, to the round faces, to the easily categorizable characters.  But it starts showing its hand pretty early, taking on a darker tone starting with a shocking death at the end of the third episode.

Unlike others in the genre, Madoka Magica really digs its heels in and gets into the consequences of being a magical girl.  To become one is a Faustian bargain: you get one wish granted and magical powers, but the task of fighting witches is grueling and (literally) soul-sucking.  There's a brutal fatalism to the show, exploring the sacrifice involved in a line of work that's certain to end in death at some point.

To me, Madoka is how to do a protagonist correctly.  Like some of the main characters I criticize elsewhere in this post, there's nothing extraordinary about her personality.  But not only is the show aware of that fact (it's just one of the many magical girl tropes it plays with), Madoka herself is aware of it, and her timidness and frustration that comes as a result is what makes her compelling.  Her drama comes from the push and pull of dealing with being unspectacular, but safe; and feeling important as a magical girl, but risking her life every day.  Even though Madoka is the main character, she kind of gets relegated to the sidelines for most of the show.  She's often defined by the things going on around her, but it works as a device for the story that they're trying to tell, and serves as an interesting take on the idea of the "chosen one."

But one of the most fascinating creations of Madoka Magica is the character Kyubey, who's there to serve the role of the cute animal companion that appears in most magical girl anime.  Yet from very early on there's just something off about him and the way that the camera always cuts to a close-up of his flat, emotionless eyes.  Kyubey is the corrupting force of the show hidden in a sweet package.  He presents the option of becoming a magical girl as if it's a choice, but then he continues to have a hand in concocting scenarios that force the girls to accept the offer.  There's no doubt that he's the villain of the show, but the brilliance of Kyubey as a character comes from the fact that he doesn't think he's a villain.  As he says, his values are just different from human beings.

After it reveals its hand, the show ramps up its darkness pretty quickly.  The emotional devastation comes hit after hit in the last third, like a series of falling dominoes.  It runs the risk of spiraling out of control with all of its talk of time travel and universal entropy, but these ideas work because it all ties into the genre deconstruction that the show is trying to do.  The ultimate reason for why magical girls are needed and why the genre always uses teenage girls is pretty ingenious (albeit a little sexist).  Episode 10, which finally fleshes out Homura's motivation, is the series highlight, a heartwrenching explanation of the show's most inscrutable character.  The finale is quite a mess, but it takes such a big swipe that it manages to grab on to a few things that really work.

Ultimately, I think Madoka Magica works best if you don't know what you're heading into.  The creator wanted that dark turn in the third episode to be a surprise, but if you go in expecting darkness, it could be a disappointment.  Some random person on the internet once said that it "tries too hard to be the Neon Genesis Evangelion of the magical girl genre," and I definitely agree with that sentiment, but it's hard not to appreciate the sheer ambition of it.

Grade: B+

Sword Art Online (streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Netflix)

Most people's opinions about Sword Art Online are split by its two parts: the Aincrad arc and the ALO arc.  But I'm here to tell you that Sword Art Online is actually three different shows.  The first part of the show exists in episodes one through seven -- I'd give this part a D+ -- and it largely adapts side stories from the light novels.  In the first episode, the relatively intriguing premise is set up -- a new virtual reality MMORPG game is released and it turns out that it traps gamers inside of it, causing anyone who dies in the game to die in real life -- but the next six episodes don't do much with the concept.  Because these episodes cover side stories, it feels way too episodic to start off the show, and the time skipping in between them causes all sorts of problems.  First, it throws off the pacing.  Aincrad has 100 levels, and not only does the show just skate through them, but it bases crucial pieces of the story on things that happen in the time between episodes.  Second, there's the awful companion-of-the-week structure.  Each of the episodes follow the main character, Kirito, and some other character, (usually a girl who is attracted to him for some reason).  The point of this process is clear: the writers are trying to develop characters that will become important later, but the problem is that it skips over all of the actual relationship building.  Most of all, the writing is just mind-numbingly heavy-handed and repetitive.  There are constant dialogue reminders that if you die in the game, it's permanent!  You die in real life!  And even still, all of the events feel completely devoid of consequences.

But we haven't gotten to the biggest problem of this first part, and the problem that brings down the entire show: Kirito.  He is a dull, lifeless character.  These kind of anime tend to center around a bland character, but Kirito is by far the worst lead character I've ever seen.  What are his defining personality traits?  What makes him tick?  What are his strengths and weaknesses?  We're never really privy to any of those things.  In this part, the writers don't know whether they want him to be a lone wolf or a kind-hearted helper.  It's okay for a character to be many things at once, but it's so binary for Kirito.  All of this would be baffling but forgivable if it wasn't for the fact that every female character is in love with him.  Lisbeth, Asuna, Silica, Sachi; they all nurse some feelings for Kirito, despite the fact that there's nothing really admirable about him.  I'd rather watch a show about any of these vibrant female characters than the boring male they're inexplicably pining for.

In the second part of Sword Art Online -- episodes eight through 14 -- the show settles into being a decent little B- anime.  It's amazing how much better the story gets when it becomes serialized.  Thankfully, the middle section starts getting into (or at least mentioning) the real world implications involved in being trapped in a game for two years.  It also explores the idea of people not actually wanting to leave the life that they've crafted in SAO, which is a very interesting thread.  And as much as I find Kirito to be bland, I found myself becoming quite taken by the relationship between him and Asuna.  Their honeymoon period in episode 11 gets lots of hate from the internet, but I think it's one of the best sections of the entire show.  It's a little turgid and weepy at times, but it's the one part of the first 14 episodes that actually takes a breath and tries to explore the characters' psychologies.

However, even these episodes aren't without their problems.  Like I said, Kirito's complete lack of character is a problem that continues throughout the show, and being around Asuna makes him better, but only slightly.  I praised the honeymoon stuff in episode 11, but it also introduces Yui, one of the most insufferable characters in the entire show.  With so many cliches packed into Sword Art Online, the last thing it needed was a little magical kid mucking things up.  The makeshift family that develops between her, Kirito, and Asuna plays like it's supposed to be sweet, but it's just nauseating.  After the honeymoon, the plot kicks back in, right in time for a rushed conclusion.  It's almost as if the writers knew that 100 levels were too much, so they threw their hands up and said "Ah, why don't we have the villain revealed at around level 70"?  It seems as if Heathcliff/Akihiko Kayaba has no logic or motivation behind his plan, and any possibility of elucidating matters is hand-waved away by having him not remember why he did what he did.  That's not even mentioning the wonky twist-for-twist's-sake nature of Asuna breaking her paralysis to take a hit from Kayaba's sword and Kirito somehow killing Kayaba after his health went down to zero.

Episodes 15 through 25 are a complete trainwreck -- the point where Sword Art Online becomes an F show for 10 episodes.  Let's start with ALfheim Online, the new game that Kirito has to play because this is a shounen show and the protagonist always has to face a similar, but stronger opponent.  ALO is the same as SAO...but different!  (But the same.)  The first few episodes of this part get so bogged down in the exposition involved in explaining the rules and world of ALO, which SAO managed to avoid by having Kirito be a beta tester (and skipping forward in time).  Perhaps the biggest problem with ALO is that it's an obstacle, not a world.  The few differences between it and Sword Art Online are so underdeveloped and under-explained that they don't matter.  For instance, it's made clear that you don't die in real life if you die in the game, but are there any consequences for dying?  On the bright side, Kirito's a little livelier in this story arc...except it makes no sense since he should be pretty upset about the love of his life being stuck in a coma.  Oh, and did I mention that Yui comes back and is as annoying as ever?

No negative to this portion of the show is as big as the handling of Asuna, however.  There were problems with the way her character was written in the first 14 episodes -- take the way she immediately becomes weepy and conforms to traditional gender roles once she shacks up with Kirito, for instance, or the fact that two guys literally fight for the right to have her time in episode 10.  Those are nothing compared to what she is reduced to in the final 10 episodes.  At times, it seems like Sword Art Online is riffing on the tedious "Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are held captive by The Others and repeatedly get caught when they try to escape" arc in season three of Lost, because she spends the entire time trapped in a gigantic birdcage.  The whole thing is just a non-storyline, complete with a mustache-twirling villain.  Kirito and Asuna's relationship starts out with them as equals, but by the end she's nothing more than a tormented object for him to rescue.

*DISCLAIMER: Apparently, the fact that Suguha is in love with Kirito is revealed in episode 15, but I only became privy to this information when she explicitly says "I'm in love with my brother" in episode 21.  Either I didn't catch the moment it becomes clear in episode 15, or I did catch it and assumed it was just an expression of non-romantic love.  Silly me for assuming the non-gross option!  So some of the hate that is spewed in the next few paragraphs is kind of inaccurate, but just roll with it because I probably would've hated this already terrible plotline even more if I had experienced it the correct way.*

There are a few things that keep this final arc of the show from being an unmitigated failure though.  The most important of those is the introduction of Suguha, Kirito's little sister who's actually his younger cousin, but is basically his little sister.  In just a couple of episodes, she's given more character and life than Kirito gets in the entire run of the show.  She's lively, she's interesting, she has dreams and desires and anxieties.  She's by far the best character in the show, and maybe even the most endearing character out of all the anime reviewed in this post.  It's honestly hard to understand how the show can handle her internal makeup with such nuance when it fails at almost everything else, but they do it nonetheless.  Just look at how they portray her quiet anxiety through animation in the way that she's always laying on her back, looking upward, and pondering.  There's clear thought involved in the creators fleshing her out as a character.  And wouldn't the inner turmoil of her wanting to reach out to a clearly distressed Kirito, but not wanting to make him uncomfortable be enough material for a meaty storyline?

That's why the revelation that she's not just concerned about him but IN LOVE WITH HIM is so infuriating.  They had all the right pieces needed to at least have a solid real-world story while the ALO plot was a disaster.  But they decided to ruin the best character and the best potential for real, genuine drama for the sake of a surprise incest story.  Listen, incest is not a completely off-limits storyline.  It's just not what this story needed.  Kirito has already been inexplicably lusted after by 90% of the women on the show, but now his little sister wants him too?  It's just complete wish-fulfillment.  The task of beating ALO is already convoluted enough, so the love quadrangle between super bland Kirito, Suguha in real life, Suguha as Leafa, and Asuna in a cage plays like bad farce.  Episode 23 tries to reverse engineer the entire relationship between Kirito and Suguha, but at that point the storyline had been such a failure that it couldn't be saved, especially if only a small amount of time was going to be spent on it.  As a result, their "heartfelt" embrace after their "duel" in ALO is supposed to play like a brother and sister figuring things out, but it still feels uncomfortable and unresolved.

It'd be tempting to write off Sword Art Online as an action show for kids, but that's not possible for two reasons.  The first is that there's incest and a scene that almost features tentacle rape.  (Oh, did I forget to mention the near-tentacle rape?  There's almost tentacle rape.)  The second reason is that it's an insult to good action shows for kids, like Avatar: the Last Airbender.  At one point in the show, Kirito says something like, "There's nothing more boring than watching somebody else play an RPG."  Sword Art Online proves that he might be on to something.  This show is garbage.

Grade: D


  1. I have mixed feelings in regards to your position on subbed/dubbed, I agree with a character like Mustang on Fullmetal Alchemist, who is a lot more interesting in the dub for me because of Travis Willingham.

    Anohana: Never heard of it before your list. I agree the premise sounds interesting, and sometimes I'm okay with melodramatic, so I'll keep it in mind.

    Attack on Titan: I STILL need to get back on this, I watched about 18-20 episodes of it a year ago and then put it down; I find this show extremely overrated, but definitely commendable for it's atmosphere and world-building. However, it seems to have an obsession with killing characters no one cares about. I'll get back to it eventually.

    Mushi-shi: Never heard of this before you asked me about it. Apparently I need to see it. Will get on that soon.

    One Week Friends: Never heard of this before your list. Sounds interesting. Looks Beautiful. This one's right behind Mushi-shi.

    Madoka Magica: Alex was really into this one (Alex 1). Sounds interesting; what's your opinion on Eva anyhow?

    Sword Art Online: Somehow I knew this was coming-I have a bit of a guilty pleasure when it comes to this show, as I am aware that it isn't great in any respect, but I have a lot of respect with it's willingness to stick to it's MMO asthetic and not just brush it off after the initial episodes. I agree that it has an uptick in quality near the end of the first half, and while I absolutely agree that the second half is a catastrophic mess, I actually was onboard with the incest "reveal" by the time it occurred (since it had become so incredibly obvious to me over the course of the second season). This series definitely has it's flaws though, there's no arguing that.

    1. Interesting you mention Travis Willingham because he also does the dub voice for the main character in Mushi-shi and it's a very good performance. I've been watching the subbed version of the second season since that's the only one available and I miss his voice acting, but luckily the Japanese one is very good too.

      Also funny that you called Attack on Titan overrated. haha wasn't it like number 11 on your list last year?

      I watched Evangelion when I was very young so I don't really have a vivid memory of it, but I did like it. I should revisit it soon. I think you'd enjoy Madoka Magica, even though it's not quite the mindblowing amazing thing that I've heard lots of anime people claim it is.

      Have you been keeping up with the new season of Sword Art Online? I have been, but I might just drop it since I'm kind of bored with it. I had alot of negative things to say about season one, but at least it was rarely boring.

    2. Well that instantly elevates my interest in Mushi-shi then. I think Travis Willingham has one of the most natural performances in the dub of FMA, so I'd love to see what he does there.

      That should show you how highly I regard certain other anime; while I recognize that Attack on Titan is good, everyone is acting like it suddenly became god tier when, while I admit the action is great, the animation is fluid and the world-building is interesting, it's not up there with some others for me.

      Very curious what you would think of Evangelion as an adult. You should know that while the Rebuild movies start out the same, they drastically change as they go along, and are absolutely worth your time.

      Lol anime people.

      I'm aware that Gun Gale started, but I haven't watched any of it yet; I was waiting to go through it with a friend.

  2. I'd love to see some kind of post from you about older anime such as Evangelion (particularly the current Rebuild series), Serial Experiments Lain, Fullmetal Alchemist (2004/Brotherhood both) and others if you've seen or would want to go back and watch some of those.

    1. I'm actually going to cover one or two older anime in my next anime roundup (hopefully this will be a recurring feature that appears every few months).

      I'm actually in the process of watching Fullmetal Alchemist right now because I kind of avoided it back when it was popular since it seemed to be that show that people I hated in middle school watched. So I had only seen a few episodes. But I'm going through it now on Netflix (I'm going to do Brotherhood after that) and I'm totally loving it. It actually reminds me alot of Avatar: The Last Airbender (which you need to put on your to-watch list because it's like the best animated show ever, and this season of The Legend of Korra is almost certainly going to be in my top 10 this year) because both initially seem kind of like kids shows but then they sneak in some surprisingly complex storytelling and mature themes.

    2. Good.

      Fullmetal Alchemist is by far, my favorite anime of all time (compiling the entire set of series into a whole, because there are aspects of the original that are great and aspects of Brotherhood that are great as well).

      The funny thing about Avatar is I have avoided it for the same reason you avoided FMA; the same reason I avoid shows like Dr. Who: THE HYPE...but yes I am aware that I need to see all of this at some point or another.