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How to Make Your Obsession, Their Obsession: Part 3

Yay! I’m on the last section of this three part blog! Hee hee, this is gonna be my favorite one because it deals with some of my favorite series of all time.

Soooo sit back, relax, and enjoy! Hopefully I can get this one done much quicker–stupid job! Why do I need to pay the bills? Grrr…oh…I digress.

How to Make Obsessions, PT. 3: Other? also called: Take it Both Ways

These manga I’m suggesting for you guys are ones I’ve been reading myself. These series I’ve pretty read up to the most recent volume available in the States–if indeed I haven’t read the complete series (that’s the case for Death Note.) I place these series in like…some of the highest positions, especially if you want to get others into manga–or anime even.

Full Metal Alchemist

By Hiromu Arakawa.  Oh yes, I went there. Pulling out the big guns now. This series is phenomenal. I mean, it’s so good, I even had my MOM watching the anime. My mom. That’s hard core. She loves anime now–and before she and Dad thought it was all tentacles and breasts, and–yeah, you get the picture. So I act like she’s the ultimate test, because she always liked comic books, but was iffy on reading manga ’cause “it went backwards.” She wasn’t being rude or condescending, that’s just the easiest way to put “it doesn’t read our way.” I’m sure you guys have heard that before. This manga also pulled in my cousin Becky, who always expects me to buy her the newest volume for her birthday and Christmas.


There’s really no way to get “basic” with this manga, just because so much insanity starts happening later in the series. But here’s the gist of it. Edward Elric and Alphonse Elric are brothers close in age. Their dad seems to have simply abandoned the family , leaving them with their mother who raises the brothers. But while they’re still young, their mom falls ill and dies. Having no family left, but for their friend Winry (who’s also lost her parents–but to war instead) and their “aunt” Pinako, they decide to bring their mom back from the dead. How would they do this? The art of alchemy–transforming certain elements from one thing, into another. The only problem is, no one’s successfully transmuted a human before, and it’s illegal: for a good reason, too. They try and fail, only to lose Al’s body completely, and Ed’s left leg. To save Al from completely disappearing, Ed sacrifices his right arm so he can bind his brother’s soul to a suit of armor in their home (giving a whole new meaning to spending an arm and a leg…yeah, I went there-what you gonna do about it?)

Following this horrible mutilation, they vow to return their bodies to the correct state by signing up in the military (Al couldn’t really join, or the secret of their law breaking would be out) so they could have unlimited access to anything relating to alchemy–in hopes of finding a way to amend their past mistakes. Along the way, they discover some disturbing things surrounding the alchemy of their country, the government and it’s seemingly endless hunger for war, and who’s really running the show in their nation.

The plot thickens as creatures called Homunculi (plural for Homunculus) show up, preparing for some final judgement day to arrive in Amestris (the country Ed and Al are from.) These creatures, though human looking, can manipulate their bodies in different ways, and seem to be answering to a higher force–one that’s shrouded in mystery. Ed, Al, and their comrades and allies (some of which were enemies at one point) must all work together to save Amestris and set things right with their own bodies before it’s too late.

*phew* that’s a mouth full…and I’m leaving tons out…sheesh!

What’s good about it? Why would this appeal to anyone?

Hiromu is a genius, let me just say that first off. I mean, the things she’s done in this series–mind boggling. I’ve gotta bullet this, or I will lose track.

  1. Compelling and complex story with many plot twists and revelations. in depth detail about the countries and how alchemy works. Everything is so down the earth and so believable–even though the whole premise revolves around a science that’s actually impossible (as far as we know.)
  2. Characters incredibly realistic: they take on the personality she’s given them, and act almost on their own. There’s no confusing them–they are truly unique and have a life of their own. Plus, there’s someone everybody can relate to, and the cast of characters is large. She’s able to successfully give her characters a convincing back story, realistic motivations, and an idea on what’s shaped each character into who they are–each reacting differently to certain situations, all coming back to their unique personalities. She’s simply incredible.
  3. Comedy and Drama: Science/Fi and Fiction. This manga spans across several different genres. It’s scary at times, it’s funny at times, and dramatic. It’s a “period” work taking place in a world similar to Europe in the 1900s (I think in 1912 is when it starts, if I’m not mistaken.) It covers some many different genres, there’s really something for everyone.
    • Comedy-This is a key component to the series. Because it deals with such serious subjects, there are times you really need some comedic relief. And it’s added at appropriate times, to help lighten the mood when things start getting heavy.
  4. Action! While being something of a drama, this manga still has plenty of action to keep your interest. And each fight helps to push the plot along–it’s not just senseless fighting to keep your attention. The action’s good, too. It really keeps you on the edge of your seat and flows well.
  5. Good artwork. The style is inviting–it’s not done in a mode that’s too “girly” or “boyish” (known as shojo for girls, and shonen for boys.) Although classified as shonen, Full Metal appeals to just about anyone. It does have all the typical traits of a shonen manga, like lots of action, male protagonists (Ed and Al,) and camaraderie between male characters; but it also has strong female protagonists, traces of romance, and a camaraderie amongst pretty much all the antagonists, regardless of gender. Because Arakawa adds these other relationships and creates both powerful male and female characters, her manga is capable of creating a connection for both genders-thus appealing to girls as well as guys.
  6. Great villains. The bad guys are so cool. I mean, they’re not good, but they’re kick-ass. I think Envy and Lust are my personal favorites, but they’re all good at playing the enemy. You really are given a great opportunity to get to know their personalities and why they are the way they are. Well…except Gluttony. I’ve got no idea what his deal is. I can’t remember if she goes into his back story or not. But the bad guys are so deep. I don’t want to give out too many spoilers, so I won’t go in depth with all the antagonists, but suffice it to say, some can be just out right creepy when pushed. That’s another element we can give an extra point for. Here we’ve got “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (or monsters in people’s clothing) that make you drop your guard. You even sympathize with them at times, until they reveal their true hideous nature. Even then, the bad guys are fascinating and realistic (aside from, uh, you know, the whole being able to change their bodies and stuff.) You come across psychopaths (like Kimbley, ewho just likes to blow things up) and you come across people like Scar, who are kinda pushed over the edge by all the bad shit happening around him and his people (we’ll lay off Scar and his position in the manga–I again don’t want to give out too many spoilers.)

I can’t say enough how good this manga really is. Seriously, if you’ve got someone you want to become a fan of Japanese comics, this is really a good series to start with. It’s a solid piece that many people can identify with. You can ask just about anyone in the otaku community (huge fans of anything anime or manga, for those of you who don’t speak our language :P)

Death Note

Story by Tsugumi Ohba, art by Takeshi Obata.  I’m kind of odd sometimes when it comes manga. Because I kept seeing Death Note stuff in Hot Topic, I didn’t think I would be interested in the story at all. I just figured it was some Goth or Emo fad (nothing wrong with them, I just don’t do it myself) because of Misa and the creepy Shinigami (Japanese gods of death.) But…I kept seeing kids reading it in Barnes and noble, and all the different pictures of the Shinigami on the binding of the books…plus the cool covers finally got me thinking “ah what the hell, why not give it a go.” I soon found out, this manga was nothing like my preconceived notions. It was amazing. I couldn’t put it down. It was like I caught a fever, and the only cure for it, was more cowbell-er..I mean more Death Note. Hee hee, don’t fear the reaper, right man? I loved it, so much that I even bought the book about the BB killer starring L. I don’t usually buy the books, man, since I like to stick to manga (I do read books, but not manga inspired books usually.) So why do I think this is a good gateway manga? Well, let’s get on with it then.


Light Yagami is a straight A student, and is ranked one of the highest scoring youths in all of Japan. He has a family that loves him, he has great looks and no problem attracting girls (though he’s sworn them off until college so he can focus on his studies,) and a bright future ahead of him. There’s really nothing in life he’s lacking-and yet, he’s completely bored with school and disgusted by the crime and injustice of the world around him.

Ryuk’s a Shinigami who’s bored with his realm. All around he finds stupid, lazy Shinigami enthralled with gambling or gossip. Some of them are too stupid to keep track of how much life they have, and forget to kill humans to extend their own. He’s sick of the lack of purpose and the monotony of the Shinigami Realm, and so decides to take a little trip to earth. The only way to stay there, to my understanding, is for a human to possess their Death Note–the tool by which Shinigami kill humans to consume their remaining life span.

When Light discovers the Death Note, he at first can’t believe it’s real. But soon, he finds he now possesses the power to pass judgment upon all the criminals who seem to be getting away with their crimes. His self-righteous killing spree quickly catches the attention of police throughout the world, and eventually draws the eyes of the greatest detective known to man, a person known only as L. The battle of brains, determination, and justice begins between the God-complex of Kira (Light’s pseudonym given to him by others) and the legendary L.

What’s good about it? Why would this appeal to anyone?

Amazing. Simply amazing. This series keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s one of the best psychological dramas I’ve ever read/seen. I want to make one thing clear–the manga is 100% better than the anime. I watch the anime…but only because I’m trying to get my boyfriend more into manga and anime. He likes the series, so I’m watching it. But having read the manga first, seriously man, the anime is soooo ridiculous at times. Too melodramatic for me. I don’t think they do L justice, either. Sorry, going off on a rant there. I highly suggest reading the manga before watching the anime, because the anime’s okay, but it can be really cheesy at times. Man, I was so excited for it, too. 🙁

Okay, but back to the manga. Why’s it so cool? First off, the main characters are awesome. You’ve got Light who’s preppy, but good looking–and L who’s creepy, but cute. So that’s one thing that helps draw the ladies to this series. I’m sorry, I’m not above having a crush on a drawing -_- . In addition to that, the other characters are über realistic–they could be any police man you know, or a friend of yours. Aside from the Death Note itself, this manga is extremely realistic. It’s set in our time and our world, so we don’t have to dwell too much on the setting. We’re familiar with the setting, and so it doesn’t detract from the story, which is the most important part of the manga. For some books and manga, the story isn’t what’s important–it’s the world or the poetry. Kinda like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or Through the Looking Glass. The story’s great and all, but let’s face it, the main driving force of these tales are the poems within (like “The Jabberwocky” or “The Mouse’s Tale” where the shape of the poem and the play on words are evident) and the imagery created by Carroll’s imagination. Here the plot and the theme is more important than setting-so having a present day story is good for this series.

So what’s the crux of this manga? What’s so incredibly good about it? We’ve got the setting, we’ve got the characters, there’s normal speech throughout, so it’s easy to comprehend. These are good, but they’re not the only thing that make the manga extraordinary. Death Note poses a dilemma that’s still pertinent today: the proverbial “Question of Balance.” Who has the right to pass judgement on others? Who has the right to kill another person, even if that target’s a merciless killer? I don’t want to get into a big debate about the death penalty and whether it’s right or wrong-that’s not my job here. I will say, this is the meat of the story. The whole premise is that one person cannot sit judgement upon the rest of the world. How can one person sit in his High Tower and point a figure at these other people and say “you’re evil, I’m not, you’re dead?” That’s one of the big themes of this–you need a fair trial, even if you’re guilty as sin. Then punishment can be determined–whatever that punishment may be.

But even more so, Death Note has a larger underlying theme: If you had the power to kill and not get caught, would you do it? It’s kinda like the question of the bomb–if you have the power to drop it, in any situation, do you do it? And does having that power change the person you are, or does it rather draw out the beast within? Was that capability always there? Or did having power bring it out of you? Light gets his hands on the death note and becomes delusional. He gains a god complex the size of Manhattan–comparable to Hitler’s (in fact, what he does is mass genocide, whether the people at the receiving end are criminals or not.) Light considers himself to be higher than a saint–he is a god of judgement. But in reality, Near says it’s best. He’s just a killer. He’s not a god, just a psychopath.

*The controller sphere-false priest.*  (See Of Montreal’s “Faberge Falls for Shuggie” on Hissing Fauna are You the Destroyer?)

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This isn’t just a manga. It’s a profile of human nature and the things we’re capable of doing to one another, and how we go about trying to justify our motives and our actions. It’s a social commentary on society and how different people take the sides they choose. Most of all, it shows how being a faceless force, how being anonymous allows us to do things to others without blinking an eye-without having to ever face our enemy personally (at least, until the very end.) Because this manga goes deeper into humanity and our instincts and impulses more than any other I’ve read (besides perhaps Evangelion..that’s pretty f*cked up and deep,) Death Note has the power to draw people in from any back ground. It tackles a subject we’re all aware of–a subject that penetrates our conscience, and delves into human nature. For this reason, it’s not only a great manga that’s been carefully thought out and structured, but also something everyone can relate to, regardless of sex, regardless of race, regardless of social background.

Honestly, this is one of the best, compelling manga’s I’ve read. I highly suggest it to anybody.


Okay, I know I’ve only put two series here, and I know I did three for each of the other topics, but I don’t want to over whelm people. These two are really the “cream of the crop” so to speak, and to any further would just be pointless. However, having said that, if you think there’s a good series I didn’t mention, by all means, start a thread! Leave a comment! I want to hear other people’s opinons on this, too! I love to talk about manga, and if you think I’ve made a mistake and left something important out, or left out a really good series, let me know!

For this post, I’m over and out! Hope you join me again next time!


~The Blue Dragon~

Posted in All You Need to know about Manga, Blog: Cerulean Sessions.

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