Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Discrimination in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Elric BrothersI recently started rewatching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and as the series is nearing its end again, I got to thinking about how it handles religion. The show does have some motifs in it that I would consider to be similar to Abrahamic religions—such as the monotheistic faith of Ishvala and Scar wearing a giant cross on his leg during his crusade—but for the most part, I would argue that any of the religions in the story are not representative of certain faiths. It’s hard for me to say whether or not Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has good religious representation, because while the story has numerous religious elements, it’s not all that concerned with exploring or developing its different faiths. Instead, the narrative is much more focused on exploring the realities of and condemning religious discrimination.

Spoilers for the anime below the cut!

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Magical Mondays: The Law of Conservation of Magic and The Legend of Drizzt

Nothing kills a story faster than a flimsy conflict, and in a universe where magic exists, the biggest mistake a writer can fall into is to make magic too easy. It seems paradoxical: after all, the whole point of magic is that it makes the impossible possible, but if magic solves every problem with little or no cost, the story loses its emotional significance. Like all things, magic must have limits, and those limits must be clear and identifiable.

I have become deeply frustrated with a favorite series of mine recently for precisely this reason. R.A. Salvatore’s The Legend of Drizzt is a high fantasy series following in the footsteps of The Lord of the Rings, but incorporating elements of the popular Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game. The first book of the series was originally published in 1988 and the series is ongoing, with more than twenty novels and a dizzying number of spinoffs. The main character, Drizzt, does not use magic all that much, so the very fuzzy and ill-defined limits of magic in this universe started off as a non-issue. Typically, a powerful magical antagonist would appear and Drizzt and his pals would have to defeat the baddie with the power of cleverness and friendship and whatnot. Also, swords.

Literally every modern cover depicts a sword fight. Every. Single. One.

Literally every modern cover depicts Drizzt holding a sword. Every. Single. One.

As the series went on, however, main characters gained magical items, sympathetic magic-users joined the party, and problems started. Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Warrior Priests and Armies of God

Organized religion has a lot in common with the military. They both have a hierarchy of power, snazzy outfits, and ostensibly, a founding interest in protecting others from danger, whether it be physical or spiritual. Sometimes religious folk will make the connection explicit, as with the Jesuit sect within the Catholic Church, which was founded by a military man and whose members are called “Soldiers of God”. Nevertheless, in most cases religion and military forces have very different images and priorities.

Fiction sometimes tends to conflate religion with the military to the extent that they are the same thing. Although many religious leaders have spoken out against the idea that violence is ever necessary, it’s not uncommon to open a book, watch a movie, or read a manga that involves priests or religious folk fighting—for any number of reasons, but in a decidedly physical fashion.

gunslingerAnd I find that unsettling. St. Thomas Aquinas and other “just war” theorists may have argued that war can be justified for certain reasons, but it’s difficult to look at a regiment of crusaders or even just one nun with a gun and really believe that their intent is to bring peace to a troubled land or to protect innocents. Continue reading

Manga Mondays: How Have We Not Talked About FMA Yet?

But seriously, you guys, Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the best and most feminist shounen mangas out there. It was written by Hiromu Arakawa, a wonderful author with a unique style of illustration, and a hero among female mangaka, and the series is clever, and heartbreaking, and funny, and literally everything you want from a manga series.

And I’m not talking about the crappy 2003 anime here. First rule of FMA is we don’t talk about 2003, unless it’s about the music (come on, L’Arc~en~Ciel, AKFG, Porno Graffiti? That shit was good). I’m talking about the manga, or at least the more recent anime adaptation (FMA: Brotherhood).

Fullmetal Alchemist is the story of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, living in the country of Amestris (it’s sort of loosely like 1920s steampunk Germany). The brothers learned alchemy as children, and when their mother passed away, they attempted one of alchemy’s greatest taboos—human transmutation—to bring her back. But alchemy is based on the principle of equivalent exchange: something of equal value must be given for what is received. And nothing is equivalent to a human soul. What they bring back is not their mother, and they pay dearly for the attempt; Ed loses an arm and a leg, and Al loses his entire body, only surviving because Ed binds his soul into a suit of armor. The story picks up on them as teenagers, traveling the country and trying to find a way to get their missing body/body parts back. Ed has taken a commission from the military to be a State Alchemist to help fund his search (they give him the title of Fullmetal Alchemist because of his prosthetic arm and leg, hence the series’s title), but the military complex is corrupt and has a history of asking its alchemists to commit atrocities in the name of the homeland. Ed and Al’s search eventually leads them to rumors of the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary item that, when used, allows the alchemist to bypass the laws of equivalent exchange. But the price of creating a Stone is beyond their wildest nightmares, and the corruption in the military extends further than they can imagine, and is linked to a plot older than the country of Amestris itself.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Howabout a crossover?

I avoid crossover fic like the plague. It just takes so much to be done right, and I have gotten finicky about what I’ll actually spend time reading these days.

So here’s the backstory to the discovery of this fic: When I was about 13, I read all the existing Les Miserables fanfic on the internet. Like literally all of it. A few months ago, I realized that the Archive of Our Own (aka AO3), being a relatively new fanfiction archive, might have untapped Mizzie fanfic for the reading, and I happily wandered over to their Les Mis section.

Imagine my confusion when, amidst all the sad stories of doomed gay revolutionary love, I discovered this title:

“The Host Club’s Refreshing Interdimensional Tour

It… it couldn’t be.

Did they mean… Ouran High School‘s host club?

Oh, yes, they did.

The premise of this beautiful work of staggering beauty: Tamaki, having been unfortunately allowed to watch some sci-fi, decides he wants a time machine. A staggering investment of Ohtori funds later, the club finds themselves with a dimension-hopping vehicle, which they dub “Super-Delicious Strawberry Cake, since no one can think of a good reason to object”.

They visit (among other stories) the Enterprise circa Star Trek TOS, Sunnydale, the Fire Nation, the Andes ofThe Emperor’s New Groove, and Amestris, wreaking havoc and leaving greatness in their wake.

This fic is great for a number of reasons: the characterization is spot-on, making it seem like this is just a lost episode of OHSHC that never aired. The writing is clever and often hilarious, and the situations presented are goofy but perfect. (Honey and Mori fight in the 1832 June Rebellion for the revolutionaries, with whom half-French Tamaki sympathizes extraordinarily, hence why this was tagged in the Les Mis section of AO3.)

Anyway, this fic is perfect and hilarious and you should all go read it now. Find it here at the Archive of Our Own.

Web Crush Wednesdays: Top 10 Fan Videos

Usually for Web Crush Wednesdays I post about a particular site, project, or person, but today we are going to do something different. There are a ton of awesome nerd videos out there and today I’m going to give my TOP 10 favorite videos.


A sexy little video between Batman and Catwoman that captures their relationship better that many big budget Batman movies.


Because there can never be enough raps about how awesome Firefly/Serenity is.


So  raise your glass if you are wrong, in all the right ways!!


You don’t always need your own script or actors to make a good fan video. Sometimes simply the right clips and some good music is enough. “Supernatural bringing you more creepy children. Sigh!”


This is why you don’t piss off the Katamari gods!!


Spike sure has run into some creepy characters. This video actually won for Best Dramatic/Serious AMV at Otakon’s 2010 AMV Contest!


Will the real sugar baby please stand up!?


If this doesn’t make you tear up from Harry Potter nostalgia I don’t know what will.


Darth Vadar plays an accordion! Nuff Said!


I LOVE fake trailers! But this one most of all! It will have you screaming, “Why isn’t this real!”

I hope after seeing these videos you have as much of a web crush on their creators as I do!