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12 February 2010 @ 07:37 pm
My Dear Fandom...  

So, for my AP English class, we were assigned an essay in which we describe and expound upon how reading has influenced/changed our lives... We're allowed to discuss any reading material, so naturally I chose the FMA manga. I have ideas, but I want to brain storm with you all, as well! 

Of course there's the generic 'I have learned of Equivalent Exchange and the value of humanity', but what else? Can we go deeper?

Help is loved! <3

(Deleted comment)
colonel_alquicolonel_alqui on February 13th, 2010 03:59 am (UTC)
Yes! I was thinking of reciting the ingredients, as well, perhaps for my opening statement...

Thank you for your input <3
bakyura.: if that's what it takespleuvoir on February 13th, 2010 02:55 am (UTC)
I remember having to do this in my Themes in Literature class last year. I chose the manga as well. I mainly wrote about how the manga influenced me to start setting goals for myself and move forward. Good luck on writing it! Hopefully these ideas could work out as well.
colonel_alquicolonel_alqui on February 13th, 2010 04:04 am (UTC)
Thank you~
instead of stressed, lies here charmed: | beatrice | all i surveystarsandtildes on February 13th, 2010 02:59 am (UTC)
FMA taught me that just because you don't get along with someone doesn't mean that you still can't look out for them. Roy and Ed or Olivier, or Olivier and "little brother", are really good examples.
colonel_alquicolonel_alqui on February 13th, 2010 04:05 am (UTC)
Oh wow, this hadn't even crossed my mind once, thanks! <3
zeowynda312zeowynda312 on February 13th, 2010 03:20 am (UTC)
Ever since I was 10 years old, I wanted to work in prosthetics. It's something that I built myself up for throughout high school and college. I was getting tunnel vision and nearly forgot why I wanted to do it in the first place.

Winry reminded me.

It's all about giving somebody their life back by allowing them to stand on their own two feet. It's about making a person whole again.

I was also going through rut where I was doing very poorly in my classes because I wasn't really trying all that hard.

Seeing both Winry AND Ed's determination to put aside everything to achieve a dream was like a kick in the pants. I think she said something like "I should be just as serious about the things I believe in." The girl left her HOME and rolled up her sleeves on the slim chance that it might help her friend. What's a few college classes compared to that?

So it reawakened my love for the career that I had chosen for myself, but it also showed me the power of the human spirit and what we can accomplish when we set our minds to it.
colonel_alquicolonel_alqui on February 13th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)
What a beautiful story you have, I'm sure you could write this paper better than me! And this: ...the power of the human spirit and what we can accomplish when we set our minds to it. < Simply amazing.
(no subject) - zeowynda312 on February 14th, 2010 03:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
colonel_alquicolonel_alqui on February 13th, 2010 04:07 am (UTC)
Another brilliant aspect of the series that I hadn't even considered, thank you! :D
angsty lemon uke: [cosplay - russell]wabisuke on February 13th, 2010 04:04 am (UTC)
"all is one ; one is all" - can be applied to life on both the big and small scale and to inner workings of society (and of course, the importance of an individual life). I could elaborate but what'd the fun in that if you're the one taking AP English? (I took that six years ago; actually thought about using FMA for that class too at one point) ;)

everyone took everything else. LOL.
colonel_alquicolonel_alqui on February 13th, 2010 04:11 am (UTC)
Haha, yes! Thank you for the idea, I'll definitely attempt to expand and detail it... <3
(no subject) - wabisuke on February 13th, 2010 04:14 am (UTC) (Expand)
The Devil's handmaidenseraphim_grace on February 13th, 2010 04:47 am (UTC)
what a bizarre question, no seriously, your teacher is trying to make you look at fiction in an argumentally philosophical way and books aren't meant for that,
they are meant to be read and consumed and we do carry things from them with us but i can't say that they change your life, they change our mood or our perspectives and we call that pathos, from which the word sympathy comes

a book is a golden cage of moments that change us on a fundamental level, personally I'd argue the hell out of the assignment, it makes very little sense (not choosing FMA although using something episodic makes things harder to parse because it changes monthly and also it's not finished) but even then you can't say a whole book changed you, it will be the moments in a book, that point where Ed told Rose to stand on her own two feet or when al refuses his body because it's unable to fight,

i recently read the bookthief by Markus Zusak and I say bring it to your teacher and make her read it and say look, this is the way books change people - it's about a girl reading in the air raid shelters in munich in ww2 - books are many things, they are new countries and worlds and people, but they don't influence or change us, moments do, and some of those moments are in books....

☣.セス.☣misoka_strife on February 13th, 2010 06:37 am (UTC)
Is fiction not supposed to be looked at with a philosophical eye? I think you've missed out on a lot of great literature if you just read things and carry the superficial with you.
(no subject) - seraphim_grace on February 13th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - theemdash on February 13th, 2010 02:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - seraphim_grace on February 13th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - wabisuke on February 13th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - seraphim_grace on February 13th, 2010 09:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - terracottabones on February 14th, 2010 07:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
rika24rika24 on February 13th, 2010 07:05 am (UTC)
wow lol, I have a research paper for college comp II and I’m using FMA and its similarity to WWII!
The Devil's handmaiden: bearded oiranseraphim_grace on February 13th, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC)
are you using the movie with it's actually set in prewar germany and the hunt for magical dooberries?

it might not help but the lord of the rings, Sauron is meant to be representative of Nazism, staring across at the worlds (the ring is wagnerian and something completely different) but it means mordor is germany and there are loads of LotR refs in FMA.... might be worth mentioning
(no subject) - rika24 on February 14th, 2010 02:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - theemdash on February 13th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC) (Expand)
bob_fishbob_fish on February 13th, 2010 01:39 pm (UTC)
Resurrecting the dead: really not as fun as you think it's going to be.


Seriously, I've learnt a lot of writing lessons from FMA. Arakawa plots so tightly, and can make even a minor character unique, compelling and lovable with two lines of dialogue. I read her and think wow, that's the way to do it.
ρ ρ fight da powah: [fullmetal alchemist] team mustangimti on February 13th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
Wow, I took two AP English classes (Lang and Lit) and they didn't let us do this kind of thing. Didn't even pass the exams, so I wrote essays for nothing. hahah.

Anyway, the manga influenced me to join JROTC, which resulted in the best high school memories ever. Learned first aid, how to be a leader, made some awesome friends, did some community service, and if I joined from the beginning of my freshmen year, I would have went on to learn about budgeting and other financial responsibilities.

Mustang is my favorite character because he's working towards bettering his country so that future generations can live peaceful and happy lives. I'm not saying FMA is the reason I'm becoming an environmental engineer and reserve officer in the Navy, but it serves as a nice reminder that it's okay to be an idealist despite real world obstacles.
priestess_grrrl: ed_bishie_hairpriestess_grrrl on February 14th, 2010 05:33 am (UTC)
For me, when I dive into a fandom, to say "it changes my life" is really an understatement... it's more like IT EATS MY LIFE! The truth is, Arakawa owns me, plain and simple. ^___^

So the question is really not so much "how FMA changed my life" but why I chose to become a proud member of the Hagaren Nation (my brother called me a "Hagaren-tard" the other day - best one I've heard in a while! LOL). Why does FMA own me so hard? Why does it persistently stay in my list of hardcore fandoms when other things come and go? What is it about it that is so fucking amazingly awesomely cool? What is it that makes most other manga pale in comparison (for me)?

Certain stories resonate with me, I would say because they "speak the language of my soul" in a sense. To me, the themes in FMA are very powerful, and Arakawa portrays them with a depth that IMHO few other mangaka come close to. The hard choices that the characters have to make, the way they fall and fall hard, the way they screw up hardcore but still find a way to keep going somehow... those things really ring true to me as an integral part of the human experience. Life isn't neat and clean; a moral compass isn't that easy to read; things change when you come face to face with death and find out certain truths.

There is a poem that I love by Eamon Grennan, where he talks about how when bees get stuck in the house and try to get out through a window, but come up against the glass over and over again: "...stuck there with all they want just in front of them, they must fling their bodies against the one unalterable law of things — this fact of glass — and can only go on making the sound that tethers their electric fury to what' s impossible, feeling the sting in it" (you can read the whole thing here, scroll down; it's called "Up Against It").

That's so how life IS, you know? And FMA, to me, portrays that so exquisitely. Edward is so much the little bee slamming himself again and again against "the fact of glass"...! Alchemy may be able to work wonders, but Death is final, no matter how much of a genius you are, no matter how many arrays you can work, no matter how much you don't want it to be true. The world isn't going to rearrange itself to suit your purposes, and your ability to rearrange the world is limited, alchemy or no alchemy.

There are terrible, terrible things that happen in the world, and often you can't do anything to stop them and sometimes you even participate in them, willingly or unwillingly. And then what? Life doesn't stop: you still have to find a way to keep going. And you have to make choices, and sacrifices. And that may mean going directly against everything you were told before and everything you believed in that kept you going for so long. This is true for Ed, and Al, and Roy, and Scar, and Izumi, and so many of the characters in FMA.

Most of the stuff they've gone through would have knocked anyone else down a long time ago. But they keep going. Sometimes the only cup they are offered is a bitter brew, and yet, they force themselves to drink it and move on. That, to me, is what real strength is. Not the fact that they can move mountains (which many of them can...!) but the fact that they can face their own demons, no matter how horrible, no matter how terrifying, and keep moving forward. That takes hella courage, and I admire it.

I keep a picture of Edward on my kitchen cabinet, with "Never Give Up" written underneath. It keeps me going on days when I'm like, FML, you know? Sometimes life really sucks, but I'll be like, "Okay, Roy made it through Ishbal; I can make it through this." It's a source of strength and hope for me. Arakawa has done a masterful job IMHO of creating a mirror of our world, where there are forces working against us that are out of our control, but we "pitiful" humans have to find a way to struggle on anyway. The fact of glass isn't going to change. But we can change whether or not we want to keep hurling ourselves against it.

Probably more than you wanted to know, but I get really passionate about my fandoms...! ^___^
mfelizandymfelizandy on February 14th, 2010 05:55 am (UTC)
A plethora of choices...
One thing that fascinates me about FMA is how interdependent the characters and the events are. FMA's characters are at their weakest when they think they've lost their support lines. Roy is the most obvious example, given how he stumbles and almost falls when Hughes is murdered, and his "weakness" is his people. But Riza is the same way--she gives up only when she thinks Roy is dead. She didn't waver even when Wrath was using her life to try and force Roy to open the Gate. Scar is introduced as a lone killer, but he's picked up quite a motley group of followers--one of them even a former State Alchemist!--and gone to great lengths to protect them. Ed and Al rely upon each other as a given--but they also rely on Winry and Pinako, Roy et al., the Briggs contingent, Mei Chan, Scar...in fact, just about everyone they meet. The Elrics do some pretty incredible things even by their world's standards, but in fact, they're the names attached to events that couldn't have happened without a lot of other people behind them. Maybe that's why even the "minor" characters of FMA are so rounded and developed. Denny Broche and Maria Ross come to mind--they don't really have much in the way of "screen time", but they're essential to the development of the larger story. FMA might be named for Ed's title, but it's not the standard "hero story", in which a lone hero or a small group of heroes take on a small group of villians in a world filled with bystanders. The people of Amestris play an active role--even Madame Christmas's girls, the Armstrong family retainers, so many of the lower-ranking soldiers we don't have names for--they all have an impact on how the story plays out. That's rare in fiction.

Interdependence may actually be the factor that finally beats Father, in the end. His line about "Repel each other, Gates!", plus the fact that the homunculi are bits of Father that he separated from himself, hints to me that if Our Heroes reverse the separation and close the gaps--literally and metaphorically--between each other, they might manage to force Father to reintegrate his emotions, thereby defeating him. Arakawa's certainly made it clear in the last few chapters that taking on the bad guys as individuals won't work--witness Mei's solo attack on Father, Ed's attempt to finish off Pride, and Scar's attack on Wrath. At best, Our Heroes can only fight the baddies to a draw--and get beat up in the process. If they were to not only work together but fuse together in some semi-mystical way, though...well, only Hiromu Arakawa knows.

There's also the theme of the physical body reflecting the soul that inhabits it. Alex Armstrong, to take a somewhat humorous example, has an outsized soul and outsized courage that expresses itself in outsized physical and verbal flourishes in an outsized body. Scarred souls collect physical scars--the development of the physical scars doesn't always keep up with the emotional ones (most every major character in FMA is lugging around enough ANGST or potential ANGST to swamp a supertanker), but the bodily scars are dramatic evidence of internal pain. Look at Tim Marcoh's misshapen face, which matches his Ishbal-scarred soul, or the great big scar that gives the Scar of Ishbal his name.

(Went over the character count max, continued next post...)
mfelizandymfelizandy on February 14th, 2010 05:56 am (UTC)
Re: A plethora of choices...
(Continued from previous post--darn that character count limit...)

Scar sees through that scar, literally and metaphorically--the X crosses his physical eyes, and he views the world (at least in the beginning of the timeline) through the prism of the Massacre that put that scar on his face. Maybe that's common in anime/manga, but to my eyes it's an interesting undercurrent. It might be a riff on the theme of equivalent exchange--the wound may close and the muscle recover, but both body and mind pay a price for that recovery. It's definitely a riff on that concept of "get up, and walk forward". Interestingly, though, Arakawa doesn't cast it as a one-shot decision. Alex Armstrong breaks under the strain of the horrors he caused in Ishbal. So does Tim Marcoh. Scar cracks and goes on a murder spree. Ed initially gives up and sits in a wheelchair, just existing until Roy comes along and gives him the idea of becoming a State Alchemist. Any or all of them could have remained in that psychological paralysis for the rest of his life--but someone came along and offered some reason for hope. That's the interdependence appearing again--when one falls, someone else will offer to pick him up--and if he doesn't take the first offer, another will come sooner or later. The choice is made daily, if not every minute, whether to brood over one's wounds or get up, accept that one's soul/body will never be the same as it was, and move on anyway carrying the new scar.

A lot of the "influences" that shape a person, and certainly most of the strongest lessons in literature, are the ones that we don't notice until after the fact. From what I've read, fiction writers are frequently surprised by what readers find in the story and characters. I think that's one of the markers of a good writer--capturing human nature so well that no matter what the external circumstances of the story are, readers can spot themes and meanings that weren't consciously planned by the writer. The strongest themes and "lessons" are the ones that grow naturally, rooted in observation and understanding of oneself and others. It doesn't matter whether or not those others are people you meet in person or people you know only in fiction. What matters is whether or not you can empathize with Roy Mustang, your next-door neighbor, or that person on TV. If he's real enough in your mind that you can feel for (or better, with) him, he can influence you. Your "experience", gained simultaneously from both Roy's perspective as the one craving revenge for Hughes' death and your own as the one watching Roy struggle (and possibly learning something of your own limits as well), is of the strength and weakness of humans when pushed to and beyond their breaking points. FMA teaches that every human can break, that a meaningful life is almost certainly going to leave some scars, that one decides anew whether to stop or keep going every day...and that no one can do any of it alone. Hiromu Arakawa may or may not have meant to put any Large Scale Lessons in FMA--I would guess that she didn't, since those who do set out to impart a Lesson usually make far too big a fuss over it, and like overzealous gardeners, fertilize and water it to death while neglecting the rest of the tasks necessary to produce a meal guests will savor--but she made her characters into real people who act and react in ways we as humans can recognize and understand. No matter how bizarre and unlikely the world and the events that take place in it, as long as the characters touch our human emotions, they will add to our experience of what it is to be human, and thus "influence" us.

Which is, perhaps, the lesson of all fiction, good and bad.
Re: A plethora of choices... - priestess_grrrl on February 14th, 2010 06:25 am (UTC) (Expand)