Critic’s Log - Earthdate: December 2, 2013. Review #75: Fullmetal Alchemist.
Back in my school days, some of my friends were buzzing about this particular anime. I didn’t understand why at the time and I was into Naruto by then. My tastes were kinda picky for some odd reasons. This was during my stupid brain-dead teenage years. This anime was brought up quite often from some of my friends, but when it came to one of my best friends… it was brought up quite a lot, which is why I am finally going to review this anime phenomenon. Today is one of my best friends’ birthday and for obvious reasons, I won’t disclose the name. This is not the first time I’ve done a special review like this. I have been doing these kind of special reviews in response to a birthday of people I know. Last year on this very day, I reviewed Resident Evil: Degeneration and Princess Mononoke (the latter being requested). The anime I am about to review was not requested to begin with this time. The sole reason I am reviewing this particular anime is to write a form of a “Thank You” note to the person that got me into this anime. Out of all the animes that she has recommended, this was the most recommended at the time and I when I finally watched it for the first time. I felt glad that this was recommended that much. What anime am I talking about? Pfft. That’s a no-brainer. This anime phenomenon I was referring to is none other than Fullmetal Alchemist.
Edward and Alphonse Elric attempt to bring her mother back to life after she passed away from an illness by using the forbidden science of human alchemy. However, alchemy operates on the theory and laws of equivalent exchange, however, the alchemy they are attempting is Human Alchemy and it is a taboo art. Breaking the laws of alchemy with humans comes with a heavy price. Ed loses his leg, and Al loses his body. Ed is able to seal Al's soul inside of a huge suit of armor, at the cost of his arm. Years later, Ed (now with two mechanical limbs) and Al (still trapped in the armor) leave their childhood home, each brother concerned with the other's happiness. Ed, who has a natural talent and skill for alchemy, becomes nationally certified and is soon known everywhere as the "Fullmetal Alchemist." Their true objective is to search for any information on the fabled Philosopher's Stone, hoping it will allow them to regain their old bodies. All of their hopes rest with this mythical stone, which may not even exist at all. Regardless of the situation, they are strongly determined to find the Philosopher’s Stone. But the journey they embark will include hardships.
To be technical, this is a Studio BONES production and some of the design choices were well made in this show. The character designs look good, the backgrounds looks great. The animation itself has a few hiccups and there are some scenes that could have been animated better. This anime was made in the same year as Wolf’s Rain which was another BONES production. Wolf’s Rain looked amazing and it’s too bad that Fullmetal Alchemist couldn’t be like this. However, that is not why Fullmetal Alchemist was such a big hit, the animation is mostly good and it looks a little better in progression and this was made in 2003 after all. If the story, music, and characters are so strong…Animation wouldn’t be a huge deal in the long run but that’s not always the case. Fullmetal Alchemist’s animation is still good.
The music by Michiru Oshima is quite interesting, The soundtrack has some electronic music in it and it even has a little jazz in it too. But it does have a mix of instruments that are used terrifically and the genre used in this soundtrack isn’t really orchestral as it seems to be. There’s a few other genres besides Orchestral that is used in Fullmetal Alchemist. What I will say is that the soundtrack plays a huge part in this anime. If the prologue of the show wasn’t obvious enough, allow me to make this clear to you. This is a very emotional anime and the soundtrack helps this immensely. When the mood is energetic, the music is energetic. When it’s intense, the music’s intense. When it’s sad, the music’s sad. Michiru Oshima’s composition is terrific in this anime and she knows how to make even the music tug on your heartstrings. Fullmetal Alchemist has one of the most emotional soundtracks I have ever heard in an anime. The openings are all great, and the first two closing themes are great. The third closing theme is a nice change of pace and the fourth closing is a little unfitting but okay. If there is one theme I do want to highlight, it has to be the song “Bratja”, which is Russian for Brothers.
You have probably heard this phrase hundreds of times, but symbolically speaking. Music is considered a universal language because it transcends all races regardless of language barrier. The settings do feel European and even though the song is in Russian, it is just a language after all. The song “Bratja” is a very beautiful song. I did say that this anime has one of the most emotional soundtracks in an anime, well this song will give you so many feels. It is a beautiful song, it may make you cry in joy and/or sadness. But either way, you will probably get a lot of feels out of this song as well as the soundtrack.
When voice acting is concerned, The Japanese cast is well casted. Romi Park is great as Edward Elric and Rie Kugimiya is fantastic as Alphonse Elric. Toru Ohkawa was also pretty good as Roy Mustang, Megumi Toyoguchi was great as Winry Rockbell, and Ryotaro Okiayu was terrific as Scar. Noteworthy seiyus include Kenji Utsumi as Major Armstrong, Hidekatsu Shibata as King Bradley, Keiji Fujiwara as Maes Hughes, Yuuko Satou as Lust, Junichi Suwabe as Greed, and Sho Hayami as Frank Archer. As with the English Dub, the cast is a blast from the past and it’s been 8 years since the dub was in the process of being made. Funimation has been consistent with some decent to really good dubs and there are a few dubs from Funimation that I just flat-out hate. Bang Zoom! Entertainment has a few flawless dubs, Cowboy Bebop was one of them, and so were Wolf’s Rain and Paranoia Agent. The dub to Fullmetal Alchemist was solely Funimation and it’s a damn good dub. Don’t get me wrong, the Subtitled Version is fantastic too but the Dub is also really good because Funimation knew that they were working on something huge that they couldn’t screw this up. Now you fangirls know who I am going to talk about, and the fangasms are mostly likely inevitable. Edward Elric is voiced by Vic Mignogna (pronunciation note: the g’s are silent) and this is probably the most interesting casting choice in the dub. Romi Park was in her mid 30’s, Vic Mignogna was in his early 40’s while playing Edward. Since I am a man, it may be difficult for me to understand why this guy is so popular in the dubbed anime fan community. I will give him credit that he doesn’t always get the big roles most of the time yet he loves what he’s doing and I can tell he loves going to conventions. He probably has one of the funnest jobs in the world. However I think he gets way too much attention. Now hold on a damn minute before you start spamming hate mail, combo attacks, and fatalities. I don’t think most of his minor roles stand out as much and there are some roles that are nice surprises. With Fullmetal Alchemist, he nails that performance as Edward Elric.. I can see why a lot of fangirls love Vic Mignogna as a voice actor. it is very likely that it is his greatest role in his career. Hands down. Another nice thing about the dub is that the younger child characters are actually played by children which leads me to Alphonse Elric. Al was played by a 12 year old boy at the time named Aaron Dismuke and he still does voice acting. Aaron Dismuke also was absolutely terrific as Alphonse. Travis Willingham is also great as Roy Mustang but this was one of his roles in his early days but he does play the part well. Caitlin Glass also has a great performance as Winry Rockbell for pulling off her silly moments and even her emotional moments so well. As for Dameon Clarke, he plays his role very well, Noteworthy voices of the dub include Chris Patton as Greed, Christine Auten as Izumi, Chris Sabat as Major Armstrong, Chuck Huber as Shou Tucker, Cindee Mayfield as Dante, Colleen Clickenbeard as Lt. Hawkeye and Rose Ty…*Ahem* Thomas. Ed Blaylock as King Bradley. Juli Erickson as Pinako Rockbell, Laura Bailey as Lust, Sonny Strait as Maes Hughes. Wendy Powell as Envy, Jerry Jewell as Barry the Chopper, and Mike McFarland as Jean Havoc as well as the ADR director of this fantastic dub. Since this was a Funimation dub in the early days, Funimation added some talent outside of Funimation to avoid double billing with the voice actors. There are some that were known for their work on ADV Films which is also in the state of Texas where Funimation resides and this dub managed to get Greg Ayres and Tiffany Grant but not only few from ADV, but they also got a little more outside their talent pool. This dub has Carrie Savage who has been with Funimation before and since, but Funimation also got Michael Sinterniklaas. Like Carrie Savage, he is part of a number of dubbing companies. If that wasn’t enough. Johnny Yong Bosch is in this show for one episode and that was a real treat. Hell, the dub even has Scott McNeil and this awesome Canadien was Hohenheim. However, the most surprising role in this entire dub is Monica Rial. Her part in this show is phenomenal and outstanding. Casting voices outside of a company’s talent roster is not an easy thing to do, but Funimation managed to pull it off. This dub is a miracle and even though it’s not performed in a top professional manner, from what I can guess… Funimation’s intent was probably to give the dub a natural feel and they damn well succeeded in that. Mike McFarland’s ADR Direction is superb in this one, the only issues I can see is some translation differences from the original Japanese. For example, Ishval was called “Ishbal” in the dub. But in the long run, these translation differences are not something to get worked up about.
One of the most key factors that made this show such a hit are the characters. Edward and Alphonse are such strong characters in this anime. These two brothers are the most important in the story. Roy Mustang is also a great character and his backstory is interesting. Scar is another character that is interesting to stick along to. Then of course we have Winry Rockbell who is a great supporting character, especially her kindness and care towards the Elric Brothers. I will say that there is so much to this show that I find it difficult to talk about the characters. There are so many different kinds of characters that it’s hard to make the topic short. Maes Hughes is an awesome character, especially for the love of his family and his friends. Lt. Hawkeye is a nice contrast to Roy Mustang. Mustang’s subordinates are great. and Alex Louis Armstrong is fabulously awesome. Here’s a nice thing about the show, The good guys are not the only group that have “good intentions” Even the Homunculi have some interesting aspects as well. Lust is actually a fascinating character and much different in the manga, Gluttony…is alright. Envy is mostly hated in this show and Envy was written that way. Greed is awesome for the most part, Sloth’s character kind of doesn’t make any sense, Wrath is annoying, and Pride should’ve been called Wrath. In fact, It feels like they got the two characters mixed up with their names. The way Wrath acts like in this show should’ve been clear that he would be Pride. But oh well. The Main villain in this show is actually written pretty well for the most part…that is until the show is ending. If there is one character that is unfortunately underused is Hohenheim He comes in late in the game but he doesn’t get much development which is kind of a shame to some degree. What makes Fullmetal Alchemist such a hit is not only are the characters written so well, it’s that there are over 30 recurring supporting characters throughout the whole show. the supporting characters support the story and make strong character threads that not many anime could achieve. The Elric Brothers are by far the most important characters and everyone else is part of his journey. What makes the Elric Brothers such captivating characters is their brotherly love and how they are willing to go as far as sacrificing something for the benefit of the other. It is by far the most touching aspect of Fullmetal Alchemist. There is also a great deal with relationships on this show where the show is dealing with family, friendships, relationships, and complicating relationships. it is balanced greatly. But what also hits the mark for the viewer is that not everything is black and white, and what makes this show work so well is that there is a great majority of flawed characters. No one is perfect in this show and that is a very good thing to a fictional story. This anime is very emotional and having the characters not be perfect makes this such an endearing anime. The way the characters interact as well as the bravery they display and the sacrifices they make can really hit the viewers hard. And this is because there is good storytelling in Fullmetal Alchemist.
The story is very memorable as well and what I love so much about Fullmetal Alchemist is its portrayal of the human condition and even though I’ve said enough times that it is a very emotional series. This is an anime that a viewer is given enough time to attach to the character and yet they need to be on guard because there will be some ups and downs. The way this show is constructed is what could make the viewer empathize the character even though they are fictional and you are given enough time to sympathize with them because of what has happened to some of these characters. You will probably get emotional as well if any of the characters get deconstructed whether something bad happens to them or they die. Then the story reconstructs itself after the change that has happened. There is a lot of variety to character as well and these characters are three-dimensional in such a moving story. The reason this show is so big is that it was heavily marketed because Funimation knew they had a big series in their hands and they knew this show would probably be successful. This show is extremely popular and that’s not necessarily a bad thing although the hype can be underwhelming. But there’s no denying that this anime became such a phenomenon in the anime fandom. What this show succeeds on is having a combination of good artwork and animation as best as it could have been, an emotional soundtrack, a great cast of flawed characters, and a moving story that is so touching that viewers can relate to. The show allows the viewer to attach to the character so closely that it makes these characters feel timeless, and that is because of the quality of storytelling. It even tackles themes like family, relationships, life, military, philosophy, and even religion. These are very well synchronized and all the dynamics feel natural and mostly well-balanced. With all the drama, humor, suspense, action, and the twists and turns all involved in this journey. It creates memorable moments that are sometimes unforgettable. However, even with 51 episodes. I do see some flaws with the show that seriously have been overlooked. As touching as the story is, I will say that the first two episodes are terrific, but after that, there were a few episodes that took place before the first two episodes. in a chronological standpoint, it’s a little off. There are some episodes that feel like filler once in a while but they can be enjoyed but despite my nitpicking, there is one major tick I have with the story, and that is “The Other Side of the Gate”. Yes… The Gate. It was built up pretty well but it was revealed near the end of the show and the show as a result was rushed at the end. It wasn’t brought up heavily and it raised a hell of a lot of questions yet the concept behind the Other Side has got to be the most unfitting thing in this anime’s existence, and the fact that it wasn’t explained very well and convoluted everything the show was going for made the series lose its momentum. But surprisingly, it was still emotional regardless. The storytelling isn’t perfect and the ending was acceptable that even Hiromu Arakawa herself approved of. No matter how Fullmetal Alchemist turned out. the fandom to this show is huge and they all have a heart made Fullmetal. The fans love this show because the show looks so good and the story hits hard on the heartstrings because it is so touching and moving and the characters are so timeless that you can relate to these characters, the music also compliments all this very well. This show isn’t perfect, but it tried to be the best it could be. That’s what made this anime so damn beautiful. Most things work out, some don’t. Some good things happen, some bad things happen. Hell, the animation isn’t eye-popping but at least it’s condensed in a good way. There will be strengths to everything and there will be flaws. Personal opinions are just opinions, not fact. Humankind cannot give anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is the first law of equivalent exchange. In those days, fans of the show supported the series with a price… and in return, they were rewarded.
Fullmetal Alchemist is available by Funimation, the Fullmetal Alchemist movie, Conqueror of Shamballa is also available by Funimation, the Fullmetal Alchemist OVA Collection is available by Funimation, the Manga by Hiromu Arakawa is available by Viz Media and I strongly suggest picking this one up if you loved the anime. The series of light novels to Fullmetal Alchemist which seven are part of the series’ universe while the other 3 are novelizations of the Fullmetal Alchemist video games are available by Viz Media, although the first 5 books are available, the last 2 books and the video game novelizations have not made it overseas which is a damn shame. The Fullmetal Alchemist video games were available for the PlayStation 2 but the third Fullmetal Alchemist game was never released overseas. The Fullmetal Alchemist DS game called Dual Sympathy was available for the Nintendo DS. The faithful adaptation remake Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is available by Funimation, The Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood OVA Collection is available by Funimation. The second Fullmetal Alchemist movie The Sacred Star of Milos is also available by Funimation. Hooray! I’m done talking about the extra stuff…
With all that said, Fullmetal Alchemist is a special concoction that manages to ties things well for the most part with a touching and moving story, good animation, a terrific soundtrack, and timeless characters. It does have some chronological issues at the start but at least the stories within them are told well. It does suffer with a rushed ending as well as a momentum dropper thanks to a concept near the end of the show that does not fit in with what this anime was going for. But that’s just one thing that doesn’t work, there are many other things that do work and that’s why Fullmetal Alchemist is such a beloved series.
I give Fullmetal Alchemist a 9.3 out of 10, it is EXCELLENT!
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