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Fullmetal Alchemist

Apr 5, 2010

FMA was one of those superhyped shows, my most anime-savvy friends kept talking about how awesome it was and how great the characters were. They also mentioned that the fights were incredible which made me less interested...

Nonethless I thought I'd give it a whirl and I watched the first half, almost gave up, saw a few more episodes and then I just stopped downloading more.

I guess the only reason I wrote this was because I felt like it. I don't hate it, I'm not gonna rant about how overrated and awful it is because it isn't. It's a great shonen anime. I guess the purpose is to explain why I stopped in the middle of it, while not terribly interesting in itself it's a sharp contrast to all the nines and ten it's received in other reviews. I suppose I wanted to balance the books by having one review not just praising it.


Full Metal Alchemist really had a great premise. Two brothers with a grand mission traveling the country and facing various problems they had to solve to move forward. It largely follows the same structure as Cowboy Bebop with selfcontained episodes while still always moving forward. It's a very typical way of making anime and the creators of FMA does it well.

And it truly is enjoyable for most of the episodes when it's lighthearted adventure and some minor drama. Some of the dramatic episodes are great with good characterisation and fresh concepts. On the other hand the pure drama episodes that are supposed to be mature are just terrible. I really can't stand it when the show suddenly has to tell the viewers how things really work, philosophical monologues is something I hate with a burning passion because it's ALWAYS bad to use pseudo-intellectual blather in a otherwise lighthearted production. Now monologues are almost always bad but they're truly the worst in shows like FMA. The homonculi are of course the worst offenders but they screw up everything they touch.

Also all the talk about character development was of course false, Edward and Alphonse doesn't change in the first 27 episodes. Alph has a mental breakdown after half the show but eventually becomes his usual self again. There is on the other hand character exploration, we get to know more and more stuff about Ed, Alph and the rest but they never change or at least not in ways that matters.

In short, when FMA is fun it's fun times. When it tries to be sprsrs I usually just laugh or sigh at it. It is probably because the show is written for teenagers. This is fact, anime is even in japan mainly for teenagers while manga is for all ages. That FMA also has lots of fights and cool magic drives home the point even more, supernatural martial arts is a pat of shonen shows like Bleach. All this talk about it being a dark, dramatic show is silly. Berserk is for example darker and has a more mature tone, the manga it is based on is not for teenagers. FMA is. It always does its very best to be as dramatic as possible but it always feels juvenile no matter how "dark" the topic is.

But what really pulls down the score is the big event in the middle of the show where Ed has the chance to get hold of a philosopher but because of the consequences decides not to. After this the show basically starts over, it just felt completely meaningless to continue watching when the main character says outright that they now have no clues whatsoever and in other words has to start over. I watched a few more but just gave up, there was no way I could get into it again after such a awful plottwist. The dramatic choice was itself fine but the narrative consequences was just horrible. This is actually the only real problem I have with the show, the rest is because I'm just not very fond of the genre.


FMA is really (I am 100% serious) one of the ugliest animes I have ever seen. Every frame feels like standardised CGI-crap. There is no personality or style whatsoever in the thing, it's truly incredibly generic. The actual animation is on the other hand fine while nothing special. I really don't get what people talk about when they praise the animation.


I do NOT like japanese collegerock so the opening song is by far one of my least favourite ones. The music otherwise is fine and usually fitting but there is nothing that stands out in any way. The voice-actors are also ok, some of them great even. The problem is as usual that some of the characters are given silly voices. Every single homonculi for example sounds like it's supposed to be mysterious and dangerous but to me comes across as dumb. That people have talk in dark, brooding voices whenever there's a dramatic scene is unintenionally hilarious and another teenage thing that the Kingdom Hearts games for example are very fond of. I personally cannot stand it.


There is one character that I like in the entire series and it's Maes Hughes. A proud parent is truly rare in anime. Hughes is just a loveable, carefree guy that I even cared about. And then he dies and the show made me feel nothing. His funeral was pure melodrama which just turned me off and then the show is without even a single character I could care about. While most characters are somewhat sympathetic and are usually well-developed they're not very likeable. I do believe that the problem with the majority of the characters is that they're supposed to be cool. Roy Mustang has a cool haircut, a cool office and always a very stern expression. He is simply one cool dude. Same thing with Edward and Alphonse. They're both very special boys with incredible powers and destined to truly great things. And it's all so boring, there's noone in the show that feels even remotely normal. They're all special agents, sorcerors or merited soldiers. Even Hughes was one but the fact that he had his family made him seem more like a average guy than the rest of the cast. The characters are simply too much.

Then we have the homonculus.

The homonculus always look, talk and behave like they're special. Like they're vastly better than everyone else who has ever lived. I mean they're all semi-immortal and extremely powerful, how cool isn't that? Not very if I'm gonna be honest, every scene with these assholes (especially Lust) makes me cringe because of their overbearing attitude and corny lines. And all their lines are corny, no exceptions. They're the sole reason the score is so low because unlike the rest of the cast their reasons for doing the stuff they do is simply not believable. They're by far the worst antagonists I've ever seen in a anime if not in anything ever.


Despite all the negative stuff I've said about it I did like FMA. It was highly enjoyable when it didn't try to be deep because it really never was. It's a shonen series like Bleach, One Piece and yes, Dragon Ball. If you haven't read Dragon Ball it actually does drama too because it's a vital part of the genre. FMA is the logical step from Naruto, a little more drama and a little less action. It is a great shonen anime but is ultimately nothing more than entertainment, just like how it should be.

I guess my point is that I'm not part of the target demographic. My youngest brother (who is 12) loves FMA and I can see why. My biggest gripe is that some people wants to pretend that it's so much more mature than "kiddie" shows like Naruto even though Naruto has a lot of similar plotpoints. Shonen manga and anime has grown a lot darker since Dragonball but it's still based around awesome characters doing cool things. It's not a show adults generally would appreciate and it's not a adult anime. The drama is too over the top, the dialogue is a bit too pretentious and the characters are all way too cool.

6/10 story
4/10 animation
6/10 sound
5/10 characters
6/10 overall
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skrotkanon Dec 16, 2010

Just for the hell of it, I keep reaming philosophical quandaries in animé and I guess I should explain my reason for it.

As I've said I have nothing against philosophy, in fact I love it. I spend my free time  reading books on it and thinking about majoring in it. There's few things I find as intriguing as philosophy.

But the thing is that these are hard and deep questions that some of historys brightest minds spent their entire lives trying to answer. The meaning of life, death and the immortal soul? Destiny and our role in the universe? The origin of knowledge and the purpose of ethics? Dude, these are not easy questions. The books written on these subjects are solely dedicated to them.

So when animés while trying to tell a story and evolve characters also tries to answer these questions it invariably fails. There simply isn't any time to do them justice. There is also the issue of this being a visual media which means you should never have long droning monologues about ethics and you should NEVER give answers. Now bringing up one of these topics is fine and having characters perhaps discuss them at times is alright but please, no long debates either. I want to be entertained, not tutored. But it is still alright to bring them up and perhaps use them as narrative tools. Perhaps the main theme of the show is about making the right choice when faced with impossible ones? It could be about the inevitability of death and the characters coping with it and perhaps finding meaning with it. This is all fine and can even be great but when the characters start quoting Schopenhauer and giving their view on the futility of altruism it gets inane. Anime-writers have not majored in philosophy and even if there is one or two out there it doesn't fit in a shonen show anyway.

You see the difference? Exploring the question through the show can be awesome, stating your opinion on the subject is obtuse and even rude. Let the viewers think for themselves and come to a conclusion, maybe they'll pick up a book about it even?

In short, I'm just tired of these amateurs shoving their asinine opinions down my throat using hamfisted narrative techniques.

skrotkanon Dec 13, 2010

Oops, sorry about all the "ands". I didn't realise until after I posted it and there's no edit button.

skrotkanon Dec 13, 2010

The problem with the philisophical quandaries isn't that they exist in the show, it's that they are badly done and just a bunch of blather. I do realise this is because the show is aimed at teenagers and as such shouldn't be too heavy but they make the issues no justice and so I just get bored or irritated.

And please, the show is very lighthearted. The running gag about Eds height got old the second time they did it, there's a dude with a machine gun as a arm and a huge body builder with questionable sexual preferences. The show is filled to the brim with hi-jinks and silliness between the serious parts.

And you may have found the thing with Ed and the stone enjoyable, but I didn't. I just couldn't watch anymore when it felt like the show resetted, like I had watched half the show for nothing.

And yeah, I think the animations are boring. It looks like every other anime made in that period. Now it's perfectly acceptable, 4 might have been a bit low but I wouldn't give it higher than a five or six anyway. There's just nothing special about it.

And it is a shonen anime, i.e for teenage boys. There's just no way around this, both the manga and anime is shonen and anyone pretending it's a show for adults is just lying to himself. Now there is nothing wrong with it being a shonen show, it's without a doubt a rather fine one. But it's simply not for me.

And there are animés that aren't over the top, they're usually seinen ones i.e made for manboys between 20 and 30. Cowboy Bebop, Berserk and Texhnolyze all comes to mind. Yeah, they're my favourites and largely because they don't fall into the usual pits animes are so fond of. Scrapped Princess is almost at those shows level too but gets a little too silly at times. Now I'm fine with silly but only certain kinds, like CLAMP silly or GTO silly. It's just a matter of taste.

Britannia Dec 9, 2010

I COMPLETELY disagree with your review, and I shall lay out my reasoning.



First off, wow, what a fail.  You have absolutely no heart if you didn't feel anything at the Maes Hughes Funeral Scene.  I felt that was one of the more well-done sad scenes in anime specifically because it's such a contrast with the show's true darkhorse, Maes Hughes.

The philisophical "pseudo-intellectual blather" fits the show nicely because, in all honesty, if you thought FMA was supposed to be light-hearted, then you're missing the mark.  The light-heartedness only comes about because your main characters are CHILDREN.  Yes, they're idealistic.  They have a different world-view, contrasted by every single adult's cynicism (except Hughes), and it reflects in how mood.  Besides, when you have atonement as your main theme, you're going to get into psychobabble at some point.  If you don't agree, then at least recognize that part of growing up is at least deciding what and how you're going to think.

Character Development doesn't necessarily mean change, though yes, they DO change throughout the show.  Early on, the boys are developed through backstory, which works well because the show starts en medias res and the theme is atonement.  They do change throughout the show.  Their priorities change, the methods of their priorities change.  Their idealism is constantly questioned by every other character (except potentially Winry).  The boys go from wandering around to figuring out how far they're willing to go.  If you missed this, I apologize, it's probably due to you writing a review without actually having finished the show.  The ending of FMA sucked (whereas FMA:Brotherhood is MUCH better), but the second half of FMA shifts to characterization of the Brothers, but also expands to the Homunculi.

You said you stopped when Ed decides to not get the philosopher stone because the "narrative consequences were horrible".  Not only was that decision handled particularly well, but the Brothers quickly get a new bearing which quickly picks up the plot.  While FMA's end sucked, and FMA:Brotherhood's ending was amazing, you're missing out by not watching until the end.



I'll agree with you on the music, the intros were odd, but the tracks themselves were pretty good.  I will have to disagree with the voice actor bit.  I felt the Homunculi's voices were fine, though Gluttony's was weird, but that was intentional.  Lust's voice is quite fitting.  Envy's voice fits the Androgynous character type and is even more creepy for it because it sounds kinda cute even when he (she? lol, I know it's a boy in FMA but it's up for interpretation in FMA:Brotherhood) is talking about murder and genocide.



The animation is also of pretty high calibre.  I know you said it felt like, "standardised CGI-crap", and I just don't understand where you're coming from, at all.  At least they take the time to fully render detail in the background and characters.  The attention to detail is actually what makes it good animation and is a product of your "standardised CGI-crap".  Not quite sure what you mean when you say it doesn't have "personality" or "style".  The animation always follows the mood of the scene.  The dark scenes, like when you find out that Tucker transmuted Nina and Alex together, all have proper shading and rendering.  You need to justify what you mean when you call it bad animation.  It may not be outstanding CGI, but even mediocre CGI is still fairly incredible.  It is most definitely not ugly, sorry, you've got that wrong, good sir.



You're not supposed to identify with anyone other than the Elric Brothers, in all honestly.  You may feel BAD for the Homunculus, but Mustang and friends are supposed to be aloof, because they represent the view of adult cynicysm.  It IS kinda a cheesy attempt to make us believe in the "Magic of Childhood", and believe in the Brothers, but I personally didn't let that interfere with the show.  While it does grate the plot a little, for the most part, it gives you people to identify with, people to look up to, people to feel bad for, Just because not every base is hit with every character isn't a big deal.  You can't expect everyone on the cast to be completely identifiable, that's not realistic.

The Homunculus WERE poorly done in FMA because they have different motivation in FMA:Brotherhood, so when the the original anime broke away from the manga, the author's kinda stumbled around coming up for motivation for the Homunculus.  They failed, miserably, but the characters themselves are pretty good.  I especially like how we began to sympathize with the Homunculus when it was revealed that they're failed human transmutations and Lust's past is explained.



It IS darker than Naruto and other Kiddie animes.  The dialogue is a bit pretentious sometimes, but the overriding themes make up for it ten-fold.  Besides, anime is SUPPOSED to be a little bit over the top.....  I don't think I've seen one that isn't.  Remember, for every anime we have a WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF.  FMA does not exceed the limits of its contents.


Flameking1 Dec 7, 2010

wow i am in episode 25 and i totally agree with your review