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.