When I first heard that a new series of Fullmetal Alchemist was to hit our screens in spring 2009, I admit that I approached it with trepidation. I loved the 2002 version, thought it ended well and, after believing the film had ruined it somewhat, I was praying that a second season wouldn’t besmirch the franchise any further. When I learned that this new anime was a re-telling that actually sticks to the manga’s plot, I was suddenly much more interested.
While initially it’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly comparing the first Fullmetal Alchemist with Brotherhood, when it really picks up, those thoughts soon disappear. Although the earlier part of the series speeds ahead at double the pace of 2002 – putting into ten episodes what FMA draws out for twenty-five – the plotline itself is far from hurried. Instead, Brotherhood finds the perfect balance of action-packed instalments with slower sections to develop the narrative. Certainly, the Nina arc in 2002 feels more fully fleshed-out, twice as disturbing, and far more heartbreaking, and yes, in contrast it seems rushed in this new incarnation. So, while I missed that chance to cry like a little girl, in the grand scheme of things that one event becomes much less important than everything else that follows, and it would have been to the detriment of later events had that arc been stretched out any longer.
However, what really gets your knickers wet with excitement is the developing narrative and its accompanying action. The show chops out all of the extraneous fluff (albeit good fluff) that the first series had and not only links together the individual plot threads, but expands its scope to cover more of Amestris’ territory and beyond, thus developing the world further and emphasising the horrific threat posed by the homunculi. Alongside this comes an assortment of arse-kickingly awesome fights. Brotherhood doesn’t hold back and really packs its punches with far more brutal violence than its predecessor. Blood splatters from every direction, people get impaled, sliced, shot in the head, and burned to a crisp – all in gloriously animated detail. While not excessively gory or sadistic, this unsubdued approach to fighting makes each battle all the more exciting to watch, while adding a contextual sense of realism. This all results in a story that feels so damn epic you’ll be watching episodes in the thirties thinking that it can’t get any better… until you get to the forties… and then the fifties…
My only minor quibbles with Brotherhood’s plot stem from two things. Firstly comes the somewhat unnecessary re-cap with Hohenheim sitting around a fire re-counting the various events thus far in episode twenty seven. Such episodes generally feel rather pointless (unless the audience is particularly dense or the narrative ridiculously convoluted), but aside from that, they also ruin the show’s pacing. Secondly, is that due to skipping the Youswell coalmines arc, Yoki’s presence seems somewhat downplayed. While the incident receives vague explanation in the form of flashback, and sure he’s not a major character, it would have been better to dedicate an episode to this arc and make more sense of his existence within the plot – heck, it would have been a much better use of twenty-four minutes than the summary.
Brotherhood must have had a rather large production budget, as the animation is sumptuous and at times literally breathtaking. Smooth movement and nicely detailed backgrounds complete with an almost painterly texture effect make the series truly pleasurable to watch. When it comes to action sequences, there are no cutting corners with cheesy action lines, or ‘epic still shotz of awesomez’. No, instead Ed, Al and the gang jump, hop, and dash across the screen with a veritable eyegasm of dust clouds at every rock fall and sparks flying as metal clashes against (full) metal.
In the same manner as the rest of the visuals, Bones does a glorious job of animating blood. One particularly striking shot shows a tear falling onto a drop of the carmine liquid on Lin’s cheek, and the subtlety showing the two fluids merge, with the crimson tone watering down ever so slightly, is simply dazzling. From jets projecting themselves across the screen as characters are slashed by swords, to a large pool gradually oozing from beneath a fallen corpse, as much care has gone into these details as into Ed’s rapid fighting movements.
Accompanying the beautiful animation and kick-ass plotline comes a gorgeous orchestral soundtrack with brass notes through to softer string melodies reflecting the series’ wide variety of moods. While choral tracks – courtesy of the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir – enhance the haunting nature or dramatic revelations of certain scenes, tribal tones add an extra pace to busier action sequences to fully round out an altogether stunning soundtrack.
Brotherhood’s voice actors provide superb performances all around with each seiyuu capturing their character’s personality and mood exceptionally well. Sure I could knock off a mark for cheesy commercial bumper guy whose annoying voice belts out ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ week after week, but it’d be like saying the best day of your life was ruined by having to take a leak at lunchtime.
Fullmetal Alchemist has always boasted two of the strongest protagonists in any anime or manga. Ed has a lot of the stereotypical heroic qualities, such as immense power, a hot head and a rash attitude, which could work against him, except he counteracts these with visible weaknesses. He tries to act tough but gives in to fear and despair, and he has a very short fuse when it comes to his height complex – something that not only highlights his imperfections, but also provides a lot of the comedic content. On top of this, the fullmetal boy goes on a massive learning curve as he finds out the truth behind everything he thought he knew, maturing with each new and horrific revelation. He doesn’t glorify or try to skip over his past actions; instead he attempts to atone for his sins without having others pay for his mistake, all of which makes him more compelling to watch than a vapid hero vowing to save the world.
In the same vein, Al could easily fall into the trap of becoming “the nice one”; he’s generous, kind, patient and likes small animals – doesn’t sound too interesting when you put it like that, does he? However, he has one massive metallic reason for avoiding this pitfall: his lack of physical body. Spending his life as a soul in an empty suit of armour gives the young boy a melancholy that makes him so much more intriguing. Suddenly, all of his positive attributes seem brave, and if he does break down, or show weakness or anger, it becomes all the more powerful.
While Ed and Al could carry the story themselves, the show’s supporting characters prove just as memorable as its protagonists. For an anime boasting such a large overall cast, Brotherhood develops its varied individuals exceptionally well; in particular, the fact that the Elric brothers aren’t the only heroes certainly helps this. A lot of the biggest battles are either joint efforts, with multiple allies ganging up on their foe, or permits one of the secondary characters to momentarily claim the limelight for themselves. With multi-faceted personalities, no one feels flat, dull, or a waste of the space they take up on screen. Allowing for plenty of evolution in both its protagonists and antagonists, the series accords reasonable motive behind everyone’s actions, which ultimately makes the audience care and certain deaths all the more poignant – whether through genuine upset (and full on gushing waterfalls of tears) at a fatality or the shock that you actually feel a upset at a bad guy’s demise.
I’d love nothing more than to just yell “WATCH IT, WATCH IT NOW! STOP SCRATCHING YOUR BUTT AND PRESS PLAY!” over and over for a thirteen hundred words, but as a reviewer, you must try to suppress your inner fanboy/fangirl for fear of over-rating a show purely because you love it. As such, dishing out a high overall score is not an easy undertaking, but Brotherhood genuinely deserves this praise. Overall, it provides a little over twenty-five and a half hours worth of pant-wettingly epic entertainment. With a gripping plot, consistently glorious animation, a beautiful and befitting orchestral soundtrack, and a full, well-rounded cast, this anime remains one of the best series that I have seen to date, and I’m pretty certain that it’ll be a long time before I see anything this good again.
Shounen anime tend to be like Kraft cheese singles; they taste delicious when you are young, but as you get older you realize they are actually awful and have too much filler. I kind of miss the days when I could watch Naruto and enjoy it, but there are only so many meandering, waste-of-time 100 episode wankoffs that a person can reasonably enjoy before they become completely jaded. Have you read my sappy, cloying review of One Piece? I actually hate that show now.
Given this, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is something of a miracle. Unlike 99% of shounen anime (including the original Fullmetal Alchemist), this series just doesn't fuck around. FMA:B almost relentlessly pursues its (amazing!) plot, only briefly pausing for when characterization is needed.
Many anime these days are criticized for being "dark" but relatively brainless. FMA:B bucks this trend nicely by having a story that is not only thoroughly entertaining on a visceral level, but thought-provoking as well. There are two major themes at work here. The first is apparent, with the anime all but telling it to you episode one: the concept that nothing in life comes for free; that every perceived gain requires a sacrifice of some kind. A leap of faith is required here; throughout the show, characters appear to be ignoring this stated rule, willfully violating the laws of entropy. But taken at arm's length, this is a powerful theme that drives the show's narrative. There is an underlying sense that the forces of idealism are being weakened, attacked, and even defeated by the unfeeling laws of the universe. The second theme is less obvious, but equally potent. It deals with human hubris; the idea that mankind overestimates its ability and worth in the universe. Striving to obtain more power than we deserve, we pay a terrible price in the name of progress.
The series isn't perfect, but complaints that come to mind (a bad first episode, some annoying side characters, bad OP/EDs) are pretty much nitpicks in what is as a whole a remarkably consistent and rewarding watch. It says a lot that I couldn't stand the original series (it suffers from the same filler overload of a typical shounen show), but loved this one. All told, FMA:B is perhaps the closest thing to a series I would literally recommend to every anime fan.
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is a 64 episode adventure action anime, a remake of a very popular anime, featuring some very interesting sci-fi-esque themes of Alchemy. I normally struggle with long anime and avoid them, but having watched the first and enjoyed it, this is an exception. This review might as well be obsolete for various reasons, nonetheless I’ll go ahead with it as usual. I’m a bit confused as to the existence of this anime of course, while there have been anime remakes, usually the remakes are made at least a decade or so after the original version. Brotherhood released only 5/6 years after the original, so what could warrant a remake so soon? One word: manga. Of course I don’t read manga, but I know that the manga deviated from the main plotline of the original FMA quite a bit and added much more, so this is based on that. Needless to say, this is regarded as one of the best, (if not the best) anime of all time by many and even folks who normally don’t like or watch anime love this. So the question is why?
Being made in 2009, the animation of Brotherhood has no doubt improved vastly over the original due to time alone. The quality excels and I found it in juicy 1080p. In some scenes this upgrade in quality is very obvious and in a few other scenes the 1080p version looks no different from the 720p version. The outlines are very well defined with no strange fuzziness and I didn’t notice many visual artifacts, though quality dropped with distance rather noticeably, the style usually fixed this however. The backgrounds were well detailed and the colouration of the characters was solid. Most of all I was impressed by the motion. There are quite a lot of action scenes in this anime, the intro is one such example and boy does it flow so well and look so good. No skimping on framerate here!
The style remains the same style as the original FMA, which is a good thing. The FMA style is actually rather unique and one that some argue is unlike most other anime. Some folks have even said that FMA is the least ‘anime’ of all anime, which I don’t fully agree with, but I can understand why one would think that. The character designs are very distinctive, even characters that might seem familiar don’t have any look-alikes in anime. Of course with such a large cast, there eventually had to be an overlap, Trisha Elric and Chesca seem to have some more familiar designs. This anime also makes good use of simplification and facial expressions, it seems to have a trademark simple ‘icon’ for both of the main characters. This was also used in the original series. There is also the shot designs and use of camera angles, in earlier episodes I noticed purposeful splitting of the screen, showing two parts of the scene at the same time. I’d give more examples, but I must move on. The style mostly remains the same as the original bar some interesting new use of cinematography.
This being FMA, there is zero fan-service or ecchi and they seem to have improved it even more, as if that was possible. Winry’s design and dimensions are dynamic and actually much more appropriate because of it. There’s none of that strangely large cleavage we saw in one of the outro to the original. The character design of lust seems to be improved, she seems to be a bit sexier which is appreciated and rather fitting. ‘Hey but you said there’s no fan-service,’ I hear you but this isn’t fan-service, ecchi is depicted an altogether different manner with a different purpose. A sexy character is just a sexy character, no need to use panty shots and awkward camera angles to show it. And here’ I’ve gone off on a tangent on something has never been a part of the FMA series, thus I apologise.
Since a very long time, I’ve had the OST for this anime. It was one of the earliest ones I got and I did so after hearing one of the opening themes ‘Period’ by the band Chemistry on a YT video. Needless to say the music is supreme here, all of the intros/outro are pleasant and some are more awesome. The background music for the anime is also just as good, the sound design is on point. It’s a lot of orchestral pieces and some comedic tunes (heck I need to find out what it’s called or come up with a name for that musical genre) where appropriate. There’s a good mix of sound, which is appropriate for this anime.
This anime is available in both English and Japanese, but I will say that the English audio is more definitive for this anime for a variety of reasons. I’ll quickly get off my chest first that I loathe the voice of Rie Kugimiya, the Japanese voice of Alphonse Elric here and her voice is reason alone to put me off the Japanese version of some anime. It’s personal preference, I can’t help but associate her voice with some of my most hated anime characters (which she has voiced). The more legitimate reason is that both of the Elric brothers (who have female VAs in the Japanese version) sound much more genuine and believable in the English version, they sound a bit too young and ever so slightly feminine at times in the Japanese version (Al’s English VA is experienced in voicing male child characters and is thus pretty damn good at it). This is especially unsuitable for Edward who is a teenager and ages a bit too.
Another reason is that this anime has very little to do with Japan or Japanese culture, it’s almost the least ‘Japanese anime’ of all anime and I heard that from someone else (a person who claims to dislike anime in general) first. Most of the names are western names, with few exceptions for first names like ‘Izumi’ Curtiss, ‘Pinako’ Rockbell, ‘Yoki’ and such. Japanese voice actors have trouble with the Western names, heck the English voice actors do a decent job at pronouncing the more ‘Japanese’ names. Probably the biggest thing of all is that the anime seems very English oriented, there is no in-game Japanese text: the signs, letter and writing, it’s all English with the exception of a few ‘comic-book-style’ sound effects that use Kana. Which is a mark down actually, as this is an anime and not a manga, there is sound available for sound effects, visualisation of the sound effects is arguably unnecessary. That said, it does add to the visual style, but this anime isn’t going for a manga style (despite being a manga adaptation). Of course, the English voices are also just very good, Kent William’s voice was perfect for the narration sequences.
Funny thing is, when I started watched this I had a discussion with someone else who watched it in Japanese and preferred it Japanese. We had a nice conversation and we were tolerant and understanding of each other’s opinions. Strangely enough, they mentioned that they preferred the English for Dragonball Z and Sailor Moon (never watched it, never will), which might be a bit more suitable for Japanese IMO, but okay. Moral of the story is, don’t be a dick about your preferences and you might get something pleasant out of it, like a nice conversation about anime.
Since there’s an awful lot of characters, I won’t go into detail on the roles besides the two main ones. Edward Elric is voiced by Vic Mignogna, he voices Yukito Kunisaki/Sora in Air, Erd Gin in Attack on Titan, Broly in Dragon Ball Z, Edward Elric in the original FMA, Shigeru Aoba in Evangelion, Fay D. Flourite in Tsubasa Chronicle and Ryouta Iijima in Yumekui Merry. Alphonse Elric is voiced by Maxey Whitehead, she has voiced Czeslaw Meyer in Attack on Titan, Maki in Darker than Black, Antonio in Romeo X Juliet, Crona in Soul Eater and a few other characters. The other characters: Caitlin Glass as Winry Rockbell, Travis Willingham as Roy Mustang, Ed Blaylock as Fuhrer Bradley, J. Michael Tatum as Scar, Colleen Clinkenbeard as Riza Hawkeye/Rose Thomas, Christopher R. Sabat as Alex Louise Armstrong, Stephanie Young as Olivier Mira Armstrong, John Swaysey as Van Hohenheim, Mike Farland as Jean Havoc, Sonny Strait as Maes Hughes, Meredith Mauldin as Maria Ross, Kevin M. Connolly as Kain Fuery, Jeremy Inman as Heymans Breda, Kyle Herbert as Vato Falman, Laura Bailey as Lust, Chris Cason as Gluttony, Wendy Powell as Envy, Chris Patton/Troy Baker as Greed, Brittney Karbowski as Selim Bradley, Todd Haberkorn as Ling Yao, Trina Nishimura as Lan Fan, Kenny Green as Fu, Monica Rial as May Chang, Kent Williams as Narrator/Father, R. Bruce Elliot as Dr. Knox, Jerry Russell as Tim Marcoh, Jerry Jewell as Barry the Chopper… and I some of those folks reprise their roles from the original FMA. Goddamn there’s so many characters…
...Yeah, I don’t have the time or word limit to write about the vast number of characters here. I’ll summarise the changes and such for those who’ve watched the original.
Edward and Alphonse are the Elric Brothers, two brothers who committed the ultimate taboo of human alchemy, in an attempt to bring their mother back to life. Failure left Al without a body and Ed without his right arm and left leg. Since then, Edward has been able to perform Alchemy without a circle, by merely clapping his hands together. The two brothers are looking for the philosopher’s stone in an attempt to try and get their bodies back. The closest thing they have to family is their childhood friend Winry Rockbell and Pinako Rockbelle who took the boys in after their mother died. Ed hates their father for leaving them without saying a word and not being there for them in their time of need.
For the most part, most of these characters are the same as in the original 2003 anime. There have been quite a few omitted characters, due to plot, which I will list: Lyra, the original Sloth, the original Wrath, Dante and the Tringham (fake Elric) brothers. There are a whole lot of new characters here, including: the characters from Xing (Ling Yao, Lan Fan, Fu and May Chang), some military characters (the Chimeras, Dr. Knox, Lt. Gen. Raven), Alex Armstrong’s older sister Olivier Mira Armstrong and her soldiers at Briggs in the north, the new Homunculi (Sloth, kinda Pride and kinda Greed) and a whole lot of other characters. One of these new characters is also a major role and I’ve not listed due to spoilers.
One significant addition to the cast is General Olivier Mira Armstrong, the older sister of Alex Louise Armstrong. Not only does she hold a higher rank than her younger brother, she looks like a regular woman (like their younger sister Catherine Elle Armstrong) and her personality couldn’t be more the opposite to her brother’s. Olivier is a cold-hearted woman, who laughs in the face of adversity and her anger knows no bounds. She has trained her soldiers very well to the point where they can operate without her orders and she cares not for the politics of central, all she wants is to maintain Fort Briggs’s reputation (has never been captured) and prevent any northern invaders from getting into Amestris. While her brother is gentle and likes hugs, she wouldn’t hesitate to torture children or kill anyone who gets in her way. Like Mustang, she also desires power and the throne.
Onto some changed characters, some characters have a more pronounced role, including Barry the Chopper, Tim Marcoh, Yoki, Selim Bradley, while other characters have a reduced role, including my favourite Maes Hughes, Greed, Sheska (I thought her name was spelt Cesca?), Shou Tucker, Lust and a few others. In some cases, characters die much quicker or just die (that character didn’t die in the original) compared to the original.
Among the most changed characters are the Homunculi [SPOILERS for original FMA]. I will spoil the original since I’d expect folks to have watched it first. The Homunculi are no longer created by human alchemy, which explains why some of them are absent. Their creation is mostly unknown, though one method of Homunculus creation is shown. Tying into this, the homunculi require one thing (which I won’t spoil) in order to be created and they can devour each other to gain strength and powers. Thus they no longer have a weakness from their ‘remains.’ Some of the Homunculi have alternate forms, one of them even has 3 forms (the ‘real’ true form). The designations for the Homunculi have been changed a bit, especially as some of the original Homunculi don’t exist. Wrath and Pride are kinda switched, except a ‘new’ homunculus is designated Pride. Sloth is now a big brute. Perhaps most interesting of all is that to balance the lack of weakness, the Homunculi are no longer truly immortal and can be killed, albeit with extreme difficulty. I guess that’s better than being completely invincible. Of course the most plot-relevant change is their objective and where the allegiances of these homunculi lie, especially since Dante doesn’t exist. A bit of trivia, the original Wrath is now the ‘Truth’ figure at the gate of truth, even retaining the same voice actor.
The plot is set in a fictional world in the relatively young country of Amestris. Amestris is divided up into 5 large regions, each with their own main city named after the region itself: North, West, East, South and the capital Central. The recently annexed province of Ishval to the east of the country was the latest in a long line of war waged for the nation’s expansion. Amestris is a military state known for its unique science of Alchemy, said to have been brought by the country’s very founders from the east. This alchemy is very practical and militarised, talented alchemists can gain the title of State Alchemist, awarded an income of research funds and a military rank equivalent to Major. On the border of the country’s snowy and mountainous north is the giant nation of Drachma, held back by the infallible Fort Briggs, a massive wall blocking the only path into Amestris. To the south west lies the nation of Creta, Aerugo to the south and a vast desert to the east. The desert was once the prosperous and magnificent nation of Xerxes, which was said to have been mysteriously wiped out in a day. Beyond the desert lies the oriental land of imperial Xing (like real world China). The Xingese emperor rules over the 50 clans that compose the country, the daughter of each clan’s chief making up his 50 wives and each bearing a single heir. The heirs to these clans vie for the throne and wish to gain the emperor’s favour. Xing is known for their unique culture of martial fighters and medical equivalent of Alchemy known as Akahestry, knowledge of which originated from a golden man known as the western sage, many hundreds of years ago. Our story starts in the year 1914, where State Alchemist Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse are on the search for the elusive philosopher’s stone to regain their bodies.
That was just a taste of the entended lore that this remake version of FMA offers over the original, but its plot is not without its flaws. The first 15 or so episodes remain faithful to the original series, but the pace is sped up considerably and much is missed out, such as the events at Youswell. Granted much of the omissions were of filler content, the plot here remains strictly on track but after those episodes, the plot diverges from the original. At times things go unexplained, there seemed to be a few too many conveniences and contrivances, some events are rearranged and certain characters appear much earlier. As a fan of the original, I was initially disappointed.
But with very little filler and fast pace, the story quickly got to the interesting new content. After those early episodes, the plot shrugs off the original anime and goes off in its own direction. It remains on point, full of action, tension, twists and turns. At times it even appears to purposely hint at thing, which leads to viewers jumping to predictions. Except it isn’t predictable at all, it’s ingeniously written. Beyond the simple changes in story, we are given so much more background on a lot of events. These events include the origins of Hohenheim, the short time he spent with his family, the Ishval war, some background on characters like Mustang and Hawkeye and so much more like the geography of the country, to which I’ve given a taster above. The plot here is rich and improves much over the original. Among the few omissions was the historic real world parallel universe that was seen at the end of the original and in the sequel movie. Like the original, meaningful character deaths are present and with more characters… it can only mean more death, right?
The story goes more place than the original ever did, the Elric brother’s travels take them all over the country and it doesn’t just follow the Elric brothers. Various groups of characters are followed throughout for a more diverse plot, it feels almost like Game of Thrones in that regard. But best of all are my favourite plot-elements: foreshadowing and passage-of-time. The first is self-explanatory, earlier episodes refer to and give clues to later events. But the second mean that the story covers a long period of time. From the death of Trisha Elric in 1904, to the early block of episodes in 1914 and beyond, time passes. In the original, this was only evident by a few younger characters like Elicia Hughes. Here, we see the visual changes and aging of our main characters, Edward and Winry. Winry in particular can be seen going through the transition from child to adult and similarly with Ed. There’s even a period in the anime where a few months pass for things to occur.
Perhaps the best part of this anime was the end, even though it didn’t quite have the impact that the original did on me (I felt like the happiest man in the world, granted my current situation is not as pleasant as the setting in which I watched the original). Everything is wrapped up neatly, zero loose ends and little chance for a sequel given certain occurrences and how conclusive it was. Perhaps only one groups of characters are absent from the final wrap-up episode, but we at least hear about them. The final lasting image of the anime is one that is capable of putting a smile on the viewer’s face. And with this… I don’t know how on earth the 2011 movie will fit in?
There are so many big themes in this anime, I recommend checking out my review of the original for some extra. Perhaps most of all is the question of what it means to be human and the qualities we possess. It even asks about god itself, religious characters get questioned and there are similarities to real life. This anime can make people think. The Elric brother’s morality of murder is taken even further here. It didn’t quite have the final message about equivalent exchange like the original did, that message was lost, but it was still good.
As a fan of the original, I was initially disappointed by how fast it went and about all the things omitted in this remake, but this ended up growing on me and I realise why people like it better that the original. It has much more to offer, it’s more to the point and the story is more intense. Sure my favourite character didn’t get as much screen time, but the gain for that small loss was much more. This seems to me like an anime almost anyone can enjoy, thus I recommend it to all, even those people who don’t like anime. Though I do recommend you watch the original first. This is how a remake of something should be, the creators here, while admittedly keeping to the content of the manga, weren’t afraid to try something completely new with this setting, story and characters. This anime isn’t really a remake, it’s more of a reboot. And goddamn is it good, it manages to remain faithful to the original in many aspects while giving viewers something completely new. No need to worry about wasting time watching something you’ve already watched. This is a whole new anime compared to the 2003 original and I hope other anime try something similar with their remakes.
Family-friendliness Rating: 3/5 Absurd amounts of blood, violence and disturbing themes (lower is better)
Overall Rating: 10/10 (higher is better)
Whenever I sit and think of what my favorite anime is, the first thing that comes to mind is: FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. With it's complex story unlike any I'd ever seen before or will ever see again, fantastic concept, amazing characters... I could list every single thing that makes this show the cream of the crop, the creme de la creme, but it would take me far longer than this review would allow to do so. The show is action packed and deep, bringing things to anime that I have yet to see again. I would recommend you go watch it now. Seriously. Go watch it. Why bother reading about it when you could just enjoy it RIGHT NOW?
Alright, alright, I'll stick to the review for now.
Full Metal Alchemist, as a series, has an incredible story. Brotherhood adds length, and new content that wasn't there in the original show that makes this even deeper than the first.
The story revolves around two brother's Edward Elric and Alphonse Elric, the former being rather impatient and the latter being absolutely adorable. THe two of them are trying to atone for their past mistake of 'playing God' and attempting to raise their deceased mother from the dead by having their missing body parts returned to him. In Al's case, it was his entire body, leaving him as a soul bound to a suit of armor, and in Ed's case, an arm and a leg I which are replaced with metal automail.(Hence the name Full Metal Alchemist.) The two brothers work as alchemists for the military, and search constantly for the Philosopher's Stone, the one object that may be able to turn them back to their original forms and restore their bodies. The main antagonists of the series is a group of humanoid super-powered beings of unknown origin known as humanculi. The homunculi are named after the seven deadly sins (greed, gluttony, sloth, wrath, lust, pride, and envy.)
This brings up a lot of Religious symbolism, which the show is rich with. In fact, Full Metal Alchemist is the deepest show I've seen when it comes to symbolism. There's some for religion, sin, and human nature along with copious other instences of things that will make a viewer truly think about what the characters, and the story are saying.
All in all, it's a deep show with a fantastic story, and some fitting plot twists that are unexpected yet fit the story perfectly. The story is fantastic. I have yet to see a deeper, better story in an anime. EVER.
The animation is lovely. Characters are well designed, and the colors are fitting for what the series is. They aren't dulled down to the point where one has no idea what's going on, but they aren't exceptionally bright to the point where it would be ridiculous in such a dark show.
This is one of the few series I would highly recommend you watch in dubbed. The characters are voliced by a fitting fabulous cast that truly becomes who they're trying to portray.
The music fits in every scene. The opening song is one of the most memorable songs from any anime I've ever seen.
Because I could go on and on for hours about the amazing characters in this series, I'll just focus on the main two characters of the show, and write a breif paragraph to describe the rest of them simply.
Edward Elric: The older(and shorter!) Elric brother. He's impatient, rude, and his temper can have substantial outbursts. He's also an incredibly intellegent character, becoming a state alchemist at the age of 12. 12! Beyond his impatience, he's a character that has a good conscience that hates to kill anyone unless he is forced to. While he can be kind, he is logical, making him far, far more intellegent than most anime protaginists, a very admirable quality. He has an auto-mail arm and leg due to an accident in a failed transmutation.
Alphonse Elric: The younger Elric brother, who mostly through the series is portrayed as a large suit of armor. He's adorable compared to Ed, more innocent and kinder. He's a gentle spirit, and he's a great foil for Ed in the series(both physically and personality wise)
Secondary characters include Roy Mustang, Ed's funny, smart, fire using, womanizing(sort of) boss and his team, the humonculi who act like the sins they're named after, the furer, Ling, Mei, and of course the other state alchemists(some good and some bad). The absolute funniest has to be Alex Louis Armstrong. Because sparkles are manly.
Watch it. Right now.
No seriously, RIGHT NOW.
The king is dead. Long live the king!
I never imagined saying that about one of my tops in a span of less than 10 years, much less for a remake. Yet life is full of surprises and behold, I now have this ranking exactly where the previous version stood.
If you happen to be paying attention to remakes, you may notice that most of the times they feel inferior to the original series. The feeling of excitement is not there because you already know the story. Yet, in this situation we had not JUST a remake but a far more close to identical adaptation to the source material, which is of course a manga. You see, the first series was made when the story was still mid-way and thus had to resolve to an original timeline, which ended up having no relation to the manga. Not a bad thing if it’s done right. It could always stop when it covered all the material at the time, or it could turn to the usual solution all milking fighting shounen run off to at the drop of a hat. Killers Fillers, the dreadful monsters that murdered Rurouni Kenshin, Inu Yasha, D Grey Man and turned all the others from Viagra to sleeping pills. Well, the first series wasn’t that purist but all things considered it had a pacing than made all action/adventure anime up to that moment to look like retarded snails crawling on our faces, covering us with disgusting saliva and still claiming to be entertaining.
Anyways, if I could describe the main differences between FMA (henceforth A) and FMAB (henceforth B) those would be that the later has much faster pacing and an overall more complicating and engrossing story that ends in a far more solid way. The opposition will of course claim that going faster meant for many events to feel rushed and without the dark and depressing feeling of the first. Also, the whole remake felt to them too bright, humorous, and cheery, with the ending being far less symbolical and exciting. This is based purely on personal tastes, since I considered many of the weaker episodes of the first to be without replay value and the original ending confusing and contradictory as hell. So I leave it all to you to decide which version you prefer; I am personally in favor of this one for sticking to the original and not confusing or contradicting anything.
ART & SOUND SECTIONS: 8/10 (A gets 9 for being more detailed in artwork and having more memorable songs)
Art Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 2/2, Backgrounds 1/2, Animation 1/2, Visual Effects 2/2
Sound Analysis: Voice Acting 3/3, Music Themes 3/4, Sound Effects 2/3
The production values were great in A and still are in B. High amount of detail and fluidity, with very well drawn backgrounds and character figures and a rather high amount of well-made cinematics as atmosphere building. There are some sloppy scenes with lots of still frames and the SD slapstick moments may feel overdone. Also the backgrounds and the characters are in various cases rather run down, simplistic, done with low quality filters or in overall with less attention than in A. But these are not damaging the whole that much. Also, the way all modern anime are made today I am even willing to consider the complete lack of erotic humor and nude to be a major plus too. Almost everyone is drawn handsomely and there is a token loli and mascot critter for the mainstream fans but even those are still not presented as a freaking brothel that distracts you from the actual story and character immersion. Banzai! Also, the series blends in various cultures and nationalities and yet it does not feel disjoined as it usually does in anime that throw in ideas at random. There is uniformity and a good excuse for everything looking the way they do. Voice acting and music score remain amazingly good although I will never whistle to their tunes.
STORY SECTION: 9/10 (A gets 7 for the incomplete story and the annoying fillers)
Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 2/2, Complexity 2/2, Plausibility 2/2, Conclusion 1/2
Imagine you, wanting to go get a beer from the fridge. How much time would it take to do that? Assuming you are not living in a huge villa, tied to a pole and/or all doors and windows are locked, it would take around 5 seconds. Now imagine Frieza telling you that your beer will explode in 5 minutes yet 5 hours later, the beer is still intact. Time flows slowly in anime and not only because the characters can’t shut their traps for a change. Fillers, dragging, looping, flashbacks, internal dialogues and a million different excuses to make you incapable of drinking a simple can of beer in less than 24 episodes. B dared to skip all that crap and go straight to the point. You want a freaking beer? You freaking get it in the same episode.
That aside, the actual story is ingenious and really full of deep shit you would never expect in an average show. I know most anime are full of interesting ideas and concepts but very few actually manage to do something with them. Most just throw them in as extra shock value and poor excuses to show off as smart or mature… and do a sappy job with them. Beats me what the fuss was all about in anime like The book of Bantorra or Karas. The main story is about finding a magic trinket to gain back lost body parts and even resurrect the dead. But as the story goes on, it is no longer about that. It is about the meaning of life itself in a way and how each one pursues happiness or perfection in his own personal way. It’s not a unique premise; it’s like that in other series like One Piece for example. But over there the objective is unseen and impersonal to the point of not caring about it after awhile. Plus, it reached a gazillion episodes and no exposition of what the hell is going on with it was shown. No more!
Moving along, almost everything in this series is excused. Yes, it’s a series where people use magic to turn water to wine and dirt to spears; yet the inner workings of such a thing are excused to a basic level of understanding. They even offer some scientific explanations to excuse it even further. So, when Ed uses alchemy to soften the diamond-hard shield of an enemy he makes sure to explain how carbon works to make that possible and not the DBZ type of excuse “My Power Level is bigger than yours”. Furthermore, although alchemy looks in practice a lot like chakras and jutsus in Naruto, the superpowers are never overused to a point where a character is defined only by his special move. Plus, there is actual strategy in battles here, unlike there where 99% of the so called tactics is making clones of you and exchanging places with a log. And yes, they do tend to talk and explain a lot during battles but I wasn’t annoyed that much by it.
Finally, there are various side stories and they are all resolved in the end. No open endings or half-baked solutions, like in most series or even the A itself. All of which in far less than 600 episodes, most of which are dead time. So yeah, it is a masterful work that is glitched at some points by the way the plot may or may not move too fast or too slow and the emotional impact on you may or may not be as strong as it should have… or whatever.
Many viewers complained how B goes much faster than A and loses a lot of the emotional impact the old series had. I won’t deny this but it still dwarfs the fact of not having fillers popping every now and then. No matter which episode you watch, you actually see progress that does not fit in a single sentence (using a hundred “and” is a cheap move; does not count). In a few words, the pacing of B may feel too fast (or too slow if you so much want to bitch at it no matter what) at times but it is done in a way to both tell the story and offer time for immersion without allowing you to stroll around the house waiting for something to happen. Fans of the old series still find it less exciting and seem to miss the simple fact that the effective duration of B is far closer to 100% that that of A. And I happen to prefer the term “faster” to the term “half-dead”.
Also, even though I love even the original timeline A went for, I must admit it was full of unexplained motivations. Why couldn’t the homunculi leader (in A it was a woman) make the philosopher stone herself the second time? Why did she kill all those looking for it when in fact she wanted it to be made? What did the homunculi want? How would they turn human again? Why did they keep their human remains around if it was killing them? And stuff like that…
Finally many disliked the ending as they found it too normal and simple. Well I am sorry for not seeing Al throwing galaxies to Father, who has created an 11-dimensional black hole, and most of the cast being dead, and a huge naked girl in space is looking down, or something crazy like that. The themes were fine, the resolution was reasonable and the final battle was long and exciting. Not being epicly epical epic epicness in terms of explosions is not a minus. Although A’s twist was far more imaginative, it was also far more contradictory to its onw in-laws and I got to dislike it for that.
Oh and by the way, I keep receiving these feedbacks about having the story too high at marks because I compare it only with shounen series. Well, with what should I compare it too? The Iliad or the Romance of the Three Kingdoms? It’s an action/adventure anime and it’s the best in overall in this regard. Giving it any less for following the tropes of the genre (in a very good way I must say) is like blaming a comedy for making me laugh. Yes, it’s less serious than Legend of Galactic Heroes and people in it clap hands and shit changes to chocolate mousse. As I said, the inner workings of all that are well excused and the effective duration is close to perfect, so let it be already.
CHARACTER SECTION: 10/10 (A gets 8 for the unclear motivations of the villains and the addition of useless filler characters)
Analysis: Presence 2/2, Personality 2/2, Backdrop 2/2, Development 2/2, Catharsis 2/2
I will tell you something that is not a secret or anything, yet very few seem to be aware of. A good character is not only about good looks. You get tired of that pretty fast. It doesn’t take more than a few years for a pretty chick in some anime to lose its appeal by the next pretty chick that comes out in a newer series. You hear than Queen’s Blade?
It is more about an interesting personality; it is harder to get over a colorful persona. But eventually even that happens one day anyway. Sorry Lina Inverse; it’s not my fault you are so flat in more areas than your chest.
That is when you look for truly memorable characters. Those who have a goal they strive to achieve and progress towards it. Now, the word progress is something most have a really wrong image about. Son Goku gets blond, oh look, he is now different. Uzumaki Naruto changes a blouse after four years, oh look, he has changed a lot.
…Bullshit; they are the exact same people as before. They didn’t get smarter, wiser, or more careful in their actions.
So this is what makes FMA cast so great. They all mature as characters. From the most superficial detail such as changing clothes, down to the core, like personal impressions of something, goals in life and deep stuff like that. In a span of merely ten episodes you get so much progress that most series out there can’t even see with binoculars and neon light arrows flashing above the target. So the FMA cast has all the elements of a great cast. You like pretty boys and girls? Sure, lots of those. Do they have quirky behaviors? You bet! Do they mature, grow older, wiser, smarter? Uh-huh! Do they have variety in all that or are they all slight variations of one another? Nobody is the same! Did most of them appear out of thin air? Nah, they all have backdrops excusing their place in the story. And do they all get their issues resolved at the end? Yup! Code Geass air-filled sex dolls, eat my dust; lol.
Self-realization is very powerful for most and that can lead to some very emotionally powerful moments. Not to mention how many of the cast is actually killed and never returns back to life with some shmuck way. This is in fact a core difference with the older series, where even the dead could return to life as easy as peanuts. Over here, if you are dead there is no Jesus raising from the grave. They may yearn for it all the time but it never happens. That is what makes this version a far more mature and solid one. Oh, as for a certain event that took place towards the end, it doesn’t count as ressurection if someone’s life force is sucked for a few seconds before it returns to him and he is fine again.
Another thing is how even small fries end up affecting the story. It usually is about the powerful few protagonists doing all the hard work as the rest of the world just eats pop-corn and watches them fight. Well no sir, not here. In this story even the meekest of characters actually does something. They may not all have an army behind their backs, super laser beams to level those who oppose or Geass eyes to convince others of how cool they are. Yet they actually do something! From digging trenches to stall the enemy, to secretly gathering information about his weakness, to even taking up arms when they can’t take this shit any longer. Heck, the villains themselves need to resolve to deception all the time exactly because they know they can’t just openly terrorize them no matter how powerful they are. Now THIS is what I call an interesting all-round cast. Marvelous! Nothing alike that parade of cardboards that is Bleach or Naruto.
I will not deny that some characters like Envy and Sloth were far more detailed and colorful in A, but B can easily counter this by having double as many characters, most of which also develop on their own, while leaving aside all the filler characters that offered nothing more to it.
VALUE SECTION: 10/10 (A gets 9 for not being so awesome anymore)
Analysis: Historical Value 3/3, Rewatchability 3/3, Memorability 4/4
I admit that it had boring parts or was partially not as emotional as the first series. It is still almost entirely captivating and a fine example of how great action/adventures should be made… in less than 600 episodes. It is almost a crime not to place this in the top adventures of all times. Replay value is very high, as there are so many events and character motives that there is no way to remember them all in one go. Plus, it will show how awesomely planned out every event was made to be since the beginning. It is nothing alike the average shounen out there, brimming with fillers, dragging, ass-pulling and random power-up panaceas. If Dragonball created the golden formula of a successful shounen series, then FMA transmutated it into a marvelous crown, full of jewels and decorations, fit only for itself and those rare few who can only hope to mimic half of its glory.
ENJOYMENT SECTION: 9/10 (A gets 8 for all the reasons stated above)
Analysis: Art 1/1, Sound 1/2, Story 3/3, Characters 4/4
Another thing for all you shallow people out there. I admit that there are far fewer memorable events in this anime than in most other shounen. I can recall a hundred events exactly as they happened in Naruto and only a few dozen in FMA. This does not mean FMA is less cool for not helping you to remember everything down to the last detail. It’s just that it is so complicating at times and doesn’t focus entirely on the rule of cool, thus most of its events pass by you because they are not too simplistic or too over the top. Although most people find it easier to memorize something when it’s way too extreme or dumb simplistic, this does not mean it is better. In the contrary, it is so dumb, it is worse. FMA is more elaboate and requires more brain power to recall its events. Plus, it is not about whose power was cooler or how did he perform it. The action part is of secondary importance. So before you start to nag for how it doesn’t have so many memorable scenes as your average crappy shounen, please consider first if the reason is because it is a more mature and elaborate show that requires from you to THINK a little tiny whiny bit more.
VERDICT: B: 9/10, A: 8.5 [/spoiler]
As for you deceived fans of the first version who refuse to accept this as superior, I only say you didn’t like it as much because you already knew the story by now and had read the rest of it in the manga, while conveniently filtering out from your mind all the fillers and nonsense that the older one had.