This Metallic Brotherhood runs a Fully Alchemical adventure.
As much as I hate to admit it, the words Full Metal have kind of lost all meaning to me. There’s Full Metal Jacket, Full Metal Panic and its spinoffs and, of course, Full Metal Alchemist. All three are supremely awesome in their own right but for me, finally completing Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood ends over two years of scattered episode watchings both in English and Japanese, on television and on my personal theatrical system. And boy, am I ever glad I decided to buckle down and finish the last arc.
Brotherhood is not a remake of the original anime series. Calling it one doesn’t even do it justice. Brotherhood is that much better. The first series followed the manga pretty well until halfway through the series, where it was forced to either alienate fans with dreaded filler or march onward with its own story. It chose the latter and, despite its best efforts, ran into a brick wall when it tried to come to a conclusion. Brotherhood has none of that. It follows the manga and does the series justice with a respectable end.
I’m sure most people know the story already — brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric attempt to use alchemy to resurrect their dead mother and fail, causing Ed to lose two limbs and Al to lose his body entirely. Only by fusing Al’s soul to a suit of armor is Ed able to keep his brother within the realm of the living. After accepting an offer to become an official State Alchemist, a special position within the country’s military that also confers the rank of Major, he and his brother set out on a journey to find the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, which is said to be able to bypass the alchemical limitation of equivalent exchange and hopefully allow them to regain their bodies.
For a series that is 64 episodes long, it sure didn’t feel like a single moment was wasted. Each episode moves seamlessly to the next, pausing at crucial moments and cliffhangers that leave you clamoring for more. I’m glad I wasn’t watching this one while it was still airing, or I would’ve gone crazy. Unlike the first series, all of the characters are well-developed and it didn’t seem that the staff was going to buckle into giving viewers unnecessary fanservice by favoring popular characters’ screen time over others. I was extremely pleased by this — there are some periods of time where you won’t see Ed or Al at all for episodes at a time, and the same goes for the extremely popular Mustang. Brotherhood had a plan from the beginning and stuck with it.
I’ve had the pleasure of watching this series in both English and Japanese, and both casts do an admirable job of portraying their characters. The fact that the Full Metal universe has a more western feel to it made it easy to transition between the two and not have to worry about any culture shock. What surprised me the most is that Kugimiya Rie’s (tsundere queen) voice as Alphonse actually seemed to improve between the two series; I couldn’t tell at all that I was listening to the voice of my beloved Nagi and Shana. The characters themselves are all splendidly crafted and each one in the end seems to have some exalting quality about them that erases any sense of dislike you may have for them. This is especially true of the villains. All of the political intrigue that occurs behind the scenes as the series unfolds leads you to wonder if arbitrary good and evil assignments are even plausible in the Full Metal universe.
Brotherhood has something to offer everyone. Its greater plot is a dramatic tale of two brothers who quickly learn that blood ties are not the only thing that holds families together, sprinkling in just enough passive romance to let shippers actively pursue their favorite coupling. The action, of course, is top-notch. Don’t be misled by the vibrant art and color choice for this series. It can get extremely gruesome at times. Limbs will fly, blood will gush, and viscous liquid residing within the eyeballs of immortal homunculi will be spontaneously set to a boil by a certain vengeful Colonel. But it paces itself very well and isn’t afraid to throw in a few comedic elements here and there to lighten the mood of a serious situation. Basically, this series has so much appeal that it’d be difficult for me to not recommend it to anybody regardless of their opinion on animated features in general.
The only thing that I disliked about Brotherhood was that sometimes its scope went too wide. In order to save some time, some episodes opened with brief summaries detailing events that did not actually occur in a previous episode, and are meant to offer expository explanations. This was a little distracting, since sometimes I would think that I had skipped an episode ahead or missed something crucial in a previous episode. But other than that, there really isn’t anything I can think of that was bothersome about the series. The ultimate climax at the end of the series might alienate some and treads on Evangelion-esque levels of surreal weirdness, but it’s a million times better than the original series and an interesting take on human philosophy.
If anyone is in the middle of watching the first series, abandon it now and watch this instead. Believe the hype. This one’s for the record books.
Character Ranking – Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
- Edward Elric
- Alphonse Elric
- Alex Louis Armstrong
- King Bradley
- Greed (2)
- Roy Mustang
- Van Hohenheim
- May Chang