It’s back to the past for the formal beginning of the series as we see shades of Ed and Al’s origins while they seek things in the present to aid their course.
What They Say
Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric hoped to resurrect their mother's corpse when they attempted human transmutation, but their reckless defiance of alchemy's Law of Equivalent Exchange resulted in no miraculous reunion. Their experimentation with forbidden science plunged the boys into a hellish nightmare; half of Ed's limbs were torn from his body, and Al awoke to discover his young soul transferred to a suit of armor. There is but one way the Elrics can restore what was lost" find the fabled Philosopher's Stone. In a land marred by war and persecution, where truth comes only with tragedy, they undertake their desperate search. Every step closer to the mythical Philosopher's Stone brings the broken brothers deeper into the darkest shadows of reality. Sinful abominations, both unnatural and human, will try to keep the boys from their redemption " but the Elrics must forge ahead if despair is to be transmuted into peace.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’s second episode is a proper starting episode in comparison to the first one, though that one certainly brought about the action side of the series to sell it well enough. With the second episode, appropriately titled “The First Day”, the series gets to its origins while dabbling in the present a little bit as well. Origins are very important in a show like this as the motivations for what’s going on is key. In this episode, the brothers Edward and Alphone become quite well fleshed out in a short amount of time and their motivations and the results borne from them give the series plenty of heart right away.
Framed within the story of the present, we go back to the days some ten years earlier when Edward and Alphonse were young boys who were secretly learning the ways of alchemy in their fathers study. With their father long gone and out in the world somewhere, they were able to study easily enough and found that they had a real aptitude for it. Their mother encouraged it since it was a shade of her husband she saw in them and wanted them to grow up much like he did. Unfortunately, an epidemic hit the region and the boys lost their mother. In their grief, they decided to perform the main taboo aspect of alchemy by pursuing human transmutation to bring her back to life.
With alchemy, there’s an equivalency law that all alchemists must obey, though it’s lightly used in the day to day uses. With human transmutation, Edward discovers it carries a high price as the event goes badly and he learns just how close he was to the real thing. The thing that he and his brother created costs them severely though s Edward loses part of his leg and Alphonse loses his life entirely. Rage and grief causes Edward to take the plunge again and he’s able to bond his brothers soul to a big suit of armor in the house, but that costs him his arm as well. Their experiences and hardships have worn them down and they spend the next several years, despondent and uncertain about anything and everything. It’s only when Colonel Mustang shows up do they begin to understand that they may have a chance of righting the wrongs and moving forward. And that’s the key that Mustang uses to sell them on becoming State Alchemists: Move forward or stay still.
The framework for their origin provides some very good moments as well along the way. The story in Resembool has a very light and airy nature to it, even when we have scenes such as Edward sitting in a wheelchair outside as the wind blows by. It’s very green, serene and peaceful. Contrasting these moments are the pieces in the present where the brothers are older and on the move towards the city of Liore where there’s an alchemist they must seek out who may be doing transmutations of his own that break the taboo. But it’s the little details elsewhere that captivates and illustrates a slightly more serious story this time around as you have Mustang talking about why be brought the boys in to become what they are. It’s also very nicely tied to the kind of hell that many of these State Alchemists have been through in the past with the war and how that has bonded them in a very melancholy and serious way. One scene with Mustang walking along the corridors thinking about the hell of the past, it reinforces the bond that he shared with Isaac as seen in the previous episode.
There’s a lot of angst to be had in here but it fits with the themes quite well as we are dealing with the two boys when they were ten and eleven and playing with things beyond their understanding. The hints of what’s really out there are fascinating and it makes me curious to see where this adaptation will go. At the same time, we do get a good number of light moments. The young boys have their friend Winry Rockbell who is growing up to be someone who works with automail so she’ll become very useful as time goes on. She’s got a bit of silly side to her and she adds some very sweet and tender moments here and there as you can see her affection for both the brothers and their situation, even at her young age. And much like the wheelchair scene with Ed and Al, she has one with Alphonse in his armor out in the fields that is surprisingly beautiful.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood really gets underway with this episode. With the big selling episode out of the way last week, this one gets down to business in really introducing the show and the core storyline and identifying the main players in a way you can connect with. The first episode had some meat and a lot of flash while this one is sticking to the really meaty material. It’s also slower paced as it works through the emotional storyline and sets things up for what’s to come. Much here is familiar, arranged differently if you’ve seen the previous series, but it all works very well both in design and structure. And this episode actually felt a whole lot more like animation than the first as FUNimation sent out notice that they did change how it’s being streamed to make it smoother for everyone. This was a very enjoyable experience and it has me looking forward to more episodes of the series. Though familiar still, it’s a good familiar that has me wanting to see the changes and differences. It won’t be much longer before “older” fans stop doing comparisons, myself included.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.