Adapting more directly from the manga from the beginning, Edward and Alphonse are back as their story is told anew.
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 has been one of the few big name crossover hits in the last few years that actually did well outside of anime fandom. Within fandom, it was quite popular and attracted a wide range audience that got into the show in a number of ways. With its ratings on Cartoon Network and general exposure in the print media world, it’s little surprise that there is an attempt to recapture some of that magic. Enter Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a thirteen episode series that more closely follows the original manga series. The anime was supposedly fairly close in a lot of ways during the first half but diverged more in the second half. This series goes back to the beginning and more directly adapts that material. Having not read the manga, I can’t rightly attest to that.
The premise of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is unfortunately laid out fairly plainly in the summary that accompanies the first episode and it gives away too much, just like bad DVD releases that spoil so much of the show. The central character of the series is Edward Elric, a State Alchemist who works for the government in handling all sorts of problems that come their way as members of the military. Often labled as dogs of the military, they do things that really rub a lot of people the wrong way, especially after the end of the Ishabal war some years earlier. Edward isn’t all the concerned about what he’s called though as he has bigger goals in mind and is using his time as a State Alchemist to further that.
That goal is solving the problem of what he did to his brother. As an alchemist, there is a taboo rule about using the method of human transmutation, which is basically trying to bring the dead back to life. The boys did that in trying to revive their mother but it went horribly awry. The price for that – as there is always a price in anything involving alchemy – was that his younger brother Alphonse lost his body. Edward was able to use his skills to bond Alphonse’s soul to a suit of armor but it cost Edward his right arm. He was given a “fullmetal” arm replacement and is still able to use his abilities in the goal of figuring out how to fix what happened to Alphonse. Though not explicitly stated in the episode, they need the legendary and mysterious Philosopher’s Stone in order to accomplish that, but the Stone itself is considered highly taboo.
With this as the background, we’re introduced to the world that the brothers live in and the dangers that the country faces. Working under the Flame Alchemist, Colonel Roy Mustang, Edward deals with the issues at hand. The one that dominates this episode is the introduction of Isaac Macdougal, a former war buddy of Mustang’s who is now trying to cause trouble as he thinks there’s something very evil going on in the government and military and is determined to free people he needs to help deal with it. Little more than a pawn himself, Isaac sets the stage for action as his alchemy is the conversion of water and people are made up of a whole lot of water. His encounters are fun and enjoyable here, done in a serious manner for the most part, as he deals with Edward as well as the very amusing Alchemist named Armstrong. This is a seed episode though where the basics are introduced and the overall idea of what motivates Edward is given as the central theme.
Being a new adaptation of previously adapted material, there’s bound to be a lot of things to say about it. I really enjoyed the original Fullmetal Alchemist series and have no bones to pick about a new adaptation. I’m a long time superhero comics reader and I’m used to this kind of thing happening quite often. This interpretation doesn’t diverge heavily when it comes to the visual designs and I’m sure the nitpicky folks will find things to complain about. The characters here look quite good and don’t seem to be all that different than what we had before, albeit with minor changes to deal with the story at hand. The settings are a bit more detailed and darker here, but first episodes tend to raise the bar a bit high for a show like this so I expected to see something that had a solid atmosphere to it and wasn’t disappointed.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a show that I am admittedly looking forward to watching, but I don’t have the same expectations of it that I did with the original. That series came over with a ton of hype and fans and it proved to be a lot of fun over the course of its lengthy run. This series is taking material I’ve seen, albeit adjusted and tweaked for that run, but it’s still familiar. There are bound to be surprises along the way and I’m enjoying the changes that are here – and I do like that it’s more faithful to the source material – but I don’t think it’ll have the same kind of magic. It’s literally a “Been there, done that” situation. I can appreciate it, enjoy it and look forward to it, but at the same time I wish it was something truly new and different. For people who missed the first series, this is a great show to get into and check out and I hope it does well and I’ll look forward to seeing it in a non-streaming manner so that it doesn’t look like a lot of stills and basic web animation at times.
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.