After some mildly quiet episodes, it’s all about the action and intrigue this time around as the brothers get into a serious fight.
What They Say:
Ed and Al furiously battle the Fifth Laboratory’s psychotic guards. In the chaos, the truth behind the Philosopher’s Stone is buried beneath rubble – and disturbing new questions are unearthed.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Much of the previous episode focused on the research side of things as the scope of the problem the brothers face is sizable. Discovering one of the ways to make a Philosopher’s Stone is very brutal and beyond what they’re capable of is very disheartening to be sure. With their age and the determination that Ed has at this point though, it’s not an insurmountable wall that they’ve hit but rather one where they’re going to find another path entirely. And that potential path is what has led them to this abandoned laboratory where it’s not quite as abandoned as they thought.
The episode focuses almost exclusively on the pair of fights that are going on here as the separated brothers each have their own opponent to face down. The exterior fight is one that I found to be the best because it played to some more psychological aspects than I expected. Al is a bit younger than Ed so he’s more susceptible to mind games and his opponent is one that likes to talk. Known as No. 66, Al faces someone in a suit of armor like his who suddenly reveals that he’s exactly like Al and expects Al to be shocked. Of course, Al being the same means he’s not shocked in the slightest and that introduces some fun comedy to it. But it turns very dark as No. 48 reveals his bloody past as the mass murderer Barry the Chopper and imagines that Al is very much like him since he’s in the same situation. Barry brings about some intensity to the fight as Al has to grapple with there being someone like him for the reasons as they are and that he may have to actually kill him in order to live.
Edward for his part faces down a similar opponent within the building but this one has an even darker aspect to it. His opponent, No. 48, doesn’t quite have the same kind of macabre goofiness as No. 66 does but rather has the feel of something of a mildly honorable murderer, but one who will fight dirty because the point of a fight is to win. With all that Ed has experienced as of late, particularly in regards to Scar, he’s of much the same mind himself and is willing to do what needs to be done. But will it extend to murder? That’s where the trickiness comes in as No. 48 talks about how he’s not really human and killing him isn’t murder. That’s a hard concept for Ed to accept since it would mean that his own brother isn’t actually alive either. The parallel ideas of what makes a person as person between the two fights is really nicely done, even if done plainly and obvious, as it helps to show the way the two approach their situation and the consequences of past actions going forward.
There’s a lot to like about this episode outside of this segment as well, dominating as it is. There’s a good bit of fun in dealing with the State Alchemists as Mustang talks with Hughes about things but Hughes only wants to talk about his beautiful daughter or his lovely wife, which in turn just weighs on Mustang. There’s also some cute moments as those that are assigned to watching out for the brothers realize they’ve been had and imagine what Armstrong will do to them. But the episodes closing moments, as some of the homunculi appear and tease Ed about what’s really in store for him, that’s where the show really shines a lot. Showing Ed just how little control he has over his life and how easily they can destroy him is something that will obviously motivate him overall, but in the short term it can prove damaging.
The revamp of Fullmetal Alchemist to be more closely aligned to the manga run is really turning out quite well. The animation style is really appealing, the quality is solid and I’m enjoying the slicker and more tightly paced approach to the series as well. It feels like there’s a bit more overall foresight and planning going on here, but it may also just be misremembering the previous incarnation after several years. For new fans of the show, this is definitely worth the time to watch and getting it in an official way within days of its Japanese airing is a huge positive. For fans of the previous incarnation, there’s still that sense of déjà vu at times, but it’s very much worth experiencing again and to see where it’ll diverge from what we’re familiar with.
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.