I have to say this before I start writing this review: I should have probably put a disclaimer on top saying that this is my absolute favorite anime of all time and that I’m completely biased. And that comes from an almost hipster-y person that hates everything mainstream, especially when it comes to anime. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is the exception to that rule. I love it, I can never get enough of it, and I constantly compare it to everything. EVERYTHING!
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (which will be called FMAB for the sake of this review) is the second anime adaptation of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga by Hiromu Arakawa (who is a goddess to me for being able to both draw and write so impeccably well, and for gifting humanity with her work). Unlike the 2003 FMA adaptation, it closely follows the manga’s plotline and sticks to doing just that. It is the story of two brothers that live in a world similar to ours (but not quite) with the main exception being that alchemy has dominated the field of science. After the unfortunate death of their mother and their failed attempt to bring her back to life, Edward loses a leg and an arm, while Alphonse loses his whole body and is left with nothing but his soul that his brother has sealed in a suit of armor. In a quest to get their bodies back, Ed joins the army to have access to more resources and the two of them travel around their country of Amestris, discovering friends, enemies, and a conspiracy that could destroy everything they hold dear. And there you have it. Sounds pretty simple, right? Two teenage kids walking around and having adventures, just like in every shonen anime ever. WRONG. It’s awesome.
Plot & Story
Looking back to the show (which I haven’t re-watched for a while), I do find it sometimes hard to pinpoint why it is to me so much greater than other shonen anime (and I dislike an extensive number of shonen anime, but I’m not even gonna go there right now). Is it the intense drama? Yes. Is it the major plot twists? Probably, I do like myself some plot twists, why not. But I guess that the thing that really reels you in in FMAB is the quality of the story and characters.
The FMAB story is very, very human. For a world based on magic, it is almost astounding how relatable the struggles of life in Amestris are to those on, well, our world. The show is influenced by the themes and politics of WW2 in Europe, which immediately gives some ground for western audiences to work with since Amestris is pretty much Nazi Germany. The story unravels in a slow, steady pace, without too much overpowering information or slow, boring fillers. Apart from the first 12 episodes, that are overlapping with the 2003 adaptation and may seem a bit rushed or redundant (depending on whether you’ve watched the 2003 FMA – but if you haven’t WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE JUST GO) the rest of the show’s pacing is just… perfect. I mean, every single segment is an absolute delight, and discovering the ultimate truth hidden between the lines is an orgasmic process. Let me just say this one more time in case it wasn’t cringy enough the first one: orgasmic. Savour it.
The characters are probably some of the most relatable I’ve ever come across in anime. There’s a surprising plethora of them, they are all likable (except one maybe) despite being either good or disgustingly evil, and they succeed in being strongly memorable regardless of the importance of their roles in the show. Main or secondary, there’s just something about them that makes you… care. You care about the little trivial things they go through and their confused, petty feelings; they somehow manage to attain so much depth and humanity that you just find pleasure in everything they do, regardless of what it is. Even Winry, who I don’t really like (no, I wasn’t mentioning her before) has a lot of dimension to her. She’s not just the protagonist’s love interest that just hangs around waiting for him. She has her own personality, skills, aspiration, and dreams; and seeing her struggling to be herself in a world that is falling apart is just… touching. This example strongly applies to almost everyone in the show.
Art & Music
I’m not sure how much I can say about the animation that needs to be told: it’s obviously great, and arguably some of the best animation to come out of BONES. The battle scenes are EPIC. Proof of that is how the last few episodes of the show are just one long, slow battle, but still manage to keep the show interesting because they are just so good to watch! Also, to those saying that the drawings are square, flat, unsexy, whatever – just no. No. Don’t even go there. The style is so pleasant to my eyes I don’t even get 1% of that point.
Music-wise, despite the intros being great and very consistent in quality, I have to admit I prefer the 2003 soundtrack. Bratja, Butou and the overall music was somehow more memorable that the FMAB one. The voice acting, is, of course, exceptional, and Romi Park just kicks ass. She’s also in my goddess list.
Themes & Trivia
I’m not entirely sure if there is something about the themes of FMAB that cannot be analysed in the 2003 adaptation, like war, racism, and genocide, except for maybe two things – god complexes and the existence of a world further expanding to the borders of Amestris.
Amestris is where most of the 2003 adaptation takes place, but the brothers’ voyages in FMAB take them all the way to the north, were the brave soldiers of the country are protecting it from the northern invaders of Drachma (which is pretty much Russia). At the same time, the long desert between Amestris and Xing (basically China), which was once the kingdom where Ed’s father was born, is obviously based on Persian and middle-eastern cultures.
As for the god complex, it is all impersonated via the character of the dwarf in the flask or Father, who, despite not being human, wants to be god. He rids himself of all his sins, and by committing the terrible horrors that he commits, he attempts to raise himself above all beings. Tl;dr: he’s a regular psychopath. Nice one there, Hiromu.
It can’t get much better than this.
- political background
- I wish some of the original soundtrack had been kept from the 2003 adaptation.
Did you love Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood? Let us know in the comment section! I promise I won’t fight you, heheh. And if you haven’t watched it yet, WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING HERE?
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Official Site: http://www.hagaren.jp