Review: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

FMA:Brotherhood is one of those shows I didn’t want to review. Partly because it’s so great and so much is packed into the show that I’ve had a hard time coming to grips with how to approach my review in a respectful way. I’d start by saying that; yes it is one of the longer anime that I’ve watched. So I understand at 64 episodes long; as a viewer you may approach it with caution. Worrying if it might fall into the Dragon Ball Z “effect”, where filler episodes are common and all too often a ‘fight sequence’ can be dragged out over several episodes. However, FMA: Brotherhood executes perfect story flow and structure throughout all episodes. You never feel cheated or uninterested. FMA delivers will full intent of itself and the story that must be told.

To begin, Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is about two brothers who are both gifted with the ability to use alchemy. Alchemy is an ability a person can use to manipulate matter of almost any solid substance. They can do this by drawing what’s called a–transmutation circle–the performing Alchemist can then form the transmuted matter into any shape they desire. For example Eric, the older brother could create a staff from the ground using alchemy. The law of equivalent exchange always governs the Alchemist. This law states that anything taken must be exchanged with something of equal value.

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Through a series of unfortunate events. Alphonse loses his whole body minus his soul and his older brother Edward loses a leg and his right arm. Edward is able to combine a giant suit of armor with the soul of his younger brother Alphonse. It is not until the military finds out about these two brothers that Edward is given the title Full Metal Alchemist. Together these two brothers enlist in the military in the hopes to restore honor to their names and so that they can reclaim the parts of their bodies that are lost.

Unlike its predecessor, Full Metal AlchemistFull Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood was made to more closely follow the manga. Because of this, it has a much faster paced nature and is more true to the original written story. One of the greatest strengths of FMA: Brotherhood is the characters. Each and everyone has a purpose and role to play in the over -arching story. You’d think that with 20 plus characters you’d start to be overwhelmed– but they manage to pull it off seamlessly. As the show progresses you begin to know each characters dreams, aspirations and abilities. For example, Roy Mustang a commander in the military, desires to one day become supreme leader of his country– the furher himself. You learn that he is open about this desire with his subordinates. It only helps to reveal more of his demanding character and perfect commitment to his fellow countrymen. Another character in the show and one of my favorites in anime is Major Alex Louis Armstrong. His name alone should strike terror into your heart. No? Then imagine a 7 foot tall bear of a man who has muscle on every conceivable part of his body. Fitness and beauty. The man is obsessed. It is clear as day when you meet him. For he’d never pass up an opportunity to rip his shirt off and start flexing. Contrasting his brutal physique Armstrong has the heart and compassion of an angel. The man thrives on raw emotions and is quite extroverted in nature. This contrast between his looks and his emotions is the cause of a few funny scenes in the show.

Even the villains of the show have deeper desires beyond just being evil, for evils sake. You could take any main side character in the show and write up your own story just for them.  Without spoiling too much; FMA:Brotherhood delivers quality character engagement and development.

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The story and the world of Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is expansive and elaborate. There are so many dang plot twists, it almost damages the shows re-watch-a-bility. Almost. Had the show not contained so many addicting characters. I’d be content with a single view. But alas I’m currently watching it again along with my best friend as I write this. Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood contains several mini stories within itself. This allows for the viewer to slowly start putting the pieces together to form the much larger picture. A quest that Edward goes on in the South may make him discover conspiracies in the military. The details are always important and it’s satisfying to know that.

I can’t continue without talking about the morality of the show and the raw emotions it makes you feel. The show values human life by always stating that performing transmutation on a human is strictly forbidden, for what could value a human soul? It places a high price on a persons life and for good reason. When the show deals with death–and it does–in those dark moments; it is only the showing of genuine humanity that saves characters from despair. The most fruitful of human qualities sprout to life in these moments.

For example, when Winry, a family friend of the Elric brothers and Edwards main automail (metal prosthetic limb) mechanic has to deliver a baby. There is quite uneasiness about her and those with her. Not just because no one is a Doctor but because they realize they are dealing with a human life, and much care needs to be taken. I’d lie if I didn’t say I teared up a couple times in the show. It deals with some heavy shit. Ya know people think anime can’t get deep….but they could never be more wrong. From genocide, suicide, to absolute despair. And worst of it all is that you feel it right along with the characters. When Scar, an Ishfallen warrior, finds out who killed his countrymen, you feel his rage well up inside you too. For how would you feel staring at the face of someone who murdered everyone you loved? It’s FMA: Brotherhood’s great accomplishment to get you to feel these raw emotions that makes it rise above the rest.

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The shows animation is crisp and very well done. When the fighting happens it looks amazing and when there are landscape scenes you are pleased with the world presented to you.

Overall I’d give the show a 9.5/10. The only flaw I could find in the show is the slow start and slight lag in the middle. Besides that, expect to get wrapped up in government conspiracies, genuine feelings and radical fight scenes as you travel with the Full Metal Alchemist and wonder if he ever will get his body back.

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