So I just finished watching the 62nd and last episode of Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood. I wanted to take a long moment and review what has been, to date, one of the best anime series I’ve had the pleasure to watch. I’ll add that if you haven’t seen either the original Full Metal Alchemist, or the recent remake, Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, I would very much watch Brotherhood. (Which I’ll be referring to interchangeably as FMA or Brotherhood for the rest of this). The remake follows more closely the original Japanese Manga, which as it turns out is considerably darker, and actually has an ending, as opposed to the original which somehow ends in alternate realities and a kid flying around on a dragon while doing dog-fighting with Nazi’s in biplanes or something.

I don’t know, I don’t really remember the original that well to be honest, as the first half of both series are identical, where the stories diverge from one another is very much jumbled up in my brain. The story of how I began watching FMA is actually pretty awesome. My sister was talking up a Christmas Present that she gave me one year and when I opened it, I found it was the copy of the Collector’s Edition recent release of Full Metal Alchemist: The Conquerer of Shambala!. It features a blonde boy in a red robe looking at the person holding the DVD case. Mystery! Anyways upon a bit of investigation I found this was the movie followup of the original 51 episode series and takes place after its conclusion. I’ve never been one to just read the end of the book then watch the beginning so…

I watched all 51 episodes (coupled with the recent 62 episodes, 2 hours of Conquerer of Shambala and some OVA’s making for a total of about 60 hours worth of watchin’ time). They were good, the ending blew, I wanted more, Brotherhood came out, it was just what I needed, I’m now writing this, runon sentance, paradox loop.

So, for those of you unfamiliar with the franchise at all, I’ll give a very quick idea of what the show is about. It takes place in a fictional (I hope) country called Amestris that has just gotten done with a bloody civil war and people have returned home to their families. Some random people in Amestris practice Alchemy, which is basically magic but it follows a few core ideas. Initially it’s pointed out that in order to do Alchemy you need to draw a transmutation circle out of chalk on the ground, put whatever you want to transmute inside that circle, clap your hands together (I’m unsure the mystic relevance of this action) slap the ground, then Viola, magic happens. A very integral concept to the show is the idea of Equivelent Exchange. Basically alchemy is a zero sum game in order to get something, you have to give something, so you can reshape things or remold things but can’t make anything new (without putting something in your transmutation circle that you’re changing around). The story itself follows the Elric Borthers, Ed and Al, in this pseduo Nazi Germany, on their search for the Philosopher’s Stone which will allow them to do alchemy while ignoring the law of equivelent exchange. This is particular relevant for the two of them because their father left home when they were young, and while they were both in their early teens their mother got very sick and died. They decided that hey the human body is just made up of stuff, and broke the ONE rule of Alchemy (don’t every try to transmute people). The end result was that they ended up having to sacrifice more than they bargained for, and Al’s entire body was devoured and Ed’s Arm and Leg were gone. In exchange they got a sortof furry lump of chared flesh with some eyes that croaked out their names a few times as they stared in abject horror and then died. Ed then uses his own blood to do a little more alchemy and tie his brother’s soul to a nearby suit of armor, Ed gets some cybernetics (go figure) and off they go through Nazi Germany to find a magic rock that will let them get their bodies back.  And then the fucked up stuff starts happening…

The reason I like FMA so much is that it’s not a pretty world. People die, people make mistakes, things get fucked up and HORRIBLE EVIL very much has its moments of triumph. But it’s a world that if you are willing to give it a chance has a TON of stand up and cheer moments, and more than it’s fair share of sniffling slightly at the credits moments because doing anything else wouldn’t be manly. You have to be willing to accept that it’s going to be a bit over the top, but it doesn’t get TOO super sayan (the ‘power level’ increase feels very natural). Mostly it does a great job of using these fantasy gimics for driving the story, rather than being a story about fantasy gimics. It’s about very real character choices and interactions. It also has a very high number of moments where you echo the look of shocked horror on the main character’s faces as you see them lose sanity points at the depravity of the fucked up things happening around them.  It also does a great job of continuing to stick to its theme of Equivalent Exchange which you’ll notice begins to apply than more than just alchemy, whenever someone in the series wants to gain something, it always costs them and vice versa.

Brotherhood has a satisfying ending, and does a really good job of keeping you engaged throughout. There are a few slow moments but they don’t get in the way too much, and ultimately the payoff for those moments is worth it. It’s a story that from start to finish is very well thought out, and many of the non-congruent strange events that happen as background filler in early episodes, turns out to be part of a very intriguing, well told story in the end. So if you can stomach weird monsters, a mild bit of super sayan, some magic and the occasional chibi moments… Brotherhood is WELL worth it. The animation itself is really solid through about 80% of the episodes, and the music is fantastic. I ended up watching the subtitled version and the voice acting seemed cool, but I have no clue whatever the hell the people were saying. Even if they were just saying “Holy Shit a Cape Buffalo” over and over again, they did it with the appropriate feeling throughout. The show’s rad, so get on out there and watch it.