Monday 5 July 2010

Anime REVIEW: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

The original Fullmetal Alchemist series is a classic. Check any well written "top 10/20/50/100" anime lists and you'd be hard pressed not to find one that doesn't include it somewhere near the top spot. And it's place is rightly deserved - the tale of two brothers travelling to regain their bodies after learning the fatal mistakes of trying to resurrect the dead was a fantastic 51 episode series full of action, suspense, adventure and fantastic characters. Pretty much everything an anime needs to be a masterpiece. So when it was announced that a new series was planned, one that would be following the manga storyline, while I was excited I was hesistant to believe that it would live up to the legacy the original had left. Enter Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood...

The bare bones of the plot is exactly the same as its predecessor - brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric lose their bodies (or parts of) in an attempt to resurrect their dead mother through the science of alchemy. Even the first 15 episodes of the series follow the same plot to the original (but with a lot less filler - Brotherhood covers events in about 15 episodes that the original took 25 on). But after that the similarities are gone - Brotherhood may have the same characters and themes as the original, but this is a whole new beast.

Gone are the parallel world themes, as is main villain Dante. The Homunculi Sloth and Wrath are also gone and Pride (King Bradley) becomes Wrath. Rose becomes a side character that has little to no impact on the plot whatsoever. In their place come a whole hoard of new characters including Major Armstrong's sister Olivia and the Briggs soldiers, Lin/Greed II (by far the best character in any Fullmetal Alchemist continuity), Lan Fan, Princess Mei and new villains Sloth, Pride (one of, if not the best villain I've seen in an anime) and new big bad Father - the original Homunculi. Characters like Hohenheim, Dr Marcoh and Kimblee become far more fleshed out and actually engaging and/or likeable as characters. And most importantly - all you characters you came to love from the original series are still here and as good as ever. In a way, it feels like they never left.

The art is better, the writing is better, the ending is better and far more satisfying (no more silly WW2 ending). Everything is just....well, better. Brotherhood is what Fullmetal Alchemist is supposed to be and everything just fits into place from there. The series managed to keep the plot advancing episode by episode without any sort of filler - and that's rather impressive for a 64 episode series. I don't feel like I'm exaggerating at all when I say compared to Brotherhood the original Fullmetal Alchemist feels like just your run-of-the-mill average anime series. It really is that much better (this word seems to be appearing a lot in the review).

This is the first anime series I've watched week after week as new episodes have aired, and I was never disappointed, it's been 64 weeks of pure joy. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, it's been an absolute pleasure and you will be sorely missed. I just hope that future reviews/lists will acknowledge you as, while perhaps not as groundbreaking, vastly superior to your predecessor.

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