Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is an anime that for me possesses what I would call the ‘best climax in anime’. I say ‘best climax’, referring to the final big conflict of the series, not to be confused with the ‘best ending in anime’, which for me still belongs to Code Geass R2. To be honest though, the climax is always my preferred part of a story anyway.To put the ‘Brotherhood’ subtitle into perspective for those who haven’t read the manga or watched the original anime, it not only stands to represent a common theme in Fullmetal Alchemist but helps distinguish it from the original anime which was adapted before the manga was finished. Because of this the climax and ending of the original anime, which I consider far less satisfying as endings go, was improvised by the anime writing staff to prevent having to wait around for the manga to be completed. On the other hand, because of the need to adapt as many episodes from the manga material which they did have, the first twenty-five episodes of the original anime has a much better pacing with a lot more extensive development for the minor characters. Having already animated this part of the story the episodes and time to tell it were halved for Brotherhood giving it a rushed and an inferior beginning, but having the inferior ending being in the original adaption makes it very hard to determine which of these adaptations to recommend as they are both very good. However, having most of the story content of the manga present, it is the general consensus that Brotherhood is still the one to go for. On the other hand the follow up films are another story all together.
Now with that out of the way, onto the main plot; Fullmetal Alchemist takes place in a different world to our own but is set dominantly in the land of Amestris with references to the lands of Xing, Drachma and Ishbal, each with their own religions and political structures. Two elements that make this world unique are the use of armor-like artificial limbs known as Automail, the ‘Fullmetal’ part of the title, and the use of Alchemy obviously for the ‘Achemist’ part. Alchemy is a kind of magic that relies on circles to break down matter and then recreate it as something else. Despite being seen more as a complex form of science in this world, complex enough that only certain prodigies can use it effectively anyway, it is still one of coolest systems of magic I’ve seen in anime. A key taboo in Alchemy is the resurrection of humans. In the original anime the reasons for this are a tad contradictory to the plot, for it is this that creates the Homunculus, who are essentially the main antagonists of the story who are manipulating the government and making this practice forbidden (even through it would essentially help their cause let alone create more incentive for people to find a Philosopher’s Stone). Returning to Brotherhood, the Homunculus are also manipulating things but with a leader who holds not only a more interesting back-story but relates both to the mysterious events surrounding the two main character’s estranged father and the key plot tool of the Philosopher’s Stone.
Edward takes the leading role of the ambitious older brother but because of his height difference with the giant suit of armor he sealed his younger brother’s soul in (after failing to resurrect their mother) he sports a Napoleon Complex along with an auto-mail arm and leg, both of which are used as combat and comic-relief advantages during the anime. Alphonse plays a bigger role in Brotherhood than in the original anime, his character having been developed much better in the manga. He goes from being just a follower of his brother’s leadership to being a major player in his own right, creating relationships and taking on baddies just like his brother, which is awesome. Essentially being a giant suit of armor it’s also funny to see people treat him as an adult despite being the less mature of the two brothers. As I mentioned in my Fate/Stay Night Review there are so many supporting characters that it would take another post just to list them all. Roy Mustang, who I would consider the adult role model, is one of my favorite anime characters and not just because he can ignite explosions by clicking his fingers but because of his sly contempt toward the political ladder he is climbing. Alexander Armstrong is a rather unique muscle bound alchemist whose character was extended further in Brotherhood by the introduction of his sister. Other key characters added in Brotherhood from the manga were those from Xing including Xio and Lee, Lee in particular playing a pivotal role in the climax and throughout the story. Also for those who really liked the characters of Scar and Izumi I would suggest watching the original anime as well for their characters get twice as much development and screen time.
In both Fullmetal Alchemist anime the animation is fairly decent and though I preferred the color scheme of the original, being slightly less beige in tone, Botherhood’s character designs are closer to the manga which is fitting for an anime that was to be a closer adaption. Honestly, though I liked the different OPs and EDs about the same, I preferred the BGM of the original anime better, the track ‘Brothers’ by Michiru Oshima was a great addition to the series and I was disappointed that they didn’t bring it over to Brotherhood. Despite how it’s portrayed it would be very difficult to mess up a story as epic as Fullmetal Alchemist, both its characters, world and magic system being extensive and relying heavily on one another. When it comes to the plot structure, the search for the Philosopher’s Stone, discovering of the mysteries of the Homunculus and the final conflict in Central, each story arc builds on the one before it, introducing plot elements that lead up to a final battle that is well worth the fifty or so episodes it takes to get to it. Just to note a bit of trivia, the mangaka, Hiromi Arakawa, originally published under a male pen-name, Hiromu, to write a non-romantic shonen manga, thinking that no one would read or publish a shonen manga written by a female. After considering how popular it was, and for good reason I think, we need to wonder at her success and learn from it that females can write epic and even ‘manly’ manga also.
I would say that Fullmetal Alchemist, Steins;Gate, Code Geass and maybe even Attack on Titan, depending on if the manga ends well, are what I would consider to be modern classics of the anime media to fall into the ranks of Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop and Berserk. In the end I guess this review was for both Brotherhood and the original anime, maybe even the manga considering it’s the foundation for both narratives. For this reason I’ll give a rank for the story and world as a whole like I did for my Berserk Review. Along with the ones mentioned above this is definitely among my favorites.
Final Rank: 9.6/10