A few months ago now, I reviewed the original Fullmetal Alchemist series. While I did have praise for the presentation department and the early episodes, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed revisiting it. I tore it apart for the complete collapse of the writing in the ladder half of the series. It was a huge waste of potential, especially considering how incredible the original manga is.
Thankfully, it seemed that everyone understood this sentiment. Everyone knew that Fullmetal Alchemist was special. So, years later, the series came back in animated form for another, more accurate go around. Thus, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was born!
This show is widely considered to be one of, if not the, greatest anime of all time. It’s so good that people who haven’t seen it can’t possibly believe the hype! It has some of the most intelligent writing, engaging action scenes, wonderful music, and incredible animation in all of anime! It is the complete package!
However, it’s not a perfect series. While it does come close to perfection, especially in the ladder half, the beginning few episodes suffer dramatically. Because of this, I can’t call Brotherhood the perfect adaptation of the series, forcing me to refer people to the manga first and foremost.
Because holy shit is the manga good! But I’m not here to talk about that. Let’s break into one of my favorite shows of all time, shall we?
Story: Two Brothers, God, Wannabe God, and the Seven Deadly Sins
Do I really need to discuss this? We’ve all seen it! We all know how it goes!
Edward and Alphonse Elric are prodigies in the science of Alchemy. But when their mother dies, they perform the taboo of human transmutation to bring her back. Their attempt completely backfires, costing Ed his leg and Al his entire body. To save his brother, Ed sacrifices his arm to bond his soul to a suit of armor. Now, the two are on the hunt for a Philosophers Stone in the hopes of getting their original bodies back. Along the way, they’ll face enemies of the military, an Ishvalan serial killer, and the monstrous Homonculi. Will they be able to get their bodies back while protecting their home and loved ones?
Alright, let’s get this out of the way. The first few episodes are not very good. These chapters, which were faithfully adapted in the original, are rushed through as quickly as possible in this version. It’s assumed that you’ve either read the manga or seen the original show. As a result, the quality of these episodes, while not necessarily bad, certainly lacks behind.
There are a few problems like this later in the show, too. The main example is all that regarding the Ishvalan war. Everything regarding that is often condensed too tightly when they got far more time to breathe in the manga. Again: not bad. But it’s still a problem.
Okay. With that out of the way, let me gush about why I love this show!
The strongest aspect for me is the characters. If you were to ask me which one was my favorite, I’d sit there listing off names for five hours! Every single member of the cast, from the main characters to the smallest of side characters, has a ton of depth and personality! All of them get their own moments to shine, making them all completely irreplaceable. You couldn’t cut even one member of the cast out without opening a major hole in the plot.
The story itself also has nigh pitch-perfect pacing (excluding the aforementioned issues in the early episodes and certain flashbacks). The story has a perpetual sense of movement, never slowing down nor speeding up unnecessarily. It flows smoothly, gently, and quickly, like a river in the spring.
This is also one of the most well-defined, interesting settings in any anime! Amestris, Xing, and every country around them are super interesting and well-defined! From the militaristic structure of Amestris to the royal power struggle of Xing, it’s clear that a ton of thought went into everything. It makes the world feel alive and ripe for exploration! I’d legitimately watch spin-off shows of every other character in any other setting!
And then there’s the ending. My general rule is that a story is only as good as it’s ending; if the ending isn’t satisfying, then the rest of the story was a waste of time. Thankfully, this story has the best ending I’ve ever seen in any anime! It wraps up every single thread in a complete, satisfying package. It doesn’t end on a sour note just for the sake of it. It chooses to wrap it all up in a positive, smile-inducing way. Plus, it leaves just enough open to leave you with something to think about.
Admittedly, Brotherhood isn’t a perfect adaptation. I do think that it’s a significant step up from the original and that it’s damn fun to watch. But it suffers from its own problems, just like the first attempt. Still, that doesn’t make it any less damn fun to watch!
Even if I still have to go to the manga for the full thing. But that’s the perpetual curse of being a weeb.
Presentation: What Anime Looks Like
In the world of anime, there are few art styles that truly stand out. But those that do become monuments of the genre. The look of shows like Dragon Ball, One Piece, Sailor Moon, and even Attack on Titan have become so unanimous that any fan of anime has, at least at one point, attempted their hands at it themselves.
Fullmetal Alchemist is one of those shows. The art style is one of a kind, featuring some of the best character designs and settings in all of anime. Even people who haven’t seen the show can recognize them! Ed and Al alone have become two of the most recognizable characters in anime!
And that’s before we talk about the show itself!
This series is something that so few others are: consistent. The animation is consistently great, being smooth and effective at all times, and only gets better in the more grandiose moments. The music is absolutely incredible, featuring some of the most intense, beautiful, and recognizable tracks in anime! Put them both together, and you have some of the most pleasing presentation for a televised series out there!
Oh, and have I mentioned the action scenes? I brought up how they were the highlight in my review of the original. And I can safely say that’s still the case here! Each one features incredibly creative choreography, interesting use of all the available resources (the environment, Philosophers Stones, automail, weapons, etc.), and unique appliances of alchemy. The already great animation skyrockets, presenting some of the most visually striking battles I’ve ever seen!
TL;DR: this show looks good. It’s easily one of the best-looking shows out there. I feel like even mentioning that at this point should be unnecessary.
Granted, I could probably say the same about this whole review.
I know I’m not bold in saying that Brotherhood is good. It’s such a popular opinion that it’s become just as popular for contrarians to say it isn’t. This is the anime equivalent of Final Fantasy 7 or The Dark Knight. We all know that it’s amazing; it’s so good that people just don’t want to admit it.
Chances are, you’ve already watched it. But in case you haven’t, let me make it clear. You need to watch this show if you’re an anime fan! If you’ve already seen it, go watch it again! It’s that good! Few manga are so good that they get another go at an anime! Brotherhood shows exactly why Fullmetal Alchemist deserved its second chance!
You should also read the manga if you haven’t done that already. Or you could avoid becoming a Fullmetal addict like me. I can’t blame you.