Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fullmetal Alchemist Review (Anime)

There are times when I get into a video game or a show and I spend hours thinking about the characters, their situations, their so-called lives. I become absorbed and half of my thoughts through a given day are about the story, the twists and turns. The second season of Yu Yu Hakusho, Final Fantasy VII, Max Payne are some of the very few that have done this to me. And yet, Fullmetal Alchemist puts them all to shame.
From the third episode, I was utterly hooked. The Elric brothers' quest for the Philosopher's Stone to restore their bodies, the ability to perform alchemy, the amazing characters, the animation, and so on and so on were incredible to me right from the get go. It was all so original, all so touching in its own ways.

The structure and character development over the 51 episodes of the series are by far the best I've ever seen. You learn who the characters are, what they think, and why they think it. And what's more, you feel the same way as the characters, your emotions being tied up with them throughout their journeys.

That indeed is probably the greatest strength of Fullmetal Alchemist: its characters. Each is nuanced and fully fleshed out by the end of the series. There are no generic, throw away characters; everyone has their own life, if you will. Ed, the state alchemist with an automail arm and leg, Al, a soul in a suit of armor, Winry, the young automail savant, Mustang, a tortured, yet moral, soldier striving to become the leader of his land, Riza Hawkeye, Teacher, hell, even the dog Din has a great back-story.
But where are my thoughts running to? Have I forgotten to mention the fan-freaking-tastic story. In the first few episodes, viewers not only learn of how and why Ed and Al Elric come to search for the Philosopher's stone, but also will become attached to the people themselves.

When still young, the Elric brothers stumble upon their long absent father's alchemy books. Alchemy, a way of creating or changing things via "transmutation circles," becomes an obsession of the boys, and they learn with great fervor. The very first thing they "learn" is that "to obtain, something of equal value must be lost," or alchemy's law of equal exchange.

But in this time of learning, their mother passes. Desperate for the mother they love, and blinded by the power they think they hold, the Elrics try a forbidden "human transmutation," a way of trying to bring their mother back from the dead.

The transmutation fails, Al loses his body, and Ed loses him arm, and gives his leg to attach Al's body to a suit of armor. Bleeding to death, Ed is carried by Al to receive the automail that Ed will become famous for. And thus, these mere children begin a journey for the Philosopher's Stone, a stone that ignores equal exchange, to restore their bodies.
Oh, and the Homunculi. Did I forget to mention them... Yeah, they'll blow your mind too. Interested? You better be.

The plot twists are also quite superb, including... well, I shouldn't spoil it, but anything, anything, I felt could happen when I watched.

The animation and background music were also superb elements in the show. The soundtrack made the emotions utterly palpable, and the animation was fluid and very high quality. These elements not only did their job, but did the job of their lazy co-workers, boss, and grabbed a second gig on the side.Unfortunately, not even this excellent show is perfect. Namely, the quite disappointing ending. There is a movie, which I am about to watch, that purportedly ties up some loose ends, but they should have been addressed in the show. I would have waited, really.

There is also the occasional non-sequitur, like... well, I shouldn't even spoil the non-sequiturs.

But regardless of these faults, Fullmetal Alchemist is the best anime I've ever seen, although I have only seen about a half dozen. Excellent story (except for the ending), excellent characters, great animation, great music. And don't forget the emotion that will have you watching episode after episode once the credits flash.

Final Score:
9.25/10, Nearly Flawless

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Luke said...

They plan on remaking the series with the story closer to the manga, so you might want to check that out.

Michael Avitabile said...

Thanks, Luke

Anonymous said...

They have already started showing the second draw at the well. And it is much better and closer to the manga.