Thu Nov 26, 2009 3:33 am
Before starting, I get this special urge to tell you people that I was not initially a fanboy of the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise when I completed the original series; still I checked this adaptation out because of all the fuss roaming around the thing. I must say I was not disappointed.
Well, then. Let us proceed. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood brought to me one of the best-felt experiences an anime could ever give. People say the anime has got too many anomalies to achieve such great heights and hypes. Though I do think some of them are quite viable, yet most are just mindless procrastinations. There are three aspects that I would like to discuss regarding Brotherhood, which the critiques seems to be clinging at in their remarks. First, and the most obvious one, the pacing. Yes, the initial episodes are horribly paced. The makers basically stuffed what the first 31 chapters of the manga had to offer in measly 14 episodes, leaving out a lot of details and causing much confusion to first time viewers. Afterwards, however, the pacing starts slowing down and the story begins to flow nicely. Still, for a man who was watching this adaptation out of curiosity and had already watched the original series, it was not much of a problem. I think that if you are a new viewer, then the show might fall flat in the initial episodes for you and eventually get dropped before you get a chance to really get into the meat. Fans of the original know how great the show is going to become, and have seen these parts already, so believe me and either watch the original series first or read the manga up till at least 31 chapters to reach Brotherhood and thus grasp the story in its whole.
Second aspect concerns the humor. Whilst the original FMA had plenty of exquisite comedy moments, the humor in Brotherhood is wrongfully placed in many scenes, sometimes overdone to the extent of annoyance. This makes various dramatic moments quite flat and emotionless. That said, I did take a look at the manga, and I couldn't help but notice that such exaggeration in comedy is a trait of the canon per se, so it's not like the authors of Brotherhood did anything wrong with it; they simply followed suit what the manga had to offer. And yet, there is plenty of drama throughout the series nonetheless, so I wouldn't exactly "cry over it".
Third and final aspect regards the two brothers. The bond between Edward and Alphonse in the original series was something in itself; mainly because the story was revolved around their quest, you could truly feel and grasp the emotion which characterized their relationship. I was basically in tears at the end of the series because of it. Keeping that in mind, the same feeling isn’t perceived in Brotherhood; at least, it wasn’t by me. Their search for the Philosopher's Stone is only a fragment of the entire story, and as such, the plot focuses on a greater variety of characters and elements, which as a result overshadows the brothers' relationship, their grief and their dedication to one-another. This disappoints me a little bit. Having said all this though, I still consider this anime to be a beautiful work of art.
People say different things about the animation quality of Brotherhood—some say it’s brilliant and some say its way too contrasting and crisp. Well, I’m one of those who appreciates the exquisite artwork made by the artists for the series. When it comes to the level of animation quality, I have no complaints either. The animation is done beautifully and flows quite elegantly. The artwork is something to specifically adore, though. One would love the extent of detail that has been placed into the surroundings; even if the main attraction is something that the characters of the anime mostly get, one would not miss a chance glancing at the beautiful surroundings which are making the characters seem even more wonderful.
The sound is another thing of magnificence. It is not hard to appreciate the hard work the music composers must’ve put in doing what they do best. The opening and ending themes are apt and appropriate for the environment the anime requires. Being brilliant songs themselves, they were nicely inserted within the slot of 1:30mins (or around). People say foreign songs are lame as the one who’s listening to them cannot understand the lyrics. They do not understand that it is not only the lyrical part that matters; it is the musical part that matters, as well. Even if that is to be cast aside, the lyrics—as understood through the fan-translations—were apt and actually showcased the feeling quite well. People say the ending themes aren’t much soothing, let alone enjoyable. Well, that mindset is completely eradicated in Brotherhood according to me as this anime has one of the best blend of Japanese songs—whether they be from famous artists like SCANDAL, SID or any other. While the original Fullmetal Alchemist had one of the best soundtrack ever, the new show is quite disappointing in this department. Music gives a less serious feeling to the show, and specifically the dramatic tracks are lacking. The Background music did not create a strong enough mood to properly compliment the drama intensity of some scenes, which led me to believe the drama wasn't impressive at all sometimes. The voice acting is done by prodigies from both sides—Japanese and English. I can actually say I watched this particular anime twice, firstly when it aired and secondly when the English dub gone done, and I must specify I loved both the sides.
When it comes to story, there won’t be anything that I’ll say which won’t seem like exaggeration, but hey, Brotherhood deserves it—for it has one of the most “original” and well-thought plot, which eventually drags the viewer to fall in love with it. The brothers’ utopian take on justice was kind of farfetched, but interesting, and they did well to stick to it till the end. It could, somehow, be seen that the boys had grown up in this particular adaptation—the thing which was kind-of lacking in the latter/original anime even if that one had the same setting as this one. Several issues and questions were raised within the series, which the boys got answers of as the series passed by. The "philosophy" wasn't preached, but was shown through action, mainly towards the end. It could've been annoying if each character explained their course of action by blindly repeating their ideals—vengeance, loyalty, law of equivalent exchange, etc. This is the part that got much more sophisticated over the original. Lots of twists, lots of drama, and lots of mystery... you have to wonder whose side everyone is on; for the most part, they're all on their own side, except that they're willing to make alliances if what they want is the same as what others want. Aspects like those exemplify the enjoyment and move the viewer into a whole new dimension of entertainment. It is not hard to imagine how much hard-work Hiromu Arakawa must’ve put into making such an exquisite eminence while watching those 64 episodes of pure awesomeness.
When characters are to be taken into consideration, this adaptation broadens itself again. Even though the relationship between the two brothers, Edward and Alphonse, hasn’t been showcased that well as it was in the original series, still it isn’t something I’d exaggerate that much. I do not want to hurt someone’s feelings but the term “brotherhood” which has been added in this adaptation hasn’t been justified well, according to me, because of the lack of those graceful and heart-touching moments that the latter series had. I mean no offense, as specified; that’s just my opinion. Other than the two protagonists’ relationship, each and every cast has been substantiated beautifully. The camaraderie shown in the various groups really helps in giving depth to all the side characters. The side stories that focused on character backgrounds not only add depth to the characters, but explains a good deal about the current story and where they stand in the current situation. Despite not being an original story and having seen the original, I never once thought that the story suffered from repetition. In fact, it felt mostly fresh and the parts that did repeat only helped to better explain the story. It was lovely seeing certain characters’ story, like Greed’s, being elongated to that extent that they almost seemed comparable to the protagonists. Casting aside Greed, new and intriguing characters like Ling Yao have been included in Brotherhood who did their part well in the tale, too.
I’ve seen people complaining over this anime’s ending but if you ask me, Brotherhood has a much better and emotional ending that the original; while the original’s makers ran out of canon material (since it was still being published back then), Brotherhood’s makers adapted to the canon's ending well and finished the anime with a bang. When it comes to re-watch value of this anime, it is lacking quite a bit there since the later episodes are quite slow-paced and can eventually make the second-time viewer drop the project and evidently try out a new one. Plus, there’s the episode number thing, too. I can relate to people who say they won’t re-watch this masterpiece for it has quite large number of episodes.
Overall, this show left me awed with each episode and kept it that way all the way to the end. The general pace and flow of the show is rather smooth and the storytelling does not make things too predictable nor leave the viewer in the dark while opening more plot holes. I highly recommend this to any anime fan. This is sure to be a classic that's recommended for years down the road and possibly a standard for the rest of the anime industry to beat.