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Friday, June 20, 2014

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Review Part 1

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of those shows that after you finish it that you have such an amazing feeling of satisfaction and overall bewilderment that you just have to sit back and take in all of its greatness. It is one of those rare series that has something for almost anyone, and it is considered by critics to be one of, if not, the best anime series of all time. There is action, comedy, strong characterization, drama, and tons of epicness. In the beginning of most of my anime reviews, I feel the need to convince non-fans of the genre why they should give the series a chance, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood definitely falls in this category since it is one of the best television series I have ever seen, not just anime. 

Fullmetal Alchemist is a science fantasy epic about two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who are Alchemists, that tried to bring their mother back from the dead through human transmutation. However, something went wrong and Alphonse, Ed's younger brother, lost his entire body and Ed lost his leg. To save his brother, he transmuted his soul onto a suit of armor, but it cost Ed his arm to save his brother. At first, the series seems to be only about the brothers trying to get their bodies back, but there is so much more to it than that.
Best supporting cast ever.
Aside from the great cast of characters, one of the best aspects of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, or FMA: Brotherhood for short, is the unique setting. In the world of Fullmetal Alchemist, alchemy actually works, and while the idea of alchemy is obviously not realistic, the rules that govern how alchemy can be used and the scientific principle of "Equivalent Exchange" add a unique twist on the rules of "magic" that are usually present in a fantasy setting and it makes the "magic" like elements more science fiction than fantasy. However, it should be noted that the show does not in the slightest apply to the rules of gravity, physics, or believably in the action scenes, which results in utterly awesome action scenes. The series is set in an alternate world that resembles 1910s and 20s, except it is set in the land of Amestris‎, which is a lot like Europe. As a fan of world building and stories that take place in a land other than earth, the setting was executed perfectly. 

It should be noted that there are two different versions of Fullmetal Alchemist. The original Fullmetal Alchemist series, which air in 2003, and the newer one, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which is what I what I am reviewing today. The original series was made while the manga was still being written and when the series caught up to the manga; the series created a new path for story, which was obviously different than where the manga ended up. Several years later in 2009, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was created, and it followed the manga also verbatim. 
At the time of writing the majority of this review, I had not seen the original Fullmetal Alchemist. However, after watching the original FMA last month, I can say that while Brotherhood is a better, more focused series, with more development of the side characters, the original FMA is not to be missed. It is nearly as well written, and the different path the story takes is intriguing. Be sure to look for my review of the original FMA at some point in the near future.

Unlike many of the other anime series I have seen, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is longer than the typical 24 episode series with 64. Because of its length, the series is sometimes quantity over quality, by which I mean that the series does not always have riveting episodes in the beginning like Death Note, but rather it is a series that has large overarching story lines that offer ample character development and world building. However, the pacing of the series is rarely slow since an amazing action is thrown in often, with the final 20 episodes being one of the most epic battles ever conceived. 

Brotherhood is a shounen series. Technically, shounen refers to the demographic of teen boys with tropes of the genre being relentless action and cartoony animation with the most popular series in the genre being Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach. However, unlike many other shounen series, FMA: Brotherhood is a focused narrative without filler episodes, and it is full of deep themes, strong character development, and a compelling narrative, although there is plenty of action and comedy throughout the series. 
One of my only minor issues with the series is that it starts out a little slow. The pacing is fine, but I was not encapsulated in the story until later in the series. Actually, I started watching the series back in September or October of 2013, but did not finish it until February of this year, because I took a relatively long break in the middle to watch The Walking Dead and a few other shows. However, after you get through the first several episodes, it turns out excellently. 
My other small issue is that, in the series, firearms are a common weapon by the military, and while it is not explained, the State Alchemists are not said to be bulletproof with the exception of a few characters. Obviously, a bullet to the head would kill them, yet they often fight hand-to-hand, which is much more entertaining to watch, but it bothered me a few times that the characters were not killed easier. Maybe, since Alchemists can do all other kinds of superhuman things, they are bulletproof, but it was never explained clearly. Also, some of the dialogue was the typical shonen, "I'm going to explain how I am beating you in slow motion while I am fighting," which worked sometimes while other times it did not.
On a side note, there is basically no fan-service. Aside from one scene that is borderline mild fanservice, the series is almost entirely void of it. 

The Good: Incredibly strong characterization, Perfect mix of action drama and humor,  Epic scope and scale, Lovable characters, Well developed main and supporting characters, Unique and original, Impressive action scenes, Good message, Surprisingly deep, Often hilarious, Accurate and strong representation of brothers, Edward and Alphonse are excellent characters, Awesome villains, Unexpected plot twists, Epic finale, Superb English dub, Surprisingly sad and dramatic when it needs to be,

The Bad: Potentially slow start (not a problem for me), Some cliched dialogue,
While my overall opinion will be coming in the second part next week, explanation below, in short, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of the best experiences I have had with any franchise. It hits the mark with its action, drama, humor, themes, and even emotional notes, flawlessly. 

As for the non-Otaku audience, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is not exactly the best place to, or at the same time, if you do try it and enjoy it, Brotherhood is an excellent example of the variety of content that anime can offer. Interestingly, I introduced my brother's best friend to anime with Brotherhood, and unlike my brother, he actually enjoyed Brotherhood a lot. Also, the entire series is on Netflix in both English dub and sub.

Note: Due to length of my review, the review had to be split into two parts, so please be sure to check back next week for the continuation of the review with a breakdown of the characters and other elements.

If you want to contact us or have any questions please send an e-mail to johnstarslayer@gmail.com.

13 comments:

  1. FMA:B is still my favorite anime until today. It's just a perfect mix of everything that I want, including some really good female characters, which is rather rare in anime. Have you read the manga? It's even better.
    I watched the sub, since I couldn't stand Roy's dubbed voice. It's so different from his Japanese voice, which is a lot smoother. I might be biased since I have a little crush on his seiyuu's voice, though. :)

    Can't wait for the review's next part! :)

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    1. It is tough to choose between FMA:B and Code Geass, but I think FMA edges it out for my favorite now! Agreed, it literally had everything, and it all worked. :) I have read some of the manga, but it is essentially the same as the series, so I did not read all of it. I probably will at some point. Have you seen the original Fullmetal Alchemist? It is most definitely a must watch for FMA fans.
      I explain why I prefer the dub for FMA:B's over the sub in my next part of the review, but I am big fan of Mustang's voice in the dub. Thanks for commenting!

      -James

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    2. Nope. I haven't watched the 2003 anime (I prefer not to call it the original, since technically, the manga/bro-hood is the 'original' one), except for some parts with Roy. Every time I attempt to watch the 2003 FMA, somehow I'm always reminded of all those EdxRoy fangirl arguments on the net. I can't stand it.
      You're welcome! :)

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    3. Until recently, I referred to Brotherhood as the "original" as well, since it was close to the manga, which confused my friend.
      Argh, I always hate that stupid "fan shipping"! The 2003 FMA is still really good though. It is not as good as Brotherhood, but it is still one of my favorites. :)

      -James

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  2. Great review! :) I've only seen episode 1 so far(I plan on watching some more today, though! :D) and I'm pretty excited to see where the show goes. The world building seems really good so far and the main characters also seem well developed(I like how people kept thinking Alfonse was Edward and he'd get mad XD).

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    1. Thank you! Can't wait to hear what you think of the series. I think you are going to enjoy it! :D

      -James

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  3. My last comment got swallowed by blogger so I'll try again. Great review!! I'm looking forward to part 2! Although I probably won't see this till after I become more comfortable with anime through Ghibili, it does sound like one worth trying like Clannad.

    PS Netflix is sending me Whisper of the Heart at last! :P

    ~Jamie

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    1. Really? That's strange. Anyway, thanks! That's probably a good idea though.

      Fantastic! :) Can't wait to hear what you think of the movie.

      -James

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  4. Attention James! You have been nominated for the Sunshine award. Check my blog for the rules. Happy blogging.

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    1. Thanks for the award. Unfortunately, I don't really do award posts that much anymore.

      -James

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  5. I haven't seen the first adaptation, but I've seen brotherhood and I must say that it's personally one of the best shounen I've seen. I like how the shounen elements are not drastically used to appear cheesy, but just enough to put FMAB in the shounen category. FMAB is actually quite mature for a shounen.

    Also, FMAB has consistent quality in the openings! I really like them.

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    1. Agreed, Brotherhood is the best shounen in my opinion. And I agree again, it manages to be shounen, but a lot smarter, deeper, and more mature than others in the genre.

      Also, agreed. The first opening, "Again," is definitely my favorite, but the other ones are still good.

      -James

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One rule: No strong profanity. If you want to link to one of your posts, please do; I am always interested in other reviews and such.

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