Over the past couple of months, I decided to pick up an anime that I abandoned long ago: Fullmetal Alchemist.
The REAL Full Metal Alchemist.
FMA: Brotherhood follows the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two young alchemists whose father abandoned them early in their childhood and left them to fend for themselves. Their mother dies not long after, and in attempting to bring her back to life via a forbidden form of alchemy - known as 'human transmutation' - Edward loses his left leg and Alphonse loses his entire body. Edward manages to bind Alphonse's soul to a suit of armor at the cost of his right arm, and they go on to become some of the youngest State alchemists in the country.
I won't bother going into alchemy itself, because Film Theory on Youtube has an awesome video on it you can view here:
Mostly awesome. I do not approve of how he seemingly discards the notion that there can be no equivalent exchange for a human soul - because, well, there can't. But that's an issue of philosophy, and we don't need to discuss that here.
The overall plot to FMA is very well done. You'd think that since the anime itself is 60-some episodes long that it might get boring, but nope. FMA kept me on the edge of my seat almost all the time - sure, there were a few episodes that might have lagged a bit, but filler in this anime is minimal to nonexistent. It's practically all scrunchy, juicy plot.
Not only that, but the way it develops is smoothly orchestrated as well. One of the biggest climaxes in the series is near the middle, when a lot of mysteries are revealed. After seeing that happen I wondered how the anime would continue to hold on to me. It's normally quite hard to keep someone interested after you've revealed your trump card...yet FMA does just that, keeping the tension strung so tight you can't wait but see how it's all going to end.
The characters in FMA are also interestingly developed and well-rounded. Each has their own set of motivations and unique history. I was intrigued at how the horrors of the Ishbalan war united many characters like Hughes, Mustang, Marcoh, and others, while also providing motives and desires for people like Scar and Kimblee. They don't stay the same throughout the anime, either: they learn and change. FMA is an excellent showcase of good character development.
While having a serious core, FMA also splices in its humor quite well. While I didn't laugh out loud at anything, I did grin whenever Edward got ticked off about being short or when they showed a chibi version of Alphonse. It's a welcome relief to the tension that is present all throughout the series.
The action and visual art style of FMA are splendid, with a good blend of CGI (Envy being the biggest - literally - example) and other animation. The quirks that alchemy brings to the battlefield are intriguing to see unfold, and thankfully alchemy itself isn't truly OP in any sense (unless, of course, you have a philosopher's stone) because of the limitation of Equivalent Exchange. While not all the fight scenes are by-the-edge-of-your-seat battles, most are interesting and well done.
Well done, you say? Coming right up.
Now. While FMA has a lot going for it, there are a few things I don't care for.
Number one: the language. While I can't speak for the dubbed version, since I didn't like the voice acting (bite me), the subbed version had quite a bit of cussing in it - and seeing as how Japanese cuss words are so flexible (just one could have several different English ones associated with it), the language is quite varied. And while I can deal with regular cussing just fine, I cannot tolerate any sort of religious expletives (taking Jesus's or God's names in vain). And there were a few of those. Thankfully only a few, but still...
Secondly, there was a bit of innuendo that could have been done without. I have discussed in detail just how much I love fanservice, and how great it is, and how vital it is to the plot, and...please just get rid of it. Is that too much to ask?
Disclaimer: I do not, have not, and never will watch harem anime.
Lastly, FMA does kind of drag on just a teeny bit. I realize I praised it earlier for keeping me on the edge of my seat, but more than 60 episodes can get rather long. It could definitely have shortened the plot by a reasonable amount. But this is not really a fault so much as it is a personal preference. I'm sure people enjoyed the amount of content 60 episodes can bring.
In short, FMA gets almost full marks from me. The plot is interesting and well put together, the characters are deep and very developed, the action is intriguing and satisfying, and the whole thing looks great. Coulda done without some swearing and innuendo, but what can you do. Take the good and discard the bad.
8/10, should definitely watch. Peace out.