Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fullmetal Alchemist Season One Anime Review

Fullmetal Alchemist Season One
Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Alchemist of Steel)
Complete Collection - 4 discs
600 mins. - 25 episodes
$49.98 (2010)
$69.98 (2009)
$49.98 (2007) Part 1-2/ea.
$19.98 (2007) Vol. 1-7/ea. Viridian
$29.98 (2005-2006) Vol. 1-7/ea.
$49.98 (2005) Vol. 1 Starter Set
ISBN 704400082696
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Seiji Mizushima
Studio - Bones

Synopsis: The first law of alchemy is "equivalent exchange" - in order to gain something one must give up something of equal value.  Young Edward and Alphonse ("Al") Elric believed this law to be the only truth of alchemy and paid a horrific price.  The two brothers learned alchemy in order to be like their absent father, a famous alchemist, and lived with their loving mother.  When she died of an illness they vowed to use alchemy to bring her back.  Assembling the ingredients for a human body the two attempted the process to recreate their mother.  Human transmutation is highly illegal and the brothers' attempt went terribly out of control.  Al lost his body and Edward lost a leg during the procedure.  Al would have died if not for Edward's quick thinking - he bonded Al's soul to a large suit of armor, but lost an arm in the process.  Worse yet, the creature the two put together was an abomination and failure.
Al and Edward learn alchemy - their lives would soon change forever
Emotionally devastated and left disfigured by their failed attempt at human transmutation, the brothers new mission is to restore their bodies.  Edward's missing two limbs are replaced with "automail" - advanced prosthetics, and Al's soul animates the empty suit of armor like a natural body.  Edward is racked with guilt over Al's condition - Al can no longer 'feel' and doesn't need food, water, or rest anymore.  Edward becomes a State Alchemist in order to gain more knowledge about human transmutation.  He is codenamed the "Fullmetal Alchemist" and is able to perform transmutations without requiring a circle.  Al remains by Edward's side on his assignments and the two prove to be a formidable team.
The Elric brothers after their failed attempt at recreating their mother
They learn of a miraculous object called a Philosopher's Stone which helps perform transmutations without paying the price of equivalent exchange.  Edward becomes obsessed with learning about the stone, but as the pair get closer to the genuine article they discover it harbors a dark secret.  Being a "dog of the State" grates on Edward and he rails against authority.  The State is guilty of some despicable acts, particularly the war on Ishbal where the State used alchemists to decimate the population.  A scarred man from Ishbal appears and exacts mortal revenge on State Alchemists.  Will Edward and Al become his next victims?
The mysterious scarred man from the East
The journey to finding the Philosopher's Stone is fraught with peril as many pretenders exist.  Can the brothers restore their bodies or will they be among the countless others who have died in frivolous pursuit of this dream?  They discover the State is filled with corruption and someone is manipulating events from behind the scenes.  Who or what are the homunculi?  What terrible choice will Edward be forced to make?
The Philospher's Stone can perform miraculous transmutations
without paying the price of equivalent exchange
Here are some of the characters Edward and Al will meet:
  • Roy Mustang - superior officer to Edward and known as the "Flame Alchemist", a seasoned soldier who regrets his part in the war with Ishbal, wants to change the State from within
  • Maes Hughes - works in military intelligence and is old friend's with Roy Mustang, often helps the Elric brothers with information and guidance, has an adorable little girl
  • Winry Rockbell - childhood friend of Al and Edward, skilled automail technician and repairs Ed's limbs when they are broken during battles
  • Louis Armstrong - the "Strong Arm Alchemist", built like a tank and often shows off his muscles by taking his shirt off, highly emotional and empathetic
  • Scar - mysterious Ishbalan with a prominent scar on his face, possesses tremendous alchemical power in his right arm, his mission is to kill all State Alchemists as revenge for the slaughter in Ishbal
  • Shou Tucker - the "Sewing-Life Alchemist", a researcher who created the first talking chimera (an animal with human-like intelligence), he lives with his daughter doing State-funded research
Maes Hughes says farewell to the brothers as they embark on a train

Pros: Great soundtrack particularly the opening/ending theme songs - "Ready Steady Go", "Melissa" and "Undo" are all enjoyable, character designs and character development are well done, excellent mix of comedy and serious themes, lots of interesting alchemists with different powers along with the mysterious Scar, alchemy is a cool concept
Roy Mustang shows why he's called the "Flame Alchemist"
Cons: Most of the comedy is slapstick and silly which contrasts with the serious elements, a few episodes were duds, simple animation and backgrounds
Edward and Al meet the other Elric brothers - huh!?
Mike Tells It Straight: Fullmetal Alchemist is a wildly popular anime series which manages to near-perfectly balance comedy, adventure, and serious subject matters.  I finally checked out the first season after seeing several episodes on Cartoon Network a few years ago and hearing a lot of praise for the series.  Well, it lived up to most of the hype.  The Elric brothers are likable protagonists and the circumstances of their disfigurement was truly grave.  Alchemy made a great backdrop for their story and we really get to see them develop over the first season.
Nina, the daughter of Shou Tucker, and her dog Alexander
The show started off a bit slowly, but gained good momentum right about the time Scar and the chimera were introduced.  I knew this anime was serious after those episodes and the rest of the series kept getting better.  I was a bit surprised at how lighthearted most of the series was - Edward's short-man complex, how childlike Al was in his massive armor, Maes Hughes comical gushing over his little daughter, Louis Armstrong's emotional outbursts, and more.  It helped make the characters more endearing (or more annoying, I'm not quite sure yet).
The mysterious homunculi Lust and Gluttony
This first season is half of the first full series (total of 51 episodes) and has been followed up by a quasi-sequel series Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (a completely new version of the series, but with additional details and based completely on the manga).  The ending of the first season was really the beginning of the major storyline which plays out in the second season.  Despite its slow start I think FA is highly entertaining and has a lot of good subject matter.  The Elric brothers are damaged both on the outside (lost limbs, artificial body) and the inside (absent father, closeness issues).
Winry and her grandmother repair Ed's auto-mail
Those looking for a strictly serious plot may dislike the comedy aspects of the show.  If you can deal with the slapstick then you'll be rewarded down the line with more serious events.  I wouldn't recommend this show for young viewers due to the dismemberment and killing, but definitely teens and maybe pre-teens (borderline).  FA is a critical success and lives up to being one of the better shows of the past decade.  I recommend checking it out if you haven't already!

TO BUY and Recommendations: