Friday, December 6, 2013

Fullmetal Alchemist Season Two Anime Review

Fullmetal Alchemist Season Two
Hagane no Renkinjutsushi (Alchemist of Steel)
Funimation
Complete Collection - 4 discs
$49.98 (2010)
$69.98 (2009)
$49.98 (2008) Part 1-2/ea.
$19.98 (2008) Vol. 8-13/ea. Viridian
$49.98 (2006) Vol. 10 Limited Case
$29.98 (2006) Vol. 8-13/ea.
ISBN 704400082702
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Seiji Mizushima
Studio - Bones/Aniplex

Synopsis: The Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, are a tragic pair - they grew up alone with their mother after their father disappeared.  He was a famous alchemist and the boys had a natural affinity for alchemy.  They couldn't keep away from it and quickly learned its basic arts including transmutation circles, chemical compositions of physical objects, and the absolute law of equivalent exchange - "in order to gain something one must give up something of equal value".  When their mother becomes ill and passes away the boys are devastated.  They vow to use alchemy to bring her back to life and assemble the ingredients for a human body.  Human transmutation is highly illegal and for good reason.  The brothers' attempt goes horribly wrong as Ed loses a leg and Al loses his entire body during the procedure.  In desperation Ed bonds Al's soul to a suit of armor, but loses an arm to equivalent exchange in the process.  The creature they create is not remotely human.
Ed and Al continue their journey to find the Philosopher's Stone
Ed is lucky the brothers' childhood friend, Winry, and her grandmother are expert 'auto-mail' mechanics and fashion artificial limbs for him to use.  Al's soul can animate the suit of armor, but he no longer has a biological body.  The pair have a new mission to restore their bodies and learn of the mythical Philosopher's Stone which enables transmutations outside the law of equivalent exchange.  Ed joins the military as a State Alchemist to tap into their research about the stone, but soon learns being a 'dog of the State' is not all it's cracked up to be.
Winry tags along with the brothers on their journey
Years ago the State was involved in a bloody war with Ishbal which led to almost complete genocide.  Ed becomes known as the "Fullmetal Alchemist" and serves under Roy Mustang, a reluctant hero of the Ishbal campaign and known as the "Flame Alchemist".  Al tags along with Ed on his State missions as they search for the stone.  During their journeys the brothers have encountered many pretenders to the true stone, but eventually find genuine leads to its secrets.  The closer they get to uncovering the truth the more deadly the stakes.
Fuhrer Bradley seems like a strong yet fair leader, but how could he be the
same man who ordered the genocide in Ishbal?  
Their toughest opponent has been an Ishbalan refugee with a tattooed arm and criss-crossing scar on his face, known only as "Scar".  He vowed revenge on all State Alchemists for the slaughter in Ishbal, but his arm holds a deadly secret.  To what ends will he go to achieve his vengeance on the State Alchemists?  What does the massive death toll in Ishbal have to do with the Philosopher's Stone?
The "Scarred Man of the East"
A shadowy group of beings known as Homunculi guard the secrets of the stone.  They have incredible powers and seem unable to die.  What are their terrible origins and their link to human transmutation?  Who is behind their actions?  Ed and Al slowly discover the real origin of the stone with it's horrific price.  Death lurks around every corner and corruption in the State goes right to the top.  Can Roy Mustang find Maes Hughes' killer?
The brothers encounter the Homunculus called Greed
Ed and Al apprenticed under a hard-nosed teacher who finds them again after many years.  Why can she perform transmutations without a circle?  As the boys get closer to achieving their goal of finding the Philosopher's Stone their loved ones are put into greater danger.  What happens when Winry discovers the person responsible for her parents' murder is someone she knows?  The final search for the stone brings all of the conflicting forces together and sparks will fly.  What is the gate which appears during a human transmutation and what lies beyond it?  Can Ed and Al truly get their bodies back even if they somehow manage to obtain the Philosopher's Stone?
What are the secrets of the gate?
Pros: Great continuation of the search for the Philosopher's Stone from the first season, the ending answered a lot of questions from the series, fairly decent ending, good soundtrack and character designs, the Homunculi are tough adversaries, tone gets more serious in the final season
Winry works on Ed's auto-mail
Cons: Slapstick comedy just like the first season (although less this time), story and ending don't follow the original manga, simple animation and backgrounds, final villain was somewhat disappointing and came out of nowhere
Ed and Al's hard-nosed teacher
Mike Tells It Straight: The second season of Fullmetal Alchemist was an intense roller-coaster ride as the Elric brothers close in on the true Philosopher's Stone.  If you watched the entire first season then you're familiar with the series' blend of comedy, action, and drama.  It's difficult to balance these elements, but FA pulls it off pretty well.  The comedy felt out of place sometimes, but you get used to it and the serious elements are worth the wait.  I really liked the mystery of the stone and its slow reveal throughout the series.  The Homunculi are intriguing villains who seem unstoppable and evil, but seem to have a softer side as we get to know their history.  Scar remains a badass and plays a small, but significant role in the second season.
What is the horrifying secret of the Homunculi?
We get to see another piece of the brothers' origin when their old teacher shows up.  Her story and the revelation of the gate are truly horrifying.  The entire second season was much more serious than the first.  We're left with some major episode cliffhangers and the political intrigue within the State is nail-biting with Roy Mustang.  Winry is around for more the story and we learn who killed her parents.  All of the story seeds from the first season bear fruit and almost everything gets resolved by the end.
Roy Mustang getting some work done
Some new characters and story elements added in the second season were a little controversial.  The brothers' teacher is one, but we also meet their long-lost father and the true villain of the series is revealed (is it him!?).  Events start happening very fast at the end and the final episodes are highly emotional.  This first series diverged from the massively popular manga by Hiromu Arakawa because it was created before the series was ended and he wanted to have each medium's version be different.  Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an adaptation which follow the manga more closely and is more serious in nature.
A glimpse into the events of the final season!
I enjoyed this series and thought the ending was actually pretty decent.  A lot of people didn't like the final villain since they appeared so late in the show.  The mystery of the gate was really intriguing, but I would have liked to get a better explanation.  Despite its shortcomings I thought FA was one of the better anime from the past decade and recommend it highly.  I'm really excited to check out FA:B to get the real story of the manga and it looks more hardcore!
Ed might want to get that wound looked at
TO BUY and Recommendations: