It’s a great week to be a Fullmetal Alchemist fan. As of June 30th the first 26 episodes of the fantastically popular anime are available on iTunes for only $38.99, or $1.99 per episode, with the rest to follow I’m sure. I am actually kind of envious really. I bought the series as 13 separate discs: Even buying some used, costing me between 10 and 20 dollars apiece… let’s just say it was way more than I should have paid for any piece of entertainment, even if it is the second best thing out of Japan in years. (I’m sorry, FMA is superb, but Miyazaki’s work is the best there is, he’s a master) Heck, if I had the money I’d buy it again, just to have it on my computer and iPod.
There is one other stupendous bit of news about FMA, one I wish I’d heard about earlier. A brand new anime entitled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in English began airing in Japan back in the beginning of April. It airs weekly, with episode 13 airing the 28th of June. They even got the same actors portraying Ed and Al. Amazingly they have been streaming the episodes in their entirely with subtitles on FUNimation’s website just a few days after each airs. Right now it seems they are having some technical difficulties with the site, the following message appears:
NOTICE: This site is undergoing maintenance operations. Please pardon any service interruptions.
This message will be removed when we are complete. Thank you for your understanding. –FUNimation
I’ve tried a number of times to watch the most recent episodes, but it glitches every time. Luckily there is another way to see them legitimately, as they are also posting the episodes on You Tube here. The list only shows episodes 1-8, but 9 and 10 are up as well.
So why make a new series? The original anime has been criticized (stupidly) for following the manga for only the first half of its run. After that an entirely different main antagonist and plot progression occurs. I say it is a stupid complaint for the simple reason that at the halfway point of the show they had covered everything thus printed in the manga. (It is in fact ongoing; book 18 in English just hit my library shelves this week) This new show is going to follow the manga more closely, at a faster pace. Episode 10 of Brotherhood covers much of the same events of episode 25 of the original. This is simply because with so much more of the manga to draw from and adapt for the show a lot of the side-stories simply can’t be fitted in. Aside from continuity issues, a lot of things have been improved with this version. It feels more mature somehow; surer of what the story is about.
The music is excellent as always, and I will definitely be looking for the opening and closing themes on iTunes, or baring that a soundtrack. The story telling has improved dramatically as well, saying more with less time and better evoking emotions. For example the flashback showing their disastrous attempt at resurrection is far creepier and scarier than the first time around. I’m not sure what their plan for ending it is, for obvious reasons, but I am excited to find out.
For those unfortunates unfamiliar with the anime/manga that is Fullmetal, I shall endeavor to explain its awesomeness. (As best I can without spoilers anyway) Fullmetal Alchemist is set in early 1900’s Europe, but not as we know it. Much of the central continent (Roundabouts Germany) is part of the country Amestris, a military dictatorship coming out of a massive expansionist phase. Technology is much the same as the real world, with one huge exception. Alchemy is the most advanced and powerful science of the world, able to reshape matter in radical ways. There are limits though, the main one being the law of Equivalent Exchange, basically that in order to gain anything, something of equal value must be lost. In other words you can turn a wall into a door, or make a knife from a steel pipe, but not shrink a house or make a mouse the size of a lion. The other big taboo is human transmutation, using alchemy on a living person. That is strictly forbidden.
This is where we meet the protagonists, Edward and Alphonse Elric. As young boys they studied alchemy from books left behind by the father who had abandoned them and their mother. When she dies of an illness they decide, grief stricken, to bring her back. It doesn’t go well. Not only was their experiment a complete failure, but Edward loses his leg, and Al’s body entirely disappears. In an act of desperation Edward sacrifices his right arm to alchemically bind Al’s soul to a suit of armor, saving Al from death, but making him unable to feel, sleep, eat, or experience pain.
After being fitted with metal prosthetics (another science more advanced in their world) Edward joins the military (at the young age of 12) as a state alchemist, required to serve as a human weapon in war, but also given access to a huge research budget and restricted materials. He an Al set out to find the philosopher’s stone, said to allow the bearer to ignore equivalent exchange in addition to amplifying reactions. The Elrics won’t rest until they have their bodies back.
Really, FMA is one of the best shows I have ever seen. The characters are smart and original, with personalities that are totally believable and likable. Every character is distinct, despite the fact that most of them wear a military uniform. It’s always enjoyable, even if Ed’s reaction to height comments gets a little old after the hundredth time.
What’s more it deals with the human condition in a very poignant way without preaching or becoming heavy handed. I’m not ashamed to admit that Fullmetal is the only anime every to actually move me to tears. (In my own defense though manly-man character Major Armstrong cried at that point too) Anime is not for everyone, not in Japan, and most certainly not in the West. I can totally understand why someone would have no interest in any of it. Even so, this series (both versions) I would recommend for anyone, anime fan or not.
[tags]anime, Fullmetal Alchemist[/tags]