ONCE AGAIN, LOOK OUT FOR SPOILERS.
Where do I begin?
I was a bit reluctant to watch this series. When I was halfway through Fullmetal Alchemist, early last year, someone told me they were doing a new show more faithful to the manga. And I remember thinking ‘Crap, so why am I even bothering with this version?’. But I finished it, completed it with The Conqueror of Shambala and felt mildly satisfied. The series were brilliant apart from the eyebrow raising ending and the questionable movie plot. Only now that I’ve finished Brotherhood can I realize how far-fetched some arcs were but to each their own: Fullmetal Alchemist was a good achievement, but it has to be considered as something with a life of it’s own, unattached to Arakawa-sensei’s work. A bit like Rurouni Kenshin:Seisohen: good work, but if you end up thinking about Watsuki-san’s work your stomach will turn over. But I was still undecided whether to watch this or not until some brilliant opportunity came up: final exams. Is there a better time to watch a 64 episode long series? I highly doubt it (as a matter of fact note only, I did pretty well on the exams, so no worries).
The main plot is very much like Fullmetal Alchemist‘s: Edward and Alphonse Elric are the sons of renowned alchemist Van Hohenheim and Trisha Elric. When their father leaves the house, Trisha slowly perishes and the boys try to resurrect her through alchemy, with disastrous consequences. Ed loses his leg and gives up his arm in order to retrieve Alphonse’s soul, attaching it to a suit of armour. The brothers embark on a journey through alchemy to learn ways of getting their bodies back, finding themselves in a situation they didn’t ask to be in but is closer to their hearts than they think.
However, the story changes drastically after Nina and Dr. Tucker’s arc, following the original work instead of making-up a story of its own. And I’m glad it did, because Tucker annoyed me incredibly in Fullmetal Alchemist. Brotherhood doesn’t include that questionable relationship between Scar and Lust, the far-fetched arc with Izumi’s son being an Homunculi with Ed’s arm and the whole thing about Envy being Ed and Al’s brother. Here, the Homunculi are simply Homunculi with no sappy past stories: although some of them have their own little personal tragedies, like Greed and, a favourite of mine, Envy, a character I’m sure everyone hated at first but actually felt sorry for in the end. This is another strong point in Brotherhood: the whole myriad of secondary characters that you can’t help but like. In fact, there isn’t a single character I didn’t like in the end, apart from Wrath who was just plain boring. Each character has their own purposes for fighting, something bigger than themselves moving them and each has a strong characteristic that makes them unique, whether it’s the little sparkles that float around Armstrong all the time (yes, they’re here too!) or Ling Yao’s constant hunger.
As for the main characters, Edward and Alphonse, they also endeavour on a physical and psychological journey that questions their sense of right and wrong and opens their eyes to what people can do as means to achieve a bigger end; in this case, something terrible personal wish. All the defects of men are here, personified in the Homunculi and in humans as well: vanity, ambition, selfishness, jealousy, envy. I think vanity and selfishness, thinking about what you want regardless of the others, are the most proeminent. If it weren’t for them, none of the characters would be in the mess they find themselves in. I think Alphonse develops more than Edward. He’s a personal favourite of mine, so I may be defending him, but he changes from a shy kid who lived in his brother’s shadow to a selfless albeit courageous young man, and this we can see when he decides to leave his body behind for a little while longer. He had everything he always wanted right in front of him, but someone else needed him most. It must’ve been a really tough decision not to be taken lightly. As for Edward, and I do like him as well, he evolves from a kid who thought he owned the world to someone who realizes the world is made up of ugly truths, but he doesn’t really apply this knowledge on himself. Sure, his final decision is very courageous as well, but I saw more maturity in Alphonse than in him. But then again, since Alphonse is one of my favourite characters, I might be biased. Tell me your opinions!
This show also brings Hohenheim to light, and he became another favourite of mine. Instead of the evil guy who makes Homunculi out of his offspring, we have a severly misunderstood man who craves for his sons acceptance and who, basically, started it all. He feels on his shoulders the responsibility to end it as well, alone; to his astonishment, he meets his sons along the way and their broken relationship is put to the test, to heart warming results. I also liked to see how Hohenheim and Edward are alike, not only in looks, as you will see on the photo below, but in attitude either: Ed hates being called small, Hohenheim hated being called stupid. They both reacted exactly the same way. The way they brag is also identical. It’s really a like father, like son story.
In the end, the good guys win and get everything they wanted but with a bittersweet touch. A very bittersweet touch. You will cry your eyes out in the end, this I guarantee. It’s really cathartic… in a way, it embodies everything Fullmetal Alchemist failed to bring.
Brotherhood is a nearly perfect show. The animation is superb (the fight scenes are so amazingly fluid they will make you want more and more), the soundtrack is magnificent and especially haunting in the most emotional scenes (especially in the final episodes) and you know the best thing? No fillers at all. It’s just plot moving forward episode after episode. I might just add something I think is very important here: the technical aspects of the show are impecable, like I just said, but this is one of those cases where the characters make the story. They simply shine and, in my sky, they will do so for a very long time.