Actions

Work Header

Fullmetal Alchemist OG vs. Brotherhood: A Comparative Liveblog

Chapter Text

image

So I’ve seen this image come up on Tumblr too many times, and I think I’d like to break it down.

The subtext of this image is that the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime did not do any of these things correctly, and Brotherhood is an improvement on all fronts. Perhaps that isn’t actually what this particular artist meant to imply, but it is definitely the prevailing attitude of the fandom.

I saw the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime around when it first came out, and loved it. I heard the manga was very different, so I was interested to check out Brotherhood when it came out later.

I hated it.

I really, really hated it. It completely rejected everything I loved about the original anime. I would later come to understand that this was because the original anime was, itself, spitting upon the source material. Despite starting from the same point, they are radically different stories that set out to accomplish different goals.

But people don’t seem to talk about them like that. I don’t see people saying OG is a legitimately different story, and that it’s valid to like or dislike it based on what themes you’re interested in. People only ever seem to talk about OG like it is an inferior version of Brotherhood, objectively worse, that absolutely everything it did Brotherhood did better.

I don’t think that’s true, and I’d like to talk about why. However, I haven’t watched either anime in a while, so to be absolutely fair, I’d like to look at both of them with a fresh pair of eyes, and actively compare them to each other, to see what is different.

I plan to go over at least every episode up to the divergence point (episode 14 in Brotherhood), and note differences and similarities between each. I also plan to cover the anime’s filler episodes, though probably not in as much detail. From there, I’d like to continue covering OG until the end, because I think comparing the endings to the two series is very informative. I don’t plan on covering Brotherhood past the point where I ragequit initially, which was Lust’s death. I will explain why when we get there.

Chapter Text

 

Fullmetal Alchemist

OG’s first episode begins where the manga begins: in medias res, with the Elric brothers in Liore pursuing rumors of the Philosopher’s Stone.

This is a very slow, introspective episode; the action of the Liore storyline does not kick off until the next episode. Much of the episode is spent on exposition, primarily on alchemy. The characters take pains to explain the magic system’s mechanics and limitations, and we also get a look into what the exceptions made possible by the Philosopher’s Stone look like. As a first episode, this tells us: this is a fantasy series where the magic system is very rigorous and follows consistent rules, and exploring those rules will be an important part of the story.

We also learn a lot about our main characters, yet many of the details are still played close to the vest. One is only a suit of armor, and the other has prosthetic limbs. We can draw a clear connection to the opening flashback, but the details are still unclear. What, exactly, happened to them? Why, exactly, did they do this? What does it mean that human transmutation does this to people -- again, tying into the mechanics of the ‘verse. As a first episode, this tells us: we’ve tantalized you with a mystery, keep watching to learn the answer.

This episode also lays out its cards in terms of theme. Much of the episode is just spent on philosophy. Ed gives his views on religion and humanity, and Rose pushes back. Ed dismisses Rose’s faith, but Rose points out that he clearly doesn’t know all the answers if his science can’t resurrect the dead either. In the background, Cornello is manipulating everyone. This is a story about lies and truth, reality and ideals, faith and science. What is the answer? Keep watching, and maybe you’ll find out!

This is what hooked me. It effectively advertises what the story is going to be about, and those are things that interest me. It gives a lot of interesting exposition without feeling forced, and gives us just enough hints towards the characters and mysteries to keep me engaged. I want to know where this is going.

FMA: Brotherhood

Brotherhood opted to do something completely different for its first episode: an original story about Isaac McDougal, a rogue State Alchemist.

This is definitely an episode that assumes you are already familiar with Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s even more in-medias-res than OG’s first episode: This episode throws a ton of characters, philosophies, and conflicts at us that we have no rightful context for at this point in the story. The opening scene isn’t even about the main characters. We have no context for who Mustang or Isaac are or why it’s significant that they’re here and fighting each other. It’s not entirely clear whether Isaac is right or not or what he’s talking about -- the exposition side of things gets a little cramped in this action-packed episode. Kimblee gets a cameo, but he isn’t going to be relevant to the story until much later. The ending seems to make it clear that Bradley is evil, but it’s not clear what we’re supposed to do with this information. It’s all very interesting if you’re already in the know, but it’s a lot to take in for a new viewer.

I also have to ask why Mustang is even fighting this guy when they have the same goal. Is Mustang fighting him to maintain appearances, or due to a genuine moral disagreement? Is it not tragic that he has to make this decision? In doing so, in quelling revolution so he can keep waiting for his perfect moment, has he not become the very thing he hates? Or would giving into the anger and breaking ranks entirely just make him as mad as Isaac? What happens when the internal reformist meets the revolutionary? These are incredibly important questions that deserve time and attention, and ones that would add great depth and meaning to Mustang’s character and the narrative.

What do we actually get? “Ha ha, Mustang is grouchy because he got soaked! It’s funny!”

But none of that is what the episode is really about. What the episode is really about is cool fight scenes.

The Elric brothers are introduced fighting, and fighting by showing off how they can nosell the bad guy’s attacks because they’re so awesome. Pretty much the entire cast of alchemists run into Isaac at some point so we can see high-powered alchemist battles featuring cool moves. It’s capped off with SUPER ALCHEMY that SUMMONS A GLACIER that’s going to DESTROY THE PALACE! HIGH STAKES!!!

As a first episode, this tells us: the rules of the characters, and the setting, aren’t what’s going to be important here.

We’re no longer introduced to alchemy as a tool that fits into society, but as a cool powerset. And that, right there, is one of my big issues with Brotherhood: it’s not actually interested in making alchemy balanced and fitting it into the rest of the world. It’s just interested in using it for flashy magic battles.

I mean, “equivalent exchange” is bunk from the moment we see alchemy in action. Okay, so alchemy doesn’t violate conservation of matter (though we'll have to assume Central is just loaded with aqueducts and it was a very humid day for Isaac’s performances to obey that). But where is Isaac getting all the energy to freeze and boil huge amounts of water, a substance with notoriously high specific heat? Where is he getting the energy to make a giant moving glacier that regenerates itself when shelled by cannon fire? The original anime made addressing that question its central thesis. Brotherhood tells us shut up can’t we just enjoy how cool it looks?

The powers aren’t even very consistent. The first soldier Isaac freezes, he just needs to touch his arm and the whole body freezes immediately. When Isaac touches Ed’s arm, Ed is perfectly fine except it... rips his coat? How? I thought we were supposed to assume Isaac can only affect things he can directly touch... except in plenty of scenes he’s bursting water pipes from afar. Oops! So why does he need to use his own blood to make a stupidly fragile and inefficient weapon when he should be able to just freeze Ed from a distance? Why does the palace only start freezing when the glacier touches it, why couldn’t he have just frozen the place to begin with? Why does his blood spear dissolve when he dies, but the city-freezing alchemy is still going and needs to be disrupted by destroying the sigils? What exactly are his limitations here?

As later episodes are going to show, we aren’t supposed to be asking these questions. Brotherhood isn’t interested in answering them. It likes alchemy for the power, not the limitations.

Now, in and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of shows based around high power fight scenes, and that’s a perfectly valid genre. Giant Death Glacier is cool. But FMA keeps insisting that alchemy is not magic, that it does have rules and restrictions, equivalent exchange equivalent exchange equivalent exchange. And that’s why I write this down as a blunder. Brotherhood knows what it wants to be, but doesn’t seem able to admit to it. It’s false advertising.

Still, this isn’t objectively bad as a first episode, given the intended target audience and purpose. If you want to watch your favorite characters being cool and getting into high action magic battles, this definitely delivers, and it’s pretty representative of what the rest of the series is going to look like. But you do have to look at a guy pushing a giant regenerating glacier around a city while shouting “equivalent exchange!” and not lose your suspension of disbelief, and that’s not what I want out of stories. I like the idea of magic that really does function like a science, with limitations, checks, and balances, and I like stories that seriously grapple with those implications. Brotherhood’s first episode does not do this, and it’s pretty honest about the fact that the rest of the series won’t either.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 1:  "Those Who Challenge the Sun"

Wikipedia’s plot summary:

In a brief flashback, the Elric brothers Edward and Alphonse had attempted to perform an alchemical transmutation in the hopes of bringing their late mother back to life, but they had failed in doing so. As a consequence, Al disappears, Ed loses his left arm, and a grotesque figure appears in the transmutation circle. In the present, the brothers walk across a desert. They arrive at Lior, where they hear about a religious leader named Father Cornello who can create miracles. However, as they realize that he is performing alchemy and ignoring the law of equivalent exchange, they believe that he possesses the philosopher's stone, which they had been searching for to restore Al's body. Threatened, Cornello orders Cray to kill them. Rosé, a girl the brothers meet, is traumatized after witnessing Al's lack of a human body, runs to Cornello. The Elrics follow her, and Cornello releases a chimera on them when they meet. Cornello also transmuted a giant bird from a parrot and sends it to fight against Ed, who fends both of the chimera and the bird off by exposing his automail, his metal arm and leg. Cornello then realizes why Ed is nicknamed the "Fullmetal Alchemist", understanding that the brothers had committed the ultimate sin of human transmutation.

I like this episode a lot as an introduction. It uses in-medias-res excellently, with a shocking opening that makes us wonder what happened to the brothers and how they’re still alive four years later. It’s immediately followed by a funny opening scene that functions as a palate cleanser for the horror we just witnesses while also establishing the brothers’ dynamic with each other, as well as hinting at alchemic mechanics (”If only there was some grass, I could turn it into bread”).

I wanted to do a spittake when I saw Ed was only 15 in the present day, though. That’s some YA level absurdity there. I somehow remembered him being older. (I also feel like it’s rather undermining the horror of his automail stunting his growth -- that’s not immediately apparent if he’s not supposed to be fully grown in the first place. There are definitely 15-year-olds who are as short as him naturally.)

We get another funny scene when they finally make it to Liore; Ed is exhausted and blames Al, but Al points out he’s only tired because he chased Al so hard. This is, again, a really nice and succinct way of establishing their characters and relationship.

Ed finds a fountain in the middle of the city, and discovers it’s pumping wine. This is a really nice detail that fleshes out the city, and shows how Cornello’s miracles are affecting their everyday life. He’s not just making some flashes to wow people, he’s actively changing the city and giving people something tangible to believe in. What I think is most important about this detail is that it adds nuance to this conflict. Cornello really is bettering the city and giving the hopeless something to believe in. These people aren’t just following him because they’re idiots; they are truly desperate. The heroes may be liberating the city from his manipulations, but they’re taking good things away from the city too.

The Elric brothers find a bar and Ed finally gets a drink. The bartender turns on the radio -- a detail that shows this isn’t your typical fantasy story, but one with an early 1900s tech level. We hear Cornello’s broadcast, and the shots decompress to give us time to take it in. We pan over the city, see how everyone reacts to the broadcast, and see Ed’s reaction to it as well.

This is the point where we catch up to the manga’s opening. The bartender asks if they’re street performers; Ed gets affronted, and says only vaguely that they’re here to “look for something”, piquing our curiosity. Ed asks about Cornello and the entire town suddenly crowds in to tell him the good word, which is both funny and an effective means of conveying exposition. They make explicit what was implied by the fountain of wine: their desert town is normally inhospitable, but Cornello made it better.

Al stands up, and breaks the radio by accident. Ed offers to fix it, but Al volunteers instead. This is our introduction to alchemy, and it’s given appropriate weight. We linger for some time on the transumtation circle, and there is dramatic music. Like the radio, this is an effective way of showing what’s special about this world -- we linger just long enough to take it in, without making us get bored.

Ed tries to introduce himself, expecting his reputation to proceed him, but the townspeople are unimpressed. An eavesdropping Lust, however, introduces him as the Fullmetal Alchemist. Her behavior is framed as suspicious...

But we don’t think about it too much because the townspeople immediately mistake Al for the Fullmetal Alchemist, and Ed comically overreacts at the affront. LOL. In the process, we establish that Ed has a complex about being short.

Then Rose shows up. She offers to take them to church and Ed accepts, hoping they’ll find something there. As they walk away, we get a quick scene with the townspeople where they hint that something bad happened in Rose’s past, but they don’t give specifics. Tantalizing! The camera prominently focuses on Lust leaving suspiciously.

Ed then wonders if they’ve seen “that woman at the shop” before. I think he’s referring to Lust, but I don’t know where they would have seen her before. Edit: Found a better translation. He’s saying he doesn’t know her, and wondered how she recognized him.

Rose tells Ed he’ll get taller if he prays, and I get the impression she’s purposefully saying it to get a rise out of him, which is funny.

We cut to Cornello finishing the broadcast. Rose arrives, and it becomes clear she is expecting a miracle in exchange for her service. Cornello strings her along, telling her her good work is recognized but it is not yet time.

The next scene finally tells us what’s going on with her: As the brothers bed down, Alphonse reveals he’s asked around, and discovered Rose is mourning the death of her lover. She has no family, so she is lost and desperate to have him back. Ed looks angry, and firmly rejects the idea that the dead can come back.

We cut to the next morning, where Cornello is doing a demonstration of his miracles. They very explicitly pay homage to Jesus: he turns water into wine, and brings a bird back to life. He also turns a log of wood into a stone statue. His ring glows prominently every time, making its relevance painfully obvious.

In the crowd, Ed and Al discuss whether they’re real miracles. They say it’s clearly alchemy, but he ignores some physical laws. This segues into exposition on the limitations of alchemy and equivalent exchange. Al explains that alchemy follows conservation of matter: he could not have turned the broken radio into a bigger radio, “or a piece of paper, or a tree,” though I’m skeptical of that last part -- one of Ed’s favorite techniques is turning stone into a metal spear, so they clearly can change the material, not just rearrange it. We can even nitpick further by pointing out that alchemy clearly ignores conservation of energy and matter is just energy, so really they should be able to do anything. But hey, I’m here for scientific magic, so I’m willing to see if they can keep it consistent.

We cut to Cornello in his office again. He is paranoid that the arrival of a State Alchemist means the state is going to expose him, and orders that the Elric brothers be disposed of.

I always find it really dumb when characters do this. If you send an investigator after something and they mysteriously go missing, that draws more attention, not less. But Cornello isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, so alright, he’s panicking. To his credit, he really keeps his cool; he does not break character, insisting that he’s doing this to protect the city, and he leaves his ugly orders subtle and implicit.

We’re also told Ed became a State Alchemist at twelve and I have just entered a brain-killing fever. I’m just going to mentally add three years to their ages from now on.

At the last minute, we see Lust is working with Cornello as well.

The next scene starts with Rose in the church. Ed sneers at her for believing God will resurrect the dead. I really like her reaction:

image

image

Look at the detail of those expressions. There is so much pain and frustration at this unwelcome intrusion as he twists the knife so painfully, yet she still manages to compose herself and plaster on a fake smile. This adds incredible depth to her character. She clearly has practice repressing dark thoughts and putting on pleasant facades. Where did she have to learn this? How awful it must be for her to have to live like this. She’s only a side character, but already I’m feeling so much sympathy for her -- more than I’m feeling for Ed at this point. He’s being such a dick to her!

Ed grandstands, pulling out his book and reading off his list of the human body’s ingredients. Rose has a serious reaction:

image

Ed explains it’s the ingredients of a human body, and then moves into his real point: scientists know all this, but there’s been no successful case of creating a real human through alchemy. Despite this, Ed believes that through hard work, they’ll eventually find a way, unlike merely praying for a miracle. He then callously mentions that these materials can be bought cheaply. The camera maintains focus on Rose the whole time, who slowly loses her composure until she snaps at him with indignation.

Ed stands up, but seems to have some difficulty, leaning on the pew to support himself. Nice foreshadowing there.

Ed smarms that despite rejecting God, alchemists are the closest humans have come to him; Rose snaps that he’s not God, and Ed counters that neither is the sun, and makes a vague statement about getting burned if you venture too close.

This is an incredibly powerful scene. The framing makes this feel as tense as a fight scene -- because in a way, it is, but one much more important than a mere clash of weapons. This is a battle of philosophies, and that’s what this series is truly about. We’re made to wonder why Ed speaks with such conviction -- from the opening, we know his attempt to bring his mother back failed horrifically, so who is he to act like he knows the truth? Rose is a worthy opponent -- her counterarguments are not just the talking points of an evangelical robot, but real arguments with real emotion behind them. We know there is so much subtext under everything they say -- both of them have lost people they love, and both of them cling so strongly to their respective coping methods. Ed doesn’t come out the clear victor here.

Then suddenly, it’s action time! Clay tries to assassinate Al, and in the process we discover that there is nothing inside his armor. Ed knocks him out with a quip, showing he’s used to this kind of violence, but Rose has a breakdown. Al tries to explain that this state is punishment for trespassing in Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, but Rose just runs away in horror. The brothers pursue, and find Rose has led them into Cornello’s trap.

Ed accuses him of having the Philosopher’s Stone, and reveals that’s what he’s been looking for. Cornello admits to it, but once again does a good job of keeping up the act: he claims the Stone is a gift from God, and points out that he’s done real good for the town by reviving it from the ravages of war (a theme that will become important later). Rose outright accuses them of selfishness by wanting to steal their hope.

Cornello’s opening attack is to transmute the floor to sand, sinking Al -- something that was foreshadowed in the opening. Clever. Cornello then sics his chimera on Ed (with some exposition), who makes a spear out of the sand. But I thought you said alchemy couldn’t change materials, Ed. Possibly it’s supposed to be pure silicon? That might explain why it breaks so easily.

Cornello then turns the bird he revived earlier into a huge raptor, which crushes Ed’s spear with its claws. It then tries to do the same to Ed’s leg, but fails -- which I guess is confirmation the spear can’t be a strong metal. Ed punches it out, but is attacked by the first chimera, which similarly fails to tear his arm off. Ed tears his coat the rest of the way off, revealing his automail.

And that’s where we end! Cliffhanger!

FMA Brotherhood Episode 3: "City of Heresy" (part 1)

Brotherhood compresses this arc into one episode, so for now we’ll only cover it up to the same point as OG.

Wikipedia’s plot summary:

Edward and Alphonse arrive at Liore, where they witness Father Cornello gaining the devotion of the townspeople by performing "miraculous" transmutations, which they believe could only have been accomplished using a philosopher's stone. They meet Rosé and request to see Cornello. When Cornello realizes that Edward and Alphonse are alchemists, he ambushes them with a chimera. While battling the chimera, Edward unintentionally reveals his prosthetic automail limbs, and Cornello realizes that he had attempted the taboo of human transmutation.

As to be expected from compressing two episodes into one, this episode feels incredibly rushed in comparison. There’s not even the opening scene in the desert -- we start with the Elric brothers already in the city and listening to the broadcast. They don’t spend as much time talking about Cornello (no specific good works are mentioned), Rose and Lust don’t appear, and fixing the radio is much faster. Ed doesn’t offer to fix it first, which is a reasonable minor detail to cut but I thought it was a good bit. Once again, this only makes sense if you assume the audience is already familiar with FMA and doesn’t need this exposition and character establishment.

The townspeople recognize Ed on their own and once again mistake Al for the Fullmetal Alchemist, and... here is where we get introduced to one of Brotherhood’s aesthetics I hate: the cartoon shift.

image

I know, I know, this is a legitimate technique in anime and manga. I don’t think it’s inherently bad, and it can actually work really well in works that don’t take themselves too seriously, provided this level of comedy is appropriate.

...And I just don’t think that’s the case for FMA. FMA, even Brotherhood, is a very dark and serious story with a lot of violence, death, and heavy themes. And like. Maybe it could still work if the cartoon shifts were restricted to only a few scenes, but they’re not. Brotherhood does it all. The. Time. Even in the middle of serious scenes. And that completely kills the mood for me. I cannot take anything in Brotherhood seriously, simply because it never knows when to stop. This case is a genuinely comedic scene, so it’s not egregious this time, but oh, it will get worse. This very episode, in fact.

We immediately jump to Cornello’s demonstration instead of waiting a day. He only does one miracle, turning a flower into a... crystal? The stone’s influence is less painfully obvious -- it’s prominently displayed, but doesn’t glow. The Elrics still exposit about the law of equivalent exchange, but it makes sense because they have no one to exposit to (Rose isn’t introduced yet). Alphonse also claims that changing vegetable to mineral is a violation of equivalent exchange.

We then jump straight to the church scene. This is our introduction to Rose. I feel like Ed now looks like a bigger dick because he doesn’t even know this person -- in OG he had a reason to talk about God and resurrection, and he was actually trying to help her even if he was terrible at it. Here he just spits on her faith for no reason.

Rose still has her bit about prayer making him taller, but it’s in cartoon style, and a sound effect helpfully informs us she’s being sincere, so she no longer gets the dignity of clapping back to Ed.

Then we get Rose’s reaction to Ed listing body materials:

image

HA HA, THE DUMB COUNTRY GIRL DOESN’T UNDERSTAND THE EDUCATED MAN. LAUGH.

This is not an appropriate time for comic relief. It may not be immediately clear, but Ed is trying to have a serious philosophical conversation by touching on the trauma that defined his life. This is an incredibly important scene to both characters, but now I can’t take it seriously at all. Similarly, Rose’s responses sound silly -- they’re robotic evangelical cliches, not anything grounded in her own situation or true emotion.

Why? I think it’s telling that when Ed gives his line about humans being cheap, the camera focus is on him instead of Rose.

Rose isn’t important in this scene. She’s just an object for Ed to talk at to show how much smarter he is. (But tell me more about how Brotherhood treats its female characters so much better.) OG challenged Ed here; BH just validates him. In both cases, that’s very telling of how the story will ultimately shake out.

Then out of the blue, Ed does a 180 and says he wants to meet Cornello, praise God! Rose sees nothing suspicious about this.

We then get the meanwhile scene where Cornello fears the state is closing in on him, but he’s much more pathetic. He’s visibly sweating and emotional, slipping up multiple times.

The Elric brothers visit Cornello’s estate and the climax takes place there. Similar thing where the secretary tries to kill them, but Al doesn’t lose his head.

Cornello shows up and tries to pretend he wasn’t trying to kill them and very badly denies the allegations he’s using alchemy. What is the point of this?

Then Cornello appears to make a statue out of literally nothing.

Cornello tries to convince Rose to kill the Elrics instead of just killing them himself, because...?

Cornello also gives the exposition about her boyfriend here, while Rose is being a pathetic frail woman and hesitating.

Rose levels the gun at Al and we get ANOTHER comedy scene where Ed is affronted at the mistaken identity because now is definitely the right time for comedic relief.

Rose shoots Al by mistake (I think?) and this is where we learn he’s an empty suit. Except the backstory episode is before this in Brotherhood so we already know, so the impact is kinda lost.

Now Cornello decides to summon the chimera, finally. In this one, Rose is still down there with the Elrics in the line of fire.

The chimera’s claws break off when it tries to claw Ed, which is ridiculous. The chimera in general is a lot more pathetic: we hear it whine and see it have pained expressions when Ed kicks it. I honestly feel bad for the poor thing.

Ed tearing his coat off is the same, but he looks more generically bishonen (less muscle definition). I’ll admit that this does make sense with the idea he’s a growth-stunted 15-year-old.

The mid-episode break corresponds exactly with the end of OG’s first episode, so I’ll end it here.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 2: "Body of the Sanctioned"

After revealing that they were trying to revive their mother, the Elrics warn Rosé that reviving her boyfriend Cain would result in a similar fate. Cornello attacks the boys to chase them away, and he later show a silhouette of Cain in order to comfort Rosé. He then orders the townspeople to attack and capture the Elrics. Ed transmutes some metal to look like Al, and allows himself to be captured. Cornello then takes the state alchemist pocket-watch from Ed, assuming that it is his secret to performing alchemy without a transmutation circle. Cornello catches Rosé trying to visit Cain and he reveals the silhouette to be a chimera made of birds. He leaves her to be eaten by the chimera, but Al arrives just in time to save her. As Cornello tells Edward his plan to use Lior as the base for world domination, Al broadcasts it across town. Ed then defeats Cornello with his superior alchemy, only to find out that the philosopher's stone is a fake. When Rosé confronts the Elrics about how their exposing Cornello did more harm than his deception, Ed tells her to walk on her own two feet. As the Elrics leave, Lust and Gluttony manage to salvage their plans with Lior by killing Cornello and replacing him with Envy masquerading as the "real" Cornello.

We open with Cornello explaining human transmutation is taboo... but interestingly, he first says that it’s also forbidden for alchemists to turn lead into gold. Ed said this in the opening episode too, but I forgot to mention it.

That’s a very interesting line if you know anything about chemistry -- if alchemists can change lead into gold, that means they can change elements. In that case, all bets are off -- they shouldn’t have any material requirements, they should be able to turn anything into the material they want.

I went back to the first episode with another translation, and there, Al says “the base elements have to be similar” when doing alchemy. What might be going on here is that it is possible to shift elements, but only by a few steps on the periodic table, and, just like real nuclear reactions, it’s extremely energy-intensive to the point that only skilled alchemists can do it. So Ed might have been able to turn the silicon of the sand into aluminum or magnesium for his spear -- soft metals that would be crushed more easily than his leg.

(Of course, it now occurs to me there’s also no reason to assume that spear was solid metal -- he could have extracted just enough metal impurities from the sand to coat a rock spear with metal plating, as a bluff. And if they understand crystal structures, it would be quite possible to rearrange matter into a configuration that takes up more volume, appearing to make things bigger without actually violating conservation of matter -- and since a more open crystal structure is more brittle, that would even explain why the improvised weapons alchemists make tend to break really easily!)

@astalkingirin brought this up in a reblog of last episode’s analysis: It’s likely that alchemists aren’t totally unlimited by energy requirements, but that there’s some limitation on how much energy they can generate (or in OG, channel) at once. Since the Philosopher’s Stone acts as a battery, it makes sense that it would let you do these things -- we can assume that the performances of the Philosopher’s Stone are theoretically possible, but outside the normal bounds of how much energy humans can provide.

(I think it’s also interesting that if you go by real alchemic history, you need the Philosopher’s Stone to turn lead into gold. I don’t know if it’s ever brought up again, but it’s possible that, like human transmutation, this is something people have attempted but not actually accomplished.)

Anyway. Al explains they were trying to bring back their mother. Cornello rubs their failure in their face quite cruelly. Ed actually looks somber, and admits not only to his failure but to his recklessness. He turns it into a lesson for Rose, telling her that this is what happens to those who try to bring back the dead.

Cornello comforts Rose, covering up their accusation he’s a fraud by saying the Stone was a gift from God, and with it he can do what they couldn’t. He accuses the Elrics of wanting the Stone to resurrect their mom again, but they say they only want to fix their bodies, and they’ve accepted that some things aren’t possible, even with the Stone.

Cornello turns his walking stick into a massive gatling gun. Given Ed’s ability to turn sand into metal (and Armstrong’s later performances), I think it’s plausible that’s not totally impossible for normal alchemy, and that he probably could have done it without the Stone if he had just bothered to tap the brickwork for iron.

Ed raises a stone wall from the sand to block the bullets, but he looks rattled and says it was a close call. Cornello’s soldiers attack them from behind, and Ed makes a door in a wall to escape. Because he’s extra, he makes a literal (metal) door covered in Gothic flourishes instead of just a hole. I feel like this violates equivalent exchange, as we don’t see the wall deform to imply he’s sucking metal ore out of it, but we can perhaps assume it’s only metal-plated and will collapse shortly.

Rose is shaken by everything, and asks if what the Elrics said was true. Cornello deflects pretty well, saying that just because something can be explained doesn’t mean it’s not miraculous. To cinch it, he shows that he has resurrected Cain -- but he is behind a sheet, and she cannot see more than a silhouette. She is overjoyed, but is disturbed when she notices a mess of bird feathers covering the floor.

We cut to the Elrics, who discover Cornello has ordered the townspeople to capture them. There’s some comedy where they call Ed short and he overreacts -- it’s a bit silly, but given that we just finished a tense scene and we know the townspeople aren’t really dangerous, I think it’s an acceptable moment of lightheartedness.

Ed says Cornello is a fraud, but Rose shows up and says he brought Cain back. The villagers say there have been others too, but Ed is still suspicious, saying he heard the resurrected all left town as soon as they came back. It’s a bit sudden for him to know that when he’s only been here a day -- though possibly Al heard it during the previous day with his plan of “let’s actually do reconnaissance instead of just sulking in our room and assuming we know everything, Ed.”

Cornello attacks them with the sun statues and knocks Ed unconscious. When he wakes up, Cornello takes his State Alchemist pocketwatch, explaining that it’s what lets him do alchemy without a transmutation circle. I’m not sure if that actually checks out -- Mustang shows it’s enough to have a sigil on your person, but we see alchemists use lots of different sigils for everything, so the pocketwatch should only allow you to do transmutations with that sigil. Possibly Cornello is just supposed to be wrong -- I forget if it’s elaborated on later. Still, it’s a nice bit of exposition that justifies why some characters will seemingly break the rules.

The next morning, Rose comes to feed Ed in his cell. Ed tries to make a joke, but Rose has none of it. Ed hears a scraping in the wall behind him and looks pleased... We cut to Cornello’s room, where a snake appears... out of an ouroboros symbol? Envy? When Cornello wakes up, there’s only Lust, who makes a veiled threat.

Rose visits Cain’s room and the wind blows away the curtains, revealing that he’s only a chimera of parrots trained to say her name. Cornello admits that even with the Stone, he can’t make a human soul, and orders the chimera to kill her. He foolishly leaves her for dead, though given he just made a rampaging monster it’s reasonable for him to want to get some distance. Rose is rescued by Alphonse, who takes her outside. He explains that the armor that was scrapped by the statues earlier was a fake made by Ed -- and indeed, the armor doesn’t have the eye glow in that scene.

Alphonse says that the reason Ed’s such a great alchemist is just because he put in so much hard work -- equivalent exchange! The manga and Brotherhood take this statement at face value, but OG will examine it further.

Ed goads Cornello into making a villain speech, then moves aside to reveal Alphonse planted a microphone behind him. Cornello flees into an angry mob. Rather cleverly, he claims Ed was impersonating him, and wows the crowd by animating all the statues in the town. Ed one-ups him by animating the giant statue in the temple.

Cornello exclaims that’s impossible even with the Stone. Al explains it as Ed just being awesome, but I think you could take this as evidence that Cornello is a really crappy alchemist and doesn’t have a good grasp on energy requirements. Maybe even the reason he exhausts the Stone so fast is because he’s using it inefficiently, wasting energy on things he doesn’t need.

Cornello tries to run, but the Stone glitches and mangles his arm. Ed calls it a “rebound”, but when he goes to look, the Stone shatters.

The brothers commiserate about their failure. Ed says he hoped he could give Al his body back, but Al insists Ed should get fixed first, which is sweet.

Rose shows up to confront them for taking their hope -- now they’re just a desert town again. She says she has nothing to live for if Cain won’t come back, and falls to her knees in despair. Ed is callous, but Al stays behind to comfort her.

In the temple, Cornello demands answers from the homunculi. Lust explains that the fake was bait to catch alchemists obsessed with the Stone, but trails off before she explains her full plan. Nooo, why must you tease us so? Then Gluttony eats Cornello. It’s a sound-only death, no onscreen violence.

We cut to later that afternoon, where Cornello appears again. He revives some birds, and claims an imposter worked wickedness while he was away. Oh, the irony. The townspeople buy this, which I think is a nice bit of realism -- as recent events in US politics have shown, a demagogue’s spell is not so easily broken.

The birds disappear as they fly off. I’m not sure on the mechanics of this, as homunculi can’t do alchemy. Can Envy’s illusions extend outside of himself?

Looking down on the scene, Lust muses that Envy will have to keep that form for a while. So, another piece of the puzzle: there’s a third sin-themed individual working with these people, and he has shapeshifting powers. What I also like about this is that the heroes aren’t aware of it. They think they’re done here, but more darkness is brewing they don’t even know about. There’s a promise here that we will revisit this place, and more is going on than it appears.

In the final scene, we learn that Al told Rose their backstory, as a warning not to pursue resurrection. While it’s questionable how he could have explained all that so quickly, it’s a nice bit of compassion from him, and an effective segue into the next episode.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 3: "City of Heresy" (part 2)

Edward and Alphonse escape, taking Rosé with them. While Alphonse explains their story to Rosé, Cornello finds Edward and reveals his nefarious plan, unaware that it had been broadcast to the whole town of Liore through a microphone. Cornello attacks Edward using the philosopher's stone on his ring, but Edward manages to defeat him. Edward realizes that the stone is a fake when it falls and shatters on the ground. Cornello runs off, but is killed by Lust and eaten by Gluttony. Later, Rosé demands the stone from Edward, but he confronts her with the truth about the fake stone and Cornello and he tells her to find strength within herself.

Rose and Cornello's reactions to Ed's reveal are similar, but much more rushed. Cornello doesn't throw their failure in their faces, and Al doesn't explain why they did it. Ed doesn't act somber at all, and just yells back when Cornello taunts them.

Ed's wall looks more like the stone floor, and Cornello didn't turn the floor to sand in this one, so the mechanics of it are more plausible.

After Ed raises the wall, he throws back a quip instead of saying it was a close call.

Al grabs Rose and Cornello shoots at them WITH ROSE IN THE LINE OF FIRE. WHY.

Ed making the door is much faster – no "If you can't find a door, make one!" line, which I think is a loss. This time, their door opens into a bunch of soldiers and they waltz away in cartoon style for some reason, because now is definitely the time for comic relief. No one questions why Cornello has a giant gun.

We skip over everything with the Elrics hiding out and getting captured, and just cut to Alphonse setting up the broadcast.

Oh, he does point out that Cornello shot at Rose! She still doesn't believe Cornello is bad because she's an idiot. This is also where Alphonse explains about their failed transmutation, complete with a mini-flashback. This time, it's Rose who makes Cornello's arguments for him. She does the hunched mousey pose and cries while insisting Cornello can definitely do it despite having no evidence for it in this continuity.

Then we learn that Ed stayed behind in the palace. Cornello finds him and we do the public confession scene here, but this time, we see that this is literally his broadcast office and the microphone was in plain sight. How did he not see it?

image

There's no cord that could connect to the microphone in this shot, either.

Cornello makes no attempt to salvage the situation this time, and just tries to kill Ed. This is where his stone rebounds, but instead of stopping, it just… keeps going and transforms him into a boss monster. No! That does not make sense! A rebound means you ran out of energy! He should not be able to keep going!

Then there's a ridiculously over-the-top boss fight with Giant Cornello. This time, Ed just uses the fist of the statue instead of animating the whole thing. The wall behind it visibly deforms to show where he's getting the material to extend it. Cornello suddenly reverts to normal size when he's hit, which is less explicable.

Only then does the Stone break. There's comic relief afterward where Cornello is silly and pathetic, which I don't think is appropriate. He was a very bad person who is still totally willing to do bad things, I don't think it makes emotional sense to act like he's totally harmless now.

There is a similar commiseration scene, but we skip the bit where Al offers to restore Ed's body first, which is a shame.

Rose's confrontation is much more dramatic – she's pointing the gun at them, though she's shaking with terror and can't aim it. Rose is much more emotional here, and this is where the brothers are accused of wanting the Stone to resurrect their mom again. Ed gets angry and insists the dead can never come back.

Rose collapses and gives the same line about having nothing to live for if Cain won't come back, but she is much more hysterical and visibly crying. Al walks off with Ed instead of comforting her, which seems really dickish of him.

We then get the scene of the mob demanding Cornello's head. He does not mollify them, and instead retreats into the temple where the homunculi are waiting. Lust doesn't explain why she gave him the fake Stone. Lust kills him this time, and despite being speared through the brain we still get a POV-cam of him focusing on her ouroboros tattoo before he keels over. I'm not sure how plausible that is.

What I find most notable is that his death is shown on-camera here. The Isaac episode was similarly quite gruesome. I'll be keeping an eye out for how gory each of the shows are.

The episode ends with Gluttony eating Cornello. There is no scene of Envy replacing him.

Conclusion

I think the most important change here is Rose. In OG she is a much more developed character, and is even made a viewpoint for the scenes with not-Cain. Though she's still frequently scared and helpless, she is still dignified: she makes fierce, reasoned arguments and is clearly going through a personal journey as she grapples with everything she's seeing. Her arguments are hard to totally dismiss, making Ed look cruel for dismissing them and giving us the sense that he is a flawed hero. As I said last time, she's framed as Ed's philosophical equal. There is a case to be made that, while Cornello is the antagonist to the heroes' literal goals, Rose is their philosophical antagonist. She pushes back against Ed's know-it-all assertions, and reminds them that Cornello wasn't all bad – statements that they cannot truly refute. This sets the tone: this story will be about a flawed, conflicted hero who won't always do the right thing, and who will be challenged on that fact.

In Brotherhood, Rose is just The Vulnerable Girl. She exists to be sad and emotional at things so we know they're upsetting, and possibly also to show how tough and strong the heroes are for keeping a stiff upper lip in the same situations. Even when her lines are almost the same, her tone sounds so different – she's so much angrier and more confident in OG, even when there's sadness mixed in too.

I also find it interesting that Cornello is so much more competent in OG. In Brotherhood he is so comical and ineffectual it is absurd to think he ever managed to hold onto his power this long. In OG, he displays the skills of an actual demagogue: he knows how to keep his composure, string people along, and spin situations to his advantage. He's a much more dangerous villain who operates in a much darker and more realistic sphere than the typical shonen opponent-of-the-week, and that's a hint to the tone OG will take as well.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 3: "Mother"

In a flashback that continues through to episode nine, the Elrics learn alchemy from a very young age, taking after their father, who apparently abandoned his family when Al was still too young to remember him. They show their alchemy to both their friend Winry Rockbell and their mother Trisha. Trisha encourages them in the pursuits of alchemic knowledge, but she dies from a sudden illness and the brothers vow to revive her with alchemy. They apprentice themselves to an unnamed alchemist, and after their training, they attempt to resurrect Trisha. The transmutation goes awry, in which Edward loses his left leg and Al loses his entire body. Ed then sacrifices his right arm to attach his brother's soul to a suit of armor. Alphonse carries Edward's broken bleeding body to Rockbell Automail. Roy Mustang arrives unexpectedly, having received a letter the boys sent to his office, inquiring about their father Hohenheim of Light. Having seen the attempted human transmutation, Mustang tries to recruit the boys to become state alchemists, but Winry's grandmother Pinako angrily orders him to leave. Ed pays Pinako for automail limbs and decides to become a state alchemist so that he can gain privileged access to the state library, and find a way to restore Al's body. The Elrics burn down their childhood home so that in efforts of not giving up and try to return and leave Resembool.

We open with the brothers in a library, searching for new leads after Cornello. This is a bit awkward when we already got a perfect segue last episode. The writers may have thought a present-day scene was needed to ground us, but I don't think it's necessary.

The flashback begins with the first time they used alchemy, which was to make a doll for Winry. The subtitles inform us they are 6 and 5 here. As someone who has had actual contact with 6-year-olds, I find it doubtful they could pull this off.

We spend a very long time on the alchemy and the doll's creation, which looks horrific and frightens Winry.

Alphonse then begins narrating, seguing into what will be the opening for the rest of the flashback episodes:

ALPHONSE: Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is alchemy's first law of equivalent exchange. In those days, we really believed that to be the world's one, and only, truth.

This voiceover is set against a shot of a family photo that changes to show the brothers growing up, before it is finally consumed by flames. Their father is in the first photo, but his face is obscured by a glare.

We cut to later in the day. Winry's parents comfort her, and Trisha asks the boys when their dad taught them alchemy. They say they didn't, because he's never around; they learned from his books. Tisha is proud of them, and gives them access to his workshop. She tells them one of the doors is off-limits, but I don't believe that's ever followed up on.

We get a montage over a few years as Al narrates: their father left when they were very young, but their mother kept carrying on. We see a shot of injured soldiers returning from war, but the brothers are oblivious, engrossed in alchemy, and Trisha is happy for them.

We cut to another scene of them showing Trisha and alchemic doll. Al asks if their dad would be proud, and Trisha says that "once he comes home, he'll tell you so". Ed gets very upset at this and runs off. Later, Ed explains to Al that he's angry at Hoenheim for ditching them – and that he can't even hate him properly, because he doesn't remember him enough. I think that captures a nice bit of emotional complexity, and establishes the awfulness of neglect even if Hoenheim wasn't outright abusive. Ed goes on to say that he has reason enough to hate him, just because Trisha always looks sad when she thinks of him. Aw, that's sweet.

They go to Winry's, only to find she's just got the message that her parents are dead. Winry is a sobbing wreck. Al tries to offer empathy by saying they don't have a dad either, but Winry says it's not the same – the dead never come back. Ed says WELL ACTUALLY, human transmutation! Winry's grandmother shoots him down, saying it's forbidden for a reason.

"Alchemy is not some magic, end-all answer," she says over a shot of their dog with the automail arm. Nice touch, there.

Ed insults her and they're chased out of the house in a somewhat slapstick bit. I feel it's acceptable – there's still an undercurrent of darkness to the humor, and it is reasonable to give us a break after that heavy scene.

The brothers then empathize with Winry by wondering what it would be like if their mom died. When they see her, they hug her and start crying.

We jump two years again. We open with a shot of a train, again reminding us of the tech level. The boys return home to find Trisha collapsed on the floor. They call a doctor, but he says it's serious.

Ed devises a plan: Hoenheim has been sending them letters on his travels. He thinks that if they send a letter back to every address, they're bound to reach him.

It doesn't work. As Trisha lays dying, she says Hoenheim left her a lot of money, and she wants them to use it to take care of each other. That's a nice detail – it explains how they were able to be self-sufficient after her death. She asks them to transmute a ring of flowers, saying that their father used to make them for her. This makes the brothers realize that the reason she loved their alchemy was because it reminded her of Hoenheim.

We cut to the funeral. Ed is stoic, but Al is a mess. They stay until the sun sets. Al asks how they can live without her, and Ed says they're going to bring her back.

In the laboratory, they find a book on human transmutation. Al is all "but there are warnings everywhere". Ed insists that the authors only did that to cover up their failure, and that if they just keep trying they can do it. Al wants them to ask Hoenheim first, but Ed says he blames Hoenheim for Trisha's death, because she wasted away waiting for him.

There's a short montage about them finding a teacher, but it's very vague, with only a silhouette of Izumi and a few shots of the island.

Then it's time for the transmuation. I think they're in the room Trisha marked off-limits? Al is worried again, and wonders what they can offer for the soul. Ed just offers a drop of their blood and decides that probably counts, right?

There's a quick shot of Mustang on a hill overlooking the village saying his spidey sense is tingling.

We then see the transumation scene from the opening, but this time, we fully see what happens next: Ed's leg is taken, then Al. The taken bits glow bright white and evaporate into very small pieces.

Since this is from Al's perspective, we cut straight to him waking up in the armor. He sees Ed bleeding out, and we see that the body they created is just a mess of parts.

Al takes Ed to the Rockbells. As he's explaining things, Mustang barges in. He reveals he came after the letters, but doesn't know where Hoenheim is. He's impressed the brothers survived an attempt at human transmutation, and asks them to visit him at Central. Pinako throws him out at this.

We cut to the next morning. Winry is tending to Ed, and there's some comic relief as she pokes at Al. I think it's a little forced for her to be so carefree after what just happened, but she is a kid, and it works as a breather.

Ed reveals he overheard Mustang's offer, and wants to take it. Pinako tries to talk him down, saying the State Alchemists are dogs of the military who are forced to take innocent lives. Ed says that's a price he's willing to pay – he'll do anything to fix this.

PINAKO: Fix you, or the world? Make sure you ask yourself that.

This sounds like an awkward translation to me, but it's an important point. Ed is making a very selfish decision here. He's just said he's willing to hurt people by upholding a violent regime to undo his mistake. But isn't that a mistake in and of itself? How much deeper is he willing to dig himself?

We cut to his automail surgery, which is agonizing. Ed says he can't complain, because Al has it so much worse.

Timeskip to after Ed's recovery. The brothers spar, and talk out their motivations in the process. Al offers to become a State Alchemist instead. He feel guilty because he didn't do more to stop Ed, even knowing it was wrong, and feels indebted because Ed gave up his arm to save him. Ed insists that he takes full responsibility and he'll be the one to do it. He also agrees they shouldn't try another resurrection, because "There's nothing in this world we could trade for Mom's soul." Aw. He also can't bear the thought of losing Al again.

They burn down their home to prove THERE'S NO TURNING BACK, because they're extra, and depart for Central.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 2: "The First Day"

As Edward and Alphonse depart for Liore by train, their childhood is shown in flashback where they learned rudimentary alchemy from their father's books. Upon their mother's death, they attempted to revive her by performing human transmutation, a practice officially considered taboo among alchemists. A dark mass of shadowy hands then proceeded to disintegrate Alphonse's physical body, while a disembodied figure named Truth showed Edward the secret behind perfect human transmutation in exchange for his left leg. To prevent the loss of his brother, Edward bonds Alphonse's soul to a suit of armor, sacrificing his right arm to complete the process. Elsewhere in the present, Colonel Maes Hughes shows Mustang the paperwork concerning the McDougal incident, which states that McDougal used a little-known Xingese art known as alkahestry. Back in the past, Edward's skill in surviving the attempted human transmutation and anchoring his brother's soul attracted the attention of Mustang, who suggested that Edward become a state alchemist. Edward later passes the state alchemist examination and is given the title of "Fullmetal Alchemist".

Like Al's voiceover in OG, there's a short opening that will play over the next few episodes. It conveys the same information – alchemy is not magic equivalent exchange etc. etc., but is spoken by a generic narrator with no emotional context. And…

image

Wow, they are just spoiling everything, aren't they.

There is similarly a present-day grounding scene to start us off. This one follows the events of the first episode, with the Elric brothers departing for Liore after dealing with Isaac. This actually is necessary this time, though there's no clear segue. We do get an additional mini-flashback to Ed just after the transmutation and reading about the Philosopher's Stone, succinctly establishing their motivations – though I imagine first-time watchers will probably be a little confused by it.

Flashback begins after the title card. We start with the brothers already in the study, showing alchemy to Trisha. They give the same "How can we learn from someone who's never here?" exchange. Trisha praises them, and Ed is established as the narrator.

Then she dies. Wow. That was fast. So we're just cutting their entire early childhood. Okay then.

We don't even see the funeral or anything, just a straight cut to the grave. Brothers aren't even in funeral clothes. There's only one bouquet of flowers on the grave, and both Ed and Al are sitting down.

Al wonders when their dad is coming home, and this is where Ed gives the "I hate him, he didn't even come to Mom's funeral" line.

We actually see the dates on Trisha's grave: 1878-1904. So… 26? Narration said she died the same year as the previous scene set "10 years earlier", so Ed must be 5 here – that makes her a mother at 21. Reasonable. We can also conclude this world operates on roughly the same timeline as ours, as the tech level does correspond with the early 1900s. (Nazi Germany is happening a few decades early, though.)

This time, Ed only "wonders" if they can bring her back. I find that weaker; Ed is supposed to be the reckless, determined one, so it feels less in-character for him to waffle on this. This is also where Al gives the "but the books say it's forbidden" line.

Instead of cutting there, Winry shows up to tell them they shouldn't cry because it'll make their mom sad too. Ed just sneers that she always cries over her parents being away (so I guess they haven't died yet). This all feels… off, emotionally. The characters are acting too normal. Or maybe too adult, in the way they're able to keep their emotions under control so well? There's not as much negative energy to this scene as there was in OG – I don't get the full sense of shock and horror that they should logically be feeling after something so terrible.

Then we cut to them having a meal at Winry's. We get it established that Ed hates milk. Pinako says that's why he's short and they yell at each other with comic escalation. I'll admit it's more subjective here whether this is appropriate – I liked the consistency of the tone in OG's rendition of this part, but it is reasonable and even realistic for people to fall into comfortable routines and repartee in the face of tragedy. We should also keep in mind that this is the start of the episode, whereas in OG Trisha's death was close to the climax, so it makes sense that they would want to even out the tone here.

And I guess this also implies they were raised by Winry's family after Trisha's death, which I find creepy knowing Winry is Ed's future wife. She's basically his adoptive sister. Ew. I really wish some media would cut back on childhood friend romances; since Westermark triggers on anyone you're in close contact with as a child, not just relatives, it squicks me just as much as incest.

Then we get the training montage. This time we do see Izumi directly. We're also told it took years, plural.

Then it's the human transmutation scene. In OG, Al switched to reading the ingredients halfway through; here, Ed reads the whole thing. I'm not sure the reason for the change. I suppose it's more natural for one person to read the whole thing, but I liked Al having more of a presence.

This time there's no conversation about the soul – Ed just says "Now we need some soul data" and gives the blood. This makes no sense to anyone who hasn't seen OG.

No shot of Mustang. We go straight to the brothers getting absorbed. The decomposition effect looks different: it's black instead of white, and the flesh breaks into much larger pieces. I don't like it. It looks too mechanical, like they're computer models being broken apart.

Because this is from Ed's perspective, we see the full scene at the Gate... but I’d like to wait until OG gets there to talk about that.

We see the homunculus more clearly, which I feel detracts from the horror. We also don't see its face head-on, which was a big part of the creepiness. It coughs up blood and dies.

After the commercial break, we cut to Mustang in the present day, because that isn't jarring at all. Hughes gives him a report on Isaac that says he was using Xingese alkahestry. Neither of them know what it is. That seems absurd to me. When we meet Xingese characters later, they can't go five seconds without blabbing about alkahestry. If there has been any contact between their cultures at all, I cannot believe the knowledge is this obscure. Clearly at least whoever wrote the report can recognize it, but the military high command of a violently expansionist empire was never briefed on this incredibly powerful technology possessed by their neighbors? This is like not knowing China has gunpowder. In 1914.

We return to the flashback, but still from Mustang's perspective. He arrives at Resembool the morning after and finds the remains of the experiment. Riza's with him also. He barges into the Rockbells' and is very angry and aggressive towards Ed, who breaks down.

Pinako doesn't throw him out this time: he stays, and explains he came to Resembool just on rumors of Ed's prowess. He gives a full recruitment speech about the State Alchemists, instead of Ed providing the exposition. He mentions the soldier part, but it's not as emphasized as it is in OG. Pinako's argument is instead that since alchemy created that horrific monster, she doesn't want them to have anything to do with it again.

We cut to Riza, who is taking tea with Winry in another room. Winry tells her how her parents died, but the important part is that she's scared of losing Ed and Al too. For a kid, she's absurdly good at managing her emotions here.

We then alternate between Mustang and Riza giving Ed the Call to Adventure Speech about how this is a BIG DECISION and it's UP TO HIM and it'll be HARD but WORTH IT and they know he'll take it because he's so DETERMINED. Pinako doesn't throw him out at any point during this.

There's a short present-day scene of them on the train again. Nothing happens. I'm not sure why this is here.

Next scene is Ed requesting the automail surgery. Pinako says it'll take three years for him to fully recover, but he says he wants to do it in one year. We're told he'll be "spitting blood", but unlike in OG we don't see the surgery, we skip straight to the sparring scene.

Sparring scene skips the introspection. Instead the focus is on showing Ed can do alchemy without a circle, and establishing that Al can't.

There's some slapstick where Winry hits him for using alchemy on the automail. It's an acceptable place for it, but urgh I hate that cartoon shift.

We skip the house-burning and go straight to Ed's examination. Bradley observes… because… he's a popular character? Ed makes a spear out of the floor, and wows everyone by not needing a circle.

Then he charges Bradley, because he's Ed. The bodyguards pull their guns on him but do not shoot, which I do not buy. Ed claims he was making a point about them needing better security, but discovers Bradly already cut his spear in half. Except we do the anime thing where the cut has Wile E. Coyote inertia, which is ridiculous with the idea Bradley had it under control. We even see Ed move the spear before it falls apart. If he had just kept moving, he would absolutely have speared Bradley. But other than that, it's good foreshadowing of Bradley's abilities.

image

Hm. The spear does look solid all the way through, but it's a different color than the head. It's entirely possible that the shaft is only stone.

There's a short scene back in Resembool where Al says he'll join Ed if he's successful in his exam, then we cut to Ed getting his certification.

MUSTANG: You are hereby an official Dog of the Military.

I think it'll be worthwhile to count how many times that phrase comes up.

We finish by coming back to present day, as the train approaches Liore. It looks like there's still a lot of vegetation around, which is at odds with Liore being in the middle of a desert.

Conclusion

I think the episode titles are reflective of the most important change here. Both are evocative of childhood; but "Mother" describes a person, and "The First Day" describes an event.

That's the tonal difference I take away from these episodes. OG's version is positively drowning in human emotion. We spend half the episode establishing who the titular mother is and how important she is to the brothers. We see Winry's reaction to her parents' deaths firsthand. We see Ed's pain during the automail surgery. Even the brothers' first use of alchemy is given a key connection to their relationships with others, and peoples' reactions to it are important. It's all about people, their thoughts, their feelings, their connections. We get so much more introspection, so much more analysis of the brothers' motivations and their emotional journey. We spend so much time on it the episode doesn't even get as far in the timeline as Brotherhood’s version.

The Brotherhood episode is about things. Times, places, events. It's a list of things that happened, and as a way of conveying that information it's adequate. But emotionally, it's muddled. I don't feel a clear progression to an emotional climax like I do in OG – we jump too rapidly between scenes, and keep the tone from ever getting too serious. The characters' emotions don't feel as rich or as deep. Everything about it just feels… manufactured, like it's ticking off a checklist of Things That Happen In Shonen Backstory Episode without really caring about any of them. What do you mean, we're supposed to care about the mom? It's not like she's ever going to be important again. Her only purpose is to die, so that's all we need to spend time on. What do you mean, you want to see more of Winry's feelings? Why are you caring about characters who aren't Ed or Mustang? Here, have some extra scenes about how they're very special and tormented, because that's what you're here for, right?

This difference is clear even in the opening intro. OG’s is from the perspective of a character, framing the information as something important to them. BH’s is just rote information.

And what is the ending, the emotional capstone, of each? In OG, it’s the Elrics leaving home after burning it; a somber moment that speaks of uncertain futures. In BH, it’s Ed getting a cool thing.

I also think it’s a little odd that the order of the Liore and backstory episodes get flipped here. I suppose we already had our in-medias-res beginning, but Liore is designed as an introduction. By already knowing all of this, it feels really redundant. There is no clear progression of mystery -> hint -> reveal, it just gives us all the info up-front. I don’t think that’s good plotting, as backstory typically works better as an answer to an issue we’re already engaged with. You want your audience to ask the questions before you give the answers.

I don't doubt that a lot of this is because the writers felt like they were retreading OG's territory and purposefully wanted to do something different, but it's still very telling that this is what they gravitated to: side characters don't matter, protagonist is very special.

This is, again, reflective of the two series as a whole. OG is based in contemplation; Brotherhood is based in action. In viewing these two episodes side-by-side, I think you have a good litmus test for which kind of story you prefer.

I like the former, of course. I was enraptured by the brothers' introspection, felt keenly the height of their joy and the pain of their loss, and was on the edge of my seat over the tension of Ed not getting a glowing job opportunity, but clinging to the faintest scrap offered by a callous man when he was at his lowest point. We are shown the true intensity of his determination, not just told that he had fire in his eyes or whatever.

I will also say, Mustang having an actual reason to visit that gives payoff to an earlier action that seemed futile? Really good plotting. That hooked me, too. These writers know what they're doing.


Another thing I've been noticing: everything is so much brighter in Brotherhood. In fact, since the first episode, I don't think I can remember a single scene that was set at night. It even changes the timeline to make nighttime scenes happen in the day to facilitate this, like Mustang's recruitment pitch.

This is even true in indoor locations. Look at Liore's church in OG:

image

Now look at the exact same scene in Brotherhood:

image

That's one heck of a difference! This is true of the character shading, too. Characters in Brotherhood are almost never in shadow, and when they are, it's very light, almost invisible shading. In OG, several scenes so far have been outright chiaroscuro.

I think this is likely just reflective of a shift in anime styles over time – my memory this far back isn't the best, but I generally recall anime from the early 2000s to have a similarly dark, more realistic style, while anime nowadays tends to be glossier. It could be as simple as the artists wanting you to appreciate the more detailed art, so everyone's always well-lit.

But I feel like – and I admit this is a totally subjective thing – I feel like Brotherhood's art style loses something. It's definitely got better budget and art direction – everything is clearer, crisper, and more detailed. But it also feels flatter. There are points where, based on the lighting, some things shouldn't be well-lit… but they still are. Everything seems to glow with its own light. It has the effect of everything feeling subtly off to me. The people and objects don't seem to interact with the world right. And it kills the tone too, of course, when you can always see everything clearly. I already mentioned this with the homunculus – in OG its edges seem to blend into the darkness around it, making you unclear on where it ends and begins, turning it into an uncertain eldritch horror; in Brotherhood, its outline is much clearer, and my only thought was, "Oh, it's not actually that big." Shadow provides a depth and richness this style misses out on.

I will admit, I'm biased. I adore lighting tricks and chiaroscuro, so. But that's my view on this.


Now, since treatment of women is one of our issues to watch, let's talk about that, shall we?

I already mentioned how ridiculous it is that the mom only exists to die.

I'm sure people love that Riza got a cameo here and talked with Winry because it very technically passes the Bechdel Test. But it doesn't pass the Bechdel Test in spirit – Winry glosses over her own trauma so she can start talking about Ed, and Riza gets sucked into it too. It's sequestering the women away from the Important Man Talk and then making them revolve around it anyway. I much prefer the version where Winry was allowed to have feelings that actively eclipsed the brothers'.

I also think it's rather interesting that in OG, Pinako does put her foot down against Mustang and is an active participant in Ed's decision to become a State Alchemist; in Brotherhood, she's completely passive and lets Mustang give the full pitch with barely a peep of dissent.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 4: "A Forger's Love"

On their way to Central, the Elrics stop at a train station where they hear of an alchemist named Majhal, whose name had appeared several times in their father's correspondences relating to human transmutation, and decide to pay him a visit in the area. Upon entering Majhal's village, they encounter a girl named Clause, who tells them that a zombie has been murdering several of the villagers, her older sister being one of them. Clause petitions the brothers to avenge her sister's death, but Ed is skeptical of the whole situation. Upon meeting Majhal, he tells the brothers that the mysterious zombie is believed to be his former lover Karin, who died in an accident several years ago. After some more investigation, the brothers discover that Majhal has been attempting to revive Karin by using mannequins that look like her, and using alchemy to attach the souls of the village girls he has kidnapped to the mannequins, kidnapping Clause to use her soul. Ed discovers that Karin had not died, but initially lost her memories and has aged. Once her memories returned, she had sought out Majhal, but he was already too possessed by his passions of reviving Karin to recognize her. Majhal refuses to accept the wrinkled old woman who has been supporting him as his Karin, and he attempts to kill Ed. Ed knocks Majhal's weapon out of his hand, which flies into the air and accidentally impales Majhal, killing him. Clause reverts to dressing femininely and sees the brothers off as they continue on their journey.

We open with the brothers on the train to Central. We get more introspection. Ed makes sure Al is on board, Al says he wants to become a State Alchemist too so he can help Ed. They wonder if it'll be hard to become a State Alchemist, and Ed looks somber for a moment before declaring that it'll be no problem for someone of his talent. Al looks sad and Ed realizes he's thinking about Winry.

Cut to Winry and Pinako looking at the burnt home and talking about how stupid the Elrics are. Winry is crying, but also looks like she's quivering with rage. They hope the brothers will come home soon.

As the Elrics wait for the next train, they stop a purse-snatcher with alchemy. They use a rather large circle to do so, and I'm dubious of how they managed to draw one so quickly.

On the carriage ride to the village, Al feels good about himself because he used alchemy to help people.

When they arrive in the village, they get jumped by a gang of urchins. The Elrics prepare to fight, but are totally uncoordinated and trip over their own feet, allowing them to be easily captured. I think this is really cute, and emphasizes that we're in the past. The skilled fighting styles we saw in Liore clearly took time and experience to develop.

Majhal instantly recognizes Al as a bound spirit, despite that being rare knowledge. Foreshadowing!

When Majhal gives them supper, Ed loudly scarfs down the food, which we hear prominently even while Majhal is giving exposition. This amuses me. It's a good use of comic relief, but has a narrative purpose too: like them failing at the battle earlier, this reminds us that Ed's still a kid, and one who probably doesn't get big meals often.

When Clause shows up, she has a fit and runs away. Ed runs after her, but she trips and starts sliding towards the river. Ed quickly draws a circle in the dirt with a stick, and uses it to freeze the water to catch her. So he doesn't know he can transmute without a circle yet.

Also, we see a mechanism for how Ed was able to freeze the water from afar: the reaction travels from the circle to the river before it freezes. See, if only we had been shown that with Isaac's telekinesis I would have had no complaints. (The grass is also frozen along the line, so okay, fair: Isaac's reactions did need to emanate from the contact point, which is why he couldn't freeze Ed from his automail. Still would have been nice if we could have seen that more explicitly when he froze the first guy.)

We see an echo of Ed's dickishness towards Rose as he dismisses Clause's argument of "dead girl showed up once = dead girl killed my sister!" more rudely than it deserves. Clause insults both of them, calling Ed a pipsqueak and Al a trashcan; this actually gets to Al too, but he just sits in the background feeling gloomy while Ed rants, which I think is hilarious. There's a cartoon shift here, but I think it's appropriate, since the tension is low and this whole childish argument is silly.

Majhal sounds pretty creepy when he talks about Karin. The emphasis that what he remembers first about this long-dead person is her beauty is a little unsettling. It's a little hard to tell if we're supposed to take this as a hint he's evil or if it's framed as a normal thing for someone to say.

Majhal uses the transmutation circle on his wristband to amplify the flame of his lantern to burn the Karin mannequin… but it appears to be the same circle he used to mend a broken object earlier, and I'm pretty sure you need a different sigil for that.

There's a shot of Lust spying on them, but she dismisses Majhal as a weak alchemist. Ed notices her briefly as she walks away. So that's a good way of reminding us of the metaplot.

Majhal says that spirit vessels tend to reject dissimilar spirits, so Al is very special. It's not explained exactly how Ed was able to do it anyway with a jury-rigged solution he made while delirious from blood loss, so we're left to assume Ed is just very speshul. I disapprove. This isn't even necessary for the plot: the bound mannequins should want to lash out just from the fact that they're murder victims.

Majhal says he tried human transmutation and failed, but he doesn't appear to have lost any body function in the process.

Ed recognizes Karin by a blue rose in her hair. I… guess she normally kept it covered, but it's still a little weird no one ever noticed. Possibly she only put it there recently, when she tried to confess to Majhal.

"One day her memory returned in a flash!" I don't think that's how amnesia works.

Also, so what, they never found a body? How did no one find that suspicious?

Majhal transforms a tiny chisel into a giant sword with no clear source for the extra mass.

Ed is somehow able to draw a transmutation circle and transmute the rose into a whip before Majhal finishes charging.

Afterward, in an echo of his optimistic statement at the beginning of the episode, Al feels down because he's realized alchemy can be used for evil.

Aaand at the end we learn Clause is wearing a dress again, which is good because Ed tells her she looks prettier in one. Wow, that is some impressive message whiplash. Obsessing over a girl's beauty is wrong except when the heroes do it?

Conclusion

So yeah, this episode is not great. But I don't think it's a total wash either. This is effective in its use of origin story tropes: we can see how the Elrics started learning their martial skills, but also that they have a long way to go before they reach the level we see in present day. We also get some hints to the metaplot – a cameo from Lust, and a connection to Hoenheim and human transmutation. Unfortunately, the alchemic mechanics featured here don't fit with the rest of the series at all, but since it's a filler episode it's pretty easy to disregard them.

On representation: Clause's plotline is awful, yes. But I actually think the A-plot is rather nuanced. In most stories of this type, the fridged woman really is dead. Having Karin still be alive and having the man reject her anyway reinforces how truly awful he is, and shoots down potential apologism. And hey, it ends with a reverse fridging. It's hardly High Feminism, but it is something a little atypical. Even in this slapdash filler episode, these writers are willing to play with tropes instead of falling into total cliché.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 5: "The Man with the Mechanical Arm"

The Elrics are told by Mustang to board the train that is currently leaving the station. Their train is hijacked by a group of terrorists led by a man named Bald. They take General Hakuro and his family captive and demand that their leader is released from prison. However, the Elrics fight back, and meet Major Maes Hughes, who helps them defeat Bald and rescue Hakuro. The train arrives safely at the station and the military moves in to arrest the terrorists. Bald manages to escape, but Mustang demonstrates his abilities as the "Flame Alchemist" and restrains Bald. Mustang then informs Ed that the grateful Hakuro has given him special permission to take the state alchemist examination, which surprises and annoys Ed because of the implication that Mustang manipulated him.

Ed is super formal and gung-ho to Mustang on the phone, which is adorable.

There's a scene where Al feels self-conscious about his appearance. Ed prepares to stand up to him, but blanches when he sees the whole train is gawking at them. We also see that he hasn't yet figured out how to wear a coat that completely covers his automail. I think this is all very cute, and another good reminder how how young they are.

When Hughes is smokescreening with Mustang about if his wife will have a baby, Riza yells that babies aren't born after five months, and Hughes thinks to himself "doesn't she know we're only smokescreening?" I'm not sure if the joke is supposed to be that Hughes is just that annoying or that she's out of the loop entirely. She doesn't seem surprised when Hughes switches to real talk, so probably the former, but it's still not great that the woman is introduced as the overserious killjoy.

Ed and Al successfully subdue two of the hijackers, but the passengers point out that they've only escalated things, and that they would have been safe if they had cooperated.

Al's armor can deflect bullets without any apparent damage, so either they're very crappy guns or that's very good armor.

Ed turns the metal of one car into a cannon, though I'm not sure where he's getting the propellant from.

Ed directs the water from the tender into the car with the terrorists, which is a clever way to deal with them remotely.

BALD: Don't tell me the army's feeding kids into its chophouse now.

Ah, so we are getting some acknowledgement of how weird it is that Ed's becoming a soldier this young, and another hint towards the darkness of the military.

Bald is only mad at the military because they discharged him for his super arm. That's kinda lame, we could have had some real hints towards the military's evilness and some nuance like Brotherhood had with Isaac. But I guess it may be too early for that.

Ed is somehow strong enough to crush Bald's automail arm.

When Mustang fries Bald, we see alchemy lights arc through the air and around Bald, similarly to how we've seen alchemy used on solid objects. So air can count as a contiguous material – but then, why do all other alchemists have to direct their circuits through solid objects? We can perhaps assume it has to travel through a similar material or at least the same phase, so Mustang can only do it because he's specifically using a reaction that involves air.

Ah, Mustang does actually say they weren't planning on letting a 12-year-old take the exam. Ed's only getting special permission because he saved the General. Isn't Mustang supposed to be, like, not pro-military, though? Why does he think fast-tracking a kid into the horrors of war is a good idea? Hughes brings this up in Brotherhood, but we don't get a real answer.

I suppose this is where Ed develops his hatred for Mustang.

At the end, Ed and Al are thanked by the girl they saved, which is sweet, and anchors us in reminding us that there's human goodness to focus on beyond just their immediate goals.

Conclusion

So I think this is kind of a meh episode; the villain is boring and not a whole lot happens. Ed uses some clever alchemy, but the fight scenes are otherwise meh. But we do need to be introduced to these characters, and I think it's effective to show Ed's first meeting with them. The series is really exploring the implications of a 12-year-old running off to join the military, and it's clear that Team Mustang doesn't really know what to make of him.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 6: "The Alchemy Exam"

The Elrics begin preparing for the state alchemy examination while lodging with Shou Tucker, known as the "Sewing-Life Alchemist," who is credited for creating intelligent chimeras. The brothers become fast friends with his young daughter Nina and her dog Alexander. Hughes and his wife Gracia throw a birthday party for Ed, interrupting a chance to cram. During the party, Gracia goes into labor and they witness the birth of Elicia. Ed discovers at this time that he can perform alchemy without a transmutation circle. After the written portion of the test, Mustang forces Al to drop out due to his absence of a body, and the suspicions that this fact would raise were it to be discovered by his higher-ups. Ed successfully passes the interview and passes the practical portion when he saves the entire prospective state alchemist group with his quick thinking, courage, and ability to transmute without the use of a circle.

Mustang suggests Tucker as their mentor, on the basis that biological alchemy is relevant to their interests.

Mustang has no idea how Tucker made a talking chimera, and doesn't seem to care.

Tucker apologizes for sounding sexist when he says his house "lacks a woman's touch". Was that a flourish of the English translation or in the original? Certainly their society seems much more egalitarian than ours was in 1910.

Tucker dodges questions about his chimera; he says it died shortly after its creation, but gives no details.

Ed realizes that there's a lot he still needs to learn. That's a nice detail that shows talent alone can't account for his skills; he really did put in the work.

Tucker tries to dissuade Ed from taking the exam at his age, but Ed has DETERMINATION.

Ed is upset that Al can't eat.

They use their suitcases to extend the bed for Al, which is a nice touch. I also think it's cute that he still uses a blanket.

Ed uses alchemy to grow shoots from under the snow in winter. If alchemy is just pouring energy into chemical reactions, that's plausible, especially considering that they're studying under an expert in biological alchemy.

I think the Hughes family throwing a birthday party for Ed is much stronger at conveying that he's like a dad to them. Brotherhood sort of does that when he gives them a place to stay, but going above and beyond for a 12-year-old is so much stronger than just "hey teenagers, we'll room you until you get your own place". Covering Ed's entire past may slow the story down, but I think it adds a lot to everyone's character to really hammer in just how young he is.

Ed discovers he can transmute without a circle when he heats the water during Gracia's labor.

Ed persuades Al to drop out by mentioning the dog of the military thing.

Bradley officiates the exam. Ed does not try to assassinate him.

During the exam, one contestant is exhausted after his demonstration. So alchemy takes energy out of the alchemist. I wonder if the writers had the full details planned out already by this point, or if this was just trying to make sense of the manga's version at this point?

Ed makes a ring of flowers for his demonstration, like their mother wanted. I wonder if that’s intentional? Could he have been pursuing plant-based alchemy because he wanted to do that?

Conclusion

I like this episode. It's slow, but that's fitting. This is the brothers' last day of normalcy; the plot kicks into high gear after this, so this is the last chance to get really introspective. I also think it's important to spend so much time establishing how good they have it here before the next episode; you need to set these things up before you knock them down. Ed is so young and has already lost so much; he spends so much time with the Tuckers that they become like a family to him, which makes what happens next all the more painful.

I also like that the anime is putting actual thought into how the exam functions, portraying it as something actually difficult and not something you can pass by just walking up and trying to stab the Fuhrer. It's not just Ed's special ability that wins him the certification, but his quick thinking and bravery. Ed truly feels out of his depth, and at the same time, his victory feels earned.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 7: "Night of the Chimera's Cry"

Ed is now a "dog of the military" for having passed the state alchemy examination. Mustang gives Ed a silver pocket watch, being a symbol of his rank and an alchemical amplifier. Ed writes a letter to Winry, and Nina writes one to her mother. After Tucker's reluctance in answering Ed's questions concerning the talking chimera that he created two years ago, Ed investigates at the state library but is denied access. On the way out of the library, Ed encounters a mysterious man with a cross-shaped scar across his face, and a strange tattoo on his right arm. After Brigadier General Basque Grand finds out about Ed's investigations, he orders him to cease and desist, having the Elrics moving out of Tucker's mansion. However, the Elrics sneak into the mansion into Tucker's laboratory in the basement, where he has just finished creating another speaking chimera in order to satisfy his yearly examination requirements. Ed then verbally places the pieces of the puzzle together, revealing that Tucker was responsible for using his wife for his first chimera, and now he is using Nina and Alexander for his new chimera. Tucker tries to accuse Ed that he is guilty of this as well, and Ed nearly beats Tucker to death in response, though is stopped by the Nina-Alexander chimera. As Tucker is arrested, Ed manages to free the chimera, which escapes into an alleyway and encounters the scarred man. He declares it to be a sin against nature, and ultimately deconstructs it. The scarred man disappears, and the Elrics discover Nina-Alexander's blood-smeared remains on the alley wall.

Tucker watches Nina play in the yard with an anguished expression.

Mustang tosses Ed his State Alchemist watch quite callously, and Ed is disappointed.

MUSTANG: Congrats. You're a dog of the military now.

Nothing about it letting you do alchemy without a circle, so I guess we’re left to assume Cornello just didn’t know what he was talking about.

Ed makes a crack about Mustang wanting a promotion, and Havoc tells him seriously that yes, he'll do anything to move up the ranks. Foreshadowing.

There is a serial killer targeting women.

Havoc reminds Tucker his assessment is coming up soon. Tucker looks nervous.

Tucker claims that his wife left them because he was too poor, and that if he fails the examination, they'll fall into poverty again.

Ed restrains Scar from entering the library, saying he needs to pass the exam like everyone else. As a kid, I think this is more excusable from him.

Ed goes to Hughes when he's denied access, because Hughes said he was in intelligence last episode. Oh, that's clever! Hughes tells him Tucker's chimera said it wanted to die and then starved itself to death. He also reveals Tucker's wife is actually dead.

Ed has a PTSD attack when he sees the woman's mangled body. When he recovers, Tucker explains that he figured out that they did human transmutation, but he understands their reasons.

Tucker's lab looks like a torture dungeon. Everything is very poorly lit.

Tucker claims the real reason he fused Nina was to prove that he could, and insists that Ed's attempt at human transmutation was no different. Ed flies into a rage, beating him so savagely he draws blood. Nina stops him, and Ed attempts to separate her. I think this is a really important part of Ed's character: he's a very dark and flawed person, but at his core he really is a genuinely good person, and it's vital he gets opportunities to show that.

Ed flips out at Grand, accusing him of covering it up and planning to use Nina as a test subject. Grand punches him, and Ed visibly staggers and clutches his stomach for the rest of the scene. Ed uses alchemy to warp the road and topple the van.

Scar has not yet started killing State Alchemists. He's still figuring out how his arm works and what he's supposed to use it for.

Ed has a breakdown when he finds Nina's bloodstain, and actually cries.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 4: "An Alchemist's Anguish"

A mysterious man with a cross-shaped scar across his face attacks and murders Brigadier General Basque Grand. The Führer orders Hughes and Armstrong to use all available resources to stop the murderer. Meanwhile, to avoid being in their debt, Mustang introduces Edward and Alphonse to state alchemist Shou Tucker, the "Sewing-Life Alchemist", who obtained his credentials by creating a chimera which could understand human speech. He opens up his library to the Elric brothers to study living creature transmutation, but they also spend time playing with Tucker's daughter Nina and the family dog Alexander. On returning to the house for another study session, they find that Tucker has created another speaking chimera in order to satisfy his yearly assessment requirements. However, Edward is furious to discover that the chimera was created by combining Nina and Alexander. He then realizes that Tucker did the same with his wife two years earlier and Alphonse stops Edward from nearly beating Tucker to death. Mustang tells him that by being a state alchemist, he must prepare himself to take a life if called upon by the military. While Tucker is arrested for his actions, he is visited by the scarred man, who kills him, and then delivers a mercy killing to the Nina/Alexander chimera.

We get a recap of the previous episode before the title card. Not sure why it thinks this is necessary.

We open with Scar already killing State Alchemists. Grand makes cannons out of the cobblestones. As with Ed's train cannon, I have to wonder where he's getting the gunpowder – though since this is his specialty, he might carry the materials on his person.

Grand also raises massive metal walls from the road. We can presume he is drawing metal ore from the rock, but he's still making an awful lot of metal.

And Scar just... kills Grand. Okay. Well, that was a waste of a character.

There's a lot of blood spurting when Scar kills Grand, but no visible wounds. I was expecting his head to explode at least.

Then we cut to Team Mustang doing clerical work. There's a report on Yoki and a reference to the Youswell incident, but no details beyond that the Elrics were involved. So I guess Brotherhood wants to assure us that's still canon, but didn't think it was important enough to spend an episode on. Reasonable.

Ed groans when he hears he has to meet with Mustang. It hasn't been established why he hates him yet, so that's a little weird. I guess we can take it as an in-medias-res thing, to be explained later.

The hook to make them meet Tucker here is that they start going on about how impressive it was that Cornello made a chimera with the Stone, and that they don't know much about biological alchemy. That seems… really random. That was hardly the most impressive or even the most visible thing he did with the Stone. It's reasonable for them to take an interest in it, but that just highlights that it should have been the first thing they researched when they got to Central. It's really bizarre that the people looking to restore their bodies completely ignored an entire field about that for three years and only now go "Oh hey, actually that sounds useful."

Mustang is referring them so he's not indebted to them for handling the Liore case. So apparently they actually were on military business there.

Mustang tells them the story of the talking chimera in place of Hughes, on the ride over there. Okay wow, so we are really speedrunning this then. What is pacing.

Tucker doesn't apologize for being sexist, and more directly says his wife ran out on him when explaining the mess in the house. Possibly this is just different translations?

Tucker is a lot more aggressive, demanding that they tell him why they're interested before he shows them his research. Goes into scary shiny glasses mode when he says this. Ed tells him everything.

Tucker shows them his lab right off the bat. It's better lit and much less sinister-looking. He also mentions he hasn't been doing very well.

Tucker is framed as much more obviously evil in pretty much every scene. He keeps doing the creepy glasses-adjust thing while making creepy expressions and having creepy music play.

Ed gets angry at Al for playing with Nina.

Ed gets comically angry at the dog and fights it. For once I can say without reservation that the comic relief is totally appropriate.

The Elrics leave for the day, and Havoc gives his message about the assessment. Tucker just says "I know" creepily, with no indication of anxiety or conflictedness.

Tucker exposits about the assessment to Nina. Shouldn't she already know from last year?

Tucker does look solemn when he hugs her.

The next day, Nina tells the Elrics her mom left. Nothing about the letters or anything.

Nina says her dad's always in the lab. There's a small flashback to the Elrics remembering their father doing the same, and Ed suddenly decides to play with Nina. That's sweet, and nicely subtle.

While they play with Nina, there's a cut to Tucker in his lab. This time it is all shadowy, lit only by one gaslamp. Geez, Tucker, you're already wearing glasses, stop ruining your eyes even more.

Cut to Team Mustang discussing Scar's murders. Armstrong brings up the perverse nature of State Alchemists, saying alchemy is supposed to be for the people but State Alchemists turn it into a weapon of the State. The Ishbalan War is also mentioned.

Cut to Tucker giving his backstory about his wife leaving him and why he needs to pass the assessment. Why, exactly, is he telling them this? They're just random strangers in this continuity. Also odd that the Elrics would ask in the first place. This reeks of needing to deliver exposition regardless of sense.

The lighting actually is darker in this scene, but it doesn't feel as natural to me, more like it's cel-shaded.

There's a mini-flashback to him arguing with his wife.

Tucker offers to play with Nina the next day. The Elrics find nothing suspicious about him doing this so close to the assessment.

Pathetic fallacy is in full force: we get a shot of the storm clouds outside as Ed discovers the Nina chimera. This seems over-the-top to me.

Tucker actually covers himself better here, telling Nina "That person is Edward," instead of "That's Edward, your friend."

We spend slightly more time on the shot of Ed's realization.

Tucker's "not so different" speech is very similar but a little compressed. I feel like it loses something when they didn't have a philosophical conversation earlier. I thought that lent him a bit more credibility, because Ed didn’t refute it then. There’s also the element of perversion in how it was initially framed as positive advice given by a father figure and now that’s all been twisted... there’s a lot of nuance lost here.

Ed looks more sad and anguished as he's punching Tucker. The beatdown actually looks less violent to me – the camera keeps shaking and cutting between perspectives so quickly we can't really focus on anything, and I don't think there's any actual blood splatter. We do actually see Tucker's bleeding face for a split-second, but I personally thought it was more horrific to just see Ed wailing on him as blood flew everywhere. Let the audience’s imagination do the work for you.

One of the blood splatters makes it look like Ed is crying blood. Like it literally looks flush with his eyeball. In later shots it isn’t flush, so I guess that was just an art goof.

Nina doesn't restrain Ed, but she does ask if her dad is hurt.

The brothers don't try to unfuse Nina, they just say it's beyond their power.

We spend more time on Tucker saying how great it is he'll be a State Alchemist again. Ed kicks the watch out of his hands and he crawls over to it like Gollum. This feels over-the-top.

Mustang handles the case this time, and muses that they're not so different because he's killed people in war. That's not really the same thing, Mustang.

Ed is sulking, but it's unclear if he was crying – he sounds like he's sobbing at a few points, but there are no tears. Mustang tells him to suck it up and deal because there's plenty more cases like this, implying that he may have sent Ed here on purpose to teach him a lesson.

EDWARD: Whether we get called dogs of the military, or cursed as devils, Al and I are going to get our bodies back.

I find the phrasing here noteworthy – Ed is only concerned about persecution, not the implication that he will be doing things to deserve it.

Ed starts going on a dramatic rant and Mustang and Riza just walk away. LOL.

Scar shows up and kills Tucker. I initially asked "How did he get in?" but that is actually explained with a helpful cut to the guards outside having been turned into bloody messes.

Nina cries when she sees her dad get murdered in front of her. Jesus, Scar. He still kills her, but all she says is "Dad", nothing about being in pain, so he looks like he's just killing her for being a chimera. Yeesh. You're not scoring a lot of points on the sympathetic villain front, Scar.

Conclusion

I think these two episodes are lessons in "show, don't tell," and "less is more". Brotherhood's version just feels so rushed, a villain of the week with no greater significance. Ed couldn't save the innocent girl, isn't that sad, now let's move on. We don't linger on anything long enough to form a real emotional attachment. Even if it did, the endless HEY HAVE YOU REALIZED TUCKER IS EVIL YET HAVE YOU HAVE YOU would have wrecked that anyway. It's so trite. It's also so forced – there's no real reason for Ed to be visiting him at this point, and if they actually learn anything from the research, it's never mentioned. It's so transparently just an excuse to place them in position.

In OG's version, this becomes part of an actual arc in the brothers' lives. We have time to get invested, get a sense of wrongness without it being obvious, to feel like we got the rug swept out from under us instead of expecting it. There is a sense of progression, with real foreshadowing as Ed slowly pieces it together. Moreover, the change of Tucker becoming their guardian informs so much of this. These are no longer skilled, hardened shonen protagonists dealing with the tragedy of the week. These are desperate children who have to see this horror destroy their adoptive family. Even after you process the tragedy of Nina's suffering, you're left with the tragedy of: what will these kids do now? Who will take care of them? Will they be able to trust anyone ever again?

It’s also just so important that Ed actually plans to separate Nina, and moreover puts his life on the line by fighting a scary general for her. He knows there’s probably nothing he can do, but he wants to try anyway, because he cares. Because that’s the kind of person he is. It’s so easy to tell yourself you don’t have to try because there’s nothing you can do. That’s almost never actually true. To do nothing is, itself, a choice. And indeed, Scar shows that there was a solution here -- it was just one they couldn’t bear to take. Now, was that the correct solution? Is it right to give a mercy killing to a suffering toddler when you can’t ask her permission because she does not even know how to express such a concept? Should Ed have tried to separate her anyway, even knowing it likely would have killed her? And of course, the elephant in the room: should we really be expecting a sobbing 12-year-old to be a rational moral actor in the first place? OG gives us so much to engage with, important questions, important choices, important feelings.

I cried so bad I could barely focus on this writeup when I saw the OG episode. I didn't cry at all when I watched the Brotherhood version. That should really tell you something.

I also prefer OG's portrayal of Scar here. You can see how he is, himself, lost and confused. He's a mysterious figure I sympathize with and want to learn more about, not just a one-note murder machine.

We are already beginning to see divergences in the plotlines, too. In Brotherhood, Tucker and Grand were both killed. In OG, they're still around. Followup on that, there will be.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 8: "The Philosopher's Stone"

Anguished by the horrible demise of Nina, and disgusted at his first assignment of organizing Tucker's research after learning of the man's death, Ed considers deserting to track down Nina's killer. Luckily, Al finds reference to the philosopher's stone among Tucker's papers. Ed is incredulous that such a thing even exists. Left to his own devices, Al has spoken to Führer King Bradley. Winry, who has arrived at Central to visit, is kidnapped by a butcher-turned-serial killer named Barry the Chopper, who disguises himself as a woman. Ed gets kidnapped as well and his automail arm is taken from him as he tries to free Winry and run away. Forced into a fight for his life, Ed almost kills Barry in an act of maddened desperation until Al arrived to stop him, having the authorities arrest Barry. Ed breaks down in tears, and then agrees to search for the philosopher's stone with Al after talking it out with him. Mustang later allows them to search for it, with the caveat that he be kept abreast of developments. Ed is officially dubbed the "Fullmetal Alchemist" by Bradley.

We open with Ed trying to do alchemy on Nina's bloodstain while sobbing. it's okay I didn't need my heart anyway

Then we get the bit Mustang said in Brotherhood about how State Alchemists aren't so different than Tucker. It's slightly different, though – the comparison he draws is that they both have to cultivate an emotional detachment so they can follow the state's orders.

And Riza actually pushes back! Thank you! She points out that holy crap, they're still just kids, give them a break.

Mustang then walks up and gives the speech to Ed directly. He's incredibly cold and callous, saying he wouldn't be helping anyone by bringing back a twisted chimera even if he could. He tells him the world is ugly and he has to suck it up and deal, which makes Ed furious. Mustang grabs his arm forcefully and says he has to focus on the reason he became a State Alchemist and not get distracted.

So, uh, wow that was a lot darker than in Brotherhood. Much as we saw with Rose earlier, this is a dialogue instead of a monologue: Ed pushes back and is clearly conflicted. We aren't left with a certainty of who's right, or indeed if anyone is right at all. That's a much more powerful way of showing that the world is hard and ugly. This isn't just a loss of innocence, it's a loss of moral certainty.

Cut to the next day. Ed is depressed, but is willing to take another assignment to take his mind off of things. Unfortunately, that assignment turns out to be compiling Tucker's research! I have to wonder whose decision this is. Is Mustang or someone purposefully trying to break this kid?

Ed demands they get Tucker to do it instead, and Havoc tells him he was executed without trial. Ed cleverly recognizes that as a coverup. Havoc warns him not to question the will of the military.

Ed is really spiralling. We see him feeding the chimeras while Al does the actual research, which is a sweet detail.

It seems like this is where they first get motivated to pursue the Philosopher's Stone. Ed dismisses it as a myth, and Al says it can't be if a real alchemist like Tucker was researching it. Ed loses it at him and starts ranting about how evil Tucker was. He runs out and looks like he's about to cry.

We cut to Ed requesting a transfer to the serial killer case, positing that they could have killed Nina. Mustang just dispassionately tells him to finish the work he was already assigned, and that if he wants to investigate on his own, he'll need to turn in his watch. Ed does so without flinching.

Al tries to talk him down, pointing out they're not police. He believes a better use of their talents is finding a way to safely separate chimeras so they can save people if it happens again. Ed doesn't listen.

Ed bumps into Scar, who spares him because he's no longer a State Alchemist. As he walks off, he explicitly thinks to himself that he would absolutely murder that kid if he was. Wow, Scar.

Al is being actually productive and asking around about the Stone. Riza tries to warn him bad things happen to alchemists pursuing the Stone, but Bradley tells him he totally should by the way there are files in the library he could access if a certain someone just so happened to get his State Alchemist status back. He is very kind and fatherly the whole time. Riza doesn't even get to finish saying he's the Fuhrer, but her stiffness and formality around him foreshadows that there is more going on with him.

Ed has been tapping Hughes for the case files. Good use of resources! Kid is learning how to network.

Hughes steals Ed's food and Ed drags the tray away from him. LOL. That's some nice subtle comedy without going into a full-on skit, appropriate for the relative seriousness and plot relevance of this scene.

Hughes suggests the killer could be an alchemist, which makes Ed snap that alchemists aren't killers! Poor PTSD boy.

We cut to Barry infiltrating the kitchens in disguise. The cook tells him Ed is the talk of the town, and once again we get emphasis on how young he is.

Winry is impressed by refrigerated trucks, which are new technology.

Ed finds Winry missing. He's able to figure out she was his visitor by comparing a dropped screw to his automail, then notices the tracks in the road and starts asking about the trucks. When he hears about refrigerated trucks, he connects it to his earlier conversation with Hughes about a car that could hide bodies. Good detectiving! His leaps of logic are clever enough it's reasonable no one figured it out earlier, but not so far they seem implausable.

When Barry knocks Ed out, he takes out his automail arm, because he heard from the cook Ed can transmute by clapping his hands. That's clever!

Barry brings up the war theme:

BARRY: Men have morals, but send them to war and they have no problem slaying each other in the most brutal fashions.

He also says he saw State Alchemists massacring a village.

He cuts into Ed's flesh arm, which I think is really impressive horror – Ed has always made it out okay up to this point by blocking everything with his automail. I think this is the first time he's been really injured.

Ed starts having a PTSD attack to all the violence he's seen, but successfully scratches a transmutation circle on his chains with Winry's screw. Clever use of resources.

Ed looks more muscular than he did in earlier episodes, so let's mark that down as a point for "characters aging realistically".

Ed looks absolutely terrified. He keeps tripping and flailing his weapon wildly without direction.

Ed screams in agony when he forces his automail back in.

I believe this is the first time chronologically we see him do the spike thing with his automail. I think it makes a lot more sense as a technique he discovered in desperation – it's really not a good idea to turn your limbs into weapons unless you have no better options.

It's unclear if Winry pushed herself into the carcasses on purpose or if she just slipped.

Ed has totally lost it, crying and screaming. He nearly stabs Barry but Alphonse restrains him. When he does, Ed whips around and slashes him. Wow, that's dark. Ed has a breakdown but Al stays strong for him.

Al says that without a body, he can't feel the same terror Ed did. He definitely seems to act afraid and emotional in other scenes, so I'm not sure exactly how that works. Perhaps it's related to the idea that emotions are controlled by chemicals, so even if he still feels emotions, they're muted.

Ed was really affected by the fact Al came to save him, because he thought no one would. This is where he makes the decision that they have to stick by each other no matter what, and also that he'll do anything to restore them, even joining the military.

He also says his line about how they're not gods, they're pathetic humans because they couldn't even save a little girl. The delivery is sad, not angry like in Brotherhood, and the fact that he's still affected by this even though it happened an episode ago is a lot more powerful. It shows that this is something he will carry with him his whole life, not something he'll forget when it's convenient.

Cut to Ed requesting his watch back. He says he'll obey Mustang's orders, but he wants info on the Stone. Mustang says that if anyone finds out about their human transmutation, Al will get hauled off to a lab, then explicitly tells this kid who was just traumatized by his little sister getting hauled off to a lab for horrible experiments that he's going to hold that over his head to make sure he behaves. Wow, Mustang. Wow.

Ed is still visibly recovering. There are bags under his eyes and it looks like he's been crying.

Ed's reaction to hearing his title is similar to Brotherhood in words, but his tone is much colder and fiercer. There's additional depth to him getting his title now – it's supposed to be a cool thing he can take pride in, but it's now tainted by tying it to this traumatic incident. "You just saw your little sister get horribly murdered and were nearly murdered yourself by a psycho killer, but look, you got a medal!" The whole thing is a twisted farce, perverse.

Winry takes Ed on a date, but he's still wondering who killed Nina… and then we cut to Scar. Hohoho. He sees Ed has his State Alchemist watch again, and walks off ominously.

Conclusion

I’m really struck by how vulnerable Ed is throughout this. This episode is so raw, so painful, so emotional. There’s an antagonist and a fight scene, but the real antagonist of this episode is Ed’s own trauma, despair, and fear of death. We’re given a whole episode to process the heavy content of last episode and examine what this means for the characters going forward.

I also think it’s worth paying attention to Mustang. He seems to be getting characterized as a much darker and colder figure than in Brotherhood. For all that people say OG is so dark and grim -- and that is a fair assessment -- it actually does have the courage to say that telling kids the world is crap and misery forever and there’s nothing you can do about it is maybe not good behavior. His philosophies are not simply stated, but challenged.

Overall, this episode shows exactly what I like about OG, and may well be my favorite episode so far. Do Brotherhood fans like this episode too, or is this classed as crappy filler?

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 9: "Be Thou for the People"

While the Elrics take Winry shopping, Ed receives his second assignment to inspect the coal mines at the town of Youswell. However, the townsfolk is distrusting of the state military. Lieutenant Yoki, the military commander in charge of the area, comes to collect taxes from the local inn, though a riot erupts. Ed appears in time before Yoki nearly murders Kyle, the son of the innkeeper. Yoki invites Ed to his mansion, after noticing that the Ed is a state alchemist, through flattery and bribery. The inn is suddenly destroyed come nightfall, in which Al save Kyle from under the rubble. Ed reluctantly transmutes the gold coins that Yoki attempted to bribe him with, overlaying the gold over coal bars. He then uses them to purchase the mine from Yoki under the guise of a priceless transfer before returning the bars to stone and selling the entire town to the people of Youswell for a single night stay at the newly repaired inn. Ed defeats Yoki's alchemist servant Lyra, becoming known as a hero.

We open with Winry nerding out over the tools in the mechanic shop. Ed is really depressed and isn't responding to any of her jabs. She looks bothered, and gets him some oil so he can take care of his automail.

Riza is only a second lieutenant?

Ed says Al doesn't have to come along, outright saying that the military's orders will mean "suffering".

Cartoon shift when the brothers balk at the price. I think it's appropriate.

Ed pays for his stay by fixing things with alchemy.

Ed expects adoration for his State Alchemist status, and is surprised when they throw him out for being a dog of the military.

This is where we first hear the "alchemist, be thou for the people" saying, I believe.

Al offers to become a State Alchemist again, which is odd when they already decided why he shouldn't in episode 6.

Lyra uses alchemy to shoot energy beams. I'm sorry, no. No. This is stupid. Alchemy isn't magic, REMEMBER? The limits on alchemy are that you're bound by the materials you use. If you don't need materials at all, it's just wizards throwing spells at each other endlessly and we may as well just be watching DBZ. This is not what I signed on for, FMA. Also, why is it spinning. That is not how we have seen alchemy work so far, and for the rest of the series it will always involve a set sigil. Even Mustang needs a fixed sigil to work on.

And now he's ordering his soldiers to maim a child. This is so over-the-top.

There's a cut to Mustang getting promoted, but he's also getting sent to the front lines. We don't know the significance to this yet, but Mustang clearly looks upset.

Okay, so we are actually explaining Lyra's beams: she's compressing the air and then vaporizing it again to create a shockwave.

EDWARD: The light came from the heat generated by the forced air compression

NO. THAT IS NOT HOW THAT WORKS. AIR DOES NOT INCANDESCE.

This is still so obviously shonen magic beaten into fitting this system – if this is possible (and I question the energy requirements), everyone should be doing it. Why is Mustang bothering with these complicated fireballs that requires special gloves and can be made impotent with a bucket of water when he could just shoot death rays? Why is this one apprentice in a backwater town the only person to figure out this incredibly powerful technique? This is just such blatant shonen cliché – everyone needs to have a special unique power with no regards to how it fits into the world or the greater magic system.

Lyra is very patriotic and says wants to work for the State. Ed makes a weird expression. Ah, this gets a lot more depth by moving it here, after Ed has seen the cracks in the State's image.

The woman's vase that Ed fixed earlier is broken when the inn collapses. Nice touch.

I believe this is where we're introduced to the idea Ed sees equivalent exchange as a philosophy. He says Yoki is wrong for taking more than he's given the people. He also says he can't make gold for them, because he'd "have to pay the price [for giving them gold]". It seems he's referring to the legal penalty, but that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Human laws aren't inherent laws of reality. And of course, this is all ignoring the elephant of the room: what did the townspeople do to deserve this oppression? Where is their equivalent exchange?

The gold Ed gave to Yoki turns to stone. How did he do that, exactly…? I assumed he used the gold coins to make like a micrometer-thick coating over the coal, but that wouldn't make it erode on its own. Possibly he turned the gold into a different metal that would corrode fast.

You know, I do have to wonder how well this should actually work. If the government is evil all the way to the top, they have no reason to honor any contract or deed if they don't want to. The very fact that a military officer was the de facto mayor of this town in the first place shows that the military wants a stranglehold on all domestic affairs. Sure, they might put Yoki through a show trial to save face, but there's no doubt in my mind that he'll be replaced with another officer that is going to politely request that innkeeper give them the deed and they all forget about this. You can't subvert a military dictatorship without toppling the whole system.

And Lyra is absolutely directing her shockwaves. I mean maybe alchemists can have control that fine, but that seems to be a pretty advanced technique, and Lyra is only supposed to be a novice.

Ed asserts that he didn't sell his soul to the military.

Riza is incredulous to discover Mustang planned this.

And we end with Ed getting a reputation as a hero, even among people who hate the military. We finally jump ahead to them just outside Liore, establishing that the flashback has finished.

Conclusion

So that was an okay episode, I'd say. But you can tell it's very distinct in style from the others, even filler episodes like episode 4. It's too clean, too neat: the bad guy is comically over-the-top evil, Lyra is one-note, the townspeople are all noble and good. There's no nuance or moral complexity, no sense that Ed is struggling to do the right thing, no bittersweet ending. Ed just solves everything and wins the adoration of the people; everything is perfect. We even backpedal on the idea that Ed joining the military is bad by ending with him being labeled One of the Good Ones.

And this is almost perfectly adapted from the manga. All the parts I dislike or find incongruous are present in the source material as well.

This is what I got at in my introduction post: OG and Brotherhood are very different stories, and we can see that starkly here. If you like stories like this, where everything works out neatly and has a happy ending and there are cool powers and fight scenes along the way, this is a great episode. But that's not the kind of story OG is.

On representation: If Lyra is supposed to be an example of the manga having "great female characters" I am disappointed. She is absolutely peak Strong Female Character: she is literally strong, and has absolutely nothing else. She may as well be a gun that shouts battle quips. She has no more depth than your typical villain of the week. I mean, in a way, I guess that's equality? Now women, too, can be forgettable speedbumps on the hero's journey (but still subordinate to a guy, I'd like to point out)! But no. When I think of great female characters – or really I should say great characters in general, because that's kind of the point, isn't it? – I think of characters with, you know, personalities. This is a story, not a video game; who the characters are and how they engage with the themes of the work is much more important than how hard they can punch.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 10: "The Phantom Thief"

After exposing Cornello in Lior as a fraud, the Elrics are on their way back to report to Mustang about the incident. They stop at the town of Aquroya where Ed gets treated for a stomach bug. That's where he and Al meets a kind and patient nurse who reminds Al of their mother. After being discharged from the hospital, Ed gets caught up in the manhunt for a talented cat burglar named Psiren, who uses her skills as an alchemist to repeatedly fool the local police. It turns out the cat burglar is the nurse and she convinces them she's stealing to raise money to prevent the hospital from being torn down. It soon becomes apparent she's not giving the money to the hospital after it gets demolished (and she repeats the same excuse with two other buildings). Al gives her the benefit of the doubt because he saw how kind she was and they find out she does help the city in an indirect way; she draws in tourists. Ed finally manages to catch her and Al isn't necessarily happy about it. In the end, the crafty Psiren escapes police custody.

Ed is grumpy about reporting back to Mustang, and turns over a joker card as he says his name. Ha! The anime is good at subtle visual gags like that.

We get a flashback to Liore and the fake stone. Justified, as it actually has been a lot of episodes since then.

Al insists they did a lot of good even if the stone was a bust, but Ed doesn't care.

Al urges Ed not to stop at the town, but once again Ed ignores him. Ed flippantly jokes that they might find something about the Stone so it won't be a wasted trip.

Ed's sleeve slips, and a bunch of aces fall out. So that's how he won all the card games! Hilarity.

And we cut to this episode's villain using cards as weapons! Ah, clever!

Psiren appears to trigger an alchemic glyph remotely, which doesn't seem kosher.

Ed cleans the mud off himself with alchemy. It appears to just disappear. It's possible he did the "stop at breaking it down" trick, but he seems surprised to learn that later, so that's doubtful.

Ed is stuffing his face during the interrogation. Al leaves his bowl untouched. When he's done, he takes Al's bowls too. I'm loving this gag.

When Ed gets sick, Al makes a crack about if it's from eating too much. OMG. I think the writers love the gag as much as I do.

And when the inspector calls Ed back they give him an entire table of noodles oh my god XD

Ed sees Psiren as "yet another" way to use alchemy for evil, which is a good way to show he's been affected by everything he's seen so far. There's subtle continuity, even in these filler episodes.

Psiren makes a drop of water fall from the ceiling (or possibly phases it through), which then explodes into a smoke bomb. I presume it might be a condensed gas, similar to what Lyra did last episode.

Psiren turns her deck of cards into a sword. It later falls apart and we see the cards flap in the wind, so she must have been doing something to strengthen them. Given that she carries them on her, she probably stored some material to let her do this.

Ed tries to pin her and grabs her boob by accident. Nooot really necessary. It's not as bad as it could be, I suppose; both of them play it pretty maturely, and Psiren isn't phased at all. Still, it’s pretty tacky that this is the only reason Psiren is able to escape.

Psiren shoots cards at Ed with alchemy. Another technique that's just energy manipulation. I don't think I like that, even if it's much more within bounds than Lyra's technique – given the focus on materials, alchemy should be more chemistry than physics.

In the hospital, Ed sees Psiren use the sigil on her chest to manipulate a flower without touching it. DOES ALCHEMY NEED PHYSICAL CONTACT OR NOT??? I'm also not clear why she needs to reveal the sigil at all; she was obviously doing alchemy with it covered up before.

There's no "LOL am I interrupting something" line when Al barges in on them even though Psiren has her shirt undone. Thank you, show.

More water manipulation: Psiren slips a tendril of water under the door and uses it to unlock the door from inside. While there’s nothing technically disproving this can be done with alchemy -- Ed animated the statue in Liore, after all -- it still feels thematically off, more physics than chemistry.

Psiren acts like there's nothing she can do when they drop a metal cage on her. Uh, transmute it? Instead Ed has to do it. I guess we're left to assume she doesn't know any other alchemy than the extremely skilled and fine-control techniques she uses regularly?

Ed whines that every crook he meets wants to tell them they're not so different, but that was really only Tucker.

How did Ed get out of the river? We don't see him gaining any ground when he flails, and the automail ought to weigh him down.

We finish with Al criticizing Ed for turning Psiren in, calling him a hypocrite because he's bent the rules before too.

Psiren needs to trick the officers into unzipping her before she can use alchemy to escape. So yes, it has to be visible. And yes, she totally knows how to break out of confinement so the cage shouldn’t have slowed her down.

Conclusion

So, not great overall. The episode was really choppy and waffling, like it didn't know what it wanted to do. Psiren's whole femme fatale thing was also a little uncomfortable, but the characters, at least, handle it well: Ed never buys into it at all, and after the first time Psiren sounds like she's only doing it sarcastically. Unfortunately, I do still think she's sexualized to an unnecessary degree.

But I think that it's worth drawing a comparison to the Youswell episode here. The contrasting styles of the anime and manga are very blatant when you see these back-to-back. Where last episode was neat, this one was messy. The heroes aren't certain if they did the right thing, and neither are we. The villain cycles through multiple narratives – you think she's bad, then you think she's good, then she's bad again, then maybe she's good, and ultimately we're never sure. To really hammer it in, even her civilian identity wears costumes. This is a story about manipulation, mysteries, uncertainty, choices. Lies and truth.

It wasn't well-executed. It was a bit too messy. But you can see what they were going for, and what narrative they're cultivating.

Even the alchemy mechanics, though wonky, aren't wonky in the same way Lyra's were. Psiren's alchemy is clever, cunning, and varied, not a flashy show of power. Its only issue is how it conflicts with the established mechanics; I'd have no problem with it if this was a standalone story.

...Well, no problem except the stipulation she needs to strip to use her powers. She was clearly using alchemy with it covered like two scenes before that was established. It’s both creepy sexualization and a gaping plot hole.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 11: "The Other Brothers Elric: Part 1"

The Elrics arrive in Xenotime to look for the philosopher's stone. After they save a young girl, named Elisa, from under a fallen mine cart, she brings them to the tavern out of gratitude. During the feast in their honor, the brothers hear that a philosopher's stone is near completion, researched by a man named Mugear. When the town learns they're the Elric brothers, they get upset, claiming they're frauds. That's when Ed learns there are impostors in town pretending to be Ed and Al. They sneak into Mugear's mansion and find the imposters but are fended off by the older brother impostor. Elisa's uncle, Belsio, takes in Ed and Al, then later sends Al to get some medicine for Elisa. That's where Al meets his imposter counterpart. The younger brother impostor apologizes for taking the Elrics' names and Al urges him to tell his older brother to stop. Meanwhile, Mugear meets underground with Lust, who is apparently behind the plan to make the Philosophers Stone. The following night, Ed and Al sneak into the mansion a second time via underground tunnels but get exposed to toxic, red water. The younger brother impostor helps them get to safety but the older brother impostor wants to continue his father's unfinished work even though the byproducts is making the town sick. Al reveals that the red stone they've made is a poor copy of the Philosopher Stone and the older brother impostor (an alchemist named Russell Tringham) attacks Ed using crimson water. However, the younger impostor (Russell's younger brother Fletcher) dives in the way and gets soaked in the toxic water.

We open by establishing Xenotime is a backwater. Ed suspects they want the Philosopher's Stone so they can make gold, outright saying they can only do so with a Stone. Ed acted like he could make gold without it back in Youswell, but he did still need to use the gold coins as starting materials. So maybe I'm right that spontaneously creating gold has only been theorized.

Ed condenses the mine cart into a smaller metal block to get it off of Elisa.

We get cartoon shifts when the townspeople give the obligatory gag of calling Ed short. I find it appropriate. I think what's notable is that it's more restrained than when Brotherhood usually does it – the whole world doesn't change, only one character. There's even additional humor to be had by having everything else proceed as normal while Ed becomes a caricature, I think.

Elisa starts coughing when she raises her voice. That's dark.

They throw the Elric brothers out in what feels like a parallel of the Youswell episode.

Ed doesn't bother making a fancy door when he alchemizes his way in, just a stone panel.

Ed tells the impostor to get on his knees to beg. The impostor starts going on an elaborate bit about how he must be used to people looking down on him. I approve, that's more clever than what we usually get, and it's extra funny to see character trolling on purpose instead of just being ignorant.

Impostor can transmute without a circle. My initial thought was "wait, so he did human transmutation?" but Ed correctly surmises he has a Philosopher's Stone. Yes, that does make more sense. There's even the red lighting motif to make it clear.

Ed is still injured in the scene after.

We cut to the impostors. Little Bro thinks they should split before things get worse, Big Bro insists he has it all under control, but he'll protect Little Bro if it goes south. That's a nice echo of the Elrics' relationship, and also gives them some sympathy points.

Lust is here! First time we've seen her in a while. She says the Elrics are "frustratingly resourceful" – I guess she's basing that on Liore? It seems a little odd to be giving such glowing praise when she's only seen one performance that could have been a fluke. Unless she's been stalking them in other episodes, but the show has been good about making clear when she's doing that.

Ed is using Al's armor as an icepack for his bruise. Aw, that's cute.

Belsio doesn't believe they're the real Elrics.

Belsio says he couldn't just leave two kids out in the cold. So we're still getting acknowledgement of how absurdly young they are, even now that they're a little older.

Ed still has his bruise the next day.

Ed specifically says it's a crime to use the Philosopher's Stone to make gold.

Al is very forgiving of the impostors, saying they must have their reasons.

The only way Russel could claim he was a State Alchemist as a teenager was to impersonate Ed. Ah, it's good to see reinforcement of how very weird that is.

Their dad was an alchemist, but abruptly disappeared one day. Ah, parallels.

Al tells Fletcher to do the right thing and stop his brother if he knows he's doing the wrong thing. Poor Al, trying to live vicariously through a kid whose older brother actually listens to him.

Al lies to Ed and says he hasn't seen the impostors.

Ed says Russel has been fixing tools to gain goodwill. Our Youswell parallels continue.

Russel uses the red stone to turn a lamp into a… very tiny sword that seems the same size. The sword even cracks under Ed's automail, so he didn't even change it into good metal.

Russel creates a hose to the red water tank, in a parallel to Ed's technique on the train.

Ed turns his automail into an umbrella, because he's too extra to just make a regular shield. I would be concerned that there might be acid in there, but Ed seems to know the makeup of the red water.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 12: "The Other Brothers Elric: Part 2"

Ed and Al reluctantly flee the mansion (at the behest of Fletcher) and though Fletcher is not too harmed by the red water, he and his older brother are imprisoned by Mugear when they refuse to use an alternate method to create the crimson stone at a faster rate. Mugear reveals that he knew they were impostors. Back at Belsio's house, the Elrics learn that Nash Tringham, the father of Russell and Fletcher, was the original discoverer/researcher of the Red stone. After the mining town ran out of gold, Mugear convinced Nash that a Red stone would turn lead into gold and make the town prosperous again but the side affects were toxic red water and sick, dying babies. Elisa was one of those babies until a traveling alchemist doctor, Tim Marcoh, healed Elisa with a mysterious method. Mugiar invites the Elrics to help with the Red stone research and Ed tricks him into taking him down to see the imprisoned Tringham brothers. Ed talks to the older Russell and convinces him that his father abandoned the research when he saw the damage and the Tringham brothers need to find their own path. Ed frees them and faces off against Mugear who tries to attack them with a machine powered by Red stones. With Russell's help, Ed injures Mugear and chases him underground. Mugear is ultimately disposed of and the underground mine shaft collapses, causing the crimson water to flood out of the spring. Fletcher uses alchemy to make the trees absorb the water, neutralizing the threat. Edward and Alphonse say farewell to Russell and Fletcher, boarding a train for East City.

Fletcher uses alchemy to make a tree to bar the door. It's not clear where he got the wood from; the floor doesn't deform.

Russel uses the red stone to absorb the red water off of Fletcher, it looks like.

So Fletcher is fine, apparently…? Pretty disappointing after all that buildup about the toxicity. I guess it's ingestion that's the real problem, so he might be okay if he only got it on his skin.

Mugear has a machine that lets non-alchemists use alchemy. That seems unnecessary? Alchemy isn't bloodline magic, anyone can learn it. He uses it to turn the floorboards into rope-like structures and bind the brothers.

Mugear says he knows the real Ed has an automail arm. Yeah, that seems pretty well-known. Russel should have at least tried to fake that.

Marcoh gets an early cameo in the flashback! The Elrics suspect he used a real Stone, so that's an advancement of the main mystery.

Al tries to get Ed to empathize with the Tringhams by pointing out their motivations are similar. Eh, that's not really true, the Elrics don't really care about their dad.

Apparently the red water can be biologically concentrated by feeding it to pregnant women and extracting the fetus. I wonder if it does have some connection to the real ingredient for the Philosopher's Stone?

Ed successfully freaks Mugear out enough to convince him to see the Tringhams alone. Good quick thinking.

Mugear's alchemic guns run out of ammo. It looks like he tries to add more red stone to reload them, so presumably he is creating matter.

Mugear puts a wall in the passage to block them. Ed points out how dumb that is when they have alchemy, but Mugear was actually waiting on the other side with a loaded gun. Clever!

Ed reseals the wall right as Mugear shoots them, so the shockwave explodes on his side and knocks him down. Also clever!

Mugear is crushed by a falling rock. Kinda disappointing, I was hoping we'd see what death by red water looked like.

Ed raises a massive dam around the estate, which is even more ridiculous than Isaac's glacier. Are there energy limits or not, show?

The trees not only absorb all the water, they grow bigger in the process. I guess that's explaining where all the mass goes, but again, what are energy limits.

And then they DESTROY the trees.

The Trighams plan to use their plant alchemy to help on the farm.

Hah, Russel is taller than Ed despite actually being YOUNGER than him! They're really pounding in the stunted growth.

Conclusion

I think there are a lot of comparisons to be drawn here to the Youswell episode. Once again, this is a mining town; the Elrics face persecution; there is an emphasis on money; the villain is a corrupt official. But this version is much more definitively in OG's style. The plot is complex and twisting, with more grounded and sympathetic antagonists, and the problem has less of the way in human causes: Yoki was causing the town's destitution, but Mugear was genuinely trying to save the economy. It's a much darker and more nuanced depiction of the problems that befall mining towns: the problem goes deeper than just a convenient bad actor you can punch in the face. Even when the military isn't around to make a mess of things, resources still dry up, with all the pressures that implies.

But as a story, it's… eh. I like the first episode, but the conclusion is really blah. A lot better than the Psiren episode, but still a bit too messy and meandering, and it once again has a lot of things that don't quite mesh with other alchemic mechanics. Mugear's weapon is really random and nothing like it will ever come up again; the writers really did seem to be leaning on the trope of bloodline magic and normies needing a crutch to do the same things as the protagonist, when that's pretty much the exact opposite of how magic works in this. Possibly we could take it to mean Mugear didn't want to put in the work of actually studying alchemy, but most of the work seems to be the physical and scientific knowledge you need to effectively manipulate materials in the first place.

Similarly, the alchemy at the end is way too high-power. I am willing to suspend my disbelief a little, since it is a clever solution – basically the puzzle equivalent of the ridiculous action powers displayed in Brotherhood, cool if you don't think about it. But I'm not willing to cut OG as much slack, because the main plot is very much going to be about the mechanics of alchemy, and it is absolutely vital that those mechanics – especially the energy requirements – stay consistent. We can't even use the excuse that the anime is just doing its own thing, because the anime-only alchemy exam episode shows very explicitly that doing something far less impressive than what we see here makes alchemists too weak to even stand. It's possible this represents the writers committing to their theory on where the energy comes from, but it still galls me that no one thought to say, "Hey, shouldn't we add a line to mesh this with what we established only 6 episodes ago?"

You can clearly see how the alchemy's… flavor, for lack of a better term, is different from Brotherhood's, though. We don't see everyone having their own special unique alchemy; the Tringhams use varied alchemy just like the Elrics, and even their specialty of plant alchemy is something we've seen before. There is also a much bigger emphasis on non-combat applications.

The attempts to draw parallels between the Elrics and the Tringhams are… off. They get the feel of it right; their personalities and dynamic are similar. But the actual details are so awkward – their motivations are totally dissimilar, despite the attempts to beat the Elrics into the cliché of caring deeply about their missing dad. The writers are still figuring these characters out, and making a lot of missteps along the way.

And… seriously, he couldn't figure out that the Fullmetal Alchemist had something to do with metal? What did he say when he was asked "so why are you called Fullmetal", likely the first question anyone would ask?

Mugear is also a pretty bland and disappointing villain, though at least he's someone I can actually take seriously and not some absurd fop like Yoki.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 13: "Fullmetal VS Flame"

The Elrics report to Mustang regarding about the investigation into the philosopher's stone. Master Sergeant Kain Fuery picks up a dog and tries to get someone to adopt it but fails. Mustang and Hughes then discusses with Ed about Marcoh. Grand later interrupts and declares that Marcoh was a deserter. When Ed is offered re-certification, he challenges Mustang to a duel in exchange for the information. The approved duel is set to fight in the parade grounds. Mustang nearly defeats Edward, but allows him to counter from his hesitation. Mustang informs Ed about Marcoh after halting the match. That night, Hughes reveals that a man named Scar is responsible for Bradley's move.

Fuery is shushing the dog when the Elrics come in. That's a cute background event.

Al gushes cartoon tears when Ed tells him to get rid of the cat. Even knowing it's a cartoon flourish and not literal, I still feel it might have been better to do something else. Also not sure how this matches up with Al saying he couldn't feel emotions back in episode 8.

We recap the events of the previous episodes through Mustang's report. He's a bit of a creeper, saying Psiren's a "ten" under her mask.

Mustang looks tense when Grand barges in. He gives a glance to Hughes, who gives an apologetic shrug. Nice bit of characterization there.

Sloth shows up with Bradley. Ed stares at her intently, clearly putting something together, but we don’t get any explicit thoughts from him. Nice subtlety. I do wonder if she’s keeping her head down on purpose so Ed doesn’t recognize her?

Hughes tells Ed his assessment is coming up. That's a nice use of an earlier plot point. I did wonder what Ed's assessments looked like when we learned there was one every year. I don't think Brotherhood ever does anything with this; the assessments are only brought up for one plotline, not truly incorporated into the world.

Gilligan cut after Mustang says Bradley would never allow the fight. LOL.

We learn of Mustang's ambitions to become Fuhrer. Riza points out that's not something he should be saying in public, and he covers it by saying he only wants it so he can tell all the women to wear miniskirts. Havoc gets a nosebleed and hugs him. That's… pretty weird and creepy. Was this in the manga as well? This is useful exposition, but I'm not sure how much sense it makes from an in-character perspective. Doesn't his team already know his ambitions? Havoc implied as much back in episode 8.

We get exposition on Mustang's abilities: apparently he's "changing the oxygen density in the air" to cause explosions. I'm… not sure if that makes sense. This doesn't explain how he's creating explosive force. If you've ever seen those demonstrations where people ignite hydrogen balloons, you know that just burning air doesn't make it explode; it generates heat, but not force. To create explosive force you need condensed chemical energy, in the form of a fuel like gunpowder. He could certainly make existing explosive compounds combust by pumping them full of oxygen, but he shouldn't be able to make explosions from nothing.

I am also unclear on exactly how the ignition gloves factor into this. I initially thought he was somehow projecting the energy from the spark into the damage zone, but that doesn’t seem quite how alchemy works. If the spark in front of him is what causes the explosion, he shouldn’t be able to do it remotely. What we have seen is that alchemists can bypass the energy requirements for chemical reactions anyway, so he shouldn’t need to provide that energy through mundane means. And if he’s actually changing oxygen composition he shouldn’t even need that; it only takes the slightest nudge to make something combust in an all-oxygen environment.

Like Lyra’s totally-not-energy-beams, this reads like the author really wanted to use a standard magic power and tried to back-engineer it to make it work with this magic system. If you’re to take your magic system seriously, you need to do it the other way around: everything should be an emergent consequence of clearly-established rules.

And now we see that his fireballs are so explosive they have destroyed the stone arena. It looks like he’s detonating landmines. That's ridiculous.

Mustang lures Ed out of the crowd by exploiting his insecurity about his height. Clever and amusing!

Ed makes a decoy and gives it his coat to confuse Mustang while the smoke clears.

Ed makes a giant cannon out of the stone floor – again, I have to wonder how he's making propellant. Mustang makes the whole thing explode much more spectacularly than his normal firebombs, implying there is gunpowder in there. It's also metal, but it's plausible there is high metal content in the arena if this is meant as a battleground for alchemists.

Mustang pulling out the other glove is hilarious.

MUSTANG: All war is deception. Think your enemy has a weakness, and it becomes his strength.

Interesting line. We’ve had deception come up as a theme several times now.

Mustang has a PTSD attack when he's about to fireball Ed, flashing back to a boy he killed in the war. Just how strong was he intending that fireball to be?

Bradley makes them clean up the mess they made of the arena. LOL.

Mustang talks about the Ishbalan war, and we get a full flashback to him killing the kid. The emotion of the scene and the detail in their expressions is incredibly tense. We cut away so we don't have to see the kid actually get charbroiled.

Hughes informs Mustang, and us, that Liore isn't as finished as Ed thought it was: Envy is inciting the town to rebellion. Mustang would rather let Ed believe he did something good, and doesn't tell him.

Ed says he can't foist the cat on Mustang because of equivalent exchange; Mustang already repaid his debt in Ed's books by telling him about Marcoh. Therefore this innocent cat has to suffer?

We end with Scar killing an alchemist in Central. The shot is shadowy and obscure, so we don't see much more than a blood spurt, but there are a lot of bloodstains afterward.

Conclusion

Ah, we're back to form. This episode is a little slow, but it's a definite "calm before the storm" feeling, and we do need time to establish these details before all the plates start spinning. We see Mustang in action for the first time, get more details on his relationship with the other characters, learn more about the military and the Ishbalan war, and see what Scar's been up to for the past three years. I know a lot of people dislike how slow OG is, but I appreciate that it's taking its time on these details. Some things need a slow boil to cook just right.

I also like that we're seeing the government actually react to Scar. A real military dictatorship should not look at someone assassinating all their top brass while evading all detection and just shrug it off. The fact that he's got everyone spooked is a sign he's actually accomplishing something, both dignifying his own character arc and building his credibility as a villain. And he hasn't even clashed with the heroes yet! He exists outside of the protagonists' lives and his actions affect the society as a whole. It fosters a more wholistic sense of the world.

But ugh, Mustang. I don't like his ability, it's way too close to Lyra's energy beams. It's at least a bit more limited – he can't do it without a spark – but it feels more like just throwing energy blasts than legitimate chemical manipulation. Fire on command is already extremely powerful, adding explosive force on top of that is just ridiculous. I will definitely have cause to complain about this in Brotherhood in some of the later battles; I don't remember him being as bad in OG, but I will be keeping an eye out here as well. If we are generous, we could perhaps say that it's reasonable to have one alchemist whose specialty is purely offensive, and it can even be effective characterization to show that Mustang favors brute force and hyperspecialization. But it's still something that has to be handled carefully so battles don't devolve into "And then Mustang pressed his instant win button, and won."

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 14: "Destruction's Right Hand"

Civil unrest has broken out in the town of Lior with Envy using his shape-shifting powers to disguise himself as Cornello. The Elrics find Marcoh and learn about the usage of the philosopher's stone in the Ishbal rebellion before he went missing. Grand enters with soldiers, confiscates Marcoh's information on the philosopher's stone, and arrests Marcoh, leaving the Elrics behind. However, Scar appears and kills Grand before turning his attention to Marcoh. The Elrics and Marcoh quickly evade into a tunnel, long enough to be saved by Major Alex Louis Armstrong, the "Strong Arm Alchemist".

Liore is in ruins. The people curse Cornello for not saving them with his miracles. The military coldly fires into a crowd.

Lust sneers at how foolish humans are for succumbing to violence so easily. I believe this is our first confirmation that they're not human.

LUST: No matter how many times they repeat the lesson, they never learn.

That's a little weird for her to be saying. In OG, she's only as old as the Ishbalan war.

Envy says it was easy to pit believers against each other, and the military's only speeding things along.

Envy's shifting effect looks like the destruction effect during the human transmutation: glowing white, soft edges.

Envy says he's forgotten what he originally looked like. I know he does show it on command much later, so I'm not sure if that's a lie or if he remembers later. I'll keep an eye out.

New OP! I like it much better. There's another motif connecting Ed with flowers.

Lust says Ed is "the closest one to our goals".

We see Gluttony's fingers smeared with blood, but no details of the corpse.

Apparently people have seen Scar and connected him to the murders. In that case, how has he evaded detection for so long? The full might of Nazi not!Germany can't track down one guy? I'd have liked some explanation of how he's hiding.

The pictures of Scar's kills are similarly "clean" as Brotherhood's are: the victims look like they just have blood painted on them, with no visible gore or damage to the skull. Perhaps the idea is that he explodes the brain without breaking the skull, but then why are there always smears on the back of the skull as if they were exploded out the back of their head? Still, the lighting and framing manages to make it effective. Blur the details a little, and the audience's imagination will do the work for you.

There's a small gag when Marcoh calls Ed short during his serious speech. It's a little tacky, but it doesn't interrupt the flow of the scene. Ed's the only one who acts silly, Marcoh keeps going like nothing happened.

Ed admits he knows what he's doing is stupid.

Flashback to Grand using the stone in the war: He encases himself in a suit of cannons, with no clear source for the mass or the amount of metal. See, I feel this would be more impressive if we didn't see non-stone users using super energy blasts all the time.

Ed does not care about any of this and just nerds out about how great it is that the Stone is real.

Ed has a flashback to Nina when they take Marcoh away… but he lets it go on for quite a while before he chases after them. I felt he acted much faster with Nina.

Okay yeah, Grand does get a blood spurt out the back of his head, but his head still just looks like it's got red paint on it afterward.

We spend much more time on the brainsplosion than we did in Brotherhood, which I think better cements the horror, especially as we cut to Ed looking terrified.

Marcoh submits to Scar and tells Ed to leave him behind.

Scar's decomposition attempt doesn't work on Al because it was keyed for human flesh. So alchemy works like pymary? I'd say that checks out for normal alchemy, but does it make sense for Scar's pure decomposition? I'd say scientifically, at least, it does – the chemical bonds between different substances can be different and have different energy requirements to break, especially if they are in complex structures. Metal and organic compounds, in particular, are very different. Even if it doesn't make perfect sense, I rule it a good choice from a narrative point of view because it adds more wrinkles and limitations to Scar's abilities, and that's what I'm here for.

Flashback to Scar's brother gives us a shot of human Lust, so they were already planning that this early! Her clothing and hairstyle are different, so it's not immediately obvious.

Al tries empathizing with Scar by pointing out they both have brothers.

After Scar hits Ed's automail, he looks at his arm like "WTF?" This amuses me.

Scar tries to say they're the same and Ed says he's sick of that. Nice gag.

Armstrong shoots projectiles. I think maybe we're supposed to assume they're based in muscle power? That would explain why he has to be such a hulk, and why it's a family technique.

Okay yes, he does punch the rock to make it fly. So it's a combination of alchemy and brute strength.

Armstrong says he was sent by Hughes.

We cut to Rose in Liore getting menaced by some soldiers. She echoes Ed's line about having strong legs. Seems a little forced to me, given she didn't seem to like Ed very much.

Ed gives the Stone back to Marcoh because he recognizes the good Marcoh's done in the town. So I guess the implication is you need a Stone for healing alchemy, none of this "The next country over had a way to do it the whole time!" nonsense.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 5: "Rain of Sorrows"

Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye tells Edward and Alphonse that both Tucker and the chimera have been killed. Meanwhile, back in Liore, Lust and Gluttony attempt to cause a rebellion using the faith of the locals, with Envy using his shape-shifting powers to disguise himself as Cornello. Back at East City, as Edward and Alphonse dwell on their limits in alchemy, they are viciously attacked by Scar. They quickly retreat until they are cornered and are forced to defend themselves, resulting in Scar damaging Alphonse's body and then destroying Edward's right arm. The state alchemists intervene just when Scar prepares to finish off Edward. Mustang, unable to subdue Scar, is saved by Hawkeye, who reminds Mustang that his flame alchemy is useless in the rain. When Armstrong arrives and battles Scar, it is revealed that the man is an Ishbalan. Outnumbered, Scar manages to escape into the sewers, and Mustang tells the Elric brothers about the ishbal civil war. Edward and Alphonse decide to head back to Resembool to repair their bodies.

We open with Ed having PTSD dreams about the failed human transmuation and Nina.

I'm immediately noticing the animation is much more fluid; the whole body shifts whenever anyone makes the slightest movement. I honestly feel like it's too much; it looks surreal on the heels of OG's simpler animation, and of course the realistic animation never interacts with the background, which creates an uncanny valley effect.

Riza tells the Elrics about the deaths, but insists they shouldn't see the crime scene.

We cut to Liore, but it's a lot less clear what's going on without the early foreshadowing that someone was taking Cornello's place. We see Envy inciting them to rebellion, before it actually breaks out. I'm on the fence whether this is better storytelling; on the one hand, it's much clearer to see the full chain of events, but I think there is some shock value in leaving Liore on the backburner only to blindside us with this later.

It's night, but you wouldn't know it from the lighting; everything is very bright and easy to see.

We see what Envy alluded to in OG: the townspeople fight among themselves. It's very rushed, though; we only see a few shots of violence (and an obligatory Sad Crying Girl), then we skip to the devastation the next morning.

The scene with the homunculi sneering about human stupidity is similar.

Lust tells Gluttony he can't eat everyone. She told him he couldn't eat Cornello, too. Why is she so mean to him in this continuity?

Lust says the Cornello form grosses her out.

Envy's transformation effect looks similar to the Philosopher's Stone effect, tons of red lightning arcing everywhere. I suppose that's technically accurate since they're powered by Stones, but it just looks over-the-top to me. I mean, a shapeshifter's whole thing is subtlety.

Envy doesn't mention forgetting his original form.

The homunculi apparently know about Scar and are concerned by him.

Lust is grouchy that Ed messed with her plans, but also says they can't let him die because he's an important sacrifice. So, a lot less subtle than OG's version.

We see Gluttony head-on. The blood looks way more fake, and his mouth isn't even that messy. The small blurry shot we got in OG was more effective, I think. Less is more.

Cut to Team Mustang discussing Scar's kills. When Mustang realizes Ed could be a target he looks panicked. Much nicer and more vulnerable than OG's version.

No mention of how they know Scar is connected to the murders. In OG, they say they saw him fleeing the crime scenes.

Ed mopes about how he hasn't learned anything because… he wishes he could do something for Nina? I don't think that's a healthy direction to go down, Ed. His speech is generally too over-the-top for me, like he outright says he hoped the rain would wash away his sadness but it's just making it worse. I'm not impressed. People who are actually affected by emotion aren't coherent enough to wax poetical. This is telling not showing – he talks for a while about how he's sad and then he moves on. There's no depth or verisimilitude to it.

Al gives a similar speech as in OG 08 about missing human feelings, but it's just that… he wishes he could feel the rain on his skin. That is so much weaker than OG's version.

Ed is so depressed he doesn't notice Scar trying to attack him.

Scar's effect lights are much brighter, and blue instead of red.

Al has cartoon face during one of the shots where Scar is destroying stuff. Not the time.

Same line where Ed asks why anyone could hate him and realizes that's a dumb question.

Scar does have the same limitation about keying destruction to material type. Interestingly, the sequence is reversed here – Scar successfully destroys Al, then flubs the destruction against Ed's arm. Ed's coat doesn't seem damaged, but he discards it anyway for some reason.

Scar identifies the mechanism for Ed's circle-less transmutation is that he makes a ring with his body? How is that supposed to make sense…? I thought it was just that he learned how to do it from Truth?

The destruction of Ed's arm happens way too fast for it us to take it in, I think. It's something that should be hugely significant, but instead I’m just like "wait, what just happened?"

Ed tries to crawl away and unbalances because he forgets he's missing an arm, which is a nice touch.

Scar politely stands there and lets Ed give a speech because…?

Scar also stops INCHES from Ed's head just because Mustang fired a gun into the air. He then, once again, just stands there while they talk at him. Why??? He knows they'll kill him no matter what he does, he may as well go down swinging!

Scar outright STANDS UP AND WALKS AWAY FROM ED. WHY.

Well in fairness, Mustang doesn't realize he can't make fire when his gloves are wet despite getting a lesson on this FOUR EPISODES AGO so I guess the idiot ball's just really getting around today.

Scar can dodge bullets from Riza, the person renowned for being super accurate.

Cartoon when Mustang gets told he's useless in the rain. Not the time.

SCAR GETS OUT FROM COVER AND THEY STILL DON'T SHOOT HIM

Armstrong shoots a spear right at Scar's head. IF YOU WANT TO KILL HIM JUST SHOOT HIM.

Armstrong is told not to destroy the city so much and this leads to a cartoon skit while Scar just stands there. NOT THE TIME.

Everyone is able to deduce Scar's technique at this point.

If alchemy requires a decomposition step, that really seems like it should not be compatible with purely physical manipulations. What was Ed decomposing to animate the statue in Liore?

Everyone just stands there and talks about what could Scar's motivations possibly be while Armstrong is still fighting him. You could maybe give him a little backup, guys?

Okay FINALLY Riza is shooting him, but we're apparently in the Matrix because Scar can still dodge despite there being absolutely no way he saw her in time.

"Brown skin and red eyes? GASP! He's an Ishbalan!" Because ranting about God and wanting to kill Amestrians wasn't enough of a clue for you? I don't think we even see any other ethnic group with brown skin, so that should have been their assumption already.

And then they give the person who has just demonstrated a capability to destroy any possible means of confinement another chance to surrender peacefully when they were just trying to headshot him seconds before. MAKE UP YOUR MIND.

Okay, so apparently the reason they weren't doing anything while Armstrong was fighting was because they needed time to call in more soldiers to surround him? I'd have appreciated some shots establishing that.

Al gets into an argument with Ed for not running away. Slapstick ensues. Not the time.

We get a flashback as Mustang tells Ed about the Ishbalan war. It's in grainy cam, which I don't like. Too much motion makes it hard to focus on what's going on.

Bradley makes a scary face during the flashback. This, of course, means nothing since the very first episode already showed us he's evil.

We see Grand, Isaac, Kimblee, and the Silver Alchemist in the flashback.

There's only a very quick shot of Mustang fireballing an area, nothing like the personal intensity of his PTSD attack in OG 13.

Mustang tries to explain Scar is justified, but Ed insists he's evil for dragging unrelated people into it. Uh, dude, Mustang just said State Alchemists very much were involved, pay attention.

Mustang says next time they encounter him it's shoot to kill.

The Elrics explain they'll be fine because they know Winry can fix them up. We end with a shot of her in her workshop.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 15: "The Ishbal Massacre"

Armstrong reveals that Scar is an Ishbalan alchemist during their battle. Marcoh tells the Elrics about the Ishbal massacre, how state alchemists were used against the Ishbalans, who viewed alchemy as heretical. Marcoh, forced to use his research, caused huge casualties on the Ishbalan side. Mustang, forced to kill a pair of doctors, who were saving lives from both sides, allows Marcoh to desert. When the doctors are revealed to be Winry's parents, Marcoh refuses to escape to Resembool with the Elrics. Scar, fleeing from the military, runs into the Elrics again as they defend themselves against him, resulting in Scar destroying Ed's arm and damaging Al's body. Just as Scar prepares to finish off Ed, Marcoh throws his red stone at Scar, causing him to painfully absorb the stone into his tattooed arm. Outnumbered by military reinforcements, Scar manages to escape into the sewers and Marcoh is taken to a "safe location" by the Führer's personal secretary.

We open by rewinding a bit to replay Armstrong's battle with Scar. It's a bit confusing, but last episode cut off midway through the battle, so it does help ground us.

Armstrong gives his line about creation and destruction while stripping. I actually think this works way better here despite being essentially the same in microcosm. Just placing it at the start of an episode helps segregate the comedy from the more serious action that's about to take place. The fact that Armstrong is alone here also helps; the comedy is more limited when there isn't a peanut gallery to keep the joke going. Even further, this is Armstrong's introduction in OG, so this actually does serve significant dramatic value as his character establishment. All in all the execution is just much smoother.

Armstrong knocks off Scar's glasses instead of Riza, since she's not here. So we're docked a point of female empowerment, but we gain a point in sensibility because Scar doesn't dodge bullets. I find this an acceptable trade, especially considering "oh wow, the woman managed to superficially graze the super special bullet-dodging Gary Stu!" is not exactly great female empowerment to begin with.

Same line where Armstrong is shocked, just shocked to discover the brown-skinned monotheist who hates the military is an Ishbalan. Where are you hiding all the other brown people, show?

Points for subtlety, though: Armstrong is cut off before he can say "Ishbalan". He doesn't say it outright until the next scene. Slow boil!

Armstrong deduces Scar's technique, and the philosophical rationale. He actually engages with it, comparing to killing for a religious cause (and though he doesn’t say it, I can’t help but see that as parallel to killing on the Fuhrer’s orders) and says Scar's still an alchemist no matter what rationalizations he comes up with. Lies and truth, again.

We suddenly shift to still images for the battle because… they ran out of budget?

We get the line about Grand being a martial expert when Hughes reports his death.

The Elrics actually talk about the rebellion before Marcoh tells them everything. They buy into the propaganda that it was just a war and everybody lost lives, so they're wrong to keep fighting. They even equivocate about how, well, if everyone got angry every time they lost a war, there’d be no end to it, so they should just accept their loss, because of course all sides are equally bad who can say what’s right really. I’m marking that down as a major point for anti-imperialism; that is a real and very common argument, and it’s incredibly brave of this story to actively criticize it.

This is what prompts Marcoh to say it wasn't a war, but a massacre. That's already orders of magnitude stronger than the opening we got in BH.

During the exposition, Ishbal is characterized as a backwards theocracy, explicitly contrasting their culture with Amestris' scientific one. I think that's pretty racist, considering the real Islamic empire was responsible for many scientific achievements. It's perfectly reasonable for a highly religious nation to take issue with alchemy, but "also they just hate science" is a bit much. If anything it actually dilutes the point OG will later take, which is that alchemy really is unnatural and bad. Having a group that was okay with regular science but not with alchemy would foreshadow that.

Shot of Bradley looking evil when Marcoh says the massacre was on his orders. I think this is the first time we've seen that expression from him in OG. See, this is actually a surprise because he's been so good at acting fatherly and nonthreatening up to this point.

Shot of the State Alchemists show Kimblee, Armstrong, Mustang, Grand, someone else, and some others I don't recognize, conveniently all in sunglasses so we can't see their faces well. I assume they're just filler.

Ah, and now we get truly impressive displays of power from the Stone users. They're leveling entire villages with single attacks.

When soldiers find Scar, they shoot at him immediately.

Oh, Mustang killed Winry's parents? I had forgotten about that. That's a plot twist.

There's a really gut-wrenching scene where Mustang tries to kill himself and Marcoh talks him down. Another instance of the theme of choices and agency: Marcoh says his duty is to actively work to undo his harm, not merely to give up.

Ed gives the same line about Scar dragging in unrelated bystanders. Nooo, Ed, he's literally targeting the exact people who were involved, Marcoh just said this.

Al actually pushes back, saying that if someone killed Ed he'd do the same. He invokes equivalent exchange, but Ed says it isn't because avenging people doesn't bring them back.

Ed fixes the damage to Al's arm.

Scar is up against a firing squad. He destroys the road under them, but it looked like they still had time to shoot him.

We get the same thing with Scar getting distracted by Mustang firing into the air, but it's less stupid because he's not in the middle of something.

Same bit where Mustang tries to fight in the rain and is stopped by Riza. Unfortunately, we also get the bit where Scar somehow dodges the hawk's bullets. I have to say the context of getting the massacre exposition before this also makes Mustang look really awful here, especially as he makes it clear he was absolutely out for blood.

We do get a cartoon shift when Riza tells him he's useless in the rain. Ehh, it's incongruous with the overall serious tone here, but OG has spent so long building up Mustang as this untouchable awesome dude that it's justifiable to cash that in, I suppose.

Scar is somehow able to dodge an entire firing squad while scaling a building. Why.

We linger on the shot of Al getting wrecked.

Same with Ed's arm.

Scar gives the same line about Ed's sans-circle ability. Rest of it's pretty similar, but Ed appeals to Scar's brother when requesting he spare Al. He also cites equivalent exchange, to which Al says he just said a life doesn't equal a life! Ooh, I'm not sure if it's intentional but that line is actually a really important hint towards the equivalent exchange theme.

Oh wow we actually get a philosophical debate. Scar says Al is right, nothing can pay for the loss of his people. Ed asks why he's murdering everybody then.

Scar actually touches Ed, which I think makes the whole thing more tense.

Al calls back to Ed saying they're all they've got, and has an absolute breakdown. We cut to the rain falling on his gauntlets in a way that makes it look like he's crying.

There's no offer to surrender when the soldiers corner him, they look absolutely ready to murder him before he escapes. The whole sequence is much stronger without dialogue, I think.

Al's confrontation is similar but not comedic. Thank you.

Armstrong says he's never seen a soul transmutation that worked. Nooo stop making Ed into a Gary Stu

Marcoh reveals the executed doctors were Winry's parents. Did he also tell them Mustang killed them?

We hear Sloth talk for the first time. Al says he thought he heard Trisha's voice, but Ed says it was just a near-death experience. Good way to foreshadow that quite blatantly while still keeping the protagonists out of the loop.

We end with a somber shot of Ed sulking in the rain.

Conclusion

I see Mustang is already taking over Brotherhood’s narrative. He's the real protagonist of the Brotherhood episode: he gets focus at the beginning and ending, and it's his soldiers who save the day. Even though he gets his moment of comedic ineffectiveness, I'd actually argue that's bringing him closer to a protagonist – he's an ordinary guy you can joke around with, not a callous authority figure handing down orders from on high.

Once again, Brotherhood is just… so rushed. It feels like it's running down a checklist. Heroes angst about events of last episode? CHECK, now on to the next thing immediately. There's no room for anything to breathe. Similarly, without having been introduced to Scar earlier, he's much flatter as a character. We don't see him being conflicted before turning to this path, we don't even get the humanizing information about his brother. Even before knowing about the Ishbalan war, the clues we get in OG paint a clear picture of a man who has been deeply wronged. It's much easier to sympathize with him, as it should be. Here… he honestly drifts a little too close to "scary black man" for my liking. He's a wrecking ball who shows up to cause trouble and is only humanized after the fact – and not even from his own mouth, at that.

And despite all that… there are actually fewer things going on in this episode. OG fuses the Scar and Marcoh plots together, creating additional tension and complexity. Scar actually throws a wrench into something already in motion, instead of just showing up to ruin the Elrics' day. And by ending with Marcoh's kidnapping, it creates an even greater sense of despair – the Elrics lost at both fighting Scar and at protecting Marcoh. Furthermore, it adds an extra plot thread to worry about – and through Liore, we've just seen what happens when the Elrics can't be everywhere at once.

In Brotherhood, the time spent on that stuff is instead spent speeding through necessary exposition that OG already dealt with in previous episodes, and shortchanging them as a consequence. But that's not what's important to Brotherhood. Brotherhood isn't interested in spending a whole episode on Ed's reaction to Nina's death. Brotherhood isn't interested in spending a whole episode on the Ishbalan massacre. These are things Brotherhood has to tell us, not things it wants to tell us.

I feel there was better buildup to the Ishbalan war reveal in OG, too. I think if you go by total mentions both series spend about the same amount of time foreshadowing it; but in Brotherhood we are only told a few times that the good guys are upset about it, while in OG we're really shown how it's affected them, especially with Mustang having a full-blown PTSD attack. I suppose we did sort of get that with Isaac, but that episode was just such a mess and happened too early for it to contribute to a proper build.

We also get much less information about Liore; the focus on the infighting makes the parallel to the Ishbalan rebellion less obvious. I forget if we get more on it, but I still feel like keeping these early stages to whispers and exposition is stronger. In OG, we only see the place directly after it's already fallen apart, better conveying the horror that this is what happened while we patted ourselves on the back and pretended everything was fine.

I think Al's anger towards Ed is more effective here, when we've spent so much time establishing him as this ineffectual doormat. It's shocking to see him actually snap and talk over Ed instead of letting Ed walk over him like he has all series. The filler episodes may have had terrible plots, but they were excellent at building up to this.

And finally, the ending is really telling on just how polar opposite the series' tones have already become. Brotherhood doesn't let the momentum falter; it assures us that, despite the heroes' humiliating defeat, they already have a game plan for how to get back on their feet, and we end with an exciting teaser – what do Winry and Resembool look like in the present day? It's upbeat: don't worry, audience, things may look bad but there's good stuff just around the corner. OG doesn't give us that: we, and the brothers, are left only to reflect on their failure.

I completely understand why Brotherhood fans don't like that. It's valid to want your escapism to be uplifting. But personally, I love this stuff. I want my heroes to be vulnerable and go through dark times. The emotional intensity of this somber ending excites me just as much as Brotherhood's teaser of a new character entirely. I can't wait to see how the heroes will pick themselves up from this.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 16: "That Which Is Lost"

Armstrong escorts the Elric brothers back to Resembool to have themselves repaired. Lust attacks Marcoh in his "safe house" and coerces him into revealing the location of his research on the philosopher's stone. Lust and Gluttony then kill him as they make their way to the state library. On the train to Resembool, Ed and Armstrong discover that Al was unloaded at the previous station and are forced to search for him. When Armstrong urges patience, Ed explodes in rage and abandons Armstrong. However, Ed is soon jumped by a girl who steals his automail leg. The girl's grandfather, while giving back Ed's leg, explains that he lost his leg during the Ishbal rebellion and that he wishes to retain his wound as a reminder of it. Meanwhile, Al is stolen by a boy who wishes to prove himself by raiding an enemy's mansion. Al frightens the boy by claiming he is a haunted armor. The Elrics reunite as Armstrong reappears, grabbing them and dashes toward the departing train, hoping to catch it.

Lust appears to say ominous things to Fuery. Her breasts are really prominent, even though she's wearing a heavy coat over her dress. Fuery blushes afterwards.

Gluttony tries to eat a stray bullet but Lust smacks it out of his hand.

Marcoh gave dropped a note giving Ed a clue to his research. Ed doesn't want to share it with anyone, not even Mustang, because he's not sure he can trust the State after learning about Ishbal.

Bradley is returning to Central to flee Scar again.

Mustang admits to hiding Marcoh, and asks what Bradley will do about it. Did Bradley already find that out?

Bradley claims he disagreed with Grand and just wants to protect Marcoh.

Mustang brings up Marcoh's research but gets shushed. After Mustang leaves, Bradley muses that if Mustang knows what's good for him he'll accept that the Philosopher's Stone does not exist. I don't quite understand what's going on here. He encouraged the Elrics to pursue it, so why is he discouraging Mustang? Do the homunculi only want a specific alchemist to make it?

There's some comedy where Team Mustang makes a jab at how Ed's just an annoying brat without his alchemy. Mustang also tells everyone Ed was really pathetic when he saw him after the human transmutation. What a dick. Ed doesn't rise to it, at least.

Short cartoon skit where Al says he appreciates Armstrong calling him a kid because it's the first time he's been treated like on in the armor. Cries cartoon tears, too.

Overall, while the comedy is a little weird, I think it works to defuse the tension from last episode. We do need a breather, and it's comforting to see everyone's back to their usual repartee. Mustang is still such a dick, though.

Armstrong continues emanating bishie sparkles even in normal scenes, which is hilarious.

On the train, Hughes continues trying for repartee, but Ed continues to be prickly. He switches to serious mode and tells Ed they think Scar killed Nina. Ed makes a creepy grin and says he's ready to take him on now. Yes, this is good. I like that Nina is continuing to matter.

But uh oh, the paperboy was spying on them! Mr. Secret Agent really should have expected that. Scar does not kill the children, which is nice of him.

I think this is the first time we've seen Lust's ability.

Marcoh seems to recognize the ouroboros tattoo.

Marcoh impales Lust with a rock spike make from the floor. Lust just says "isn't dying once cruel enough?" He's surprised to see this doesn't kill her, but says he didn't totally understand what homunculi were, only having rumors to go off of.

Armstrong tears off Ed's pants leg when he tries to restrain him. Well, I guess he is super strong?

Ed reveals he knows what they did in Ishbal, and insists they're nothing alike. Armstrong is shocked into letting him go.

Ed asks which war the grandfather was in, which is a nice subtle way of foreshadowing Amestris' forever war.

The grandfather says a similar thing to Barry about war turning men into monsters. And oh, the way he talks about it closing off your heart is really similar to what Al threatened the kid with earlier in this episode. Themes~

Ed says the guy's stupid for refusing a functional leg just so he can wallow in misery. I appreciate this sentiment.

They discuss equivalent exchange. The grandfather believes his leg is a fair trade for the peace of this domestic life. Ed points out the soldiers who do come back in one piece, and the grandfather insists they've still lost something in their hearts. Ah, but hasn't he suffered the same mental trauma? He's given up more than them. So is that really an equivalent exchange?

The grandfather goes on to say surely Ed has gained something from his own loss and Ed says no, he hasn't.

EDWARD: Where was the equivalency then?

YES YES YES. We're already brushing up against the ultimate truth of this story! This is an almost perfect echo of Dante's delivery later.

Ed breaks a cup when he's raging about how they just keep losing things.

The grandfather says that a dream is only worthwhile when it's a fantasy; if it becomes real, it was never a dream. Ed looks shocked at this and we spend a very long time on him just sitting in silence like that was a huge deal. I… think that must have been a translation goof, because I don't understand what he means.

Ed admits that he might be right, but he's still going to try anyway.

Shot of the broken mug as Ed leaves. He doesn't fix it with alchemy, which surprises me.

The kid runs past and Ed just shrugs in confusion. Al has been covered in curse tags. LOL.

Ed wonders if Mustang didn't visit them back then for Hoenheim, but for "something else" – to confess to the Rockbells?

Ed apologizes for insulting Armstrong earlier, but I'm not sure why. Did the grandfather's explanation make him decide that Armstrong might not have wanted to participate in the massacre?

Conclusion

I love this episode. I can see why people could dislike it. It's very slow, it doesn't really go anywhere in concrete terms, and Ed just happening to stumble on this grand sage ready to start a navel-gazing contest is pretty contrived. But from a thematic point of view, this episode is a gold mine. It very pointedly establishes the themes of the work and primes you to start thinking about these important concepts. The dialogue and cinematography are works of art. And it even manages to fill it all with a lighthearted, comic A-plot that's a great breather from last episode. Ed is given time to process the heady experiences and revelations he's just had, and therefore so are we.

And despite being a so-called filler episode, we are still advancing the plot with Marcoh. We get a little more information on who our villains are and what they're capable of. And if you read between the lines, you're left to wonder: how did the homunculi get to Marcoh's supposedly secure location so quickly, after Bradley just said he was making his safety a top priority? Why, it's almost like they're working together. (It is a little strange that Bradley didn't menace Marcoh himself, but perhaps he knows Mustang is on to him and wants to be a little more cautious about getting things traced back to him.)

I'm confused by the summary saying the homunculi kill Marcoh, though, as that's not shown. Are we told that later?

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 17: "House of the Waiting Family"

The Elrics and Armstrong all return to Resembool, meeting up with Pinako, who agrees to repair Ed in three days time. While the Elrics recuperate, Armstrong assists Winry and Pinako in work. The Elrics later reminisce about their childhood while at their mother's tombstone. Al seems to worry about having fading memories, but Armstrong breaks the tension. A few days later, receiving his replacement arm and leg, Ed uses his alchemy to rebuild Al's armored body from the shattered remains. Afterwards, the brothers and Armstrong head back to Central to find Marcoh's research.

We open with Pinako staring into the sky.

Ed says he hasn't been back to Resembool since he left. How'd he get new limbs, then? He's clearly grown since he was 12, and his automail leg is longer since the flashback. Did Winry keep hopping over to Central to make him new limbs?

Winry is not wearing goggles while she works.

Pinako calls Ed short, and we have the same insult-fu scene from BH 02. Way more appropriate here.

Armstrong is hilarious.

Winry throws a wrench at Ed, similarly to the scene where he transmutes his automail in BH 02.

Al gets cartoon face when being admonished by Winry.

There's a flashback to 03 when Ed visits the grave, but his line about bringing Trisha back is different. I hate when shows do that.

Trisha's epitaph is illegible.

Winry nerds out over Ed's watch. When he refuses to give it to her, she tries flirting with Armstrong, who immediately runs away. LOL.

Armstrong breaks the door when he barges in.

Ed calls Winry an automail nerd, and she calls him a transmutation nerd as payback.

Ed has to be sat down on a bed to ride out the pain of the reattachment.

Winry brings up the possibility of the automail stunting Ed's growth, and says she made the new ones lighter to help.

Armstrong's bishie sparkles fall down when Ed isn't impressed by him. LOL.

Al says it "feels great" when the armor is fixed. I thought he couldn't feel anything?

Ed and Al spar again once they're fixed. Winry realizes the Ed left his watch inside. Hohoho.

When Winry opens the watch, she sees the inscription. I think this is the first time we've seen it in OG.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 6: "Road of Hope"

While Armstrong escorts Edward and Alphonse back to Resembool by train, he spots a man named Tim Marcoh, the "Crystal Alchemist", at a nearby stop. He explains that Marcoh was a state alchemist and doctor during the Ishval civil war, and conducted research on biological alchemy before disappearing at the end of the war. They talk to Marcoh and learn that he was researching the philosopher's stone but only succeeded in creating an incomplete version. At first refusing to share his knowledge with Edward, Marcoh eventually provides a clue to the location of his research data. After they reach Resembool, Winry Rockbell and her grandmother Pinako Rockbell start working on Edward's automail. After receiving his replacement arm and leg, Edward uses his alchemy to rebuild Alphonse's suit of armor from the shattered remains. Afterwards, the Elric brothers, along with Armstrong, head back to Central to look for Marcoh's research.

We open with Hughes seeing them off on the train. We cover why Armstrong is escorting them as protection, but nothing else from OG 16 – no bit with Scar finding out where they're going, no mention that they think Scar was Nina's killer, no "excuse the left-hand salute" line; and while we get the same bit with Ed taking offense at being called a child, we don't get Al saying he appreciates it. Ed also behaves much more normally, with no indication that he's depressed or affected by what he learned last episode.

Armstrong shouts out Marcoh's name in a public train station for everyone to hear, because he's an idiot.

We learn more explicitly that Marcoh was studying healing alchemy. Boy, he sure must feel like an idiot in this continuity where their next-door neighbors already had that figured out for centuries.

Armstrong doesn't seem to know what happened to Marcoh after the war. So Mustang didn't tell him?

Ed only wants to find him because he thinks he could know a way to restore their bodies.

Oh my god Armstrong is showing sketches of Marcoh to everyone in the city. Because it's not like there's a terrifying military dictatorship after him or anything.

The scene where they meet Marcoh plays out similarly, but it's played for comedy, with Marcoh actually firing but Ed dodging out of the way with a cartoony expression. Wow. Wow. A traumatized enabler of war crimes is so terrified of the idea the fascist finally found him he's desperate enough to shoot children? What a barrel of laughs!

And Armstrong convinces him to stand down by crushing him with a suit of armor, which is of course framed for comedy. What is tone.

Maybe it's just a translation difference, but Marcoh doesn't mention wanting to take his own life, just that "I could give my whole life and still not atone". That's a lot weaker.

Armstrong doesn't know what Marcoh was researching? WTF?

Marcoh shows them the Stone instead of Ed having to find it.

Ed pokes it, and we see that it's gel-like.

Marcoh says it's awful that Ed's a State Alchemist knowing what they did in the Ishbalan war. Ed says he knows but he has to do it anyway. He makes a really fancy metaphor.

Marcoh is impressed Ed transmuted Al's soul. So I guess that's a thing in the manga as well.

Marcoh just gives them an ominous warning about the research and throws them out. We get a similar thing where Ed says he knows he could have taken it, but he wants to do the right thing and not deprive the town of Marcoh's help. I dunno, this just feels token to me here. I liked how Ed admitted his younger self definitely would have taken the Stone in OG, and the fact that we directly see Marcoh helping the people makes Ed's decision feel more real. Show, don't tell.

Marcoh gives them directions to his library outright, and says he hopes not only that they'll figure out the truth but that they'll get their bodies back. Uh, so he hopes they'll use his research to kill a ton of people. Why. I also don't see why he can't just tell Ed everything now, when he's not under duress. This is like the worst of all possible worlds for this – not only does he have no reason to fear his research will be either destroyed or exploited and therefore no reason to tell anyone, he also has no reason to not spill all the beans if that's what he really wants.

Lust is waiting for Marcoh when he comes back. So I guess the torture's going to happen to him here too. How did she find him, though? I guess she was spying on Ed? Not like they were making a secret of it, so it wouldn't be hard.

Pinako calls Ed a "regular customer", so Ed probably did visit in this continuity.

There's a funny bit where Pinako says Ed's grown smaller. It's actually pretty good, I'm sad we didn't get it in OG.

Same bit with Winry hitting him with the wrench.

They show Winry the smashed automail and she freaks out. Slapstick where she punches Ed for wrecking it. She kicks Al too.

They explicitly show him attaching the spare, and there's a bit where he initially has trouble finding his balance. Nice detail.

No scene where Al convinces Ed to visit the grave, we just cut to him doing it.

The townspeople don't talk to Ed, just wave.

Pinako explains more about her relationship to the Elrics. Hoenheim was her drinking buddy, apparently.

Pinako tells Armstrong about Winry's parents' deaths and they commiserate over the evils of war.

This is where we learn the Elrics burned down their house. Pinako explains their reasoning, which I think is weaker than hearing it from their own mouths.

We get more shots of Winry working on the automail. Ed keeps harassing her and asking when it will be done.

Reattachment is only momentarily painful, and played for laughs.

Similar bit where Winry explains the new automail is weaker, but it's cut off. She just says she added more chrome to prevent rusting, nothing about the growth-stunting and all that.

Al's repair is a lot choppier.

They reuse the animation of Pinako blowing smoke a lot.

The brothers don't spar with Armstrong.

Winry reflects on how awful it is someone as young as Ed will be a weapon in the military.

Nothing about the watch.

Conclusion

I actually like the second half of the Brotherhood episode! The pacing feels fine, for once. Spending a whole episode on the Rockbell interlude maybe was a bit too much. OG could have easily merged 16 and 17 and probably come out the better for it. We miss out on a few things, but we gain a few other things too, and Brotherhood's additional comedy and lightheartedness is, for once, totally at home with this breather sequence. I feel like they're both viable alternatives with their own strengths, rather than any one being definitively better.

But the Marcoh side of things is absolutely awful. OG actually engaged with the horror implied by Marcoh being so desperate not to return. Marcoh was fully integrated into the narrative, not just a convenient plot device to be stumbled across. It took its own premise seriously. Brotherhood did not.

What I take away from this is that Brotherhood is perfectly capable of making a good breather episode when it wants to, and is maybe even better at it than OG, but it doesn’t understand how to do serious plots at all. It's really a shame it doesn't seem to understand where its strengths lie, and keeps rushing through the breather sections to spend more time on action. It's honestly kind of sad, like it doesn't trust its audience to stick with it through slow bits. Although, given that's the most common complaint about OG, perhaps it's justified.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 18: "Marcoh's Notes"

In the state library, Lust searches for Marcoh's research before encountering Scar, in which she reminds him of a previous acquaintance. He realizes that Lust and Gluttony are homunculi as the library is sent ablaze from their attack. The Elrics meet Sergeant Denny Brosh and 2nd Lt. Ross Ross, their new bodyguards, not long before their find the first branch of the state library burned to the ground. The Elrics go on a exhaustive search to find other sources for the book, leading them to Sheska, a file clerk who formerly worked at the library before being fired for reading all the time. Sheska reveals that she has memorized all of Marcoh's works, and then makes handwritten duplicates for the Elric brothers. The writing is written in a code created by Marcoh, though resembling that of a cookbook. The brothers attempt to decipher the hidden data for several days, only to discover that producing the philosopher's stone requires human lives.

Quick flashback to human Lust when Scar sees her.

Lust has a quick reaction of surprise when she sees Scar.

Gluttony's face actually looks messy; there's blood between the teeth.

Lust says she needs Ed to complete the Philosopher's Stone.

There's another gag with Brosh and Ross mistaking Al for the Fullmetal Alchemist. Ed just says he's used to it this time. I love it when running gags evolve like that.

Scar is back in Central. How is he getting around so quickly? Don't the trains go through checkpoints?

Al apologizes to Ross for Ed's behavior.

So Mustang's headed back to Central? This constant back-and-forth is pretty silly. I don't like it when characters keep teleporting around to be wherever the plot is.

Ed remembers Sheska from when he saw her in episode 7. Good memory!

Ed has the gloom cloud effect when he finds out the journal was lost. I don't think it's appropriate to the seriousness of the scene.

Ed tries to use alchemy to reconstruct all the books, and there's a comedy bit where the wind blows them all away. Shouldn't he have tried to do that at the beginning, if that were possible? It's pretty selfish of him to only care about the part of a library that's important to him. I'm also not sure if alchemy could actually accomplish that; their original contents shouldn't be magically saved to the ashes, if he doesn't know what they originally were he shouldn't be able to reconstruct them.

Ed pays Sheska for replicating the journal.

Ross tries to stop them from going to the library, saying that they can't guard them there.

Oh, Al says Sheska should be proud of her memory...

Ross brings up the Elrics are still children.

We flash back to Scar's fight. Gluttony gets a HUGE headsplosion blood spurt, but it doesn't even slow him down. (Also, as usual, the skull isn't visibly damaged.) He crushes Scar so tightly he spits blood, but Scar destroys his arm to escape.

Lust cuts the area around Scar with wide swipes instead of just impaling him. Why?

Scar name-drops homunculi for the first time in the series, I think.

Still no confirmation that they actually killed Marcoh. Are we just left to assume that, or is it stated explicitly later?

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 19: "The Truth Behind Truths"

Horrified by the key ingredient in making the philosopher's stone, the Elrics nearly give up their quest. However, Ross inspires them to continue. A hidden piece of information reveals an unused laboratory next to a prison where raw materials for the stone were gathered. Ignoring the orders of Brosh and Ross, they sneak out to investigate the laboratory themselves. Scar attacks the dormitories and gathers that the brothers have traveled to the fifth laboratory before pursuing them. Ed enters the building via an air duct, triggering several traps before finally meeting the security guard named Number 48. Outside, Al is ambushed by another security guard named Number 66.

Ed specifically mentions just how many people are needed to make a Philosopher's Stone. Ah, but shouldn't one life equal one life, if it's equivalent exchange?

Al invokes sunk cost fallacy: Ed's been made a dog of the military and sacrificed so much for this, so he shouldn't give up now, right?

Ed throws a cup at Al in anger and looks disgusted with himself afterwards.

Ross tries to push them to keep going too. Whyyy. She calls him a child, and says he doesn't want to accept that it all might be for nothing.

The brothers decide they want to "see it through to the end", but… they've already seen where the end leads. What are they trying to accomplish, exactly?

Ed deduces they were feeding prisoners to the 5th laboratory. Clever.

Hughes is abusing Sheska. Okay then.

Ed uses his automail limbs to work the barbed wire into a rope for Al. I guess he's worried using alchemy would be too visible?

Scar's arm reacts to Marcoh's notes and… absorbs them? That's really weird.

Scar knows where Ed went because Ed circled the 5th laboratory on the map. Nice use of detail.

Scar once again dodges bullets while in midair, and is also uninjured by breaking through a second-story window.

Cut to the homunculi plotting somewhere. Envy says Liore has been "dealt with" by removing everyone who "knows too much". About what, Cornello's Stone?

Envy wants to kill Ed before he leaks the info to the military. But… I thought the military already knew about this? They're acting like they don't control the entire government.

Comedy when Ed admonishes himself for thinking it's a good thing he's small. Seems kinda weird to me.

More comedy where Ed keeps triggering the traps.

If the homunculi want Ed to make it through, shouldn't they have disabled the traps? It's really not clear what they're trying to do.

It's only after dodging the boulder that Ed thinks to use alchemy to disable to traps?

Oh, Greed is here?

Ed's shoulder is loose because Winry forgot a screw.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 7: "Hidden Truths"

Edward and Alphonse arrive back in Central, only to find that the first branch of the state library, where Marcoh's research was stored, has been burned to the ground. Scar encounters and battles Lust and Gluttony in the sewers, resulting in a large explosion. Edward and Alphonse's new escorts, Denny Brosh and Ross Ross, direct them to Sheska, a file clerk who had worked at the first branch of the state library, but was fired for spending her time reading. Sheska reveals that she has an eidetic memory and memorized all of Marcoh's research and then makes handwritten duplicates for the Elric brothers. While initially appearing to be a cookbook, Edward notices that it is written in a code that Marcoh created. Edward and Alphonse spend several days deciphering the hidden data, only to discover that the philosopher's stone is made by sacrificing living humans. Edward asks Brosh and Ross to keep it a secret, but Armstrong learns about it using intimidation. Edward notices another hidden piece of information, locating an unused laboratory next to a prison, where "raw materials" for the stone were gathered. Armstrong tells the Elric brothers to stay put, but they both manage to sneak out to the fifth laboratory. Edward enters the building via an air duct, while Alphonse waits outside, unaware that he is being watched by a menacing figure.

We open with Scar battling the homunculi, but he's still in the sewers since we didn't have all that stuff about him going back and forth from Central. He doesn't headsplode Gluttony, but still tears off his arm. He does it fast enough he isn't injured. Lust charges him from behind and there's an explosion. Not sure how he got out of that one; Lust should have been able to kill him quite easily.

And of course we cut to Mustang. 9_9 He wants to solve the case so he'll get more political capital.

And wait, apparently we are in East City? Was Mustang there all along in this continuity? Keeping the details straight is confusing.

This is where Mustang gives his bit about planning to be Fuhrer. Nothing about miniskirts.

Ah, but we do get a weird bit about Mustang not being able to relax on dates until Scar is captured, complete with comedy anger mark.

We actually see Team Mustang investigating Scar's disappearance and the coat etc. instead of learning about it through phone call. In some ways this is better, since we see it more directly, but I don't think it's necessary – this is a minor enough detail that we can be told in exposition. And personally, I like having a story that actually focuses on a consistent protagonist instead of constantly going "Let's see what Mustang is doing!"

Lust and Gluttony discuss their plans in the middle of a crowd where surely at least one person overheard them? We also get our first mention of Father.

The Elrics are already investigating the library when Brosh and Ross show up.

No bit about them mistaking Al for the Fullmetal Alchemist.

We do get a comedy skit when Al's asked why he wears the armor, though. I don't think it's appropriate.

They're directed to Sheska to start with instead of Ed figuring it out. I liked that he had to figure it out; if they don't know she has photographic memory, they'd have no reason to assume they should be interviewing her instead of the library staff.

Sheska's house has actual bookshelves, and is more poorly lit. The books are drawn very differently, too.

No bit where more books fall on top of them when they try to dig Sheska out.

We get a full flashback sequence when Sheska gives her backstory. I actually like it, it helps us understand this new character better and the situation is lighthearted enough the over-the-top comedy is appropriate. The skit continues even when Ed asks her about Marcoh's notes, which I think is less appropriate.

No bit where Ed plans to reconstruct the library before learning about Sheska's memory, she just tells them immediately.

Cartoon skit where Ed is overjoyed at Sheska's ability. It's appropriate but still way too over-the-top for my liking, especially when we've already had a bunch this episode.

No timeskip, instant cut to Sheska having all the notes ready. She does mention it took five days as opposed to OG's three. I wonder the reason for the change?

Bit where Ed pays her is similar.

Ed explains that encrypting alchemy notes is a common practice.

We get actual details on some of the decoding they do, which I like.

Ed refuses to ask Marcoh because that would be admitting defeat. That's such a stupid reason. In OG, not only is he not available, Ed says he respects his desire to distance himself from his research.

Sheska visits the Elrics to say she moved her mother to a better hospital.

Cartoon skit when they ask her if she's gotten a job yet.

Al gives the same line about her memory being incredible, but it lacks personal significance since he's not worried about his own memories in this continuity.

Bross and Rosh are amazed that Ed can talk to Hughes so casually.

We get an extended montage of them decoding the notes.

Ed delivering the news about the sacrifices is more angry than horrified. Too over-the-top for my taste. He also sees no issue with telling Brosh and Ross directly… while the door is open, at that.

The scene with Ed moping is similar, but is missing a lot of bits. This is when he says there's something he wants to tell Al.

Brosh and Ross tell Armstrong about the secret. This is played for laughs in a cartoon skit. Ha ha, they betrayed Ed's trust by leaking a secret that the military could use to commit horrible atrocities! How funny. This is definitely very funny.

No scene where Ed plans to give up until given a pep talk.

Maria makes a cartoon face when Ed figures out they were feeding prisoners to the laboratory. Ha ha, atrocities are so funny!

Armstrong tells them not to investigate the laboratory, but doesn't give a reason.

The giveaway this time is that there's a guard posted outside the condemned building. Wow, they're stupid.

Ah, they do bring up using alchemy to tunnel in and say it'd give them away. Thank you.

Rest of the episode plays out similarly, but there's no traps or homunculi scene.

Scar doesn't show up at all, so the weird note-absorbing thing was all OG.

Conclusion

OG isn't putting up a very strong showing here. While I still think it was a good move to have an episode end on the sacrifice reveal, Brotherhood does actually feel like it has the better pacing here. Most of OG's additions feel dumb and unnecessary; it's pretty obvious the trap sequence was only added to buy time, which wouldn't be too bad if they didn't also add a scene establishing the homunculi are trying to keep Ed alive. Still, at least it adds that they were making some attempt to stop the guards from killing them; Brotherhood still has that plot hole, since they need Ed alive there too. We also get an explanation for how the library burned down; is that ever explained in Brotherhood? It honestly looks to me like the OG writers were trying to fix an already-holey plot, and just didn't quite succeed.

I also like that the brothers actually engage with the ramifications of their discovery in OG instead of just moping that life sucks for them. The resolution to it is… weird, though, given that it seems to be framed as positive and triumphant. The ending of the series will turn the screw on how morally abhorrent it is that Ed chooses to keep going at this point. I'm not sure what the writers were going for here. If they were trying to do something complex, or a fake-out, it's hard to read; I can't see anything that could imply Ed is wrong. I also have no idea what Ross' reasoning was. Maybe my translation is borked?

On representation: I'm struck by how much more important Ross is in OG. In Brotherhood she and Brosh are essentially just one character, the minor comedy duo. OG decided they needed to give one of them more screentime to fill space, and they picked the woman.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 20: "Soul of the Guardian"

The Elrics learn that the guards are souls bound to empty suits of armor. Ed struggles in his battle against Number 48, a serial killer known as Slicer, When his automail arm malfunctions, the result of Winry forgetting to add a small bolt. Ed is troubled to see that his opponent is a pair of brothers, where the younger one controls the body. Ed manages to defeat Slicer by use of Scar's destruction technique, yet he refuses to finish them off, due to seeing Al in the same manner. Al realizes that Number 66 is Barry the Chopper, who tries to suggest that Al never truly existed, saying he was a doll made for Ed. Contemplating on the possibility, Al recalls that Ed was afraid of telling him something.

We open by recapping the fight openers from the end of last episode. This really reeks of padding for time. It's reasonable to show the whole fight, but then why did they show a little bit of them last episode? BH had a much cleaner break.

Apparently the seals work by forming a connection between the iron in the blood and the metal in the armor.

There's a relatively comedic soundtrack during the battle. Why?

Ed leaps back to just barely dodge one of Slicer's attacks, but lands awkwardly and falls.

Ed seemed to get tired out awfully quick compared to the fights he's been in before.

Barry is portrayed as a comedic oaf in his battle, a far cry from the horror villain he was before. I much prefer the latter version. Having Barry show up earlier was a really cool idea, but they probably should have changed his personality here as well. (I also do wonder if it might have been stronger to make him go up against Ed instead, but Ed does need to form a connection with Slicer for what happens later to have the proper impact.)

Ross keeps her cool and takes charge when Armstrong intimidates them.

Ed really shouldn't be able to keep landing on his injured arm like that. I guess maybe the cut was light, but it's bleeding an awful lot.

Slicer cuts through Ed's created spear in a single attack, while the automail's still holding up.

Slicer is talking an awful lot. I guess if he's certain he'll win it's a bit reasonable, but if his entire strategy is tiring Ed out, he shouldn't be pausing to give him opportunities to rest.

Ed is in really bad shape after the second wound.

Slicer throws Ed's "all's fair in war" back at him when he complains about the two souls. LOL.

Slicer interrupts Ed before he can transmute. Good to see someone finally doing that.

Slicer tells Ed to kill them because they're not people. Obviously Ed does not agree with that.

I don't understand how Al can fall for the idea he's not real. They have photographs showing Al existed.

Slicer loses it at the discovery that it's only now that they've become soul-armor that they're treated as people.

"Do you have any proof you really existed???" PHOTOGRAPHS

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 21: "The Red Glow"

Scar luckily arrives and helps a disadvantaged Al defeat Barry. This causes Barry to set off explosives, freeing an imprisoned Greed as well as others around him. The older Slicer agrees to take Ed to the interior of the laboratory, but the younger Slicer breaks his blood seal after Ed calls him human. Solf J. Kimblee, the "Crimson Alchemist", and several other prisoners are led by a fake Grand to be ingredients for the philosopher's stone. Ed and Slicer are attacked by mutant chimeras until they are called off by Tucker, who, after his death was fabricated, has become a chimera himself. As Al and Scar travel into the laboratory, Scar reminisces about his brother and Ishbal, but they are attacked by Lust and Gluttony, who Scar reveals to be homunculi. Tucker shows Ed around the laboratory, who realizes that he has been given the opportunity to create the philosopher's stone.

Barry continues to get played for comedy.

Barry recognizes Scar's arm but doesn't want to say anything about it.

Greed has been imprisoned for 130 years.

The younger Slicer insists there's no life for them so Ed should just kill him. Ed tries to argue by saying if he gets the Philosopher's Stone he'll restore them too, but they just say they'll be executed again, unless he wants to shelter serial killers.

Ed tries to stop him from killing himself, including leaping onto him and restraining his arm. I feel like he should be tearing his wounds open by doing that. Ed looks really horrified when he kills himself.

Ed agonizes over what he could have done. Slicer says there are many problems in the world with no answer.

Why is Envy disguising himself as Grand? They did say the laboratory was under his control, but has news of his death not reached Central?

They foreshadowed Tucker brilliantly, I must say. We were told his execution was rushed, Ed calls it a coverup, and then we learn supposedly executed prisoners were actually funneled into the laboratory. It makes perfect sense.

Tucker looks nicely creepy. His human body is grafted on upside-down. How are his glasses staying on, though?

Ed immediately confronts him over Nina. I am pleased that that is continuing to matter.

Al says he heard Ishbal was destroyed for coming too close to a Philosopher's Stone? When?

Scar flashback! We see his human transmutation attempt. It looks even worse than the Elrics'. But what did he lose in the attempt?

Okay, so apparently they were doing all this to "verify" Marcoh's notes were true? How exactly did they plan to do that? Kill a ton of people and see if anything happened?

Ed tries to ask who runs the place, but doesn't get an answer.

Tucker turned himself into a chimera trying to make a Nina chimera? How does that work? Possibly rebound, if he’s working with flawed Stones.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 22: "Created Human"

Hughes organizes an expedition to rescue the Elrics in the fifth laboratory. Envy, in the guise of Grand, gathers the human ingredients and forces Ed to attempt to transmute a philosopher's stone. Bradley joins the expedition and mobilizes the military in the rescue mission. Kimblee sets off an explosion, causing the prisoners to fall into the room below. Ed questions the prisoners for their reason being in the laboratory, though this results in a short fight against Envy before Lust intervenes. Lust takes Al hostage, giving Ed the ultimatum of transmuting the philosopher's stone or watching Al's blood seal be broken. Ed fails in his struggle to transmute the stone. Suddenly, Ed's body begins to react after being doused in the incomplete stone, destroying his surroundings. The homunculi escape as the military invades the base and Ross calms Ed down.

Mustang complains about his lack of screentime. Sorry, Mustang, this anime actually cares about its ostensible protagonists.

We cut to Scar fighting Gluttony. He is slammed through a wall and then falls two stories into Greed's prison. How is he surviving all this?

Al says the homunculi aren't people. Interesting, considering how much time we spent on that theme last episode.

Gluttony takes a bite out of Al.

Tucker says Marcoh left the Philosopher's Stones in this lab behind. That seems negligent when he said he was going to take the Stones in the flashback, but it does look like these ones would be harder to steal.

Tucker points out it's not like Ed can turn them back into people; flashback to Nina.

Slicer tries to sunk-cost fallacy it up, saying that the sacrifices' lives will have no meaning unless Ed completes the Stone.

Team Hughes runs into Bradley, who covers himself by saying by golly, he just didn't know what his direct subordinate was doing, and never bothered to ask! He somehow already knows Ed and Al are in there, and agrees to come with everyone for the rescue. The other soldiers are pleased, but Hughes looks suspicious.

Tucker seems to be tricking Ed into thinking he only needs to work on the liquid, and not that there will be additional deaths.

We get some nice science from Ed with him devising a strategy to refine the Stones.

Kimblee explains how he makes bombs: he transmutes the trace metals and organic compounds in the human body into explosives.

Ed doesn't joke when Envy calls him a pipsqueak. Thank you.

Ed tries to fight, but his automail arm goes limp. Envy beats him up.

Ooh, Envy suddenly gets angry at Ed for "carrying his blood". So we're foreshadowing that, too.

The homunculi promised Tucker they'd teach him how to bring Nina back to life.

Ed points out he won't have Nina's soul, but Tucker says he can place all his memories of her into the body and that will, in fact, be even better than the real thing. Cut to Al looking suspicious.

Lust says the homunculi can't use alchemy, which is why they need Ed. Why couldn't they just have Dante do it, though?

Ed pieces together that he's been dancing to their strings the whole time and has a breakdown. Apparently they taught Marcoh as well. What I want to know is why they wanted to destroy his research if they wanted someone to follow it? Were they worried that their prospective alchemist would have a crisis of conscience if they learned too much?

Lust invokes equivalent exchange: we give you the Stone, you use it to make us human.

Slicer moans in pain when Lust scrapes his seal. Ed looks horrified and screams at her to stop.

Al screams at Ed to stop, saying he doesn't want this if it's at the cost of human lives. Envy laughs and points out he knew that when he tried to transmute Trisha, but he did it anyway: only a human life can pay for a human life. Lust chimes in that they knew they were becoming dogs of the military, and they accepted it. They've always been willing to make sacrifices for this goal, so what's one more, really? Ed actually looks like he buys into it, saying if he gives up here they'll never get their bodies back.

But Ed can't bring himself to do it in the end.

ONLY NOW does Scar come to the rescue. Why was he waiting until the last second???

Bradley orders the rescue team to kill all non-civilians, makes a scary face. So I guess he's writing this off as a loss, perhaps planning to move everything to a new location later.

Ross hugs Ed and this somehow stops the runaway reaction. He passes out afterwards, so it could just be that that was going to happen anyway and they just needed to calm him down before he blew anything up.

Ed thinks Ross is his mom before he passes out, which is a little weird but hey, he's had a really bad day. And it’s another reminder on the child soldier thing.

Sloth tells the homunculi good job. Uh... why? They failed, and seem to have wrecked their supplies in the process. This seems like it should actually be a big setback.

We end with everyone clapping as Armstrong brings out the unconscious brothers. I found it a powerful visual: the brothers just went through Hell and barely made it out alive, and everyone’s just overjoyed the rescue was a success.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 8: "The Fifth Laboratory"

At the fifth laboratory, Alphonse fights Barry the Chopper outside, and Edward faces Slicer inside. It is revealed that both opponents are souls of murderers affixed to armor. Edward struggles in his battle when his automail arm malfunctions. Alphonse initially has the advantage in his fight, until Barry suggests that Alphonse never truly existed, claiming he was a doll made by Edward with false memories, causing Alphonse to contemplate the possibility. Edward is particularly troubled when his opponent turns out to be a pair of brothers, each controlling a different part of the armor. Edward manages to defeat Slicer by use of Scar's destruction technique, but before he can extract any information from the two brothers, they are killed by Lust and Envy. Edward demands to know who they are and tries to use alchemy, but his automail arm breaks and he is knocked out by Envy. Outside, Barry almost gains the upper hand over Alphonse, but Alphonse is saved by the arrival of Brosh and Ross. Lust and Envy destroy the lab to cover up the evidence of the philosopher's stone, but not before carrying Edward outside and handing him over to Brosh and Ross, commenting that he is a valuable resource.

Slicer's arena looks very different, much brighter with warmer colors. There's a Philosopher's Stone transmutation circle in it.

Slicer zooms forward and then pauses for like three seconds to give a one-liner. This is something that works in comics but not in animation. They're adapting the manga way too literally.

Ed doesn't need to see the bloodseal to figure out Slicer is animated armor. Slicer actually shows him his bloodseal once he figures it out and outright tells him he'll win if he destroys it. Ed lampshades how dumb this is, and Slicer says he "likes a little tension". I hate this trope. Let the heroes earn their victories, don't just give it to them, please.

Mustang still hasn't found Scar, and says he's believed to be dead.

Cut to Ross and Brosh finding the brothers escaped. Cartoon face.

They head to the 5th laboratory without consulting Hughes or any of that.

We still get the bit about Ed's shoulder being loose, but the only explanation is Winry saying it's lighter, not that she forgot a piece.

Ed still gets cut on the shoulder, but it's way less gruesome. It just looks like he's got a red tattoo under his jacket, it's not even bleeding.

But he does get blood on his head somehow? Brotherhood really likes doing that.

Cartoon face when Slicer calls Ed a monkey. I don't think it's appropriate, but I'll concede this one is more subjective.

Ed doesn't look nearly as exhausted. In OG he's covered in sweat by this point and visibly staggering with every move.

We get a flashback story about Barry since we don't know him in this continuity. There's just comedy as Al says he's never heard of him.

Same skit where Barry demands Al be freaked out about his body, only more cartoonish.

Al gets an anger mark placed… in midair…

Bit where Barry makes Al doubt his memories is pretty much the same. Once again, no one brings up photographs.

The guard from before tries to interrupt them and is killed by Barry. So… why couldn't Barry and Slicer just break out at any time? The only thing stupider than mad scientists creating an unstoppable supersoldier that will inevitably turn on them is it not turning on them for no given reason.

I hate the way the blood is drawn. It looks so fake. It's overdetailed, with clearly-defined outlines. It looks like it's just red goop.

Ed doesn't create a fake Al for his trick, which I think is more reasonable – the whole point was that Slicer wasn't giving him time to use alchemy in the OG fight. The fake Al was really only there as a fakeout of the audience.

We're speedrunning the fight. Ed gives his same line about blood loss making him woozy, but without POV cam to show it it's a lot less effective.

Cartoon face when younger Slicer starts flailing around.

Barry tells Al to break his bloodseal to find out if he's real; if he isn't, he should still be able to move. This is just getting more and more implausible. There'd be no need to add a useless bloodseal if Ed wasn't actually binding a soul.

Same bit where Slicer loses it at only now being called a person.

Slicer is about to tell Ed about the Philosopher's Stone and who ordered them to guard the place, but the homunculi show up and kill him, saying they can't let him tell Ed too much. So I guess the homunculi are also running the 5th laboratory in this continuity? So we still have the plot hole of them not trying very hard to keep Ed alive. Also not sure why they care so much about spilling the beans? Are they afraid knowledge of Philosopher's Stones can be used against them, since they're powered by them? Doesn't seem like they have any cause for that – you don't need to know anything about Philosopher's Stones to kill them, and fighting them is still a challenge.

Lust's fingernails bend.

Younger Slicer is upset when older Slicer dies.

Envy tortures younger Slicer to death by slowing cutting away at his bloodseal.

Envy admonishes Slicer for nearly killing one of their sacrifices. So… why didn't you… stop him earlier…?

Ed doesn't joke about Envy calling him pipsqueak. Congrats on restraining yourself for once, Brotherhood.

Aaand as soon as I say that, there's comedy when Ed's arm goes limp.

The homunculi say they're allowing Ed to live, but also that they can't have him sniffing around the laboratory again, so they're going to burn the place down. I still don't understand why they're trying so hard to keep this secret.

Ross and Brosh rescue Al from Barry. They're alone.

Envy just… delivers Ed and runs off.

We get a small scene with Kimblee, but he doesn't escape.

Ed doesn't see Envy transform, so he's not aware of that ability yet.

Conclusion

This is the first major divergence. OG has massively expanded the 5th laboratory plot into a full arc that establishes the villains' motivations, greatly furthers the hero's character development, and brings it all to an intense climax that engages with the driving question of the narrative. OG has finally committed to making its own plot, and the quality has skyrocketed as a result.

Almost everything I complained about in the OG episodes was there in the source as well. The Elrics having no clear reason to do any of this? In Brotherhood too. Lulzy serial killers? In Brotherhood too. Al forgetting photographs exist? In Brotherhood too. The villains supposedly needing Ed alive but not doing anything to keep him that way? In Brotherhood too.

Meanwhile, everything I liked about this arc was added by OG. Scar showing up? OG only. Tucker? OG only. Realistic fight choreography? OG only. Ed actually getting a chance to engage with the morality of affirming the humanity of murderers? OG only. Ed showing humanity and compassion for them? OG only. Awesome midpart cliffhanger? OG only. Interesting villain motivations? OG only. Actually menacing villains? OG only. Ross and Brosh actually acting like soldiers, and the military being functional? OG only. Something of narrative significance actually happening during this arc? OG only.

The good parts of the OG episodes are in spite of the source material, not thanks to them. The flaws were there because the writers weren't quite good enough to fix everything wrong with the disaster of a plot they were handed. And this is a disaster. No one's actions match their motivations. Ross and Brosh don't behave anything like actual soldiers. The heroes gain absolutely nothing of value. It is a complete waste of our time. The wheel-spinning that will characterize this entire series has already begun.

About the only substantive criticism I can give of the OG episodes is that the first half is a bit too slow even for me – but the Brotherhood episode is too fast, I'd say. It'd have been better for them to strike a middle ground, maybe spreading it into two episodes instead of three. 22 is pretty solid, but 20 and 21 could probably have been combined without losing much. But again, we just come back to the same point: OG would have been better if it had been even more irreverent to the source material and diverged even sooner.

On representation: Ross is once again the more important of the two by a mile. Brosh is barely a presence in OG. Her cooldown hug plays into some problematic feminine tropes, but the framing makes it clear that it was a truly brave act – even Armstrong hesitated to wade into Ed's storm. That alone makes Ross a truly strong female character in my book. Whether or not she can shoot stuff good isn't the only criteria that matters. Is she smart? Is she brave? Is she treated with dignity by the narrative? OG says yes to all three, unequivocally. Brotherhood says no to the former and latter, and a "yes, but not any moreso than her male comedy buddy" to the second.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 23: "Fullmetal Heart"

Ed, recovering from his wounds from the laboratory, is scolded by Ross for almost dying. Needing his automail repaired, Ed calls for Winry to come to Central. When Winry arrives at the train station, Al still contemplates what Barry had told him. After the brothers refuse to tell her about the events, Winry leaves in a fury and is dragged off by Hughes to his daughter's birthday party. Hughes tells her that men tend to hide things so as not to worry anyone. Al decides to confront Ed about what he was afraid to tell him, asking if he was really an artificial soul.

Ross slaps Ed. During her scolding she continues the "you're just a kid" theme, and asks him to trust her more.

Cartoon face when Winry realizes she forgot the screw. Appropriate, given Winry's established character and the fact this is a breather episode.

The military is investigating the laboratory. Hughes says they're explaining it away as Scar's doing.

Some of the prisoners blabbed that they saw Grand. I again have to wonder what Envy was thinking.

Oh, I spot Izumi in a crowd shot!

Hughes is purposefully keeping Mustang out of the loop.

Cartoon skit where Winry tries to convince Ed to take his milk.

Winry admonishes them for not telling her about the danger they're in.

Hughes explicitly says Winry's like a sister to Ed. Ew.

Gracia made a cake for Ed. That's sweet.

Al sulks because Ed brings up a memory he can't remember. If he really was just constructed memories, surely Ed wouldn't point out the holes? Also why would Ed have made so many personal sacrifices for him. He's so stupid to fall for this.

Ed tells Winry everything, and he thinks Al's mad at him because he didn't make the Philosopher's Stone. Ed admonishes himself for not doing it, even when Winry says obviously Al wouldn't want him to. This is shaping Ed into a pretty dark character.

Winry knows what Ed wanted to tell Al but Al cuts her off. This is so contrived.

And now Al is convinced that everyone he's ever known being in on the conspiracy is more plausible than him being real. Seriously?

Al hits Ed so hard it splits his lip.

Ed plans to jump off the building after Al and has to be restrained by Winry.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 24: "Bonding Memories"

Al has run away after not receiving an answer from Ed. He soon runs into Scar, who has been hiding among other refugees from Ishbal as they are terrorized by mercenaries posing as the state military soldiers with Barry accompanying them. After being reunited with his brother, Ed and Al reaffirm their existence.

We open with the Ishbalan camp. It's attacked by the military, including Barry. Suddenly he is being portrayed seriously.

An alchemist uses harpoons to make a transmutation circle that sends electricity everywhere.

Ah, Scar actually is badly injured from the 5th laboratory.

After the OP we get an abridged flashback to last episode's ending, which I don't think is necessary.

Pathetic fallacy: it's raining now, when it was a clear sky last episode.

Sloth picks up the call from the soldiers tailing the Ishbalans. Ominous!

Al thinks about how strange it is that Leo wants to forget his memories, because wow, that's the exact opposite of him! This seems unnecessarily waffling, probably added to fill time.

Al calls Ross, so she continues to be the more important one.

Old dude says Ishbalans value blood above all else.

Ah, but when Leo reached out for his mom when the invaders came, she ran away from him. Wow, that's heavy.

Al uses alchemy to cage the soldiers while he's outside the building. How did he know where to aim?

Al is unscathed after a direct hit by a bazooka. How strong is this armor???

Ed makes a wall to protect them, but it doesn't hold up for longer than a few seconds.

Okay, so the harpoons aren't making the glyph, they just make a circle and the glyph magically appears. I don't think that's kosher, but I believe alkahestry can do that in the manga so what is consistency anyway.

Barry dies, having fulfilled his purpose, instead of sticking around for another arc to stalk Riza and make more jokes about how hilarious murder is, because that would be weird.

The locket protects Rick, and breaks open in the process. They find eye medicine that shows their mom was going blind, so she actually thought she was running towards them, not away. That's sweet, if a little contrived.

The alchemist runs back to Sloth, who drowns him with her liquid body while calmly sipping tea. Our first look at her powers, and nicely creepy to boot.

The Elrics see the Ishbalans off. Scar affirms Al's humanity, which is nice of him. Ed just tries to grill him on Ishbal's Philosopher's Stone, to which he does not answer.

I'm not sure how I feel about the resolution to the mom – I'm generally not in favor of "blood is everything" or "one grand gesture makes up for a lifetime of petty abuse" as tropes. They could have easily just had the mom abandon them and have that be the last word. But this is a nice ending, and it's good that the Ishbalans get at least a little happiness here instead of only being used as a prop for the white characters.

And you know, it actually does strike me how much this episode really is about the Ishbalans. Despite ending last episode implying this was going to be about the brothers, Ed is almost completely absent and Al is a leaf in a river. Leo and Rick drive the plot, and Scar is actually the one who defeats the antagonist.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 9: "Created Feelings"

Edward is hospitalized following the incident at the fifth laboratory. Needing his automail repaired, Edward calls for Winry to come to Central. Winry arrives and repairs Edward's arm, adding the small bolt she forgot to insert back in Resembool. Alphonse still contemplates what Barry had told him about being a doll created by Edward. Hughes invites Winry over to his daughter Elicia's birthday party, where she laments that Edward and Alphonse never tell her anything. Hughes tells her that men tend to hide things to avoid worrying anyone. Alphonse then confronts Edward about whether he is really an artificial soul. Edward storms off and Winry yells at Alphonse, telling him that Edward was terrified Alphonse may have blamed him for getting him stuck in the armor. The Elric brothers then fight, with Edward emerging as the victor. They both reminisce about their past fights, reaffirming their existence. Meanwhile, Scar wakes up in the care of Ishvalan refugees.

We finally stop with the alchemy exposition opener.

Still get a recap of the last episode, though.

Cartoon skit where Ed's angry the laboratory was destroyed.

Ross still slaps and scolds Ed, but it's played for comedy before abruptly transitioning into seriousness because what is tone. She also has Brosh play backup. Her speech is pretty similar. Though she gives the same line about trusting adults, she doesn't call Ed a kid.

Comedy skit where Ross worries Ed would penalize her for slapping him because what is tone. We do get the additional information that State Alchemists have the rank of major, though.

Does Ross have a different voice actor in Brotherhood? Her voice sounds a lot higher-pitched and more childish.

Ed calling Winry is more comedic, and he asks her to do a service call instead of her volunteering.

Oh wait, we do get a flashback to Winry finding a missing screw. Did I forget that? It's hard to keep the two continuities straight sometimes.

Comedy when Brosh calls Winry Ed's girlfriend, followed by him tearing his wounds open, I think? He has to go in a wheelchair afterwards.

Ed generally does not seem to be acting like he's injured or in pain at all. In OG he seemed visibly drained.

Al sees a kid with a windup toy and gets sad. I feel like that's a bit too on-the-nose.

Winry complains the train ride was uncomfortable.

Izumi still gets a cameo, walking behind Winry. We see her face so it's a bit more obvious.

Ed needs to be admonished by the peanut gallery before he comforts Winry for blaming herself. Wow, he's a dick.

Same bit with Ed refusing his milk, but it becomes a full-on skit complete with Armstrong barging in.

Ed's the one to bring up Al acting weird.

We see Winry sneaking the screw out of her bag to put it in, which I think is a nice bit of subtle comedy.

Since Al isn't wrecked here, we spend more time on him walking around and doing stuff while he sulks, which feels like filler to me.

Hughes assumed Ed called Winry over so he could bang her and we get comedy about it. Thank you for cutting that, OG.

Hughes drags Winry to his house without telling her it's Elicia's birthday. It seems like the only purpose is to make a joke when Winry is confused.

Winry is enamored by Elicia's cuteness.

Winry is the one who says they're like brothers. Ewwwwwww.

Hughes' pep talk is similar, so the weird gender thing is here too. It's actually worse – he says it's Winry's duty to be receptive to them when they do open up, not that she should be proud she's the one they open up to when they can't keep it together. Maybe that's just different translations, but…

Cartoon skit where Hughes threatens kids to treat his daughter nicely. Not necessary.

Gracia offers to house Winry as long as she's in Central, which is nice of them, and an echo of their offer to the Elrics in episode 1. This is doing a good job of showing they're good people.

Similar thing where Ed jokes he wishes he had Al's body. Al's reaction is much more dramatic, to the point I can't take it seriously. Less is more.

Cartoon when Al makes his accusation. Seriously?

Ed walks out instead of talking to Al, because the idiot ball's getting passed around today.

Cartoon when Winry smacks Al because lol female on male violence is funny.

Winry does get to tell Al, and we even get a full flashback to Ed telling her.

Winry points out the plot hole of why Ed would sacrifice so much for a doll.

Al runs after Ed and Ed fights him. This is stupid. Al points out he should be opening his wounds, but he does not, which is stupider.

Oh, but I see the real point: Ed beats Al for the first time. Because that's what's really important here, the winning.

The reminiscence scene is similar, but Al adds that they fought over who got to marry Winry, and Al won but she shot him down, thus foreshadowing the Edwin romance.

Ed is more aggressive towards Al, asking rhetorical questions about if he really thinks all his desires are fake.

Then Winry agrees with Hughes that the manly way of not needing to talk about feelings works sometimes too.

Flashback to Kimblee in the war before Scar wakes up.

We end with Scar saying he got the arm from his family; I think that's the first time we've heard that in this continuity.

Conclusion

So as you can probably guess, I like OG better. Brotherhood just can't stop the madcap comedy. Every time it attempts to be sad and somber, it falls completely flat. Al has even less reason to believe this or care without the addition of Tucker literally doing exactly what he fears plus his memories fading, and it's all resolved too quickly and neatly. The drama just feels so manufactured: the author was like "WHAT IF THERE WAS TENSION BETWEEN THE BROTHERS WOULDN'T THAT BE COOL", made everyone hold the idiot ball to contrive it into possibility, then it's wrapped up in one episode and we're done. Like Nina, it's not a thing that builds or goes anywhere or matters.

On the flipside, I think this is a rare instance of OG not spending enough time talking about feelings: Ed's confession isn't engaged with or reflected on at all, it just gets the same "of course I don't hate you!" response seen every time this trope appears. If there was ever a time to throw the action to a grinding halt for some navel-gazing, that was it. And I actually did think Brotherhood's flashback felt more vulnerable and genuine than Ed's confession in OG, though the difference wasn't by orders of magnitude.

On representation: OG is better. Brotherhood says the woman will deal with your feelings, then turns around and has her declare that actually toxic masculinity is great. Her only purpose is to be a plot device and cheerleader. OG actually deconstructs toxic masculinity by having Al spiral so bad he doesn't let the woman deal with his feelings, forcing Ed to actually open up instead of fighting it out because he is a MANLY MAN and that is the only language he knows. In OG, their fight is serious and Ed gets seriously injured. In OG, we have the emotional intensity of Ed nearly leaping off a building because he can only think of Al. In OG, we have the genuineness of Ed spending a whole day trying to rescue Al. Actions rather than words, eh? OG continues to be miles ahead of Brotherhood at the "let's talk about our feelings" genre, even when hampered by the source's utterly moronic plot.

And by God it is moronic. I'm trying to think of a way you could fix this plot and I'm not coming up with much. You could maybe go deeper on the Philosopher's Stone thing, with Al seeing Ed's willingness to kill people for it over Al's objections as proof Ed only really cared about fixing himself… That would fit well with the theme of miscommunication, since Ed sees it in the exact opposite way. I could even buy him working himself into a conspiracy that Ed only made him to carry him back to the Rockbells when he was bleeding out, or maybe, what with Tucker and his Nina clones, he thinks since Ed went there with the intent of getting someone back, he decided to make a doll to keep him company when Plan A failed… but ugh, even that doesn't work because he should have made a doll of the person he was actually trying to get back. Maaaybe instead of thinking he was a total fabrication he might think Ed just made the memories instead of getting the real Al's soul, but that wouldn't actually change anything, ultimately. Ed and the audience are still invested in him, so it doesn't matter.

The conspiracy of everyone they've ever known needing to be in on it is just so absolutely ridiculous. It's not impossible to make someone emotionally compromised enough to believe that, but I can't think of what could possibly push Al that far. Ed would have to be treating him completely differently, like not trying to sacrifice himself for Al every five seconds and constantly fussing over him and just generally loving him 24/7. Like seriously, why would Ed give himself up to Scar for a doll? How did Al just conveniently forget that? And that's not even getting into the fact that Winry and Pinako recognized him even in the armor when there is no way the unconscious kid in his arms could have possibly coached them on his grand conspiracy in advance… None of it makes the slightest bit of sense.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 25: "Words of Farewell"

Deciding to follow Scar to get clues about the philosopher's stone, the brothers take Winry with them when she notices that Rush Valley, a town best known for its automail shops, is en route. As they leave, Hughes investigates the fifth laboratory, discovering a connection between it and the war in Ishbal. He confronts the key suspect in it, Juliet Douglas, but is then attacked by Lust. He escapes the two women and tries to telephone Mustang with his information via telephone booth, only to be attacked by Envy, disguised as Ross before he assumes Gracia's form to deliver the death blow. Hughes is posthumously promoted to the rank of a brigadier general. In a flashback, Mustang and Hughes conspire together to ensure the tragedy in Ishbal never happens again.

We open with a flashback to just after Ishbal. Mustang is a mess. He's planning to resurrect the people he killed. Hughes apparently wasn't there, and scolds Mustang for going to the front lines if he couldn't handle the consequences.

Mustang's gun takes focus in the shot when Hughes says there are easier ways to kill yourself.

Mustang says the only reason he didn't try it was out of fear for his own life.

Bradley notices Hughes is sticking his nose where he shouldn't and pays him a visit to say he already investigated it and it's all handled. His coverup is that Grand was working with Ishbalan radicals, which seems like a pretty dubious story. Given Ed's reaction to Ishbal, possibly the truth of the massacre was kept from the public, so it's not unbelievable Ishbalans would work with Grand.

Hughes has found a list of higher-ups other than Grand who are also connected. The shot focuses on Sloth in the background, calmly writing something.

Bradley encourages Hughes to pursue the matter, I guess to lull him into a false sense of security.

Bradley says Sloth is the only one who knows Marcoh's safe location. We already know from episode 22 that she's working with the homunculi, so this may actually be intended as misdirection – see, Bradley didn't know, maybe he's still a good guy… Which of course is brilliant, because that's just how plausible deniability works in real life.

Hughes notices Sloth's nametag doesn't match the name Bradley called her by.

Brosh is listening in on the strategy meeting, but Ross says she doesn't want to get involved in any more crazy stuff.

Ed says he's given up on the Philosopher's Stone and wants to find another way to restore their bodies, so they're going to ask Izumi for help. Armstrong realizes this is because he doesn't want to place the others in the way of danger.

Comedy when Winry talks about Rush Valley.

Elicia is sad to see Ed go.

Cartoon skit when they talk about how mad Izumi would be.

Ah, what they actually plan to do is get Scar to tell them the secret of Ishbal's Stone. Since Ishbal didn't have alchemy, they think they might have used an alternate method. Seems like grasping at straws, but they are pretty desperate.

Al says Scar isn't a bad person, but Ed can't forgive him for using alchemy to kill.

PTSD dream with Scar and Kimblee. It's an actual dream, very distorted.

The master tells Scar he's wrong to seek vengeance while outside, an Amestrian gang wrecks their camp.

Scar kills them. Once again, the skulls are not visibly damaged in the character models.

Ah, Hughes is pointing out how odd it is that the homunculi are destroying people who get close to the Stone if they want people to make one.

Sloth calls Hughes to say she'll escort him to Marcoh's location. Hughes figures out that her given name matches that of the soldier who started the Ishbal war. That soldier was not only supposedly dead at the time, but continued to rise through the ranks poshumously.

Hughes confronts her on this. What was his plan here, exactly?

Why does Lust only extend her claws halfway instead of killing him outright?

Hughes notices her tattoo.

I do have to wonder why Envy doesn't shoot Hughes in the back while they're running? It's possible he wants to see what Hughes will do, I suppose.

Hughes calls Mustang only to discover he's already left for Central.

Hughes coldly cuts Envy-Ross’ throat, which is a really strong image that really cements how brutal and effective Hughes can be when he wants to.

When Hughes dies, we finish the flashback from the opening: Mustang tells him his plan to become Fuhrer.

Mustang says he's tempted to use human transmutation to bring back Hughes.

Mustang cries, and pretends it's the rain. The sky is clear.

We end with the Elrics reflecting on everything Hughes has done for them. Dramatic irony!

Ed sees… Hughes' ghost…?

Credits roll at the end, so I guess this is the end of season 1.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 10: "Separate Destinations"

Führer King Bradley appears at the hospital and warns the Elric brothers to be careful around the military, and he then exits through a window to evade his subordinates. Edward and Alphonse decide to go to the town of Dublith to visit their alchemy teacher, Izumi Curtis, to ask her for information about the philosopher's stone. They agree to take Winry with them when she notices that Rush Valley, a town known for creating the best automail in the world, is on the way to Dublith. Meanwhile, Hughes links the problems in Liore, the fifth laboratory, and the Ishval civil war. He discovers a connection, but is then attacked by Lust. He escapes her and tries to contact Mustang with his information at a public telephone booth, only to be pursued and gunned down by Envy, disguised firstly as Ross, and then as his wife Gracia. Hughes is posthumously promoted to the rank of brigadier general while his murder is investigated by Mustang, who concludes via Armstrong that a high ranked member of the military may be responsible for ordering Hughes' death.

We open with a flashback to Ishbal, and we get the full speech. So Mustang was openly talking about treason while in a crowd of soldiers. Okay then. We also get a shot of Mustang's super fireballs, similar to the flashback in OG.

Bradley looks directly at him and gives him a death glare. So Bradley apparently knew about this the whole time and at no point tried to kill Mustang, because…?

We cut to Mustang in the present day instead of Hughes because of course we do. He's about to move to Central.

Cartoon shift when the heroes reflect on their leads apparently deadending.

Same scene with Brosh and Ross.

Bradley pays Ed a visit. He gives the same "You know too much LOL J/K" speech he gave Hughes in OG. Ed and Al remain in cartoon form throughout the scene.

Bradley claims there's an enemy faction infiltrating the government. The Stone researches went missing only days before the Fifth Laboratory's collapse, not years as in OG.

Bradley tells everyone to be cautious, but keep investigating.

Comedy as Bradley's subordinates call for him and he sneaks away.

Cartoon face as the brothers freak out about Izumi.

Skit with Winry wanting to go to Rush Valley is very similar, but we see the map and locations more clearly.

Hughes tells Ed to marry Winry. Stop being creepy, Hughes.

Hughes reiterates that Winry can stay with them whenever she's in Central.

Gracia tells Hughes to come home safe. Ohoho.

The brothers really are intending to visit Izumi, apparently? Similar cartoon skit when they talk about how she'll kill them.

There have been rebellions in the north area as well. Hughes is worried the government will be overthrown. Oh no…?

Less of Sheska, but also less of Hughes abusing her. She's just in the background looking tired.

Hughes' logic is much less clear. He just mutters something about the uprisings and human sacrifices and wonders who ordered everything. He for some reason doesn't think it's the Fuhrer, because he thinks he needs to tell him immediately.

Lust ambushes Hughes in the archive room. How do they even know he knows anything dangerous at this point? If this is all it takes to get you killed, they should be killing all the heroes at this point.

Hughes notices the tattoo, and we get a closeup shot in case you didn't.

Hughes is much more badly injured by Lust's attack, visibly staggers and collapses.

I think this is our first confirmation homunculi can survive lethal attacks?

Hughes talks to the telephone operator, who sees that he's bleeding. I'd say that's shoddy planning on the villains' part, but Hughes proceeds to tell her nothing, so the idiot ball's just getting passed around today. Even if he didn't trust her, he could have had her send a coded message to Mustang or something.

Hughes doesn't want to use an internal line, so he goes to the phone booth.

Hughes has to give a code to connect to Mustang from an outside line. This is where he drops the photo: he needs to open his notebook to get the code.

Envy-Ross pulls a gun on Hughes while he's in the phone booth. Why did he even bother transforming? Given what happens later I guess they were planning to frame Ross, but why does Envy put up an act? That this is so obviously not Ross completely ruins the effect. Envy also does not just shoot him immediately, because…?

And Envy is still talking. Why.

No shot of Envy looking at the photo.

Hughes yells "WHAT ARE YOU?!" when Envy turns into Gracia. I'm sorry, that completely ruins the effect of the scene for me. If he had time to talk he had time to throw the knife. Less is more.

We cut away for the gunshot.

Mustang actually does pick up, and Hughes clutches for the receiver before Envy just hangs up. Why didn't Envy use Hughes' voice to screw with Mustang? That would have been actually clever.

Envy sneers about humans being idiots. Except he's in his default form in a place where anyone could see him, so methinks the pot is calling the kettle black.

Hughes' family photo gets covered over with his blood. It works I guess, but I feel like it's over-the-top.

And Hughes gets last words apologizing to his family for being late. Too much.

We see the scene with Ed before the funeral. I don't like that. I think it has stronger impact at the end, especially since it leads us effectively into the next arc.

Elicia's tone is less even: she starts off pretty calm and ends hysterical. I think that's too much like how an adult would behave, not a child. We do get more focus on Gracia crying, though.

We get a date on the grave. Hughes was born 1885, making him 29.

Mustang says the same line about human transmutation, but he adds that he understands how the Elrics felt when they did it.

Nothing about him wondering why Hughes didn't tell him the Elrics were in trouble.

Riza explicitly points out it's not raining, which I think dilutes the emotion of the moment.

We end with Mustang investigating, which I believe is covered in the next OG episode. Armstrong can't tell him who the suspects are, so he deduces someone higher up must have issued a gag order. He also deduces from Armstrong telling him the Elrics were in Central but didn't find the Stone that it's related to the Stone, which seems like more of a stretch.

Conclusion

Mustang's taking over Brotherhood again. He's the subject of the beginning and ending, rather than Hughes.

I'd say that plotwise, Brotherhood is tighter here, but OG is stronger tonally. As usual, Brotherhood feels rushed to me. Everything proceeds too fast; we don't get a clear sense of just what Hughes was onto, and as a consequence it makes less sense why the villains are targeting him specifically. OG feels more professionally directed; the cinematography and the flow of the action just work better for me. Hughes revealing a specific important detail also makes this worthwhile to the audience; his death was not in vain.

I find it notable how different the flashback is in OG. There it's a moment of vulnerability and human weakness. Much like Mustang's suicide attempt, it truly shows how affected he is by his sins. In Brotherhood it's just a vehicle to deliver exposition.

The addition of the Ishbal camp scene in OG is probably a controversial move. I can understand people who feel it's distracting, but personally I like having multiple plates spinning in an episode.

It's annoying how much time the villains take killing Hughes, though, in both continuities. Why were they giving him so much time to investigate, when they already knew he knew too much? Why didn't they just have Envy walk up to his office in disguise and shoot him? I get the impression Sloth was trying to lure him away from witnesses in OG, but that shouldn't have been necessary in the first place. This whole thing is framed like they really are outside infiltrators and not controlling the entire government; it's subterfuge for the audience's sake, not for the characters'. Knowing Bradley is also in on it, he could have just, I dunno, arrested Hughes and rushed an execution without trial. “On what charge?” “I’m a dictator, there doesn’t have to be one!” Who’s going to stop him? It’s not like he can even be assassinated!

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 26: "Her Reason"

Mustang investigates Hughes' murder and concludes through Armstrong that a high ranked member of the military may be responsible for his death. Izumi Curtis, Edward and Alphonse's teacher, shows up at Central looking for them, but she has missed them by a few days. Edward, Alphonse, and Winry, on their way to Ishbal, arrive in Rush Valley.

We open with Mustang getting an invoice for all of Ed's hospitalization charges. LOL.

Mustang demands to know where the Elrics are. He's pretty harsh and aggressive.

Riza grabs her gun when Izumi barges in.

We're still doing the equivalent exchange intro? This is starting to raise the question of what "those days" are, exactly. From what point in the timeline is Al saying this?

New OP, though! It looks more like a slideshow of scenes from the anime. New characters are in it, most notably Wrath.

Automail girl is told she can't get a cannon arm because it's for men.

How does automail arm wrestling work? Wouldn't it just be determined by the quality of your automail, not your own strength? Despite this, the girl puts up an impressive showing against the champion before he cheats.

Announcer initially propositions Al, but then goes into a bit about how short Ed is. LOL.

Ed is looking more muscular than before, I think? He should be 16 now, so that makes sense.

Extra comedy from Winry when the announcer calls his automail shoddy. LOL.

Ed tears the guy's arm off! Did he use alchemy for that?

The big guy has a tiny replacement arm.

Ah, Ed did use alchemy.

Winry beats everyone up. I think it does lean a bit into "female violence is funny", but that she has a legitimate reason that's treated seriously makes it work, I think.

Now we get the scene with Mustang investigating. He talks with Armstrong in an alley instead of in the open. Thank you.

Mustang makes the same deductions, but his reasoning for the Philosopher's Stone connection is that the Elrics left without telling him, implying they didn't trust the military with information about the Stone. That's more reasonable.

Bechdel Test pass when Winry talks with Paninya.

Cartoon face when Dominic walks in on Paninya. It's a little much, but appropriate given the lightheartedness of this plot.

Dominic knows Pinako as a brilliant engineer.

Ah, a race shows the power of her automail legs as well. That's clever.

Paninya calls Ed a pipsqueak before starting the race. I wonder if Winry coached her on that.

Ed leaps two stories with his shonen protagonist powers.

Ed looks strained while running, while Paninya isn't breaking a sweat.

Paninya leaps from the roof straight onto the ground with no ill effects. Ed does the same thing, so it's not just that automail absorbs the shock. Artistic license, I suppose.

Without the rocket, Paninya's leg collapses and she falls off the building. Ed saves her by extending… rock platforms that break under her? I guess that would slow her a little, but if she's already going that fast that must still be pretty painful.

Winry blushes when Ed says he can't let anyone show up his automail. Aw.

Back in Central, Hakuro shows up to intimidate Mustang. So I guess he's finished razing Liore. Mustang grovels for him.

Sheska wants to continue the investigation, but Mustang says it's been suspended.

Oh wow, Izumi's here already? Thinking about the timeline… it seemed like it only took them a day to get here by train, and it has been a day since Izumi showed up in Central, so that checks out.

Winry is sad that Ed doesn't want automail. I think that's a bit much? She's known he wants to restore his body for a while now.

Cartoon faces when Sig barges in. I think that's reasonable; as a cliffhanger, it is clearly meant to be jarring, and it's a clean break from the seriousness of the last scene.

New ED. The bit with Winry typing with the dog is really cute. Winry inexplicably having her shirt open so we can see her boobs is less cute. And it looks like the text in the background is a plot summary of the story? I wonder if it's notes the mangaka gave them, or their own? I think I preferred the last one's music, though.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 11: "Miracle at Rush Valley"

Edward, Alphonse and Winry arrive in Rush Valley where Edward's state alchemist pocket watch is stolen by a pickpocket named Paninya. After chasing her down, they find she has automail legs. Winry asks the automail's creator, Dominic LeCoulte, to let her be his apprentice, but her request is swiftly denied. Winry convinces Paninya to stop being a pickpocket and return the pocket watch, but first she peeks inside and sees the date when the Elric brothers burned down their house. Meanwhile, Dominic's daughter-in-law is having a baby, and she is unable to travel to a hospital in the poor weather. Winry and Paninya deliver the baby, resulting in a successful birth. Winry asks Dominic again to be an apprentice, and this time he directs her to another automail mechanical engineer. With that, Edward and Alphonse continue onward to Dublith.

We're doing the alchemy intro again.

Recapping the last episode, again.

We start in Rush Valley this time. Curiously, we don't get the ship-teasing of Winry behaving exactly the same way as the girlfriend who wants her boyfriend to buy her the expensive ring; Ed is just exasperated over her fangirling.

Ed is really grouchy.

Cartoon skit where everyone crowds around Ed's automail and… strip him? That's pretty awkward.

Cartoon skit when Ed realizes his watch is gone.

Cartoon skit when the villagers ask to see Ed's automail again.

We get emphasis on how hot and inhospitable the region is. Dominic apparently lives in the mountains, rather than a back alley.

Winry and Ed yell at each other. I can just feel the romance wafting off them.

Ed and Al somehow recognize Paninya despite not seeing her earlier, and are able to see the watch in her hands even though she's only a speck from their perspective. How.

Cartoon skit when Ed sees her.

Ed uses alchemy to make steps carving a direct path to her.

Then he makes a huge wall to cut her off, about on part with Izumi's levee.

Ed then makes grasping arms out of the ground. How are they bending?

Al ambushes her and makes a metal cage. They did say earlier that this area is rich in metal ore, so that makes sense.

Paninya has a blade in her leg instead of a rocket, and it… can cut through the metal bars, somehow.

Ah, her other leg has the cannon.

I'm just now noticing she does not have an automail arm.

Winry catches her. How? Did she sneak ahead?

Comedy when Winry wants to look at Paninya's automail.

Al's head falls off, which is amusing.

Winry nuzzles Paninya's knee. Uhhh.

Instead of being amazed by Winry's work, Dominic scolds her for making the limbs too heavy. This is where we get introduced to the possibility the automail is stunting Ed's growth. Of course, in this continuity that will come to nothing because consequences are for losers.

Ed has a fantasy of towering over everyone. This is actually very funny. We see him still daydreaming while we resume in the present, which is also funny.

Why is Al constantly turning into a cartoon, though? I think he's spent more time in cartoon form than not this episode.

We get a cartoon of Ed being a single-celled organism when Dominic calls him one. It amuses me.

We get a picture of the fetus when the brothers touch the pregnant woman, which I find unnecessary and kinda gross.

The brothers gush about how miraculous childbirth is.

Paninya says her stumps ache when the weather turns bad, which is a nice detail showing that automail isn't perfect.

When Paninya gives backstory, there's no flashback to the accident, but there is a flashback to Dominic because the man is what's important here.

The whole conversation places much more emphasis on Dominic, how grateful she is to him, how she wants to pay him back, etc.

Winry argues with her to stop being a pickpocket.

Ed sealed his watch shut with alchemy.

Cartoon where Winry opens it.

Cartoon when Ed tells Winry about the labor.

The labor scene is similar to Elicia's birth, so I guess OG moved this there. No line where she snaps at them for making a fuss, though. It has way less emotional impact and context here when it's just some rando, and the men's incompetence is less excusable when they're adults. Winry has to do basically everything herself.

Ed notes that Winry's a doctor's daughter so she does actually know this stuff… and then immediately undercuts it by saying she probably didn't absorb any of it because lol women thinking they know stuff, amirite? We've seen no indication Winry is doing anything wrong. Why are you being a dick, Ed.

Shot of Dominic riding through the rain.

Winry goes in to help with the birth, but we stay focused on Ed whining about how sad it is he can't help.

Cartoon Al when he gushes over the baby.

Same line about mothers accomplishing what alchemists can't, but Winry tells him not to compare alchemy with "the mysteries of life".

Ed is mad at Winry for opening the watch.

We get a flashback to them burning the house.

Winry is determined to stay with them because she's ~so amazed by Ed's resolve~. Also explicitly says she wants to get better just so she can help Ed.

Comedy and slapstick when Ed demands his watch back from Paninya. I guess slapstick targeted at women is sort of equality?

Dominic melts when doting on the grandson. Ed notes it's out of character and gets glared at and turned to cartoon.

Ed has to push for Winry's referral; she doesn't think to ask herself.

Paninya is called a "tomboy", and is invited to come visit. So I guess their relationship isn't as close here?

The Elrics run past a wanted poster of Greed. Nice foreshadowing.

Ed tells Winry to get better so she can make him better automail when he leaves.

Conclusion

So these are really two completely different episodes. There are similarities in characters and the basic plot, but they're portrayed very differently.

Taken individually, I'd say they're both good. Like with the Resembool episode, when comedy and lightheartedness is actually appropriate, Brotherhood does great at that. The episode is a fun low-stakes adventure with a lot of good jokes. Conversely, OG making its own plot was also a good move. It's still a breather episode, but sticks to the more subdued, less madcap energy characteristic of the anime, so it doesn't feel out of place. We get clever use of elements and lots of people talking about their feelings, which is exactly what I want out of OG. The episodes are both good examples of their series' respective ethos.

But one of our things to watch is female representation, and they don't compare nearly as favorably there.

OG's episode is about Paninya from beginning to end, and develops her into a full character with her own motivations. In Brotherhood, she's just a plot device to introduce us to Dominic, and is then swiftly forgotten about. Winry's conversation with her is also a lot friendlier in OG, and more focused on Paninya herself. I also find it very interesting that Dominic is only amazed by Winry and Pinako's work in OG; there's no question of her becoming his apprentice, giving the very clear implication she is already a master herself.

For all that people say Brotherhood is so much better at female characters, OG sure seems to care about and respect them way more. It does give us that weirdly gendered thing about the arm cannon, but it's not pushed very hard – Paninya doesn't have to give up her rocket leg, and she's not forced to give up her tomboyishness like Clause did.

Quite frankly, Brotherhood's "feminism" feels very manufactured to me. It does the exact bare minimum of what it thinks people want out of female characters, but no more – then, having paid its dues, it goes right back to gushing over how awesome the boys are. OG seems to be coming from a more traditionalist angle that leads them into some blunders, but I don't see any malice behind them; they've shown again and again a willingness to seriously engage with even minor female characters, even at the expense of the male ones, and that feels much more genuine to me.

Chapter Text

 

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 27: "Teacher"

Izumi has finally caught up with her wayward protégés, Edward and Alphonse. They have every reason to fear her as she drags them back to Dublith.

Someone is really phoning in these episode summaries.

Short recap of last episode's ending scene. Ed tries to run out the window, but is kicked by Izumi.

Izumi suddenly shifts to extreme politeness when talking to Al, because she doesn't know it's him.

Cartoon face as Al freaks out. I think it's appropriate, this scene is very over-the-top.

We cut to Mustang talking about making his move to Central. It seems like he's still in East City? Is this a flashback?

Izumi and Sig are dining extravagantly while Ed and Al are tied up in the car. LOL.

Flashback to them meeting Izumi. We get the scene from Brotherhood where they're studying human transmutation and won't tell Winry. It's much more appropriate here. Same line about them having stew for supper, so they're still staying under Pinako in this continuity. Also get the line about Ed loving stew.

While Al walks over the bridge, Ed walks on the railing. That's a nice touch.

Al brings up the story of Xerxes while they're studying. Apparently, the story is that the country was consumed in an attempt at human transmutation. Ed dismisses it as a fairy tale.

Winry is scared of the thunder.

Ed uses alchemy to make levees for the river, but it breaks and washes away their transmutation circle. That's a nice detail.

Sweatdrop on the villager when Sig tells him to back off. I don't like.

Izumi shows up to save the day. Ed notices she doesn't use a transmutation circle.

Izumi's performance seems similar in scale to what Ed did in episode 12. The brothers do note it as impressive that she transmuted so much mass at once.

Sig holds an umbrella for her afterwards. That's cute.

Izumi coughing up blood is played for comedy. I think it's appropriate, since this is not only a lighthearted scene but our introduction to her, and it amusingly undercuts her cool image.

Comedy slapstick when the brothers use the honorific for an old woman. She is mollified by a younger one, so it seems like it's a "lol women are sensitive about their age" joke, which I disapprove of.

Cartoon face when Izumi snaps at them for thinking she's a State Alchemist. They say it in regards to her circleless transmutation, so possibly it is a widespread myth that State Alchemists can do that?

Mustang assembles his team. So I guess he flew over to Central for the funeral, then flew back to East City to tie up loose ends? But I thought he already finished his transfer in episode 25.

Izumi's tattoo matches the symbol on Ed's jacket. I guess he got it from her?

Awkward interruption when Winry asks if Izumi has children. Foreshadowing!

A kid tells Izumi to fix his toy with alchemy, but she fixes it through mundane means.

Ed catches the kitten with the same stone-hand technique, though he angles it so the kitten rolls.

When the cat dies, Izumi explains she can't make a life.

Izumi reflects on how hard it is to help children understand death. In flashback, she tells Ed death is part of the flow of the universe, so you can't turn it back.

Izumi figures out Ed saw the Gate of Truth because he didn't use a circle to save the kitten earlier. Perceptive.

Izumi hits Ed so hard she draws blood when he admits to using human transmutation.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 28: "One is All, All is One"

Izumi strands Edward and Alphonse on Yock Island, where they originally learned an important life lesson before she took them on as apprentices years before. She wants them to have time to reflect on their mistakes.

That summary basically describes the opening scene. Unlike in Brotherhood, Winry is here. She comments on how mean Izumi is being.

Ed says he can't swim. So then how did he get out of the river in episode 10?

Ed reflects that they're not the same as they were before, which is the segue to the flashback to their first time on Yock Island.

On the ride over, the brothers don't take it seriously. They're playing with the water and calling it a sightseeing tour.

Izumi gives them a knife before departing.

Brothers comically overreact to the alchemy ban.

We cut back to present day, so I guess we'll be cutting back and forth. I can see why some people might not like that, but personally, I think it's really cool. Keeps you on your toes, and interweaves the two narratives instead of just giving you a block of information. It's also quite clever how the present-day scenes match up with the flashbacks; with their easy mastery of these skills in the present, we can see how much they learned back then.

Wrath is hiding in the trees!

In flashback, they were attacked by a guy in a mask their first night.

Ed is actually the more emotional and comedic of the two.

We see alchemy sparks from Wrath. He's wearing clothes – where did he get them?

Al sits in the ocean to pick up fish. That's clever, but seems dangerous – what if he gets water on his bloodseal? Ed also warns him he'll rust, which makes me wonder why that hasn't happened in all these years.

Back in flashback, cartoon skit when they catch the rabbit.

The fox bites into the arm that's automail in the present. I wonder if that was an intentional detail?

In the past, they try to eat mushrooms but get sick.

In the present, Al reflects that everything they're about to do might be a mistake.

Ed gets the epiphany during a fight with the masked man. He sees a dead cicada being decomposed by bugs.

If the masked man was meant to keep them alive why was he beating them up and stealing their food?

We end with Wrath appearing.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 12: "One is All, All is One"

Edward and Alphonse visit their master Izumi and her husband Sig seeking clues on the philosopher's stone. During their stay, the Elric brothers recall how they first met Izumi during a flooding in Resembool, and how they were formally accepted as Izumi's disciples after she stranded them on an island for a month as a test. They look back at how they figured out the meaning behind "one is all, all is one". Izumi realizes that the Elric brothers attempted human transmutation by their movements during hand-to-hand combat training. Realizing that they had attempted human transmutation Izumi tells the Elrics that she had also broke the taboo to bring back her baby who died during childbirth. The three make up, bonding over the hardships that they had suffered from their attempts at human transmutaton.

No alchemy opening. I guess it changes depending on whether they need to fill time.

We open with Ed flashing back to Hoenheim for no reason. I… guess this is the first time we've seen Hoenheim's face, and that's something we need to know when we see Father in a few episodes.

The Elrics meet Sig first. Cartoon where they're nervous.

There's no amusing bit with them mistaking Al for someone else, he just introduces himself immediately.

Al blushes because this is the first time he's had his head patted since he became armor. That's cute.

Izumi is in bed because she's ill. Ed assumes she hasn't gotten any better, and is cut off with a kick to the face when Izumi opens the door.

Izumi's face is in cartoon shadow.

Izumi insists she's fine, then comically vomits blood, followed by cartoon shift. I do not like.

Cartoon when Izumi hugs Sid. Ed is physically bopped by the hearts, which is funny.

The Elrics go straight to asking Izumi about the Stone.

Izumi says Hoenheim knows about the Stone. Ed gets mad and we get a flashback to Hoenheim leaving. We do actually get some of the scenes from OG 03, but we end with them seeing Trisha collapsed.

They have the same conversation about delivering a baby, but it's more natural since it just happened in this continuity. Sig looks upset at the end.

Similar scene with the levee, but the Elrics don't try to help first.

Now, since I've seen a post circulating about this, I'd like to compare some shots here. In OG:

image

In Brotherhood:

image

I'm not saying they purposefully chose to focus on her boobs in Brotherhood. It is entirely possible that they just wanted to do the cool zooming shot and accurately surmised that her hands were the most relevant point of focus. The clap does cover up her breasts quite adequately, which I’d show if I knew how to make gifs. But the fact remains that where in OG we focus on her face, in BH we focus on her chest with her head cut off. I know this is nitpicky; God knows there is so, so much worse to complain about in anime as a whole, and this anime in particular. But if you guys are gonna write essays about how Brotherhood is God's gift to feminism because it's so good at depicting boobs, I'm gonna expect you to hold it to higher standards.

Izumi coughing up blood is still comedic, but there's more blood and we spend longer time on it, which pushes it too far for me.

Izumi doesn't get taken to a doctor; the Elrics ask to be her pupil then and there. So we’re taking her illness less seriously in that aspect as well; it’s not actually debilitating. She punches them away with alchemy.

We get the same joke where she's offended they called her old.

Rest of the scene is similar, but random dude tells her they're orphans instead of Pinako. There's also no bit about sending them back if they fail their provisional training, Ed saying that won't happen, etc.

We jump straight to Yock Island. Brothers' reaction is much more over-the-top. She throws the knife to them instead of giving it.

During the flashback we get a cut back to Izumi. Sig worries the kids will die and Izumi says they'll be fine. This doesn't seem necessary. All it shows is that she somehow didn't realize the possibility kids can die if you throw them into the wilderness for a month.

Scene with the rabbit and fox is similar, but Ed doesn't get attacked.

The brothers complain about not having any fishing rods, and appear to give up on that avenue.

Ed sees Al as meat and tries to eat him. Then Ed sees ants as chocolates and starts eating them. This is how he gets the epiphany: he realizes he's alive because he eats things. I dunno, I think OG's version was more thematically appropriate to the theme of accepting death.

There's like… a clip show? when he realizes this. Unnecessary and weird.

They make… leaf capes? That’s so silly.

They feed the fox cubs when they beg for food.

Then we get the flashback to their fighting training with Izumi, but it's more cartoony. It gets an additional scene where they ask how Izumi can transmute without a circle, and she says her own body is a matrix that can invoke the circle's power. Back in the present, Ed realizes from remembering this that she must have seen the Gate as well.

Similar scene where she realizes they did human transmutation, but she only focuses on the fact Ed saw the Gate. She isn't angry at them for trying it. She then confesses, and we get a flashback to her own attempt.

Ah, the reason she tried it was because she had a lot of trouble conceiving in the first place. So she probably thought this was her only shot.

The brothers try to act like their losses haven't affected them, but we get the same hugging scene and they break down.

Conclusion

The content is pretty similar this time, but as per usual, I prefer OG's execution. I feel like we get a better grasp on Izumi's character by seeing both her menacing behavior towards the brothers and her kindness towards the villagers. I also like the technique of sending the brothers back to Yock Island in the present to segue us into the flashback.

OG also plugs the plot hole of how Izumi was planning to keep two children alive in the wilderness, and also how she could possibly know whether or not they adhered to the alchemy ban. Unfortunately, in doing so it introduces the plot hole that the guy should not have been directly interfering with them, and his presence does rather undermine the "learn from nature" idea.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist

The knowledge of alchemy is the first thing Ed sees when he's pulled in. It's a surreal barrage of images and diagrams that flash too fast to easily process. He's kept from the final knowledge by these… tiny black gremlin things? They're looking out from the Gate when it closes, so I presume they're dead souls.

It is only after this that Ed is placed in the white void, facing the Gate. Ed demands the Gate open again. We only hear static, but Ed repeats "Equivalent exchange? A toll?" before his leg disappears.

When Ed returns to the material plane, there is a deep gouge in the floor under Al's clothes.

We see Ed binding Al's soul. His voiceover tells us he knew he could do it if he acted fast – it's not immediately clear, but given later information, we know this is because he understands there is a period before souls pass beyond the Gate.

We see Ed drawing matching bloodseals on himself when he says it can take whatever it wants from him.

We actually see Ed return to the Gate to get Al's soul. Wrath's soul rips off his arm in the process.

Ed says the alchemy knowledge he saw was truth, but Izumi scoffs at that notion. In Brotherhood, she affirms it.

FMA: Brotherhood

There is a sequence of an eye opening under the human transmutation circle and strange tendrils coming out, followed by a flash that moves us to the Gate. In OG, Ed is only grabbed by the black arms before we transition.

Ed starts in the white void. There is a figure there that talks to Ed and claims it's God. It insults Ed for attempting human transmutation, then offers to show him the "truth" behind the Gate. The Gate opens and Ed is pulled in by black arms. Inside the Gate, Ed's narration is similar to OG, but the images are different. We don't see the images head on, but as film-reel-like sequences that pass by Ed's head. They are very clearly memories of his, and possibly other peoples'. It stops just before he learns the secret of human transmutation. Truth tells him that this is all he can be shown for the toll he's paid (his leg). Truth calls it an equivalent exchange.

When we snap back to the material plane, Al's clothes are empty. The area is in much better condition; there is no gouge in the floor under Al's clothes.

Conclusion

This was the scene that made me realize I was not going to like Brotherhood.

OG's rendition of the scene gives us the visceral sense of something truly beyond human comprehension. I mean, very explicitly, we cannot hear what Ed is hearing. We do not know if he is accurately translating at all, or if he's just lost his mind from exposure to this thing. The "toll" does not even seem to be operating on clear rules, as Ed offers his whole body but only loses his arm, even though the souls are grabbing at all of him – Wrath just got lucky, it looks like. The detail of the gouge under Al's remains is also important, I think – that implies that this was just a wave of destruction, desperately pulling in random materials to fuel a runaway reaction.

This is not equivalent exchange. How can it be, when it was Al who paid the highest price, when it wasn’t even his idea? This is not fair, this is not just, there is no indication there is anything for the Elrics to even get back. Al's body was taken or destroyed or something, it's gone, you cannot just get it back by renegotiating your debt. The imagery here is surreal, horrific, and incomprehensible. There is no sense or logic to it, no indication that you could ever study and understand this. It fills you only with an all-consuming dread that something is very wrong here. It is true eldritch horror.

Brotherhood's version is the opposite of all those things. It gives clear, sensible answers to everything. Why can’t you do human transmutation? Because God won't let you. What's behind the gate? Alchemy. How do you open it? Pay with your body. It's weird and creepy, but not eldritch. There is clearly some set of rules governing this that you could understand with enough time and effort. And emotionally, it's just much less intimidating for God to be represented as some comprehensible, talking figure you could, theoretically, punch in the face for not even explaining why it’s gonna maim you instead of letting you resurrect your mom.

Moreover, despite being more comprehensible, we're actually left with more questions. Why are the secrets of alchemy grabby shadow hands that have to pull you in? Why does Truth want body parts? How does it decide what parts to take? How is this in any way an "equivalent exchange"? Brotherhood will bring these questions up and only give us a big shrug because it thinks laziness is a substitute for meaningful answers. In OG, there will, in fact, be an answer for almost all our questions, and they will be crucially relevant to the plot as a whole.

In sum: The two depictions here speak to fundamentally different conceptions of reality and the mechanics of the world. I can see, quite clearly, that one is interesting to me and one is not.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 29: "The Untainted Child"

The young boy who shadowed Edward and Alphonse on Yock Island is not only an alchemist, he is able to transmute his own body. After finding out about the scars on the boys right arm and left leg, Ed discovers that the boy is a homunculus who took his limbs during their failed attempt at human alchemy.

Ah, Ed and Al do ask why the guy attacked them. It's handwaved as Izumi telling him to toughen them up. Still feels like it goes against the point of the lesson.

Izumi walks towards Wrath, but coughs up blood. It's initially comedic, but she reverts to normal style as Al tends to her.

I'm not sure why Ed attacks Wrath.

Ed appears to try to remove the rock from Wrath's flesh, but the reaction seems to spread and turn his clothes into leaves. So I guess that's where he was getting the clothes? But why would he think to transmute them into proper clothes?

We can clearly see Wrath's arm and leg are Ed's skintone. The rest of Wrath is deathly pale, though. Shouldn't he be tanned if he's spent all his life in the wild? Or do homunculi's bodies never change? Since they don't age, maybe so.

Wrath can talk, so he must have had some human contact.

Wrath doesn't have purple eyes… but he does have blue ones. Maybe the purple comes from eating the red stones.

Winry wants to tell Izumi off for being mean to the Elrics.

Sig sleeps with his eyes open.

Ed sneaks into Wrath's room. Izumi apparently locked the door with alchemy so she'd know if the brothers broke in, so instead Ed busts a hole in the roof. Clever.

Wrath is very acrobatic. Ed turns the blanket into a rope to restrain him.

Oh, the reason Ed was weird about Wrath was because he transmuted without a circle.

Wrath gets upset trying to untie the rope, and transmutes the whole bed into his body.

Cartoon when Izumi barges in.

Ed reveals the homunculi are pursuing him.

Quick shot of Winry sleeping through everything. Haha.

Cut to Central. Sheska is playing with Elicia.

Sheska berates Mustang for not investigating Hughes' murder, and gives him the files Hughes was looking at.

Cut to Sloth calling Envy and telling him to track down the Elrics. Sloth says she's busy in Central.

Envy reveals Sloth is the youngest homunculus.

Sloth doesn't want the Elrics investigating Ishbal's Philosopher's Stone.

Ed explains everything to Izumi. He says transmuting one's own body shouldn't be possible with any alchemy.

Sig politely leaves before Izumi discusses the Gate with Ed.

This is where we get Ed's perspective for the human transmutation scene, which I already covered last post.

Ah, Ed does mention that soul-binding was one of the things he learned from the Gate. So that does explain it.

Back in Central, Breda attaches bishie sparkles to himself with wires when pretending to be Armstrong. LOL.

We get introduced to Archer, who I believe is an anime-only character? He's pursuing the Elrics, likely at the behest of the homunculi.

Al uses the radio in their room and the lamp in the bathroom to create a phone line.

Al figured out that Wrath has Ed's arm and leg. When he reveals it, Ed immediately tunnels into the bathroom to confirm for himself. Everyone looks scared and tells Ed to stay away.

Ed has a breakdown over the possibility his limb trade was not an equivalent exchange.

Ah, the scar on the arm is from the fox bite. So that was intentional. Nice.

Ed freaks out Wrath with his questioning, forcing him to run away. Ed pursues.

Izumi vomits blood when she sees a trail from her transmutation site. It's played completely seriously.

The thing that strikes me most here is how darkly Ed is portrayed. Winry looks scared of him, and everyone tells him he's wrong to be so cruel and suspicious towards this kid, which he completely ignores. We are seeing the dark side of that fiery determination so characteristic of shonen protagonists, and starting to commit to the idea that Ed ignoring all moderating influences in favor of his own obsessions is maybe not healthy behavior.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 30: "Assault on South Headquarters"

Yoki spots Scar in a group of Ishbalans arriving at a refugee camp. He runs off to contact the military, hoping to be reinstated. Meanwhile, the military, believing the mysterious boy to be a homunculus, captures and imprisons him in South Headquarters. A chimera called Bido discovers the same and Izumi storms South Headquarters to rescue him, but she soon finds herself in a five-way fight over the boy.

Ed apologizes to Wrath while chasing him. Wrath phases through a wall by fusing himself with it.

Archer has shown up at Sig's shop asking after the Elrics.

Sig and Armstrong strip and have a hulking-out contest.

The lizard-man heard about the Elrics from Tucker.

The lizard-man can climb a sheer wall.

The arm Wrath got from Ed looks significantly larger than his other one.

Archer is using a sniper rifle just as a telescope.

Archer says there's something important on Wrath's right foot (so his natural one). You can't see it in that shot, but later we see that's where his tattoo is.

Armstrong asks what they plan to do if Wrath's limbs really are Ed's – would they rip them off and take them for their own?

Sloth promises to reinstate Yoki if he tells them Scar's whereabouts. So yes, Ed's heroics were only a temporary reprieve – this shows the whole system is rotten.

And while that happens, Greed receives his own information on Wrath. He decides Wrath is a bigger priority than the Elrics. He gives us our first mention of Pride.

Tucker and Kimblee are with Greed.

Al tells Izumi Wrath was a monster, and tells her about the other homunculi as well. Izumi says she already knew.

Izumi vomits blood. It's played seriously. Sig rushes her to the hospital, and this is where we learn about her illness. The doctor points to a diagram saying all her organs from her liver to her intenstines are gone, which doesn't seem like it should be survivable. They'd have to be only partially damaged; you can't survive without all of them. Possibly we can assume her uterus took the brunt of the damage. This is where Ed figures out she did human transmutation.

There's still dried blood on Izumi's lips when she enters the southern headquarters.

Winry bemoans everyone keeping her out of the loop. This prompts Sig to tell her their backstory over footage of Izumi's assault, which I think is a nice technique.

How does Kimblee survive his own blast? He's touching the thing that explodes with enough force to take down a wall.

Ed says that as a soldier he's bound by duty to apprehend Izumi.

Bradley appears. Ed wonders to himself why he's here, hinting that we're supposed to find that weird.

And Bradley appears to be in Central simultaneously, ordering Mustang to take out Scar. I wonder if we're supposed to think this is a flashback…? Mustang coldly decides that if Scar doesn't surrender, they will take out the entire camp.

Scar recognizes a symbol in the alchemist's house, but I don't. I presume it'll be explained later.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 31: "Sin"

Amid the confusion inside South Headquarters, Envy, disguised as Bradley, manages to take the homunculus boy from Izumi. Kimblee and Bido came to battle for the same purpose and the boy remembered all his past after he consumed small fragments of the Philosopher's Stone.

We open with Team Mustang asking if they plan to kill the refugees. Mustang can't give an answer.

Archer is surprised to see Kimblee alive. Kimblee apparently was ordered to stop killing civilians.

When Kimblee tells them to ask Bradley, we get an internal monologue from Envy, thus showing us it's him. I don't like that, it's very tacky to shift perspectives suddenly. The writers probably thought it was funny but eh, not the time. Envy apparently didn't know why Kimblee was kept alive, also. I guess they keep him out of the loop on most things.

Envy-Bradley rushes forward to grab Wrath.

Izumi shoots a giant stone fist at Envy-Bradley, which Armstrong stops. The force shreds his shirt.

We switch to still images for the battle, because I guess they ran out of budget. It's not too clear what's going on, but apparently the force of their attacks is collapsing the building.

Kimblee taps Al and notes that he has an interesting body.

Bido not wanting to get turned into a bomb is played for comedy. Eenh.

Envy feeds Wrath a red stone. Wrath then starts eating the rest ravenously.

Envy says the red stones have several hundred human lives in them. That seems like a lot – even these low-quality ones require that much? Wrath is horrified and spits them out, but eats them again when Envy threatens to take them away.

Envy says the reason Wrath can use alchemy is because of his human limbs.

Wrath gets flashbacks to the Gate of Truth, and his eyes turn purple.

Archer offers to reinstate Kimblee.

Wrath has a new outfit with the homunculus markings. Where'd he get that? It looks very similar to Envy's outfit (short shorts and bare midriff), so possibly we can assume Envy gave it to him.

Wrath apparently eviscerated Envy after awakening.

The soldiers contacted Central and discovered Bradley wasn't supposed to be here. That seems sloppy. Did Envy do this on his own?

We get a flashback to Izumi's human transmutation. She did it at Yock Island, not an indoor location like in Brotherhood. We don't see her trip to the Gate. When she wakes up she vomits blood, and sees her baby is alive, but has become a monster. So this is pretty clear confirmation that the soul is the issue: she had a whole, intact body and it still didn't work.

Izumi tries to strangle Wrath but can't. Envy watches from a clifftop.

Ed arrives to see Wrath strangling Izumi. Izumi says she deserves it, and we complete the flashback: when she saw what she made, she gave it back to the Gate. The Gate looks much creepier here than it does in Brotherhood – it has a complete arch, like the front of a temple, and it's filigreed with strange human statues. A giant eye looks out from within. Ed says the inside of the Gate looked like truth to him, but Izumi says it looked like Hell.

The baby starts crying when it's taken away, and Izumi regrets her choice.

This is where we get explicit confirmation that homunculi are the result of human transmutation, and that they lack a soul. Ed thought they were created like chimeras.

This reveal, to me, felt so obvious and intuitive I was honestly shocked that Brotherhood did something so different and so, so much more boring. Homunculi as failed resurrections raises so many delightful questions about personhood, responsibility, and playing God that will be explored later in the series.

Wrath's personality has noticeably changed. He is extremely vulgar and hostile.

Lust and Gluttony can be seen among the refugees when Mustang's team approaches.

We see Sloth traveling through the water towards Yock Island. Wow, I guess a new homunculi is top priority for them.

Greed's arrived too, so we're in for a showdown. Envy asks him what he did with the skull – ah, there was a skull in his prison. That must have been from his human remains. So that's an early hint towards that.

Greed seems surprised that a Sloth exists. I guess they're rare? It'd be interesting to try to figure out if there's any theme to Dante's naming scheme. Envy also says that there's a full set of seven "for the first time in a while", so there has been a full set before.

Sloth namedrops Wrath for the first time.

Sloth says Envy's orders were to push Ed towards the Philosopher's Stone, not throw a wrecking ball at him. Envy just says he wanted to see Hoenheim's kid suffer. So Envy is unreliable.

Wrath says his body grew inside the Gate.

Wrath wants Ed's whole body so he can become human. Interesting that he couldn't use Al's.

Conclusion

Like the Fifth Laboratory, this probably would have benefited from being condensed into two episodes. Also like the Fifth Laboratory, I love it anyway. Where the last arc addressed the initial driving question of the Philosopher's Stone and what the Elrics would do to achieve it, this one is addressing the questions that were brought up there: What are the homunculi, what do they want, and how are they connected to human transmutation? Moreover, we are engaging with deeper questions to come: what is alchemy, and what is equivalent exchange?

We're also getting a deeper taste of the darker turn OG will take. Ed and even Al are taking questionable actions that pit them against other heroic characters. Armstrong, previously a stalwart hero, is forced against them by his duties to the military. We are engaging with a question posed at the beginning: Will Ed follow the military's orders, even if they are repugnant? He made a choice to become a tool of the military, and he can't just walk out on that when it's convenient.

Chapter Text

FMA Brotherhood Episode 13: "Beasts of Dublith"

Edward and Alphonse are expelled by Izumi, now treating them as her equals rather than as students. Meanwhile, Mustang announces to his five subordinates that they are all transferring to Central. Elsewhere, Scar is recovering in an Ishvalan squatter colony and is advised by the elder that pursuing the current state alchemists would not benefit the surviving Ishvalans. Scar is then accosted two thugs recruited by Yoki, who wants to take Scar back to Central over the murder of Basque Grand, but he defeats them and leaves the colony. In Dublith, Alphonse is lured to a trap and captured by Roa, Bido, Martel, and Dolcetto, chimera employed by the homunculus Greed. Edward finds Greed, who offers to teach him homunculus fabrication in exchange for information about human transmutation. Enraged, Edward charges at Greed who uses his ultimate shield to repel Edward's attacks. However, Edward is able to counterattack by transmuting Greed's ultimate shield. In the midst of the battle, Izumi arrives and intervenes, taking Greed by surprise.

Izumi congratulates the Elrics on surviving their encounter with Truth, but says they will have to take responsibility for what they've done. Except, as we will learn in episode 20, they in fact will not.

No title card for some reason.

Sig says Izumi now considers them her equals.

At which point Ed remembers the reason he came here in the first place and doubles back, so this whole scene was pointless.

Comedy skit when Izumi throws a knife at Ed.

Ed and Izumi decide Al must have learned even more than they did because he paid a bigger toll, because a freaky god that rips your limbs off is such a kind and fair dealer. Because it's not like we just had a scene about how important it is to accept what they did was a mistake, no, what's really important is how many cool things the characters get.

Cartoon when Izumi and Ed say the Gate was awful.

Lizard-man can again climb a sheer wall.

We then get the scene with Mustang playing chess and selecting his team.

Mustang only places the general in check, but claims he wins.

No montage of Mustang calling everyone, we just cut to them in his office.

Comedy skit about Havoc getting a new girlfriend.

We get the same scene with Scar's master telling him killing genocidal imperialists is very wrong. The thugs still show up, but they only go after Scar instead of attacking everyone indiscriminately. So OG actually criticized a pro-imperialist scene from the manga. I'm putting that down as a point for it on the anti-imperialism front.

Yoki is still here, but he just hired some thugs to capture Scar instead of alerting the military because he's an idiot. Also wow, this makes no sense if you haven't seen OG. They should have adapted Youswell if it was going to be important.

Scar kills the thugs but not Yoki, because officers deserve special treatment I guess.

And then Scar leaves, so that's the end of the Ishbalan camp for the forseeable future. So, no scenes of the military exterminating them and actually showing the dangers of an imperialist dictatorship, just a prop for the main character.

Al goes alone into an obvious trap because he's an idiot.

Al punches Roa so hard he draws blood. Yikes, Al. Roa maintains enough composure to lever his helmet off at the same time, though, which is a pretty cool move.

Martel can paralyze Al by going inside him and stretching herself into the limbs.

Greed's intro. He tells us they're chimeras and they work for him.

Oh, the break card gives all the chimeras' names, that's useful.

Al brings up the question of how they could be chimeras when Tucker's was such a mess. Yes, that is a good question. In OG, we can see a way that it makes sense: Tucker needing to be secretly recruited implies he was not in fact the best biological alchemist, and the real scientists were kept secret; and we see the chimeras in the cells of the laboratory, further confirming that the military can make them. (This also provides an explanation for how Greed got them and why they're following him.) Here, Greed just says the military can do it and we have to take him at his word.

Greed reveals he's a homunculus. I think this is the first time we get clear confirmation?

Al doesn't believe him. Greed proves it by knocking his head off and regenerating. It's quite gruesome; we see the muscle reforming before the skin. I don't see how that actually proves it, though. Is it well-known that homunculi are unkillable? Surely, a true artificial human would have all the limitations of a human as well?

GREED: I'm Greed. That's desire, you see. […] I want women. I want status, glory[...]

No, that's lust. I mean, this really just gets back to the fact that all the seven deadly sins are actually just lust, but the official distinction is that greed is only desire for material things.

Greed gives his age as "nearly 200 years". So Father has remade Greed before?

Greed wants to become like Al so he can become truly immortal. I don't follow. The age Greed gave clearly shows that he doesn't age, and he just established he can recover from mortal wounds. Does he think Al is indestructible? (And I guess this also implies that homunculi do have souls… somehow… even though they're just bits of Father in this continuity.)

Martel threatens to vivisect Al if he doesn't talk. The very fact she can do so seems to disprove the idea that this is a better existence than what Greed's already got.

Ed asks why Greed doesn't ask the other homunculi. He evades the question.

Greed offers to teach Ed how to make a homunculus in exchange for knowledge of soul-binding, and calls it an equivalent exchange. For once that actually does seem fair.

Greed brings up that Al has it really good what with the not needing to sleep or eat. This makes Ed fly into a rage. It's… comedic, I think? Because now is definitely the time for that.

Ed just insists he doesn't deal with bad guys so he's just going to beat them up now. Because why would we want to engage with the hero making moral compromises and difficult decisions.

Greed gives sarcastic applause. I feel you, Greed.

They fight Ed one-on-one when they ganged up on Al because…?

Ed appears to… snap Greed's neck? Or crush it? He gushes blood.

Greed identifies Ed as someone who loses it when his family is threatened. Greed claims his recklessness will make him lose both Al and whatever he hopes to gain here.

Ed decides Greed's regeneration isn't unlimited because he read ahead in the script, I presume.

And only now does Greed activate the full shield.

GREED: This doesn't look too handsome, so I don't like showing it to people.

I'm not going to say that's the dumbest handwave ever, but it's definitely up there. (Also, once again, this does not thematically fit greed. Beauty is intangible. Vanity as a fatal flaw belongs on an envy, lust, or pride demon.)

Even aside from how contrived this is, I don't like this logistically. If you really can subvert Greed's power, he's a really pathetic homunculus. He's no longer a puzzle you have to actually engage with, he's just a regular boss monster you just have to keep hitting as long as you're fast enough (as we will see next episode). And that's just boring. I'm going to complain about this more when we get to the Lust battle, but the homunculi fights in this are terribly boring and repetitive. The only thing Brotherhood has going for it are the fights, and it can't even do them right.

Cartoon when Izumi realizes Ed is missing because angry women are funny.

And then we outright skip the fight and just cut to Ed already beaten down. Blood is smeared against the wall where he's slumped, but he has no clear back injuries that it could have come from.

Ed's automail still works even though it's practically flayed.

Ed figures out that Greed's shield involves carbon manipulation, and that he can undo it with alchemy. That's a very cool and clever solution that is going to turn out to be irrelevant because Greed keeps turning off his shield anyway. It also makes me wonder why no alchemists have done this, given the emphasis that Greed has a "normal body"?

Ed also notices that Greed can't harden and regenerate at the same time, further gimping him.

Comedy when Izumi throws a bleeding Ed into the wall so hard it leaves a hole.

Greed says he doesn't want to hit a woman, and Izumi promptly kicks his face off. I guess some people find that empowering…?

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 32: "Dante of the Deep Forest"

Edward and Alphonse battle the new homunculus known as Wrath, who wants the rest of Edward's body to make himself human. Izumi interrupts the fight by separating the combatants with a deep chasm. After Wrath escapes, Izumi sends Edward and Alphonse to meet her alchemy teacher, an old woman named Dante, to learn an important lesson about the principle of equivalent exchange. At Dante's house, they discover that Lyra has become her apprentice, and Greed's party comes and battle the Elrics.

Izumi pushes Wrath out of the way of Al's attack.

Wrath transmutes Izumi's dress into a whip that goes inside and puppets Al. Ah, foreshadowing that's possible.

Winry is offended that Wrath hates Ed's automail.

Wrath transmutes his arm to stone to block Al's attack. Al breaks it off, but Wrath just gets more rock.

Al figures out that Wrath can use alchemy because of Ed's limbs. Apparently also, the reason he can transmute his body so easily is because homunculus bodies are different.

Winry says it's wrong for them to fight. Al says since he's a homunculus, it's okay to kill him.

Ed places his knife at Wrath's shoulder. Wrath points out that Ed got something in exchange for those limbs, so what will he pay Wrath to get them back? Equivalent exchange. This of course points out the falsehood: Ed doesn't need to pay anything to just hack his limbs off. You can lose something and gain nothing.

Izumi tells Ed she wants to deal with Wrath herself, but coughs up blood.

Ed runs into Sloth and Bradley, unless it's Envy disguised again. Al notices Sloth looks familiar, but is cut off.

Bradley affects ignorance, saying he's heard "the enemy" call themselves homunculi. He then asks if they know how they're created. Bradley once again covers himself pretty well, saying he's only heard it "from legend" and Hoenheim's research.

Ed is annoyed at the mention of Hoenheim and says he doesn't care about him.

Sloth is the one who reminds them human transmutation is illegal. Hohoho. Bradley probably set that up on purpose. Sloth demands they tell her who made the homunculus.

Ed resolves not to tell them about Izumi's transgression.

Sloth gets Ed and Al to leave by saying the military is pursuing Wrath, but we then see she's encased Wrath within her body. Shouldn't she be bigger, then, or can she compress her form?

Envy wants to go to Dante's to inform her about Wrath and Greed. Apparently, Dante made Greed.

Back in the Ishbalan camp, Scar accosts the alchemist. He's apparently the one who taught Scar's brother, and says that countless lives are preserved within his arm. So his arm is a Philosopher's Stone itself?

Standoff with the military. The Ishbalans say they had to leave their appointed residences, and Riza says there are residences nearby they have to move to. Riza requests they identify every member of the camp. The master asks if they're looking for someone, and Riza doesn't answer.

Yoki rushes the crowd and demands they give up Scar… and gets a headshot. Team Mustang says they didn't hear a gunshot, but everyone starts panicking.

We cut to Lust and Gluttony. Lust is shooting out her claws to mimic bullets while Gluttony makes gunshot noises.

The soldiers stagger back. One trips and fires his gun by accident, and that's all it takes for the regiment to go ballistic. Mustang stops them, but Lust and Gluttony incite the crowd, screaming that it's another massacre. A thrown rock hits Riza, and the crowd starts advancing. Mustang says he's going to suppress them. Riza looks shocked, but obeys. We cut right as Mustang snaps.

We cut back to Izumi's house. She expels the brothers, saying they've misused alchemy and fight too much. But as they're leaving, Sig tells them what's really going on is that she sees them as equals, and so they go back to ask her their questions.

Izumi throws knives at Ed, but he stays firm. He wants to know if there's a way to make a Philosopher's Stone without sacrifices.

Winry and Sig listen from outside.

Al says they want to help throw Wrath back into the Gate. Wow, cold. Izumi says that's her burden, but Ed offers to take it with her.

Greed starts acting weird and runs off, saying he wants to check something.

Cut to the military headquarters. Archer's gotten a message that Bradley did in fact come south, and is flabbergasted at the brazen contradiction.

Back to the Elrics. Al reveals he doesn't remember his time in the Gate. Izumi thinks that's a sign his body and memories could still be there.

And this is where we the equivalent exchange theme is made explicit. Izumi asks if they really believe in it, and Al affirms that it's not just a law of alchemy, but of the world: it's their philosophy. Izumi asks what her stillborn child gained in exchange for the loss of his life, then?

Izumi decides she's failed to teach them the truth of equivalent exchange, and sends them to Dante.

Al tries to bring up the possibility Sloth is their own human transmutation, but Ed cuts him off.

From outside Dante's window, Greed muses that he "came to see a familiar face". So he wanted to meet with Dante.

Kimblee is making some deal with Tucker.

Dante says she became an alchemist to help people. She says alchemy is something people need.

You know… I have been wondering about the whole "be thou for the people" thing. We've seen no evidence alchemy was ever for the people. It requires intense training, knowledge, and resources to master, and the resulting power is concentrated in a few individuals. That's a setup that rewards selfishness and lack of contact, and makes something like a hedge witch situation unlikely. We see very few skilled alchemists in rural areas. I think the only ones are Lyra and Tucker, and what do they want? To abandon their old life and strike it big in the city. Furthermore, we have overwhelmingly seen alchemy used for bad ends over good. Nothing about alchemy makes it impossible to do good with it, and there are some good alchemists, but that doesn't seem to be the direction alchemists tend to go down. It's all for the military or their own personal gain.

So what could possibly be the basis for this strongly-held cultural belief, when it does not ever seem to have been true? Well, what if it was totally manufactured? Dante and Hoenheim introduced alchemy and created this whole country for the express purpose of manipulating people. It would be genius, and insidious, for them to create this myth of the noble alchemist to make it more readily accepted. Since they're immortal, they can play the long game: once the first generation dies off, suddenly their lies become deep patriotic slogans that everyone is sure must be there for good reason, even if they can't remember exactly how they started. It's a way to stifle dissent, too: even people who oppose the current leadership, like Mustang, are sure the country itself must be something worth preserving, encouraging them to play with the system instead of burning it all the ground. But the country itself is the lie, and so they play right into Dante's hands.

Dante affirms equivalent exchange:

DANTE: I'd like for people that strive to be happy to be rewarded for as hard as they work. That's the way I felt.
EDWARD: Equivalent exchange…?
DANTE: Yes. People can only gain one thing for one effort. That is the absolute truth.

In Brotherhood, this exact same sentiment is expressed by the hero. In OG, it is stated by the villain, because we are supposed to understand it is wrong. That, more than anything else, is why I prefer OG over Brotherhood. But that is something to be discussed later.

Dante tells them all who have pursued the Stone have been met with despair. She posits that it may be "too soon" for mankind to acquire the Stone. This is subtly but noticeably different than how people have talked about the Stone before this.

Dante reveals Hoenheim sought the Stone… and in the process, reveals that she can immediately recognize them as his kids. Nice subtle foreshadowing. Oh, and Al actually plays into it, saying "Our father sought the Stone?" immediately, not noticing that she already identified him as their father.

Ed gets grouchy at the mention of Hoenheim. Dante asks if they know where he is. Ohohoho. Ed says he doesn't want to know, and storms off.

Ed walks straight into an ambush. Kimblee is chucking pebble-bombs at him. I do wonder if that makes sense, but there are enough impurities in rock he can probably make some volatile compounds. The explosions aren't very strong, so it's reasonable.

Ed punches Greed in the face, and is shocked to see him not even flinch. Greed reveals it's the Ultimate Shield.

Lyra faints in the hallway. Did the chimeras knock her out, or was it something else?

The chimeras hold a knife to Dante's throat. She looks genuinely concerned.

Then there's the scene where they kidnap Al, only now Al doesn't look like a complete idiot. There's the same line where he says his teacher told him not to go with strangers and Roa tells him he should make his own decisions, followed by him making his own decision to fight them. I think it reads awkwardly, as it does in Brotherhood. It's not so absurdly comedic to be totally out of place and it does emphasize how childish Al is, but it still seems a bit unnecessary. Al hitting Roa is actually more comedic, as there's no blood.

We end on Greed and Kimblee standing over Ed's unconscious body.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 33: "Al, Captured"

Marta hops inside Alphonse's armor and slows him down just enough for Loa to overpower Al, and the kidnappers take him to their headquarters for a rendezvous with Greed. While Ed searches through town to discover any information on Al's whereabouts, Izumi goes to see Dante. In an intense conversation, Dante reveals that the kidnappers left an emblem revealing the name of the pub Al has been taken to. At the hideout, Greed reveals to Al that he desires the knowledge of how souls can be bound to inanimate objects, such as Al's suit of armor. Izumi bursts onto the scene to rescue Alphonse from the powerful homunculus and his cohorts, and is later joined by Edward. They are unable to cause harm to him, however, as he utilizes his Ultimate Shield whenever attacked. Before he and Ed can truly battle, the military bursts into the building to take over. During the escape, Greed discovers that Kimblee has betrayed his team, but has no time to deal with him, as the kidnappers must take Al and leave. Before Ed is able to run after them, he is cornered at gunpoint by the military, whom demand he stand down and report to Lt. Colonel Archer.

The chimeras work together more to subdue Al. Dolcetto throws him off-balance enough for Roa to lever the helmet off.

Al is more disturbed by Martel's intrusion, saying he feels gross. It's a bit more comedic, I think, with Al making sweat marks.

Rest of the scene is similar.

Greed plans to crush Ed's legs so he can't come after them, but sees Dante and Lyra in the window. So I guess she managed to escape on her own.

Ed looks grievously injured. He can't stand up and can barely speak.

Ed runs around town looking for Al. Sad music plays.

At Dante's house, Lyra uses alchemy to fix a plate. Dante calmly sips tea outside while talking to Izumi. Izumi asks why Dante didn't do more to stop the kidnappers. Dante ignores the question, and directs her towards the Devil's Nest. A box of… something with the logo was dropped during the attack. I wonder if it actually was, or if Dante planted it there? Izumi seems suspicious as well, asking if Dante planned this.

Dante bemoans why no one stops the endless violence that plagues the world. L O L. Izumi admonishes her for cloistering herself in the forest and thinking of nothing but alchemy.

Dante asks Izumi why she doesn't stop the Elrics in their search, knowing disaster will befall them. Izumi says she trusts the answer they find will be different from Dante's ideals. Why did she send them to her, then…?

Dante uses "sayonara" for her goodbye, and muses to herself that they will not meet again. Ominous!

Why can't Al break his chains? I think he's done that before. Martel's still in him, so maybe that's why.

Martel apologizes for staying in him, and Al says it's okay as long as she doesn't touch his bloodseal.

We get more backstory on the chimeras, but less mechanical explanation: they were soldiers who were wounded and taken to the laboratory. Greed broke them out, explaining why they're so loyal to him. I like this information, but unfortunately we do lose the explanation of what animals they're fused with. We also don't get Al wondering how they were made, but Brotherhood's explanation was a non-answer anyway so that's not a loss.

Al recognizes Tucker. He's apparently here to cure the chimeras. He keeps apologizing and insisting it wasn't his idea to kidnap Alphonse.

Greed is friendlier. Al recognizes his tattoo and figures out he's a homunculus on his own.

Greed seems to have the same motivation. This makes even less sense here, where we are explicitly told homunculi don't have souls. Possibly he thinks they're not talking about the same "soul", or he's playing the long game and hopes to do this after he becomes human?

Greed gives his same speech about wanting everything. The visuals are cooler here, I think.

Al gets furious when Greed reveals he beat up Ed. He draws an alchemy circle to create a stone fist that punches Greed. I initially asked why he didn't break his chains, but he actually tries to do that next, so I guess he wanted to stun Greed first.

Greed smacks Al in response. Comedy where Martel has swirly-eyes from being jostled around.

Same scene where Dolcetto smashes Greed's head off, but we spend much longer on dramatic shots – I think it's too much. The regeneration is similarly gruesome, but less animated. It also uses the same white light effect as Envy instead of the Philosopher's Stone red. Greed has better reason to do it here, as he's demonstrating how ineffective Al's attacks will be.

Extra bit where Greed tells Dolcetto to be neater.

This time Izumi arrives first. She makes a door instead of just blowing a hole in the wall. I wonder if Ed got that technique from her?

Ed runs into Armstrong while looking for Al. Armstrong reveals he saw the kidnapping, and Ed yells at him for not doing anything. Armstrong simply says that Al wasn't a high enough priority, but they're raiding the Devil's Nest now.

We cut back to the Devil's Nest. Izumi has defeated all the chimeras. Tucker is hiding.

Izumi punches Greed, and Greed just asks how many fingers she broke. Effective. We actually do see a bit of the black carbon under her fist, so he does still need to activate in this continuity. I forgot about that. Still, the fact that he can do it completely at will and doesn't have to start at his hands fixes the issue we will see in BH 14. It's effective unsubvertible for all intents and purposes.

Oh wow, Izumi's hand is actually bleeding.

Cartoon face when Izumi scolds Al for getting kidnapped.

Izumi imprisons Greed in stone. Clever. Tucker watches and notes the lack of a circle.

We get a similar line about Greed not wanting to fight women, but it sounds a lot more sarcastic after he just let her break her hand punching him.

Izumi shoots another fist at him, and we see more clearly that he does still need to transmute his skin.

Sig does crowd control on the chimeras.

Izumi says she sees Ed and Al as her children. Aw.

Izumi transmutes a spear, so that's another technique Ed learned from her. She charges Greed, but starts vomiting. It's played seriously.

Ed notices Tucker when he arrives.

No bit where Greed talks about how soul bonding is great, Ed just gets angry because he wants Al and Izumi back. Greed tries to point out he has a hostage, but Ed just talks with Al. Greed whines at them to listen to him.

Izumi regains consciousness and shoves Greed away while he's distracted. Ed and Izumi work together to imprison Greed again, but he breaks out. Izumi collapses again, but Greed offers to duel.

Greed does the "not so different" thing, but really needles Ed when he denies it, pointing out all the things he's done for the sake of his desires. Ed insists he just wants to restore Al's body, and this is where we get Greed saying he's better off as he is. Ed's reaction is played seriously.

Ah, we do get the same line about Greed not spending all his time in full shield mode because it's ugly. I am disappointed in you, OG!

Greed taunts Ed about being too weak to kill someone, and says he plans to give him enough courage. Foreshadowing! He even explicitly brings up the homunculi.

Cut to the military gunning down the bar.

Kimblee appears beside Archer holding a sack, presumably what was in the safe. Greed looks terrified (and reverts, which seems unwise… is it affected by emotions?), so that must be his skull. Did Kimblee know that's homunculi's weakness? It's possible he just assumed whatever was in the safe was valuable.

The military apprehends Ed, preventing him from pursuing Greed.

Conclusion

OG just flows so much better as a narrative. Events follow logically from one another. There is never any point where the characters just get shoved into the next scene because the plot needs to move along. It's a continuous string of action that never gives the characters too much of a breather, increasing the intensity of the situation. This feels like the climax of an arc, not like a fight clumsily stapled onto an exposition scene. Some of the weird elements from the source are still carried over, but they're deftly handled – Greed's shield is more functional, the wording of his speech is changed just enough to make it make more sense, Al doesn't need to hold an idiot ball to get in position. All that, and they also added lovely foreshadowing for things to come.

I'll cover this more next episode when there is a more direct comparison, but I am liking OG's portrayal of the military, too. It's much darker, more insidious, more adversarial. Ed is truly forced to acknowledge the evil he's become a part of.

Also, DANTE, at last! She is great. We're rapidly approaching the point where OG turns to totally original content.

Chapter Text

FMA Brotherhood Episode 14: "Those Who Lurk Underground"

Bradley and Armstrong lead a team of state military soldiers to raid Greed's hideout, although Bradley uses it as cover to hunt for Greed. Bradley goes into the sewage passageway beneath the hideout and duels with Greed. Surprised by the abilities of Bradley the Führer, Greed is severely weakened by Bradley who reveals his true identity as Wrath. Roa and Dolcetto attempt to save Greed, but are killed by the Führer. Martel, who is still inside Alphonse, attempts to choke Bradley to death with Alphonse's armor, but she is stabbed by Bradley. Her blood splashes on Alphonse's blood seal and unlocks his forgotten memories. Later, Alphonse reveals to Edward that he managed to recover his former memories, prior to their failed attempt at human transmutation to revive their mother. Greed is taken as a captive to Father, who was disappointed in him after he deserted the rest of the homunculi. When Greed refuses to rejoin the homunculi, he is melted alive to a liquid philosopher's stone, which is then consumed by Father.

We open with MUSTANG because of course we do. He is bothered by peoples' perceptions of him, except he smirks after thinking about them, so I guess not? He reports to the Fuhrer's secretary, who is not important in this continuity, and learns that he's traveled to the south.

The chimeras are taking Al through the sewers. Roa sniffs to find the way.

We cut to Bradley leading a raid on the Devil's Nest.

Greed decides to run away. LOL.

They prepare to chase after him, but Izumi starts vomiting, played absurdly comedically. Life-threatening illnesses during serious battles, so hilarious!!!

Cut to Al struggling with Martel. Where did the others go?

Al looks stunned when Martel lifts his helmet off, but he's been able to move without it before.

Roa and Dolcetto apparently left to find an escape route?

And suddenly Bradley shows up. How did he get here so fast?

Bradley tells the air that he's 60 and his body has started to slow down with age, so he wants to get this done quickly so he can go home. I guess he just likes grandstanding, or he likes bragging about being a special homunculi?

Bradley attacks and it's villain sue time. Despite clearly being several steps away in the previous shot, he's able to instantly slice off Greed's hand as soon as he starts hardening. From there, he just keeps cutting Greed's hands off with his swords that are, I dunno, adamantium given they can cut clean through bone repeatedly without damage. Since Greed can't harden and regenerate, and apparently can't harden unless he's fully healed, Greed is totally helpless during this time.

We cut to Armstrong fighting Dolcetto. He transmutes Dolcetto's hammer into a statue of himself, because Armstrong. Even the statue has bishie sparkles. LOL. Dolcetto throws it away and switches to fisticuffs.

Dolcetto hulks out and… grows horns. I don't think splicing alchemy should work that way. It's pretty clearly only merging existing parts together, not letting you transform at will.

We cut to soldiers gunning down chimeras.

Dolcetto manages to hit Armstrong hard enough to make him bleed.

Armstrong tells him to surrender, but the military show up and shoot at him. His beefy fists can block bullets, apparently. Roa slices through some but not all of the soldiers, who proceed to… somehow completely miss him despite shooting tons of bullets in his direction.

Greed knocks Bradley's eyepatch off and he namedrops the Ultimate Eye. He says it is the reason he was able to dodge bullets on the battlefield and survive long enough to be promoted to his current position. So… Father didn't just install him? What's the point of making a country if you have to appoint your puppet kings through legitimate channels?

Bradley asks how many more times Greed has to be killed before he dies, foreshadowing that their regeneration can be exhausted and also that all future homunculi battles are just going to be people punching them for ages until the author decides they run out of HP.

Martel sees Bradley continuing to just wail on Greed and freaks out. Al tries to keep her hidden.

Roa and Dolcetto show up. Roa does have some bullet wounds, so I guess some did land. He… cuts Al's chains… with his sword that I guess is also adamantium… and tells him to get Martel to safety.

Martel demands Al let her out so she can fight.

Bradley cuts Roa cleanly in half with his magic swords.

Greed taunts Bradley while he's still regenerating because, I dunno, he figures he's going to die anyway? His hand takes ridiculously long to regenerate compared to his brain, which you'd think would be more complex.

Greed gives a speech about how while he's not attached to the chimeras, they're his possessions and he doesn't like Bradley wrecking his stuff.

Greed starts hardening and Bradley charges forward again with super speed. So in addition to being able to dodge bullets and cut through anything, he has super speed so he is not even limited by the range of his magic swords. Greed actually does successfully block the attack, but stops hardening because…?

Bradley stabs Greed, which incapacitates him even though Lust is never knocked unconscious despite explicitly being on her last life later because what is consistency.

Al tries to run away but Martel tries to strangle Bradley, because the irrational woman is too overcome with grief to not immediately jump for the suicide attack.

Bradley is totally unaffected by the strangling even though he is not supposed to have homunculi endurance and stabs Martel to death. It looks really weird; he just sticks the sword in and then blood gushes out all at once.

Some of the blood splatters on Al's bloodseal and this activates his memories of the Gate because…? He did not get knowledge of human transmutation either, so methinks the theory that you get more for paying more is bunk. We then get a shot of him in the created body, implying that thing didn't have a soul to begin with. More on that later.

Then we cut to Al waking up outside. Ed is bandaged and injured. Al says Ed's covered in blood, and then we look down and see Al is too. I think that's an effective sequence.

Al has a breakdown over being unable to save Martel. Ed tries to tell him it'll be okay but it doesn't work.

Bradley shows up to be evil and intimidating. He wants to know if Ed made any deals with Greed, because…? I guess maybe he's worried Greed spilled the beans about Father's plan. But he has no way of knowing if Ed is lying here (unless that's also covered by the Ultimate Sue Eye), so this doesn't seem to accomplish anything but telling Ed he has something to hide. Bradley also asks them if they did human transmutation, which the homunculi must already know if he's already marked for sacrifice, so again this is just giving Ed information.

Bradley offers Izumi a position as State Alchemist. She gets out of it by saying she's just a housewife, but Bradley pointedly says he will return to see if she's changed her mind. Why not just do whatever coercion he has planned now? He has a regiment of soldiers outside already.

Ed mentions he told Hughes about the homunculi. Armstrong gets weird and tells him to be cautious, but nothing more.

Now Al explains his memories have come back. He echoes their earlier cartoon pose about it being awful. He says he didn't learn anything about human transmutation, so it's useless and accomplished nothing. YEP IT SURE DID. The only difference is that now he can do circleless alchemy, because combat upgrades are what really matter.

The brothers then rationally examine how strange it is that the military massacred everyone instead of capturing them for interrogation, and why the Fuhrer came down for such a small operation. Ed says he guesses they'll stick with the military for a while, implying he plans to leave eventually, because military dictatorships will totally let you walk away whenever you want.

Then we get the scene with Father. It is pretty useful to explicitly run over all the homunculi so we can confirm what we know so far. Greed asks why Sloth is missing and we get a shot of him digging the tunnels, foreshadowing that. Why doesn't he ask about Pride, though?

Bradley is apparently new, so was there just not a Wrath before? Greed notes that an aging homunculi is special.

Envy gets mad at being called ugly. The envy demon is vain, geddit, wow such deep symbolism here.

Envy looks more muscular here, more brawler and less prettyboy.

Greed nearly goads Envy into revealing his "true form", but Father stops them. So that's tantalizing us for a future reveal.

Father sits in a chair connected to a bunch of pipes.

Father asks why Greed betrayed him and left, and Greed just says he's only behaving how he was created: greedy. Why is Father purposefully creating things based around fatal flaws?

Greed refuses to return to Father's employ. Father activates some clockwork contraption that lowers Greed into a crucible. As he's melted down, his Philosopher's Stone is extracted into… wine? that Father drinks, using some complicated distillation apparatus. He does realize you get holdup in every step of a process, right? He is losing Philosopher's Stone material every time he does this.

Greed's chains melt as he enters the crucible, but not Bradley's swords. So I guess they really are adamantium.

This is all just way too over-the-top for me. Why does Father need this elaborate getup? It's… intimidating? I guess? But there doesn't seem to actually be much point to it. It's a lot of pretty cruft with no real purpose.

Then we cut to Bradley talking with his family. His wife says he should retire, then Selim nerds out about how Ed is so cool and he wants to learn alchemy so he can help out his dad. I don't… I don't even. Why is Pride doing this. Is he just screwing with Bradley? Does he get off on pretending to be an innocent kid? Is the wife not in on any of this? How did the wife not know she gave birth to a freaky shadow monster? I'm not entirely clear on the mechanics of Pride so I guess I'll have to watch his intro episode later, but this looks really bizarre to me.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 34: "Theory of Avarice"

Archer has Edward as well as Izumi and Sig Curtis in custody. Archer reinstates Tucker as a state alchemist under his command and orders his men to take no prisoners hunting down Greed and his associates. As Greed tries to escape with his cohorts, Strongarm burst through the wall and battles with Law until Law collapses the wall, ensuring the group's escape. While Greed and co. recover in a small shack, Lust and Gluttony appear. Dolcetto and Law unwaveringly step up and sacrifice themselves allowing Greed, Al, and Marta (who is still inside of Al's armor) to escape. In a forest, Greed instructs Al to wait for him until sunrise, and for Marta to watch after him while he goes to take care of business. Marta realizes he is headed for Dante's house and tries to go after him, but Al refuses to allow her to do so. When Greed arrives at Dante's, he is greeted by Lyra, who knows his purpose for returning to Dante's. She guides him to a parlor, where he discovers Dante's body split down the middle, seemingly by a sword, and a complex alchemy circle on the ceiling and floor. Before he has time to react, Lyra uses alchemy to forcibly eject the Philosopher's Stone fragments that Greed has consumed in his life. She exits, leaving him in pain, as Ed enters. Shocked at Dante's corpse, he blames her death on Greed. While they fight, Ed discovers the secret to his human shield through logic, and uses alchemy to undo it. He manages to stab Greed in through the chest, which surprisingly causes Greed to collapse in pain. Greed explains to Edward that the only way to kill a homunculus without its regeneration is to physically murder one near the human remains that it was created with, and he also reveals that he let Al go. Greed departs this information with Ed in hopes of ensuring the deaths of the rest of the homunculi, and then he dies, much to the shock of Ed who has never killed before. At sunrise, Marta gets up and leaves Al, knowing that Greed isn't returning. The brothers reunite and, together with Winry, Izumi, and Sig, bury Greed and Dante. They bid Izumi and Sig goodbye, saying they will next find the Ishbalans.

Winry sulks in the meat shop, hoping for a call from Ed.

Archer orders the military to gun down anyone who opposes them. We helpfully get an internal monologue where he thinks he can make as many of them as he wants if he has Tucker, and Greed can't lay a hand on him as long as he has the skull. (So I guess Kimblee did tell him about the weakness?) Eh, kinda tacky. I don't like actually getting into characters' heads for exposition, it's too blunt. It's much more effective when the audience can piece these things together from context clues.

Bido is seen bleeding out in the sewer.

The military guns down chimeras. They catch up to Greed, and Roa stays behind to buy them time. Armstrong cuts them off, and demands they return Al.

Lust says Sloth was responsible for letting Greed escape?

Armstrong's battle with Dolcetto is similar, but the statue doesn't get bishie sparkles. How sad. Armstrong also does not bleed from getting smashed into the wall.

After the battle, Dolcetto caves in the tunnel and escapes with Greed.

We cut to the bar. Soldiers have killed all the patrons. Outside, Ed has slipped off and put dummies in the cloaks.

Greed hides out in a cabin in the woods. We get thoughts AGAIN, this time just him wondering what he can do now.

Lust and Gluttony show up to menace him. They say his only options are to be imprisoned again or be destroyed, because Dante is pissed at him for rebelling.

Roa still slices off Al's chains.

Greed is surprised to see Roa and Dolcetto willing to sacrifice themselves to help him escape. This is where Roa mentions he was fused with a dog and gives his line about loyalty. We don't see them die, just a smash to black.

Al escapes with Greed. Greed tells Martel to stay put until sunrise, and leave if he doesn't come back. This is where we get the scene of Martel trying to escape.

Dante confirms her house is where Greed was born. So she's been sitting here for a while.

Looks like Dante had to split.

I love Dante's theme music. It's so subtly creepy.

Greed looks sick even before Dante activates the circle. Mere proximity to the remains weakens them.

The sealing circle is on the ceiling, which blindsides Greed. Always look up when you’re entering a dungeon! Greed realizes Dante's jumped to Lyra.

The red stones disintegrate when Greed vomits them up. Seems wasteful.

Ah, the circle sigil is Izumi's tattoo. So I guess we can presume she got it from Dante.

Greed smashes Ed's automail pretty bad, and the hand breaks when Ed tries to punch the shield. Ed notes that Winry is awesome because he can still move his arm after that.

Ed figures out how to break Greed's shield, explicitly noting that he can't create something from nothing, so the shield must come from somewhere.

Ed has a breakdown when he realizes he's killed someone.

Greed's body melts into red liquid. We cut to Archer, who notices that the skull has spontaneously disintegrated. Oh, so I guess that actually does answer a question I had: the remains seem linked to the homunculi's life, so they can't just destroy them.

Ed makes two graves. One for Greed?

Ed warns Izumi the military might be after her, and tells her to go into hiding.

Conclusion

On a large scale, these episodes are similar in events, but they're incredibly different in details. Most notably, I much prefer how OG handles the military side of things. It's far more subtle, and raises more questions of what Ed signed on for instead of just pitting him against them. Brotherhood is too sudden: the military is good, now suddenly it's evil, and the only difference is that this might cause problems for Ed. OG's coverage focuses on personal culpability, the ease with which the military can corrupt, the lengths to which the characters will go. Ed has to come to terms with killing people; Mustang must come to terms with the possibility he is starting another massacre. These are hard questions that challenge the characters. In Brotherhood, it's just "You thought Greed was the boss fight, but psyche, this other dude is even scarier!" That's impressive if what's engaging you is who can beat whom, but that's not what engages me about stories.

We even end with a preview of our respective villains, though OG is, as usual, subtler. We know there is some connection between Dante (or at least her house) and the homunculi, and Greed notices that something very weird is going on with Lyra. The pieces are starting to come together.

Even the fights are better in OG, in my opinion. Brotherhood is much too manic and features too many superhuman acrobatics. An even fight is also just so much more interesting than Bradly effortlessly pwning someone.

And I think this is important: Ed gets to defeat the villain. This is something that exasperated me as Brotherhood continued: Ed becomes more and more of a spectator in his own narrative, despite being the only hero I was really interested in. OG keeps Ed at the center of the narrative and allows him crucial victories, and I think that makes OG a tighter narrative overall.

On representation: In Brotherhood, Martel dies stupidly and pointlessly. In OG, she is the sole survivor of an otherwise all-male group, and gets to live for another arc.


Also… now that we've gotten to our first homunculi death, I think it'd be a good time to bring up the theme of irony. Everyone says the homunculi meet ironic fates in Brotherhood. They do not. They just don't, okay? Irony means a situation is different than you expected. "They are the thing they're named after" is the exact opposite of that. You'd have to build up something where they claim to be above their own sin, so it's ironic that they end up succumbing to them or something… but that's not really what happens. They're just either killed by their sin, or killed by someone who embodies their sin better. When you don't actually engage with the sin theme at all and just use them as motifs because you think they're cool, that is not deep meaningful symbolism. "It's just cool" is a fine reason to do or enjoy something, but that doesn't automatically make it have substance. Step back a little, guys, please.

OG is not much better, granted, but I do think it's a lot more meaningful when the homunculi actually do come from alchemists' sins. I always got the impression Dante used the sin theme as a commentary on how or why they were made. Lust was the guy's girlfriend; Sloth was put together poorly (or perhaps it's a jab at Hoenheim, for not coming back to save her?); Pride was an experiment to show how awesome she was; and we know she made Greed, so perhaps that was also a purposeful experiment, perhaps just to make a full set? It's not as blatant because it doesn't matter as much because OG isn't as interested in cool things for the sake of it, but there are ways you can engage with it.

With that in mind, though, I think you can make a case that the homunculi's fates in OG actually are ironic, or at least poetic in a more meaningful way. Let's begin with:

  1. Greed is wasted.

We don't know why Dante made Greed, but we know she did make him. She kept him imprisoned because she didn't want to kill him the first time, but now she cuts her losses and disposes of him. Now, an important component of greed to me is hoarding, the inability to give things up. Greed could have still been useful; certainly, Dante invested all those red stones in him that are now gone. He seemed to be hoping that that would work in his favor and get Dante to spare him, but Dante didn't care. He is killed by a lack of greed. Even narratively, he is wasted: his only purpose is to die to teach Ed, and us, how homunculi can be killed.

Chapter Text

So we're now past the divergence point. From now on, the two animes will have completely different plots.

I was planning to write some analysis here, but I don't actually think there's much to say that I haven't already or that wouldn't be better suited to the very end. I hope I've aptly demonstrated my thesis that the two series are different classes entirely rather than inferior or superior versions of each other. We can clearly see that OG chose to add a lot of content, likely because they were commissioned for far more episodes than the manga content at the time could possibly fill, and stretched out existing scenes. I feel like that categorically changes the tone of the story, even if the basic content is similar. By dedicating more time to every event, we are given a chance to think and reflect on everything we see. The story becomes more contemplative and character-driven. But I think it's already apparent that this didn't just happen because it had to happen, but because the OG writers genuinely wanted to tell that kind of story. We see the kinds of stories they create for their original episodes, where they are not constrained by the source material at all, and they're so totally different from Brotherhood. In a way it's both unfortunate that these writers were paired with a source material so contrary to their talents and interests, and fascinating to see how they made it their own.

I think there is certainly a case to be made that we can't judge each series 100% fairly just on the episodes we've seen so far. OG was working against the grain of the source material, while Brotherhood likely rushed its episodes because it figured OG covered this material already. From this point forward we will be able to judge both series completely on their own merits, and see what directions they went in when they had total freedom.

Rather than alternating, I think I will cover the next arc of Brotherhood all at once before continuing with OG, just because swapping between continuities has been giving me whiplash. Let's fully immerse ourselves in Brotherhood for the next stretch.

Chapter Text

FMA Brotherhood Episode 15: "Envoy from the East"

Scar engages and defeats another state alchemist named Giolio Comanche, the "Silver Alchemist". Returning to his temporary hideout, Scar discovers Yoki with a young Xingese girl named May Chang accompanied by a tiny panda named Shao Mei. They traveled across the eastern desert searching for the philosopher's stone. Meanwhile, Barry the Chopper is detained and interrogated by Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, and Vato Falman over the assassination of Captain Maes Hughes. In Rush Valley, the Elric brothers ask Winry to repair Edward's automail once again. They then find a starving Xingese man named Ling Yao. After being fed, he explains his purpose for researching alkahestry. Lin's bodyguards, Lan Fan and Fu, attempt to take Elric brothers hostage, in the hope of extracting the secrets of the philosopher's stone. The Elric brothers defeat the bodyguards, damaging much of the town in the process. However, the bodyguards escape, leaving the brothers to confront the angry townspeople. After they repair the town, Edward and Alphonse meet Ling again who explains that he wants to become the heir to the throne by offering the king some information about the philosopher's stone and immortality. Winry joins the group as they all prepare to depart for Central. Meanwhile, Scar and Yoki travel to Central at night with May in a horse-drawn wagon.

I think it's worth noting that we start with a fight scene. Yes, yes, it's been an episode since we've seen Scar and we need an update on him. But still.

The Silver Alchemist has alchemy symbols tattooed all over himself, which means he doesn't even have to do Ed's hand clap to do alchemy. Why doesn't everyone do this?

He… spins like a top. Is that also alchemy? How?

We once again operate on Wile E. Coyote physics: Silver Alchemist's peg leg does not shatter until long after Scar has touched it, and oh-so-conveniently right when he stands on the precipice of the river. Scar gets his wound immediately. This is stupid.

We do see Scar jumping into the river to finish the job instead of leaving him for dead, which I think is a nice detail.

New OP prominently featuring the new Xingese characters, as well as shots of Bradley and Father now that we know their true colors.

Wow is the portrayal of Yoki here giving me some major whiplash. LOL, he's so funny and ineffectual! He'd never actually sell Scar out to the military for his own gain! It's totally reasonable for Scar to do absolutely nothing to an officer of the military who genocided his people! What a bucket of laughs this all is.

May draws a circle with chalk, but also needs to place knives at the points. Why…? Also, isn't a pentagram a European symbol?

And now we get our introduction to alkahestry. I hate it! I do not like healing magic in fight shows. It turns everything into a video game where everyone can just keep fighting forever with no consequences. Characters getting slowly worn down in fights and having to actually deal with injuries is interesting. It all ties back to the greater thesis that consequences are interesting. Brotherhood does not agree, and this is therefore another reason why I don't like Brotherhood.

It's also very awkward for this magic system in particular. The entire story – Ed and Al's journey – is built on the idea that human transmutation cannot be done. We later see attempts at biological alchemy that don't involve souls, and they're still horrific failures. The story establishes, clearly and repeatedly, that alchemy does not work on living things. Even though it logically should! A body is just a collection of chemicals, after all! This speaks to some great mystery surrounding human transmutation, something special about life that makes it impermeable to the science of alchemy.

OG recognized this thread and went the whole mile with it. Brotherhood… does this. Now alchemists just look like idiots. This whole time, Tucker just needed to take a trip to Xing and he could've made totally happy chimeras who weren't in constant pain! Maybe the only reason the Elrics couldn't bring back Mom is because they were just too incompetent to put the body together, and alkahestry could have fixed it! Alkahestry fixes everything. Their neighbors had the answer the whole time. I know it does have its own limitations because the author decides to adhere to the stupid, stupid fantasy trope that healing magic can't heal anything we can't heal with modern science (unless you have a Philosopher's Stone because again, consequences are for losers), but it's still far less limited than alchemy and works far less scientifically. It's basically exactly as strong or as weak as the author needs it to be in a given instance. This is not science magic. This is "I don't have to explain jack" magic. This is not what I signed on for. I hate it.

Back to the show, my first thought is "Great job, May, you just sealed dirt into that wound and gave him a horrible infection." Unless alkahestry is so special it just magically sterilizes everything?

Scar glares intensely at the panda. Why…?

Scar's tattoo is alkahestry, apparently. His brother studied it. So the violently expansionist empire doesn't know about it, but the countries they're conquering do? Wait let me correct myself, the violently expansionist empire still doesn't know about it even after conquering countries that know and having a wealth of prisoners to torture? This is ridiculous.

Scar is grumpy when May says his brother is amazing. For once Brotherhood is dragging out a plot point longer than OG.

I hate Shao Mei already. Comedy empath familiars can work in some instances, but this is not one of them. She just makes it impossible for me to take May's own expressions seriously.

Ed is dressed in Chinese clothes under his coat in May's fantasy, which is a nice detail.

But ugh, why does May know about Ed in the first place? Amestris, the country with actual motivation to have an intricate spy network, knows jack about Xing, but Xing knows the life story of a moderately successful State Alchemist? How on Earth is Ed famous enough to have international acclaim? He may have caused buzz with his initial success and do-gooding, but we are explicitly told he has spent the past three years chasing what everyone considers to be a myth and coming up with nothing. What has he possibly done to get on Xing's radar?

Oh Christ alive she uses -sama for Ed. Why. I know this does not turn into a lolicon plot but "Is this lolicon?" is not a question I should ever be asking in the first place.

Then we cut to Central and get a scene about how serial killers are hilarious. Thanks, I hate it! Also, how are Riza's bullets doing anything to him when machine guns couldn't even dent Al on the train?

And now Barry has a crush on Riza. We are supposed to think the wife-killing serial killer crushing on a woman is supposed to be funny. That is seriously a thing this show is doing.

Then we cut to MUSTANG interrogating him and learning about the Philosopher's Stone and the Fifth Laboratory. Hey, remember when that was the Elrics' motivation?

The researchers who made Barry were turned into Philosopher's Stones. Mustang praises the cold efficiency of it and no. That's overplaying your hand. No one is ever going to be stupid enough to work for you again if you establish that you kill all your employees. Moreover, how were these guys too stupid to see the writing on the wall? You're working for the military in secret for a secret project involving burning people for fuel and it never crosses your mind they might do exactly this? Seriously?

Mustang asks if he killed Hughes and there's a dramatic reaction shot from Falman and Riza because it's very important we understand Mustang is very cool and serious.

And only now, eight minutes into the episode, do we check in on our protagonists. They've come back to Winry for repairs, because that is her purpose in life. We cut to Ed with his head bleeding from a wrench that is helpfully also blood-splattered in case we didn't get the hint, which is way too much to make it funny for me.

We're told Paninya is making an honest living putting her parkour skills to good use.

Winry… bandages his automail arm? Why? The reason we use gauze for wounds is because flesh needs a watertight seal. If she just needs to hold parts in place, she can solder them and/or slap a plate over it and it'd probably be more effective. Maybe the idea is that she can't be too rough because Ed will feel it, but she sure seemed to be picking at it pretty intensely with no problems.

When Al finds Ling in the alley, Ed's first thought is if he's found another cat, which makes no sense if you haven't seen OG. I guess they're assuming everyone's already watched OG or read the manga, but that kind of defeats the point of an adaptation, doesn't it?

I am not sure how I feel about Ling being such an obvious Asian caricature with the closed/squinty eyes and everything. Sure, normal anime characters are caricatures of Caucasians, but given Japan's history I find it a little uncomfortable for them to be caricaturizing the Chinese.

Ed gets mad just from Ling using the word "little", for something totally unrelated to him. Too much.

We do get some worldbuilding exposition when Ling talks about Xing that I think is nice. It's established that Amestris has constantly been at war on all fronts… which seems like a bad move on Father's part, honestly? How do they have the resources for that? Amestris itself seems pretty small compared to the neighboring countries, which is… odd. I mean, the US is younger than 400 years and it spans a whole continent. If Father wants to expand the country – and I'm pretty sure he does – he should have been able to do it by now. I guess he just really sucks at this.

The desert is also barely half the length of Amestris. Crossing it does not seem like it should really be that hard. Why isn't there more contact between them?

Ed says the official story is that there's nothing in the ruins of Xerxes. Somehow, this has not attracted the entire population like flies to honey. See, OG understood how reverse psychology worked.

Ling says that alkahestry is used for medicinal purposes, while Ed explains alchemy is used for the military, and also the forever war. He goes on to say things became this way when the current Fuhrer came to power. How is he even old enough to know that? Bradley seems to have been around for a while. Also, sheesh, Father, you couldn't even install a puppet king until now? What kind of third-rate villain are you?

Brief cartoonface when Ling says he's not an alkahestrist. I deem it appropriate.

Ling somehow ~just knows~ they know about the Philosopher's Stone. Is the idea just that Ed is a really bad liar…?

Ling wants the Philosopher's Stone for immortality. Boy, that sure is a way more interesting villain motivation than "I want MAX POWER", innit? If only we had a villain who actually explored that very human motivation with links to the actual alchemic mythos. If only.

Then we get our fight scene with the Xingese who are so awesome. I am not well-versed enough in this area to know if I'm missing something, but it sure looks like "all Asian countries have ninjas, right?" to me, and that is so utterly baffling coming from a Japanese author. I do not even.

Ed callously wrecks vital infrastructure during his fight, but don't worry, it's all in good fun! See it just leads to a joke about how they have to pay for it, look at how clever this show is for acknowledging that! But we can't do a serious analysis of what it means that he's so willing to ignore everyone else's well-being in the pursuit of his goals, no one would possibly want to see that.

The fight scene is actually pretty good, though, with varied choreography and lasting wounds. It is a bit strange to see normies putting up such a good fight against alchemists after everything we've seen prior to this, though. It really reads like "ninjas are just so awesome!!!" which is a niche already covered by every other anime ever, thank you. The entire point of this series is that it has a Western aesthetic, why would you go back on that?

Ed calls Ling a "closed-eyed idiot". I want to believe this is the author poking fun at racist Westerners, but Xing being so obviously China makes that very uncomfortable given Japan's history.

Paninya jumps off the roof of a building without breaking stride (literally). Oh yeah, we are deep in Shonen Physics now.

"OMG ur a girl?!!?!" And with the strong implication she's in love with her master. Thanks, I hate it!

Ed and Fu somehow survive point-blank explosions.

How did Ed have enough time to set up that trap?

"Hey, girly!" YOU ARE FROM A SOCIETY WITH AN EGALITARIAN MILITARY. YOUR SUPER ALCHEMY TEACHER WAS A WOMAN. WHY ARE YOU SURPRISED WOMEN CAN FIGHT.

Why is Ed trying to negotiate with Ling instead of killing him? He has no way of knowing Ling was not trying to kill him.

Al reveals he can transmute without a circle, which leads to a cartoon where Ed imagines losing his older brother's dignity because now Al has special powers AND height! It's funny, but feels a bit too silly for this kind of story.

We don't see Al fix everything, but it must have required a tremendous amount of energy.

Ed finds Ling again and hits him with his automail arm. It's slapstick, because why should we be so serious about this guy siccing assassins on Ed? The author knows he's a good guy, so the story warps around that, even prior to the fact.

Cartoon skit where the Elrics imagine Ling as a prince. Even Al laughs afterwards, which seems a bit mean-spirited for him.

Lan Fan throws a knife at Ed for badmouthing Lin because lol girls so crazy amirite?

The imagery in Ling's exposition scene does look Japanese, so possibly the author is purposefully trying to blend cultures into one generically Asian country. But that in itself is playing into stereotypes, and… I don't really know why she'd feel the need to do it in the first place, when everything else about Xing is so obviously China. She clearly had a theme going, why'd she muddle it?

Ed just tells Ling the Philosopher's Stone isn't meant to be used selfishly, which is so obviously not going to work I don't know why he bothered. I can understand not wanting to tell him the full truth when Ed doesn't know how far he's willing to go for this, but he could at least do a better job of getting a feel for the guy. Hint that the method is more dangerous than he thinks.

Winry barges in and we get more slapstick comedy while Ling escapes.

Short scene with Ling saying he's willing to humble himself for the good of his clan.

...Why is there a really effeminate guy talking cutsey to Winry?

Winry wants to follow them to Central to thank Hughes (dramatic irony!). Al brings up the issue of her having work here and it's conveniently handwaved away. So what was the point of her taking on the job in the first place?

The guy who sicced assassins on them in pursuit of the hideously powerful object made out of people also informs them he'll be tagging along, and we are apparently supposed to think this is funny.

We end with Yoki… happily transporting Scar to Central for totally normal reasons? What? I forget if he does try to turn him in later, but it's not framed as sinister at all. Did the story just forget that he came to the camp to apprehend Scar in the first place?

New ED. I prefer the previous one.

Conclusion

I would be completely justified in dropping Brotherhood right here. I hate this episode. It introduces a ton of new characters I already hate while crowding out Ed, the character I actually like, from his own plot. I'm not even clear why Ed is returning to Central at all, when he's just learned the military is evil and also watching him. The very first episode of new content, and the show's already destroyed everything that interested me about alchemy and the story in the first place, with everything to suggest it's only going to get worse.

And oh it will get worse. So much worse I am going to keep going just so I can tell you exactly how much worse it is. Let's give this show a little more rope to hang itself with.

Chapter Text

FMA Brotherhood Episode 16: "Footsteps of a Comrade-in-Arms”

Edward, Alphonse and Winry arrive in Central, where Ling is arrested for being an illegal immigrant. Sheska accidentally reveals some information on Mustang to Envy, disguised as Captain Focker, one of her superiors. Mustang tells the Elric brothers that Hughes has retired from the state military, however, they soon learn the truth about his death after encountering Ross. When they visit Gracia and Elicia, Winry is already there, and the brothers apologize to Gracia, as Edward blames himself for Hughes' murder. Gracia encourages them to push forward as she holds back her tears. Meanwhile, Envy comes up with a plan to stop Mustang from investigating Hughes' murder. The next day, Ross is arrested by Colonel Henry Douglas for Hughes' murder.

Ling goes missing. Ed doesn't care. Thank you, Ed.

Fu even does the ninja thing of standing on a lamppost.

Ling has somehow made it to the roof of a tower, so I guess he also has ninja parkour skills?

Then it's time for lulzy serial killers. They are for some reason not keeping Barry bound and gagged and he is for some reason not exploiting this to escape. He asks if he can cut people up and looks so sad when Havoc tells him no! Ha ha! So funny! Then he asks if he can sexually harass Riza some more! Laugh! Falman is upset at being assigned to babysit the serial killer and Mustang threatens him if he ever screws up! Hilarious! Havoc brags about getting a girlfriend and Barry immediately asks if he can cut her up! Serial killers!! So funny!!!

Ling tries his gambit again and gets arrested as an illegal alien, in a country pretty explicitly based on Nazi Germany. This is supposed to be funny.

Ah, the Elrics want to report to Hughes about the homunculi investigation. That is reasonable. On their way over, they run past the telephone booth where Hughes was killed.

Mustang is passed out in the files room reading case notes, forcing Sheska to cover for him.

Sheska promptly blabs everything to a disguised Envy because Mustang didn't tell her to keep things secret and she's too stupid to figure she should. This also shows Envy is surprisingly competent at infiltration, given his terrible acting skills when shooting Hughes.

Armstrong meets with Mustang and says he didn't tell the Elrics about Hughes' murder. Mustang admonishes him, but agrees that the Elrics would be devastated if they knew they led him to his death. Mustang is investigating, and Armstrong warns him to be careful.

Of course, when Ed shows up, Mustang doesn't tell them either. Riza criticizes him for it. Ed immediately finds out the truth from an underling, regardless. I find the dialogue really contrived; Ed phrases everything as if he knows Hughes is dead.

Ed has a breakdown and we get flashbacks to how nice Hughes was, which is effective.

Ed tries to get Al to stay behind, but Al insists it's his burden to bear too.

Al says he doesn't want his body back if people have to die for it. So you learned the Philosopher's Stone is made of people and you kept going, but the moment one person you care about dies, suddenly it's time for second thoughts?

Ed apologizes for Gracia and says it's his fault, but Gracia insists Hughes would want them to keep going. It's… effective, I guess, but really template. The heroes have a moment of weakness but the support cast insists it's all fine and they keep going. We've seen this in every adventure story. There's nothing actually lasting, nothing that sticks with me.

When Ed leaves, he overhears Gracia sobbing, which I find more effective. Less is more.

There's a montage of everyone being sad. Winry says she learned how to make Gracia's apple pie recipe and hoped to show it to Hughes. That's a nice bit of "the little things can hurt the most", but the framing just makes it feel melodramatic, I'm sorry to say. The lighting and the music is just too intense. More is less.

We cut to the homunculi plotting stuff in a chimera lab. They huff about ooh, that Mustang, so determined and meddlesome! We're trying everything but we just can't intimidate him because he's so awesome! It reads like Mustang wrote it, seriously. Apparently they transferred him to Central to keep a better eye on him, but they are not just killing him because…? Like with Hughes, they're acting like they don't control an entire dictatorship. If Mustang is becoming a problem for them, they can just tell Bradley to bump him off. But no, they're going to start a stupidly contrived plotline instead.

Lust also says Mustang is a candidate for sacrifice. Why. You can't find a single other person who's already performed human transmutation? Really? Are some alchemists just inherently better and will juice up the ritual more? Of course it's pointless to speculate, because we all know the real reason is Mustang is the author's pet.

Lust also reveals she's being a femme fatale and trying to trick info out of Havoc. Feminism!

The homunculi are planning to frame Ross for the murder. Envy comes up with the idea spontaneously, so apparently he did not have any reason to turn into Ross back then. I have no idea what they're trying to accomplish here. This isn't even one of Mustang's subordinates, so it's not like this is hurting him. Do they really think he'll be stupid enough to fall for it?

Conclusion

Much better than last episode. Like I said with the Resembool episode, when Brotherhood actually wants to do a breather episode, it can do it fine. However, I still think it's clear that it does comedy and slice-of-life better than melancholy. The attempts at pathos here, while not awful, feel amateurish and stilted, like the author doesn't have experience writing in these areas. Serious pathos remains OG's strength and Brotherhood's weakness.

Unfortunately, we're going to transition into plot soon, and hoo boy is this one going to be a mess. The villains' actions and motivations already make little sense, and it's only going to get worse.

Chapter Text

FMA Brotherhood Episode 17: "Cold Flame"

Ross, accused of Hughes' assassination, is placed under military police custody and interrogated by Douglas. After reading a newspaper article about Ross's detention, Barry the Chopper leaves the safe house and launches a solo raid on the jail. Barry releases Ross from jail as well as Ling who promises to help them both. Barry tells Ross that she needs to leave Central immediately or risk being killed. Edward and Alphonse run into the trio, and Barry holds the brothers off to allow Ross time to escape. Ross then runs into Mustang, who seemingly kills her in with a massive fireball. Edward accosts Mustang after seeing a charred body, but Mustang coldly reminds Edward of his place as a soldier of the state military. Later, Armstrong shows up and declares that Edward should return to Resembool to have his automail arm fixed, dragging the confused Edward away.

We open with Ross' interrogation. She apparently uses the same caliber as the bullet that killed Hughes, and conveniently, she fired one shortly before, while rescuing the Elrics at the Fifth Laboratory. That's sort of a clever detail, but it's so specific I feel it loops back around to contrived. There's no way the villains could have planned this all out.

DOUGLAS: I'd like to say it was a good shot, but it was at point-blank range. Close enough that even a woman could have done it.

Truly, this show is God's gift to feminism. (This is especially absurd when Riza is supposedly renowned for her sniping abilities.)

Douglas says there were witnesses seeing her leave the site of Hughes' murder, so Envy was smart enough to turn back, unless they made this up completely. Ross' alibi is apparently that she was at her parents' house that day, which of course leaves her with no acceptable corroborating witnesses.

Armstrong is still bandaged from his wound battling Dolcetto. That's a nice detail.

Brosh says he corroborated Ross' story, but he was ignored. Seems like a dumb move on Bradley's part. Say he was colluding with her and kill him too! Weren't they both working under Hughes? It should be easy to cook up a motive for both of them.

Winry notes that Al's armor has scratches. Al shrugs it off, but I'd be pretty concerned about that. Armor doesn't heal, and Ed's stated that using alchemy to repair him is risky.

Ed is sulking. For once we actually get a scene with comparable length of pauses as OG, and unsurprisingly it's effective.

Winry says she's scared they'll die and wishes they'd give up on trying to get their bodies back. Because this is Brotherhood and not OG, this goes nowhere and is instead followed by some silly ship-teasing from Al.

...And then we get more time with our lulzy serial killer. Falman not only turns his back on him but leans down to get the newspaper while, I again feel the need to point out, Barry is totally unrestrained, and Barry just sits there because he's such a nice serial killer.

Ed sees Ross has been found as the culprit and immediately rushes to Mustang's office. Al wants to tell Winry, and Ed decides they can tell her later, because girls don't get to be in the loop.

We cut to Ling in jail. He's apparently 15, so they're totally down with imprisoning children. I'm surprised he doesn't say he's a prince.

Barry shows up to jailbreak Ross and suddenly guns don't work on him because what is consistency. Also THEY GAVE HIM WEAPONS because they're very trusting of serial killers, apparently. But it's okay, they told Barry not to kill anyone so he doesn't, because serial killers are such nice and honorable people.

Cartoon when the guards run from Barry.

Barry frees Ling when he hears he's from Xing. I don't know why, I guess it's explained later.

Cartoon when Ross objects to having to escape with a lecherous serial killer. So funny!

And urgh Barry crushes on her when she displays "spunk". Urrrggghhhhh

Ross' party runs into the Elrics, but Barry tells her to run into another alley where she encounters… Mustang! He charbroils her. Ed is horrified and has a falling-out with him.

The doctor identifies the body as Ross from dental records… then says what a shame it is such beauty was ruined, because he's a creep. Why, show.

We cut to the homunculi and discover the plan was apparently for him to… not kill her? What was the plan, then? They don't even seem to be in agreement, because Envy thinks this was a good outcome.

Then Armstrong shows up and drags Ed to Resembool under Mustang's orders. My first thought is Envy, but no, that would be too competent. Afterwards, Mustang ominously muses that everyone is out of the way.

Envy returns with intel. Why is he suddenly good at infiltration? Why does he need to infiltrate at all when, again, they run the government and can interrogate anyone they want?

But wow! What a shocking plot twist! Maybe I was wrong about Brotherhood after all! Major characters are getting killed! Mustang is a flawed, morally gray character! What are going to be the consequences of this? It's so exciting! All Brotherhood has to do now is not screw this up!

FMA Brotherhood Episode 18: "The Arrogant Palm of a Small Human"

Edward and Armstrong arrive in Resembool where they meet Heymans Breda, who takes them to the Xerxes ruins. Once there, they discover that Ross is still alive, and that Mustang faked her death in order to draw out those responsible for Hughes' murder. After the brief reunion, Ross decides to hide out in Xing with Fu, but promises to return if she is ever needed. After Ross' departure, Edward explores the ruins, finding a damaged transmutation circle. He also encounters a group of Ishbalan refugees, who reveal that it was Scar who killed Winry's parents while they gave medical aid to the Ishbalan during the civil war. Meanwhile, Barry's human body, which is now nothing more than a crazed animal, attacks Falman and Barry back in Central. However, with the assistance of Jean Havoc and the sniper Hawkeye, they manage to subdue Barry's body. Suddenly, Hawkeye is attacked by Gluttony.

So of course it screws it up.

Back at Central Winry and Al whine about how they're being kept from the plot. Ling shows up to explain everything and there is comedy as they freak out at someone who just tried to kill them sneaking into their home. Hilarious.

Everyone wears cloaks in the desert, which is a nice detail.

We learn the story of the Eastern/Western Sage. It's an interesting concept, but the phrasing is very weird. I get the impression the idea is supposed to be that they're the same guy whose teachings spread in both directions, but the way it's phrased – that this one guy specifically traveled in a direction – makes it sound like he went to one country and then doubled back to the other one.

In the Mystery Reveal Flashback, Mustang panics and hangs up when Barry calls his office, and continues it from the outside phone booth. Again, I have to wonder just what level their tapping technology is at. Even if they're only tapping Mustang's own phone, what we see of the call is extremely suspicious, and Barry is easily identifiable by his voice.

Barry corroborates Ross' innocence, because serial killers are such nice people?

Then Mustang makes a fake body and NO. NO. THIS IS STUPID. THE PREMISE OF THE STORY IS THAT HUMAN TRANSMUTATION IS IMPOSSIBLE. Okay, so it's fine as long as you're not trying to create life? Except in every resurrection attempt we see, the bodies themselves are put together wrong! If it's so easy to make a fake body, then why can't the Elrics heal themselves with normal alchemy? Why can't Ed just make a fake body and bind Al's soul to that? Why is human transmutation such a big deal in the first place? This entire twist is the author screaming SCREW YOU FOR THINKING MY MAGIC SYSTEM MAKES SENSE. There is no way the viewer could have predicted this. It is stupid and contrived on so many levels.

Breda explicitly brings up the dental records. Mustang says he's handled it but does not say how because that's how you write a mystery right?

We then redo the confrontation scene and see that Mustang did in fact make a perfectly intact body to start with, then charbroiled it in an explosion that could be seen from across the block but which somehow left both of them unharmed because convection doesn't exist.

ALSO

image

image

MUSTANG IS IN DIFFERENT POSITIONS IN EACH EPISODE

THIS WAS NOT FORESHADOWED, THIS IS CHEATING

image

Ling apparently told Fu to escort Ross to Xing. Why…? He has no reason to get involved in any of this.

Ed actually says Mustang was right for not telling him, because Ed wouldn't have believed him. No, Ed, Mustang was being a dick.

We cut back to Ling and learn he only helped to learn the secret of soul-binding. Barry told him he doesn't know so he should ask Al. Didn't we just have a plotline about this?

Back to Ed, who waffles about how mysterious and dangerous the plot is becoming but he's going to be DETERMINED and protect people. This was not necessary.

Ross gets put on a bus and offers to come back if she's needed. This will not happen until the finale.

Fu says Xing is "tolerant of others". Uh, sure. It also has an abundance of food and everything is great. You know, this sure does trivialize this plot about the evils of government when there's a perfect utopia just next door.

We discover that Mustang's phone calls to his sweetheart are actually coded messages to his team. They are not terribly subtle. Like, they're cocking guns while in earshot. If anyone's tapping those calls, they should know he's up to something.

Then there's some convoluted plot about Barry's original body coming after him because this plot definitely needed more actors in it.

Havoc does not land a single shot on a dude in the same room as him despite going through an entire clip.

Barry's body is somehow strong enough to rip the armor's arm off. He continues to dodge bullets until Riza snipes him. I guess the show has decided there is going to be exactly one character who can use guns properly.

Why did they leave Ed alone if they knew Ishbalans were here?

But it's okay because the Ishbalans recognize he's One of The Good Ones, because otherwise dynamics of privilege and oppression might negatively affect our heroes and we can't have that. No, all you need to do is talk loudly about it while never depicting how it actually looks in real life and you can just rake in the Woke Points.

Seriously, it's so textbook. They ~realize not all Amestrians are bad~ because this kid knew one good Amestrian. Never mind that Winry's parents were obvious exceptions and they have very good reason to fear Amestrians when their whole culture worships the military. Everything revolves around the hero.

We learn Winry's parents were killed by Scar. We will later learn that this was an accident that had nothing to do with the actual political situation, because in Brotherhood people are not allowed to make real mistakes.

Barry wants to kill his own body because…?

We see that Barry's body is rotting. So how is it tearing armor apart and dodging bullets?

We end with Gluttony attacking Riza.

Conclusion

This is the first nail in the coffin. Here we begin the pattern of storytelling that will characterize Brotherhood's entire plot: SHOCKING TWIST lol j/k everything's fine. I despise this. It shows brazen contempt for the audience, treating them like goldfish who won't keep watching if you can't give them a constant adrenaline high, while lacking the courage to commit to anything truly daring. It doesn't even work after the first few times! Once you establish you don't have the guts to actually kill anyone, we no longer care. Even if you eventually do decide this time it's for real, our emotional reaction will be completely shot and we'll never be certain if you're going to undo it at a moment's notice. It's nothing but a cheap, pathetic trick, the standby of mediocre authors having to crank out a chapter a month while desperately staving off cancellation.

And okay, maybe that would still be enjoyable to me, maybe, if I actually liked the characters involved. But no. Ed gets shoved into a bland, expository B-plot and Al doesn't even get that. Instead we have to watch MUSTANG THE MOST SPECIALEST be very special and important. I signed up for this show because I liked the protagonists. Why are you making me watch a show that's no longer about them? That's really it, isn't it – this is going back on everything the series hooked the audience with originally (in the manga, at least). Ed is a chump, alchemy is magic, the villains are incompetent. I don't see how you could still be invested at this point if you were at all interested in the opening.

Token good point: I do like the Xerxes bits, because I'm a weirdo who cares about silly things like plot and characters. They're good exposition that effectively build the mystery, and some good character moments too. I hate what the answers turn out to be, but as a setup it's perfectly fine.

Like with episode 15, I'd be well within my rights to nope out at this point. But how could I do that, knowing the show has even more rope to hang itself with? Let's see where this travesty ends!

Chapter Text

FMA Brotherhood Episode 19: "Death of the Undying"

Kain Fuery manages to save Hawkeye, with Mustang coming to defeat Gluttony. Alphonse meets up with the group and they pursue Barry, who chases his body into the depths of the third laboratory. The group splits into two teams. Mustang and Havoc are ambushed by Lust, resulting in both men being grievously wounded and left for dead. Lust then confronts Barry, slicing him to pieces. Hawkeye, believing Mustang to be dead, desperately shoots Lust repeatedly with minimal effect. Before Lust can kill Hawkeye, Mustang appears, having cauterized his wounds, he repeatedly incinerates Lust until her philosopher's stone is depleted. No longer able to regenerate, she crumbles to ash. Barry's soul survives, but his blood seal is scratched out by his human body, which kills both of them. Edward returns to Resembool and heads toward the Rockbell residence where he sees his father Van Hohenheim at the grave of his mother Trisha Elric.

Mustang flashes back to Hughes' death when Riza doesn't respond and freaks out.

Then we cut back to Ling expositing. Oh joy.

Gluttony is strangling Riza. She's emptied her clip into his head but he's not dying. It's pretty gruesome, we see his wrecked eyeball. She empties another clip and pushes him back a little, but they're out of ammo again. For some reason, they just stand there like idiots instead of running. Fortunately, Mustang steps out of his teleporter and uses magic to generate force out of nothing to throw Gluttony out the window.

Riza yells at Mustang for saving her because lolwomen. Later she does thank him and then he's the one telling her to keep in professional, because women are just crazy nagging hags who don't say what they mean and need strong manly men to keep their heads in the game.

I really don't like the cracked-skin effect on the homunculi. It looks so fake, like a low-res CGI model.

How did Alphonse know where they were? Did Ling tell him?

Al informs them about homunculi's powers. Despite this they're going to continue to waste all their ammo shooting Lust later, because they're idiots.

Mustang uses Barry's rampage as an excuse to investigate the laboratory, which is clever. Barry doesn't kill anyone because serial killers are such polite people. Al has cartoon face during this, which I guess is appropriate since he really doesn't fit in here.

Lust shows up and Havoc gets distracted by her jiggle physics when he looks at her tattoo. As Tumblr helpfully explained to me, this is actually groundbreaking feminist representation because while it looks indistinguishable from normal anime objectification see it's actually making fun of Havoc for being a pervert and no, Tumblr, it's pandering. Perv pandering doesn't stop being perv pandering just because a woman drew it. But okay, sure, it's not that bad by the very, very low standards of anime, so maybe I can put up with it as long as it doesn't…

image

…do… that.

Guys, this is not making fun of perverts. Havoc is a hero and Lust is a villain. This is letting perverts be in on the joke. Tumblr, please for the love of God shut up about Brotherhood being so tasteful in its depiction of boobs, because it's not.

Anyway. Lust taunts Mustang about Hughes' death and then… looks actually pained when he shoots her (where Gluttony barely flinched). Why did she do that if bullets actually hurt her.

There is some gross banter about getting Lust on her knees. I'm sure this has also, through some strange Tumblr alchemy, been transformed into groundbreaking feminism.

Then Lust shows off her Philosopher's Stone because the author needed a way for the characters to learn a homunculus' weakness and couldn't think of a way to do it that didn't involve handing Lust the idiot ball. I've heard this is slightly less stupid in the manga and she only does this after Havoc gets injured, is that true?

Like I said before, this reveal utterly baffles me. So after all that buildup, the homunculi are just... monsters powered by magic. That’s so boring. They can no longer be used to ask questions about personhood and humanity -- I mean, maybe they could if the show actually committed to them being alien and different, but it doesn’t. What this comes down to is just that Philosopher’s Stones and rulebreaking magic is cool, so the homunculi have them so they can be cool boss monsters. Except they’re not cool. In OG, they were puzzles that required special knowledge and preparation to defeat; that’s cool. In Brotherhood, as we’re going to see, you beat the homunculi by just punching them in the face until the author decides they’ve run out of HP. They’re just damage sponges. And just as I revile damage sponges in video games, I revile them in TV shows too. Characters just throwing the same attacks at each other for five episodes is not interesting.

I also hate that this means Philosopher’s Stones are absolutely everywhere in this continuity instead of something actually special, a theme that will continue.

Lust says homunculi still have human feelings. Wow, what a dumb idea that no one would ever want to read about. It sure is a good thing Brotherhood decided to completely forget about this and just make homunculi boring boss monsters, huh?

Then, despite Lust using her claws as instant-kill ranged attacks in every prior fight scene, she now switches to sloppy, easily-dodged melee swipes, because Lust is really hogging the idiot ball today.

Mustang says he can decompose the water into hydrogen and oxygen to create an explosion even with wet gloves. This is totally inconsistent with what we're previously told, which is that creating oxygen is the easy part for him. He shouldn't need a spark to manipulate the air content, that should be a separate thing. This just seems like the author showing off a trick she remembered from chemistry class. It sure would be interesting if alchemy actually worked like this all the time, but Mustang never needs to do anything like this elsewhere.

Then despite having just been told that homunculi don't die when they are killed they walk right back into the room, because the idiot ball's really getting around today.

Cartoon when Mustang complains about being treated like a match. Because a climactic battle is definitely the time for that.

Then Lust FINALLY uses her spear-claws and stabs Havoc through the spine which, in a rare appearance of consequences, actually does paralyze him until the epilogue when Dr. Deus ex Machina heals him because consequences are for losers. I'm also a bit unclear on how she severed his spine without also severing his aorta.

Mustang realizes he can use Lust's Philosopher's Stone to heal Havoc and rips it out of Lust's chest. Lust screams in agony, implying this does actually hurt her, so again, why did she show it to him?

Lust's body disintegrates, but she's able to reform around the Stone. It's really gruesome. Somehow this does not crush Mustang's hand in the process, but she does finally stab him… nonfatally, because she's got the idiot ball again.

Bradley shows up outside.

Lust says Mustang was a candidate for sacrifice but she's killing him anyway. Uh, did she run this by the others? She then leaves him for dead instead of finishing him off because the idiot ball is strong this episode.

We then catch up to Barry, who tells us souls reject incompatible bodies. Al freaks out at this, but fortunately this will never matter for him.

Lust shows up to whine about how she has to kill Al. No, you don't. Just leave. You control the government. Bradley can give you another hideout at a moment's notice. The most important thing hiding here was you, and you just blabbed all your secrets anyway. Just cut your losses. You idiot.

Lust once again taunts someone into shooting her and once again staggers and screams in pain, because the idiot ball's terminal now. Shouldn't she also know she's running out of lives and this is maybe not the best idea right now?

Al vows to protect Riza because he’s tired of watching people die. It’s a nice moment that also happens way, way too early in his character arc. I like Al as the childish, out-of-his-depth foil to Ed’s easy confidence. This moment works better as a climactic ending reversal than as an offhand detail a third of the way through the story. If he’s just another noble heroic alchemist, he’s redundant with all the others we already have.

Meanwhile, Riza is hysterical and ineffective because she's a woman in a shonen anime.

You know, more seriously, I would like to point out that giving a female character awesome gun skills doesn't actually mean anything in a story about how non-guns are really awesome. We see a lot of great gunplay from Riza, but it's always alchemy that actually saves the day and gets all the focus. It's moving the goalposts. Sure, we'll give the woman a cool skill… that we will then choose to make useless in the context of the story. It's such tedious faux-feminism, going through the motions so you can say, technically, that you have a "strong female character" without actually doing anything to respect them or integrate them into the narrative. For every "strong female character" in Brotherhood, there's a male character who's stronger. Women are still, fundamentally, supporting characters – they're awesome because part of the male fantasy is an awesome support staff, but the boys get to be more awesome and the boys get to be who the story's actually about.

I really want us to start being more critical of representation like this. Treating strong female characters like a list of checkboxes is so totally wrongheaded. Characters don't exist in a vacuum. A skill that's impressive in one narrative or one power level may be completely meaningless in another. We need to look at characters within the context of the narrative they inhabit, relative to other characters and the framing of the work.

To prove my point, our resident Gary Stu has just appeared to show Riza up and beat the boss fight literally without moving a single step.

image

BUT TELL ME AGAIN HOW THIS SERIES IS GOD’S GIFT TO FEMINISM.

Mustang is using Havoc's lighter for a starter, despite explicitly establishing that it was busted earlier.

Mustang fireballs her again.

He also drew a perfect transmutation circle in his own blood and perfectly cauterized his internal bleeding despite explicitly saying he doesn't know medical alchemy. Now that his jacket's opened, we also get to see he's been hiding a Superman physique this whole time. You could put this in a parody of male power fantasies and I'd say it was too unbelievable.

Mustang fireballs her again. We get a gruesome close-up shot of her skin burning off.

Mustang fireballs her again.

Mustang decides he can kill this regenerator monster powered by the thing that supposedly has infinite energy by just killing her enough times, because he's read the script.

Mustang fireballs her again.

We get a closeup of her Philosopher's Stone, and coincidentally also a closeup of her tits.

Mustang fireballs her again.

And again.

I'd like to point out that every single one of these fireballs is ENORMOUS. Alphonse has to create a stone wall to hide behind so Riza isn't charbroiled too. We can see the entire room lighting up. I'd also like to point out this is in a SEALED UNDERGROUND ROOM, and FIRE REQUIRES OXYGEN. OXYGEN IS NOT INFINITE. If he lights the whole room on fire, he is DONE. HE USED UP ALL THE OXYGEN IN THE ROOM. HE CANNOT KEEP SPAMMING FIREBALLS. And I don't care what fanwank you can pull out to justify this, because the bottom line is that someone winning a fight by endlessly spamming the same move is terrible writing. This is not a climactic boss fight, this is just the Gary Stu showing off how awesome he is.

And through all of this Lust has done absolutely nothing except writhe and scream in agony, because Mustang is a Gary Stu therefore fire stunlocks everything. Only at the very end does she actually try to attack him, remembering she can spear people through the brain just in time for him to kill her while her spear is INCHES away from his face, because he's very awesome.

image

Also, HOW IS HE NOT BURNING HIMSELF HERE. HOW. HIS ARM IS IN THE EXPLOSION. HOW.

Meanwhile, Lust can still talk but somehow not extend her spear one more inch. Her Philosopher's Stone disintegrates, so the woman has nobly died to teach us that you can kill homunculi by just hitting them until they run out of HP, because that's so interesting.

And then Mustang collapses from his wound now that it no longer matters, invoking the very important power of the Not-Sue: see, he did all that while he really was one step away from death, that totally makes him less sueish and not more!

Mustang ignores Riza to praise Al for protecting her.

Bradley, our other resident Gary Stu, is revealed to have been watching the whole thing. He for some reason does not kill Mustang, thus establishing who has the greater Sue power.

Winry is sulking and hoping the man comes back safe because that's her purpose in life.

Then we end with more Barry, because we really needed that. His body is somehow still not dead, and erases the seal on the one part of the armor that stayed intact, killing them both. What was the point of this?

Then the show remembers Ed is supposed to be the protagonist. We cut to him for five seconds to discover Hoenheim has conveniently returned to Resembool at the same time as him.

Conclusion

A lot of people tell me that OG was misogynist garbage and Brotherhood is super progressive.

I don't know what anime they watched, but I just saw the sole female antagonist – and let's take a moment to reflect on the fact the sole female antagonist is Lust – die a gruesome, disgusting, sexualized death less than a third of the way through the story because she was too busy flashing her tits to actually fight, for no other reason than to show how awesome a dude is.

This is my breaking point. There is no coming back from this. I don't care how awesome Olivier is. Anyone who recommends this show as full of ~great female characters~ without thinking this content deserved even the teensiest of caveats is not anyone whose judgment I trust.

And sure, let's be real here, I watch anime, I'm willing to put up with some misogynist crap if there's something else worth my time. But this has established, very definitively, that there absolutely will not be anything worth my time. Lust, as we will see when we continue with OG, was an incredibly important and complex character in the original anime, absolutely crucial to the narrative of the homunculi and many of the things I loved about the story. And this is what Brotherhood does with her.

And that's not even the only awful thing about this episode! Ed wasn't in it at all! Mustang's takeover of the narrative is complete. He's the one who got to solve the mystery, fight the villain, and save the day, pretty much singlehandedly. And I'm sorry, but even if he wasn't an insufferable Gary Stu, Mustang just doesn't interest me as a character as much as Ed. I like him as a deuteragonist to Ed's protagonist, not the other way around. So no. This episode really hammers in that there is absolutely nothing here for me.

But lucky you, I read a plot summary of all the episodes after this, and I know the very next one is something I want to complain about too! So we'll keep going for one more episode. One last nail in the coffin.

Chapter Text

FMA Brotherhood Episode 20: "Father Before the Grave"

After arguing with his father, Edward overhears Hohenheim tell Pinako Rockbell that the corpse that Elric brothers had attempted to transmute may not have been their mother. Hohenheim leaves the next day, warning Pinako that something terrible will happen in Amestris. Edward and Pinako dig up the failed transmutation corpse during a downpour and Edward realizes it is not their mother. Edward then calls Izumi, asking her to confirm that child in her transmutation was definitely hers. Edward returns to Central and reunites with Alphonse and Winry, explaining his discoveries. Izumi calls Edward, to say the transmuted baby was not hers. Edward, Alphonse, and Izumi then feel a sense of relief that they had not killed their loved ones a second time. This confirms Edward's suspicions that it is not possible to revive someone who has died. However, Edward reassures the others that retrieving someone from beyond the gateway of Truth is still possible and the Elric brothers reaffirm their resolve to return Alphonse to his original body.

Hoenheim's first words to Ed are "You've gotten bigger." Gee, you can't think of anything that might be more important, Hoenheim? Anything at all? Really?

And he goes on to confirm he does indeed know about Trisha dying and them doing human transmutation.

Ed flips out at him and his only question is why they burned ""HIS"" house down. We're like three lines in and I already hate this guy.

Hoenheim then projects onto Ed and insists the real reason he burned his home was because he didn't want to face the unpleasant memories. What a dick.

And now he's watching Ed sleeping. Ooookay.

And he actually makes a move to stroke Ed's hair. While he's sleeping.

The dog looks off-model.

Then Hoenheim talks to Pinako and continues to be all business. She only asks why he didn't come back instead of pointing out he's a terrible person.

Cut to Al telling Ling about soulbinding despite Ling doing nothing to deserve it. Ling rants about how awesome it is and Winry gets affronted. This is like an exact copy of the scene with Greed. Why are we rehashing this?

We get confirmation that Al never sleeps. That does indeed seem pretty awesome to me. In OG he does seem to sleep.

Cut to Ed having guilt dreams about how he's so terrible for saving Al's soul. It's way too much.

Hoenheim takes the only photo with all four of them, because he hasn't already taken enough from this family.

Hoenheim gives a vague warning about something bad happening to the country. Pinako shrugs and says she's used to bad things, and Hoenheim does not clarify he means literally everyone will die because the author wanted to build fake suspense and in the process turned Hoenheim into a massive dick. Seriously, if you're only trying to save your bestest bud and not evacuate the whole country, you are a terrible person. I don't know the full convoluted nonsense explanation in this continuity, but I'm pretty sure Father can't hurt him? So he could totally be running around actively screwing things up for Father instead of sulking around creating some lame trap that will just barely give people a fighting chance in the absolute worst-case scenario.

And he leaves without even saying goodbye to his son. What a dick.

The skies are cloudy as Ed digs up the body because pathetic fallacy. Also he clutches his chest because the humidity hurts his stumps. It's just too over-the-top for me.

And Ed is now dry heaving even though he's never had this problem in rain before.

And they keep working in the pouring rain.

Ed discovers the body doesn't match Trisha's, therefore bringing back the dead is truly impossible. I am going to save my rant for this for the conclusion.

And the lesson Ed takes away from this is that Al can be returned to normal. What? How does that follow from anything? What???

Pinako tells Ed that Hoenheim totally really does care for Ed and Al despite never showing it at all, because that's definitely a good narrative to spread about neglectful parents.

When he gets back to Central, Ed demands to know why Ling is still freeloading off of him. I, too, wonder why Ling is still in this story.

During their serious chat Ed suddenly demands to know why Winry turned Al down way back then and it leads to a joke. What is tone. It is at least relevant, because it proves Al knew something Ed didn't, therefore proving Ed really got his soul back. But it's so awkwardly integrated. From this, Ed concludes that because he took back Al's soul his body must also be there. Uh, that seems like a lot of jumps, and even if that's true, wouldn't his body be, you know, dead of starvation by now? But don't worry, there's an unbelievably contrived Deus ex Machina to fix that too.

Then everyone is so happy that they didn't kill their family again. Because it's so much better that he created a totally new life and then killed it? Oh wait, it is, because Al was in the thing, which means it didn't have a soul at all. Whew, glad we dodged that bullet! There were almost consequences for a hero's actions! Who would ever want to read about that???

Then they just repeat the conversation about how Ed feels guilty but Al wants to share the burden. The wheel-spinning officially begins!

And they're still talking.

Al says he can't stand being alone at night. As an insomniac, I say he oughta suck it up and deal. You have no idea what I'd give to never be tired. Transhumanism is awesome and I'm really sick of stories always twisting around to insist that anything other than a factory-normal body must be the worst thing ever. Gee, authors, you ever stop to ask how disabled and trans people feel about that? Gimme my robot body.

The light on Al's helmet looks like he's crying. Okay, that's kind of clever.

Ed's plan for getting Al's body back is to punch Truth in the face. See, and you thought I was exaggerating when I complained about that.

Winry looks on meekly because that is her purpose in life.

Conclusion, and Why I Will Not Be Watching Further

I sat through my favorite character getting taken out like trash for this?

I expected to only complain about the human transmutation reveal here but hoo boy is this episode worse than I ever could have imagined. Hoenheim's appearance serves absolutely NO in-universe purpose, it is entirely just the author teasing us. Nothing he does makes any sense or matters in any way. It's just HA HA YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE GETTING ANSWERS BUT YOU'RE NOT, SUCKER! With a side dish of abusive parents are just poor misunderstood souls who did absolutely nothing wrong, poor baby! And my god, people have the gall to whine about OG being plodding when they lap up this? This unbelievable soap-opera melodrama of characters saying the same things over and over and arriving at nonsense deductions just because the story needs to advance and the author was too incompetent to make it happen naturally? This is your "good plot"? Seriously?

But that's not even the thing that makes me angriest. That's the final nail in the coffin: the human transmutation reveal.

Firstly, what does this prove? I guess we can tell from Al's weird rant that the author places a weird amount of value on bodies, but I personally could not care less. You're saying people actually have souls that contain everything important about their personality and you're caring that you brought the body back wrong? Those are your priorities? No, you have just proved that the body is a completely interchangeable repository for the part that's actually you. So what if you got the hair color wrong? You also got the organs wrong. That thing was not a viable body in the first place. There is absolutely nothing implying they couldn't assemble the correct body with more practice. And that in turn shows this is absolutely meaningless. You haven't proven the dead can't come back to life! All you've proven is that you're incompetent at making bodies! Try getting Mustang to do it or hey, throw alkahestry at the problem, it's Mary Sue alchemy that solves everything, probably it could do it. This is just so unbelievably stupid on every single level and the characters have no right to draw the conclusions they do from it. It's just lazy, lazy plotting.

Even beyond that, I hate the moral precedent this sets. Look at what happened here: The protagonists did something they know they shouldn't have, and suffered terribly for it. They grappled with their guilt and how they could possibly make it right again, and the more they learned, the more they realized they'd need to sacrifice for that chance. And then suddenly NOPE NO MORAL QUESTIONS HERE EVERYTHING IS FINE FOREVER. Who cares about consequences? Who cares about moral complexity? Who cares about being challenged? God, who would want to watch a show about such stupid topics?

I do. I want to read stories about coming to terms with our mistakes. I want to read stories that challenge me. I want to read stories where the protagonist can be wrong. Because I've made mistakes. Because I've been wrong. Because being challenged makes us grow as people.

Am I coming on strong here? Yeah, I am. Because I'm sick of Brotherhood fans being such utter children about this. Stop making fun of people for liking OG. Stop acting baffled that anyone could. Stop making posts about how, after flooding the internet with this unrelenting negativity, you somehow haven't seen anyone criticizing Brotherhood so that must mean Brotherhood is objectively perfect! You like popcorn chicken stories like Brotherhood? Fine! We all need popcorn chicken stories sometimes! But they're not the only kinds of stories out there and they're not the only kinds of stories it's valid to like.

So, yeah, this is as far as I'm going to go in Brotherhood. I think I'll do a comparison of the ending episodes, but I'm not trudging through the rest. This has already been an effective clip show of everything I dislike: annoying side character bloat, awkward melodrama, fake twists, misogyny, Mustang the Gary Stu, and now atomizing any possibility of moral nuance. Don't try to convince me it gets better. I know it doesn't. I don't like the writing, I don't like the characters, and I don't like the philosophy. This isn't the story for me.

If you're still here, thanks. I'm sorry if you're tired of the negativity, but we should be back to the good stuff soon. This next section is a big part of everything I love about OG.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 35: "Reunion of the Fallen"

Lust, Envy, and Gluttony are in a restaurant discussing Greed's recent death. As they leave, a car wreck outside causes a small boy to become injured. The mother's cry for help brings forth a man who heals him using a ring similar to the one that Cornello wore in Lior. Lust watches the man heal the child, and as he turns to the crowd as sees her, she recognizes him as Lujon, a man from her past. They catch up in the restaurant, where a flashback shows us how Lust and Gluttony watch the results of a landslide and its victims. As they watch, a rescue crew approaches, containing Lujon, and he rescues a girl from the pile. Meanwhile, the Elrics and Winry, while riding in a cart South to the Ishbalan camp, must save a girl from a band of thugs in the forest. She reveals her name is Lydia, and that she is looking for a man named Lujon, who is supposed to be finding a second Philosopher's Stone to save the people of their village from the return of a plague. This illness looks similar to Epidermodysplasia verruciformis (also called Lewandowsky–Lutz dysplasia, colloquially known as tree man illness). As Lujon, Lust, and Gluttony ride back together to his village, Lujon reveals that the power in his Philosopher's Stone has waned considerably. The flashback continues, revealing how Lujon's failed attempts to cure the first onslaught of the plague provoked Lust into teaching him the refined arts of alchemy. As they study together, Lujon falls in love with her; however, Lust only stays with him because he invokes faint memories in her mind that she cannot identify. Once he has learned the secrets to curing the illness, he manages to save his fiance Lydia from death's grip. On the day of their wedding, Lujon leaves her at the altar for Lust, who unsuccessfully commands her to go to him. Once he leaves, she laughs with Envy about the success of their plan. In present time, Lujon embraces Lust in the village before saving his people, exclaiming how he won't let her leave him this time. Before he can let her go, Lust stabs him dead. The villagers all perish, and minutes later, the Elrics and Winry arrive to witness the tragedy. Lydia runs into the fog before they can stop her, and is found lying dead next to Lujon's corpse, succumbed to the disease as Lust rides away in her carriage.

Someone was really into this episode.

Gluttony is trying to eat the table. Why isn't he succeeding, though? Maybe he has enough self-control to not actually eat it.

Lust gets contemplative, wondering what will happen to them when they die. Envy takes an existentialist stance, saying they're alive now and they don't need to worry what happens next.

The restaurant patron foolishly tries to talk to them. Envy ignores him for a while before stabbing him and letting Gluttony eat him.

We cut to Ed heading south. He overhears a woman being attacked by thugs and goes to help.

In the flashback, Lust tells Gluttony he can't eat the mudslide victims, saying he should go on a diet.

In present, Al tells the woman it's not safe for a woman to be traveling alone.

When Lujon tries to heal the boy, he successfully turns his skin back to normal, but then the alchemy keeps going and forms tumorous growths that explode and kill him. So it seems like human alchemy is just extremely difficult to do without a Philosopher's Stone. And, hey… that actually explains Greed's chimeras, since the Fifth Laboratory was full of Philosopher's Stones. They probably used those to make them, which is why they were more functional than Nina.

Lujon prays to a god, but a different one than the Ishbalans. Possibly this is like Judaism, and there are multiple variants of the same religion getting spread around?

This gives Lust a flashback to Scar's brother praying to Ishbala for her.

Quick cut to Scar in some blighted area (the ruins of Ishbal?) digging something up.

Lust is confused by her memories.

The bird Lujon heals collapses after it flies out of sight.

In the present, Lust clenches Lujon's ring in her hand, and when she opens it, the Stone is restored.

Lust talks with Envy and says they introduced the disease to make people search for a Stone. Their plan seems slightly different from Liore: they're planning to take the Stone from Lujon to make him desperate enough to make a real one, rather than using it to attract a real alchemist.

Lujon falls in love with Lust, and says she taught him more than just alchemy. Lust flashes back to Scar's brother, gets weird, and runs off. As they leave, Gluttony says this wasn't part of the plan and Envy will be angry.

They arrive in the village in the present. Lujon says he won't lose her again, and Lust flashes back to… seeing herself? We see homunculus-Lust looking at a bunch of gore. I'm not very clear what's going on. Is she looking at her human body, or is Scar's brother wounded?

Lust says he was her "blemish" when she kills him. I'm not sure if she means killing him, or not killing him the first time?

When Ed arrives, Lydia immediately succumbs to the disease, and so does Lujon? Everyone in the village is also dead. I'm really confused by this – are the Stone's effects undone when it breaks? Were they ghosts???

Conclusion

They seem to be enjoying that past/present intercut technique. I like it. It builds tension and mystery very effectively.

The plot, as is typical for OG, is very messy. I have very little clue what's supposed to be going on here. But! Since the plot is about a major character this time, important stuff is still happening. We're getting a better idea of what the homunculi do and how they behave. We can see that Lust is cracking, questioning her purpose and her memories, thus beginning some important development for her. We're seeing differences of opinion between her and Envy, as well, showing diversity in the homunculi's motives.

I think it's also interesting that we see a Stone searcher with a sympathetic motivation. Previously, everyone has been a power-hungry selfish fiend. Lujon is in fact more selfless than the Elrics, adding more perspective and nuance to the narrative.

I don't even mind the messiness too much, I think. It's got good atmosphere, even if I'm not sure of all the textual details like why Lust kills him, exactly.

What's particularly interesting to me here is just how nonsexual Lust is here. She plays the part of the Faustian devil, not the typical temptress you'd expect. Lujon seems to develop a genuine emotional attachment to her, not merely a lustful one. She's representing all the aspects of lust except sex, which I think is a really clever inversion of the way this archetype is normally played.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 36: "The Sinner Within"

On their way to Ishbal, Edward and Alphonse try to help a group of Ishbalan refugees being shipped further south by the military, hoping to get more information about the philosopher’s stone and the war in Ishbal.

We open with Ishbalans being transported via trains with barred windows. Serious Holocaust imagery, here. An Amestrian child waves to them, and the father hurriedly pulls the curtains.

Ed and Al delay the train by messing up the water tower. Ed spouts the same propaganda about the Ishbalans bringing this on themselves by leaving their ghettos to band together, then immediately requests they help him with his personal quest. Al points out that geez, Ed, we should at least do something for them if we want them to help us. The chief tells them to take Rick and Leo to safety, invoking equivalent exchange.

Winry fixes up a military car and uses it to help them escape. They briefly run into Team Mustang, who they evade.

Ed wants Winry to go back home because he feels awkward killing people in front of her. She shrugs it off. They reflect on all the people they've killed or nearly killed, and resolve that if they run into Scar again, they will kill him. Leo eggs them on, saying Scar's a traitor who deserves it.

They get to the refugee camp. Mustang's torched the place. Rick has a PTSD attack to the time their home was raided, and the shot of Mustang's superblast is included in the montage.

Ed and Al find the symbol in the alchemist's tent. Riza gives them a warning shot and the Elrics get cartoon face when they yell at her for it.

There is some talk about how Mustang handled the situation. Al says it's not right to attack the Ishbalans when they're not starting a war. Apparently there were no fatalities, other than Yoki: Mustang just created a wall of fire that intimidated the Ishbalans into surrendering. But there's now a holdup as they try to find out who killed Yoki.

Al think it's awful for the Ishbalans to turn on their own alchemists when they've known so much discrimination themselves.

The Ishbalan alchemist reveals that Ishbal used to have alchemy, but at some point, it was declared forbidden. Ed says that's impossible, and is chastised for thinking Ishbal is a nation of backwards hicks. Ah, so Marcoh's earlier account was likely inaccurate. This is a good detail.

Flashback to Scar's confrontation with the alchemist. He sees Mustang rounding up the Ishbalans, and resolves to make a Philosopher's Stone to give Ishbal the power to defeat Amestris. Apparently, his arm is already a Philosopher's Stone containing "tens of thousands" of lives. He also reflects on his master's admonishment of his violence: he rejects it, saying that if that's what it takes he'll give himself over to violence. Yes! Kick that equivocating nonsense to the curb! How rare is it to see an oppressed character actually commit to violence as a solution?

Leo and Rick tell Winry that Mustang killed her parents.

Ed figures out that Lust killed Yoki, and tells Riza to report back.

Ed tells Leo and Rick he's decided he doesn't want to kill Scar after all, because killing upsets him. Leo urges him to kill Scar because he's an outcast, and Ed tries to explain the nuances of prejudice. It's a little awkward – he tries to relate by using his own prejudice towards Ishbalans as an example. But I do like that the show is making an earnest attempt to engage with this, even if it doesn't have enough time for a proper discussion.

Winry leaves for Central, pretending everything is fine. Ominous! We cut to her on the train with Riza. We get a similar conversation to the one they have in BH 02, but the earlier context completely changes the tone even though the text is nearly identical. Now this isn't just the idle musing of a child, but a pointed interrogation as Winry pursues her parents' deaths.

Cut to the homunculi plotting. They want to kill the Elrics before they discover the truth of what happened in Ishbal, because if they blab about it it would be bad for their plans.

The last scene is Winry in Central, learning about Hughes' death. She breaks down, and the episode ends on a photograph of Hughes and Mustang together.

Conclusion

Wow, I don't remember any of this. I don't think there's much to say; OG continues to move painfully slowly, but I do like the details we're getting. We are actually engaging with the military being evil and what it means for Ed's friends to have to follow its orders – Mustang's doing his best to avoid hurting people, but he's still playing into the villains' hands and placing himself at odds with the heroes. We're also getting a much darker take on the fate of the Ishbalans as they continue to be attacked and subjugated by the military, pushing Scar to make this awful choice for his peoples' safety. It's pretty ironic, actually – the homunculi initially consider him an obstacle getting in the way of their plans for Ed, but now Ed is unraveling their plans while Scar if fulfilling them.

I will say that it's a bit jarring to continue this plot suddenly after putting it on ice for so long; I believe the last update on the Ishbalans was in episode 31. Maybe it flows better if you don't stop to switch to Brotherhood midway through, but I was a bit confused on where exactly we left everyone. We probably could have used a refresher/update last episode.

On equivalent exchange: I think I can make the argument that both sides got something for nothing here. Ed couldn't keep the kids out of the military's hands, but he cleared their names without expecting anything in return.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 37: "The Flame Alchemist, The Bachelor Lieutenant & The Mystery of Warehouse 13"

In this comedy interlude, 2nd Lt. Jean Havoc has been investigating Mustang under orders from internal affairs, and he enlists several comrades to help. However, Mustang's theft of Havoc's potential girlfriends is negatively affecting Havoc's productivity, so Mustang orders Warrant Officer Vato Falman to find Havoc a date. Armstrong recommends his sister, who rejects Havoc because she expected someone more muscular. In the other half of the episode, Mustang is roped by his subordinates into investigating the mystery of the "haunted" thirteenth warehouse that appears out of nowhere.

I'll cover this one real quick: It's an effective comedy episode, but the bit with Havoc is extremely awkward. (And Catherine has big boobs, for some annoying reason.) It's not… noticeably worse than the standard for anime, I suppose, but that's a low bar. The most I can say is that it's a somewhat clever subversion of expectations: the man thinks he's generously overlooking the woman's flaws, but he's the one who's rejected in the end.

I am very amused by the gag of Havoc being comatose throughout the entire second half, though.

I have to say this is a really weird spot for comedic relief. The plot is just amping up, and this throws a wrench into the momentum.

There is a surprising amount of plot here as well setting us up for the next sequence in Liore: Archer and Mustang are assigned to quell the uprising, while Sheska looks further into Hughes' murder. Archer also reports findings on the Fifth Laboratory to Bradley, saying that Grand was covering up his research and it could be useful to the military. Bradley dismisses it, saying it's forbidden science. I'm not getting a good read on him.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 38: "With the River's Flow"

After wrecking the tractor that Winry stole for them, Edward and Alphonse have arrived at a town after a long walk. They separate after getting into an alchemy-enhanced argument about what they should do next. Alphonse then bumps into an old acquaintance, Marta. Meanwhile, Winry meets with Sheska in Central, and the two decide to launch their own investigation into the murder of Hughes. They discover what Hughes had discovered about Juliet Douglas, and then eavesdrop on a conversation she has with Envy.

We open with Winry visiting Hughes' grave. Sheska runs into her there.

Ed blames Winry for the tractor breaking down on them. His hair is fluffed up comedically after it explodes.

Al says no one will sell them a car because they're kids. Isn't Ed 16 now?

Al argues they should deal with the homunculi before going after Scar. Ed traps him with stone arms, and Al summons fancy statues that douse Ed with water. The breaking point is Al requesting they talk with Hoenheim, at which point Ed leaves. But, wouldn't they need to find Hoenheim first? That doesn't seem like a good use of their time. This seems a little contrived, I must say; Scar is the only person they have any leads on.

Winry and Sheska get each others' names wrong and are adorably awkward.

Ed eats at a restaurant and sulks about Al not being there.

Cartoon when Sheska cries over Hughes' murder. A bit awkward.

Ah, the reason Al wanted to go after the homunculi is because he's worried about Sloth.

Sheska has figured out the same things about Juliet Douglas. Comedic exaggerated expressions when she freaks out over it, which is not very appropriate. She goes on to decide Douglas must be an alien. I'm really not sure what's going on here – combined with the last episode, the writers may have gotten complaints things were getting too dark and felt the need to inject more humor into this.

Winry decides to wiretap Sloth, which is pretty smart.

Martel wants revenge on the homunculi, and is following the Elrics in the hopes of learning more.

Winry can lockpick, too!

Al wants Martel to give up on revenge and live her life, but she says that, as a chimera, there's no life for her. I dunno, she seems able to pass for human pretty easily. It's not like people even know human chimeras can exist. She'd probably be fine if she kept her head down or fled the country.

Al refuses to help Martel take her revenge, thinking she's just like Scar.

Winry's wiretap picks up Sloth talking to Envy. Sloth admonishes him for using a public line.

Sloth figures out they wiretapped her, and slips into the access tunnels to attack them. Winry recognizes her as Trisha, which makes her pause long enough for Brosh and Ross to rescue Winry. Sloth is awfully slow during the chase sequence – she was able to move pretty fast to drown that guy in episode 24.

Ed finds Al sitting by the riverbank in a mirror of the flashback.

Martel appears with a probably-stolen motorcycle to help them get to Ishbal.

Ed and Al reminisce about times they've fought. This is where we get the bit about them arguing over who was going to marry Winry.

Conclusion

I'm rather miffed by this episode turning an otherwise-serious plot into comedy just because the girls are involved. Winry's plan is actually quite smart, and it's brave of Sheska to keep investigating when everyone else has given up! But it's all framed as "LOL women thinking they can do things", which is awful.

The Elrics' fight is contrived and unnecessary as it was in 23, though less utterly stupid. It is interesting that Al wants to confront Sloth while Ed is steadfastly ignoring it, but that's not given proper focus and just ends up unclear. Al's motivation is also really oscillating – he wants to ignore Scar when they know he's about to kill people, but once he remembers that revenge is very wrong suddenly stopping Scar is his top priority again? What exactly is his moral stance here?

I will admit I can see why people feel this section of the anime is a slump – Brotherhood may not have had any events that mattered during this period, but it was at least able to fill time. This episode, by contrast, is just empty aside from the Central plot. I think it likely the whole Ed/Al subplot could have been cut and have Martel just show up next episode.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 39: "Secret of Ishbal"

On the train ride to a military base near Lior, Mustang is dismayed to discover that Kimblee is a part of the force and has been reinstated as a state alchemist by Archer, who has been promoted to Colonel for this operation. The Elrics and Marta arrive in Ishbal, and are surprised to find that only ruins remain. There, they discover that 2nd Lts. Breda and Havoc have been spying on them, and they are brought to Mustang, who puts the Elric brothers under his supervision. At dinner, Mustang shows Ed an aerial view of Lior, which reveals that Scar, who has been dragging a giant rock around the city, gouging the earth, is creating a giant Grand Arcanum transmutation circle, which upsets Ed. Ed then goes to Colonel Archer and asks to go undercover into Lior to investigate the area for the military. Archer agrees on the condition that Al is left behind so Ed does not have the will to "go AWOL". He then leaves after giving Armstrong his silver pocket watch.

Winry doesn't want to tell Ross and Brosh any details, just vaguing that something's up with the military. Is she afraid they'll be targeted if they know?

Cartoonface when Winry tells Sheska she'll have to leave her books. I feel like Winry is carrying the plot okay, but Sheska is really dragging her down with all the awkward comedy.

Cartoonface with Al when Martel pulls a knife on Ed. Not the time.

Martel is okay with Ed killing Greed because she figured he wanted to die. That's a bit convenient.

Martel makes a quip about eating snakes being cannabilism, which is a little clever.

There's a short gag when Martel is offended when Ed calls her old. Not necessary.

We see the animals the chimeras were fused with during the flashback.

I'm not sure what Martel's reveal adds, honestly? The official inciting event was already orchestrated by Envy, if memory serves. The reveal that they incited Ishbal with an earlier attack seems redundant, and also a lot less meaningful than a single small action causing this huge avalanche.

Archer actually moves for his gun during Ed's obligatory shortness freakout gag.

Ed is hogging all the food when they eat.

Ed confronts Mustang over hiding Liore's situation from him. He feels responsible, but Mustang said he'd get too emotional.

Ed meets the bartender from the first episode when he returns to Liore. We end with Lust and Gluttony overlooking the area as they did in episode 2, before Ed runs into Scar. Meanwhile, Martel sees Kimblee and attacks him. Double cliffhanger!

I will admit that the leadup to this seemed pretty pointless – if it's common knowledge that Ishbal is in ruins, why are the Elrics surprised, and what did they expect to find there? The driving question of the past few episodes ends up leading nowhere. If the real action was taking place in Liore, the plot should have taken them there sooner. Still, things are starting to move again. I'm particularly liking that we're finally getting teeth to the threat that Ed will be forced to serve the military in the event of another Ishbal.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 40: "The Scar"

After arriving in Lior, Ed finds his old acquaintance Rosé, who is now called "Holy Mother" and unable to speak. He also runs into Scar, and the two of them begin battling in an alley, to be interrupted by Lust and Gluttony. Al and Marta are shocked to find Kimblee at the military base, and Marta, acting out of rage, attacks Kimblee, and after a failed attempt to injure Marta by sacrificing a soldier, Kimblee finds himself fighting Al, who is protecting Marta. The battle is broken up by Mustang. Scar reveals his past to Ed, at the insistence of Rosé and Lyra, who is acting as Rosé's voice. Before the war, Scar's brother lost his fiance due to a fatal illness, and tried to use alchemy to bring her back, but instead created Lust. His brother then went on to create the Philosopher's Stone, and it is revealed where Scar's tattooed arm comes from, and the X-shaped scar on his face. He then reveals his plans to use the Grand Arcanum to create another Philosopher's Stone, but not by sacrificing the people of Lior, but by sacrificing the soldiers of the military. Führer Bradley arrives at the military base, and has a private conversation with Kimblee, where he is given the instructions to go into Lior and cause trouble, and return with Ed's dead body. Marta overhears this and also discovers that Bradley is actually Pride, the seventh and final homunculus, whose Ultimate Eye is hidden under the eyepatch. She encounters Al and hides inside him, but Bradley comes and sticks his sword inside Al, tragically killing Marta.

Al stops Martel from killing Kimblee. Kimblee promptly throws a people-bomb at them. Al is an idiot.

Al saves Martel by grabbing her and jumping from the balcony, but… Martel is still landing on armor, that's gotta hurt.

Kimblee gloats about Martel and Al not being people, and Al fights him. He pulls out chalk to draw a transmutation circle awfully quickly, and raises pillars of stone. Kimblee immediately turns them into bombs, but Al seals him in a box, trapping him in the explosion. What happened to not killing people, Al? Kimblee conveniently survives, somehow. Mustang shows up and does not do anything despite Kimblee explicitly telling him he plans to kill Al.

Ed learns Scar killed Nina and gets angry, saying it's not their place to decide things like that.

Ed foils Scar's destruction technique by changing the metal in his automail. Shouldn't that mean Scar ought to have trouble with chimeras, too? Of course, he not only tells Scar this, but also confirms that this is messing up his automail. No, Ed, stop being dumb.

Scar manages to grab Ed's flesh arm. Ed tries to slash him, but is stopped by the homunculi. Ed spews hot steam at them, and is surprised when they regenerate.

Scar takes out the locket he dug up, which makes Lust BSOD.

We get the full flashback with Lust and Scar's brother. It seems he did use her corpse as a base, but still produced a mess. Judging from where the blood is, it appears he lost his reproductive organs? So a male version of what happened to Izumi, though he seems a lot more functional than her.

Dante-Lyra pretends to be surprised when Ed reveals where homunculi come from. She then freely divulges that Dante created a homunculus too. Why?

Ed deduces that someone must be collecting and aiding the homunculi, since they're in no condition to do that on their own when they're first created. Dante-Lyra is suspiciously silent on this.

Flashback to Kimblee attacking Scar. He gave him his scar and blew up his arm due to choosing to blow him up a piece at a time – a bit forced, but not out of character. Not sure how Scar's eyelids survived, though, since the scar passes over them.

Scar's arm absorbs Philosopher's Stones in an attempt to complete itself. If we accept that the tattoo is a special type that can absorb souls one at a time, that checks out.

Ed pieces together that Rose was raped by the military. I've heard this come up a lot as an example of why OG is misogynist, and I honestly think that's incredibly uncharitable and reductive. I mean, for one thing, we're not shown it and we're not even explicitly told; if this was really just some sadistic male fantasy, we'd be wallowing in it. But, well, this is the kind of thing that happens during war. If you're going to write a story about the evils of the military, it's not wrong to follow that to its logical if awful conclusion. Pretending everyone in an occupied territory will be fine until the heroes conveniently arrive, as Brotherhood does, is just incredibly ignorant and dishonest. If a story wants to criticize military culture and imperialism, it has to show what that actually means.

Martel holds a knife to Bradley's throat but stupidly does not kill him. She wants him to revoke the orders, but he just met in secret; if she kills him now, the orders won't go through. It's not like it would even affect the plot if she did, since he's unkillable and we're about to reveal him as a homunculus anyway.

We see Bradley effortlessly dodging Martel's lightning-fast attacks, which is a far better demonstration of the Ultimate Eye than what we got in Brotherhood, in my opinion. Bradley also has a scar under the eyepatch.

Bradley kills Martel the same way he did in Brotherhood, but there's no blood on his sword, for some reason. He covers it better by saying he thought Martel was threatening Al.

Hm. I do like that Martel gets to stick around longer than in Brotherhood, but she doesn't really do much more, and still dies pretty stupidly (though her more rational motivation is an improvement). I do think this is a much better place for the Bradley reveal, though. It happens way, way too early in Brotherhood – knowing the evilness goes straight to the top only a quarter of the way through the story kills a lot of the mystery and makes the narrative pretty black-and-white. OG has taken pains to hide Bradley's connection to the villains even as the evidence has piled up against him, giving him plausible deniability and a seemingly benevolent relationship to the characters. This is timed well as a climactic reveal showing us that no, the homunculi really do control the entire government. And it's paired perfectly with Ed informing us there's someone else pulling the strings, too!

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 41: "Holy Mother"

Scar, speaking for Rosé, tell the people of Lior to lure the military into the city, but not to provoke them. Kimblee, with a group of chimeras, attack civilians in the city, and Scar instructs the civilians to leave the city, so that he can create the Philosopher's Stone when the military arrives. Ed sends a letter to Mustang explaining all that's happening in Lior, and advising him to keep the military from entering the city. Mustang and his group learn about what happened at Laboratory Five in Central, and how a Philosopher's Stone is made. Mustang tells Alphonse to go into Lior and find his brother. Archer prepares to assault the city of Lior, but is ordered to wait by Bradley. When Lust asks Pride why he told Archer to wait, he said he was acting upon their master's orders. Angry, Lust decides to go into Lior alone so she can help Scar create the Philosopher's Stone. Ed and Rosé help the civilians exit the city of Lior, and Wrath and Sloth confront Ed. Wrath's weakness is revealed, and Wrath then attacks Rosé, who manages to speak and call out to Ed to get his attention. Scar confronts Kimblee, and they begin an alchemic battle, causing more destruction in the city. Alphonse intercedes by trapping Kimblee, but he escapes and uses his alchemy to begin transforming Alphonse's armor into a bomb.

We open with Ed seeing the graves of everyone who died in the uprising. Ed is overwhelmed by guilt.

We flashback to discover Martel did successfully tell Al everything. Not sure why we couldn't have done that last episode.

Ed has been imprisoned. Dante visits him, and says "we humans" are weak. Ed says she smells weird, and Dante passes it off as perfume. So she's already begun to rot. Ed says he doesn't like the smell. Foreshadowing!

Ed sends a letter telling the military to stop the assault, preventing Scar from getting his ingredients. The homunculi convene and tell Bradley to do it anyway, but he says Dante has ordered him not to. I presume she gave the messenger another letter for him. Lust points out the only reason they're following Dante is for the Stone, so she's going to help Scar do it anyway.

Back in Liore, Dante insists they should make a break for it and tell everyone what happened here. Ed says it'd just become another story of a failed Philosopher's Stone, so he won't. Dante looks irritated at this, so I guess that's what she was hoping for.

Sloth delivers Wrath but does not reveal herself to Ed.

The cry of Rose's baby makes Wrath flip out.

Ed argues that homunculi are nothing but illusions who falter in the face of the real thing, which I think is nice imagery.

Wrath says he has no weakness, since his own body was used as ingredients for his resurrection. I guess homunculi have better memory than human babies. While this does address a neat loophole, it does raise the question of why it's a unique case – I should think that using the corpse ought to be the first thing anyone would try.

Al arrives to stupidly insist everyone stop fighting. Kimblee uses the opportunity to transmute Scar's arm into a bomb, so Scar tears it off. Woah. I don't like the way the blood from his stump is animated, though; looks too goopy. And shouldn't he be bleeding out, since there are vital arteries in the shoulder?

Scar runs Kimblee through, but he somehow survives long enough to throw Ed's pocketwatch at Scar. Ah, that's clever; he learned the absorption incapacitates him earlier. And this also explains why Cornello thought the pocketwatches let you transmute without a circle, actually! If they used to stuff red stones in there, that would actually be true.

Oh, Sloth does appear to Ed. She accuses him of making her wrong, which makes him BSOD.

Rose echoes Ed's own advice at him, which is a nice callback. It's actually pretty appropriate, since Ed is collapsed.

We get a bunch of still images for the final sequence, but they're intercut with proper animation, so I presume it's for coolness rather than lack of budget this time.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 42: "His Name is Unknown"

Al's armor is slowly transforming into an explosive compound following Kimblee's attack. With Ed helping the Liorites escape, Scar is the only one who can help Al. Scar then proceeds to turn Al into the Philosopher's Stone. Seeing that Kimblee had been killed by Scar, Archer orders the military army into Lior to take him down. After multiple gunshot wounds in protecting Lust, Scar takes his last breath and transmutes the whole city with himself and the soldiers inside. Upon seeing the destruction, Ed races to find Scar. Finding his brother alive, Ed soon realizes what Scar has done. Lust then appears, instructing the brothers to start running; that they will soon be sought after.

Animators didn't bother drawing an exit wound for Kimblee. Boo. The blood spot is also higher up on his body, in a place where it should have been immediately fatal.

Al says it's hard to talk. Ed was worried about messing up the blood seal when he repaired him earlier, so it could be that any alteration to the armor messes him up.

New, and final, OP! Kind of an odd to do that in the middle of an arc, but okay. The visuals are quite good – we get a shot of Hoenheim, a prominent shot of Dante-Lyra, and a lot of battles with the homunculi. I think I liked the previous one's melody better, though. Looking at the lyrics, the OPs do seem to follow an interesting theme: the first one is about destroying memories, the second one is about never looking back, the third one is about holding onto memories, and this one is about the dissonance between memories and self-actualization.

Sloth undulates under her clothes while she's luring Ed, which is really creepy. I wonder if she has trouble staying solid.

Sloth changes her clothes into a sexy dress. Nooot necessary, though it's ironically pretty visually similar to Brotherhood!Sloth's overalls.

Dante informs them that homunculi have more than one life, so they'll be back. And how would Lyra know that, hmmm?

Archer says there is no military without evil or corruption.

Scar turns Al into the Philosopher's Stone to save him. I'm a bit confused as to why, though; what has Al ever done for him? Scar put a lot of work into this for the same of stopping the military, but now he's just willing to abandon that for Al's sake? He should also be able to amputate the affected area, like he did for himself.

Scar successfully lures the military to attack using himself as bait. I like that it's implied Lust is helping him, as he shouldn't be able to carry Kimblee's body without arms.

Ah, Scar explains he's helping Al because he sees himself in the Elric brothers. That still feels a little weak, I mean they've done nothing but fight him and try to impede his very justified goals. I can see what the writers were going for in trying to draw parallels between them, but I think this needed more time and interactions to make it develop properly.

Unfortunately, he then goes on to say he doesn't care what the Elrics do with the Stone now that he's given it to them, which makes less sense. He was already the victim of a Stone-amplified massacre; isn't he afraid they'll give the Stone to Amestris and make them even stronger?

Lust asks Scar's name and we get the same line from BH 15 about him forsaking it. Much better placement here.

Liore is completely vaporized after the transmutation, which seems a little odd, but it fits. I guess it was dragging in all raw materials.

New ED. It's strangely slow and contemplative, though not to the same degree as the last one. I still like the second one best. There is a shot of everyone who's died – Trisha, Nina, Hughes, and Scar – which I think is a nice detail for the final stretch, especially as this upcoming arc will be about the heroes confronting their flaws and mistakes.

Conclusion

All right! It's taken a while, but the original plot is finally in full swing. The quality of the early episodes gave me motivation to stick through the slow parts, and now that faith's been rewarded. Look at all the stuff happening! Bringing the story back to where it all began! People facing the consequences of their actions! Resolution to the longstanding mystery of Scar! The heroes actually doing stuff! Major characters dying! And to top it off, the heroes have finally attained the goal stated at the start of the story: the Philosopher's Stone. But the question remains: What will they do with it now, and what comes next? Like the Fifth Laboratory, this feels like a true culmination of all that has come before, while still leaving room for the future. We've been left with many questions and answers. This is how it's done!

I also prefer this resolution for Scar over what he gets in Brotherhood. That may sound strange or sadistic, but… getting to kill Hitler and then live happily ever after just feels too neat to me. Maybe I'm weird, but, and I'll talk about this again at the end, outcomes that are too happy just make me reject them as fake. In reality, people in Scar's position typically do not survive the revolution. They don't get to be in the perfect position to avenge their people and live to fix everything afterwards. They're lucky if they can accomplish anything before they're inevitably gunned down. But Scar did! Scar succeeded at his plan. He wiped out a huge chunk of the military, saved the Liorites, and completed his brother's work. It came at a high cost, but it's a cost all revolutionaries have to be willing to pay. His resolution in Brotherhood is: I will direct my anger at the right person and be the good scary black man. His resolution in OG is: I will die to stop this. And, everything's subjective, but I find that a lot stronger, and more real.

Additionally, I think there's something to be said here that Scar does what the heroes were too afraid to do. We saw this as early as episode 7, when he gave mercy to the pained Nina when Ed froze up at the risk. Ed spends this arc trying to stop Scar, but can't really give a good reason why. You can waffle over if every rank-and-file of the military really deserves it, but the fact remains that Amestris' military is evil, and turning their own methods back upon them is a powerfully ironic revenge. Scar is in many ways a truer hero than the Elrics, willing to make real sacrifices instead of demanding the world let him have his cake and eat it too. Equivalent exchange, eh?

But he's not here to bail Ed out of his indecision anymore. From now on, Ed's going to have to make the hard choices on his own.

Oh, and, after all that stuff in Brotherhood, I am also perversely amused by how sidelined Mustang is here. This was Scar's show, and the writers knew better than to dilute that by cramming other characters in where they weren't wanted.

I did have several nitpicks, but I feel that they really are nitpicks, rather than things that truly break the story. I can't get a good grasp on Al's motivation, but his involvement isn't very important, so it doesn't feel like an idiot ball is necessary to move the plot. (It also pleases me how his constant insistence on absolute pacifism just ends up screwing everything up far worse – intentionally or not, that's a good refutation of the philosophy. See my other favorite anime, Trigun, for more on that!) Scar's motivation for turning Al into the Philosopher's Stone is a little weak, as are the mechanics of how, exactly, it's supposed to undo Kimblee's transmutation, but everything else is so wonderfully done that I am willing to give it a pass, especially given how many options it gives the story going forward.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 43: "The Stray Dog"

A complete stranger tries to strike up a conversation with Winry upon the arrival of Winry and Sheska in Resembool. Pinako introduces him to Winry as Edward and Alphonse's father, Hohenheim of Light. Meanwhile, the Elric brothers flee Lior for Resembool, while Mustang's brigade, on orders from Bradley to capture the boys, is in hot pursuit. Once cornered, Mustang explains to the brothers that he is not after them due to military orders, but because he is angry at them for not seeking his protection.

Whoops, looks like I've been spelling Hohenheim's name wrong all this time. Eh, I'm too lazy to go back and fix it now.

Winry assumes Hoenheim was staring at her because she's beautiful. The sexist jokes around Winry and Sheska continue to be irritating.

Hoenheim mistakes her for someone else and is generally a total dork. LOL.

Oh, but Winry realizes Sara was her mom's name. And Hoenheim remarked that she was "all grown up", foreshadowing his longevity.

Winry plays with the dog while she talks with Pinako. That's cute.

Pinako is shocked to see Hoenheim.

Hoenheim says he "can't seem to locate [his] house". This is after we saw him moping over the ruins. LOL.

Oh, the opening spiel's changed to reflect that they now have the Philosopher's Stone! That's a really cool way of signifying we're in the home stretch now.

In the desert, Ed is quickly exhausted but Al says his body feels really light now. That's a nice detail.

They're running because they know Bradley's a homunculus and after the Stone. Good on them for being proactive!

Ed causes a reaction when he touches Al, and they get a flash of the Gate. Ed is afraid that if they use up all the energy, Al will disappear.

Ed plans to head to Resembool. He acknowledges it's where the military will look first, but he has to get Trisha's remains to fight Sloth.

Shot of wounded soldiers being transported. One of them writhes around before turning at the last second to show half his head is gone. Yikes.

Bradley notices that it's suspicious Ed insisted on pursuing Scar into the city and has now disappeared. He orders Mustang to apprehend him, saying it'll be Mustang's neck on the line if he fails. That's a clever way to deal with both his problems at once.

Bradley steps into a cargo car to meet with the homunculi. Lust has been crucified.

Hoenheim is sitting by Trisha's grave and looking weary. He says he has difficulty tracking the passage of time.

Hoenheim tells Winry her parents' deaths were sad, but Winry says it's more complicated than that, because she knows who killed them and has to sort through those feelings.

Brosh and Ross visit the Rockbells'. Madcap comedy when Sheska freaks out.

Brosh has a bandage over his nose in the next scene. LOL.

Ross is going behind the government's back to prove the Elrics' innocence. Brosh is just obliviously along for the ride.

Hoenheim says he remembers when there weren't any railroads in Resembool. Ross realizes that was over a hundred years ago.

Ed transmutes the dirt into a tarp to cover Al.

Hacov levels a gun at Ed, who grabs it with his automail. Al jumps up, which startles Havoc into firing. The explosion injures Havoc and Fuery.

Ed uses alchemy to inflate Breda and Falman's suits into balloons.

Falman insists Ed can prove his innocence during the formal inquiry. Hah.

Winry and Sheska come through on a motorcycle. Riza disables it with a single shot.

Winry confronts Mustang about killing her parents, but he doesn't respond.

Ed turns the rocks into a rolling boulder they ride past the soldiers. Seems pretty dangerous! Mustang blows it up with a fireball.

Mustang taunts Ed, saying if he's not a dog of the military he's just an idiot kid.

Ed creates a geyser that soaks Mustang's gloves.

Oh, but he uses the matches he stole from Havoc! Clever! He uses it to turn Armstrong's spears into shrapnel, which seems pretty fatal! They actually do explain that Armstrong left some air inside, so that actually could explain the explosion – and the earlier bouldersplosion, if we assume alchemy is sloppy and leaves air pockets in the objects.

Mustang gives a speech saying that after he killed the Rockbells he told himself he'd never follow an order he disagreed with, and that the reason he's chasing the Elrics is actually because he's angry they didn't trust him enough to come to him for help. That's sort of sweet, but also kind of messed up. You coulda told them that before you pointed guns at them, Mustang.

Conclusion

The first thing that struck me about this is how much more likable Hoenheim is. We get an excuse for why he's taken so long, we have him react to characters like he's a human and not a plot dispensary, and we see him looking genuinely aggrieved as he spends all his time hanging out in the cemetery. We also get big hints that something's up with him, tantalizing us with future mysteries.

I'm also struck by just how dark the series is going with the military theme. Ed understands that their goals are fundamentally incompatible with the military, and that if they are caught at all it will mean terrible things. The villains aren't just going to let Ed do whatever he wants: he's already outlived his usefulness now, and he knows it. We're given teeth to the "dog of the military" mantra, showing Ed can't escape them so easily and putting him in conflict with his former allies. Though there aren't many blows exchanged in this battle, the emotional tension runs high.

Mustang is still a dick, though. Learn how to express your feelings in ways other than violence, Colonel Toxic Masculinity.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 44: "Hohenheim of Light"

Rosé and Lyra descend a secret staircase in an old church and meet with the homunculi who bow to them. Later, Hohenheim decides to confront the leader of the homunculi, Lyra. He calls her Dante and offers to tell her why her body rots, if she leaves his sons alone in exchange. Ed and Al learn about Hughes' death.

The church looks like a Christian one. It's in disrepair, and Dante says it's from an old religion that is no longer practiced. Rose says it looks like the temple of Leto. So it seems my hypothesis was likely correct; these monotheistic faiths are splinters of Christianity.

Dante uses alchemy to repair a stained-glass window containing a transmutation circle that activates the secret passage. Seems like it'd be more efficient to just activate the secret passage, unless different circles have different energy requirements.

Dante says the old religion only recognized one god and declared all others as heathen, and waged lots of wars over it. So yeah, Christianity. Rose says that's awful and that religions should be used to help people. A purposeful jab? It's an interesting choice, considering anime normally loves Christian imagery.

Back to the Elrics. Cartoonface on Sheska when Al reveals Bradley is a homunculus; everyone else has serious expressions.

And a quick cartoon skit when Ed reveals Sloth's a homunculus and Sheska still thinks she's an alien. Ugh.

Team Mustang can't believe Bradley's a homunculus, citing all the plausible deniability he's built up. Good planning, Bradley!

Only now does Ed apologize for injuring Fuery and Havoc. But at least he does apologize.

The subject of Ed's watch comes up. Cartoonface when Al explains, which I think is appropriate. It leads to something serious: they learn about the red stones!

Mustang reveals that was something they did during the Ishbal war, and Ed flips out at him for knowing about the red stones and not telling him. Ah, because if he knew he could have told them at the start. Mustang defends himself by saying he thought the research was discontinued, but Ed still yells that he can't trust him.

Al tries to stop him and gets thrown into the river by the alchemic blowback. Ed freaks out, but Al pops back out like a majestic dolphin. LOL.

Al blabs about being the Philosopher's Stone and even takes off his helmet to show the red glow. It's a bit stupid of him, but he is pretty giddy, and he's been established as childish before.

Hohenheim is on a date with Ross. He's actually pretty sweet, though this seems like it contradicts his later statement that Trisha is the only woman he's ever loved.

Ed runs up and punches him. A much better introduction than in Brotherhood. I approve.

Al runs up as well, but stalls when he realizes Hohenheim won't recognize him. But Hohenheim does anyway! Aw, that's sweet.

Then Hohenheim tries to connect with Ed by asking if he still hates milk, to which Ed gives his standard rage and kicks him (with the metal leg!). Hohenheim cries hilariously.

Brosh angsts over how Ross prefers Hohenheim over him. While I don't like the trope of the opposite-gender background characters always needing to be in love, the subversion is appreciated.

This leads to a serious bit where Ed says he always hated Hohenheim's cologne… just like he hated Dante's perfume. Foreshadowing!

Ed says Hohenheim never sent them a single letter, even though episode 3 was all about that. Oops, plot hole!

Hohenheim overhears them mentioning Dante and gasps. He realizes he was holding the dog's leg too tightly, and apologizes.

Winry goes into a jealous rage over Ed even mentioning Lyra because lolwomen. :/

Mustang talks to Hohenheim outside about Bradley being a homunculus. Hohenheim displays a surprising amount of knowledge about homunculi, and confirms that they get their form and powers only after they eat red stones. He speculates that Bradley is changing his appearance over time to give the illusion of aging.

Hohenheim says that whatever the case, the country seems to be doing fine, so they needn't worry themselves.

Al asks why homunculi can't use alchemy, and Hohenheim says it's because they come from the other side of the Gate.

He quickly changes the subject to catching up on all the time he's been away, but Ed gets angry. Al insists he wants to stay outside with Hohenheim.

Ah, because he wants to talk about the Philosopher's Stone. Hohenheim says he could use it to attach his soul to another person's body. Foreshadowing! But Hohenheim insists the only way to get Al's original body back is to give back whatever he obtained for it. Al thinks that defeating Sloth will accomplish this.

The next morning, Hohenheim leaves from his tent.

Riza salutes Ed as she leaves. Ed hesitates, and chooses to wave instead. That's a nice detail.

Ed figures out the homunculi were behind the Ishbalan war as well, and have been instigating conflicts to create Philosopher's Stones. Sheska lets slip that Hughes must have been killed because he found this out too. Ed flips out and tries to chase after Mustang for keeping this from him.

There is discussion over how Mustang could temper his feelings so much. Sheska says she thought he didn't care about Hughes, but realizes that he's actually trying to achieve his goal of becoming Fuhrer, and not letting personal feelings get in the way of that. Ed insists that's still not an excuse. It's interesting to have all this so soon after Scar.

Cut to Hohenheim blasting the door open in Dante's sanctum. He says he recognizes Dante from her perfume.

Cool alchemy battle. Dante summons gargoyles, and Hohenheim fights them with animated ice statues that look like Al.

Dante's rot stops around her waist. I wonder if it starts in the center and radiates outward?

We end on Ed digging up Trisha's bones.

Conclusion

Once again, I'm amazed by how well-written Hohenheim is here. He truly feels like a regretful deadbeat trying and failing to reconnect with everyone. He's much less cool and untouchable than he was in Brotherhood; he's not all business, and in fact tries to skirt around the topic even as Al tries to push for it. He's no longer just a plot device in human form. I feel sympathy for him, but also sympathy for Ed's frustration and Al's confusion at Ed's frustration. There are so many complex emotions interweaving here.

And to say nothing of the plot! There is so much plot here! So much foreshadowing, so many answers we're getting followed by new questions, and the characters are finally putting all the pieces together themselves. The villain's identity has been revealed at last. Everything is coming to a head.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 45: "A Rotted Heart"

As Hohenheim battles the leader of the homunculi, who is revealed to be Dante, their common history is revealed.

Really, Wikipedia? That’s all you’ve got?

Dante decides to try seducing him instead, saying she wants to try out this young body. It is a little misogynist for the woman to do that, but it's a common trope for body-hoppers to be fixated on appearance and eternal youth.

Dante also says she's had many husbands. My wonky translation doesn't make it clear if she just means the many Hohenheims or if she was actually taking other lovers.

Dante says they first met 400 years ago.

They used accused witches and plague sufferers for their Stone ingredients.

The reaction drained Hohenheim as well, forcing her to use the Stone to bind his soul to another man. This could be an explanation for why Dante doesn't want to make the Stone herself: the transmutation tends to kill the alchemist as well.

Lust realizes that this was the real reason Dante made them search for a Stone, and is shocked. Dante says it became necessary to find a new Stone after Hohenheim left her.

...And after all that, we cut to Winry and Sheska arguing over cooking.

And more comedy as they freak out over the phone.

Shou calls himself "Shaw-chan" over the phone. So once again we have a villain pretending to be a woman. I was willing to write it off as "well, that's just a good disguise" with Barry, but twice is a vaguely transphobic pattern.

Ed lies about digging up Trisha, and in return Al lies about Tucker. Trust each other, brothers! :(

Cut to Mustang being interrogated. He successfully convinces the high command that the Elrics fled north. He also casts doubts on Juliet Douglas, which makes Bradley glare at him. Outside, we see that he's been sweating.

There's a gag about Havoc crushing on the nurse.

Mustang figures out that Amestris is the homunculi's grist mill: By driving neighboring countries to desperation through war and oppression, they push people to make a Philosopher's Stone. I find this a much better reveal than "they founded the country just to transmute it". You don't need to establish a specific culture or government conspiracy to do that; countries kind of exist on their own. But creating a country that transmutes other countries, that is something you need to put effort into. It's also simultaneously more reasonable than drawing a transmutation circle around an entire country, and putting more moral imperative on the heroes: by participating in this culture, they're aiding the villains.

Ed uses alchemy to dye his hair black and encase Al inside a statue.

Ed says he can't take revenge for Hughes because that would make Scar's death meaningless. ???

And finally we cut back to Hohenheim and Dante. He explains that their souls are deteriorating, and can no longer sustain their bodies. In the dub, he says they "leave some strength behind" with every transfer. That's interesting… it's somewhat similar to the reveal in Brotherhood about souls rejecting incompatible hosts. Dante insists she can just keep transferring.

Hohenheim says he left Dante a bit of Philosopher's Stone that she used up in the transfer to Lyra.

Hohenheim loses it when he sees Sloth, and flashbacks to his life with Trisha. He left because he saw his body was starting to rot. The spot we see is his shoulder. He's so stunned he lets Sloth entrap him.

Dante starts talking about the Gate. Yessss. She calls it the source of power for alchemy, and wonders what lies on the other side. She says that the Gate lies inside everyone, but a newborn has a stronger connection to it because their soul is still young. She demonstrates with Rose's baby, drawing a transmutation circle on it and using it to open the Gate. It takes Hohenheim. His last words are that he knows Ed and Al will be alright, because they're Trisha's children.

Wrath PTSDs over the Gate's appearance and goes to Sloth for comfort.

Dante frees Lust, and tells her to retrieve the Stone.

Dante wants Rose to fit into her dress size, implying she plans to use her for the next transfer.

We cut to Ed on the train. The search party repeatedly makes jabs about his height, but Ed contains himself. The search party gets suspicious of the statue, but Ed steals Al away.

Ed wore platform boots to make himself taller. Hah, that's clever! He throws his cloak away, though, which is less clever.

Al offers to use alchemy to cover their escape, but Ed tells him not to because he's scared of what might happen if Al tries alchemy.

Back in Central, Mustang and Armstrong conclude that Bradley is onto them, as he's sending them to the front lines. Armstrong wonders why they aren't being attacked now, and Mustang says it would be too suspicious if they killed him so quickly after Hughes. Ah, so that's addressing that. Good move!

Ed meets with Izumi and asks for a part of her baby's corpse. She understands he plans to fight the homunculi.

Meanwhile, Al sneaks off to meet with Tucker. This is what you get for being so secretive, Ed! Tucker's going to teach him how to use the Philosopher's Stone. And then we end!

Conclusion

Well, that's it for Hohenheim! (Mostly.) This is a much better and more tasteful use of him than Brotherhood's The Adventures of the Spotlight-Stealing Dad: he tries to confront the villain as soon as he can, and fails. We get one good fight scene out of him, previewing the villain's capabilities and establishing how strong both of them are, before he is defeated in an emotionally meaningful way. This makes perfect sense as a role for him: he's the mentor character who paves the way for the heroes to outgrow him, because unlike some shows OG actually cares about giving the protagonist that dignity. And the specific method of his demise even gives us more clues towards the ultimate mystery!

I've also heard some people claim that his relationship to the villain here is dumber than in Brotherhood. Sorry, CAN'T RELATE. In OG, he's not just some poor innocent victim who never did anything wrong. He was actively complicit in the villain's schemes from the beginning. His sins are very much real. Yet despite that, I think I feel more sympathy for him, because his actions are more understandable. I still don't understand why he left in Brotherhood (something something protecting them from Father?), but here he's going to give a reason I think makes a lot of sense. He's a complicated figure: you can't just write him off, and in a way that's more painful than if he's all bad, isn't it? He's a pretty good depiction of a deadbeat dad: like his sons, we don't know whether to blame him or forgive him.

Also, is it just me, but does he look older and more tired than he does in Brotherhood?

As I hinted at in the Brotherhood liveblog, Dante is infinitely more engaging than Father to me. I'll talk about this more as we continue, but a crucial part of OG for me is its humanity. The homunculi want to become human, but ultimately we learn that the true villain is a mere human herself. Her motivation is not some tired shonen cliché about godpower that makes us lose all sense of scale, but the very human desire for eternal life, and the very human evil she's willing to commit for it. I can understand Dante. I can understand the homunculi. In them we can see all our own evils, foibles, and desires. And that's just so much more interesting as a narrative than fighting some unknowable god-monster who only wants to become more of a god-monster. (This is, incidentally, the main reason I chose her as my avatar: I think she represents a lot of the things that make OG unique from Brotherhood.)

Lastly, something to think on: We know the Philosopher's Stone requires an inordinate number of sacrifices. The Philosopher's Stone also grants eternal life. We have been told that alchemy operates under equivalent exchange; but if this were truly equivalent, shouldn't one life equal one life?

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 46: "Human Transmutation"

Tucker makes a deal with Alphonse, offering to show Alphonse how to use the philosopher’s stone in exchange for using the stone to resurrect his daughter Nina, while Lust offers to help Edward in exchange for making her human.

Tucker invokes equivalent exchange during his bargain.

We cut to Izumi and Ed discussing Dante. There is a flashback where Izumi argues with Dante about using alchemy for the good of others. Dante tells her to become a State Alchemist if she wants to help people so much… interesting. Izumi asks if she likes people at all, and Dante says she doesn't. She gives a speech that's actually pretty similar to some of the things Envy says in Brotherhood, that humans are violent and savage and will just abuse any power they're given. Izumi shoots back that she herself is human, and Dante doesn't answer. Hmm. I wonder how much is truth and how much is deception? Certainly it would make sense for Dante to want to hoard her power, but I wonder if she really believes what she says – is this how she justifies Amestris to herself, thinking that people would find a reason for war anyway, so they might as well do it for her? Is she projecting her own emptiness onto others? A lot to reflect on here.

Izumi discovered a love letter from Hohenheim to Dante. Good sleuthing! She notices that the date is written in the Christian calendar, and confirms that Christianity is out of practice now. She gives the date as 400 years ago.

Ed seems to come to the conclusion that Hohenheim is the leader of the homunculi. Ah, that's actually a reasonable deduction – he believes Dante was killed by a homunculus, and Izumi just told him there's bad blood between them. But ohoho, how ironic, especially considering Brotherhood.

Ed apologizes to Izumi. Because he's going to kill Wrath?

Mustang pulls strings to keep Fuery out of danger, which is good of him.

He then takes Fuery's glasses and puts them on Riza to assess how she looks, which is kinda creepy. I guess it's reasonable if they are in a relationship, but otherwise, enh.

Bradley promotes both Mustang and Armstrong, and says he hopes the rumors about Mustang are unfounded – that he's planning a coup? So I guess this is some "I know you know" posturing. He goes on to say Archer is still alive – ah, that was the guy missing half his head. I guess he got hit by the edge of the blast.

Bradley has a secret elevator to Dante's mansion underneath Central, which… appears to be part of a city? I think we learn more about that later. Dante confirms that she plans to frag everyone connected to Hughes in the battle.

Envy uses boku? I'm surprised this is the first time I've picked up on that. I guess he does like appearing cute. I suppose it adds a layer of creepy/cute dissonance we English-speakers tragically missed out on.

Envy was supposed to stay in the north, but came to Central because he heard Hohenheim was there. He calls Bradley a "human poseur", and Dante confirms Bradley is a homunculus who can age, "one of [her] masterpieces". I love that that's why he's Pride, by the way – that's utterly brilliant. Dante works very hard on her horrific monstrosities, thank you very much!

Here we get confirmation that Hohenheim was Envy's birth father, and the one who made him. That's a little surprising, I thought that was saved for the very end. I actually do think accompanying that reveal with… everything else that happens in that episode would have greater impact, but I guess some buildup works too.

Bradley asks if Envy misses him, and Envy sends him flying. He then tries to pummel him, but Bradley easily dodges – another nice touch.

Ah, Envy uses ore now. So I guess he switches depending on his mood.

Envy throws a tantrum because he wanted to kill Hohenheim, smashing the floor with his punches. Hm, so he does still have super strength in OG, even though there's less justification for it. I guess we can chalk this up to the homunculi being magic in general.

Dante goads him, and Envy decides he's going to take the Philosopher's Stone from the Elrics before they can use it to restore themselves.

Sloth/Lust/Wrath have broken into the Elrics' room and found a note saying Al is going to meet with Tucker. Wrath is bouncing on the bed, which is cute.

Lust realizes that if Tucker is teaching them to use the Stone, they could use it to humanize the homunculi, too.

Ed returns and gets a faceful of homunculi. He immediately goes for the locket, and makes Lust grab it by accident. Clever!

But then Wrath appears. He absorbs Ed's automail arm. Ed taunts him, saying he'll never be human even if he takes his whole body – even Al, with nothing but a soul, is still more human than him.

Lust turns on Wrath. The automail he absorbed can deflect her spear, which doesn't seem right. Wrath tricks her into impaling the locket, which paralyzes her. Clever!

Wrath breaks off one of her fingers and absorbs it. Yikes!

Ed frees Lust, and now she can impale Wrath through the armor for some reason.

Ed asks why the homunculi want to become human when they're already immortal. Lust says she could say the same thing about Al.

Ed demands to know who the homunculi's master is. Lust says she'll tell him when she becomes human. LOL.

Tucker appears to have succeeded in his human transmutation, but he didn't attach a soul, so that's reasonable. So the Philosopher’s Stone is just to create a proper body. Sloth appears and he freaks out.

Al discovers that a part of his armor has disappeared. Seems like an awful lot just to stitch a body together, considering how much power he's supposed to have.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 47: "Sealing the Homunculus"

As Edward, Lust, Wrath, and Sloth all arrive at the factory where Alphonse went to meet Tucker, a climactic battle ensues, as Edward and Alphonse must finally confront their creation.

Time to see how OG handles a boss fight!

Sloth starts acting motherly towards Al. Al appears to buy it, but he's had a hard day, I'll cut him some slack.

As Wrath revives, he appears to dream of outrunning the Gate. I wonder if the Gate tries to pull them in when they die, or maybe just Wrath? It’s a cool depiction, regardless. Rather than just burning power to regenerate, it looks like they’re using the souls in the red stones to actually escape the Gate -- they’re lives, not HP.

Izumi and Sloth blend together in his memories.

Tucker tries to use Al again and Sloth drowns him. The soulless Nina watches impassively.

Ed makes a new arm out of spare metal. He still appears able to move it like normal, so he must have extended the nerve wires somehow. I find that pretty dubious when in the movie he says he doesn’t know how automail works. I guess the writers wanted the drama of him losing his arm but didn’t want the hassle of returning to Winry every time. It keep the plot moving, so it’s allowable, but it still seems a little contrived.

Oh, looks like she didn't kill Tucker. He shows up to creep on Al some more. Ed sees the hole in the armor. Al says it's equivalent exchange.

Ed turns his arm into a gun… I guess he could be extending the metal very thin. He shoots at Sloth, which obviously does nothing. Tucker is somehow able to dodge despite standing right behind her.

Ed jams the box of remains into Sloth, and she melts.

Al yells at Ed for digging up Trisha's grave without telling him. Ed says he's the only one who needed to go through that. What was he expecting, though? He'd have to tell Al eventually.

Lust reflects on her memories. She points out there's no logical reason homunculi should have them. She thinks it might be the memories of the alchemist that are imbued.

Al throws away Trisha's remains because he's stupid. He thinks that since they made her, it's wrong for them to kill her; Ed insists the reverse.

Wrath absorbs the remains into himself.

Wrath sees Lust attacking Sloth. There's a bit too long of a pause as Ed explains what's going on to Al before Wrath attacks. Wrath absorbs the guns in the warehouse to create a massive gun-arm.

Sloth enters Al's armor and starts pupetting him.

I was about to complain that Wrath couldn't hit anything, but Lust actually does eject a ton of bullets. I feel like we still didn't see any of them connect, though.

Wrath brags that he can't die, but Lust says he actually only has as many lives as he has red stones, so she can still brute-force him. Ah, so that does hold true for this continuity too. I guess the idea is that most of them just have an effectively inexhaustible number of lives.

Lust starts using the same wide swipes I complained about in BH 19, but she actually does seem to be extending them. Wrath is only dodging because he's very agile, as previously established.

Wrath comes across the locket, previously discarded, and tricks Lust onto her own transmutation circle. Is it reasonable she'd forget about that? We don't see the circle because of camera angles, but surely she would have? I would think a homunculi would want to steer clear of a sealing circle even if they're sure they're safe.

In an adjacent warehouse, Sloth uses Al to attack Ed. Since contact causes an unstable reaction, Ed has to stay clear. He draws a transmutation circle using tables in the warehouse and uses it to freeze Sloth.

Meanwhile, Lust vomits up her stones. Wrath sneers that she must have wanted to die if she wanted to become human, and Lust wonders if that's true. Wrath kills her, but wonders if that's true for him too.

We get a flashback to the transmutation from Sloth's perspective. Dante arrived apparently the same night to feed her stones. (The question of how she knew to be there is sort of answered by her saying they're Hohenheim's sons so she knew they'd try it.) Dante confirms that all the homunculi were messes to begin with, and only gain complete forms after eating the red stones. Sloth is confused by Trisha's memories, and Dante says she will understand once she becomes human.

Back in the present, Sloth manages to melt herself by… shivering?

Sloth says that she wants to kill Ed so she can be free of her memories. By killing him, she'll prove she's not the person she remembers.

Ed stabs Sloth, and she suddenly explodes. Ed says he transmuted his automail into sodium. Clever!

Wrath fuses himself with Sloth, which paralyzes her because of the remains. Not so clever, Wrath!

Apparently you can't normally transmute a whole body; even Kimblee only transmutes part of the body. The reason Ed was able to break Greed's shield is because homunculi aren't human, and can be wholly transmuted. Ah, that also explains why people can't do what Wrath does. Ed uses this principle to transmute all of Sloth into ethanol, causing her to evaporate. Oh, and it looks like he actually grabs some elements from the ground first, which explains where he's getting the carbon from. Since the inability to turn water into wine was a plot point earlier, it's good that they actually accounted for that.

And… Winry is watching them? We end quite suddenly.

Conclusion

What a fantastic set of episodes! This had wonderful buildup, and the tactics used in the battle were so clever! You can see that the directors went through a lot of trouble to establish where everything was to make the alchemy plausible. Probably why they chose to set it in a warehouse, haha. And the battle is matched in violence by emotion – the brothers finally face head-on their sin and how they feel about it, and we get even more philosophizing from the homunculi's side. As I said last time, the nature of humanity and personhood are crucial themes to OG, and we see that in full display here. I love how we see Lust's humanity contrasted with her still vicious behavior towards Sloth and Wrath, Wrath's mommy issues, Sloth's anti-mommy issues… It's such a rich picture.

My only real criticism, I think, is that I wish there was more of it! Oddly for OG, I think this felt a little rushed, mainly because Ed and Al have avoided the subject for so long. There wasn't really enough time to have both a satisfying battle and to fully address all these issues. I'd have liked to see Ed and Al discuss this a little more beforehand, maybe get a bit more of Sloth too. That might have alleviated some of Al's idiot ball, too – the only excuse I can come up with is that he must still be mentally 11, but you can only lean on that so far.

That, and, I don't know why they're so cordial to Tucker when Ed was totally willing to punch his face in the first time. I'd have liked to see them still angry about Nina, given how that was such a crucial part of their lives; right now, it feels like they've forgotten about her.

 

Let's update our homunculi list:

  1. Greed is wasted.
  2. Lust defects, and is killed out of vengeance for a loved one.
  3. Sloth is paralyzed.

These two are more poetic than ironic, but I still think they're a lot better executed than Brotherhood's poetic fates. I love that Lust is actually lust – she desires humanity, life, connection, everything that the too-human Dante spurns. So of course she defects. Greed talked a big game about rebelling because he wanted more, but I think Lust has the better, and more meaningful, claim there.

I will admit that Brotherhood!Sloth's fate is probably the most clever of those fates; killing Sloth by outlasting him sort of represents overcoming your own sloth. But agonizingly long battles are not OG's style and, in my opinion, not terribly good storytelling in general, so I find this a much more efficient way of fitting the theme. I do think it's ironic in a more general sense, in that her power is evasiveness: of course she's killed when she's pinned down. Perhaps we could also say that she's sort of killed by anti-sloth, in that she would have survived if Wrath hadn't tried to help, but that's a bit of a reach.

I have to say I'm also finding it interesting how there are strange echoes of Brotherhood in how this plays out. Greed is destroyed by the main villain, the fight moves to Briggs, Ed mistakes Hohenheim for the villain, Sloth is sent to assassinate the heroes and is assassinated herself, Lust brings up the possibility of brute-forcing a homunculi to death… It makes me wonder if these are coincidences, or if they did get a more comprehensive outline than I thought. Or cause and effect could be reversed -- Arakawa may have included those elements later as an homage to the anime.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 48: "Goodbye"

Entrenched at the northern border with Drachma, Armstrong declares his and Mustang's intention to rebel against the Führer. Meanwhile, as the Elrics and Wrath see Sloth evaporate, Envy enters, disguised as Winry, and kidnaps Alphonse. Edward begins to chase after Envy but is stopped by Wrath, who begins attacking him for killing Sloth. Izumi arrives, distracting Wrath, and he runs into the woods, and Edward and Izumi leave to confront the other homonculi. The Tringham brothers have arrived in Central with an important message for the Elric brothers. However, while in a bookstore, Russell pretends to be Edward again to get out of paying for some books. Sadly, Russell and Fletcher find themselves captured, the military believing them to be the real Elric brothers. The Führer sentences them to death, but they are saved by Brosh and Ross. The four of them run into Edward and Izumi, who are trying to find the Führer. However, they are confronted by Archer, who has turned into a cyborg being. Izumi stays to confront Archer, and she orders everyone else to leave. Trying to find another way to reach the Führer, Edward stops a car and notices Mustang and Hawkeye inside, both of whom having been hiding in Central so they can attack the Führer without him expecting. Mustang has Edward enter the car and during the car ride, the duo finally have a chance to repair their friendship before they go their separate ways.

Armstrong convinces the soldiers to follow his cause by citing beauty equals goodness. Probably not the most thematically appropriate thing when you're rebelling against a strongman?

Wrath is burned where he was fused with Sloth. Does ethanol do that?

Envy-Winry says "You finally took care of her?" which gives Envy away. Ah, keeping the girlfriend out of the loop has worked in their favor.

Envy-Winry says Al's the one she really loves, which stuns them just long enough for Envy to grab Al.

Envy punches Al's bloodseal, but Al survives.

Wrath wants to use Al to bring Sloth back.

Wrath attacks Ed, and manages to stun him by saying she was his mother too. Wrath is stopped by his actual mother showing up, but he rejects her and runs off.

Ed reflects on the fact that Wrath cried for her but he didn't.

The Tringhams are in Central. Their impostering backfires now that Ed's a wanted man… but I should think that the Central troops at least should know what they look like.

Tucker has completely lost his mind, but Ed decides to leave him alone.

Trench warfare.

Ah, so Havoc and Fuery were actually sent out as doubles while Mustang and Riza stayed in Central. By inciting the soldiers to rebel, Bradley will send troops away from Central, leaving him vulnerable. That's clever, if cold – those soldiers who joined them are probably gonna die.

The nurse agrees to keep quiet because she's infatuated with Mustang. Enh.

Ed and Izumi are working together to raid the Central command center, but discover Bradley's gone home early.

Archer has become the Terminator. A bit over-the-top, but we did establish they have pretty advanced cybernetics.

Ed points out that even if Mustang beats Bradley, he won't be acknowledged as leader. Eh, why not? They're a military dictatorship. The strong man wins. Mustang says he knows, but he's willing to give that up to avenge Hughes. There's some discussion of how they're clinging to their dreams like children, somewhat similar to the speech from 16.

Ed says he signed up because he thought he wouldn't have to participate in war – that it was always something far off. But the homunculi have made him realize that everyone's involved in war. I really like this. It is pretty clear even in Brotherhood that Ed thought he wouldn't really have to go to war, but it's never really acknowledged there. It's very mature of the story to point out that yeah, that was a selfish and childish decision, and that he should bear more responsibility for everything that's happened.

Ed says he's going to destroy the Philosopher's Stone as well as the legends so no one will ever seek it again. Riza points out his dream was to use the Stone, but Ed says there are more important things than his own dreams.

Mustang moves to salute Ed, but shakes his hand instead.

Conclusion

A slow episode, but reasonably so – we just had a big fight, and this is setting us up for the grand finale. I like that Izumi gets to be awesome and that Ed and Mustang get a chance to reflect on their mistakes. I'm surprised they don't bring up the more pragmatic points, though – if the Fuhrer is an immortal homunculus, of course Mustang's plan of passively rising up the ranks would never work. I'm also a little disappointed Mustang mainly focuses on Hughes and doesn't bring up all the genocide – perhaps that's covered by "everything he's done", but given the topic of acting beyond oneself it's pretty relevant. Also… did Ed tell Mustang how to beat homunculi? He's totally screwed if he doesn't know he needs the remains.

I'm not certain how smart Armstrong's plan is, though. Drawing troops away from a place only really matters if you have an army of your own – Bradley's personal guards are unlikely to go anywhere, and even a few soldiers is an obstacle for a single person. I'll have to see if that gets addressed next.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 49: "The Other Side of the Gate"

Envy delivers Alphonse to the leader of the homunculi in the city hidden beneath Central. Edward soon discovers the city thanks to a page from Nash's diary, leading to a final confrontation with Dante. Edward also learns that Dante is planning to transfer her soul to Rosé's body using the philosopher's stone from within Alphonse. She then sends Edward through the Gate of Truth and he awakens to find himself and Hohenheim in a wartorn London.

We open with Bradley giving his gift to Selim (a toy train). Selim behaves much more like a real kid here, I feel; Brotherhood!Pride was really overacting.

Envy knows Dante is stringing everyone along, but he doesn't care – he just wants to watch the world burn.

Envy reveals that 7000 soldiers were absorbed at Liore. I thought it was 1000? Al gets upset and feels like he should have died instead.

Apparently, Dante's secret city was the "real" Philosopher's Stone lab. Ed enters by just tearing a hole open instead of using Dante's method.

So, the underground city appears to be where Dante and Hohenheim lived 400 years ago. The Tringhams speculate they used everyone in the city to make the Philosopher's Stone, which seems to contradict the flashback in 45 where the city still seemed intact after they made it.

Dante is creeping on Rose. She seems to have been put in some sort of trance.

Gluttony is upset about Lust, but Dante waves him off.

Wrath is upset about Sloth. Dante coldly tells him homunculi don't have mothers, and he can't make demands of her because he's not human.

Wrath keeps leaping at them, but Envy effortlessly knocks him aside, building his credibility as the final boss.

Izumi's strength is fading against Archer as she coughs up blood, but Ross and Brosh rescue her. Izumi asks where Ed is, and Ross reiterates her thing about adults needing to believe in children.

Dante makes Rose dance with Ed. Is Dante planning to take Ed as her husband? Ick.

Ed figures out Dante's bodyhopping pretty quickly. The deduction that Greed didn't kill her is reasonable, but the rest is a bit of a jump.

Ed throws a spear at her, and she vaporizes it in midair. Ehhh, that's wonky but she is supposed to be the ultimate alchemist. She may still have some red stone, too. Ed uses that to confirm she's Dante, as she transmutes without a circle.

Dante doesn't give an exact number of bodies, but she says it's been less than ten.

Dante confirms they used the residents of the city, as well as "the nation to the east" – that would be Xerxes, I suppose.

Dante says Hohenheim was the one who actually made the Stones.

Dante frames her actions as virtuous, saying she's keeping people away from the Stone so they don't misuse it.

Dante claims she is no longer human. She does have homunculi eyes...

And yep, she just said she wanted to bang Ed – specifically, "Hohenheim's son". Why are you so creepy, Dante. I guess this could be an extension of her general hedonism.

Ed tells Gluttony Wrath killed Lust, making him BSOD.

Dante attacks Ed with a rock snake. He dodges and cuts her bodice, revealing the rot has nearly reaches her heart. That seems… fast. It's been, what, a week? That strikes me as a bit of an inconsistency, as she was clearly in her previous body for many years. We can perhaps fanwank that she botched the transfer due to running out of Philosopher's Stone; this would also explain why she's convinced she can overcome the rot if she gets a new one.

Ed… somehow deduced this already as well. He cites equivalent exchange: this is their punishment for their evil. And now we get my favorite scene:

DANTE: Equivalent exchange? Do you still believe in that childish theory?
EDWARD: It's no theory! It's the law of alchemy… no, of the whole world! You're the one who said so, aren't you? That in order to obtain anything, it requires something of equal value?
DANTE: That's something that only a child would say. Like "make everything equal," or "that wouldn't be fair." However, there's no such thing as equivalent exchange. […] To gain, something of equal value must be lost… In that case, if you reverse it… if you pay a price… you are certain to obtain something, right?
EDWARD: That's right. That's why people put forth an effort to pay the price.
DANTE: But there's something strange about that. After all, even if you pay the same price, you can't always necessarily obtain the same thing. […] Consider the State Alchemist exam which you passed with flying colors. How many others took the test that day? Spent months, years preparing, some working much harder than you? Yet you were the only one who passed. Where was their reward? Is it their fault they lacked your natural talent?

This moment is, to me, the heart and soul of OG. How many stories have the bravery to do this? To spit on the hero's hard work and natural talent both, to destroy the comforting fantasy of a fair world? To tell the hero that he is wrong? Because he is – Dante is right. But it goes even deeper than that. There's a reason why it's the villain who propagates this lie. In the dub translation, Dante specifically says it's a lie the oppressed tell themselves – and that's key. That's key to so many of the things that are so wrong with our lives, our culture, and our world. This lie controls people. If the world is fundamentally just, then what happens to you can't possibly be anyone's fault but your own. If you're attacked by a mugger, it's because you didn't try hard enough to defend yourself. If you're dying of starvation, it's because you didn't work hard enough to provide for yourself. But if someone else gains riches and fame? Well, they must have just worked so hard for it! It's ad-hoc reasoning: you see the effect, and then you say everyone must have done something to deserve it. And if you can get the people you're subjugating to believe it too, you've won. You've created a populace who will oppress themselves for you. Those people dying of starvation and disease and brutality, they don't deserve the barest scrap of aid, and they're leeches for thinking they do. Those toddlers ICE is murdering at the border right now, they must have done something to deserve it, or their parents did, somehow. Someone, somewhere, did something that justifies everything the oppressors do, we're sure. You can cut someone's throat and tell them they deserved it, and they'll believe you.

Dante actually proceeds to demonstrate this exact example by holding Rose's baby hostage.

DANTE: And people's lives are not all equal, either. If I just clap my hands, this baby won't survive. […] And if I do it, where is the world's balance in that? Does it mean the baby was only born so that it could die?

She goes on to bring up privilege as well, pointing out some people work their whole lives and still die in poverty while others are born into luxury.

I don't think it's a coincidence that it's also the mastermind of a violently imperialist culture who's saying this, either. Just world goes hand in hand with sunk cost. If you made a mistake, you just need to keep working harder to fix it. Because you must be getting something for everything you're sacrificing, right? That's proof you need to make more sins and more sacrifices because one day, somehow, it'll all be worth it and you can undo all those mistakes. That's how Dante gets people desperate enough to make homunculi. That's how she gets people desperate enough to sacrifice thousands of people for a Philosopher's Stone. That's how she gets good people to commit genocide for her. That's why Edward has been doing all of this from the start. It's the perfect lie.

This is what changes OG from just "a good TV show" to true art, to me. It's so incredibly rare to see popular culture or even academia address these issues so brazenly and openly. This is a message we need to hear. It's far too easy, especially in a capitalistic culture, to fall into this comforting lie. And stories are some of the biggest peddlers of the just world fallacy. Stories are designed by a guiding intelligence. In stories, everything does make sense, everything does happen for a reason, justice is often served in some form or another. We need to hear that sometimes, but it's so dangerous to really believe it. It's scary to acknowledge that there is no inherent justice to the world, that effort can be wasted, that bad things can happen to good people, that there's nothing to catch you if you fall. But it's the truth, and denying that will just hurt you far more in the long run. That is the biggest reason why I respect OG so much, despite the slow pacing and the awkward setups and the somewhat rushed conclusion – that's all worth it for this. It did something very brave and it deserves commendation for that.

In terms of the specific framing, I think Dante's character can also be taken as a criticism of ivory tower elitism; not coincidentally the kind of people likely to buy into the just world fallacy. She claims that alchemy can do so much good for people, yet she has made the decision that they are not to be trusted with it – she is, of course, the only one with the wisdom and intelligence to use the power responsibly. And obviously, this is a bald-faced lie – just an excuse to hoard all the power for herself. She cloisters herself, doing everything through proxies of proxies because coming to any personal harm is unthinkable to her, yet she slaughters people like cattle for her own uses. She claims she's ascended beyond the flaws of humanity, yet she's so disgustingly greedy and hedonistic she can't wait to kill an innocent girl just so she can bang her boyfriend's teenage son. She's a warning to all of us never to think our knowledge and class makes us better than other people, never to think that it excuses us from examining our own flaws.

Now, this is, effectively, the "final boss" – there's a bit of conflict after this, but it's not really a full-on battle. Cinematically, Ed vs. Dante is objectively disappointing, yes – they exchange, like, two attacks and that's it. But as I've said before, that's not what OG is trying for in the first place. The sphere of this conflict is philosophical, not martial, and by that scale this is just as intense as Brotherhood's final battle. Dante effortlessly dismantles the philosophy Ed has lived by all his life, and the philosophy the narrative itself seemed to be telling us. In the face of this, Ed is completely unable to make any logical refutation. That is powerful. A flashy fight scene entertains you and then it's over, but this is the kind of confrontation that sticks with you. Can you prove Dante wrong? We all want to, but it's so hard. You have to come up with your own refutation, your own reason to keep on fighting in the face of this painful truth; it's on the audience to truly defeat the villain.

Chapter Text

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 50: "Death"

As zeppelins rain bombs upon London during World War I, Edward and Hohenheim flee the city. As they watch the attack from a distance, Hohenheim explains that in this world, on the other side of the gate, the science of physics has developed instead of alchemy but, because Edward's soul was transferred over without his body, the Gate of Truth within himself can be used to return to Amestris. Meanwhile, with Hawkeye's help, Mustang has sneaked into the Führer's mansion to confront him and avenge Hughes. Gluttony, moping over Lust's death, is forced by Envy to begin gradually eating Alphonse's armored body to complete the Philosopher's Stone within him so Dante can use the stone to switch bodies with Rosé. Annoyed with Gluttony still mourning the loss of Lust, Dante alchemically destroys his mind so he can be nothing but an eating machine just as he begins gradually eating Alphonse. Wrath, still moping over Sloth's death, tries to intervene by using alchemy so he can use Alphonse to revive Sloth, but Dante has Edward's original limbs removed from Wrath's body so he can no longer perform alchemy in doing so. After repairing his relationship with Hohenheim, Edward returns to Amestris and tries to stop Dante's plans and set Alphonse and Rosé free, only to be distracted by Envy, who begins tormenting him in battle. When Edward angrily demands to see Envy's true form, Envy gleefully obliges, transforming into Hohenheim and Dante's deceased son, causing Edward to hesitate in sorrow. Dante reveals that Envy was the first ever homunculus, created when Hohenheim attempted human transmutation to revive his son who died of mercury poisoning. As Envy admits this is the reason why he hates Hohenheim for abandoning him to start a new family, the homunculus instantly transforms his arm into a blade and heartlessly kills Edward by piercing him through the heart while a horrified Alphonse, Rosé and Wrath watch.

Hm, I forgot he transferred to WWI London. I thought Amestris was equivalent to Nazi Germany.

Ed is impressed by zeppelins and airplanes. Hohenheim says their mechanical engineering is better than in their world, but Amestris has pretty sophisticated manufacturing too. Trains are apparently about a century old, which is about on par with our timeline. I guess you could presume that technology hit a plateau as people figured alchemy was better for more advanced applications.

Bradley keeps his remains in his house. He's read the Evil Overlord List! Selim saw the safe, so Bradley entrusts him with the key. That's pretty smart, since it's unlikely Mustang will think the kid is relevant.

Riza has dispatched Bradley's guards and is at his door. I presume this is a diversion, because we cut to Mustang sneaking in by… jumping over the wall? I'll presume that was alchemy-assisted.

Archer is still not dead.

We cut to Ed and Hohenheim and get my other favorite scene. Hohenheim explains conservation of energy, explicitly drawing a comparison to our very first example: Al fixing the broken radio. The souls of the dead from Earth pass into their world and provide the fuel for alchemy. This makes perfect sense: we already know the Philosopher's Stone, which amplifies alchemy, is powered by souls, so it's only logical that regular alchemy work the same.

Hohenheim explains he really did love Trisha, but left because he didn't want them to see the rot. I think this is a flawed but reasonable explanation. The rot represents more than just itself: it's a mark of his sin, a reminder that this body is not his own and that he's committed atrocities to obtain it. I see this more as him being unable to bear the answer to the inevitable question, "Why are you rotting, Dad?" It's horribly selfish and cowardly of him, but at the same time, it's understandable. Humanity is flawed.

Back in Amestris, Dante needs Gluttony to eat Al to complete the Philosopher's Stone. Apparently Dante designed him to refine red water. However, Gluttony is still BSODing over Lust, so Dante destroys his mind by removing his ouroboros tattoo.

Hohenheim confirms that Dante can't create a Philosopher's Stone on her own.

Hohenheim leaves us with the bright side of Dante's philosophy: you can gain something for nothing too. When a parent loves their child, he says, there need be no cost or reward.

But Ed still clings to equivalent exchange, admitting his only argument is that he doesn't want to believe a sacrifice could go unrewarded. He believes he just has to keep trying.

And then a zeppelin falls on him! He returns through the Gate just in time, but the poor boy he was inhabiting is still certainly dead.

Back in Central, Riza tells Bradley Mustang is after him… why? To get his family out of the way? Bradley goes into the wine cellar to fight Mustang, and the door is alchemically sealed behind him.

Bradley gives basically the same speech as Dante, saying really he's helping people by keeping the Philosopher's Stones from them.

Bradley explicitly says Mustang's fireballs will be less effective in an enclosed space. Thank you!

The Gate takes Wrath's arm and leg, but not the rest of him.

Ah. Ed realizes he used Earth!Ed's life to make the jump.

And now we get confirmation Gluttony killed Marcoh way back then.

Envy has a lot of fun running through forms to taunt Ed.

Alchemy can't be used because the activation of the Philosopher's Stone makes it too reactive. What does "activating" it really mean, though? We haven't seen alchemists need to do anything special to use it before.

Seeing Envy's true form stuns Ed, but… it doesn't look that recognizable? Ed says it looks like Hohenheim, but Hohenheim had a beard, and we just established he was willing to punch his mom's face. I remembered it as him looking like Ed, which would have made more sense. Still, it's a neat reveal. I've heard Brotherhood fans say it's a worse motivation than the one he has in Brotherhood, but, eh, his Brotherhood motivation was clever in theory but felt totally contrived and out of left field. Daddy issues might be cliché, but it's fitting for the more human homunculi, and it makes for a powerful parallel with Ed – further emphasized by them both being his children. I still think it'd have been stronger if we didn't learn it earlier, though.

Also, I do like that Envy violates talking-is-a-free-action to shank Ed while he's distracted.

Dante says Envy was the first homunculus ever created, so I guess Dante and Hohenheim were the first alchemists?

Rose appears to break out of her trance upon seeing Ed die.

 

Let's update our homunculi list real quick before the last episode:

  1. Greed is wasted.
  2. Lust defects, and is killed out of vengeance for a loved one.
  3. Sloth is paralyzed.
  4. Gluttony refuses to eat, and is made a slave to base desires.

This one is actual irony. He's spent the whole series only caring about eating things, but now, when he's actually ordered to, his human emotions get in the way. He's killed by an absence of gluttony, and becomes the embodiment of gluttony – a slave to base instincts. I find that a lot more clever than "Gluttony is eaten" – that is just so utterly trite and banal, you don't get points for that.

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 51: "Laws and Promises"

Alphonse breaks free and attempts human transmutation as he sacrifices himself - using what's left of his Philosopher's Stone within him to revive his brother. Envy appears at the Gate of Truth, having failed to stop Alphonse, and encounters Edward's soul. Learning that Hohenheim is still alive on the other side, Envy gleefully decides to head through to kill him against Edward's advice, disappearing into the distance as a green, serpentine dragon. Edward reawakens to see his body fully healed as well as his right arm and left leg are now flesh and blood. However, Alphonse has been taken by the Gate of Truth as a consequence. After having Rosé take an injured Wrath with her and flee to Resembool, Edward attempts human transmutation, offering his own life, allowing Alphonse to return to his body, albeit his memory is recalled up to when the brothers tried to resurrect their mother. Meanwhile, Mustang successfully kills Führer Bradley with the help of his son Selim, who unintentionally weakens his adoptive father by bringing him the remains of the human from which the Führer was originally based. The Führer responsively strangles his son to death out of anger before Mustang takes his advantage. As he takes Selim's body and leaves the mansion, Mustang is confronted by Archer, who apparently shoots him in the left eye. Hawkeye arrives in time to save Mustang's life and kills Archer. Dante escapes into an elevator to find the Führer to help her exact vengeance, only to be devoured by Gluttony, who fails to recognize her. Alphonse is back in Amestris now and Edward is pulled through the Gate of Truth and is currently in Munich. The brothers both resolve to reunite again someday.

Dante snarks that maybe Ed just didn't pay enough to deserve survival – "We always come just a little short of the price."

We actually see Mustang drawing the transmutation circle with his blood. So much cooler than him doing it offscreen!

Al destroys Gluttony's jaw. Gruesome.

Mustang successfully destroys Pride. Since he didn’t use a sealing circle, I’m guessing he really did exhaust all of Pride’s lives. See, that’s acceptable to do once as a climactic cool moment. Notice also that we skipped straight to the end instead of watching him use fireballs for two minutes straight.

Riza saves Mustang by being the only person smart enough to shoot at Archer's human half.

Envy jumps into the Gate in pursuit of Hohenheim, and even manages to shake off the souls trying to eat him. Hardcore.

After the scene with Dante and Gluttony, we see the elevator open to an empty chamber. Creepy.

Ed's lost limbs are restored when he's resurrected, but it costs all of Al's Philosopher's Stone.

Sheska says Amestris is no longer a military dictatorship, but the current wars will still continue. However, they've become more tolerant towards Ishbalans.

Roy has an eyepatch. Just like Bradley! Riza said her outing him and then doubling back was part of the plan, but I'm not sure how or why.

How did Hohenheim get to Germany? The year is 1921, so he somehow survived 7 years even though his body looked to be at its limit.

Ed thinks Einstein's theories are bunk. Heh.

Ed says he planned to offer his life as the price for restoring Al. The fact that he didn't makes him wonder if he got something for nothing.

The ending spiel is a twist on the standard opening spiel: Al recognizes that equivalent exchange is not the law of the world, but he still hopes that hard work will pay off, and that one day they'll be reunited: a promise, not a law.

Conclusion

I think this is a good finale. The cutting around is a bit disorienting – it perhaps might have been better to resolve Mustang's side of things earlier? – but not uncalled for. I like how Mustang is actually challenged and injured in his fight scene instead of just effortlessly coasting his way to victory; he's cool without being overpowered. The final boss fight with Envy is a bit meh, but huge fight scenes were never what I was watching for in the first place (and Mustang vs. Pride kind of has us covered on that front). In terms of how this interacted with and resolved the story's major themes and questions, I think it was excellent. We learn what is behind the Gate, we learn the truth behind alchemy, we get discussion on the theme of equivalent exchange, and the protagonists' driving motive, the restoration of their bodies, is resolved. It's an open-ended finale, but not an unsatisfying one. The villains are defeated, the characters have learned important lessons, and they're going to keep on living.

Mustang's side is probably the weakest part here – Cyborg Archer is really weird and random and seemingly just there to add more tension and battles. His fight with Pride feels a bit truncated since we keep cutting away from it. I'm still not totally clear what his plan was or if it made sense, and it was very dumb of Ed not to tell him how to fight homunculi. I do like that Riza saves him in the end, though.

Ultimately, this is again the rare OG arc that I feel could have been better spread out over more episodes. Getting all the characters into position is rather rushed and relies on a bit of contrivance, and the finale itself feels like it's trying to say more things than it really has time for. But I'm still happy with what we got.

Now, this is more subjective, but I find the dual sacrifices way more emotionally meaningful here. I plan to do an ending comparison post where I will discuss this further, but for now, I think it's very powerful that Al finally has his moment of triumph. He's spent the whole story as a damsel in distress, even getting literally turned into a MacGuffin for this finale, only ever watching helplessly as people make horrific sacrifices for him while he can do nothing to save them. So here and now, he says screw it, for once he has the power and he's going to use it to save the person he loves more than anything in the world. It's so strong that it's an absolute mirror of what Ed did for him, and extremely meaningful that in a series that started with and revolved around the impossibility of resurrection we end with a true one.

But Ed, stupid, stupid Ed, can't be content with what Al gave him and refuses to learn his lesson, so he puts them back where they started. I'm not sure how I feel about that – it makes him into a very stagnant and stubborn character who refuses to learn the narrative's lessons even when they've been so firmly pounded into his skull. The point of Dante's speech, to me, was that you cannot keep throwing good lives after bad – Ed has hurt himself and so many others on this journey, justifying it to himself with sunk cost fallacy. The correct option is to cut his losses and go home, to be happy with what he still has instead of throwing away even more. Even the very fact he planned to kill himself to bring Al back shows he's still ignoring him – Al has said over and over again he doesn't want Ed to do that. Are these brothers doomed to be trapped in an endless spiral of self-sacrifice for the other? But… I gotta say, Al staying dead would have been too much of a downer. They've been through so much that they do deserve a miracle. (There's that stories-as-just-worlds striking again!)

I actually have never seen the movie, so maybe it resolves some of these things! I shall see. But for now, let's complete our list…

  1. Greed is wasted.
  2. Lust defects, and is killed out of vengeance for a loved one.
  3. Sloth is paralyzed.
  4. Gluttony refuses to eat, and is made a slave to base desires.
  5. Envy kills himself out of jealousy.
  6. Pride is killed by his son.
  7. Wrath outlives them all.

An ironic pride death is easy – hoist them by their own petard. This show takes it a step further, and has Pride undone by his namesake. I'm pretty sure it is said somewhere that Selim is his biological child in this continuity, and that the capacity to sire children was one of Pride's human traits. That makes it deeply ironic that the son is the reason he dies.

I never bought Wrath's Brotherhood death as "irony". Wrath being killed by wrath… I don't even know if that's poetic, it just kind of… is. We say those who live by the sword will die by the sword, and for good reason. Wrath dying to wrath isn't unexpected or at all clever. The volatile, self-destructive sin being the only one to live, though? That's irony.

And oh my god you guys Brotherhood!Envy kills himself out of PRIDE not jealousy, he could not have been more explicit about it! Know your sins if you're gonna be smug about what deep symbolism they are!! This one is still a bit of a reach – wrath is a closer fit – but there is a case to be made that he is doing this out of a desire for the connection and satisfaction that other children have yet was denied to him.

Lastly, I think you could make a case that Dante embodies all the sins and is undone by all of them simultaneously. She believes herself above humanity, yet she is easily frustrated, slothful in her attitude towards the homunculi, envious of others' bodies, and greedy, lustful, and gluttonous for life and power. Wiping Gluttony is an act of impatience, frustration, greed, and arrogance in the assumption she could still control him.

Even aside from that, though, this is such a fitting end for her. She's spent her whole life plotting in the shadows, never allowing herself into a position of personal harm, and just as she tries to slink away to do it again she's undone by her own tangled web. Work behind the scenes, die behind the scenes.

Chapter Text

One more post before the final analysis: as I compared the beginnings of the series, I'll also compare the endings. The ending can tell us a lot about a series and the author's intentions. What things did they want to resolve and how, and what did they want to leave us with?

Fullmetal Alchemist

Let's review the ending of OG first. OG had a climactic final confrontation, but it was a pretty restrained affair: Ed vs. Dante alone, and then Ed vs. Envy alone. It was very personal in nature, with Ed fighting alone to rescue his brother and discover the truth behind the homunculi and the Philosopher's Stone.

The true confrontation was philosophical in nature. Dante deconstructs the guiding principle of the series up to that point, the law of equivalent exchange, and reveals it to be a lie: there's no guarantee that hard work will pay off. There is no justice, she tells us; there's just us. The hero is stripped of his moral certainty and shaken to his core, but stubbornly clings to some hope that there is still some justice in the world. Hohenheim offers a parting gift: that Dante may be right, but by freeing yourself from the logic of equivalent exchange, you can also gain something for nothing.

For our climactic belly-of-the-whale moment, Ed straight-up dies. Al overcomes the hesitance and impotence that has weighed on him all series, and uses the immense power he's been granted to sacrifice himself for Ed's true resurrection in a mirror of Ed's own sacrifice for him at the start of the series.

Ed refuses to accept this. He wants to have it all. But he cannot get it: though he partially restores Al, he himself passes through the gateway, leaving the brothers separated. But meanwhile, the background characters who never bought into this nonsense in the first place are doing great. Rose is healing, Izumi is willing to teach Al, and Mustang's rebellion is a success.

It's a bittersweet ending: the heroes survive, gaining some of the things they sought but losing others. We are left uncertain about their fate, encouraged to reflect on what we've seen and what they've learned. It's a contemplative ending, meant to stick with you: it's on the audience to write the ending of the story, through living their own lives.

Now we'll compare that to…

FMA Brotherhood

Let's catch you up on what happened in the intervening time in Brotherhood real quick:

WINRY FINDS OUT SCAR KILLS HER PARENTS OH NO WHAT'S SHE GONNA DO oh nothing because Ed talks down the hysterical woman. What a relief!

LAN FAN LOSES HER ARM OH NO oh wait we have super prosthetics so she just gets automail and she's fine.

GLUTTONY SWALLOWS EVERYONE but it's okay they get out fine and also Ed finds something useful in there so actually this was good for the heroes.

BRADLEY TAKES RIZA HOSTAGE but does not actually kill her or anyone and Riza is still able to leak information to Mustang and escape when it actually matters so this is totally pointless except for sidelining the female action hero for a while.

FATHER SHOWS UP OH NO WHAT'S HE GONNA DO oh he's going to tell Ed he needs him alive for his plan and for some reason he can't just beat Ed into a coma so actually Ed is free to act with total impunity.

BUT OH WAIT HE TURNS LING INTO A HOMUNCULUS except actually Ling is still alive and will end up totally fine.

BRADLEY TAKES WINRY HOSTAGE WHAT'S HE GONNA MAKE ED DO oh he's just going to tell Ed to keep doing what he was already doing. Okay then.

Mustang was apparently friends with Riza's dad and Riza has the secrets of flame alchemy tattooed on her back, because this is shonen and everything has to have a convoluted explanation.

Envy frees Kimblee and makes him track down Scar who is also with Marcoh because adding more characters into this tangled mess is definitely a good idea.

Pride invites the Elrics into his house and Bradley shows up to menace them but not actually do anything. Pride continues to act like the most precocious kid ever I presume because he gets off on it? Is he already planning on jumping to Ed at this point?

Ed meets Olivier and is immediately imprisoned so Ed can twiddle his thumbs while we watch Olivier take over the plot for the next few episodes.

SHOCKING TWIST that Amestris was formed for the purpose of transmuting everyone into a Philosopher's Stone which is so absurdly over-the-top I cannot even

WHY DOES FATHER LOOK LIKE HOHENHEIM??? Because he tricked Hohenheim into giving him his face and actually Hohenheim is totally innocent because why have complex morally gray characters when we can atomize any possibility of that instead. (Also Father's original form looks absolutely nothing like how historical homunculi are drawn or described except that he's in a flask, even though homunculi's flasks are obviously artificial wombs and not literally part of their bodies why do I need to explain this.)

After several episodes of wheel-spinning the characters suddenly decide it's time for the finale so a hideously convoluted multi-front battle ensues.

They're fighting Envy and SUDDENLY RIZA POINTS A GUN AT MUSTANG OH NO CLIFFHANGER HAS ENVY TRICKED HIM no Envy turned into Mustang for some reason and Riza saw through it because the villains spent all their competence points killing Hughes.

Mustang curbstomps Envy because he's a Gary Stu but Ed doesn't want him to be consumed by vengeance because it was… so much better when he sadistically burned a homunculi to death for no reason at all?

RIZA'S THROAT IS SLIT AND MUSTANG HAS TO DO HUMAN TRANSMUTATION oh never mind she gets healed by the cavalry BUT SUDDENLY THE HOMUNCULI SHOW UP AND FORCE HIM TO DO HUMAN TRANSMUTATION ANYWAY… somehow… and OH NO HE GOES BLIND but he can still fight because he's a Gary Stu so it doesn't actually matter. Nothing ever actually matters.

Up to and including…

FMA Brotherhood Episode 61: "He Who Would Swallow God"

THE BAD GUY WINS! FATHER ACTIVATES HIS TRANSMUTATION CIRCLE! HE BECOMES GOD! ROCKS FALL, EVERYBODY DIES! Except oops, nevermind, turns out Hohenheim spilled the souls of his Philosopher's Stone all around the country offscreen and now they, for some reason, are helping the guy who helped trap them and destroy their country at no benefit to themselves. Somehow, they were not absorbed by the transmutation and can somehow free the souls of Amestrians. Somehow.

Seriously. This series has always been careful to surgically remove real tension from the story, but now it’s just atomizing its desecrated corpse. Everything, up to and including the villain succeeding at all his goals, will be reversed on a dime so the heroes can win. There is no longer any possibility that the heroes might get anything other than an absolutely perfect victory. This is terrible storytelling. It’s sacrificing all narrative coherence on the altar of one cool scene.

Ed shows up for five seconds to yell at Father but is useless because Father deactivates alchemy. This is followed by several minutes of Hohenheim ranting about how awesome he is and how important this confrontation is to him personally because why focus on the protagonist when we can spend all that time on his awful deadbeat dad.

Hohenheim's Stone is activated by the circle of the moon's shadow. Sure. Why not. Nothing else in this show has ever made sense, why start now.

Ed looks on in awe as Hohenheim exposits on the exact effects this will have on Father. Father shoots an energy blast at them and Hohenheim deflects it. Another energy blast, this time May deflects it because alkahestry still works and is perfectly suited to this because it's magic. Another energy blast, and Hohenheim blocks it again. But oh no, he's losing strength, so the protagonists play support for him.

Then we cut to Scar vs. Bradley. Bradley asks why he's using alchemy if that's against his religion, and asks if he's abandoned God. Scar does not answer.

How is Bradley defeated? He's blinded by the sun when the eclipse finishes and that negates the Ultimate Eye.

Seriously? Seriously? HE WEARS AN EYEPATCH. IF HE CAN SEE THROUGH AN EYEPATCH WHY CAN'T HE SEE THROUGH BLINDING LIGHT. Also how has this never happened in any of the other daytime fights.

Scar gets one hit on him and that kills him when the immortal legion which is explicitly made the exact same way as him have multiple lives because what is consistency. But what's this, Bradley manages to stab him in his last moments! Oh wow, is a major character actually going to die in the final battle??? No.

Then Bradley talks for a straight minute about pretentious nonsense. Wow, and here I was thinking OG had too much talking.

Then what Tumblr has helpfully informed me is our great disabled WOC representation sits there and demands to know if Hitler loved his wife, then she helps Scar over to his transmutation circle so he can learn the very important lesson that it's wrong for him to hate white people so now he's going to save them. Thanks, brown people! Still no answer to Bradley's questions. If they're answered earlier, you are free to tell me about it.

Bradley… ages to death? Why?

Alchemy is powered by tectonic movement, apparently. That is a reasonable but incredibly boring answer that does nothing to explain why soul goop empowers alchemy. (Also I guess they're slowing down the planet's rotation by doing this?)

Alchemy's reactivated so Ed finally does something and it's to… smash Father's throne. Wow. Great contribution, hero. Father throws another energy blast at him and Hohenheim defends.

"When will he run out of energy?" "I don't know!" And this is why I don't like Brotherhood homunculi. There's no sense of progress or scale. They're boss monsters who are always exactly as strong until they suddenly die. The battle lasts as long as the author wants it to.

Ed makes one substantial attack on Father who then shrugs it off.

Mustang is sad he's useless. CAN'T RELATE.

Ed asks what the homunculi's motivation is and gets a non-answer.

Kimblee is still alive in Pride because NO ONE IN THIS SHOW CAN EVER DIE. He nosells the soulstorm because he's just so special. He's mad that Pride is lowering himself to entering a human because for some reason he cares deeply about Pride's honor. Then Ed… turns himself into a Philosopher's Stone so he can enter Pride's mind, kills Pride, and turns him into a human baby? That's bizarre even by this show's standards.

Honestly that whole thing is so random. Pride does absolutely nothing during the battle with Father, then all of a sudden he grabs Ed and everyone else is like "sure whatever we'll leave you behind with the supermonster" because they've read the script, then Ed beats him in five seconds. This really looks to me like the author was going "Crap, crap, Ed hasn't beaten a single villain the whole story, quick, give him some token contribution."

FMA Brotherhood Episode 62: "A Fierce Counterattack"

Why does Trisha's soul have giant boobs in the OP.

Father is just absorbing people directly now because suddenly that doesn't need a circle.

Hohenheim leads the charge and gives a hero rant.

Father frees the souls in his Philosopher's Stone to make zombies. Why has no one ever done this before. What is even the point of this.

Izumi is horrified when a baby touches her because this show just loves hammering in how she's a frail woman traumatized by her inability to have babies.

Father uses Hyper Beam.

We spend another age talking about exactly who's going to go to the final battle. Olivier has to stay behind because she has a broken arm but the blind guy gets to go on ahead.

The Hyper Beam atomized half the building but Al and Hohenheim were somehow able to block it without dying. Ed's automail has taken damage but he can still move it because injuries are for losers.

Father smacks Hohenheim but he's still not dead.

Mustang burns the entire courtyard because what are power limits. (He explicitly says that actually every other time he's used fireballs he's been holding himself back, because this show just cannot stop escalating the Stu Power.) Riza is helping him aim because women get support roles. Mustang preens about clappy transmutation being awesome. Why does he even need to do that? He already has a transmutation circle on his gloves.

Then it's just three straight minutes of everyone blasting Father while Father just stands there looking grouchy. Greed attacks him and Father drops the shield to try to absorb him, but it doesn't matter because he can still raise walls at will without even clapping.

It looks like they might actually get a hit but Father pulls an energy blast out of nowhere. It destroys Ed's arm but somehow not any other part of him. Why doesn't he use his soul drain again? Why is anyone engaging in melee attacks against him when they have a whole battalion of soldiers to nuke him from orbit?

And now Ed and Ed alone is conveniently impaled just enough to immobilize him without giving him life-threatening injuries. This is so Alphonse can make the big sacrifice of repaying his soul to restore Ed's arm, because Truth is just such a nice person who trades so fairly in this. Somehow no one is able to attack Father during the long time they spend discussing this as he slooowly lumbers forward. Where did Greed go? His whole thing is invulnerability, he should totally still be mobile.

Shouldn't Ed's arm be mismatched on account of him losing it when he was way younger? And the fact he has automail welded into his shoulder? But the arm has just grown over that and somehow works fine. I guess Truth took care of that too because he's just so nice.

Ed screams a lot because that's his only emotion.

Yeah Greed is there, just watching this. So is everyone else, including the soldiers.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 63: "The Other Side of the Gateway"

And Ed is just punching him now. Because it's not like this series has "alchemist" in the title or anything. Everyone just stands there.

Then despite being weaker than he was before, Father is somehow able to pull out another nuke and then move super fast to grab Greed. Greed nobly sacrifices himself to kill Father because only homunculi are allowed the sweet release of death. But he still gets to talk with Ling for like a solid minute first about how totally irresistible Father's pull is.

We get a Sad Flashback Montage. Altogether I think it's longer than Al's sacrifice, and more people look sad. This show just has no concept of pacing. Putting noble sacrifices back-to-back diminishes the effect of each.

Then an extended sequence where Father gets a dressing-down by Truth. Last-minute contrived sympathetic moment where he's terrified of being reabsorbed by the Gate because he just wanted to experience the world. Too little too late, show. You cannot fix your complete failure to humanize him at all during the story with a last-minute reversal. Not every villain needs a humanizing sympathetic last moment. Sometimes it's better to just let them own their villainy. Like Dante!

(And given the way this show has handled previous villains I also get the impression we are supposed to laugh at how pathetic and scared he is, which makes me profoundly uncomfortable.)

Then everyone hands Ed a bunch of ways he can get Al back and he nobly refuses them and I'm sorry but I hate this. Him turning down one thing is just barely acceptable, but this utter deluge of possibilities just turns it into a farce for me. OH NO HOWEVER WILL WE SOLVE THIS TRAGEDY well actually there are a ton of solutions but we're going to turn them down to rationally come to the objectively perfect solution. There's no desperation, no tension or emotional weight. Also HE TOTALLY SHOULD HAVE USED HOHENHEIM, LET THAT DICKBAG BE GOOD FOR SOMETHING.

(Also, how on Earth is a Philosopher's Stone – a zillion lives – for one life an equivalent exchange?)

So instead Ed gives up his ability to use alchemy. Credit where credit's due, he does bring up Nina during his long, long speech about how very humble he is, which is a good callback. (Even though he really doesn't have that much reason to remember her in this continuity.)

TRUTH: That is the right answer, alchemist. You have beaten me.

And this is where it really clicked for me. This isn't about sacrifices, or moral choices, or tradeoffs. This is about winning. It's the gamer mentality: there is a perfectly optimal solution that will solve all your problems, and you just have to keep trying until you find it. Anything you lose you can get back if you just try harder. You never have to face any actual loss or consequence for your actions, because the world is fundamentally fair and just and will bail you out of everything if you can just figure out the right cheat code. That is the exact mentality OG so scathingly attacked in its conclusion, and I concur for all the reasons I've already stated. This all leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.

When Al returns, May is hysterical but Hohenheim keeps a stiff upper lip.

Then Mustang declares he's going to… continue the Fuhrer's wishes? Of "national security" read: genocide?

Then Hohenheim reflects on his history with Homunculus because he's the real protagonist with a real connection to the villain. Armstrong tells him they'd have surely lost without Ed and Al despite all the evidence to the contrary. Y'know, maybe if Hohenheim didn't have to incapacitate himself shielding Ed's useless self he could've just solo'd Father with his superpowers. Also, if they were so integral why aren't they getting told this.

Then we continue following Hohenheim as he gets to calmly come to terms with his own mortality over Trisha's grave. Then he finally, finally dies.

I don't know why they keep doing the pixellated skin cracks. It looks so weird.

And then the ending montage is Hohenheim's entire life, because he was the real protagonist all along.

FMA Brotherhood Episode 64: "Journey's End"

We open with Mustang fixing Ishval. Team Mustang helpfully informs us they are doing this because they were so helpful in defeating Father. See, brown people, all you need to do is shut up and help the white people some more, and then they'll fix everything for you!

Marcoh is somehow still alive. He has a Philosopher's Stone because Brotherhood is just tripping over the things. He explicitly says it's made of Ishvalans and then says he wants to use it to heal Mustang's eyes "for the sake of Ishval". Wow. He instead nobly uses the souls of genocided brown people to heal the spine of a white dude, because being disabled is such a terrible, terrible fate no one could ever live with.

Cut to Scar. He's going to help restore Ishval's culture and religion, which I guess is cool with alchemy now? Also he's gonna be helped by an Ishvalan in the Amestrian military because the series really, really wants to hammer in that the oppressed have to work for the oppressors to get anything done.

Olivier seems to have saved Scar just to punk Mustang and oh my god is she still using kisama for Scar? Why is she such an awful person.

We cut to the Elrics, for once at a relatively reasonable point. Al is still recovering from muscle atrophy. Boy, it sure is a good thing there was an utterly nonsensical Deus ex Machina that prevented him from starving to death. Otherwise the heroes might not have gotten absolutely everything they wanted.

Oh, Fu died? So one character was polite enough to remove themselves from this hideously bloated cast after all. Good on you, Fu.

Ed ships Al and the little girl. Ew. Is this revenge for Al shipping Ed with his surrogate sister?

Ah, Al wants to learn alkahestry so he can save people like Nina in the future. That's good but really just hammers in how ridiculous it is alkahestry isn't common knowledge already.

Winry is being a nag and Ed is being a tsundere. Het culture continues to baffle me. He awkwardly proposes with equivalent exchange. Winry jokingly says equivalent exchange is nonsense. If only.

Ed is taller than Winry now. Boy it sure is great his growth wasn't stunted, that would almost be a consequence.

Ed ends by affirming equivalent exchange.

May is adult height in the ending photo, so yyyyeeeah that wasn't just stylistic, that was a little kid Al was crushing on.

WHY IS YOKI STILL ALIVE

Conclusion

So, uh, yeah, I'm honestly not impressed by the final boss fight. It's more a montage of everyone showing off their best moves than, you know, a fight. OG's battles with Greed and Sloth were much more visually and tactically interesting to me. I also don't like the battle royale aspect, and Al's sacrifice feels so tepid next to actually bringing Ed back from the dead. I did actually mist up a bit at Hohenheim offering to sacrifice himself, but it was ruined when my logical brain reminded me of the context and how yeah, there is no reason not to sacrifice him and he 100% deserves it. Honestly, though, I don't think I would have minded if the show had actually committed to its obvious desire to make Hohenheim the protagonist? He really is better-suited to it. He has an actual personal connection to the villain; he's the one making an actual sacrifice by turning against him; and he's the party member with the most power (except maybe MUSTANG THE MOST SPECIALEST). I genuinely think his death by the grave would have worked as an ending to the series, emotionally, if he had been the protagonist from the start. But then we'd have to have an old geezer as the protagonist of a shonen and that's just unthinkable.

For real, though, Brotherhood's finale is a great shonen finale. It is very prettily drawn and well-animated, and adequately wraps up the massive tangle of storylines with a feel-good bow. Everyone gets what they want and everyone's happy. The heroes' beliefs are affirmed. All problems are solved forever.

It's also all flash and no substance.

I read an interactive webcomic once, called NanQuest. As to be expected from an interactive story, it was pretty spiralling, and had a rather open-ended conclusion that left some mysteries unanswered. In the Q&A afterward, people hounded the author with questions, asking him what was going on with X, why didn't we get resolution on Y. I was right there with them.

In response, the author said something that stuck with me: "[The story is] like life. It's messy, not clean. No last words."

Now, you can say that's a load of crock, just a lazy author covering his butt with some pretentious platitude. And you might not be wrong. I certainly feel the same about a lot of works I feel are too open-ended. But in the case of NanQuest, I thought it made perfect sense, and put some things in perspective for me. Because you know, he's right. In real life, we don't always get to wrap everything up to our satisfaction before the end. Some problems are bigger than us. You can't dismantle a system of racism in a day or even a year. You can't always save everyone. You can't always get a perfect narrative finish to your subplots, a perfect fairytale ending. You don't always get last words.

We love stories because they're a world where we can get all those things. That's a comforting fantasy... but after I'm finished it just fades into the mists as I get up for another flawed, imperfect day in my life. And… maybe I'm just weird, but when a fantasy is too happy, it actually makes me feel worse. It doesn't mean anything to me when you say that these perfect people who had everything stacked in their favor got a happy ending. That makes me say, "But I'm not those people. This happy ending is for people who aren't me, who are better people than me." It's when I see horribly flawed characters go through awful trials and still make it out in the end that I can allow myself to think maybe I'll be okay too. It's through imperfections in stories that life bleeds through, that we are able to take something back with us. And I, personally, think that verisimilitude is worth some visceral dissatisfaction at the imperfection of a narrative.

What were Brotherhood's last words? The things it wanted to make sure happened before the end? A comforting lie. The world is just, it says. As long as you work hard enough, you can achieve your dreams. It doesn't matter how many sacrifices you have to make or how many people you have to hurt, because you can fix that too, in the end.

What were OG's last words? A hard truth. You can give everything you have and still lose. You can't have it all. At some point, you have to recognize that you're better off leaving the scab alone. There was no justice in Trisha's death. In trying to fix it, to assert justice onto the world, they only hurt themselves more. In trying to fix that, they hurt more than just themselves. But maybe, if they can accept that, they can find happiness in what still remains to them; maybe if it's possible to lose something and gain nothing, it's possible to get something for nothing too. Maybe. We don't know. It doesn't pretend to have all the answers. It's on us to complete this story, to take these lessons into our own lives. That's not a fun ending. But it's still, in its own way, a good one.

Chapter Text

An interesting thing I've noticed: the homunculi's powers and roles match up so poorly with their personalities.

Going by powers, Envy should be getting used for everything. He has both super strength and perfect shapeshifting, making him unparalleled at both combat and infiltration. Except he's also an unstable manchild who can't be trusted with anything subtle. If you want him to infiltrate a place or do reconnaisance, you have to be prepared for the possibility someone breathes funny around him and suddenly the whole building is leveled. Even when Dante does just use him as an assassin, he disobeys orders at random to chase whims. His powers are perfect for the villain's plans, but his personality relegates him to side jobs. Dante has to keep him in the box or he gets uppity.

It's interesting that Lust is the face of the homunculi instead. Her straightforward offensive power grants no bonus to infiltration or reconnaissance, and because she died recently there's a risk she'll be recognized. But she's the only one with social skills, so she gets to do all the missions that require a functional adult. (It's interesting, also, that she's really the glue holding them together – things fall apart for Dante as soon as she defects, because no-social-skills Dante won't bother with the effort of keeping the homunculi loyal.)

Similarly, the highly distinctive Sloth really should not be shadowing the guy who's meeting with her sons all the time… but she's the only one who won't complain if you make her sit around all day, so that's the job she gets. She also doesn't appear to be very mobile – going with the idea that it's hard for her to maintain her form, she might only have the energy to go on field missions occasionally. Like Envy, her powers make her extremely well-suited to infiltration – she is practically invincible and can get into almost anything – but confounding factors prohibit her from the role.

Wrath has probably the most useful power of all, but he's an unstable child who can't use it properly. Giving an impulsive kid the ability to transmute his own body does not end well! Magic is usually paired with an intelligent character, but Wrath is more of a nuclear meltdown. If he actually knew how to use it, he could easily dethrone Dante by providing the only leverage she has over the homunculi: the ability to make red stones. That may actually be why Dante keeps him at arm's length and removes his extremely useful ability the moment it becomes inconvenient.

Likewise, Gluttony has a very specific power that Dante really needs, but he's also totally nonfunctional on his own and completely shuts down as soon as Lust dies. He can go on field missions because Lust can keep him in line, but Dante herself lacks the skill she needs to use the lynchpin of her plan.

Greed the immortality seeker initially appears to be a good fit for invincibility… but his big thing is that he thirsts for freedom. While invincibility can prevent you from dying, it can't protect you from confinement. It's no surprise he got captured the first time – with no offensive powers, it is possible for the homunculi to close in on him. Given that homunculi don't die when they're killed in the first place, invincibility is a little redundant – he'd probably prefer something that made him harder to capture.

Pride is the only one who actually has a suitable power – even though homunculi can't be assassinated anyway, you don't want people noticing that your puppet king survived getting his brains splattered across the pavement. Super agility prevents him from getting injured at all, which is great for the masquerade. But then, that's why he's Pride – Dante actually got it right for once!

This is altogether an unusual setup for fantasy stories – you usually get powers that are suited to personalities, with maybe one mismatch that's a huge deal. But these sorts of complications can lead to more interesting strategical setups, and more ways for the characters to fail without invoking Deus ex Machina. I think it's particularly fitting with Dante's statement about a "cruel and random world" – you have to work with what you're given.

And while seven deadly sins naming is a bit rote, it really tickles me that Dante is using a naming scheme from a religion she destroyed. You just know it’s her own personal in-joke, and she would absolutely be the kind of person to luxuriate in the smugness of being the only one to know.

 

On a separate note, I think the homunculi's behavior is very interesting when you filter it through the knowledge they were all raised by Dante, someone who was purposefully manipulating them into being tools and killers. It really makes me wonder what a properly-raised homunculi would look like, or even a totally independent one. Certainly Wrath seemed like a normal kid until he regained his memories, and Greed also seems to display more compassion and social skills than the others. Lust, too, while remaining very cold and violent, becomes willing to help other people when she regains her memories. Wrath, Envy, and Sloth all explicitly have issues stemming from their alchemists abandoning them. Wrath's fury is based around Izumi's abandonment – if she had kept him, how would he have turned out? Would Sloth have been willing to treat the Elrics as her children if they had actually treated her as their mother? Even Envy – was he always a psychopath, or is this the result of him stewing over a grudge for centuries (no doubt stoked by Dante)?

I think Wrath's appearance in the Gate makes it pretty clear that homunculi do have souls – since a big point is made that they're not the same person, I would guess they gain a brand-new soul like a normal birth. So then, what makes them different from humans? Are they not still people? If they have the same memories, how different from the original person are they, really? What's nature and what's nurture? They raise so many interesting questions, and I'd have loved to see how a homunculi raised genuinely would turn out. (Certainly Pride seems the most functional…)

The fact they have to eat people to live does cast them as innately parasitic, and their existence immoral, but there would definitely be people willing to make that sacrifice. And then, Wrath survived without red stones for a long time – maybe if you can just make the body correctly, that wouldn't be necessary? Maybe Wrath is a hint, and the correct solution is to fuse the original and the homunculi somehow? Wrath doesn't start getting murderous until he eats the red stones, either – could the act of eating human lives actually be distancing them from humanity and engendering their sociopathy? Could there be a more humane way to raise them that Dante just didn't bother with?

I just love the OG homunculi so much. That trope of so-close-and-yet-so-far nonhumans pushing at our boundaries of what it means to be human and what it means to be a person is so utterly fascinating to me.

Chapter Text

image

I brought up these criteria in the beginning, so let's go over them before we get into more detailed stuff.

Does Brotherhood have a good plot?

No. Objectively no, inasmuch as that word can apply to anything in art. I already said pretty much everything in 17-18 and the ending post, but Brotherhood's plot is an absolute mess. It was clearly written by the seat of the author's pants: threads and entire characters just drop into irrelevance as the author gets bored of them, mechanics change on a dime, and chapters keep ending on shocking cliffhangers followed by LOL J/K because the author needs to keep you reading but isn't planning far enough ahead to commit to anything. It is just so utterly a comic book plot, just a vehicle to set up isolated cool scenes. It's a string of "Hey wouldn't it be cool if…?!" with only a token attempt to link everything together, thinking in the parts and not the whole.

To be clear: I don't think that is an inherently bad thing. "Action movie" is a valid genre that provides genuine enjoyment. I like watching pretty people blow things up with magic too! But it's not good plotting or High Art.

OG, on the other hand, demonstrates foresight in plotting and has very consistent themes. The authors looked at what little information they had from the manga's early run, and identified key points they thought were important: human transmutation, equivalent exchange, homunculi, and the Philosopher's Stone. The entire plot revolves around the Philosopher's Stone and the brothers' search for it. We start with a fake Stone, and an establishment of how dedicated the brothers are to this search. In the flashback portion, we see the trials and tribulations that give context for their desperation. Say what you will about the filler episodes, but they do build the mystery effectively: over the course of 10-12, the Elrics do actually make progress towards their goal; it's still a fake Stone they find, but it's close to the real thing and we see what other people have already tried. Only after all this buildup is done do we finally encounter a real Philosopher's Stone – but with this answer to the initial question comes the implication that there's far more to it, and boy howdy, is there! We build from there to the climax at the Fifth Laboratory, which deftly weaves together all the threads previously established: the Philosopher's Stone, the nature of humanity, the homunculi, the dark implications of Ed's determination.

The brothers continue to pursue the Philosopher's Stone, and while Izumi's appearance initially appears to be a sidetrack, it quickly becomes relevant with the appearance of Wrath, teaching us more about the homunculi and giving us a whole new perspective on equivalent exchange. We return to Liore (after some meandering, admittedly), and get another climax leading to the resolution of the initial driving motive: the brothers obtain a true Philosopher's Stone. But now what? Now that they have this power, what do they do with it, after it's been so tainted by the knowledge they've learned? That's the new driving question they have to figure out next.

Hohenheim shows up just in time to offer important context on the nature of the Stone and those who would chase it, slotting the final pieces of the puzzle into place. At the same time, Ed must confront his own sins, represented through the battle with Sloth, as he grapples with the question of the homunculi's humanity and his own. We get the revelation that the villain was just a human all along, a scathing deconstruction of the oft-referenced equivalent exchange, and a final reveal of what's behind the Gate and the true meaning of alchemy. For the ending, we see the Philosopher’s Stone finally used, and it succeeds at the very thing that kicked off the entire story: a true resurrection.

It makes sense. Not just on a literal level – do the pieces fit together – but thematically. The writers had clear themes they wanted to explore and they did. All the questions asked at the beginning are answered. Pacing and individual episodes may have been wonky, but what ultimately percolates out is highly coherent. You can follow the starting thread of the Philosopher's Stone through to the end of the plot, and also see where it intertwines with the other themes. That's a good plot in my book.

Does Brotherhood have characters that age naturally throughout the series?

I'm honestly not sure why this is up there with the others, as it seems like a pretty low bar to me. Is this really notable…? Regardless, I'd say both series qualify, though in opposite directions. Brotherhood shows the characters getting older, but OG does a really good job with young Ed in the flashbacks and having him behave differently than in the present.

Does Brotherhood have interesting characters with their own sets of morals and beliefs?

I fully acknowledge I can't fully judge this from the cross-section I've seen, but… not moreso than average, I'd say. The heroes tend to agree on everything and not have major conflicts. I think I would like to see some specific examples of what people mean when they say this.

OG definitely fits this bill. Even "good" characters frequently find themselves in conflict with each other, and even minor differences in beliefs can lead to conflict. In particular, the villains have extremely diverse motivations they frequently butt heads over. The characters are, overall, more flawed and varied.

Does Brotherhood know when and when not to add comic relief?

No.

Does Brotherhood have effective themes of anti-imperialism?

An ethnic and religious minority realizes their culture is completely wrong and their purpose is to violate it to save the white people. In particular, Scar's character arc is about learning that reverse racism is very very wrong and you're not allowed to seek vengeance for wrongs done to you. That is pretty much the definition of cultural imperialism. I don't know how this is even a question.

OG, meanwhile, shows in ugly detail the effects of imperialism on conquered peoples. The Ishbalans, already scattered into slums and camps, are hunted down by delinquents and state-backed mercenaries. We see this happen while Scar gets his "vengeance is very wrong" speech, so pointedly I cannot see it as anything but an intentional critique of the original scene. Scar's last act is one of mass murder against the white oppressors, and his last words affirm the validity of his vengeance.

We also end with Amestris actually becoming a democracy instead of continuing to be a military dictatorship but it's okay because a good guy's in charge now. OG recognizes the truth that benevolent dictatorship is an oxymoron; Brotherhood clings to that strong-man fantasy.

Does Brotherhood have good minority characters?

I'm expanding this one a bit. The way I see it, Brotherhood takes a very disgenuine approach to this. It superficially gives people exactly what they say they want, and not an inch more. Like the plot itself, it pours all its work into isolated traits that make good soundbites, without putting any effort into genuinely integrating the characters into the narrative or doing anything truly subversive with them.

"Brotherhood has a strong female character who doesn't reject her femininity!" Yes, instead she's defined by it, and defined by her failure as a women for her inability have children.

"Brotherhood has cool disabled characters!" Yeah, but they spend all their time wailing that being disabled is a fate worse than death and they must stop at nothing to fix it.

"Brotherhood has disabled WOC!" Yeah, they play support in a few fight scenes and have no personality otherwise.

"Scar is such a complex villain who questions his motives!" Yeah, but this is the one time a sympathetic villain absolutely did not need to question his motives, because his motive is that Nazis are bad.

"Brotherhood has women with big boobs that aren't sexualized!" Okay, this one just isn't true.

"Brotherhood has women who don't do things just for men!" Yeah, but they're still less important than the male characters and are often defined by their relationship to them (Izumi to Ed, Olivier to Alex).

"Brotherhood has POC who fight against racism!" Yeah, by learning that reverse racism is very wrong.

As I said in BH 19:

I really want us to start being more critical of representation like this. Treating strong [minority] characters like a list of checkboxes is so totally wrongheaded. Characters don't exist in a vacuum. [...] We need to look at characters within the context of the narrative they inhabit, relative to other characters and the framing of the work.

I am really, genuinely sorry that anime has broken your overton windows, guys. But you're not going to fix that by holding up shows doing the embarrassingly bare minimum as the answer to all our problems. You need to step back and get a reality check on this. This is not groundbreaking progressivism. We've got to set the bar higher than at the Earth's core if we want to raise it.

And because I suspect this is also a motivation: you don't need to justify your enjoyment of anything. You don't need to show the Fun Police that your favorite anime has the acceptable number of Woke Points before you're allowed to say you enjoy it. You can like big boobs. You can like Gary Stus. That doesn't make you a bad person. It's just not inherently progressive.

So! Let's look at the whole, then, shall we?

To be clear, and I know I've been saying this a lot but it seems I still have to: I'm not doing this to say I think my preferred version is without flaw. Boy, can't imagine who'd be conceited enough to do that. But from what I've seen, all the flaws commonly cited in OG are just as present in the manga and Brotherhood. Meandering plot? Yep. Misogyny? Oh, yes. Everything is flawed. But we become willing to look over the flaws when there's something worth it on the other side. I can say – yes, OG has a lot of annoying filler, yes, OG's alchemy mechanics still don't make perfect sense, yes, OG has plot holes – but when I'm watching, those thoughts just… fade away. I like the narrative too much to get distracted by the flaws. That's immersion for you. I can't intuitively understand the appeal of Brotherhood in the same way, but I can believe the same principle still applies – the fans like the virtues more and care about the flaws less than I do.

The difference between the two animes is often summed up as simply that OG is darker and less optimistic, but I think that's too reductive. What it really comes down to is this: OG is fanfiction.

Like, literally, it is. It's made by different writers who were fans of the original work. It may have a huge budget and team and official licensing, but that's what it is at its core. The design philosophy and structure of the plot is textbook early-fandom fanfiction: they looked at what they had so far, elated at the vast array of possibilities the plot still had, and decided to explore the parts they liked and cared about. They explored new avenues of characterization and elaborated on details the source didn't have time to get into. They spent entire episodes just having the characters talk about their feelings or reflect on themes. They reshaped the story to fit their own interpretations by expanding the space and using it to drill down deep into what they loved.

I think whether you like OG is highly dependent on whether you share the showrunners' interests and agree that these elements are worth spending time on. For that reason, I can see why it has more niche appeal; by making the plot revolve around only a few details, you lose the interest of a lot of peripheral fans. Brotherhood, which covers a wide breadth of stuff more shallowly, has more potential of having something for everyone. But, well… sometimes you want a deep dive. Sometimes you have narrative itches that can't be scratched by a shallow splash. I shared the showrunners' enthusiasm for OG's themes, and so I appreciated how far they were willing to go with them, even at the expense of some other things. Though it aired more than a decade ago, I still think its content is relevant and interesting today. What does it mean to be human? What are our responsibilities to others? What is justice, and fairness? These are timeless, important questions, and every author has a different perspective on them I appreciate reading.

Honestly, I think you could say OG is closer to seinen than shonen by the end. It took a setting that appeals to teens and used it as a vehicle for discussing more mature philosophy. It's no wonder that shonen fans hate it – they're in the wrong genre!

Ultimately, I don't think there's much more to say. I started this attempting to empirically note all the differences between the shows, and found so many in even the most minor details that I'm concluding OG is effectively a different genre than its own source material. At that point objectivity kind of goes out the window – you can't justifiably say one genre is better than another. I liked it, and I hope, by this point, I've adequately explained why. Whether you agree or disagree, I hope I've given you something to think about too.