Fullmetal Alchemist Series Review


Such a declaration at this point probably provokes a resounding “Duh.” from the vast majority of my readers and the anime fandom as a whole… and yet I can’t help but use it as my intro, as that truly is my best way of conveying the fact that I really, really loved this, and also really feel it was good (as opposed to my loving Kyoushiro to Towa no Sora, which was complete crap).

At this point in time, Full Metal Alchemist qualifies as old, particularly in a culture as fast-paced and future-oriented as anime fandom. If you don’t believe me on the future-oriented past, simply peruse the various season previews on various blogs, and check out the dates on those previews; you’ll quickly notice that these tend to pre-date air dates by between one and a half to two months. Why bother with what’s airing when you can start anticipating?

However, even in such a climate, one would be hard-pressed to deem Fullmetal Alchemist fully disposable. The news of the pending second season is proof of this, for few anime get sequels, and even less get sequels years after the fact (granted, in the case of FMA, the fact that the manga is still on-going helps its case).

At this point in time, basically anyone with an internet connection can give you the basic plot of FMA – two boys, the Elric brothers, seek the Philosopher’s Stone, having lost portions of their physical selves in a botched attempt to resurrect their deceased mother. On its face, it is perfectly tailored for a Shounen Jump-esque audience, and it certainly begins that way, although that the first ‘adventure’ focuses in on a religiously-derived conflict hints of greater things to come. As the episodes fly by and people come forward from the woodwork, it is quickly obvious that this is a show that, while maybe never reaching the episode total of a behemoth such as One Piece, will demand the full attention of viewers and a willingness on their part to consider questions deeper than “What new power-up will male hero A use this week to totally kick bad guy butt?”

I will fully admit to being impressed by FMA. I had heard many, many good things about it (starting, curiously enough, with a friend’s older sister back in 8th grade), but I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Young male protagonist? Well, maybe it could be good, but surely it wouldn’t exceed the realm to which one finds so many shounen sagas confined.

And yet it did – hence my being impressed. FMA eschewed trappings of the apparent genre (which, in my humble opinion, I completely inadequately categorized it as such), sidestepping the endless power-ups and slightly less than cardboard villains so rife in shows aimed at a younger male audience. FMA asked posed many questions about society as a whole – questioning notions of sacrifice, the community, and even racism, a topic I find to be almost entirely absent from anime and manga as a whole (unsurprisingly so, honestly, when one considers how much of a homogeneous society modern Japan still possesses). There is also an intriguing undercurrent of religion, which begins immediately, only to seemingly fade away as merely having been a temporary plot element, and resurfaces at the very end as an important story element. Some day I swear I’m going to do a religious analysis of the series.

However, I will admit some criticisms for the series – I, for one, would have liked to have gotten to known Colonel Mustang better, along with Lieutenant Hawkeye, given how central they were to the storyline. I felt that Lieutenant Hawkeye in particular suffered from a lack of characterization, for although we were told that she was dedicated to furthering Col. Mustang’s goals, we never were given a true explanation other than an implication toward the end and at the end that she was romantically interested in him. But I will also admit that these are very, very minor criticisms in the grand scheme of the whole show, and that characterization overall was top-notch. I feel that a good place to determine how characterization overall was done is to look at villains, and I would say that FMA by and large made me really go back and forth about whether I disliked the visible villains or not, which of course plays into questions raised about ethics and morality (which, in itself, is an interesting thing to consider in anime as a whole, particularly from a Western standpoint, given Western civilization’s grounding in Abrahamic traditions which demand that one draws morals from religion, while Buddhism and Shintoism have very, very different notions of what constitutes morals and from whence they are drawn… man, I have a lot of posts to consider in the queue!).

I really can’t recommend this show enough. Funimation’s new half-season boxset releases of it help make that argument – look around online a bit and you can easily find these selling in the $23 to $29 range, certainly no significant dent to the wallet of fans who regularly drop that much on a single DVD containing four or five episodes (thank god the three episode format seems to have dropped to the wayside). It also helps that, unlike some economical re-releases, the packaging is quite attractive and sturdy.

So, yeah, if you haven’t seen it yet? Go add it to your ‘to watch list’… if it isn’t there already.

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2 Responses to Fullmetal Alchemist Series Review

  1. itsina says:

    I love Fullmetal Alchemist, and it’s probably the best show I’ve ever watched. Each of the characters were memorable and I never found myself saying, “Wait, who was that again?” I agree with you – it’s deep, and it really makes you take a step back and look at life as a whole. I’m excited about the second series because apparently it’s supposed to follow the manga, which goes in a completely different direction. I’m glad it’s not just a continuation of the series after the movie because I thought the ending was wonderful. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you need to go see it immediately.

    I’d also like to say that your review was done beautifully, and I’d definitely be interested in seeing that religious analysis in the future. =]

  2. Sherryplus says:

    Love this anime, thanks for review!

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