With its great character gallery, great script, great universe, great drawing, great action and great humor, you’ll probably have understood what I think of the anime Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
It is: FANTASTIC.
In a context where the supply of series has never been so abundant, the Screen Saver[s] intends to be your guide through the seasons. Whether it’s an old series now cult, a recent hit or a more anonymous show, this review will help you to waste your time only in good company.
Accompany the reading of this article with music from the series:
Here we are already in 2020 and, above all, at the beginning of season 2 of our TV series column. The episodes of the first one went by so fast that I didn’t even have time to talk about it anime… So it was high time to enter this vast and teeming universe.
I debated with myself for a long time (it’s not pretty, believe me) to choose the work that would have the honor of opening the ball. And once the decision was made, it was obvious to me. So today we’re going to talk about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
Why obvious? Because in my opinion, and beyond the very many qualities that we will describe in the next paragraphs, this series of dark fantasy is probably the one I would recommend the most to someone who would like to go into anime (or go beyond the classic and extremely long Naruto, Bleach, One Piece and company).
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood benefits from a real accessibility, in form and content, which other high quality shows do not necessarily enjoy. I think for example of Kill the Kill, Death Note or The Promised Neverland, whose themes or aesthetics are not necessarily ideal to start, and that it is thus preferable to keep for the future.
In short, let’s get back to the title that interests us here. This is the second anime adaptation of the manga Fullmetal Alchemist (hence the addition of “Brotherhood“). While the first one quickly took liberties and distances itself from the paper material, this new version sticks much more to it and benefits from a much better animation quality. Some purists prefer the original, but we’re not here to throw stones.
During 64 episodes – a duration that I find ideal because it allows the series to take its time to develop characters and plots while avoiding falling into the trap of filling episodes – the viewer follows the two young Elric brothers in the fictional country of Amestris. They practice Alchemy, a science/magic based on matter and transmutation circles, to master the elements and to achieve many things (throwing flames or lightning, creating mud walls or weapons…etc.).
Following the departure of their father and the death of their mother, Alphonse and Edward Elric will try to bring her back to life through human transmutation, which is forbidden according to the conventions of Alchemy. Unsurprisingly, it goes wrong. Edward loses an arm and a leg, and Alphonse, dispossessed of his body, sees his soul locked in a metal armour. The two brothers then set out in search of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone to find their original bodies.
There, you now have the basis of the story.
That said, FMA:B goes much further than this touching initial quest and its central core of loyalty between two brothers now alone. With the addition of many allies and antagonists, each more charismatic than the other, on the path of our brothers (I thought I’d start a list of examples but I’ll still be there tomorrow), other countries, political intrigues, betrayals, a bit of religion, murders or mysterious elements whose introduction and resolution are extremely satisfying, the show of the Bones studio is of an undeniable creative richness and mastery.
The whole remains very digestible and accessible, as I said, thanks to a clever mix of drama (prepare the handkerchiefs on some passages, really), action (some fights are legendary) and humor. FMA:B also manages to avoid a majority of the pitfalls common to many shonens (pulling too much length, for example, coming out of deus ex machina out of nowhere, abusing unjustified “sexy” fan service passages, etc.) and rarely has a story made me fear for the heroes so much, and hate the villains so much.
However, the series also avoids excessive Manichaeism, especially for certain characters who prove to be much deeper than they first appear. But, as always in Le Veilleur d’Ecran[s], I can’t say too much at the risk of spoiling you with surprises.
If I already quickly evoked the quality animation of the series, I must specify that where it shines especially, in my opinion, it is in its relevant alternation between classical images (including a serious, clean and excellent drawing that tastefully depicts the steam punk/fantasy universe characteristic of the show) and caricatured and absurd images with a humorous purpose.
It’s quite simple, I had to wait for the recent Demon Slayer for me to explode so much laughter in front of my screen thanks to deliberately minimalist and disproportionate faces that come to relax the atmosphere and make the characters even more endearing. And if I usually lack a little bit of GIF to illustrate my words, today I’m overwhelmed by the choices.
Of course the animation would not work without excellent dubbing (in Japanese, of course), and the music also rises to the expected level of quality. Some passages, opening and ending may haunt you for a while. Finally, and because I make it my mission to be completely honest, there is only one small flaw that I could blame on FMA:B: despite a rhythm, on the whole, very solid, there is a slight soft underbelly of a few episodes in the middle of the series, during which not much happens… But it’s really just quibbling.
“It’s one of the few shows I’ve taken the time to watch several times, so much so that I can’t get tired of its generosity and overall quality.”
I’ve already reached the end of this column. I have the unpleasant feeling that I forgot to tell you about a thousand things that explain my unconditional love for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I must say that in a context where I already don’t have time to see everything I would like to see, this is one of the rare series that I have taken the time to watch several times, so much so that I can’t get tired of its generosity and overall quality.
Like an infernal snap of Roy Mustang’s fingers, the Elric brothers’ journey burns with passion and ends up extinguishing itself, leaving behind the embers of want… (yeah, it doesn’t mean anything, so what?)
– You’re looking for a dense, rhythmic work, neither too short, nor too long (the right duration, what)
– Friendship, brotherhood, loyalty, these are themes that speak to you
– You like a steam punk/dark fantasy mix
– You want to laugh, cry, vibrate, in short, you enjailler
– Anime is really not your thing (but try anyway !)
– 64 episodes is too much for you (it’s not as long as One Piece)
– Magic, fantasy, all that, berk…
For availability, “thanks” to its recent in-house live action version that we don’t recommend, Netflix now owns all episodes of Full Metal Alchemist: . Brotherhood. Don’t make a mistake when clicking.
Previously in Screen saver[s]:
Undone, Peaky Blinders, The Capture, Lastman, Battlestar Galactica, Counterpart, Utopia, Manhunt: UNABOMBER, Cosmos, a spacetime odyssey, The Man in the High Castle, The Boys