When a series at 51 episodes feels shorter than most series at 26 episodes you know you’ve got a treasure on your hands. Time melts away as episodes fly by and all of a sudden you realize that you failed to write that paper for English and it is already past midnight. That is what all-nighters are for, right?
Lets just get this out of the way right away. Fullmetal Alchemist is epic. It is so well put together that you can just watch a short clip and tell that the series has serious epic-potential. In fact, I should just end this review right now by saying “see this now.” Seriously. Just do it.
…Are you still here? Well, ok. I applaud your desire for a more in-depth review. So lets have at it, ok?
I have long been of the opinion (and have probably stated as much in at least half of my reviews) that characters are the most important part of a series for me. I can handle crappy plot, mediocre animation, derivative concepts, and just about anything else that can go wrong with an anime… as long as I find interest in the characters. Everything else an anime does right is a bonus in my book. Fullmetal Alchemist does characters very well and builds up relationships in such a way that they feel genuine and urgent.
At the same time, the plot is top-notch. Random things that happen in the first few awkward episodes wrap around and become important in the later 1/3 of the series. Almost everything seems to happen for a reason so that it can be recalled later for use. So not only does the series engage on a character level, but also from a plot standpoint.
Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric discoverer early on in their life that they have the skill of alchemy that their long-gone father had. Their mother encourages them, savoring the memories of her absent husband. When she dies, however, the brothers use their skills to perform dark, restricted alchemy. Their transgression transforms their life forever as, in Alchemy’s equivalent exchange law, Al loses his body (Ed quickly rescuing his soul by attaching it to an empty suit of armor) and Ed loses his right arm and left leg. And thus the stage is set as Ed is driven by one goal- restoring them (particularly Al) to the way they were. The solution Ed sees as most viable is the quest for the ever-elusive Philosopher’s Stone. With the stone the law of equivalent exchange would become moot and such an exchange should be possible.
I could spend all day summarizing this show and failing to do it justice. But that little set-up should suffice. Still, the show goes heavy places that most anime–or any other form of media–don’t go. These areas left me shouting noiselessly at my screen, shocked at what the writer(s) did. Do not be decieved… this is not a children’s anime. There are dark issues and unspoken taboos crossed. Then they take the taboos and cross them again. They left me (me!) feeling queasy (and I didn’t even know I could feel that way anymore). And that, in my mind, is awesome.
Of course, as with any series 51 episodes in length, there are some flaws. However, they cannot dampen my enthusiasm for this show. Everything else is done so well that the show rises way above any flaws and becomes a work of art near unequaled by anything else anime has to offer.
Title: Fullmetal Alchemist
US Distributor: FUNimation
Number of Episodes: 51
Availability: In print in both singles and Naruto-style sets of 3 discs each. Though rumor has it that early next year there will be a reasonably priced complete box set releasing.
Links: ANN Encyclopedia