Anime Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood (Part 1)

This is going to be a spoiler free review. Part 2 of this review will be a spoiler-filled review of the entire story.

When I was in high school, the orignal Fullmetal Alchemist was one of my favourite shows. I would watch it on Adult Swim (back when Adult Swim showed a lot of anime) and loved it up until around the second season. By that point, the manga had been available in America for a while and in typical Ryan fashion, I bought every single volume I could get my hands on (by the end of high school, I had around 500 volumes of manga). A few episodes into the second season, the anime spun off completely from the manga and developed it’s own way of ending the show without waiting for the manga to finish, and the whole thing ended very bizarrely and rather crappily, don’t even get me started on how terrible the movie was.

When Brotherhood was announced, the creator of the series, Hiromu Arakawa stated that this new show would be made considerably closer to the original story in the manga. Needless to say, I was stoked. The closer story to the manga makes the whole anime much more of a cohesive experience, it also doesn’t have the odd tonal shift between parts like the original series has. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is much more messed up throughout than the original series was.

For those of you not in the know, both Fullmetal Alchemist series are about the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, who attempted something impossible. The two tried to bring their mother back to life through alchemy, which is forbidden by everyone. The transmutation backfired and Alphonse lost his entire body and Edward lost his left leg, Ed gave up his right arm in order to get Al’s soul back and bound it to a suit of armour, making Al become a living suit of armour. Ed was fitted with prosthetic auto-mail by the brother’s childhood friend, Winry, and the two set off to find the legendary Philosopher’s Stone in order to regain their bodies. Alchemy is bound by the law of equivalent exchange, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and the Philosopher Stone is able to ignore this rule and also achieve human transmutation. The show is not just about the journey of the Elric brothers, though, it’s also heavily about the military government of the land of Amestris, where the story is set, and a number of it’s members such as Colonel Roy Mustang, Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, and my personal favourite, Maes Hughes.

The show manages to blend comedy with some incredibly disturbing story developments and characters. It’s not the kind of show that one should watch unless they want philosophy and violence throughout. Due to the pacing of the story this time around and the fact that it covers the first 26 episodes of the original series in under 13 in Brotherhood, it gets to the more messed up (and sadder) parts of the story much quicker. Brotherhood ran for 64 episodes, four side OVA’s, and a side-story movie.

The animation is just about as good as any other anime that has a large budget, it’s very fluid, and expressive, but the style is much closer to the style of the manga than the original series was. It manages to capture a number of the aspects of Arakawa’s art such as her very particular ways of drawing mouths and even her way of colouring the art. This ultimately comes down to personal preference, but I really like the art style for Brotherhood more than I like the style of the original. The music is very similar to the music of the original, in fact, most of the music is the music from the original, just re-orchestrated. This, like the art style, is a personal preference as to which version people like, I don’t really have much of an opinion as to which is better. The music is good, but I don’t really notice it very often. Like the original, the dub for Brotherhood is rather spectacular, and this one is just as good as most of the voice actors for the big characters came back to do the dub for Brotherhood. I will honestly say that the dub is better in Brotherhood and it is mostly because of the better story and overall better writing. The show doesn’t stoop to the same amount of somewhat annoying humour as the original did and that makes the dub overall much more pleasing to watch.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood overall is a much better series than the original show. The story is overall better and more coherent and the dub is fantastic. The music and art style are debatable, but if you are going to watch a Fullmetal Alchemist series, I would highly suggest you watch Brotherhood over the original.

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