Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood
Years ago, when I was still neck-deep into anime, the original Full Metal Alchemist anime was one of my favorites. I remember loving the quality of the character designs, the animation, the world and the storyline, even though ultimately it disappointed with a depressing 'ending' that dragged out into an iffy series of OAVs and an even more depressing movie. Yeah, it was only until recently that I realized how crappy FMA really was- when compared to Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood from renowned anime production house, Studio Bones.
What is apparently a very straightforward adaptation of the original (and still ongoing) manga by creator Hiromu Arakawa, in so many ways Brotherhood is a massive improvement over its predecessor anime. The scope of the story is so much broader and complex, thankfully without having to resort to bringing the action to our own mundane Earth.
After losing their mother to illness years ago, brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric innocently commit an act forbidden by the laws of alchemy- human transmutation. In the process Ed loses an arm and a leg, while Al loses his entire body, reduced to just his bare soul, quickly attached by his brother to a suit of armor. Though still young and inexperienced, the two brothers later set off on a journey to reclaim what they have lost by finding the legendary Philosopher's Stone. This quest will bring them into contact with the darkest forces in their land, as well as many who will become friends or enemies as their personal crusade soon becomes a war for the survival of their country.
To match the epic scope and story, the cast of characters both evil and good properly enlarged as well. Not only do we have the Elric Brothers and Roy Mustang's loyal officers to root for- Brotherhood gives us a literal army of allies and comrades for Ed and Al, many of them once only seen in the original manga. There's the Ice Queen of the North, Olivier Armstrong and her battle-hardened troops, newcomers from the foreign land of Xing- Lin, Ran Fan, Fu and May, rebel Chimera and so much more. Characters like Scar, Izumi Curtis, Tim Marcoh and Zolf Kimblee become so much more complete and in many ways endlessly more bad-ass and awesome than they ever were in the original. The Homunculus have never been as scary and powerful- King Bradley, formerly Pride in the first anime, is now ten times more deadly and powerful as Wrath in Brotherhood. Then there's the new Homunculi- the 'real' Pride and Sloth. Now these villains aren't just underground, secret enemies- their reach goes far deeper and higher than ever before. At the heart of it all, the mysterious and enigmatic, seemingly omnipotent Father, whose sinister agenda is still to be fully revealed.
Nearly every episode of Brotherhood is an event to be savored since it debuted last year. The direction, the drama, the characters, the humor, the action and the music all reek of top quality, rarely seen in such a great degree. I can't count how many great moments have gotten the hair on the back of my neck perking up in delight as with Brotherhood. As the manga closes Brotherhood looks to capture it as well in a suitably awesome endgame that has just begun in the most recent episode.
If there's a title I can say encapsulates everything awesome about anime, certainly FMAB is one excellent example. I'd go as far as to say that this may be my favorite Japanese anime ever, placing it alongside my other non-Japanese animated series all-time fave, Avatar: The Last Airbender. I highly recommend it for anyone wanting an anime show to watch and get into. Join the Brotherhood!