Monday, December 27

Full Metal Alchemist

The Elric Brothers, Al and Ed.

It's been quite a while since I first watched the first several episodes of Full Metal Alchemist. I've put the series aside since then since I got put off a bit by the flashback episodes, but this holiday break has finally allowed me to revisit the series in earnest. It helps that the series is now a big hit in the US, where it has been recently released. Aside from the anime (and the manga, still a Japan-only release), there are a couple of PS2 games out, so it's testament to this title's appeal.

Full Metal Alchemist concerns the adventures of Edward and Alphonse Elric, the young sons of a famous alchemist. After their mother dies, the two exceptionally gifted children use their powers of alchemy to try and bring her back. The attempt, a forbidden act as dictated by the Law of Conservation ('In order to gain something, you must give something of equal value'), fails, costing Edward his arm and leg and Al his entire body. In order to save his brother's soul, Ed binds it to a suit of armor. Years later, the two- a diminuative cyborg alchemist and a walking, talking suit of armor, search the world for the legendary Philosopher's Stone, in the hope of gaining back what they had lost. Despite what may be first assumed, the title of 'Full Metal Alchemist' refers not to Alphonse (the suit of armor), but to little (and elder) Ed, an alchemist genius who can use his powers even without drawing an array, or special alchemist's circle.

This unusual, and somewhat dark premise forms the backbone of a complex saga that involves powerful magic, action adventure and themes of sacrifice, loss, guilt, brotherly and familial love and always going forward no matter what. For an anime that has an exceptionally clean and 'cute' look to it, FMA is a predominantly melancholy, even sad, series. There are points in the title that are heartbreaking and emotionally powerful, offset slightly by a few moments of comedy and the brothers' inherent cheerfulness (and Edward's exceptional sensitivity to any remarks about his height). However, the story proves to be quite engaging and gripping once you get into it.
Aside from the brothers' quest, there are subplots that involve the agenda of Roy Mustang and his cohorts, a group of military alchemists who may or may not be allies to Ed and Al. Then there are enemies, such as the mysterious Scar, a man with a magical arm who seems to have made it his crusade to kill every alchemist in the world. And then, there are the Homunculi, a group of inhuman, behind-the-scenes villains who are named after the Seven Deadly Sins.

Mixing a coming-of-age saga with complex conspiracy and pretty cool magical powers, Full Metal Alchemist is an exceptional series that mature fans of anime should definitely check out. I've already cleared 18 episodes and I'm ready for more. Find it on VCD or DVD at your favorite anime and toy shops in the Metro.

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