I am way overdue in writing about this series. Usually I write about a show as I watch it, but in this case I’m up to disc 10 and other than talking about Armstrong I have yet to mention it. I stepped away from the series for a few months when the Big Project at work came up, and I’m just now getting back to it.
Fullmetal Alchemist is unlike most of the other anime I watch. For one thing, it’s actually on television where normal people tend to watch shows. It’s part of the Adult Swim lineup, which I guess is a series of cartoons for grownups on the Cartoon Network. So, the show is a little more mainstream than most of the stuff I watch.
The premise of the show is that alchemy is real. It works, and there is an entire science based on turning stuff into other stuff. There are laws that govern this, and a person usually has to study for a long time before they can do alchemy. Some people can’t do it at all. It seems to require both an innate gift and lots of knowledge.
Once in a while an alchemist gets it into his head that he could bring someone back from the dead. All he needs is the base elements that comprise the human body in the right amounts, some really complex and evil-looking transmutation circles, and a truckload of hubris. This is called “human alchemy”, and it is strictly forbidden.
|The Elrich brothers & their mother|
The series opens with the results of their experiment. Ed has one of his arms and one of his legs disintegrate when he attempts to bring back their mother. Al has the same thing happen to his entire body. Ed manages to bind his brother’s disembodied soul onto a suit of armor before it is gone forever. Thus he saves his brother, but also dooms him to life as an empty metal suit.
Eventually Ed gets a prosthetic metal arm and leg, and the two boys embark on a quest to recover what they lost.
|Edward Elrich, The Fullmetal Alchemist|
Ed is pretty short for his age, and one of the running gags in the show is how he hates being called short, and throws a chibi-style hissy fit whenever someone refers to him as such. This is compounded by the fact that he’s been named the Fullmetal Alchemist, but he travels with his brother who is a giant clanking metal suit. Most people assume that Al is the Fullmetal Alchemist, and when Ed corrects them they usually say something like, “You? But you’re so short!” Mayhem ensues.
Ed has an arm and leg made of “automail”, which as far as I can tell is made from some very advanced robotics. This is a bit odd since the world is otherwise mostly Victorian-era technology. He can move it at will, and since it’s made of metal he can also transmute his arm. By using alchemy he can turn the arm into a spike or a bladed weapon or any other number of tools.
Al is also shy and prefers to let his older brother handle things, which is difficult since he tends to stick out in a crowd. Most people assume he’s a guy wearing a suit of armor, and are shocked and frightened if they find out the truth.
I loved this show from the outset. The characters are interesting. The combat is intense and varied. The plot is compelling. The premise is unique. But now that I’m 36 episodes into it, it’s starting to wear on me.
Any clumsy show can have characters fighting to find out The Secret. In a more intelligent show, they might struggle to find out The Secret Behind The Secret. That’s certainly a lot more interesting. Occasionally an elaborate show will come along where we learn The Secret Behind The Secret Behind The Secret. But once a show gets half a dozen levels deep in secrets, it all blurs together and I stop trying to figure things out. Oh look, another mysterious person who knows the brothers, knows the Next Secret, and isn’t inclined to just freaking tell them. After a while the show starts to lose its air of mystery and becomes a series of fights.
So it’s a good thing the fights are so interesting. The combat in this show is very tense and sometimes gruesome. The alchemy keeps it varied, with lots of special effects and unexpected tricks to keep things lively.
Having said that, I am getting tired of it. I prefer short series. Barring that, I prefer a series which has an ending, and it doesn’t look like this sucker is going to end soon. I love the characters and their quest, but I’m getting the feeling that despite their struggles are aren’t really getting anywhere. If this was just about a couple of guys who travel around and have adventures, that would be one thing, but at the start of the show they pointed us in the direction of a real destination and now I’m keen to get there. A major problem is that we never know how much more we have to go. We’re always on the verge of learning the Next Secret, so for the last eight discs I’ve had the feeling we’re just a few episodes away from the end. Then the door to the Next Next Secret opens up. The show could keep this up forever, so even though a lot is happening it seems like nothing is happening.
I’m curious if the end has been written yet, but I’m very very careful about spoilers so I don’t want to go sniffing around and learn something that will ruin it for me.
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