The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Title: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: BONES/Aniplex
Format: 64 episodes
Dates: 5 Apr 2009 – 4 Jul 2010

Synopsis: Alchemy is the art of transforming matter. However, in order to create something, the alchemist has to present something of equal value; this is the golden rule of alchemy. After losing their mother to a disease, Edward and Alphonse Elric try to resurrect her, an illegal taboo in the world of alchemy. Through the unsuccessful process Edward loses his arm and his leg and has to transmute Alphonse’s soul (which lost its body,) to a suit of armor. Afterward the two set off on a journey to find the legendary philosopher’s stone and use its magic to reunite with their bodies. In the process Edward joins the army and a much bigger plot unfolds.

The Highlights
Foils: Brilliantly highlight the characteristics of the main characters.
Visuals: Stunning even for a BONES‘ production.
Music: For the most part good; in some instances beautiful.
Philosophical references: Read some of the works of Kant and Schopenhauer and you will truly appreciate this masterpiece.
Main characters: Always true to their personalities and characteristics.
Action scenes: Masterful; the cherry on top of all the other great qualities.
Symbolism: Is this anime or poetry?
The final scene: Words cannot properly describe it.

What is the truth in morality and life? Who is truly “good” and “evil”? Through the journey of two young boys, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood comes up with its own answers to these questions; and quite successfully.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood took all the impressive qualities from the first series and simply polished them. In the process of doing so, it practically eliminated all weaknesses from the first series and created a true work of art. The misplaced comedy was removed. Nearly no scenes which are intended to be dramatic are accompanied by slapstick humor. Brotherhood‘s visuals are of a considerably higher caliber and so are its action scenes. What truly separates FMA: Brotherhood from its original counterpart however is the way in which it explores profound philosophical themes. The level of depth in Brotherhood‘s story is astounding. It avoids any form of fillers, unlike the original, and uses every single one of its episodes effectively. Take any episode out of FMA: Brotherhood and it will be missing a vital organ in its body.

FMA: Brotherhood is essentially an exploration into morality and the many philosophical ideals that have governed humanity. Edward and Alphonse’s journey to regain their bodies is symbolic of the show’s journey to build a true moral body of its own. In the act of regaining their bodies, Edward and Alphonse must also build on their ideals and morality. The various characters in their journey each bring their own ethics to the table. In General Armstrong and Fort Briggs we see an influence from Darwin‘s survival of the fittest. In “Father” we see Nietzsche‘s philosophy of the “ubermensch” (the super person who has the power and the right to rise above all those weaker than him.) The philosophical references are endless; ranging from Schopenhauer‘s “will to be” and pessimism, to Hume‘s skepticism. The true merit of this anime’s philosophical journey however lies not only in the various references but in its answer to all the questions. It does not simply throw a bunch of references out there to appear intellectual. It brings all of them together in order to give its own answer. An answer which eventually takes the side of Kantian philosophy in stating that the true “goodness” of our actions lies in our intention.

Too many animes have such flatness in their characters, that they could easily be likened to what they actually are: pixels. FMA‘s characters are not just complex but contain an incredible honesty in themselves. Their personalities are alive and carry on throughout the entire series. Even when characters change, they do it in a way unique to their own being. The amount of detail and effort this show puts into characters is astonishing. Even the foils are among the best in anime. Never is a character brought forth without delivering a crucial message to the story.

On top of the wondrous substance are also breathtaking aesthetics. I enjoyed every single one of the introduction and ending theme songs, and the background music can at times be beautiful. The action sequences are accompanied by intense tunes and detailed sound effects. The visuals are absolutely fantastic, even for BONES. The landscapes and towns are visually stunning, the clothes and character designs are thought out to the finest detail, and facial expressions are shown with a carefulness few anime can match.

Fullmetal Alchemist is so much more than what this review writes of it. There is only so much I can say without spoiling it. That is what great anime do. Fullmetal Alchemist is one of those few anime in which a fan of literature such as myself can find a substance and profundity that parallels that of a great novel. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood tells the story of a boy who, through his outer and inner journey, will establish an understanding of the moral essence which connects every human being.

The Rating: 9

Reviewed by: MK

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