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

Summary: After watching their mother pass away from disease, Edward and Alphonse Elric, swear to use their knowledge of alchemy to bring her back to life. Despite their best efforts, the two brothers fail and end up losing parts of their body in the process.  In order to restore their bodies, the Elric brothers embark on a journey to find the Philosopher’s Stone, a mysterious object that allows them to break free from the laws of alchemy.

The Highlights
Art and Animation: Bright, fluent and creative.
Music: Often brings more to a scene than anything else the director can muster.
King Bradley: Consistently the best thing in this series.

I am a huge fan of Fullmetal Alchemist.  I love the first anime. I love the manga. My desktop background is still a picture of a transmutation circle.  Yet, I simply could not get into Bones‘ latest and supposedly more faithful adaptation of Arakawa Hiromu‘s manga Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

Though the series starts out with the same material as the 2003 version, it immediately comes across as several magnitudes inferior.  The dialogue feels clunkier and the flow of events is chopped up repeatedly with intrusive comedy.  Character interactions feel awkward and at times superficial.  Very rarely does the show ever come across as genuine. Try as it may, Brotherhood never manages to maintain any kind of atmosphere or charm to draw the viewers into its story.

Answering exactly why the show fails to spark the same magic as virtually everything else in this franchise is difficult, but I’m inclined to point my finger at director Irie Yasuhiro. The manga knows when to be funny, when to be dramatic and when to be tragic.  In contrast, Irie takes what the manga has, throws it into a blender and serves whatever comes out the other end with little regard to anything except how to efficiently to chop up a dense 70 pages of narrative into a digestible 21 minutes.  With few exceptions, the primary solution seems to be to wantonly disregard the creation of atmosphere and any dramatic build-up. Each episode is not structured around any kind of theme, message or idea. At times, entire episodes go by without any semblance of beginning, middle and end.  Things just happen for the sake of covering synonymous events in the manga.

Though Irie may not be the best director, there’s little question that the man has an eye for visuals. Some may complain that the more unusual character designs along with the interesting choice to mostly eschew parallel lines in the background makes the end result look cheap but few anime look and move as well as Brotherhood.  Fight scenes are usually above average and any battle involving King Bradley generally ends up among some of the best choreographed fight sequences in television anime.

Unless you’re an avid fan of the manga and can mentally gloss over the vast flaws in the execution, this anime will be a long and rather tepid experience.  It’s still better than most shounen action shows out there, but it fails to be what most big shounen anime should be: fun and addictive. Irie may be a good animation director, but he has never directed anything as big as Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood before and he probably should have gotten more experience before tackling this project.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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