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Enjoying it again for the first time

[Editor's note: this wasn't originally mentioned, but this post is the first by reviewer Matt "Legion" McClellan. The writer's name is always up there in the post header, but until now it's always been the same one.]

I’m quite fond of the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime. It’s got a great story, memorable characters and relationships and a lot more depth than other shows of it’s ilk. It’s well animated, funny, but also tense and engaging, with a solid and satisfying conclusion.

Why then, do we need another one? As is often the case a popular manga was adapted for television before the original author, in this case Hiromu Arakawa, was done his story. The series was catching up to it’s manga counterpart and therefore had to diverge. The first 26 episodes are fairly close to the manga but script writer Sho Aikawa took the storylines in a different direction.

This is quite common, but perhaps due to the show’s popularity at home and abroad, something rare has happened: it’s getting a do-over. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is intended to faithfully adapt Arakawa’s manga, with both the manga and anime concluding around the same time. Is this necessary? Given that the original show does not feel lacking or hampered in any way, maybe not. But is it welcomed? After 13 episodes I’m going to say yes, it’s very welcome.

The first 13 episodes of Brotherhood cover the same material as the first 26 episodes of the original show. This has proved to be interesting to watch. The slower buildup of the original made some of the plot points resonate deeper than Brotherhood, such as a likable supporting character’s death. However, the pacing in Brotherhood has been very good and nothing feels lost or skimmed over. The story of Ed and Al and their quest is still highly engaging and the results of their attempt to bring back their mother are as chilling as ever.

The visual aspects are similar yet slightly expanded and modernized on the original’s aesthetics due to the 16:9 framing and extra resolution. The show looks great and even if the resolution isn’t technically at high definition levels the animation is nice and fluid. I’m willing to take sub-HD resolutions with nice animation over 720p resolution with awkward animation any day. While Brotherhood is the technically superior production, there are elements of the original that I prefer. Both series have a wide range of amusing facial expressions and comically deformed moments, but I personally think the original may have handled these aspects with a bit more panache. Brotherhood’s comedic animations and visual jokes feel a little more typical (such as a giant arrow pointing at an empty space where a character or important object just was). Brotherhood still has a sharp sense of comedic timing and many fans probably prefer its visual humor.

Great characters call for great acting, and this is a franchise I’m currently more familiar with in English than Japanese. The original voice cast retains Romi Park and Rie Kugiyama as Ed and Al but the majority of the supporting characters are recast. FUNimation was more diligent in it’s casting; although Al has a new voice as Aaron Dismuke has long since hit puberty Vic Mignogna is clearly just thrilled to be playing Ed again and most of the supporting cast from the original series reprise their characters for Brotherhood. I’ll surely re-watch both series in the original Japanese some day, but I imagine the voice changes will be more jarring when I do.

Now that I’ve got the first 13 down, Brotherhood is entering new territory: new characters, new storylines, all leading to a different conclusion. I can’t wait to get into the new material but I’ve still enjoyed re-visiting the story covered in the original show. I wouldn’t recommend skipping the first 13 to get straight to the new material, either. There are moments and plot points not seen in the first half of the original run that feel like they may be giving context to the different path Brotherhood is taking.

Fullmetal Alchemist is just good anime. When I finish a really good show, a part of me can’t help but feel sad that it’s over. Brotherhood isn’t the same as continuing where the previous left off, but it’s great to be getting re-acquainted with the Elric brothers and their tale again. I’m quite willing to spend more time in their world, even if it’s from square-one.

7 Responses to “Enjoying it again for the first time”

  1. Ghostwriter Says:

    Well marc,I recently read your review of “Puni Puni Poemi.” This guy,Nabeshin could quite possibly earn the moniker “the Mel Brooks of anime.” If you don’t know who Mel Brooks is,I suggest you find out about him,for example,Wikipedia. Although,in your review,you made it quite clear that Nabeshin went further than Brooks did in his long career,and that’s saying something.
    And this part’s for everyone. I recently read a review on Anime News Network about the newest “Evangelion” movie,that they inserted a new character named Mari. The anime magazine “Otaku USA” said that she’s British while the reviewer at ANN said that she’s American. And according to her,the Mari character is Hideki Anno’s response to “Evangelion’s” success in America. In my opinion,if she’s American,then it’s Anno slamming American anime fans for making it a success here in the first place. It’s almost like he’s saying “Why was this a success in the US in the first place? The characters in this show are crazy and the show is extremely gloomy. Why? There are much more lighthearted anime for Americans to like,why did you enjoy this one?”

  2. Matt Says:

    I’m not Marc, but I did write this blog. Not sure if you’re interested in a response from me, since I didn’t review Poemi, but I can say that I’m at least somewhat familiar with Mel Brooks. Blazing Saddles is actually one of my favorite movies. Mel Brooks tends to go for broader comedy while Nabeshin will out-and-out parody real-life people, such as Michael Jackson in Nerima Daikon Brothers.

    I haven’t seen Evangelion 2.22 yet. I got my copy on Blu-ray and I’m looking forward to seeing what Mari is like but I don’t have anything to say about her right now.

  3. Ghostwriter Says:

    Well Matt,could you do me a favor? Since Marc’s wife is Japanese,maybe you could either ask him and then have him ask her or Akemi herself a few questions that I’d like to have answered:
    1.In recent years,a number of anime-style shows have shown up on American television. How does Akemi feel about that?
    2.Also recently,we’ve come up with our own giant robot shows,stuff like “Megas XLR” and “Sym-bionic Titan.” How does she feel about that?
    3.With the recent appearance of “Power Ranger Samurai,”I wonder why Japanese animators have never parodied the American version of their own show?

  4. Matt Says:

    I don’t know Akemi but I remember Marc saying she’s not really that huge into anime so she probably doesn’t have any strong feelings one way or the other.

    And wow, *another* Power Rangers series? I watched the original Power Rangers back in the day and even caught the tail end of an episode of a Power Rangers-type series when I was in Tokyo a few years ago. I’ve also seen some older iterations on the same idea, like Super Robot Red Baron. From what I’ve seen, the American interpretation is basically the same so there’s probably not much to parody.

  5. Ghostwriter Says:

    What an irony. We have someone who’s interested in anime and who has an anime website married to someone from the very country this stuff comes from and she’s not interested in it? Wow.
    Well,the reason I asked about the “Power Rangers” series is I read about an anime called “Mistudome Zoryochu” that began with a show that was a “Power Rangers”-type show. I’d have liked it if they had an American version of the same show so that they could poke fun at the American interpretation of the same show. What do you think?

  6. Kanji Learner Says:

    Wow, this really makes me want to watch Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I’m afraid I never watched the original… consistently. I watched like the first two episodes, a couple of episodes in the middle, and the last one… and even watched the movie, LOL

    Well, in a future I hope to be able to watch that anime in the original Japanese. Thanks for sharing! 😀

  7. Anime Says:

    great blog and great review of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood keep blogging