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Equivalent Exchange? Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

Released in 2009, how does Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood compare to its predecessor of 2003?  This article looks into the differences between the two anime and if Brotherhood is a series that meets the expectations of its Fullmetal Alchemist fans.  Read more to find out if Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood really is an equivalent exchange of your time and money.

First aired in Japan in April 2009, the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood anime was not meant to be a continuation of the original Fullmetal Alchemist (a.k.a. FMA) anime, which hit Japanese television in October 2003.  In comparison to the original 2003 anime, which was made up of fifty-one episodes and five OVAs, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood consists of sixty-four episodes – each lasting an average of 25minutes in length – and has four additional OVAs.  Developed by the famous Tokyo-based animation studio Bones – also famous for works such as Wolf’s Rain, Soul Eater, Darker than Black, the original 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist and Ouran High School Host Club (to name a few) – the plot of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood was completely independent to the original anime, focusing entirely upon the events of the manga, created by Hiromu Arakawa, which began in July 2001 and finished almost a decade later in June 2010.  It may be suggested that the reason the initial 2003 anime was so different could have been because the manga was still on-going when the anime overtook it, and thus had to follow a different path and ending.

Alphonese in armour standing with Envy the Homonculus and Edward Elric

For an avid FMA fan like myself, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood really blew things out of the water:  The anime style is sharp, crisp and consisted mainly of a darker tone of colours – perhaps to enhance the mood when required.  In comparison to its predecessor, Brotherhood also takes on a much darker storyline, with minimal filler episodes.  Unlike some other mainstream anime, such as Bleach and Naruto, the episodes of Brotherhood tend not to drag on.  If there are to be any scenes of battle; viewers can rest assured that they will not be waiting several episodes for things to build up enough to really kick off.  And when things kick off, they really do!  The fight scenes in Brotherhood are quick-paced and graphic.  This all aids towards keeping the audience captive, with very little boredom or repetition factors, and also enables the viewer to watch multiple episodes back-to-back.  So, if you are pondering the idea of having a Brotherhood marathon, you are definitely in for a treat.  Personally, I would advise people not to skip any episodes in the series – the plot of the story can get quite deep, and has many twists and turns.  As the series delves further on, there can be references to key events that may have occurred many episodes back.  This is great as it makes the story quite unpredictable for the viewers.  I also found that the as the series progressed, the pace of action, plot twists and emotions continue to increase and build, leading up to arguably one of the best finales I have watched for a very long time.  But do be prepared to have a box of tissues on standby when you watch this series – it certainly does contain a lot of emotional scenes.  All of the feels, guys.  All of the feels!

On the subject of the episodes of the series, it may also be worth mentioning on the side that the four OVAs mentioned previously in this article are definitely a decent watch too:  Each episode, whilst unrelated to the actual flow of the series plot, does give a great insight into the main characters, and helps to build upon the backgrounds and subsequent views that they may take within the actual series itself.

Focusing back to the main series itself, Brotherhood also takes the time and effort to focus more upon characters that were only covered in a fleeting glance in the original 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist series.  Expect to see and learn more about characters such as Izumi Curtis and Vato Falman – and prepare to meet a bunch of new characters that were previously never seen before in the original series.  We also gain more insight into the personal lives of the main characters – bringing out sides and characteristics that were previously unseen.  This again helps to build up the personalities and opinions of select characters.  The Homunculi also return in Brotherhood, but there are definite changes in the characters – so, if you are used to the original 2003 series, be prepared for some little changes and surprises.  Brotherhood also introduces new areas and countries that surround Amestris, such as Xing and the Northern Wall of Amestris, both of which were possibly mentioned but not covered in the original Fullmetal Alchemist.  There is also a greater involvement of politics, which has been woven quite spectacularly into the plot.  As a result, we see more civilian involvement (i.e. how the actions of the main characters can affect the livelihoods and opinions of random members of the public).  This contributes more to the sense of realism, and how a single action can cause a great reaction.

Roy Mustang standing ready to snap his fingers with Riza Hawkeye behind him, gun drawn

The soundtrack of Brotherhood is as impressive as the plot and animation itself.  Throughout the series, viewers can enjoy five fantastic openings and six great ending songs, all accompanied with animations that help to set the mood of each song.  The score itself – composed by Akira Senju – is powerful and ominous, and yet at the same time, can change completely to match the light-heartedness and quirkiness in the more comical scenes.  Reoccurrence of certain mood-provoking scores does occur throughout the series – however, these remain as powerful and emotional as they were when the viewer hears them for the first time.

All in all, I felt that Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood not only met anticipations of the hard-core fans of the Fullmetal Alchemist series; but it completely surpassed said expectations.  Fans and new viewers can expect themselves to be immersed into a world of action, drama, logic and emotions from the very first episode to the very last.  The animation, whilst – in order to match the mood – takes on a slightly darker tone to its predecessor, is crisp and dynamic, with a score to match and enhance the feel and emotions of each scene.  Personally, I was completely blown away by this series – and I would highly recommend it to others out there.

Just remember: Keep that box of tissues close!

Logo and screenshots © Hiromu Arakawa and Bones

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