One of the core tenets of this project is that I’m presenting bits of animation that brought me joy and might do the same for you, but without any value judgements along the lines of “you must watch this because it’s an Important Classic.”

So I won’t come out and insist such a thing in this instance. Let’s just say that I’m thinking it very loudly.

Olivier Mira Armstrong wants YOU to aid in the defense of Amestris’ northern frontier!

What is it?

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a 64-episode anime series depicting the events in the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, very nearly page-for-page. It is distinct from the previous anime series named Fullmetal Alchemist (no trailing colon-and-subtitle) which was started before the manga had fully developed and thus tells a very divergent story. (I still like it, but it’s… its own thing.)

What kind of story is it?

You might have seen the joke online which goes, “Alchemy. It’s all fun and games until someone raises an abomination and loses a limb.” FMA led to that joke.

Two boys with more knowledge than sense thought that the best solution to their grief was to resurrect their recently-deceased mother using arcane, and forbidden, techniques of alchemy. And then, as the saying goes, everything hit the fan. Now they have to help make it right, and possibly save humanity in the process. As one (pair of brothers) does.

You can tell this is from Brotherhood because they incremented the year. Nice touch, really.

Why do you like it?

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood has it all. Humor, tragedy, action, vivid characters, twists and turns, dramatic reveals, and a storyline which seems bleak and grim at times but culminates in a triumphantly upbeat, positive result. The bad people get what’s coming, the good people achieve their goals. (The grey-area people get solid story arcs as well.)

Heck, I even like some of the theme songs, albeit not as much as I liked the ones from the first anime series… But anyway! Moving along!

Did I say vivid characters? Oh goodness yes, yes I did. Nearly everyone with a speaking line brings something interesting to the table. Most of the principal characters work well for heavy drama and for ridiculous comedy beats. While there is some fluff during the runtime, it doesn’t feel like the viewer’s time is being wasted. Sometimes you need a bit of fluff to offset the weighty parts.

What might one not like about it?

Remember that “bleak and grim at times” thing? It’s also occasionally gory. Bad stuff happens to people (and animals) in gruesome detail. Some of the imagery is grade-AAA nightmare fuel.

Ah yes, such a touching father-and-son moment…

Also, if the “shortie” jokes wear on you after a while, I understand.

Other thoughts about it?

I can almost hear some of you thinking, “If it’s so close to the manga why not just buy and read the manga?”

You’re welcome to do that. I even recommend it. I have done so, and I’ve re-read the manga more often than I’ve watched the anime… mainly because I can read much, much faster than I can watch. Here’s the thing, though: When I re-read the manga now, I have the anime to help me visualize what’s going on better.

Sounds weird, right? But I’ve always had a tough time following action in manga. I get that things are happening, I just can’t track what’s happening to whom, where, and how. This is why animation is my preferred storytelling medium. An animator can create the most unreal and outlandish worlds and characters and events, then show how they all interact in real time.

I have the same problem with novels. I only get the barest vague sense of what people and things and places look like when they’re described in text. I need the visual version of the story in order to build a frame of reference.

The previous series didn’t have this guy, either. More’s the pity.

 

And yes, I used four screencaps from a 64-episode series and you only get the backs of the brothers’ heads in one of them. The Elric boys are arguably two of the most recognizable characters in anime history, they don’t need my promotional assistance.

Where can I watch it?

As one of the all-time great anime stories, it’s usually available in a variety of locations but I’ll send you to Crunchyroll for your Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood streaming needs for now.