Once more, with feeling
So that other Fullmetal Alchemist anime was just a teaser, right? An alternate adventure, like fanfiction! Sure. We'll go with that. It's a little hard to describe Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as a new series. Sure, it's new and shiny, but the story, instead of a retelling or a sequel, is right from the manga. It's as it should be, but not exactly new. Unless you haven't read the manga. Then it's new. Regardless, there's nothing quite like seeing some of your favorite manga characters given movement and color and voice. And when it feels like the action on the page has come to life, that's good stuff. Is the story exactly the same? Well, no, not exactly. But it's close enough to be entirely satisfying and evoke all the action and awesomeness from the manga.
Edward and Alphonse Elric simply wanted to find a way to bring their mom back. However, it is generally agreed that attempting to bring a person back from the dead, regardless of the method, is a really bad idea. The boys are smacked in the face with this painful lesson when their attempt to use alchemy to revive their mother goes horribly awry. Human transmutation is forbidden for a reason. Alchemy is based on the idea of equivalent exchange, and the boys didn't have enough to pay. As a result, Edward lost an arm and a leg, and Al lost his entire body. Now, with Al's soul sealed into a suit of armor, and Ed equipped with prosthetic limbs called automail, the brothers set out to find a way to restore their bodies. Rumor has it that the Philosopher's Stone, a near-mythical amplifier of alchemic reactions, could be the key to that restoration. The boys' determination knows no bounds, and if it means becoming a dog of the military or a human weapon to find the Stone, then so be it. But not everything is as it seems, and sometimes being on the 'inside' of an organization grants access to information that's best left unseen.
Anime comparison time. I keep trying to separate Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood from the first Fullmetal Alchemist series in an attempt not to compare the two. And have failed miserably. They look almost the same, but not quite. They have similar characters, but tell very different stories. For a manga fangirl like me, it's exciting to see so much from those pages animated on my tv. I don't want to say Brotherhood is better, exactly, but for me it is. At least from the standpoint of which story is being told. The first Fullmetal Alchemist was great, entertaining, angstastic. It was slick and pretty. But it wasn't the story I wanted to see. Brotherhood is the story I want to see.
That said, have you ever rushed through a meal to get to dessert? The first few episodes felt like the series was trying to get to the good stuff, the main plot, as quickly as possible without sacrificing character introductions and stage-setting. Watching it a second time lessened the feeling of it being so rushed. Maybe I was too excited for my own good, waiting anxiously for my plot sundae. Whatever the reason, the stage is quickly set, and then the series jumps in with both feet. By the fourth episode, I was hooked and indulged in a marathon of secrets, lies, and brotherly goodness. The lack of filler episodes is definitely the best part. The first series suffered from the constraints of keeping pace with the manga, and was full of unnecessary extras. Brotherhood zips along at a pleasant pace, telling the story it needs to tell without deviating into the land of filler.
So maybe you watched the first series and are wondering if it's worth it to get sucked into yet another Fullmetal Alchemist. Unless the premise behind the first series wasn't your thing, then it's very definitely worth watching Brotherhood, both for the plot and the visuals. The animation isn't as slick and pretty this time around, which is a bonus. There's nothing wrong with slick and pretty, but the slightly less polished style of this series lends itself well to the somewhat grittier story. The lopsided architecture is awesome, and caught my eye every time, in a good way. The dramatic use of greyscale is interesting and highlights important action. All of the characters are recognizable, but their designs are closer to those of the manga, so expect sharper, narrower eyes in some cases and rounder faces. It's pretty and colorful and had some really fantastic wow-inducing visual moments.
Brotherhood covers a lot of ground in these first thirteen episodes, both figuratively and literally. The plot spans across several cities and the characters travel. A lot. It's not the kind of series to drift in and out on. Pay attention and reap the rewards of thickening plots and interesting twists. Besides, who wants to miss characters with such entertaining, well-developed personalities? Sure, this is just the first fraction of the series, but if it continues along this road, I certainly want to stay for the ride.
Details: Episodes 1-13 on two dvds. Extras include episode 1 and 10 commentaries, textless opening and closing songs, and trailers.