Today, we are reviewing the second adaptation of the original manga, Fullmetal Alchemist, also known as the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.
Remaking an anime or rather readapting a work is a rare but not necessarily new thing that we have seen happened recently. Usually, the case is as follows: ‘A very popular manga was once adapted into an anime many years ago. However, some time has passed. Moreover, those stories that were so popular before have now slightly faded in the minds of the viewing public. So, let us readapt that original work for a new bunch of fans, who have never seen the original.’
Some recent example if you permit me here. We have Berserk originally adapted in late 1997. Later, it was readapted into a series of films in 2010. Hunter x Hunter originally adapted in 1999 and then readapted in 2011. Sailor Moon originally adapted in 1992 and readapted into Sailor Moon crystal in 2014. Our one of the most popular Dragon Ball Z, which had an original adaptation that ran from 1989 to 1996 and was readapted into Dragon Ball Z Kai in 2009.
Obviously, those were not the only examples. They are just some of the more well known. And the common trend among those ones is the amount of time between the adaptations. 12 years, 13 years, 22 years, 23 years- plenty of time for the older versions to fade and for these new adaptations to have plenty of time Solo in the spotlight. However, today we are talking about Fullmetal Alchemist. It is originally in 2003 and ended in 2003. And readapted in 2009. Only five years exist between the end of the first and the start of the second. This has caused quite a bit of fan tempers to flare depending on how much you revere the original manga.
Fullmetal Alchemist vs Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood:
So, let me start by saying I am going to assume that you have watched either the original adaptation at this point or have read the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. If you have not done either of those things, I recommend you to do so. That is because, in order to explain the differences between this and the original adaptation, there are some things that to some people, might be considered ‘spoiler’. To pinpoint what parts of the plot I am talking about. Though I will actually do my best to keep everything down to a minimum, I just cannot guarantee it.
There is going to be quite a bit of the overall story and the characters that I am just going to skip here.
Now, up until around twelve or thirteen episodes, Brotherhood also known as FMAB is almost identical to the 2003 adaptation in terms of general story. Most of the main cast is introduced, several major plot events have occurred and at present, the brothers Elric just met up their teacher Izumi Curtis. Around the point, where the divergence between the two adaptation occurs. As the meaning of those characters is rather different in several ways and then immediately FMAB takes off into a plotline that is not seen in the original Alchemist series.
Is Fullmetal Alchemist the best show ever?
From this point, where I think Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood starts to hit its stride. Shortly after this point, we see the arrival of Ling Yao and Mei Chang revealing that there is indeed more to the world outside of a mistress. We also see the adventures up in the North with the soldiers from Fort Briggs in their commander Olivier Armstrong and the constant foreshadowing of the great threat that is much larger in scale. Larger than anything that the original adaptation had to offer. However, before the divergence point leaves a lot to desire. The way that FMAB handled these things were not bad. But, I always got the feeling that the creators of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood were making it under the assumption that a good chunk of the viewers should have already seen the 2003 adaptation (Fullmetal Alchemist). That is not technically an unfair assumption, considering the massive popularity that original series had. You know, considering that it had only been five years that version was not really that old yet.
Therefore, it is safe to assume that it was still fairly fresh in the minds of the people who watched this new one when it was airing. What leads me to consider all of this is just how things were handled early in the introduction of the majority of major characters is all done in episode 1. Instead of being generally introduced to the major players through related plotlines, they are all thrown together at once. It is in some cases drowns out the importance of the more minor players on the outset. Unless you are already familiar with them.
The exclusion of several plotlines from the manga as well including the usual incident and the battle with blue squad bother me. Use well in both the manga and the original adaptation served two purposes.
- To further show off the limits of Edward’s moral compass, demonstrating that he is not above trickery if it means benefiting people.
- To introduce the character the character lieutenant Yoki, who later becomes a more prominent minor character in the storyline.
The train incident with the blue squad, I will admit is mostly forgettable except for the fact that it is the cannon introduction of Roy Mustang. Here, he shows off both skills as a tactician and a frontline badass, instead, while his FMAB intro does cement his place as being one in charge of the Elric brothers from a military standpoint. His own effectiveness in battle, however, appears quite questionable, granted FMAB does make up for that many episodes later giving him one of the most epic moments of awesomeness. But his introduction is still severely lacking honestly. Though all the problems that I have with FMAB, as far as the story and the characters go, can be entirely negated as long as you either have read the manga or have seen the original adaptation (Fullmetal Alchemist). Again, I get the feeling that, it was expected.
The pacing of those initial episodes is sped up in comparison to later storylines. Almost as if, the creators knew full well, the likelihood of their audience having seen the original or having read the manga. As such, those stories were truncated in order to move on to the content that had never been adapted before. For older fans, you get new stuff faster. Assuming you are one of the ones, to find the early episodes not much but recap it is all over by around episode 12, leaving 52 episodes of awesome still to go. However, for any newer fans, there are some stories in those first 12 episodes, specifically anything involving Hughes and the Tucker families, which quite frankly deserved better. Especially considering, how important those narratives are to the other major characters. There are even just minor things as well, such as the appearance of the Gate of Truth, far earlier in the story than even the manga revealed it. As well as how FMAB just flat-out reveals the allegiance of Fuhrer King Bradley in episode 1.
I realize, when you give a character the title of Fuhrer, there is going to be some comparison to Adolf Hitler, that is going to happen and you really should not be surprised by. However, it does take quite a bit of time in the manga and the original Fullmetal alchemist adaptation to fully flesh out and explain where Bradley’s priorities are and where his loyalties lie. FMAB just deeply imply and foreshadow this in in episode 1, because why not? The viewers probably know anyway right?
Characters of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood:
Enough about the negative, because of the remaining 52 episodes of FMAB frankly amazing, like even with the wobbly base that the intro 13 episodes put our characters in, they find their footing almost instantly.
And that is not surprising because the characters have always been something that Fullmetal Alchemist has been praised for. The depths that these characters have, is quite astounding. That is not just reserved for the major characters either. You get these characters who are not the Elrics, not Mustang, not villains who get ample time in the spotlight and then just disappear for a while. Only for you to think, “we haven’t seen them for a bit, I wonder what they are up to”, only for them to appear soon after and it does not feel forced either. It is not as if they were saved to be mini Deus machine, for the plot, as their reintroductions to the plot feel real and organic. Like, it was planned from the moment that they left and at the end of it, all of the characters that helped with the plot, show up for the conclusion.
A conclusion that quite frankly is a combination of brilliant and heartbreaking. There is not much else, I can talk about without actually getting into the spoiler territory, but the ending is paramount. In addition, I will say that FMAB ended really well.
In between the original adaptation (Fullmetal Alchemist) and FMAB, I felt that there was a certain amount of decline in the production quality of things have come out of Bones. Sure Soul Eater deserves mention as a possible exception to this. However, even then I do not think that it had many times where you are watching the animation and you just think, “damn! That was awesome”
FMAB? It is not missing those moments at all. The highlights without a doubt are the action sequences, regardless of how short or in some cases lengthy, they ended up being. Granted, because of that, the animation for this for the whole is not an absolute pinnacle of animation, though I never expected it to be. In 64 episodes, if there was not a drop somewhere I would have wondered where Bones transmuted the animation funds from.
The special effects, in particular, are vastly improved from what Bones have done before and possibly since. As much as I had liked the explosions from 2003 FMA series and I liked them a lot. FMAB even handled fire better this time around. However, that also helps when it has included in a scene with Mustang being a badass. The intro sequences are magical as well.
The music of the intros, however, are similar to 2003, I really liked the first opening “Again” by Yui. But, with each passing episode, I became less and less interested in the music of the new openings. That could just be a testament to the show’s story itself. However, as I would rather skip to the episode, instead of continually re-watching the same opening repeatedly. The first one though, I stand by. I watched it every time, though it was amazing. I personally would have liked it if they just kept the music for every opening and just changed the animation with the introduction of new characters.
Soundtrack wise where the show excelled was in, I do not know if you would call them themes, but it was those pieces of music that were focused on either one character or one event. In particular, I rather enjoyed the somber chorus in a song called Trisha’s Lullaby. It was a piece that was good enough to have several war-pretzel with a variety of different instruments throughout the show.
I personally more like emotionally charged music, like Trisha’s theme. However, I also really enjoyed the 2 Requiem pieces. It does depress me that Brotherhood was not included somewhere because that song really does just scream ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’. Then again, you cannot have everything you want, I guess.
I feel that some people watch Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and think of it as an all-inclusive series. Sort of a replacement for the original, that was so revered. Personally, though, I see more as a continuation, not a replacement or a substitute. It builds on the introduction to the world that the original made and then just owns it.
Does it excel over the original adaptation?
In many ways, yes. In others, not so much. Nevertheless, the great thing is you do not have to choose. They both exist and they are marvelous to watch.
My only regret is that I have watched, both of them. It is done for me. I cannot watch anymore. It is over. There is no more Fullmetal Alchemist episode left and I am sad. But, for you, if you have never watched any Fullmetal Alchemist before, I envy you. And I am also excited for you at the same time. You have not watched Fullmetal Alchemist yet. Just ‘DO IT’. You get to experience this story to witness the life of these characters and it is a wonder to behold.
I will recommend everybody to watch the 2003 adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist before moving on to Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. However, this does come with a major downside. While, it would be very easy for me to say that if you have watched the 2003 version, you can skip the first 12 episodes of FMAB because you have technically seen it before. If you do that, you would miss a lot of foreshadowing that the creators of FMAB put into it that did not exist in the 2003 version.
Therefore, what this means is that you technically need the slog through those first 13 episodes. You might get bored of them, because you have seen the story before and if you watch it immediately after watching 2003, then it is very fresh in your mind.
Best thing to do?
Take a break from watching the two series. Let the originals sink in. Then watch Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. As I have said before, Fullmetal alchemist means so much to so many people and I really hope that it does or will mean as much to you, as it does to me. So, with FMAB being more of what I loved about the original I cannot give it anything but my highest recommendation.
Alternate Anime Recommendation:
For alternate anime recommendations, let us go ahead and put in Hunter x Hunter. Specifically the 2011 version, but only if watching 148 episodes does not feel daunting to you. If it does, then go check out Attack on Titan, if you have not already. In many ways, it is like Fullmetal Alchemist, but for this particular generation of anime fans (some people may disagree with that). I hope that between these two, you will find something to your liking.
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