The 12 Days of Anime Day 11: Why Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was the Best Show I’ve EVER Seen

I haven’t seen too many anime, but out of the ones I have seen, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is by far the best. I was hesitant to start watching it mainly out of spite (Josh nagged me on a biweekly basis to watch it and drove me crazy), but I am SO glad that I finally caved and agreed to watch it with him. There are a million reasons why this show is the best thing ever, but unfortunately I don’t feel like writing a novel of praise so I’ll limit it to the one element I thought was the most successful: character development. This version of FMA was also based on the manga, which I thought was a definite improvement on the “original” FMA anime.

fma xmas

Here’s a quick synopsis of the show, courtesy of MyAnimeList, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet:

In this world there exist alchemists, people who study and perform the art of alchemical transmutation—to manipulate objects and transform one object into another. They are bounded by the basic law of alchemy: in order to gain something you have to sacrifice something of the same value.

The main character is the famous alchemist Edward Elric—also known as the Fullmetal Alchemist—who almost lost his little brother, Alphonse, in an alchemical accident. Edward managed to attach his brother’s soul to a large suit of armor. While he did manage to save his brother’s life, he paid the terrible price of his limbs.

To get back what they’ve lost, the brothers embark on a journey to find the Philosopher’s Stone that is said to amplify the powers of an alchemist enormously. However on the way, they start uncovering a conspiracy that could endanger the entire nation, and they realize the misfortunes brought upon by the Philosopher’s Stone.

For me, characters are of the utmost importance in terms of my enjoyment of a show/novel. I can love the plot and love the world, but if I hate the characters then it’s all over. Let me define what I mean by ‘hating a character’. It’s fine if I dislike a character as a person–they  can be an odious person and still a likable character. Does that make sense? Let me give an example: let’s say there’s an antagonist who is so insidious and vile that you want them to fail and want them to die, but at the same time, they are so well-crafted and nuanced that I enjoy them as a presence or force within the story. Using that definition, I don’t think I hated a single character. Even the homunculi and characters that in most other anime would have been overlooked were given back stories and brilliant personalities.

Of course the main characters–the Elric brothers–are made into complex characters, but that isn’t unique: the main characters of shows for the most part tend to be detailed and fleshed out if the show is even of middling quality. What really makes FMA Brotherhood unique, however, is how it gave the same level of attention to all the characters in the show, which is what I’d like to focus on. Every last member of the enormous cast of the show had a back story and a fleshed out personality, which made me ecstatic. I would never have expected someone like Major Armstrong or Envy to have enough of a motive/backstory to make them real to me. An entity like Envy usually occupies a place in a show where they are an evil humanoid force without any real likability, but when he goes from this:

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Ok, yea it’s really hard to feel anything other than disgust and loathing for him when he’s in this state.

To this:

FMA2-56-10

It’s legitimately sad and depressing. He is just so pathetic and even confesses the reason behind his bitterness that it’s impossible to hate him even though he’s kind of a jackass. I was honestly depressed when he killed himself, the depth of his desperation and self-loathing was so poignant and tangible that his suicide really touched me. It was an emotion I never expected to have for an antagonist in a show. Yes, he did horrible things and was overall an awful creature, but there was just enough humanity in him to evoke a powerful emotional reaction from me upon his death.

Then someone like Major Armstrong–usually the stock ‘muscle-head character’.

Fullmetal Alchemist - 18 - Large 09

I am beautiful and my muscles grow flowers. Clearly.

Someone like this is usually in the show for comic relief and that’s it. Ok, I’ll admit he was mostly for comic relief, but at the same time, he wasn’t the standard bumbling buffoon that one usually finds in this type of character. Armstrong had a legitimate past involving the Ishvalan War and that gave him a complex in which he feels inadequate because he backed off from the front lines and ran away. This follows him throughout the show and you can see how it impacts his character and fuels his redemption at the end of the show during his showdown with Sloth.

Another thing I’d like to point out is how awesome the female characters in this show were. I mean first you have Winry a badass female mechanic–I  know that it’s a common cliche to try and buff up a female character by giving her a manly profession, but it really worked for Winry. She was definitely passionate about what she did and the show made her passion believable and refreshing. Also, on a tangent, can I just talk about how upset I would have been if she and Ed didn’t get together in the end? End tangent. Then there’s Risa Hawkeye. She’s a freaking sniper I mean come on (and apparently I’m potentially cosplaying as her or something) and she manages to keep her humanity and composure throughout the entire show even after all the people she has to kill and all the insanity of being Roy Mustang’s right hand (wo)man. The last one I want to talk about is the bossest of them all. That’s right. Olivier. She is probably the coolest female character ever and probably could have taken out the entire pantheon of homunculi all by herself if she had alchemical abilities. I think that would have been a perfectly viable show: make Olivier an alchemist and then have her steamroll everyone and bring an early conclusion to the show. ‘Nuff said.

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WHAT A BOSS

Of course it wasn’t just the characters that made the show amazing. I’d love to write up another whole post about how much I loved the mythology and mysticism used in the show (hey maybe I will!) and talk about how the world was awesome and the plot was brilliant and complicated without being too contrived. AGH! So many feels! This show was amazing and if you haven’t seen it please do. I won’t nag, I promise, but I’ll make puppy-dog eyes and strongly encourage it ;).

Fmab-poster

Please watch me–you won’t regret it!

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14 responses to “The 12 Days of Anime Day 11: Why Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was the Best Show I’ve EVER Seen

  1. God yes – this anime really is one of the best anime ever made. There aren’t many shows I’d consider to be flawless, but FMA: Brotherhood is basically perfect (as far as it’s possible for any one thing to be perfect, anyway). Definitely among my top several anime of all time, no question.

  2. I would tentatively say that FMA: B is my favorite anime series. It was just really well put together and never boring…and it lasted a hell of a lot longer than most shows. It’s probably the closest I would go to giving an anime 10/10.

  3. I really enjoyed FMA:B. They handled the plot a lot better than the original FMA. I thought the beginning, middle and towards the end were excellent. However, I wasn’t quite so keen on the ending. It seemed to me a bit over-the-top. And like when the people were cheering Ed on in the battle at this end, it was kinda lame.

    The characters were fleshed out much better than typical shounen animes though, which was great. One thing I did prefer in the original anime was some of the homunculi characters. In the original series, I though it was pretty great finding out about Lust’s past and Greed’s differences to the other homunculi and how Wrath was a bitter child, and the homunculi were humanized more (well, not all of them like Greed lol). I dunno, you spoke on Envy’s character but I more felt they were evil “forces” in Brotherhood and I couldn’t relate as much.

    Can’t go into much more detail than that because I watched Brotherhood like a year ago and can’t remember too much haha. Anyway, this article was good. Love the Christmas photo btw ^_^

    • Thanks for the intense comment! I never actually finished the original anime because I didn’t like it that much–plus I watched it such a long time ago that my memory of it is fuzzy. I couldn’t necessarily relate to the homunculi, but at the same time I did feel for them more than I thought would be possible. Also, the Christmas photo is pretty great :D.

  4. I think FMA was the first complete manga I finished reading, and I can agree with all your points. Also, it was no longer than the story required. A popular shounen manga with a complex plot and a large cast of well-developed characters, all wrapped up in 109 chapters (64 anime episodes), sounds like a miracle when the current Shounen Big 3 are well over 5 times the length and still going. (Bleach in the 500s, Naruto in the 600s, One Piece in the 700s.) Toriko, which started in 2008, seems to be headed that way as well, already with 260+ manga chapters and 130+ anime episodes. It is heartening to see a mangaka being able to conclude their most successful work and move on to other things. (Silver Spoon!)

    • I’m glad that FMA ended where it did–I’m not sure I would have had the patience to stick with it if it had gone on for too much longer even though I loved the show so much. Speaking of Silver Spoon, I really need to finish watching that haha.

  5. Riza Hawkeye’s my homegirl but Olivier was pretty awesome too. If you enjoyed Brotherhood, I recommend checking out the original FMA (2003) series. Plot-wise, it’s a lot messier but the ending is a lot more poignant and tragic.

    • Thanks for the comment jstorming! I actually did watch a good portion (I never finished) of the original FMA a few years ago, but didn’t particularly enjoy it. Maybe I’ll go back to it though just to compare the two.

  6. Let’s add to the list of great women Izumi Curtis. The one and only person in the history of the world who could make the sentence “I’m a housewife” sound cool as f*ck.

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