Anime has always been a real hit or miss with me. Most that I’ve tried – and believe me, sometimes I get on these kicks where I try a lot – have been complete misses. However, there are a few that I’ve watched over the course of my lifetime that guaranteed that I will always try to find new anime to fall in love with. One of those anime in particular is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
I’m one of those American kids that kinda/sorta grew up with Cartoon Network leading the anime charge into our living rooms. Shows like Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z introduced me to an entirely different art style and approach to kid’s television, a style that at the time kept me coming back for more and more. Only, while many of my friends had access to WB or Cartoon Network, I never did until long after these shows were relevant to being cool at my school. My only really fond memory of watching Dragon Ball Z comes from a vacation I took as a kid where the hotel we stayed happened to have Cartoon Network. I stayed up until the late hours of the night getting my first glimpses at Toonami’s Midnight Run. With a couple of exceptions however, I didn’t really grow into really enjoying anime until later in my life when I could download it all from the internet.
One specific anime, Fullmetal Alchemist, was a particularly favorite of mine though it followed in a trend of falling apart when it came to concluding the series. Like its successor Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I loved the art style and music, but most importantly I loved the characters and the world. Edward and Alphonse’s journey is one of personal discovery, dealing with horrible loss, and heroic triumph. Unlike a lot of television shows that tend to focus on always being serious, never being serious, or rarely being serious enough, Fullmetal Alchemist blended action, humor, and intense drama perfectly.
This is not a post about the original Fullmetal Alchemist series. As some of you may know, when the series originally ran, around the halfway mark it caught up with the manga it was being based off of, and instead of waiting for FMA’s author and creator to write more, they ran off on their own. Not that I have ever read the manga (I don’t read comics), but the results felt mixed at the time and are clearly off now that I know so much more about the series. I suppose it was nice to see an alternate idea from where the series eventually went, but taking it all the way to the real world in the World War II-era Germany never rubbed me the right way. Given the series sad and inconclusive ending, Fullmetal Alchemist, though good, had no chance at ever being one of my favorites.
Which is why I am so happy that Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood happened.
In what perfect world could I get the characters, setting, animation, and music of a series as good as Fullmetal Alchemist made even better by improved action scenes, more character development, and a better plot? Well, in this one, because that is exactly what FMAB does. The later episodes of the original series felt a little forced, especially when compared to some of the scenes and speeches from Brotherhood’s final arc. As I said earlier, the series really thrived when it didn’t feel completely beholden to being just action or just serious drama or just funny comedy. The latter episodes do tend to ignore much of the comedy evident in earlier episodes, but only to really turn up the action and drama to unheard of levels. This speech in particular still makes me tear up.
It’s also important to note the variety of the topics and ideas that Brotherhood manages to cover. Beyond being an animated series, it’s clearly not intended in tone for children. The series delves into the loss of family, parental abandonment, human testing, genocide, the hidden costs of war, and various other types of love and loss. The trials that Edward and Alphonse face are not merely trials of ability where a secret item or a piece of hidden knowledge would easily turn the tides, but instead trials of the heart and spirit. This is by no means a simple tale of overcoming odds or even of good versus evil.
Brotherhood has been the only anime that I’ve watched weekly. As soon as it ran in Japan, I would scour the internet looking for subbed torrents a few days later. Watching a series as more or less a part of syndication can be a lot different from witnessing it all at once. The forced pauses and breaks between episodes give you more time to mull over the possibilities of what will happen. Still, I can’t recommend this series more. While there are other anime that I may think surpass it, this is one of the few all-in-one packages that I think is readily accessible to a wide amount of audiences. You don’t have to be an otaku or even a passing anime fan to be touched, shocked, amazed, or enthralled by Brotherhood’s story.
In other words, if you are a fan or anime or not, I beg you to give the complete Brotherhood series a shot. Yes, it’s a bit long, but it’s at least fully available now on Netflix. If you are already a subscriber, what are you waiting for?