Region: 2 - UK
Volume: 1 of 5
Length: 325 minutes
English 2.0 Stereo
Japanese 2.0 Stereo
Edward and Alphonse Elric's reckless disregard for alchemy's fundamental laws ripped half of Ed's limbs from his body and left Al's soul clinging to a cold suit of armor. To restore what was lost, the brothers scour a war-torn land for the Philosopher's Stone, a fabled relic which grants the ability to perform alchemy in impossible ways.
The Elrics are not alone in their search; the corrupt State Military is also eager to harness the artifact's power. So too are the strange Homunculi and their shadowy creator. The mythical gem lures exotic alchemists from distant kingdoms, scarring some deeply enough to inspire murder. As the Elrics find their course altered by these enemies and allies, their purpose remains unchanged - and their bond unbreakable.
When first I heard that a new series was to follow the original anime adaptation by Bones, I was in truth a little apprehensive. I had wondered whether a second foray into the world of the Fullmetal Alchemist would be mere folly, a shameless product of profiteering from a popular franchise. With some trepidation, I set about starting the series for this review, hoping that that perhaps there was something new and special to be told in Brotherhood.
In Brotherhood, the familiar faces of the Fullmetal cast are back, the character designs act out the action as Arakawa envisioned, interchangeable - switching solemnity for comedic caricature as they race headlong into the erratic world of humour and harsh truths.
This show is something of a gift for fans familiar with the adventures of the Elric Brothers in all their former incarnations. It has the potential to appeal for anyone who enjoyed either the manga or any previous animated adventures. Exciting and enticing, the title sequence features several original characters from Arakawa's manga, many of which have never before been brought to life in animation.
The story leaps into the throng from the initial scene. For first time viewers, I suspect the pace might be somewhat disorientating. I got the impression that Bones was leaning heavily on the assumption that the audience would likely have had prior encounters with the story, resting on the endeavours that had already been twice taken by the original animated series and by Arakawa's manga (to which Brotherhood bears closer kinship to).
So what about the new series, aside from the direction and source of the narrative, makes it different? It is reassuringly evident from the outset that the direction and visuals are by no means a simple rehash of the first series. The style of animation is most definitely different, the creative teams behind the scenes have certainly taken on board a new perspective into the delivery and design of the show. The character designs, whilst closely resembling the original series, are rendered with softer lines and colours. This is certainly the case with Edward who for all his brashness, is made rather beautiful in the portrayal of his fair haired features.
By being closer to the manga, Brotherhood is most certainly a character driven composition of players and as such it centres preference on the protagonists. This emphasis I felt was at the cost of the show's animation of the action and alchemy, which appeared flimsy in the early episodes. The dynamic drama seemed evident only in the movement of the figures fighting in its midst. It also struck me that the city and general settings were less detailed, that the environments lacked the presence that the realm of Fullmetal Alchemist should have in its cities and rural lands. I felt that had these more tangible core elements been more robust it might have helped to ground the first episode with more solid footing. Like many other viewers, having the first animated series as a comparison means that Brotherhood has a lot to live up to and any shortfalls are painfully evident.
I can say, however, that contrary to the typical tendency for series to start with a high standard of animation that steadily decreases as the pressures of time and budgets weigh heavy on the studio, Brotherhood actually subverts this unfortunate trend and steadily burns with a brighter flame as the story progresses. The show grows and matures wonderfully and reaffirms the faith I have in Bones to bring the world of Hiromu Arakawa alive in animation.
In honesty, I still can't forget what went before. I do believe that the direction of the scenes in the first rendition of FMA was more dramatic, moving and arresting. This is not to say in the slightest that Brotherhood deserved the kind of doubts that pervaded my perception at the outset, for there is one crucial factor in the series' favour, the strength of the story itself. This was evident when I got to the last episode on the disc, for I felt awakened to the world of alchemy anew and eager to see the Elric brothers grow into the world that was originally theirs as Arakawa had written. I urge viewers with lingering qualms to let go and immerse themselves in the tale with a fresh mind and open eyes. It really is worth your while!