Man in Black Commentary: Fullmetal Alchemist

What, the most popular full-length Anime alive, and you thought I would never get around to it?

Okay, granted, I’m not a huge fan of the popular stuff, but still.

What can I say about Fullmetal Alchemist that a million people haven’t already?

Well, I can say that the series has flaws.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome, but there are definitely flaws.  The same themes tend to reoccur (never mind the repetitive jokes!), and the series is designed to ask questions without giving many answers.  I don’t know if that last one is a flaw, but the same questions might be asked four times in different ways without presenting anything that the series considers an answer.

Speaking of questions without answers, here’s one: Ed learns to transmute without a circle, among presumably other things, from the gate.  Thenceforth, he’s a prodigy, able to move greater quantities of mass than most Alchemists, transmute Automail without damaging it, etc.  One must wonder how much this “prodigy” (I put it in quotes, even though the fact that he was ready to attempt human transmutation at that age indicates that he truly was one) really would have been able to pull off without that experience.  Of course, the series can’t answer that question, because Ed is the main protagonist, audience surrogate, and ultimate badass all in one.  Anything that indicates he gains his powers more from “Chosen One” tropes than from innate ability needs to be disguised and hinted at, so as to obscure the fact that he might just be a regular guy.

Any more negative things I can say about this series?  Like I said, I’m trying not to say what everybody else is, so I’m straying from the positives and sticking to negatives and neutrals.

Well, the plot can get a bit convoluted.  It’s not really until the last few episodes where we really have enough information to know if Mustang is a good or a bad guy- again, not a negative in itself, but still frustrating.  When you add that to the chaos that’s going on in some of those episodes and the fact that many of Mustang’s actions are indecipherable unless you go back and apply his motives to them (and this applies equally to the humunculi and others), you spend close to half of the show as though your brain was in the midst of the “deconstruction” part of an alchemic reaction, only to reassemble when it’s too late and you’re just like “Bwaaaah?”

Let’s go for something neutral now.  Edward’s transformation from regular guy to badass is entirely in the visuals, and something anybody telling a story through a visual medium should follow.  As his clothing trends toward less red and more black, Ed’s body language matures, becoming tighter, more calculated, and more threatening.  He’s written as a badass the entire story, but even so, you can’t help but see Edward in the last story arc and see him as a completely transformed individual, one capable of serious damage and far less likely to make the mistakes he made early on.  This is the transformation Harry Potter was supposed to have gone through, but (having not seen the 8th film) I’ve seen no indication that this happened visually.

I think I’ve made enough comments about this series.  It’s a lot of fun, though it’s long enough to get a bit sitcom-ish at times.  All together, I would say it could have used tightening by maybe one or two episodes, and maybe one more rewrite.  If you haven’t watched it, give it a try- this is as close to perfect as an all-ages Anime is going to come.


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