Sunday, May 1, 2011

In Progress: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, ep. 9-13

Episode 9 - Created Feelings

After the collapse of Lab 5, Ed is sent to the hospital to recover. As his automail arm is out of commission, Ed calls Winry out to Central to repair it (completely unaware that she forgot to put in one of the screws). All the while Al is contemplating Barry's insistence that he was never really a boy, merely a puppet created by Ed. This leads Al to become incredibly frustrated, spouting this out at Ed when he reaches his boiling point. It's a side of Al that isn't shown very often, but I feel that Brotherhood handled the situation better than the 2003 series did. Instead of having Alphonse run off until he eventually came to seek Ed's forgiveness, this episode placed Winry as a medium between the brothers. She is fully aware of the fact that Ed feels a great deal of blame for Al losing his body, and how he has been too afraid to ask if Al holds a grudge against him for it. By having Ed walk away, Winry explain to Al what Ed is feeling, and then ordering him to go apologize while tears stream down her face, Brotherhood's take on this scenario led me to feel a more genuine sense of emotional connection with the characters. Hughes added some lighthearted comedy, but overall the delivery of this episode was rather serious. Despite it not being particularly action-heavy, this was easily one of the best episodes since the introductory episodes of Brotherhood.

Episode 10 - Separate Destinations

I knew it had to come at some point, and while it was one of the most depressing episodes in the 2003 series, it was also one the most well-written. The same can be said about Brotherhood's depiction of the events leading up to Maes Hughes' death. In the episodes leading up to this point, Hughes didn't receive as much screentime as in the 2003 series, but this episode makes up for that, placing almost its entire focus on Hughes' dual role as a man of the military and a loving husband/father. What he uncovers this time around is different than in the 2003 series, and Envy still manages to kill him before he is able to pass word along to Mustang, but it was not in vain, as Mustang is able to gather quite a bit from the information (or lack of information) that he receives following Hughes' funeral. It was a truly sad ending and it hurt just as much to Hughes go the second time around, but the episode delivered one hell of an adrenaline rush that kept me on the edge of my seat.

Episode 11 - Miracle at Rush Valley

The Elric brothers, with Winry in tow, travel to Rush Valley, famous for its automail. Winry is ecstatic to see all the newest automail models, but things get sidetracked when a girl named Paninya steals Ed's pocketwatch. The trio manages to follow the girl to a house a fair distance outside of Rush Valley, where they meet the man who outfitted Paninya with her automail legs. Winry is thoroughly impressed with his work and asks if he would consider taking her on as his apprentice. He immediately refuses. His son's wife going into labor, the man leaves for Rush Valley in search of a doctor, while Winry - recalling some of the information she learned from her parents' books - begins issuing orders to prepare for the baby. After a successful delivery, Winry reveals to Ed that she opened his pocketwatch and saw the inscription of the date the brothers left Resembool. Ed states that he has never shared that with anyone, but made the inscription to give himself a physical reminder of what transpired there. Winry cries, and when Ed tells her to stop, she responds by telling him that since he won't cry she feels she must do it for him. Ed then tries to convince the man to take on Winry as his apprentice, to which he again refuses, but offers to introduce her to an associate of his and tells her she can stop by to visit the baby sometime. Winry decides to stay in Rush Valley with the goal of making better automail for Ed in the future, and the boys say their goodbyes as they board the train headed for Dublith.

Overall this episode was fairly well paced and had a greater purpose in the overarching story, something that can't really be said for its 2003 counterpart. Winry received the primary focus which helped to develop her enough before the Elrics parted ways with her. I assume it will be a while before Winry makes a return to the forefront of the story, and peeling back another layer of the relationship she and Ed share added a bit more complexity to her story.

Also, while it bears little impact on the way the episode played out, I did appreciate the brief appearances of Scar, Yoki, and Greed on a wanted poster at the train station. Greed was one of my favorite characters in the 2003 series, and I'm excited to see him make his entrance into the Brotherhood story.

Episode 12 - One is All, All is One, Episode 13 - Beasts of Dublith

While I've had my complaints with past episodes being too fast paced, these two episodes handle their plots much better because of the faster pacing. As I've mentioned before, I have seen a handful of episodes on Adult Swim, and I am aware of where Greed and Izumi's stories will lead later on. But even if I hadn't been aware of what was to come, these episodes would have been equally satisfying. Instead of devoting multiple episodes to Izumi's teachings both past and present, Brotherhood covers it in one with the ultimate outcome being that Izumi disowns the Elrics as students due to a combination of the fact that they committed the taboo and that she now views them as her equals, not her pupils. A flashback to the day the Elrics first met Izumi was a welcome snippet that provided some quick comedy in an episode that was otherwise quite heavy on information and included relatively little action.

Beasts of Dublith, on the other hand, required no flashbacks and included more action as Ed faced down Greed after his gang kidnapped Alphonse. Greed provided insight into the nature of the Homunculi, but refrained from giving too much away. The Chimera aren't much different than they were in the 2003 series, though there were a few brief attempts to make jokes about Dolcetto's canine nature that I felt weren't really all that funny. Overall, though, these most recent episodes seem to have found a better rhythm and are throwing in comedic moments much more sparingly. Not that I don't appreciate a joke here and there, but some of Brotherhood's earlier episodes tried to poke fun at relatively serious and dramatic situations, which led to some awkward deliveries.

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