Sunday, May 8, 2011

In Progress: Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, ep. 14-18

Episode 14 - Those Who Lurk Underground

Picking up directly where episode thirteen left off, Greed and his gang of chimeras evacuate Devil's Nest by way of the sewers in an attempt to escape the Amestrian military. Fuhrer King Bradley spearheads the operation, with Major Armstrong providing support. Al is the only one to see up close the Fuhrer's combat with the chimeras as he makes short work of them. With Martel still inside of Al, Roa and Dolcetto ask Al as a dying wish to get her to safety. As Martel and Al struggle with each other, Fuhrer Bradley kills her. As her blood touches Al's blood seal, some of his memories from the gate are recalled. Ultimately, Bradley is able to make short work of Greed, combating his ultimate shield with his swords and the aid of his ultimate eye, as Bradley reveals to both Greed and viewers that he is the Homunculus known as Wrath.

The Elrics are suspicious of why the Fuhrer would participate in such as small operation. As it turns out, it was so that he could retrieve Greed and return him to his source, Father. This is the first we've seen of father (not including the brief cameo in episode one), and while there wasn't a lot of insight provided, it certainly gave a glimpse into the interactions between the Homunculi.

Admittedly I was a bit surprised at the revelation of Bradley's identity as a Homunculus coming so soon in the story, but as Ed and Al are not aware, it will keep things interesting for some time to come, I'm sure. I would have liked to see more from the chimeras, specifically Martel, as I feel she provided an interesting perspective in the 2003 series. It's unfortunate that her appearance was so brief.

Greed's portrayal differs slightly in Brotherhood. In the 2003 series he treated his followers with a great deal of respect, viewing them as something of his equals. In Brotherhood, however, it seems Greed 'puts on a face' so to speak in order to gain the trust and respect of others while he's really only out for himself. On the other hand, I very much enjoyed his sarcastic responses to Father and the insults he dished out to the other Homunculi, as well as his almost maniacal characteristics that surfaced near the episodes conclusion.

Episode 15 - Envoy From the East

Returning to Rush Valley to see Winry for even more repairs the Elrics find a young man passed out on the street and get him food. He reveals that he comes from the distant kingdom of Xing, and that he is the twelfth of fifty potential heirs competing for the throne once is father passes away. He inquires with the Elrics about the Philosopher's Stone, as he desires immortality in order to try and increase his chances of ascending to the throne. The Elrics refuse to tell him anything, but soon find themselves fighting Ling's bodyguards. The fight sequences are nicely executed and drawn out just long enough that they don't take away from the episode's primary focus. As selfish as he is, Ling proves to be a fresh source of comedy (and with regards to the English dub, I couldn't think of anyone more fitting than Todd Haberkorn to fill his shoes).

Episode 16 - Footsteps of a Comrade-in-Arms

A dark and depressing episode, the Elric brothers and Winry finally learn the truth about Hughes' death, despite attempts from Armstrong and Mustang to try and keep it under wraps. Ling's bodyguards lose track of him the moment their train arrives in Central, while the Elrics and Winry visit Gracia and Elysia to talk about the circumstances of Hughes' murder. Ed blames himself for getting Hughes caught up in his troubles, but Gracia assures him that Maes only ever wanted to help people and probably died with no regrets. She also expresses her belief that his death served as a warning to Ed from whoever it is that doesn't want him looking too much into the Philosopher's Stone.

The 2003 series held off on wrapping this portion of the story until very late, and because of that viewers had to be refreshed on the events surrounding Hughes' death before Ed's confrontation with Mustang could come full-circle. Upon learning of the news, Ed briefly decided Mustang's withholding this information from him was unforgivable. Getting this out of the way earlier in Brotherhood avoids the extra time required to revisit the scenario in such detail and allows the characters their mourning period before picking themselves back up and moving on. Some excellent shock value from the Homunculi at the episode's conclusion made for a most satisfying cliffhanger.

Episode 17 - Cold Flame

Lieutenant Maria Ross is named as the prime suspect in Hughes' murder, a plot orchestrated by the Homunculi. Winry expresses her concern for the Elric brothers' safety, but ultimately Al is able to cheer up her and Ed. Barry the Chopper, who has been under Falman's supervision as per Mustang's orders, sees Ross' picture in the newspaper as Falman sends a high-priority call to Mustang regarding the same situation. Barry leaves Falman's apartment, makes his way through the prison guards, and encounters Ling who has been tossed into a cell due to his lack of a visa. Barry sets Ling and Ross free, and encounters the Elrics just outside of the prison. Ed demands an explanation for all of this, but Barry tells Ross that military forces are hot on her trail and that she needs to leave as quickly as possible. Ross encounters Mustang in an alley and he is shown using his flame attack.

Ed arrives to find a charred body, which Mustang claims is Ross', and that he killed her in accordance with the order of "shoot-to-kill" if she were to resist. Ed becomes enraged at Mustang's cold and collected attitude towards his own actions, and tries to punch him, but Al stops him. In the following hours, Mustang's unit begins splitting up and heading out in different directions. Armstrong arrives at Ed's hotel room and punches him. Ed is incredibly confused, yet Armstrong provides him no explanation, stating only that Al and Winry need to remain in Central as he claims he will be taking Ed to Rismebool in order to seek repairs on his automail arm.

A nice Mustang-centered episode, the events therein kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, despite the fact that I wasn't exactly certain where things were going until near the end. I have a few ideas regarding Ross' whereabouts, but I find it very hard to believe that she's dead, especially at the hands of Mustang. It would seem very out of character for him to kill someone suspected of murdering Hughes without any substantial proof.

Episode 18 - The Arrogant Palm of a Small Human

Turns out I was right - Ross is revealed to be alive and well, though not until after Ed and Armstrong meet up with Breda and Fu to make a trek into the desert to visit the ruins of Xerxes. There, Mustang's plan is revealed in full, and I daresay it is quite brilliantly executed. Present-day events in Central follow Havoc, Falman, and Barry as they fight Barry's original body, now presumed host to some animal, while Ling seeks information from Al on his body in hopes of more information on how to become immortal.

While the genesis of Alchemy and Alkahestry is briefly touched on, this episode is primarily about Mustang and co. I welcome it, as Mustang has not played center stage much in Brotherhood thus far. The first half of the episode seemed to fly by, while the latter slowed down to build up for one tense cliffhanger finale. Of course, I have plenty of faith in Hawkeye's combat capabilities, but it's finally time for the Homunculi to get in on some more of the action.

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