I’m back again with another review for an iconic anime that everyone but me has watched. As someone who has watched very few animes in this genre (and few in general), I thought I could bring in a fresh perspective. As always with my reviews, I try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible.
Genre: Shounen, Action, Fantasy
Plot: Two young brothers are training to become alchemists. Grief-stricken after the death of their mother, they are willing to try anything to get her back. But alchemy has one law that must always be obeyed – the law of equivalent exchange. The brothers embark on a long journey to get back what was lost during the exchange.
Note: Fullmetal Alchemist was created and released before the manga it was based on was completed. Therefore, this show starts off nearly identical to it and then veers off on its own plot. I finished this series along with the movie “Conqueror of Shamballa”, but I have not yet gotten to the second series “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, which was done post-manga. So, I will not be comparing the two. I plan to watch the second series very soon! I will say… there are some very big shoes to fill.
Review: This anime was off to a slow start for about the first 10 or so episodes due to a lot of backstory, and if I made the mistake of dropping it there, I would have missed out on an epic anime. The shounen fantasy genre doesn’t usually appeal to me (I’m more of a josei/slice of life type of girl) but there were elements in this show that I felt were universally appealing. What was undeniable was the strong bond between the lead characters. Despite having opposite personalities, the two worked together so well and the purpose for their journey kept me invested throughout the several story arcs, regardless of what the writers threw at me. Character development for most of the cast was strong. Allies were likeable while also being flawed and having fleshed out back stories. Perhaps most notably for me, most of the enemies were also fleshed out and were given stories and strong motives for acting the way they did. If there’s a trope in movies, dramas or animes that gets under my skin, it’s the one-dimensional villain. There was some of it here, but for the most part they got it right.
Another aspect of the anime I truly appreciated were the parallels to our real world. Sure, there were plenty of fantastical elements, yet at the core, the world of the fullmetal alchemist was similar to ours. The anime tackles tough subjects such as war, religion, corruption and human rights violations. There are tough decisions that have to be made which often end in tragedy, just as in reality. I love how the anime challenges the viewer to face these strong subjects and possibly start a dialogue about how it relates to our world today.
As for my complaints, I wasn’t such a fan of the slow build at the beginning, but I’m guessing that was the trade off to having such well-rounded characters. Also, as the plot progresses, there are a lot of mindf*** moments to the point where it gets excessive. At one point, I remember questioning everything and just being suspended in disbelief at every new development. This was at times enjoyable, and at other times grating and I can’t really give an example without revealing anything. It had me strangely longing for the simple shounen journey it started off as.
Despite some of its downfalls, this is an anime I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend and I think it was very well-done. I’m looking forward to watching the second series, but I am doubtful it can top this one. We shall see!
Rating – 8/10
P.S. Without question, check out the movie “Conqueror of Shamballa” for a more satisfying resolution and especially if you are into the tie ins to real-life political situations.