Fullmetal Alchemist

Reviewed by: Anonymous

January 25, 2008

Rating: five

In the world of Fullmetal Alchemist, alchemy has taken the place of science and technology in the world's development. Edward Elric is a young alchemy student studying along with his brother Al when their mother dies and their world falls apart. Ed proves to be a true prodigy as he delves into the forbidden side of alchemy -- human transmutation -- to try to bring back his mom. However, he forgets alchemy's fundamental law of equivalent exchange. It's a bit like the scientific law of conservation of matter. In order for something to be created, something else must be lost. When the smoke clears on their attempt to bring their mother back to life, Ed has lost an arm and leg, and Al is a soul trapped in a suit of armor. Ed heads to Central in hopes of becoming a State Alchemist, an official position in the country's military that he hopes will give him access to the information necessary to put things right. And it is here that the story truly begins.

Learning about a mythical Philosopher's Stone that lets alchemists ignore the law of equivalent exchange, the brothers become involved in a complicated story of intrigue, military secrets, destroyed civilizations, and abominations of alchemy. The centerpiece of Fullmetal Alchemist is the relationship between Ed and Al. The two brothers provide the show's heart and it is their devotion to each other that drives much of the show's action. Al shows a surprising range of emotion for a suit of armor, and demonstrates great strength and growth over the course of the series. Ed may at first seem like a one-note anime hero, and always able to get out of trouble and defeat any foe with his prodigious skills. However, the sadness and regret behind their mission adds depth to his character, and even with his alchemy abilities, he doesn't always come out on top.

Although the two main characters are so strong, that doesn't mean that the creators skimped on the supporting cast. Roy Mustang is a secondary protagonist, setting events in motion and providing an illustration of the mental anguish faced by soldiers in war. Maes Hughes is a great comedic figure who also contributes one of the series most heartbreaking moments. Major Armstrong is another character and fan favorite that regularly brings the laughs. Ed and Al's childhood friend Winry is a strong female character lending support to the Elrics and also taking part in a dramatic side story that has implications for the larger military efforts. In fact, another strength of the series is its ability to connect its disparate threads into a cohesive story. There is little wasted energy here. Every story is connected in some way to the larger narrative. Character lines that seemed to be throwaway comments at the time, later take on great meaning once all is revealed.

The series is well-animated by Bones, creating realistic characters, but not being afraid to fall back on the visual tricks of anime, like chibi forms and sweat drops, when necessary. The soundtrack adds to the action and drama without detracting from the story. With its involved plot, interesting cast of characters, and high production values, Fullmetal Alchemist proves to be one of the best anime series of the past few years, if not of all time.

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