0 Items | £0.00

VIEW BASKET

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Sunday 13th October 2013

Andrew Osmond compares Edward Elric to Harry Potter

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood


It’s tempting to compare Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the final Blu-ray collection of which is out on Monday), with an epic fantasy saga about a certain boy wizard. For starters, both Harry Potter and Alchemist have male heroes but female creators. Alchemist comes from the manga by Hiromu Arakawa, who wrote and drew the nine-year, 27-book manga about two brothers’ journey through an increasingly rich world of steampunk and sorcery.

Moreover, Alchemist and Potter both become world hits in print and screen form, going from small, whimsical-seeming beginnings to massive battle finales. You could also point out that both epics share outrageous oversized panto figures – Harry Potter’s Hagrid, Alchemist’s military man-mountain Alex Armstrong – and they also share outrageously intense, Batman-style backstories about child trauma and demonic evil.

The world of Brotherhood runs on technology and magic. It’s a hazily retro mix of 19th and 20th centuries, with vintage cars and steam trains, and military alchemists resplendent in their navy blue greatcoats. The brothers of the title are Edward and Alphonse Elric. Their tragic backstory has echoes of the old cautionary tale, “The Monkey’s Paw,” about the dangers of defying death. When the brothers were small, their beloved mother – abandoned by her husband sometime earlier – fell ill and died, leaving the boys devastated. Edward, however, was already a prodigy in alchemy, the process of transmuting material from one form to another. With Alphonse, he conducted an utterly forbidden ritual, which was meant to return their mother to life.



Of course, it went hideously wrong. Ed lost a leg to the wild magic, but far worse, his younger brother was consumed by the alchemist’s circle. Aghast, Ed sacrificed an arm in order to save Al’s disembodied soul and bind it to the nearest object available – which happened to be a huge suit of armour.

In this maimed state, the brothers attract the interest of their state’s military, who see their potential as fighters. Al, of course, is practically invulnerable in his new metal body. Ed is given a metal arm and leg by his friend-since-always, Winry, a girl gifted in the art of automail, Alchemist’s equivalent of robotics.

Thus equipped, Ed and Al join the ranks of the military, meeting a range of new colleagues, from the muscled Armstrong, to the shamelessly ambitious ladder-climber Colonel Mustang, to the “I-LOVE-my-wife-and-kid!” Maes Hughes. All of them seem benign, but it’s quickly clear that Alchemist’s world is drawn in shades of gray. The government is authoritarian, and the military alchemists have committed atrocities and war-crimes in recent memory. The boys are working not for some twinkly-eyed wizard headmaster, but instead for a twinkly-eyed Fuhrer, the genial King Bradley.

Edward and Alphonse are uncomfortable about their status as “dogs of the military,” and it’s tempting to wonder if this reflects, among other things, Japan’s own history. Notoriously, there are pressure groups in Japan which resist open discussion of Japan’s bloody actions in the 1930s and 1940s. You’ll find anime about the atom bombing of Hiroshima, but as recently as 2004, a manga about the Rape of Nanking was cancelled by Weekly Shonen Jump magazine after complaints from politicians.

Does Fullmetal Alchemist include coded references to such horrors in fantasy guise? Some of the characters are furiously trying to avenge the past. Others, we learn, are desperate to compensate for their own past actions – but will the past consume them first? Certainly Alchemist continues the anime tradition of muddling up the good guys with the bad. There’s also a lot about the duties of the older generation to the young, bounnd up with the mystery of why Ed and Al’s father abandoned his family.

The brothers themselves are good guys, of course. Ed, we should explain, is the “Fullmetal Alchemist” of the title, although one of the running jokes is that everyone assumes that it’s the suit of armour accompanying him, to Ed’s fury. Ed also has a complex about his small size – a comment on which is usually followed by Ed turning into a superdeformed ball of rage – not helped by his “little” brother now being so much bigger than him.

But Ed is also the hero – noble, courageous, persevering and devoted to his seemingly impossible goal of reversing the alchemical accident and restoring his and Al’s bodies to normal. Al, for his part, is sweet and gentle, as reflected in the incongruously soft voice. We occasionally see the “human” Al, but we soon come to think of the armour as his real body (like the orangutan librarian in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld). Later chapters, though, highlight how Al is affected by his inhuman state, where he cannot eat, sleep or weep the tears he feels.

In a story based around alchemy, it’s pretty much inevitable that Ed and Al are seeking the philosopher’s stone, the possession of which boosts an alchemist’s power to frightening levels. At the same time, there are enemies of the state, including Scar, a murderous vigilante seeking to avenge his oppressed people, and the homunculi, a group of demonic predators named for the seven deadly sins. Perhaps the most disturbing of these is Gluttony, a deceptively cute-looking fat man with the personality of a child and a big (big) mouth, who just loves eating... people.

The plot described so far holds true in all versions of Fullmetal Alchemist. You may come across second-hand DVDs of the earlier Fullmetal Alchemist anime, made in 2003. Both Alchemist anime were made by the anime studio, BONES (RahXephon, Eureka Seven, Darker than Black, Wolf’s Rain), which you can find out more about here. Unlike Brotherhood, the first Fullmetal Alchemist series “overtook” the source manga and was obliged to make up its own story. It’s if Warner Brothers invented Harry Potter’s last screen adventures when Rowling fell behind in her scribbling. In contrast, Brotherhood is far more faithful to Arakawa’s storyline.

Next month, Manga Entertainment will release a spinoff film from the earlier show, called Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa. It’s well worth seeing, but don’t try fitting it into the Brotherhood continuity. Think of it rather as a parallel-universe story, taking the Elric brothers down roads Arakawa never explored. Next month also sees the release of Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, which does fit into the middle of Brotherhood’s timeline.

One constant in all the Alchmist anime is American voice-actor Vic Mignogna, who’s dubbed Ed throughout the franchise. One difference between the old and the new anime seems to be that Brotherhood has far more comic interludes where Ed shouts out his frustrations, often related to his pipsqueak size. Mignogna ruefully agrees there are more scenes designed to rip up his vocal cords. But, he says, “The comedic moments are often right in the middle of serious, heavy-duty scenes. From the point of view of the plot, Brotherhood is much darker than the first Alchemist; it starts out feeling like comedy, but gets heavier and heavier and heavier. The comedy is there for precisely that reason.”

As well as heavier and heavier, the story gets bigger and bigger. Brotherhood’s cast just keeps on growing; wait till you meet the girl with the titchy precocious panda, or Armstrong’s terrible sister in her snowbound fortress. By the show’s second half, the cast is so big that you could send the characters on three or four competing quests for Tolkien’s Ring and still have some left over.

It’s exhilarating to watch the players shift like sand though endless duels and team-ups. The multi-episode battle royales which ensure are more exciting because few of the players are truly indispensable. Except the brothers, of course… but can even they come through their journey alive? With the release of the complete Brotherhood, it’s time to jump on board and find out!

The final Blu-ray of Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is finally available on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.


Buy it now

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

MANGA UK GOSSIP

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Complete

£52.99
sale_tag
was £79.99
Alchemy – the mystic science of transmutation. Gifted alchemists can break down and reconstruct matter using the “Law of Equivalent Exchange,” creating miraculous things. But one taboo can never be broken - human transmutation. The Elric brothers Edward and Alphonse broke the taboo in an attempt to resurrect their late mother and as a result, lost everything. Al’s soul was transferred to a suit of living armor and Ed lost two limbs, confining him to mechanical auto-mail. To recover what they’ve lost they embarked on a journey to find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. The closer they get to the hidden truth of the Philosopher’s Stone, the deeper they fall under shadowy schemes and the perils of unnatural creatures. The military nation of Amestris, the grudges and hatreds of a persecuted people, and the countless tragedies caused by alchemy all form a dark vortex that will draw people and countries into its void. The Elric brothers forge ahead in their quest to transmute despair into hope …

FEATURED RELEASE

RELATED BLOG ARTICLES

Aaron Dismuke and Vic Mignogna are Brothers Beyond

Andrew Osmond quizzes the lead voices in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
The two Alchemist anime share some of the same voice-talents, both in Japan and America. In Japan, the brothers in both versions are played by two women, Romi Park as Edward and Rie Kugimiya as Alphonse. Casting adult women as boys is a common practice in animation, especially TV anime. It’s even spoofed in an episode of the American cartoon Avatar The Last Airbender, where the young hero – who is voiced by a boy – is shocked to find a woman playing him on stage. However, when the first Fullmetal Alchemist series was dubbed in America, Alphonse was voiced by 12-year-old Aaron Dismuke, alongside the grown-up performer Vic Mignogna as Edward.

The Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Finale

Andrew Osmond commends Fullmetal Alchemist for going out in style.
Today it's time to wave goodbye to the characters of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, as the series comes to an action-packed, battle-heavy, cosmic-apocalypse conclusion in its fifth boxset (*). Nobody will be really spoiled by the news that the unflappable King Bradley is back and kicking the good guys’ arses – heck, he kicks a tank’s arse at one point. There’s also a return for another presumed-dead character at a vital point; see if you can work out who it’ll be.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood OVA Collection

Andrew Osmond says goodbye to Fullmetal Alchemist… again
It’s the sad time when we have to say goodbye to another anime epic, with the release of the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood OVA Collection. Okay, we said one farewell to the series with the final TV box-set last year (which was chronologically the end of the story), though recently we’ve had The Sacred Star of Milos to tie us over. As a cinema film, Milos was a big adventure for the Elrics and company. These video releases are small yet significant, four short stories plus a heap of comedy skits. The stories throw fresh light on the characters and their journeys; the sketches show the BONES studio pre-empting fans by lampooning their own saga.

RECENT FEATURED POSTS

Comicon Announcements

News on releases and extras from this weekend's panel
This is what you would have heard:

Arthur Rankin Jr (1924-2014)

An obituary of anime's secret angel
Arthur Rankin Jr, who died last Thursday, was not often thought of in connection with Japanese animation, though he played a major part in its history. In America, he’s best known as the co-founder of Rankin/Bass Productions. A stateside brand, the Rankin/Bass name is linked with handmade family cartoons as fondly as Oliver Postgate or Aardman are in Britain. But while the studio’s cartoons – especially the stop-motion Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) – are evergreens, few people know their animation was Japanese.

Nigeria's Astro Boy

Jasper Sharp on the oddest anime export yet
By the time you’ve read this, the eight 15-minute episodes of Robot Atom will have been aired by the Nigerian broadcast network Channels TV. Based on one of anime’s most iconic creations, Tezuka Productions’ Astro Boy (Tetsuwan Atomu), this Nigerian-Japanese co-production brings a new slant to glocalization

NURA: RISE OF THE YOKAI CLAN – DEMON CAPITAL PART 2

Tears, cheers and liver-ripping fun with Japanese ghosts
The battle to destroy the eight seals dominating Kyoto steps up in this second half of the second series adapting the manga of the same name. Nura, our young hero, here finds his desire to use the supernatural to protect humans means he has put his clan in the way of much greater harm than ever before – and before series’ end, yokai, onymyoji and humans will have all spilled blood....

Dragon Radar GT 2

The second collection draws the entire Dragon Ball opus to a fierce close
Dragon Ball GT sees Goku and his allies fighting against some of the toughest foes the universe has ever seen. Take a look at some of the faces you’ll meet as the second collection draws the entire Dragon Ball opus to a fierce close!

Last Exile versus Fam, the Silver Wing

A Versus feature with a difference: Last Exile against Last Exile!
With the first part of Last Exile: Fam, The Silver Wing now available in the U.K., we can finally compare it with its predecessor, Gonzo’s 10th and 20th anniversary specials pitted against each other. What do they tell us about the industry then and now?

Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple

The first rule of Kenichi is: big eyes and kick ass.
In the real world, mastering a martial art takes years of devotion. All require a harsh physical regimen that pushes the body to the limit. Of course, we’re dealing with the world of anime, so we have a sneaking suspicion that Kenichi Shirahama might be able to go from shy, quiet bookworm to martial arts prodigy in a matter of weeks. All it takes to send him on the path to becoming Chuck Norris’ worst nightmare is falling for the new girl in class after he sees her single-handedly demolishing a group of thugs.

Princess Mononoke

Andrew Osmond celebrates Miyazaki’s green movie on Blu-ray
In Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, the hero is a warrior youth in a mythical, medieval “Japan” not yet a nation; rather it’s a fantasy bordering on Middle-Earth and the Wild West.

Bleach Music: Universe

Tom Smith on series 13’s rainbow rockers...
While the Soul Reapers form an uneasy alliance with the Visoreds in Bleach series 13 part 2, the band providing the episode’s ending theme have an uneasy alliance of their own.

Podcast: A Dingo Stole My Anime

Studio Ghibli, tattoo removal and the San Diego Comic Con in our 26th podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani, Andrew Hewson and Jonathan Clements to discuss last week’s Studio Ghibli, the San Diego Comic Con, upcoming releases, and your questions from Twitter and Facebook. Includes an inadvisable impersonation of Meryl Streep, commentary track shenanigans, and Jerome’s skateboarding stunts.
Contact Us   |   Refund Policy   |   Delivery Times   |   Privacy statement   |   Terms & Conditions
Please note your card statement will show billing by MVM. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood from the UK's best Anime Blog.