Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an anime series that follows two young brothers. Edward Elric age 15, and Alphonse Elric age 14. It takes place in a setting that is seemingly an alternate reality of 1900’s Germany. Edward and Alphonse serve as dogs of the military in hopes that it will allow them the money and privileges to get their old bodies back.
My first viewing of this show, I hardly made it past the first 15 episodes. This show has a slow start, not much is revealed quickly and it leaves a lot of mystery for the viewer that can quickly turn them away. Edward and Alphonse respectively don’t seem all that likable at first either. Edward displays a lot of ignorance to working for the military, and Alphonse displays a lack of trust in what he’s fighting for.
Ironically enough, the most admirable characters are the supporting cast. Winry Rockbell, the child who lost her parents in the war, The Fuhrer King Bradley, Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, and General Alex Louis Armstrong. Granted though, there is nothing we know about these characters except that they were molded into the person they were because of what’s dubbed the Ishvalan civil war.
You will notice many similarities in this show to 1900’s Germany. Characters raise their right arm up high as if saluting a general and there is a distinct characteristic of mistrust in the military even among its highest ranking officers. Not everyone is made equal it seems. However, this is where our main characters actually come to be likable. Edward is dead set on not killing anyone. He refuses to take the life of anyone he sees as a real human, as it is something he views alchemy cannot create. And Alphonse’s loyalty to his friends is just as enjoyable as his quirky and foolish behavior.
Trouble comes afoot quickly though when villains start to emerge with motives entrenched in hate for state alchemists, and misery follows Ed and Al in their quest to get their bodies back. It is in the first few episodes where Ed comes face to face with death and helplessness, while Al displays a great degree of strength and determination. It’s often hilarious when people mistake Alphonse for Edward thinking the taller of the two is the strongest and most famous.
When trust is broken and lives threatened the brothers rejoice by fighting and graveling at their idols. There is one idol that they despise though, their father that left their mom out to die and abandoned them to fend for themselves. Which oddly enough is just what their teacher does when they first go in for training alchemy. While alchemy is certainly portrayed to be a benefit to humans as it can be used to fix appliances and create new technology, it is soon revealed that the horrors of such power can yield what’s dubbed as “the devil’s work.” Something which the brothers should avoid, considering their past and their mistakes.
When the two brothers decide to start meddling they get badly injured but strangely are saved by those acting as enemies. They are sent on missions to uncover truths about a newfound object, a celestial stone of great power that holds the key to eternal life. But when different leads appear not given out by the military that sounds promising, the resources are quickly burned down and extinguished by a very attractive woman. And anytime the brothers have a moment to breathe they are hunted by a man with red eyes. Ambitions of the higher-ups seem clouded in unneeded hopes and lead to early deaths of beloved characters. Even among people born and trained to be scientists, it’s unclear what motivates them to keep going and keep pushing forward, especially when religion is denounced as heresy in their culture.
People in the country of Ametris like to think that there is nothing that can harm them. That they have all the weapons and invincibles soldiers they need to overcome any threat and overtake any ally. Even when rogue soldiers working with anti-establishments come to threaten their way of life they stand together and fight former allies in the vain of protecting their homeland. Unstoppable obedience to their country and their alchemy cannot so easily be broken even if loved ones are lost. This is what makes the supporting cast so enjoyable because the ones who don’t use alchemy, like those enhanced with machinery, keep going and keep working to do the best with what they can give.
I encourage you to give this show a chance. You will like what you find, you will want to rewatch the whole thing several times again, and you will constantly be asking questions up until the very end. Try not to think too deeply as the show progresses though, its heavy on the means of religion and its emphasis on the world’s past mistakes. It focuses on harsh topics of reality and hope, but if you manage to reach the end you’ll find yourself quite happy with all the time you spent on the screen. Just do me a favor, and don’t give into the laws of equivalent exchange.