Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 01

Fullmetal Alchemist

"One Who Challenges the Sun"

Oh my god... Engrish strikes again. The first impression of this show, other than pure insanity, was one of the shop signs in Lior City, that reads, "Dorinks & Food".

On to more important things, this show has some unique and attractive character designs, and some pretty slick animation. If there's any negative, it'd be the fact that Edward (the main character, and the eponymous full metal alchemist) looks like a mini-Vash the Stampede (and the resemblance is pretty strong, too).

This show is based on a Square Enix game of the same name, though I don't know anything about it to compare it to. The pacing of the show is downright frenetic, with Edward lapsing into all sorts of weird facial expressions, and generally spazzing out.

This is the introductory episode, where we're introduced to Edward and his brother Alphonse, two alchemists, as well as a girl named Roze. We're also introduced to the concepts of alchemy, which is basically that matter can be transmuted as long as matter is conserved (bust out your high school phsyics books for more info).

It'll probably take a while longer to get to the meat of this show, but so far it's reasonably interesting, though the pacing doesn't seem to lend itself to much character development. We'll see.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 10:14 PM | Comments (3)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 02

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Body of Taboo"

The first episode of this show felt a little uneven, but this one has a much more reasonable pace that I think the rest of the series will follow.

I really wasn't crazy about the overall plot in this opening story, with the method that Edward uses to unmask the high priest's conspiracy being a little overdone, and a little stupid. What was a lot more gratifying, though, was watching Roze's reactions to having her beliefs being systematically destroyed by Edward (no malice intended, of course).

When Roze discovers that the priest's miracles are a sham, she reacts with the expected horror and anger, but then proceeds to direct it to Edward for popping her (and the town's) bubble. These are all very realistic and believable reactions, and it comes off fairly well.

This show is entertaining enough, and has good production values, but we'll have to see where it goes from here, as we hardly know anything about the world, and have really only been introduced to a few characters (and barely introduced to the requisite mysterious villains).

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 09:04 PM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 03

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Mom..."

Fullmetal Alchemist would have to be one of my two favorite shows whose titles begin with "full metal", right up there with Full Metal Panic.

I'll let that sink in.

Seriously though, this show is right around average, though I think episode three is a little too early to already have an extended flashback episode. I barely know what's going on, and I'm already getting overburdened with history.

I really can't stand Alphonse's little boy voice, especially when the mechanical whine is applied to it. Well, to be honest, Edward's little boy voice isn't all that hot either. On the plus side, this show has some outstanding production values, which shows in the quality of the animation and art. The music is above average, on the few occasions where it poked through the dialogue.

In this episode, we're whisked back into the past to observe Edward and Alphonse's childhood, where they attempted to revive their deceased mother through alchemy, and ultimately fail (didn't we just see this in episode one?).

Mental note: when preforming gargantuan, impossible tasks of alchemy, wait for clear skies and bright sunshine... avoid dark, stormy nights.

The story of their failed transmutation and subsequent mutilation is actually very good, though, and definitely above what I was expecting after the previous two episodes. If the story continues to improve, given the production values of this show, it could turn out to be a surprise hit.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 12:23 AM | Comments (18)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 04

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Transmutation of Love"

You know, it's always around this episode of a series that I finally remember to comment about a show's music. Full Metal Alchemist's music is definitely good, with some pretty memorable tracks on the rare occasions that it comes out from the background.

Anyways, there's one way to describe the plot of this episode: subtle.

You should *really* see the various plot twists in this episode coming from a mile away. I guess that's more than a little disappointing. I watched the episode hoping that they were going to prove me wrong, but watching the show was like waiting for another person to put a puzzle together. If you can't figure out what's going on while you watch this episode, then I have the feeling you will enjoy it a lot more than I did.

I thought this installment might serve as further exploration of the backstory, with Majhal being one of Ed and Al's father's friends (best friends, according to him), but this is more of an orientation filler episode. Expect the plot to pick up at about... episode twelve.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 12:36 PM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 05

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Dash! Auto-Mail"

Is it really time for another flashback episode? Seems like half of this show takes place in the past. It's really not that big a problem, though I'd really like to know what the general thrust of the story is (getting the bad guys involved at some point would be nice). Maybe it's just ingrained in me that this sort of flashback should happen later on in a series.

One little problem with the flashbacks is that it's kind of hard to tell they take place in the past. Al looks like... well... Al. And Ed looks the same, too. I thought they were go without the red coat for Ed in the past, but looks like he's always had it.

Still a fun episode, though, and it does sort of ask a few more questions, like what the military's aim is with training Al and Ed to take the national alchemist exam.

That's the problem with the show so far, lots of questions, very few answers. We've already been shown what the power of alchemy is like, how the rules work (somewhat), and Ed's background and some of his goals. I think it's time this show got a kick in the pants. Less setup, more payoff!

Also, the action sequences in this episode were hit and miss in their appeal. Having Al walk in with his full armor, deflecting bullets at attackers was pretty cool, but having Ed flood the train passenger car with a flood of water was over the top enough to be kind of cheesy.

I'm still interested by this show, but if I don't get some answers soon, I'll be vexed.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 06

Fullmetal Alchemist

"State Alchemist Qualification Exam"

Haha! Al's metal helmet can show crazy facial expressions to match Ed's. That's some good stuff. Looks absolutely ridiculous, but amusing nonetheless.

It's another flashback episode this time, so it makes me feel a little better about the whole thing. They gave a nice fleshed out backstory (which continues in the next episode) for Ed and Al, and how they came to be where they are now. This is a very feel good story, as there's no real adversary in this episode, we just get to see how good an alchemist Ed is.

This show's production values really are top notch, and it really is fun to watch. It's silly, touching, and genuinely put a smile on my face, and there's not really much better praise I could put on it.

More episodes like this one, and more series like this one, and I'm going to lose my prejudice against anime based on games. (Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration.)

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 07

Fullmetal Alchemist

"The Night the Chimera Cries"

I was very impressed by the use of shadow in the latter half of the episode. Just more evidence of the exceptional production values of this show. Everything goes along very smoothly until Ed's voice actor completely manhandles his last bit on this episode, where he has to cry. It's a terrible piece of acting, and the upbeat closing theme comes in too quickly.

Some spoilers follow.

Well, I guess I should just expect from here on out that every person Ed and Al meet up with that seems good in the beginning, is actually a terrible person. I don't remember exactly, but I definitely had some suspicions that this was going to happen after watching the previous episode. The depths that the alchemist in question goes to in this episode is really pretty sick, though he does have a good point that what he did was very much the same as Ed and Al's attempt at human transmutation. There's an important difference, however, being that Ed and Al did it for love, and he does it more for self-preservation.

The results of the transmutation are pretty disturbing though, and it really makes you wince to see and hear it.

We're also introduced to a new player in the story (are we back to the present yet?), a mysterious guy who hates alchemy, but has apparently been given a brand by his brother, that grants him the use of alchemical powers. He sees the alchemists as blasphemers, and has some sort of religious anti-alchemist fanaticism. We'll see where that develops.

Overall, this show continues to be very good, and has some really disturbing moments (which are surprising, from the overall tone of the rest of the show), that help it stand out from the pack.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 10:58 PM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 08

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Philosopher's Stone"

I like how this show sets up everyone that isn't Ed and Al to be pretty much as evil as possible. There's no possible way you could feel sympathetic to the military, which is basically using the alchemists for their own nefarious purposes. That makes watching much easier, you know with that whole concept of gray thrown out the window. Subtle is definitely not a hallmark of this show. A guy with a big X on his face, suppose he's evil?

Oh, and you know that whole thing about all the people Ed bumps into turning out to be evil? Yeah, let's just leave it at that.

Winry makes her first appearance for a while in this episode, which was inevitable, given her place of prominence in the opening credits. This was another one-shot, more or less filler episode. I suppose this is okay, as this is a long series. I should mention we're still in flashbacks at this point, and I don't know if we'll ever get out of them.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 01:32 AM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 09

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Silver Watch of the Dog of the Military"

This has to be the happiest group of coal miners I've ever seen. Last time I checked (or at least, surmised), coal mining wasn't exactly a job that made people happy or cheerful. This bunch seems to have something to live for. They seem at most mildly incovenienced by their living conditions and other problems.

Another rehash episode, where Ed shows that he doesn't want to just be a dog of the military, and wants to help normal people. He's a good guy, get it? (Seriously, though, how many episodes does Al have to suggest that maybe he should become a state alchemist, and Ed responds that he should be the only one to have to be a dog of the military?)

But here's the good part! At the end of this episode, we've finally caught up to where the show started at! Flashback over!

Now that we've got all that extremely long exposition out of the way, maybe something good will come up in the upcoming episodes.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 07:24 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 10

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Thief Psiren"

Another seemingly inconsequential episode of Fullmetal Alchemist. That isn't too surprising, as this show is slotted for fifty-two installments, so we can expect more than a little filler. (Of course, if Psiren makes a reappearance in a later episode, it'll give this one a little more weight.)

In this episode, Ed and Al are mistaken for criminals (again) and eventually end up helping the incompetent local authorities in catching the real alchemy-using criminal. Throw in a surprise that isn't a surprise at all (something that is beginning to seem like a hallmark of this show), and Ed being offended at people calling him short, and you've got your standard issue episode of the show.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 11

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Gravel Earth - Part One"

I guess Fletcher auditioned for the part of Naruto, but was turned down, and only managed to find work as one of the plethora of unimportant characters in Fullmetal Alchemist. Speaking of bad character designs, how about Fletcher's brother? He just looks like a bigger version of Ed. Nothing like making antagonists that look like your protagonist...

It was kind of cute earlier when there have been alchemy fights in the show, but this one reaches a new low when Fletcher's brother transmutes a fire hose to spew red water at Ed, and he responds by transmuting his dinky arm blade thing into an honest-to-god umbrella.

By the way, before I get a chance to sum up the first ten episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist:

HOW TO MAKE AN EPISODE OF FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST IN FOURTEEN EASY STEPS
1. Ed and Al are traveling
2. They arrive at a town
3. They talk to some of the people, get a meal, something like that
4. The townspeople discover they are alchemists
5. They immediately do something bad to them
6. Quick look at a new character, seems inconsequential
7. Then they realize that Ed's a state alchemist
8. Now they need his help
9. There's a bad guy alchemist around
10. They investigate
11. Turns out that guy you met earlier is actually the bad alchemist
12. Ed wins
13. The town is happy
14. Let's go to the next town!

It's been almost a dozen episodes and we've barely had more than a minute of the bad guys introduced in the first (not to mention being sidetracked by a half dozen flashback shows).

The worst part about episode eleven, though, is the fact it's a part one. We can look forward to more of this crap in the next one.

Rating: D+

Posted by Kei at 01:12 AM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 12

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Gravel Earth - Part Two"

The two part Gravel Earth story goes out with a whimper. I never really got into this story more than wondering why the imposter Ed looks so much like an older version of him. It is a pretty good variation on the standard 7-8-11-12-13-14 second of a two parter story.

Alright, in all fairness, they sort of scrambled around the usual plot points, devices, and characters into something I still care little about.

You know, if all this equivalent trade stuff is true, I think I should be getting some good entertainment in exchange for my time. That either says something about my time or the quality of this show. Here's my guess:

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 13

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Flame VS Full Metal"

It's amazing how fast something can go from funny to insanely weird.

There's a very specific moment of this episode that made me feel that way, and believe me, you'll know it when you get to it.

This episode features a surprising amount of character development, and it comes in an extremely nonstandard way. Most of it is dedicated to Mustang's character, but it's hard to say if this is really developing his character, or just some random insanity they decided to have him go through. Either way, some of the stuff Mustang does in this episode is downright hilarious.

Snuck in around the craziness is also some plot development, with the mysterious Dr. Marco and unrest in Lior City (the first episode seems so far away now), which has my interest hooked for some more episodes.

Also, this episode features one scene with some of the most poorly integrated CG I've ever seen in anime.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:52 AM | Comments (2)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 14

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Right Hand of Destruction"

Roze makes a short appearance in this episode, spouting off some really really cliched anime lines. (I mean, seriously, the whole "just trying to move forward" thing must be some sort of Japanese mantra, as often as it shows up in anime.)

Well, this is a pretty slam-bang episode, with a lot of fireworks and action. There's some plot development, but overall, this installment feels like a setup for the new story arc, rather than something that stands on its own.

Finally, the bad guys from early on in the show make their reappearance (oh, they're taking advantage of their fifty plus episodes, aren't they?), and the show definitely picks up because of that. No more cookie-cutter deranged, one-shot alchemists in sight!

This show has shown itself to be pretty good when they choose to move the plot along. Hopefully now that the first dozen setup episodes have gone by, it'll be all uphill from here.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 15

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Ishbal Massacre"

After a few episodes of buildup, this one has all the answers. This is definitely the best episode of the show, so far, as we get the most plot information along with some interesting character tidbits. It's interesting that this didn't happen earlier (say at the end of the first twelve episodes) instead of in the second part. Cut a lot of that early fat and have an actual conclusion to the first string of stories.

Well, at least we're here now. The show definitely takes a turn for the more serious and dramatic at this point, and I hope it keeps it up (though I expect a few letdown, take-it-easy episodes in the near future) for the long haul.

This isn't a cliffhanger episode, but I'm definitely curious to see how the various characters will react to the revelations at the end of the episode, and how other characters will react to their reactions!

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 04:14 PM | Comments (2)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 16

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Lost Thing"

I didn't think Mustang was that great at first, but ever since they made him act randomly psychotic, he's become my favorite character in the show.

I had two comments in my review of the last episode of Fullmetal Alchemist. The first was that I wanted to see how the various characters reacted to everything Ed said at the end of the episode (letting all that dirty Ishbal information out). Well, the answer to that one was... not much.

The other thing I said was that I anticipated a few cooldown episodes in the near future. What I meant to say, of course, by "near future" was "the next episode". So here it is. Some really non-plot-essential stuff happens in this episode. Most of it is character development by a bunch of random strangers, who (hopefully) will become important at some point. I hope this is true, and an episode wasn't wasted introducing this group of minor characters who serve no purpose other than to make Ed .1% more mature.

I guess the lost thing is how to make a good episode!

Rating: C

Posted by Kei at 02:45 AM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 17

Fullmetal Alchemist

"The House Where the Family Waits"

Ahh, my favorite animeism pops up in this episode:

"We've got to keep moving forward."

This episode was better than the last, but we're sort of in a lull between plots right now, so everything's moving a bit slowly. On the plus side, the music in this episode was exceptional, and a lot more noticable than usual. There were at least three or four very good different songs sprinkled throughout.

Winry makes another appearance in this episode, and it appears that putting Al into the armor has some negative side effects (particularly his memory). This episode is kind of strange though. It's obviously trying to be touching and all that, but it almost feels like it was done just for the sake of being sentimental. There's some humor too, and it's all entertaining, it just doesn't sell it 100%.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 11:51 PM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 18

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Marco Note"

Finally, some more information about the Philosopher's Stone (I wonder if they'll change it to "Sorceror's Stone" for American audiences?) for Ed. It's really not that surprising to find out that it isn't a happy lollipop, or something like that. I mean, after all, the red water, which was the closest thing to the Philosopher's Stone, caused all sorts of trouble just when people were in the general vicinity of it.

Fullmetal Alchemist has a unique character art style, which generally looks pretty good. Unfortunately, it makes female characters look really masculine, in general. It probably has something to do with how the faces are stretched out a bit (not to mention all the severe haircuts the female military-types have). It's not all bad, though, I seem to recall that Roze looked fine in the first episode.

Gluttony is really a disturbing character, with that helium-squeaky voice and crazy proportions (not to mention the whole cannibal thing), so I always like when he appears. Also, we get some amusing Mustang/Hughes over-the-phone interaction.

On the other hand, the pacing of this show really irritates me. It's got a long run projected, so they take their sweet time in giving you any sort of information. Luckily, it's pretty good at entertaining you in the meanwhile, like with Ed suggesting he'll transmute the ashes of the library, then all the ashes blowing away in the wind.

Overall, this show is still entertaining, but when you look at it episode by episode, it's hurt by just how drawn out it is.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 10:35 PM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 19

Fullmetal Alchemist

"The Genuine Truth Behind Truths"

The last few episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist were good, but not great, so I was getting a little concerned about the show. Luckily, we get a good one with nineteen, with lots of over-the-top action (some of it silly, but in a good way).

Any episode of this show that doesn't fall into the pattern it established in the beginning (and in its defense, it has moved away from that lately) is a good one. Even better when the episodes are not self-contained, allowing more in depth plot development and action.

As it turns out, there's more to the Philosopher's Stone mystery than just what Dr. Marco's writings revealed. There's obviously some conspiracy going on here, and Ed and Al haven't given up hope that the stone will still be the answer to their problems.

This is probably the best show this season, so you should definitely be watching it.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 10:13 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 20

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Guardian's Soul"

It kind of bothers me that whenever Edward gets into a fight, his first reaction is to transmute his automail arm into that little stabbing glove. He's short (super shorty who needs help seeing himself in the mirror, or something like that) and fighting isn't really his strong suit, but nonetheless, it's always take 'em on hand to hand. Of course, that is more visually exciting. Though I have to say, in this episode Ed makes good use of transmutation during his fight with the other soul-bonded armor.

Plotwise, not much happens other than the revelation that the prisoners were being used as test subjects (not a huge surprise), their souls bonded to suits of armor to serve as guards for the lab. Their unique perspective gives them an opportunity to make Al question whether or not he is who he thinks he is (or if it's just some elaborate conspiracy by Ed and the others). Like maybe he was just some random kid they found, told him that he was a brother that owed a lot to Ed, and figured he'd make a good protector. Kind of hard to believe though (other than the fact that Ed seems like a nice guy), given that everyone else seems to believe Ed's story, and if they could brainwash Al to be anything they wanted just to protect Ed, they'd probably program him to be a little more efficient.

Anyways, this was another entertaining episode of the show, the best in the last handful, and promises to have some more explanations about the Philosopher's Stone in the near future.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 10:38 PM | Comments (2)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 21

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Crimson Glow"

Anime characters never seem to be able to stop people before they kill themselves.

Wow, well this is probably the best episode of the series so far, with former characters popping up and a whole lot of insight shed on the various mysteries of the show so far. On top of that, there's a whole lot of shocking moments when these things are revealed and explained. We finally get some more insight on Scar's character, all ending up with a big showdown (which promises to really heat up in the next episode).

If you've been following the show so far, then it seems like (judging from this episode) it's paid off.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 09:22 AM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 22

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Created Human"

This episode is basically the climax of the 5th Laboratory story arc, as far as I can tell. Ed is given the chance (not given so much) to create the Philosopher's Stone, weighing the sacrifice of a score of prisoners to Al's life.

The word of the day seems to be "homonculus". More than a few details (though a good number of mysteries remain) about Greed, Envy and Lust are revealed, most interestingly their motivations. That takes up most of the episode, with some other moments spent to introduce a new round of prospective bad guys for Ed (the Crimson Alchemist and friends, newly escaped from the laboratory).

The show's definitely been great lately, and I hope they keep up the intensity, and that the Crimson Alchemist storyline that seems primed to occur in the near future, will not just be a bunch of filler episodes. Also, if the next few episodes follow the show's pattern, they'll be slower, giving Ed some down time (and a chance to recover from his harrowing experiences in the lab).

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 23

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Heart of Steel"

In this slowdown episode, Al continues with one of the most uninteresting, self-pitying character growth stories I've seen in a while. Al questions whether he was ever actually human, or if Ed (and the military) have conspired to implant him with false memories.

Maybe I missed this in one of the earlier episodes, but if Ed can so easily transmute Al to fix him, why the heck can't he do the same to his own arm? I mean, it's not as though alchemy doesn't work on it. He uses it to make that dorky little blade all the time.

Back to the real meat of the episode, though. Winnnnnnry! Isn't she cute?

I wonder if she's going to be relegated to the role of a character who shows up ever ten episodes or so. I hope not, because I think she's a fun character. On the other hand, Al really is insufferable at this point, though he should be cut a little slack because he's just a kid. I hope that they wrap up this whole question as to whether or not he's who Ed says he is, because his attitude is really grating.

Plot doesn't move forward much in this episode, as most of it is given over to hijinks and silliness. It's a nice change of pace before we move into the next story arc.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 11:52 PM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 24

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Affixing Memories"

There's enough flashbacking in this episode that I could have sworn I was watching an episode of Noir.

Unfortunately, this is one of those filler episodes that Fullmetal Alchemist spits out every once in a while. It's not too surprising, given this series is going to finish at over fifty episodes. It's not terrible, as far as moving the plot, as we get some closure to the Ishbal story (is this really the end of Scar?), and it's almost all worth it for Al to stop complaining about whether or not his memories are his own or not.

I thought they artificially created the story of the two Ishbal boys as a mechanism for getting Al to believe that his memories were not artificially created by Ed, but it turns out they pretty much have nothing to do with each other. The Ishbal boys' story is a little far-fetched too, with the conclusion a little too convenient for me to swallow.

At least Winry is bopping around in little spots in this episode. She makes everything better!

Well, hopefully we can get back on track with the storyline next episode.

Rating: B-

Posted by Kei at 12:08 AM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 25

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Farewell Ceremony"

Every time I start getting down about Fullmetal Alchemist, they roll out an episode that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy about it again. This episode kicks off the next phase of Ed and Al's journey, and serves up a big crazy moment in the process.

Big spoilers!

It's always pretty shocking (and rare) when a semi-important character is killed in an anime series, and Fullmetal Alchemist's first big casualty, Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, was no exception. It's probably emotionally worse because Hughes has mostly seemed the least serious of the entire cast of characters. Always talking about his daughter, acting silly on the phone (to throw off anyone who might be listening in on his conversations with Mustang), and messing around with Ed and Al, he definitely definitely didn't seem like a likely candidate to be removed.

But he's dead and in the ground now, and the funeral moment with Elysia (his daughter) is not a happy one.

The good to great episodes of this series have definitely made up for the average ones.

Rating: A

Posted by Kei at 10:53 PM | Comments (6)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 26

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Her Reason"

New opening and ending!

This is a filler episode, but it serves as a bridge to the next story sequence. Luckily, like all the good filler episodes, this one has Winry! That's got to be a letter grade improvement right there.

It's kind of a superfluous story, fleshing out the idea of automail and perhaps Winry's reasons for being so devoted to its creation. Winry definitely has the big sister attitude to Ed and Al, and her desire to create automail replacements for Ed's arm and leg is greatly motivated by the fact she doesn't want them to continue their quest (which has proven to be a pretty dangerous one).

But I still wonder at what point Winry is going to become a more central character. I think she's had more face time in the credits than she has during episodes so far.

Following one of the other subplots, Mustang continues (slowly) rising through the ranks of the military. He hasn't made much progress in the last dozen or so episodes. Actually, speaking of characters that haven't gotten much face time, Mustang's been a non-factor for longer than I can remember now.

Hmm, it's a long show, so I'm sure all these various threads will come together eventually, it's just a question of how long.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 27

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Teacher"

It's been a while since we had a nice, long childhood flashback for Ed and Al, but with their teacher showing up on the show for the first time, we finally get some!

This episode is sort of starting off the third story arc of Fullmetal Alchemist, so their teacher's appearance is basically used as an excuse to explain the things that Ed and Al did to get themselves where they are now.

In another brief, two minute snapshot, we see that Mustang moves inches closer to the power he is seeking (he might even leave for Central City one of these days). On the bright side, I was pretty happy with the character of Izumi (the boys' teacher), even if I think her frequent beatings seem to always screw up the mood of a scene.

Hopefully we can pick up a moving story thread again at some point.

Rating: B+

Posted by Kei at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 28

Fullmetal Alchemist

"One Is All, All Is One"

The importance of this episode will probably be more clear after we get some answers in the next episode. Without this, I'd have to say this was a fairly weak one.

More flashbacks to the Elric brothers' training, how their teacher left them on an abandoned island to learn the way of nature (circle of life, see The Lion King). Their time there was pretty tough, and they had to endure a lot of hardships. However, they eventually refused to be defeated by the island, and became stronger because of it (both physically and mentally). Around the flashbacks, the brothers (present day), are once again left on the island by their teacher, in hopes that they will remember the lesson they learned as children, and give up their goal of performing human transmutation to return themselves to normal.

They're also being stalked by a mysterious child, about whom nothing is revealed (see next episode).

Rating: C+

Posted by Kei at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 29

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Innocent Child"

A title like that makes me instantly suspicious about the kid.

(Well, that and opening credits.)

You don't have to wonder too long though, because in this episode we get a whole bunch of answers about the various mysteries of the show. They don't come out and tell you how homonculus are created (or why they are created), but if you read between the lines, it should make sense. Also explains the evil woman who looks like Ed and Al's mother!

There's another requisite two minute segment about what Mustang's up to (seriously, is he not going to factor in this season or what).

I'm amazed that this show is still entertaining after twenty-nine episodes, but the slow trickle of information about what's really going on has kept me going (though it's been rough a few times). One thing that's kind of weird at this point in the show is that it seems like Ed and Al are sort of without goals at this point. Yes they want to turn themselves back to normal, but they're backing away from it, and generally just milling around with Izumi (their teacher) and Winry. Not that I'll complain, because who doesn't love Winry? (Just watch that wonderful closing credit sequence!)

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:15 AM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 30

Fullmetal Alchemist

"South Headquarters Assault"

As is the norm on Fullmetal Alchemist lately, Mustang shows up for about five seconds and does his little one line thing, which is still too bad.

I was just thinking, while watching this episode, that the show is really pretty inconsistent about how exactly alchemy works. I don't think it really takes away from the show (let's face it, we're not watching to see the fundamental laws of alchemy), but it is sort of amusingly random. Obviously the one huge part of alchemy is narrative.

So, we finally get an explanation as to why Izumi keeps coughing up blood (other than being an anime character, which to me seems like a good enough excuse). They've dropped a few hints about what she may or may not have done, but it's nice to get the definitive answer. As that's really all her character had still going for her, I wonder if they're going to kill her off in the near future.

Speaking of the unbelievability of the show, Izumi's health problem is just another one of those ridiculous things you'll have to swallow. Also, in this episode, in a little mini-combat, an enemy takes Al's head (helmet) off pretty easily. From previous episodes, we know that this completely exposes the seal that keeps his soul in the armor, so this seems like a pretty huge weakness.

This is a good buildup episode, and I'm really curious to see what happens when it all hits the fan next episode, with a promised fight between Izumi, Ed, Al, Armstrong, the Mad Bomber, and (apparently) the Dopplefuhrer. Of course, being anime, it could all fall apart, but I'm hoping for a good fight.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 31

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Sin"

In case you hadn't figured out how the Homonculus are created, it gets spelled out in this episode. Much to my amusement, Mustang still only appears for about two seconds in this episode (fulfilling his quota). All this, and Mustang was voted the number three most popular male anime character in Animage (Ed being first!). Hawkeye was also named the most popular female character, which probably says something about how pathetic female characters in anime are.

All that buildup is leading to a fight between Al and Wrath in the next episode. This particular story arc hasn't completely fascinated me, as all this stuff with the gate seems a little too fantastical for me. Maybe hokey is a better word for it.

Behind the scenes during this segment of story, a lot of the various groups have been moving around (Mustang, the Ishbal refugees, the Homonculi), and I'm awaiting the point where we finally see where it's all going, as this story arc almost seems to be in this other pocket Fullmetal Alchemist universe. Also, not being a very big fan of Greed, his enlarged presence in the last few episodes hasn't really made me happy.

Rating: B

Posted by Kei at 11:35 AM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 32

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Dante of the Deep Forest"

Maybe I spoke too soon in my review of the last episode. Now, the show makes it absolutely clear to anyone who hasn't figured it out yet what the deal with crazy boy's ability to use alchemy (despite the fact he's a Homunculus).

But on with the new stuff. I haven't enjoyed an episode of Fullmetal Alchemist as much as this one for quite a while. It's kind of an unhappy episode that will piss you off, as nothing seems to go right for our heroes. Whether it's an impediment to progress, some really annoying victories for the bad guys, or an outright loss, the good guys really take a beating in a very short amount of time. Hey, I get tired of seeing the good guys winning all the time!

Wrath is immediately my favorite of the Homonculi, and I think that he's probably the best villain in the show right now. His crazy insanity, and the fact that Izumi refuses to let Ed and Al take him out, adds frustration to the situation, and helps Wrath do all sorts of annoying things that make you hate him (he's got one of those great, psychotic voice actors, too).

Thirty-two episodes down and this show continues to have an engaging storyline, great music, art and animation. It's not always a slam dunk, but there are more than enough good episodes to this show. Even though the competition isn't very hot right now, I'd say this is the best new anime on television.

Rating: A+

Posted by Kei at 12:46 AM | Comments (5)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 33

Fullmetal Alchemist

"Al Is Kidnapped"

In this episode, Al is kidnapped. How's that for truth in advertising?

There's a weird music choice at the beginning of the episode that sticks out from anything I've heard so far in the serries, which I found a little weird. After that goes by, it's pretty much another good, solid episode of Fullmetal Alchemist.

Along with some action, the main focus of this episode is learning more about Greed, his motivations, special abilities, etc. There's also some more "whose side are you on anyways?" wrangling throughout, and Tucker is thrown into the mix again (boy does he get around). Right now, the various factions of this show are bouncing around in so many places, and crossing over, it's hard to have a clear sense of exactly what's going on. The brothers' quest for the Philosopher's Stone also seems to have been sidetracked for a good amount of time now, but I actually prefer this side story to it.

There's an exchange between Ed and Greed which reminds me of every fight Kenshin participates in.

Bad Guy: You can't beat me unless you unleash the Hitokiri, Battousai!
Kenshin: No, I will remain a rurouni!
Bad Guy: Then you'll die!

Kenshin always wins in the end, without giving in.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:03 AM | Comments (1)

Fullmetal Alchemist Episode 34

Fullmetal Alchemist

"The Theory of Greed"

Considering Winry is tagging along with the Elric brothers at this point, it's amazing how little she shows up. She only gets to have a part during downtime, when Ed needs some automail repairs, or little parts like that. Really, this show is quite the sausagefest! Ed and Al are leaving Izumi-sensei behind, which means that's minus one more female. There's always Hawkeye, but considering how little time Mustang gets (no appearance in this episode!), that's another small female part.

On the other hand, I admire the fact that Fullmetal Alchemist doesn't feature gratuitous female roles, just for the sake of having them. Fanservice is notably (and gratefully) absent from the show (with the exception of the current, Winry-centric ending credit animation).

There are two good fight sequences in this episode, which are always fun (though watching Ed fight Yoda-style isn't really my cup of tea--I happen to think that his Baraka-like hand blade isn't the coolest of weapons).

As a viewer, I sort of feel like I'm in the same boat as Ed and Al. After the previous, strong story arc, I'm sort of adrift. There are a lot of threads sliding around, and a lot of questions (a few new ones) that have posed themselves, with only hits at their answers. Perhaps Ed and Al's leaving to move on to Ishbal will bring everything together again, but the show feels a little lost at this point.

Rating: A-

Posted by Kei at 12:47 AM | Comments (2)