Nerdgasm Vol. 1: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

I must admit it, I’ve long been afraid to unleash my inner dork as fully as possible here on the blog. Perhaps to give myself some reassurance that I am not, in fact, a complete and total nerd. However, it’s been too hard a fight and I just can’t do it anymore. So I hereby proclaim for all the here: I AM A NERD. A DORK. A GEEK. It happens. Previously to this past week or so, though, my nerd-dom was mostly literary, or at least of a certain variety: Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/comic books kind of nerdy. But, thanks to the appearance of a new friend, hereby named GingerBoy due to a very large mass of very bright red hair, I’ve gotten hooked on a number of anime series. This is shocking for two main reasons:

1.) I do not watch anime and;

2.) I DO NOT WATCH ANIME!!!

However, it seems that this may no longer be the case, as this weeks Nerdgasm (and my recent obsession of the past few weeks) is the anime series Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, which is not technically the ‘original’ Fullmetal Alchemist but is, according to GingerBoy, the far superior series.

I usually don’t do this, but the plot of this series is one of those that can get easily muddled if not explain right, so I’m cribbing this straight of wikipedia:

“Edward and Alphonse Elric are two alchemist brothers searching for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, a powerful object which would allow them to recover their bodies (which were lost in an attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy). Born in the village of Resembool from the country of Amestris (アメストリス, Amesutorisu?), the two brothers live there with their parents. Their father, Hohenheim, leaves home for unknown reasons and years later, their mother, Trisha Elric, dies of a terminal illness leaving the Elric brothers alone. After their mother’s death, Edward becomes determined to bring her back through the use of alchemy, an advanced science in which objects can be created from raw materials. They research Human Transmutation, a forbidden art in which one attempts to create or modify a human being. However, this attempt fails, ultimately resulting in the loss of Edward’s left leg and Alphonse’s entire body. In a desperate effort to save his brother, Edward sacrifices his right arm to affix Alphonse’s soul to a suit of armor. Some days later, an alchemist named Roy Mustang visits the Elric brothers, and he tells Edward to become a member of the State Military of the country to find a way to recover their bodies. After that, Edward’s left leg and right arm are replaced with automail, a type of advanced prosthetic limb, created for him by his close family friends Winry Rockbell and her grandmother Pinako.

Edward sets out to become a State Alchemist (国家錬金術師, Kokka Renkinjutsushi?), an alchemist employed by the State Military of Amestris, which infamously annihilated most of the Ishbalan race (Ishbal) in the past decade. Becoming a State Alchemist enables Edward to use the extensive resources available to State Alchemists, but it also turns him into what they call a “dog of the military”. His more friendly relationship with Roy Mustang however, whom he reports to and who recruited him, allows the brothers freedom to search for the Philosopher’s Stone as part of Edward’s research, as each State Alchemist is expected to independently research new things which may be of a use to the State Military of Amestris. The brothers set off in search of the Philosopher’s Stone as a means to restore their bodies. Throughout their journey, they meet many antagonists, including those who are willing to do anything to obtain the Philosopher’s Stone; Scar, one of the few surviving Ishbalans, who seeks vengeance on the State Alchemists for the destruction of his race; and the homunculi, a group of human-like creatures who carry pieces of the Philosopher’s Stone inside themselves, and from it derive the ability to survive almost any harm. As the story progresses, Edward and Alphonse discover the vast expansion of Amestris was the result of the homunculi, who created and secretly control the State Military. The homunculi and much of the high-ranking military officers are commanded from behind the curtains by the creator of the homunculi, a man simply known as “Father” who gained immortality by using a copy of Hohenheim as his new body centuries before the series’ timeline. He plans to use Amestris as a gigantic transmutation circle, possibly to transmute the entire country into the Philosopher’s Stone. When Edward and Alphonse discover Father’s plans, they, along with other members of the State Military, set out to defeat him.

There are 43 episodes of the show online now, with more on the way (I’m all caught up and now have to wait, painfully, for the episodes to be aired weekly – DAMN YOU, MARATHONS!) and while the full knowledge of this show definitely lends itself to the dorky nature of myself, there are also some really intense questions that can arise from the show: what would you give up to get back the people you’ve loved and lost?” “Just how important is family?” “What are the boundaries between mind, body, and soul? Between intentions and actions?” Not to mention the Ishbalan extermination calls to mind a number of other political atrocities – everything from the Serbian/Bosnia conflict to the recent skirmishes arising from America’s current involvement in Iraq. I also find the concept of alchemy to be incredly enchanting – it’s basically magic based in science – as well as the idea of equal exchange – that for each favor asked, something of greater value must be exchanged.

My favorite/the most disturbing episode to date is the one in which a State Alchemist has come to his annual review, and must prove that his experiments (in this case, as an alchemist his goal is to work with transmutation and the creation of creatures out of other creatures) to produce a chimera (any mythology fans out there?!) that understands human language, or he risks loosing his State Alchemist position – and with it, the financial and social prestige and protection that comes with that. Faced with the pressure, he transmutes his young daughter and his dog together, essentially making a talking dog that is doomed to live as a mutant hybrid creature. This is made even more disturbing because this torture was enacted upon this poor girl by her father. It’s hard to explain just how disturbing this is (you can watch the episode here, if you’d like a real idea) but it raises a number of REALLY uncomfortable questions when you realize that his horrible behavior and the actions of the main characters may not be so far apart.

I’m reserving my complete thoughts until the show has reached it’s end (DREAD THE DAY!!!) and I’m begging any other Fullmetal fans out there to come out of the woodwork so I can have SOMEONE other than GingerBoy to discuss it with (my friends mock me mercilessly, which I don’t blame them for, see numbers 1 and 2 above for historical precedent)! And there you have it, folks, my incredibly, overly verbose rantings on this week’s Nerdgasm! Happy reading (or watching, hopefully!)

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kayla
    Feb 20, 2010 @ 22:52:39

    I have to disagree with Gingerboy. I wouldn’t say one is superior to the other… they have a different vibe and were created under different circumstances.

    Both shows are based off the manga (you probably know all this) which is, unfortunately, only updated once a month. Because the manga was only updated monthly and the anime came out every week, they soon caught up to each other. Instead of waiting for more manga chapters to come out the creator – Hiromu Arakawa- gave the go-ahead to continue with the anime and create an entirely different ending. The ending wasn’t half-bad considering it was entirely the brain child of the producers. Anime also has a reputation of having horrendous filler-episodes. -shudders- the horror of those hundred naruto fillers.

    In contrast, the Brothers “spin-off” (It’s not actually a spin-off) is going to follow the manga as closely as possible. But the manga only has 104 chapters so it remains to be seen how well that is going to work out.

    Because of this I see these as two separate shows that can’t really be compared. I find the original FMA to be slightly darker but then again the whole series is kind of morbid. But you also have to give credit to FMAB for creating a anime that follows the manga so closely and does not have at least three minutes of characters staring at each other with dramatic music playing in the background. Even if the first episode was a flop…

    FMA is definitely a quality anime/manga that you really can’t go wrong with no matter which media you prefer.

    I’m curious to hear what other anime Gingerboy recommended.

    Reply

  2. Chelsea
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 00:02:30

    Yeah, that’s one of the conversations that Gingerboy and I have quite frequently – the quality of an anime in terms of its closeness to the original manga. He just saw the original FMA to veer too far from the original feeling and story arc of the manga.

    We’ve since caught up on all the FMAB and have moved on to Berserk, after which he has also recommended Neon Genesis: Evangelion, as well as Cowboy Bebop and, in return, I’m making him watch Sailor Moon. It’s quite the system we have worked out!

    Reply

  3. Kayla
    Feb 21, 2010 @ 01:22:07

    The thing about the original FMA is that it focuses almost solely on the Elric Brothers and the manga expands on many different characters. Gingerboy is right though. I don’t know if you’ve read the manga or not, but if you compared the latest chapter of the manga to the ending of the original FMA, it really is two different story lines.

    Cowboy Bebop is always good, although I’ve only seen the first twenty episodes. It always cracks me up because it totally has the look of a classic 90’s style cartoon.

    If you liked FMA you should definitely check out Death Note.

    Brief Summary:
    “The series centers on Light Yagami, a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook, the “Death Note”, dropped on Earth by a shinigami (death god) named Ryuk. The Death Note grants its user the ability to kill anyone whose face they have seen, by writing the victim’s name in the notebook. The story follows Light’s attempt to create and rule a world cleansed of evil using the notebook, and the complex conflict between him, his opponents and a mysterious detective known to the world only as L.”

    Sooo amazing! I could not stop watching it. It brings up some of the hard questions like FMA does: Is killing prisoners justified? And who, if anyone, should be allowed to decide who lives and who dies? God complexes abound!

    Wolf’s Rain is pretty good. Short, – around thirty episodes(?) – but still good.

    Summary:
    “According to an old legend, when the end of the world comes, Paradise will appear; however, only wolves will know how to find it. Although wolves are believed to have been hunted to extinction nearly two hundred years ago, they still exist, surviving by taking human form.”

    So the cheesiness factor sounds pretty high on this one if you just read the summary, but it really doesn’t do it justice.

    Reply

  4. Aly
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 02:45:20

    Don’t worry you and gingerboy aren’t the only Fullmetal Alchemists hooked addictive people fans thing me and my friend LOVE this manga(and seires) were’re such nerds we have entire days were we just read the manga online but so far were ony at the begining (chapter 38):). And me and my friend are running out of things to talk about too so please discuss on with us 😀

    Reply

  5. Trackback: Will the Real Book Maven Please Stand Up?! | Book Maven’s Blog
  6. Trackback: Nerdgasm Vol. 3: The Gilmore Girls | Book Maven’s Blog

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