If you ask any anime enthusiast who’s seen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood what their favorite anime is, there’s a 90 percent chance they’ll tell you that it’s Brotherhood.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood first premiered in Japan in 2009 and its finale aired in 2010. The story follows Edward and Alphonse Elric, brothers and alchemy prodigies as they search for ways to restore their bodies to their original states, which were lost in a transmutation incident. Along the journey to get their bodies back, the boys uncover some pretty earth-shattering secrets about their country and its military. Not to be confused with Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Brotherhood follows Arakawa Hiromu’s manga cannon and wraps it all up in a pretty nifty 64 episodes.
Plot and Characters
I’m a pretty avid reader and somewhat of a movie and TV show enthusiast. Out of all the things I’ve ever read and seen, Brotherhood probably has the best and most satisfying narrative I’ve ever seen. By the time I finished the series, I was torn between being thankful that the series ended there and wanting more. Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything, but I will tell you that the ending will make you feel all warm and satisfied, but will also probably leave a gaping hole in your soul. You know that feeling when you’ve just seen something awesome, like a really good movie or TV series, and you’ve finished it but then you’re left wondering what to do with the rest of your life? Yeah, that’ll happen. Thankfully the anime adheres pretty strictly to the manga. Aside from a few cute side stories and her 4-Koma Theatre, Arakawa never adds anything else to the series and leaves it the way it ends.
The series has a nice mix of action, comedy and earnestness. It’s a good embodiment of the shonen genre of anime. The story’s pace is consistent and never too fast that you feel you don’t understand what’s going on anymore, or too slow that you start to get bored. Arakawa’s story-telling is magnificent, and her attention to detail is amazing in all aspects. Her characters age in such a subtle way that you won’t realize until someone’ll pull up a side-by-side comparison of the characters from an earlier and later episode. She even pays close attention to a wound on Edward’s forehead, and although it is never essential to the plot, she never neglects how it re-opens and heals over time.
What I love about Brotherhood is that its cast of characters is incredibly diverse, but not just for diversity’s sake. The series has plenty of strong female characters, but they’re not strong in the typical and generic stoic-leather-jacket-wearing-I-can-kick-your-butt-in-less-than-three-seconds kind of way. These ladies are legitimately badass. You have Winry, who is a prodigy and an expert automail engineer at the tender age of 12. Sheska, who is first introduced as a bookworm, has perfect eidetic memory. May is a princess who is well-versed in martial arts and alkahestry. There are a tonne more of these ladies in the series, all badass in their own way, but it would probably take me this whole review to just fangirl over all of them. The cast is also racially diverse – the series deals with the heavy themes of racism and genocide, and addresses some questions we’re probably too scared to talk about in real life. The series is peppered with characters with disabilities – heck, the main character is missing two limbs! And yet, these characters are rarely just icons for sympathy – most of the times, their so-called disabilities are their strengths.
Everyone knows that an anime is always defined by its first opening. The first opening can make or break an anime. Yui’s Again captures the entire series in a song almost perfectly. Bitter and remorseful lyrics, yet still hopeful. The other openings and endings are also memorable and suit the series well. The series is tied up nicely with a last verse and chorus from the second opening – Hologram by NICO Touches the Wall, and it will make your lips tremble and maybe a single tear will roll down your cheek, but you won’t cry because who cries over an anime, right?
The score and soundtrack are composed and arranged by Senju Akira, and performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra. The score has a sizeable amount of themes, and several variants of the same underlying score, so you’ll probably never get bored of the music. The score can go from upbeat and happy, to tense and fear-inducing, to melancholic, to adrenaline-pumping. It almost feels like Senju studied the manga intently and arranged an appropriate score for every single scene.
In my opinion, Bones Studio does a good job of bringing Arakawa’s story to life. The art style is more similar to that of the manga, more so than the 2003 series is. The animation stays consistent throughout the series, and you can tell that so much love and care has been put into each and every single episode. To Bones Studio, I say, “Good job.”
I make it a rule to always watch the original Japanese dubbing over the English dubbed. I have a tonne of reasons why I prefer the original Japanese dub, but I’ll spare you the boredom and elitism and just go straight to the voice acting. A special mention has to go to Utsumi Kenji, who voices Major Alex Louis Armstrong. Utsumi probably has the most comical role in the series and he executes it perfectly. Most memorable voices probably have to go to Romi Park, who voices Edward, and Nakamura Yuichi, who voices Greed. You’ll probably recognize Park’s voice as Temari from Naruto, Hange Zoe from Attack on Titan, and Kiryuin Ragyo from Kill la Kill. Park does a great job of playing the role of an intelligent, aggressive and somewhat bratty teenage boy even though she’s a woman (gasp). She’s one of my favorite seiyuu to date. I’ve found that Nakamura has two voices he tends to go towards. There’s that generic male anime voice that’s nice and easy to listen to (which is a bit hard to attribute to him, as there are probably hundreds of other voice actors with a similar voice), and a unique voice which you can easily identify him by. You’ll probably recognize him as the voice of Gray Fullbuster from Fairy Tail, Ichinose Guren from Seraph of the End, Yomo Renji from Tokyo Ghoul and Nozaki Umetaro from Gekkan Shojou Nozaki-kun. But you probably won’t recognize him as Shinomiya Kojiro from Food Wars or Mumen Rider from One-Punch Man. Nakamura uses his identifiable voice to play Greed, which is perfect for the incredibly aggressive and arrogant character.
I may be a bit biased to love Brotherhood as it has somewhat contributed to some of the success in my academic life. All the study I did for IGCSE Japanese was watch the series (I got an A) and I wrote a Theology essay on the series last year (which got an A+). But I’m not exaggerating when I say that Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of the best anime ever. There are a lot of people who would agree and IMDb certainly does – it’s got 9.1 stars out of 10. If you’re looking for an anime with a lot of depth and a bit more substance, then Brotherhood is right for you. It’s also a good starting anime if you’ve never seen any, but I’ll warn you now – it’ll ruin you for all anime series, probably for forever.