Tuesday, 9 August 2011

"FMA: Brotherhood" Review


This is why I don't watch a lot of anime anymore.

I was glad to hear some years back that Fulllmetal Alchemist would be returning to television. I looked forward to seeing more of these characters and situations. I was also intrigued to hear that it would be telling the story from the same starting point, but veer into a much different direction than the previous series, which remains one of my all-time favourite programs, animated or not. And I absolutely would not have watched this if Vic Mignogna did not reprise his role. I'm glad it did not come to that. His work in the original series  is a cut above what we tend to get in dubbed anime.

This retelling of the events however seems unable to understand why the first series had such a positive reaction with its audience. It overuses cheap gags to a criminal amount, and worse still they appear at points where the tone makes them stand out like Nyan Cat during Schindler's List. It's not that we dont' like those two things, but we don't like them together(and certainly not every 5 fucking minutes, jesus, how often do we have to see Ed overreact to being a midget?)

If one rubber chicken is funny, then TWELVE HOURS OF RUBBER CHICKENS = HILARIOUS RITE

The plot rambles on mindlessly, twisting in and around itself. It is occasionally clever, and often ridiculous. Even the action sequences just get tiresome, since no one ever really seems to die, and everyone seems to be able to get right back up and keep fighting, even after losing olympic swimming pools of blood.

Oh, and that new story I mentioned? To get there, they have to rush through a lot of the important events from the first show. The kind that worked so well because it took its time. To my mind, "Night of the Chimera's Cry" is the best thing we've imported from Japan since the Super NES. That, as well as another heart-wrenching moment loses its impact when seen in fast-forward.

You would think this would mean characters would be dropping like flies. But nope, for more than 40 episodes afterward there isn't a single major character death. And even in the final hours, this show keeps piling on more and more characters that we're supposed to be invested in.

You have the Elric Brothers, and then Mustang and his crew, and then you have the Briggs troops, and then you have the Chimeras who help out, and then you have the warriors from Xing, and then you have Scar and the Ishvalans, and the Homunculus, and Father, and the Rockbells, and the nameless Central troops, and then you have Riza's friend, and Greed's posse and Ed's teacher, and her husband, and the old guy from Central, and the Fuhrer's Wife and then a completely different Greed from the one before AND WITH SPECIAL GUESTS THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS

Not even The Simpsons has this many useless, tertiary characters.

There is perhaps nothing this show does that its previous incarnation didn't do better, and more concisely. Even the soundtrack isn't as memorable this time. It's certainly functional, yes, but it's not really something I'd want to listen to outside of the context it was meant for. Michiru Oshima's soundtrack from the first series is music that can stand on its own two legs.

I won't get into the coiling nonsense that is the main plot, or try to make sense of it. It stumbles on for an insufferable length of time. That's not say it doesn't eventually build some momentum, but it really was not worth the wait. I don't even feel bad about watching it for free, because watching this show one episode at a time, once a week? I think that's what they make adulterers do in Dante's Inferno.

By the end the villain's motivations are no clearer or more sensible than they were at the start, and they even start acting completely out of character. There are scenes so clichéd and cheesy, but played so straight-faced that it's hard not to groan(or laugh). This is almost acceptable compared to what they did to the main character, who has been transformed into an unwatchable, moralizing, finger-wagging pussy. This is not Mignogna's fault, nor are any of the actors to blame. They did the best they could with dribble. Multiple times these character refuse to kill evil, mass-murdering psychopaths who cannot be reasoned with and only want millions of people to die horribly. Because "killing is wrong bro, let freedom ring".

This was maddening. These weren't helpless orphans or puppies they had cornered. These were genocidal mutants who absolutely would kill everyone these people ever cared about if left to their own devices. Creatures that cannot be reasoned with and who do not see any inherent goodness in human beings to let them survive their plans.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a Pacifist to think you're being too soft? Even if I were in favour of the death penalty, I'd think these guys were fucking idiots.I wanted to say:



Even though many of these same characters killed -innocent- people in a previous conflict before the show takes place. Oh, but not the poor lunatic murderers!

And the worst part is, they fucking get away with it. In the original program, the heroes had to sacrifice a lot, and it wasn't entirely what they wanted. This show keeps preaching about sacrifice and all that, "Equivalent Exchange", and yet at the end the good guys get absolutely everything they ever wanted with absolutely no repercussions, and they all go home and jerk off THE END. What the fuck??

This is why you don't adapt a manga literally. That's how we end up with Dragonball Z and all of those other gargantuan wastes of time where nothing happens for eight million episodes. Yes, it was a nice gesture and respectful to Hiromu Arakawa's original concepts(even though they still deviate fairly often). And yes, the first series dragged a bit in the middle as well. But a Manga and a story-based tv show are two different beasts. Manga is SUPPOSED to be continuous, constantly coming up with excuses to keep the readers reading, and hopefully buying the next issue. It doesn't lend itself well to examination once you stop and think about it. Ever notice how Batman was fighting the Joker for hundreds of issues and never quite took care of that business?

A TV show with a clear Beginning, Middle and(this is the important part: ) End, taking its cues from a medium intended to go on indefinitely, to keep dragging out the main conflict and resolution as long as possible is how you make terrible television programming.

It's also how you make a lot of money. See: "Lost". And that's pretty much all it comes down to. After all, if this sells, why should executives do business any other way? Who cares if it's stamping its feet on hallowed ground? The only thing that matters is is some old rich people can make more money. And as long as squee-ing fantards eat this shit up and refuse to get standards, the more shows will be made like this, the more successful they'll be, and the fewer gems we'll get in the future.

I'd go on, but... well, it turns out Family Guy has already said all I wanted to.




  1. You're missing the point about the scene with Roy and Envy. It has NOTHING to do with Envy. Hell, Riza planned on taking out the little scumbag herself.

    It has EVERYTHING, however, to do with not letting Roy give into his own madness.

  2. YJK:

    I did not "miss the point". I'm saying the point is stupid. There is no moral obstacle in killing SUPER HITLER. It was very hard to sympathize with Roy Mustang when his stupidity endangered millions.

    He was charged with protecting his country. He had a near-invincible psychopath cornered. Envy would most likely keep assisting in the widespread extermination of human life in Amestris if he got away. Staying his hand wasn't "giving into madness". It was giving into cowardice. It was so wildly irresponsible, it's almost conspiracy to commit genocide.

    Which I feel I must remind you was exactly the thing they were trying to stop!