Wednesday, April 15, 2009

First Impression: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

I'm still not totally sold on the idea but in all fairness, the first episode of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood delivered all the goods and then some. 3 out of 5
EPISODE 01: The Fullmetal Alchemist
More Screencaps from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood 01
OP: Again (Yui) [YouTube][4shared]
ED: Lei (SID) [YouTube]
Isaac McDougall, otherwise known as the Ice Alchemist, is after King Bradley and going around the city, attacking random guards and trying to recruit fellow ex-soldiers to join his cause. To neutralize him, King Bradley assigns Col. Roy Mustang, who once fought in the same war with Isaac, to handle the situation with help from the state alchemist, Edward Elric (a.k.a. the Fullmetal Alchemist) and his brother, Alphonse. The Elric brothers manage to stop Isaac at the onset but the latter escapes and continues to wreak havoc, prompting a city-wide hunt. However, since this is a shounen series, the good guys win eventually and Isaac meets his untimely death at the hands of King Bradley himself. The series ends with the Elric brothers wondering whether or not Isaac was using the Philosopher's Stone to augment his alchemy at the same time some shady-looking characters calmly discuss the death of their comrade.
So that's Fullmetal Alchemist remade. I see. Well, it's certainly action-packed as is typical of most shounen series. The anime is by studio Bones, whose most recent works include the 2008 runaway hit, Xam'd: Lost Memories, so I have no qualms about production values. They're top of the line as it certainly looks like Bones pulled all the stops to make the first episode as explosive and as jam-packed with action as anyone can ever want from this incredibly hyped up series. But -- and this is a huge "But" -- little change has been added on the character designs. In fact, I think they are done by the same person who also did the original, Itou Yoshiyuki. Purely as a matter of taste, I don't like it very much. The characters look too bulky, bordering on fat, and yet strangely angular. On the downside, they look like videogame characters; on the other hand, they look like nothing else on anime television these days, with the possible exception of Juushin Enbu ~ Hero Tales, which is probably designed by the same person as well. Ergo, they are at least distinctive.
The characters are likeable enough. I especially like that the Elric brothers look like they're competent enough as they are. I hope it means that we won't be seeing any ridiculous Dragonball-esque power-ups in later episodes. Side characters serve as little more than comedic fodder in this episode but with 50+ episodes slated for this remake series, I guess there's plenty enough room for developing them as well. I do take a bit of an exception to the humor, particularly about the redundancy of poking fun at Ed's height insecurity. I don't know. Maybe because it reminds me a little too much about the flat-chest jokes directed at Lina Inverse from Slayers, and that one got old pretty fast. There must have been seven cracks made at Ed's expense for just that one episode. Not a good sign. Especially since I read somewhere that this is a running gag. Well, here's to hoping the animators continue to do a good job at making those hilarious faces that Ed makes when he's mad.
As for the story, well, this episode pretty much stands on its own. Bad guy goes on a rampage, gets attention of our heroes, and gets dead soon enough. Typical. But there are enough hints about an overarching plot with really evil-looking villains using the Philosopher's Stone, which our heroes are also after. Plus, there's that bit about the Elric brothers' tragic past that has something to do with Ed losing his leg and arm and Al losing his entire body. It's interesting.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a typical shounen series that suits youngish audiences who appreciate clear demarcation lines between good and evil, some humor, and potential depth in the episodes to come. Oh and yeah, Paku Romi and Kugimiya Rie have some of the best voice chemistry I've ever heard in an anime.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood @ ANN
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood @ Wikipedia
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Trailer [YouTube]