ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:03 - 21st February 2013, by David West

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Edward Elric is the youngest State Alchemist in history. He has joined the military in search of a Philosopher's Stone, which Ed needs to try to undo the chaos he wrought during an attempt to resurrect his departed mother using alchemy. The disastrous experiment cost Ed an arm and a leg, but his younger brother Al lost his entire body.
In desperation, Ed bound Al's soul to a hulking suit of steel armour, but he has vowed to find a way to restore Al to his natural state. However, the brothers' quest for the Philosopher's Stone is disrupted by unrest in the wake of a terrible civil war in Ishbal.

Any new take on a franchise as popular as Fullmetal Alchemist has a lot to live up to, but fortunately Brotherhood is as good as episodic anime gets. Yasuhiro Irie proves a great director, avoiding all the pitfalls that tend to plague the genre. The story kicks straight into gear with Ed and Al on the tail of a rogue former State Alchemist codenamed The Freezer who is on the loose and out for blood.

In addition to starting the show with a bang and plenty of action, the first episode sets up the political intrigue that underpins the series, establishing that something terrible happened in Ishbal, and offering hints that there is much more to the head of state, Fuhrer Bradley, than his smiling, beatific exterior suggests. That it does all this without clumsy exposition or resorting to long monologues is testament to both the storytelling abilities of Yasuhiro Irie, and the richness of the source material in Hiromu Arakawa's manga.

While there are plenty of comedic moments, the series has a dark side it is never afraid to explore. The alchemical experiment that injures Ed and almost kills Al is superbly crafted and quite shocking in its execution. When the Elric brothers travel to Liore to confront a priest called Father Cornello who is building a cult, there is an implicit critique on the corruption of faith in the service of self-aggrandisement. Brotherhood can be as cynical as any of the works of more high-minded directors.

The action scenes are executed with energy and invention, mixing martial arts and alchemy to explosive effect. Despite his diminutive stature, Ed is a scrapper through-and-through, while Al is both highly skilled and physically intimidating. The show never avoids the cost of getting in to a fight - Ed often requires medical help after a battle. He never just dusts himself down and walks away unscathed from a tough fight, which raises the stakes whenever battle is joined in earnest.

A true modern classic, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one reboot we're glad to see...
SCORE: 5/5
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