FMA: The Brotherhood Diaries – Episode 41

Ed shows his reluctance to kill

Ani-Gamers staff writer Ink contributes a weekly column in which he examines the differences between the original Fullmetal Alchemist and its re-telling, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. To read previous entries, click here.

Watch Episode 41 – The Abyss

In the end, this episode is about a single shot: Edward Elric standing in a room, showered with light from a latticed window, facing the only door. He is positioned thusly, because Miles and his loyal Briggs soldiers have just left through it on a hunt for Kimblee and his men with intent to kill, and Edward is trying to reconcile his innate desire to maintain a non-lethal battlefield policy with a situation that’s growing increasingly dim.

The resolution with which FMA2 Ed is holding firm concerning his love for all life is matched by his FMA1 counterpart, with one notable exception: homunculi. FMA2 Ed has yet to kill such a creature, whereas FMA1 Ed, after Greed, went on an all-out homunculus hunt! Aside from the initial difference of FMA2 Ed never having killed greed (thanks, Wrath!), the approach of both series in their definition of a homunculus has defined this divide. FMA1 made these creatures out to be empty vessels with trace memories of their human-resurrected remains, while FMA2 makes them out to be human-hosted symbiotes. This closer relation to humans makes FMA2 Ed’s resolute will very believable (no easy trick), just as FMA1’s just-human-enough characterization made for some intense psychological battles and growth.

A couple of unbelievable things this episode: how long a dense cloud of snow lasts in a windy and open outdoor environment, and how easy it is to find a 2” x 1” philosopher’s stone amidst a couple floors of collapsed rubble. Ed’s use of medicinal alchemy, however, was made very believable, just as the circumstances necessary to justify such a gamble were logical. To heal a life-threatening wound, which led to a brief and wonderfully executed bit of an implied encounter between the separated Ed and Al at the door of truth, Ed’s internal monologue fills us in on his theories on using his own life force as a philosopher’s stone to heal or reconstruct his internal organs. The use and consequences of this parallels that of Hohenheim’s alchemic surgery on Izumi last week. FMA1 never attempted such a thing. The closest it came was Dr. Marcoh’s use of imitation philosopher stones to heal, but Ed never involved alchemy with anything human after his initial taboo.

A bit formulaic and something that irks me: how FMA2 Ed gains chimera allies feels like a video game — you’ve just beaten the boss, now he will fight with you. This does, however, show the slow amassment of a small and formidable freak force that Ed can work with to take on the homunculi. Chimera use in FMA1 was almost never for good; even Martel was basically using Ed and Al for her own objectives. This difference harkens back to what I said earlier about valuing life. Instead of marginalizing chimeras into their own groups as in FMA1, FMA2 brings them into the fold of the resistance. This is a notably fierce statement on integration, which is an ongoing theme of FMA2. The underlying justification for this, I believe, is the readying of forces for the final battle: humans and chimeras vs. homunculi. Why? Because from the start, FMA2 homunculi have been shown as nothing but malicious, while chimeras and humans have been the good guys or switched over to being so after confronting a greater evil (Kimblee being the closest one can get to a homunculus without actually being one).


Anonymous said...

With your comment about the formulaic-ness of the chimera, I'm surprised you didn't mention the bit with the chimera after the end credits and before the preview - just thought I'd bring it to your attention if you missed it.

Ink said...

I think you meant between the credits and preview in Episode 42 (a review of which will be forthcoming this Sunday). And while the unexpected actions of Zampano definitely defy my expectations (and how dare I expect so little), it does not change the formulaic manner in which the chimeras join up with Ed. Definitely would have been worth a mention, though, if it was in that episode.

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