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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood rewatch, Episodes 13-15
As usual, spoilers for everything.

Episode 13, "Beasts of Dublith"

In which we meet Greed. (Mark's post.)

I was pretty sleepy when I watched this but I'm not sure it feels very coherent regardless. The worst is the introduction of Yoki, who apparently you're just supposed to . . . know? I was waiting for an explanatory flashback or conversation or something for the benefit of newbies but nope, he's some dude who was hanging out with the Ishbalans and has a fierce hatred of Ed, so he betrays Scar for a third of the reward. [*] That's it. This can't make any sense at all if you don't know the first anime or the manga. The bit with Mustang and Grumman isn't quite as bad, but still confused Mark, understandably.

[*] Scar declining to kill him feels a little plot-convenient here; yes, he's no immediate physical threat, but the guys trying to bring him in could have been incapacitated rather than going for the head shot (on the second one), so it doesn't really feel like a change of heart based on his old teacher's comments.

Anyway, the meat of the episode is Greed's crew of chimeras kidnapping Al, and Ed and Izumi coming after him. Might they have had a productive conversation if Greed hadn't inadvertently pressed all of Ed's buttons and made him lose his temper so ridiculously? Also, Greed may also be another place where the faster pace is less optimal; I seem to recall finding Greed more sympathetic and interesting in the first anime, where he gets introduced earlier (wow, I just went down a rabbit-hole of "I can't believe I forgot all those filler episodes" trying to track that down).

Minor notes: a very short pre-credits scene where Izumi kicks them out as students. And Ed's cloak is back, at the train station! Pfft, after I spent all that time tracking down its last appearance, too. Finally, Izumi intends to ask someone about Al's memories, which I think gets dropped entirely in the anime; in the manga, it's the physician she sees regularly, who mentions hypnosis and trauma as possible memory-restoration triggers.

Manga notes:

The pre-Devil's Nest bits about Izumi expelling the brothers and the Mustang check-in are pretty close to the manga (vol. 6, ch. 25, "Master and Apprentice"). Huh, Grumman's introduction isn't any smoother here, really. The Scar check-in is from the next chapter (vol. 7, ch. 26, "To Meet the Master").

Spellings of Mustang's team: Fuery, Havoc, Falman, Breda, Hawkeye. They all get introduced with their specialties: Fuery is a communications tech guru, Breda is surprisingly good at strategy games, Hawkeye is a badass sniper, Havoc . . . is apparently a nice guy and a hard worker? And Falman looks disapproving and acts as messenger. Or something.

The In memoriam bit for vol. 6 has the thing they transmuted that wasn't their mom saying "Guhh..."

I'm going to save the manga comments about the Devil's Nest bits for after the next episode.

Episode 14, "Those Who Lurk Underground"

In which Greed is killed and Wrath and Father are revealed. (Mark's post.)

This moves through a bunch of different things but felt more coherent to me? I think because the different things later were all still consequences of the Devil's Nest.

I remember the reveal in the first anime that Bradley was a Homunculus, how upset I was (wow, that was all the way in episode 40 [*]). It's still pretty stunning, partly because of how implacably vicious he is (poor Al! Having Martel killed INSIDE HIM will always be awful), and partly because of the scope it reveals—even more so here, since he's not the same Homunculus as the first anime, and then the reveal of Father, who is even creepier. And then his public family, which is creepy in one way the first time around (see Mark's post) and then in an entirely different way the next time—I think maybe I was spoiled about Pride, the first time I read this? I don't remember finding the reveal very shocking. But SO CREEPY, GAH.

(I think the Ultimate Eye must also function as a lie-detector? It's the only way I can make sense of Bradley's questioning of them.)

Unlike in the first anime, Al does not see Bradley reveal himself as a Homunculus, but his behavior is suspicious enough. I do wish Armstrong could have brought himself to tell them about Hughes, though.

Anyway. Devil's Nest inhabitants slaughtered; Al remembers the Truth thanks to the blood splash on his seal (trauma!); Izumi plays meek to try and evade Bradley's attention; Ed and Al resolve to stick close to the military to figure out what's happening; Greed is returned to Father; Sloth is glimpsed (someone in comments at Mark's has interesting thoughts on the Homunculi and the sins they're created from). Oh, and Mustang's at Central now.

[*] This made me check the proportions of what we've got so far in Brotherhood relative to the manga. We are in chapter 30 of 108, or ~28% of the way through, and episode 14 of 64, or ~22% of the way through, so slightly ahead of the manga, hopefully giving new events on the back end a little more time to breathe.

Anyway. Wow. Kind of overwhelming episode.

Manga notes:

In the manga, the Devil's Nest starts at the end of vol. 6 (ch. 25, "Master and Apprentice"), spans all of vol. 7 (ch. 26, "To Meet the Master"; ch. 27, "The Beasts of Dublith"; ch. 28, "A Fool's Courage"; ch. 29, "The Eye of the King"), and then continues into pieces of the first two chapters of vol. 8 (ch. 30, "The Truth Inside the Armor," and ch. 31, "The Snake That Eats Its Own Tail"). As a minor thing, the anime shortens the start of events by having Bido eavesdrop on the Curtis household, rather than, in the manga, taunting Ed and Al and confirming Al's status by knocking his helmet off.

But the main thing is that in the manga, Ed goes to South HQ for his alchemist's assessment. So, first, that's why Bradley is at the Devil's Nest (Ed mentions his teacher, and he wants to recruit Izumi; while at the Curtises' shop, he hears Izumi tell Ed about the Homunculus). Second, Ed isn't there when Al is taken. So instead of Ed coming in, fighting Greed and learning the trick to his armor, then Izumi coming in with the "housewife" comment, then the military storming the place, the manga has Izumi come in first, but then leave because Al asks her to bring Ed so they can make a deal with Greed. Ed's fight is thus later, and intermixed with the military's assault; vol. 7 ends Greed deciding to stop fighting Ed, the military finding them, and Bradley skewering Greed and revealing his tattoo. The rest is in vol. 8.

On the whole I think this condensation works fairly well. We don't need an elaborate explanation for why Bradley is there; "inspection" probably isn't sufficient but the big reveal makes everything he does suspicious, finding out about the Devil's Nest is just subsumed in that. Also, I didn't really buy it in the manga when Izumi just let Ed go by himself to make the deal, so it was good to have her there. And I like that the anime moved the Father-scene to be with the rest of the Devil's Nest fallout, instead of putting Barry in-between.

Minor Devil's Nest-related notes: Al had previously inadvertently misled Greed et al. into thinking Ed was dead, which leads to them trying hypnosis on Al, just like Izumi's regular physician recommended at the start of the volume, which is kind of hilarious. Also hilarious: Sig stonewalling Bradley by reciting meat prices; Sig and Armstrong having a muscle/facial hair/growling face-off; and Bradley bringing Ed another melon. When Al gets his memory back, the anime has a brief snippet of him seeing from the POV of the gack-thing that wasn't their mom, which is not in the manga; I can't remember the metaphysics of the finale well enough now to know the significance of this. Finally, as a bunch of people mentioned at Mark's, that the military has secretly achieved human-animal chimeras means that Tucker's research was entirely unnecessary.

Greed's posse: Bido, lizard chimera; Dorchet, dog (Dolchetto in the dub); Martel, snake; Loa, cow (Roa in the dub). For what that's worth, since they're all dead except maybe Bido. As the "In memoriam" from vol. 7 says, "Everyone from Devil's Nest. There's too many of them . . . "

Finally, in a massive change of pace, vol. 7 has the side story "The Second Lieutenant Goes to Battle!", in which Havoc gets fixed up with (one of) Major Armstrong's sisters, but isn't man enough for her.

Episode 15, "The Envoy from the East"

In which the characters from Xing are introduced and Barry is back. (Mark's post.)

This is a transitional episode, introducing or reintroducting characters and getting everyone on track to meet up in Central, and a good breather, though it's missing some connective tissue and I hadn't spotted before how closely it will actually end up linking back to what just went down.

Yoki, Scar, and Mei: not only do we still not have a backstory for Yoki in the anime, I have no idea why Scar is traveling with him. Sure, traveling with another person is useful, but considering that this person has already sold him out for the reward once, well, the risk-reward calculus does not seem to support this decision. (In the manga, Scar says they're both exiled, but that still doesn't sem sufficient.) Scar kills the Silver Alchemist in a pre-credits scene, whose design feels out of Batman (I don't recognize him from the manga, but commenters at Mark's say he shows up later).

Ling, Lanfan, and Foo (manga spellings, which seem to be not commonly used by fans and may be less appropriate?): I had forgotten how closely the introduction of Greed's eventual replacement follows the first Greed's exit. (I still resent the back of one of the manga volumes for spoiling that twist.) I had also forgotten Ed using his detached automail arm as a decoy and how Lanfan will do that with her flesh-and-blood arm later, because she is a badass (though also young and hot-headed, rather like Ed, again).

(Re: Ling, there's a line about his eyes being closed so much, which bugged me until I realized that Lanfan and Foo had eyes that were open a reasonable amount—I see this a lot in SteelyKid's books, alas, Asian-ancestry characters who have appallingly caricatured eyes just in case, you know, the presumed-white audience misses that look, we have Asians in here!! So I think that's a character choice not stereotyping through the art design.)

Barry's back, has a crush on Hawkeye, and is giving Mustang et al. the rundown on the Fifth Lab. Hawkeye splits her off-duty skirts very high indeed to give her access to guns in thigh holsters.

Worldbuilding: the city of Cselkcess (seriously?! anime spelling: Xerxes, and I think I might deviate from using the manga spelling as a default here if anywhere); I think it's already been mentioned that it disappeared in one night in the anime, but I'm not sure. In Xing, they practice alkahestry not alchemy (the manga uses "rendanshu" instead), which uses the earth's power and can heal. We also get a big map of the countries around Amestris and a quick summary of its ongoing external conflicts.

Miscellany: hi, Winry! Hi, Paninya! Good to see you! And I recall not being happy with the manga's treatment of your very effeminate teacher, Mr. Garfiel, so I'm glad he's there but unobjectionable.

Manga notes: volume 8, minus the Devil's Nest followup bits (ch. 30, "The Truth Inside the Armor," ch. 31, "The Snake That Eats Its Own Tail," ch. 32, "Emissary From the East," ch. 33, "Showdown in Rush Valley").

Yes, Garfiel is perving on the Elric brothers, who are 15 and 14 here; even though he's not portrayed as threatening, I do not approve of cheap stereotypes about gay men. But that plus Barry's interaction with Hawkeye reminds me that there has been, to date, zero threats of sexual violence against any character, which I believe continues throughout and which is incredibly refreshing.

The big change is that Mei goes to Youswell first in the manga. There, she gets a much more epic introduction (using long-distance transmutation to clear a blocked mine) and hears about Ed previously saving the town, which makes her decide to seek him out. At the close of this volume, she hasn't met up with Scar and Yoki yet. We also see Falman exercise his memory? skills when he interrogates Barry, which may answer my question about his skills waaaay up at the top of this post (ack, these have been getting long, especially considering how few people are reading . . . ).

I love the introduction of the characters from Xing: it's not the true break from the first anime but it was the biggest signal to me when I was reading that we're in new territory now, and I love having in-world POC beyond the Ishbalans. So I'm excited for what's next.

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