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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood rewatch, Episodes 19-21
Reminder: spoilers for everything.

Episode 19, "Death of the Undying"

In which Mustang kills Lust; Barry kills himself; and Hohenheim is back. (Mark's post.)

Oh my gosh I'd forgotten how upsetting Lust's death is.

Just, wow. That's really brutal and hard to watch and to listen to.

It would be even more troubling if we still thought he (might have) killed Ross, so even better call to move that than I realized last week.

I don't like the hint of sexualized violence in the various comments about Lust on her knees. Besides creeping me out, they seem to undercut the very good argument someone in Mark's comments makes about Lust's sin actually being bloodlust not sexual lust.

I'd forgotten the Al soul rejection thing, and have no idea how it resolves now (no, wait, I'm vaguely remembering him starting to lose time near Briggs? Anyway.). I like it much better as angst than "did I ever exist?" and wish we'd skipped right to that.

Wrath apparently decides to cut his losses, which feels a smidge anticlimatic. Looking at episode titles, we've still got a ways until the Pride reveal and the source of all their info, which I wonder if any new viewers are questioning yet?

Yeah, no, that's really all I got, damn that was upsetting.

Manga notes:

This corresponds to vol. 10, ch. 38, "Signal to Strike," and ch. 39, "Complications at Central."

Hah, I wrote that note about the Pride reveal before I read the manga. So the manga has a fight with Envy, Ling, and Lanfan that's dropped completely by the anime, in which the characters from Xing can reliably identify Envy by "feel," and in which Pride calls Envy off. I can see why it's dropped, that's two Homunculi encounters that fizzle in one plotline, which is at least one too many.

Adding Lust screaming makes her death much more upsetting. I'm just saying.

Episode 20, "Father Before the Grave"

In which Hohenheim leads Ed to realize that Trisha is irrevocably dead but Al's body is alive. (Mark's post.)

This strikes me as a weak episode. It's missing two big pieces of emotional logic. First, there's Ed's realization, which the show doesn't bother to spell out. I think it's something along the lines of, if death is permanent, then there's no such thing as being partly dead (or, to make the obligatory Princess Bride reference, mostly dead). Life and death are mutually-exclusive states that occupy the entire realm of possibilities (I am sure there is a term for that but I am very tired). Therefore, Al is not just partly alive (his soul), he's entirely alive (soul and body). But I at least found this not at all obvious during the episode.

Second, Al's speech at the end goes from how he doesn't want his body back if anyone else has to get hurt, to how he has to get his body back now because the nights are too lonely. Uh, what?

Besides that, I'm not sure this episode wasn't a little too much of a change of pace after the last? There's no hint of how Mustang and Havoc are doing—we think Havoc was probably alive when Mustang left him, because he wants a doctor called for him, but we don't know what happened since. It's so tightly focused on the aannnnnngst of Ed digging up his (not-)mother that it feels a little claustrophobic.

Other than that, this is the second episode in a row hinting about the Promised Day; and Hohenheim is kind of weird and creepy.

Manga notes:

This corresponds to portions of vol. 11, ch. 42, "The Father Standing Before a Grave," ch. 43, "River of Mud," and ch. 44, "The Unnamed Grave."

Oh, that's much better. To take it in reverse order: Al's speech is missing its ending in the anime, in the manga he sums up by saying, "I'm going to get my body back and I'm not going to lose anyone else in the process!" And Ed's logic is laid out explicitly and is much what I inferred (possibly I was remembering reading this before, years ago):

"Mom is with the dead now. It's impossible to pull someone with no ties to life out of the portal. But Al . . . I was able to pull your soul out . . . It's a sign that you still exist among the living!"

(Among the evidence he uses to get to this conclusion is Al's ability to form new memories: where are they being stored? And Barry's example that soul and body can be separated, at least for a time.)

Al's body was the toll and is still behind the Portal; this implies, though none of them discuss it here, that Ed's limbs are there too. And apparently the bit where Al briefly is looking out from the eyes of the thing they transmuted was to show that his soul was perhaps drawn to that body because it was an empty body, but was rejected by it.

Other things: the reveal that Ling is a prince only comes here, instead of when he first shows up as in the anime. He also explains that he doesn't want true immortality for the Emperor, because otherwise how would he ever attain the throne? No, he just wants something that looks like it to raise the favor of his clan, enough to give him a platform to win the throne himself.

Hohenheim is maybe a little more sympathetic in the manga? It's clear that he asks Pinako whether what she buried was actually Trisha in response to her statement that the brothers had to watch their mom die twice. And his non-responsiveness to Ed at Trisha's grave is because he's having a one-sided conversation with her. On the other hand, she's dead and his son is right there, so . . .

There is also a good deal of other plot that is advanced in this volume; the anime is now way behind on military-related doings (a new plot, regarding Dr. Marcoh, appeared to be starting up as I flipped through; I'll come back and read it later), plus we see Scar et al. again. It'll be interesting to see how they get synced back up.

Episode 21, "Advance of the Fool"

In which Havoc retires, Marcoh is missing, and Ed and Al go fishing. (Mark's post.)

Suddenly many things are happening!

Now we get to the Lab 3 military aftermath. The timing of Havoc revealing he's paralyzed still bugs me, I have to admit. There's no way that he's only revealing it for the first time when he tells then, because when someone's been stabbed in the back the first thing the medical personnel are going to ask is whether he can move his legs! And since he is sharing a room with Mustang and Hawkeye is guarding them, one of the two would have overheard that conversation. Anyway.

Breda goes looking for Dr. Marcoh on a tip from Ed, hoping he can heal Havoc, but he's not there—since we didn't see what happened to him in the anime when Lust came calling after they first met him, we don't know how long he's been gone, whether it corresponds with the manga that Envy just beat Breda there or he was taken when Lust first came.

And then the Elrics take a page from Mustang's book and go fishing for Homunculi by baiting Scar, in that hilarious sparkly-State-Alchemist bit. Ling and Lanfan offer to help: here it's because they overhear Al saying that the Homunculi pretty much can't die ("Why don't we lock the window?"), because they didn't met the Homunculi during the Lab 3 stuff, which works fine. So here's where we get the bit about their ability to sense the extra lives that have gone into the Philosopher's Stone . . . and cliffhanger, with Wrath attacking Lanfan.

I don't know if spreading the plotlines more evenly over the last two episodes might have had a reasonable midpoint, but it's nice to have lighter moments, like Mustang distracting the MPs on the radio, and to get back into the bigger picture.

Manga notes:

I believe we are now caught up with everything, as this brings us through the end of vol. 11. Because of all the shuffling, this spans many many chapters: post-Lab-3 hospital stuff in vol. 10, ch. 40, "Philosopher from the West," and then vol. 11, ch. 42, "The Father Standing Before a Grave" (which also has the Marcoh bit), annnnd then ch. 44, "The Unnamed Grave." Ch. 43, "River of Mud," has Mei (now spelled May in the manga, but whatever) meeting Yoki in much the same way that Ling met the Elrics, face-planted in exhaustion, but of course Yoki tries to rob her (stopped by her panda-thing), and Scar killing the Silver Alchemist. Finally, ch. 45, "Scar's Return," does the fishing expedition pretty closely to the anime, though it does fill in a small missing piece, why the Elrics are trying to catch a Homunculus in the first place; in the episode, I thought they were just trying to bring them to justice, but the chapter indicates that they see them as a source of Stones.

Also, Mustang knows that one of the Homunculi is a shape-shifter, and seems to have known it before Breda's report about just missing Dr. Marcoh. I guess this must be inference from the frame of Ross? I don't remember him making this connection on the page, and I've been looking because it's horribly tense having the characters not know that. (Figure out some security precautions, people!) Unclear if the anime characters have realized this yet.

Exciting times ahead, as I recall!

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