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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood rewatch, Episodes 29-30
Not going to get to the last episode Mark did for the week before Monday, so have a two-episode post. As always, spoilers for everything.

Episode 29, "Struggle of the Fool"

In which a lot of reassessing and retrenching occurs. (Mark's post.)

This is a potpourri kind of episode, bits of backstory and resolutions to move forward all over the place. Despite that, I enjoyed it a lot.

So!

Ed, Al, Mustang threatened by Wrath: so weird to have so much on the table this early, so tense! Despite the hostage situations, they are not deterred. (I don't think Al intentionally sought permission to keep trying to restore their bodies as a way of giving them cover for moving about and messing around, since Ed just told him his body was still alive, but it was probably still useful for that anyway—I don't actually remember how they end up at Briggs.) Also, Mustang, your unhingeness at Hughes' murder is showing.

[At the end of the episode, Ed also questions the morality of using a Philosopher's Stone, so that's something we'll be coming back to.]

Mei: escaped with Al, not Scar; mortal enemy of the Yao clan; she and Lan Fan are badasses, once again. (Also, Dr. Knox is so deliciously grumpy.)

Ling: really hates Wrath talking trash about humans! (That was such a stunning moment.)

Greed: willing to work with Ling in small things; rather chill about Ling's outburst.

(People in Mark's comments point out that Greed = bangs over right eye; Ling = bangs over left eye; also Greed = eyes open; Ling = eyes closed. I will never remember which side is which, but the eyes open/shut thing is easy.)

Scar: finds Marcoh imprisoned under Central, who promptly begs him to kill him, in the second stunning moment of the episode. This is going to be so good.

. . . once we get past the full-bore Ishbal flashback coming up. The glimpse of Armstrong's guilt and resolve here was just a taste.

Finally: eeek, baby Gluttony.

Manga notes:

Corresponds to vol. 14, ch. 56, "The Lion of the Round Table," and ch. 57, "Scars of Ishbal."

Okay, in the manga, I can see the Greed-Ling bangs thing more easily because I can see both instances at the same time. The eyes open-shut doesn't appear to be the case here, though.

Another very close adaptation, though the anime may have slightly shuffled the events in these two chapters.

Minor notes: Al worries about using a Stone in the shower scene, not just Ed at the end. We hear about Dr. Knox's PTSD as the reason his wife left. There's a "yes, you're very clever" transition, when Knox says that "Everyone who was involved in the civil war came back scarred," and that word bubble overlaps the next panel, of the tunnels underground with Scar crawling through in the distance. Marcoh is more explicit about why he wants Scar to kill him (an explanation I didn't feel I needed). And we don't see Hawkeye's tattoo, because we haven't arrived at her house yet.

Okay, Ishbal ahoy. *steels self*

Episode 30, "The Ishval War of Extermination"

In which Hawkeye and Marcoh tell their view of the war. (Mark's post.)

I almost said, "tell the story of the war," but it's really not, is it? And maybe that's why it feels a little short and incomplete, because we got Scar's view earlier. So while it's still a powerful moment when Riza calmly states that their goal is a democratic government that will then put her and everyone else in Ishbal on trial for war crimes—responsibility, no excuses, very straightforward—I feel like it still comes across a little more focused on the Amestrians and their angst than is optimal.

(I write the episode reactions first, or at least make detailed notes, and then read the corresponding chapters.)

I also find the treatment of Riza & Roy's backstory kind of frustratingly incomplete; leaving out the explanation for the tattoo and the burn scar seems an odd choice. (I love that we get the "shoot me in the back" bit, though. Seriously messed up yet beautiful OTP 4EVA!)

Are we meant to think that the Stone, either generically in the sense of power or something specific about it, drove Kimblee over the edge? Because when talking to Riza in the camp, he did sound dickish, but in a fairly ordinary fashion.

Uh. I really like Ed and Riza's relationship and how she treats him. I have no strong opinion on Al/Mei. Finally, woah, gory Marcoh fakeout.

Manga notes:

This corresponds to all of vol. 15: ch. 58, "The Footsteps of Rain"; ch. 59, "The Immoral Alchemist"; ch. 60, "In the Absence of God"; ch. 61, "The Hero of Ishbal."

There is so much more in this—unsurprisingly, since usually it's roughly 2 chapters per episode, and the Scar flashback earlier was only part of an episode. And yeah, I am leaning toward liking it interwoven better—it might start Scar's journey a little sooner, but I think it's more important to increase the focus on the Ishbalans.

A volume summary. Some notes:

More of the Rockbells, including that Kimblee was ordered to kill them, but got there too late (tip of the hat to the first anime, where Mustang killed them under orders?).

Aerugo, the country to the south, was supplying the Ishbalans with weapons but then refused to let them in as refugees.

The end of the first chapter, which says that the prison camp is now in operation, shows several state alchemists from angles that don't show any of their eyes, which is very effective. I think the anime was right to skip the "prison camp" phrasing, though, in the time it had.

(Another chilling art choice is the white-on-black line drawings that open the third chapter in the volume, a montage of death and devastation.)

Kimblee is the Red Lotus Alchemist, instead of the Crimson Alchemist. He is worse in talking to Riza in the camp, saying that killing is just a job. We see why he was imprisoned, for killing the people who knew he had a Stone.

Loa, the cow-chimera from Greed's Dublith crew, sees Armstrong break down, unable to respond to orders. (This also explains Bradley's comment to Armstrong, also back in Dublith, about his nature being the reason he'll never get promoted.)

Gran, the State Alchemist of the impressive mustache, kills a commanding officer who wants to keep slaughtering as ordered instead of attempting to reach an end to fighting (by bringing the head of the religion to Bradley to surrender). Hughes and all the other soldiers there are like, " . . . totally a stray bullet."

Mustang: "You're all that's left. Do you have any last words?"
Ishbalan man, on the next page: "I will never forgive you."

Owwwwww.

A while ago, I wondered about Falman's role on Team Mustang; their introduction panels toward the end of this volume shows I either guessed right or remembered without realizing it, calling him a "walking databank."

And the volume ends on Scar seeking vengeance.

(The "in memoriam" contains the Rockbells saying "Whoa!" as many, many tiny figures shoot upward toward a star.)

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