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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood rewatch, Episodes 50-51
Dear self, you have to actually type for your notes to become posts, you can't just think hard in the direction of your text files. Reminder: spoilers for everything.

Episode 50, "Upheaval in Central"

In which there is, uh, upheaval in Central. (Mark's post.)

I've gotten ahead in watching, and even though I make notes right after each episode, everything's so multi-stranded now that I have to really think about what happened where. Possibly I need to exert some self-control . . . ?

Suddenly Armstrong is a hostage rather than a council member. When did this happen? I feel like we missed a step.

Mustang's team and their PR efforts: escaping with Mrs. Bradley (I can't believe she really hasn't been told that her husband is missing, no wait I can, if Central Command was expecting him to show up again they wouldn't want to have to explain that away), ostentatiously not killing anyone. This is both lovely and unrealistic; shooting someone in the thigh, for instance, guarantees neither that they've been effectively disabled at that moment nor that they won't bleed out from getting hit in the femoral artery.

This contrasts, of course, with the approach of those from the North, which is "it's safest and most efficient to kill those in our way," starting with General Armstrong stabbing that guy through the arm and taking his pistol and shooting another guy in the forehead. Very dramatic, very badass, but a little jarring in contrast. Plus a Briggs soldier stabbing some random low-ranking Central soldier in the neck, which is harder to swallow than the deaths of the high-ranking ones; I think it is nonetheless justifiable, for the realism reasons noted above, but it's worth thinking about.

I remember around the time the manga ended, talking to people about the different treatment of Mustang here and in the 2003 anime. I disagreed with people who thought he got off lighter in the manga, mostly IIRC because he wasn't the one who killed the Rockbells. Personally after reading vol. 15 I felt the entire military's culpability much more than after the 2003 anime, that it was an institutional failure composed of individual failures, whereas 2003 felt more like individual angst. I felt, in other words, like Mustang and Hawkeye and Hughes really were war criminals, not just tortured guilty souls.

(Also, yes, the Rockbells are civilians and doctors, but a whole lot of Ishvalan civilians died too, some of whom were surely doctors aiding the wounded, so I'm uncomfortable with making the Rockbells the test of how culpable Mustang is.)

Anyway, long story short, the morality of the military's use of force, it's a thing and one to keep an eye on, especially since there is no civilian government at the end. (I had to go look how 2003 stacked up in this regard, because the plot was so much more focused on Dante. My notes tell me it did at least revert to a civilian government.)

In uncomplicatedly happy news: Ross! Havoc! Hiiiiii!

And as we end, Pride is signaling and not!zombies are screaming.

Manga notes:

Corresponds to the end of ch. 89, "Soldiers' Return," and part of ch. 90, "Army of Immortals" (vol. 22).

I . . . can't find a thing to comment on. So, cross-reference for later, that's all.

Episode 51, "The Immortal Legion"

In which the not!zombies are horror shows and the Philosopher's Stone on the mantel is finally fired. (Mark's post.)

Oh look, emo opening is emo. (And the closing is kind of boring.)

"A bear with a Mohawk" is the best line in the entire show.

The not!zombies are horror shows: eating (some of) their creators, surrounding Ed's team, fueling Envy's restoration.

Al saving Heinkel: transmuting off his feet is touching yet nonsensical, since he doesn't combine that with a transmutation to make it easier for him to get away. (Definitely the worst of the limb-removals so far.) And I wish I could believe that Heinkel and Darius had deliberately decided to hold onto the Philosopher's Stone they found against extreme need, rather than the plot trotting it out when it was convenient; it doesn't feel like they were waiting to commit to Ed's cause, and you'd think they would have found it useful before now.

I'm not particularly troubled by the ethics of Al using the Stone to save others, because I see no reason to believe that the victims' lives could be restored under these circumstances, and so I'm fine with doing the next best thing. However, I am a weak atheist and a materialist, meaning I believe in neither deities nor souls, so my opinion doesn't count for a lot here.

Finally (though not chronologically), I love the Armstrong siblings, and especially that Olivier actually says that her sword has been passed down for generations!

Manga notes:

Corresponds to the end vol. 22, the rest of ch. 90, "Army of Immortals," and almost all of ch. 91, "A Reunion of Alchemists," [*] and the start of vol. 23, ch. 92, "With Everyone's Strength."

[*] Which makes me wonder what the plural noun for alchemists is. Not a transmutation, surely.

Hey, things to talk about!

The manga eschews the cheap humor of Ed trying to open the Third Lab door by physical strength. And the manga translation specifically refers to Morse code not just a code—has anyone tried to translate the longs and shorts, I wonder?

Envy's jar pops open, and Envy attaches to a zombie from the outside, instead of the anime's having a zombie eating the jar and Envy together.

Ch. 91 ends with Hohenheim coming to Father (which we still haven't seen).

Al's decision to use the Stone is shown in flashback in ch. 92, not in chronological sequence, which I find awkward and better placed in the anime.

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