Look! A non-Saiyuki post!
Those who said the series really caught them at episode 7—I can definitely see why.
I thought the first two episodes on this disc, the train
job journey with the terrorists, and the alchemist's exam, were pretty light. The first was mostly of interest, to me, for continuing to make Roy Mustang's (what a name!) character interestingly manipulative; I laughed out loud when he told Ed that he wasn't trying to run his life. I guessed wrong in the second episode; I thought the chimera was going to turn out to be the daughter. The way he passed the exam was pretty neat, though.
So far his two circle-less transmutations, along the backstory timeline, have been under the grip of strong emotion, specifically fear (at the baby's delivery and the threat to the other candidate). I presume this gets explored in more detail later, as he gets older and learns more of his craft.
As for episodes seven and eight, seven particularly: eep. No, Ed isn't the same as Tucker (or his non-alchemical parallel the serial killer), but it seems to me—with the ominous military stuff, and the fact that all the non-military alchemists we've met so far have been bad (right?), and their own disastrous start, of course—that it's very important that Ed keep being reminded that he's not like that.
While I like Mustang, Hughes the investigator, and the blonde, scarlet-eyed woman whose name I can't remember, I rather suspect that the scary guy with the marked arm (and the brother! whee, parallelism) is not unjustified by his grudge against the state alchemists.
Speaking of the state alchemists and the military—Chad was going through the character profiles and discovered that the guy who encourages Al to go after the Philosopher's Stone was the Fuhrer King. Who I was already dubious of just by that title, and his character design doesn't help.
(He also stopped on the character profile of Alexander, the dog, which had the very cute shot of him flattening out Ed, and said I'd want a screencap of that for something. I said no, it would just make me sad!)
Yeah, this is good stuff.
[Edit: episode titles for future reference: 5: "The Man with the Mechanical Arm"; 6: "The Alchemy Exam"; 7: "Night of the Chimera's Cry"; 8: "The Philosopher's Stone."]