NetFlix got us the new Fullmetal Alchemist disc just nine days after it was released. I think I'm going to like having a distribution center in Albany, at least for new stuff, though for FMA it won't matter so much anymore, as we're going to get repeats on Adult Swim well before the next DVD (episode 21 is due to be re-aired on 10/12, and they're doing four old episodes a week, plus the new ones on Saturday nights. I've been taping them all, though my episode 28 recording starts in the middle of the credits, waah.).
Spoilers for episodes 17-20, obviously. Spoil me for future episodes and I will kill you with my brain.
Episode 17, "House of the Waiting Family": In which Ed and Al learn that they have a home.
Emotionally unsubtle, but important plot setup: we learn about the seal that attaches Al's soul to his armor, and Ed almost tells Al something important, that he'd been reluctant to. Armstrong was listening and comes into the room just after Ed says no and Al protests—it seemed to me almost on purpose, to derail the conversation? (More on this under episode 20.)
(The fansubs have this as Ed wanting to ask Al something, rather than tell him. As tempting as it's been, I'm glad I've been keeping the fansubs as backup reference and comparison, rather than first viewing material.)
Also, confirmation that the watch is an amplifier; and they burned their house on 3 October 10.
Hmmm, for all that this episode is unsubtle [*], it's still important: it gives them an escape hatch, or a lifeline, if they give up and find themselves with no place to go. Not that I believe for a moment that they will give up, because it's not the kind of story we're in (did the anime also reference Icarus, or was that just the manga?), but the opportunity has to be there for the choice to be meaningful.
[*] Tentative morning-brain thesis: FMA is bad at emotional subtlety, but good at emotional truth.
Chad's comment: "Winry is Kaylee."
Episode 18, "Marcoh's Notes": In which very bad news is learnt from burned books.
Human lives are the last ingredient in a Stone, huh? Or at least Marcoh thought so. And Ishbalans are thriving in colonies all over the country even after the Massacre. My very tired brain seems to want to put those together, but I can't quite figure out why.
(It also wants to connect life and miracles, and why equivalent exchange is implicitly no longer the world's one and only truth to the brothers, but that at least makes more sense.)
—I wrote that last night before deciding that I really needed to go to bed. This morning the connection seems obvious: the Ishbalans reject alchemy. I personally see alchemy as a tool rather than something with a moral value of itself, but the Stone is, as always, in a class of its own.
We-the-audience now have two theories on what it takes to make a complete Stone: (1) feeding Red Water to pregnant mothers, taking the crystalized result out of their placentas (presumably killing at least the fetus and probably the mother too), and transmuting it into a Stone (going by the fansubs for the details on this one, here); and (2) distilling mass human lives and adding them somehow to an incomplete Stone. Magwar seemed certain the first method would work, though his knowledge is suspect—as is Marcoh's, since neither have actually produced a complete Stone. I don't think anyone has, actually, at least not within history rather than myth.
Back to the library—Lust knows she's looking for a book in that library. Scar knew where to go from his nasty trick at the train station, but I don't think any of the Homunculi heard that or saw Marcoh's note. Presumably this means that Marcoh told under duress; I imagine he's dead now and the maid too, because I doubt the Homunculi leave witnesses. And Scar recognized them as Homunculi, which is our first in-show confirmation of that, and Lust didn't think anyone knew that name any more, so they're old. And Lust has already died once, so . . . the sins are like the
Riders Horsemen in Bone Dance, only taking over dead bodies instead of live ones? Or do they kill the original inhabitant of the body when they move in?
(Is the Furher's secretary one of them? In Trisha Elric's body? They buried her, do they crawl out of coffins? Have I used up my quota of question marks yet?)
Lt. Ross is an initially-reluctant mother figure (to Hughes' father, though not particularly maternal); Sgt. Block has bangs too much like Ed's.
I love the way Hughes flips between serious intelligence officer and ridiculous father (of his daughter, he's not ridiculous about being a father figure to the Elrics), by the way. And Mustang might be recalled to Central? Hakuro sent him East in the first place, and his campaign in Lior is presumably over given Envy's comments somewhere in here about Lior being laid to waste . . . I wonder what kind of political manuverings we'll see in the future. (And what happened to Rose, too.)
Episode 19, "The Truth Behind Truths": In which Ed decides not to give up and the brothers investigate the Fifth Laboratory.
We get Al voiceover narration again, at the opening regarding the Stone.
Al is sneakier than I would've thought, getting Ed to appear to acquiesce to the adults while, I take it, all the time figuring that they'd both go out the window.
When Ed was making his way through the traps and the boulder came, I said to Chad, "you just knew that was coming, didn't you?" Hmm, that reminds me of something—goes back and watches—yeah, when Ed gets fed up and transmutes the traps out of the hallway, there's a red-bathed shot of a chamber (sparking wires, diagrams, a skull; refinery, anyone?), and someone with dark hair bound at wrist, thigh, and ankle lying within it. They might be wearing a uniform. There's some kind of light-colored fur behind their head, so at first glimpse I thought it had something to do with the furry-maned guard we'd just seen, maybe with the helmet knocked off, but obviously not.
Oh, I finally caught something before it was explicitly revealed! I guessed that the guards were souls bound to armor when they were first introduced—not that this was hard, granted. (And Lust gave them orders? With official or unofficial authority, I wonder? Perhaps the prisoner we briefly glimpse is supposed to be in charge and Lust + guards staged a small coup?)
Episode 20, "Soul of the Guardian": In which we meet two other suits of armor with souls inside, and Al has an existential crisis.
The teaser was all repeated scenes. This is annoying.
Aaaannnd there's Barry the Chopper. I thought we'd see him after the revelation that Ed's opponent was a serial killer.
Why the heck is Ed so slow to transmute longer weapons? Nevermind a spear, how about just a blade with more reach? (And of course souls bound to armor have such good reflexes: no nerves for impulses to travel down.)
More brothers, arrgh.
And this is why Al should've held Ed down to make him spit it out, back in episode 17. I don't actually think Al's not a person, because (1) consider the source (Al would never have believed him if it wasn't for that setup); (2) it would be an absolutely monumental, excuse my language but, fucking-over of the viewers; and (3) Ed's comments to the brothers-in-armor. But maybe Al's not all there (Ed couldn't manage to fix all of his memories by giving up his arm?), or maybe the binding degrades or only has limited memory space?
Scar saw the circled map (and what the heck was up with his arm and the papers? Marcoh knew of Ishbalan symbols, and there's that incomplete Stone in Scar's arm; did either or both somehow resonate with the code?); Ross guesses where they went and asks Armstrong to send troops: the lab is going to be very crowded in an episode or two.
* * *
The list of people who know about the brothers' human transmutation:
Alive, or at least ambulatory:
- Lust, Gluttony, presumably Envy;
- did the people of Lior understand about the empty armor? I don't think so, but there's a slight possibility that "most of Lior" should be on this list (what's left of it);
- Winry and Auntie Pinako;
- Roy Mustang and his staff (Hawkeye, Hughes, Armstrong, Furey, Havoc, Falman); almost certainly none of his superiors, at least not from him;
- The Furher's secretary? Was she close enough to see Al in episode 15?;
- The ex-soldier without a leg in episode 16, who Ed tells about trying to restore his arm and leg and his brother's body;
- possibly Lt. Ross (she overheard at least the end of a conversation where, at the start, Ed was talking about how they were going to fix their bodies), I don't think Sgt. Block;
- The Slicer(s), and Barry the Chopper.
Killed, for whatever that's worth:
- Shou Tucker.
Also, in the extras of the DVD is a short film called "Mr. Stain on Junk Alley," which is one of the weirdest things EVER.