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incidents and accidents, hints and allegations

FMA (brothers winter), Fullmetal Alchemist
Kate kate_nepveu
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Fullmetal Alchemist, episodes 21-23 (dubs)

This week's new-to-us recordings from Adult Swim. Spoil me for future episodes and I'll explode you from the inside. (This includes hints, statements that something will be explained in the future, and pretty much anything that answers any of the questions under the cut. Sorry.)

Episode 21, "The Red Glow": In which revelations fall like bombshells.

Whoosh. Let's see:

  • The guy tied up in the red-lit chamber is yet another Homunculus, Greed, who's been imprisoned for 130 years before being set free by accident by Barry's bomb triggering—and who is not working with Lust, Gluttony, and Envy;
  • The ponytailed guy in episode 15 killed a bunch of his own people and has been in prison since, named Kimbley (sp?);
  • TUCKER! That really creeped me out. The upside-face is just viscerally upsetting; and,
  • Scar's brother was trying to resurrect the dead as well, the woman with Lust's face, with about the same results. There's more to come on this, I think, since we don't know why he thought that for her to be resurrected, Ishbal had to be destroyed, or what happened to him and to Scar's arm. Those tattoos looked rather like the ones on the big arrays in the lab, too. (I thought at first that this was a little too much parallelism; and it might be, but OTOH resurrection of loved ones must be a fairly common desire, and it makes plot sense for them to have met.)

And then there was all the stuff with the armored serial killer brothers. Ed's anguish is understandable about the one who committed suicide, but it missed the point; if they're human, then they get to make that choice. Still, waah, and punches up the tension in the next episode.

Did I mention that Tucker really, really creeped me out?

Episode 22, "Created Human": In which Ed chooses not to make the Stone.

One of the ways in which Tucker creeped me is how the upside-down face fit with his tempting Ed to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. I . . . don't know if I thought Ed might do it. But I was very glad that he didn't.

On a lighter note, pajamas! Hughes has duckies, the Fuhrer flowers. And then right back to doom—his secretary lets the other Homunculi go while obviously recognizing what they are. With Trisha Elric's face, she has to be one (Sloth, Wrath, or Pride, I guess). The Furher knows a lot about what's going on, is she his source?

The Homunculi were made, not born, and can't do alchemy, so they've been leading Ed around to get him to make the Stone so they can be human. Everybody wants to be human, I'm half waiting for a stuffed rabbit to show up. (Err, as in Velveteen, not as in Ni Jianyi.) (And still don't know about the faces; the only one we've seen shapeshift is Envy, and I suspect Envy is the only one, since it was the one who had to impersonate Cornello.)

Envy: " . . . the only reason I haven't killed you is that we were told not to." We? Lust's comments suggested that they had perfectly good reasons not to kill him all on their own. (And, "But I can never forgive you . . . for carrying that bastard's blood in your veins!" Presumably this is the mysterious missing Dad.)

Gluttony calls a room with symbols similar to where Greed was imprisoned (if not the same place) "the bad place." Put together with "we," I speculate that they were also held there and were selectively let out at whoever's direction. (The manga refers to "Father" in volumes 1 and 2, but I don't know how closely that's going to track.)

Lovely articulation of what's wrong with alchemy, or at least what's wrong with alchemy as Tucker and the Homunculi view it: zero-sum all the way, baby. "In order to achieve anything in life, you have to take it from someone else."

Scar tells Ed to take his brother and go, but I'm not counting on him giving up his quest to kill Ed under less charged circumstances. Will Ed have lasting effects from stepping into incomplete Stone material?

Kimbley and Greed got away, apparently? Presumably Tucker stayed, as he was supposed to be there.

Episode 23, "Heart of Steel": In which Al freaks out and runs away.

Ed recognizes the symbol on the Homunculi as the Ouroboros, for those of us who were slow and didn't recognize it without someone saying it.

Chad points out that we'd gone a whole two episodes without any slapstick, so we were overdue. Mixed in with random woe, of course. (And in a demonstration that life and its creation isn't zero-sum, birthday cake for everyone! [Ed is now 16.])

I could do with a little less comic-relief with Winry, but it was good to see the ways she's important, even in a heavy-handed Hughes speech. And hey, there's my cow! Err, cows.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about Al's part of this arc. On one hand, it's amazing that he hasn't cracked up under the stress of being a disembodied soul before, and his freakout was very carefully set up. On the other hand, I am fundamentally disinclined towards existential crises and have less patience for them than I might—also with irrational I'm-not-listening modes of fighting. Perhaps it's because he's usually the solid one, the conscience, and his mode here is a disappointment after that—realistic and understandable, but still.

You know, it's really going to suck when we catch up with Adult Swim and start getting one new episode a week. (Yes, I have fansubs, but I do like watching the dubs first.)

* * *

The list of people who know about the brothers' human transmutation (I'm no longer breaking it down between alive and dead, because that's just not so useful anymore):

  • Rose;
  • Lust, Gluttony, Envy, the Furher's secretary;
  • 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);
  • Cornello;
  • Majhal;
  • Shou Tucker;
  • Winry and Auntie Pinako;
  • Marcoh;
  • Scar;
  • 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;
  • The Slicer(s), and Barry the Chopper;
  • All the prisoners in Lab 5;
  • Military:
    • Roy Mustang;
    • Hawkeye;
    • Hughes;
    • Armstrong;
    • Furey;
    • Havoc;
    • Falman;
    • Ross;
    • Block.

Also, new icon. The warm colors are a little too orange to me, which I haven't been able to fix with mucking everything else up. Any brilliant image-manipulators out there? (Edit: revised, thanks to desdenova.)

Almost random. I though of you this past weekend when I saw someone with a Full Metal Alchemist bag at TWH.

I have managed to avoid buying FMA *stuff* so far. Though if I saw a figure of Hawkeye with the dog it would be a close call.

The list of people who know about the brothers' human transmutation (I'm no longer breaking it down between alive and dead, because that's just not so useful anymore):


Last time it was "alive, or at least ambulatory" and "killed, for whatever that's worth," and now we've finally hit the point where I give up.

(Deleted comment)
Comparing it to this image, or the others I've used above, or Rachel's icon, the hair is a touch darker and more orange, and the red of the cloak is lighter and more orange.

(Deleted comment)
I should be most obliged to you for the effort.

I slept badly last night, and in one of the phases where I was trying to get back to sleep, I remembered something else of note about these episodes:

The zero-sum comment above was explicitly stated to be an *adult* POV, in contrast to Al's protests; and Ed was urged that by taking up a State Alchemist's position, he had chosen to be an adult. Childhood as a position of innocence and moral purity, while adulthood is nasty and brutal and self-interested--by the Homunculi, Tucker, but *also* by Mustang and Hawkeye in their conversation after Nina's death, the difference of course being that Mustang and Hawkeye don't like it that way.

On another axis of this, we have Hughes and Ross taking the position that adults aren't the enemy and should be in a mutually supportive relationship with kids. And Ed seems to have come around to this in episode 23--I thought for a minute that he wasn't going to tell Hughes what happened. Which is why Hughes and Ross are parental figures and Mustang, who supports them by *pushing* them to be more, is an antagonist.

(Speaking of not telling--what does Hughes think he's protecting Mustang from? He's still in East City, I believe. This strikes me as straight friendship rather than part of the adult-child dynamic, but it also intrigues me.)

Will Ed have lasting effects from stepping into incomplete Stone material?

That reminds me: I was cheering Ross on at the end of that episode. I'm a huge Ross fan. Hawkeye does it for me, too.

I'm pretty sure by that episode the series had taught the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up when I heard the music for the ending. "OMG, WTF have they gotten or are about to get themselves into now!" Cue also Miles' internal movie of his mother: -"What have you done with your brother?"-

Ed recognizes the symbol on the Homunculi as the Ouroboros, for those of us who were slow and didn't recognize it without someone saying it.

Hey, it was stylized! I admit, I probably would not have recognized it anyway. I don't think I can blame video quality of fansubs, either. Any thoughts on what the Ouroboros signifies?

I have somewhat mixed feelings about Al's part of this arc.

Let me try to fanwank rationalize it. Al's been steady previous to this because he's had the firm bedrock of his memories and his relationship with his brother. Now he's falling apart because that bedrock is threatened as being totally false.

Just what yhlee said in her post on these episodes: "Ouroboros. That which devours and renews; also that which is self-generating, not other-generating; a life that is but sterile? Speculation."

And oh, I believe Al's falling-apart, I just don't know if I like it, that's all.

(biting tongue VERY hard)

One thing that you may or may not have noticed is that there is actually a language to the transmutation circles - if you want effect foo, you must put elements bar and baz in the circle. For instance, if you ever look at Roy's gloves, you'll see stylized flames in the circle - those most likely make it easier to manipulate flame. This language seems to be a universal one, so if you want to get a specific effect, you're going to use a certain symbol.

I like Winry, though I think she suffers from being TOO linked to the brothers. Still, it seems that she has her own life in Resembool, so she's not "weepy love interest who is only there to cry over protagonist". I do wonder, myself, how she would handle learning about what really happened to her parents, though.

Well, I think having Al going nuts highlights one of the points of alchemy - that as long as you're willing to pay the price, you can have almost anything your heart desires - but what is the price of creating a pleasant lie to avoid the cold vagaries of reality? We saw this to a degree with Majhal prefering to create the idealized dolls ofer accepting the truth, but Al's industrial strength identity crisis really brings this into focus.

Oh, I wonder if you saw the most recent VG Cats strip? Gave me a chuckle.

I found one site that collects alchemy circles, but it had a lot of spoilers in it so I didn't like to look too hard.

As for the thing with Al--this is a great point, and it ties into the thing with childhood/adulthood and with Tucker in these episodes, I think.

We've got two opposing worldviews thrown into sharp relief by these sets of episodes: (1) the zero-sum "realistic" POV, offered solely (?) by adults (I put "realistic" in scare quotes because it holds itself out as facing up to the harsh truths of the world, but it's not, actually, factual), and (2) the non-zero-sum cooperative POV, offered by children (Ed, Al) and families (Hughes, Ross). The first goes hand-in-hand with creating and using the _simulation_ of human life (Majhal's dolls, Tucker's plans to make a more perfect Nina by implanting his memories into a chimera), while the second creates and preserves actual human life (childbirth, Al's soul, not sacrificing the prisoners to make the Stone).

Since the first POV is *also* closely tied to alchemy as we've seen it so far, then I think that if Ed & Al succeed, it won't be through alchemy. It's funny, post-disc-2 I thought that the Stone wouldn't restore their bodies because it's said to violate equivalent exchange, which was just wrong and too easy. Now, I think that to succeed, they need something that *does* violate equivalent exchange, by going past it, because equivalent exchange is not a sufficient moral foundation for something of this magnitude. (Similarly, I take back my guess that Ed will sacrifice his body to restore Al's, though that was clear back at episode 15.)

But, you know, I was wrong back then and I could be wrong again now. Whatever, I'm having fun all the same. =>