(I've read the manga, but many of the last chapters only in fan translations, and watched Brotherhood, but during the sleep-deprived haze of the Pip's early life, so while I remember a lot of the broad outline, many details will be fresh to me this time through.)
I should say initially that while I very much enjoyed the first anime, and wrote literally thousands of words about it back in the day, once I caught up with the manga (which Brotherhood closely follows) I loved it even better. The first anime diverges from the manga about halfway through (as the manga wasn't complete then), and the manga/Brotherhood has more, and more awesome, women; more, and more awesome, characters of color; and a notably more epic plot.
You can watch the sub at YouTube (requires sign-in since it's viewer discretion advised). I believe the dub is streaming on various services, but I don't have them so I can't check. You can also buy the episodes on iTunes, since that's what Mark is doing.
Okay! One more prefatory thing. This is going to be an ALL-SPOILER zone. If you are watching for the first time, I am excited and that is awesome! If you want someplace spoiler-free to talk about it with people here, instead of at Mark's, tell me and I will set something up. But the reason I'm doing this here is to interact with all of you and to re-watch and re-read.
Episode 1, "Fullmetal Alchemist"
In which the Freezing Alchemist attempts to encase Central in ice to make the Fuhrer pay for Ishbal. (Mark's post; lettered's post.)
This is an anime-only episode and it is kind of a mess. It's clumsy for manga readers and apparently confusing for newbies. Honestly I liked the Lior intro of the manga/first anime much better: let Ed & Al explain things to Rose, who is genuinely unfamiliar, and by extension to the reader. Also, I just like that moment (see icon).
It does signpost a lot of things: the Fuhrer, Ishbal, the Homunculi, even Kimbly (I am too lazy to walk upstairs and get the manga for spellings, so I'm going with the sub for now), but I also liked having those unfold slowly. On the other hand, maybe it's necessary to give new people the sense of scope?
I remember, when this first came out, that a lot of manga readers were upset at the casual reveal of an all-city transmutation circle, and yeah, I do think it's too bad that was wasted on this.
I think it's hilarious (and awful) that Mark pegged Hughes as in danger of dying because he's a family man. I wonder how much the length of time between the opening and his demise will allay his suspicions?
Episode 2, "First Day"
In which we have basically a full-episode flashback to Ed and Al losing their bodies and how Ed became a State Alchemist. (Mark's post; lettered's post.)
We don't get so much information about the Gate and the Truth this early in the manga. I'm not actually sure when it appears; I didn't see it on a flip through the first few volumes. I also think we get more Trisha in the manga and maybe later in the anime?
Anyway. I'm meh on this. It does up the angst right away, but I'm not sure how coherent it feels.
Episode 3, "City of Heresy"
In which Ed and Al uncover a fraud in the desert city of Lior and shatter a young woman's hopes. (Mark's post; lettered's post.)
Finally, an episode that actually tracks the manga! (Volume 1, Chapters 1 and 2, "The Two Alchemists" and "The Price of Life.")
I should say that some of the time I am literally watching this, usually waiting for the Pip to fall deeply enough asleep at night, and sometimes I am mostly listening and looking up for key bits, because I'm trying to cross-stitch regularly again. This one I watched, and there was a lot of split-screen composition, mimicking a manga-style layout (though I didn't go looking for shots straight-up lifted from the manga).
The plot hews pretty closely to the manga here. The bit where Father Cornello orders Rose to shot them is made up, and Ed's speech telling Rose the chemical composition of the human body comes across less dickish on the page, and some of the reveals are consolidated for space, but the feel is very close.
(Viz's translation renders her name Rosé, which I'd never noticed before. Rose-ay, really? Sorry, I'm going to stick with Rose.)
But doing the human composition speech two episodes in a row, plus the reveal again of breaking the human transmutation taboo and the state of their bodies, feels duplicative and anti-climactic. I realize the show probably felt pressure to do things differently at the start, but really, the Lior opening is good for a reason, they should have stuck with it.
Episode 4, "An Alchemist's Anguish"
In which possibly the most disturbing thing in the entire show happens. (Mark's post; lettered's post.)
This skips Yoki in the mine town and Hakuro on the train, the latter of which is how Mustang et al. are introduced in the manga, and goes straight to Volume 2, Chapter 5, "The Alchemist's Suffering." It introduces Scar before the end of the story by showing him kill some machine-gun-transmuting State alchemist, but otherwise is extremely close. The only thing I miss is Al's line to Tucker that if Tucker keeps talking Al will be the one to hit him (paraphrased), because I love quiet badass Al.
Anyway. Aaaaaannnnngggssttt, with a side of unsubtle flagging of the ethical issues facing Ed and Al as they pursue the Stone. (Leaving Yoki out of the anime at this point means we haven't seen Ed and Al act altruistically, against the expectations of what dogs of the military do.) Nothing will ever match the first shock of realizing what Tucker has done, and the unfortunate tendency (as I recall) of the anime to say things out loud that are blindingly obvious without anyone actually saying them continued unfortunate here, but ugh, it still creeped me out.
Overall: a rockier start than I remembered. New viewers, if you're interested but unsure when you start, I would recommend giving it at least until episode 4 (they're short, especially if you skip the opening and closing songs, and the awful voiceover from episode 2 on).
(If you are not a regular DW reader, here is an RSS feed of just these posts.)
[Edit 2013-08-09: lettered is watching for the first time, too, and I'm updating with links to her episode posts as well.]
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