Episode 16, "Footsteps of a Comrade-in-Arms"
In which we return to Central and there are further consequences of Hughes' murder. (Mark's post.)
The main thing here is the Elrics and Winry finding about Hughes' murder. There are little bits of some of the other characters: Ling, having come on the train to Central with the Elrics and Winry, is dragged off for not having proper paperwork, and there's a tiny check-in with Barry, being baby-sat by Falman, but mostly it's a quieter, slower episode about grief and other consequences of death.
Mustang is running himself ragged investigating Hughes' death; Armstrong warns him to be cautious. Too late: Envy, in disguise as Captain Focker, has already gotten out of Sheska what he's researching. This causes the Homunculi to set in motion the "frame Maria Ross" subplot, which I recall being pretty fond of—angst! Competence! Dramatic reveals! Interested to see how it goes down this time.
The thing where Mustang lies to the Elrics, as though Hughes were a dog that died, is stupid and I'm glad it only lasts the minimum possible time. Otherwise the visit to the Hughes household is appropriately heartbreaking. (I was wondering how it came across to first-timers, whether it felt explotative to do the grief thing twice since they don't know Hughes as well as people who have the first anime, where he lives another 15 episodes, or the manga. Mark's post specifically said he didn't think it was emotionally manipulative, that it was necessary to the characters, which is cool.) As for the ethics of pursuing the quest for their bodies, they both have points, which I hope will be synthesized to "exercise more caution, but if it appears that no caution would be sufficient, desist"—I can't remember at this point how the larger stakes that eventually are revealed to them affects their personal quest.
Finally, I haven't been paying attention, but I think we've ditched the previouslies with the bad narrator? I don't remember skipping past them for a while.
No manga notes here: I went flipping through getting a sense of what was where, and since the visit to the Hughes home comes after all the excitement with Ross, I decided to hold off reading the volume until after the next episode.
Episode 17, "Cold Flame"
In which Ross is convicted of Hughes' murder and Mustang apparently burns her to death. (Mark's post.)
Ah, that's why Mustang being so strung out is emphasized last episode, to make it initially plausible that he might have just up and murdered Ross. I think by the end there is an obvious hint that all is not as it seems, though, with Armstrong's behavior? (Though I guess Mustang's hint about pretty women in the East didn't send him there to find out for himself and then come get Ed, but instead gave him doubt so he'd accept Mustang's order to leave.) Mark didn't catch it, but other people in his comments did, at least.
Otherwise I don't have much to say about the Ross plot here, knowing as I do that it's all setup for the awesome reveals to come. It's tense and exciting and I am looking forward to the next episode.
Minor question: why does Barry let Ling out? That Ling is from Xing seems to be his motivation—it's more explicit in the manga—but why does Barry care about Xing? Or is this one of those plot-handy, don't-think-too-much things like Yoki and Scar, or the Elrics just happening to run into Barry, Ross, and Ling right before Ross encounters Mustang?
Wow, vol. 9 has some serious spelling issues: Jan (not Jean) Havoc, Liza (not Riza) Hawkeye, Lin (not Ling) Yao. That's where I got "Lanfan" and "Foo," just a quick flip—they aren't named in vol. 8—so maybe those are just a symptom of the editor going off the rails and next volume I can use the more-common Lan Fan and Fu.
The events in these two episodes correspond to chapters 34-36 and a tiny bit of 37 ("The Footsteps of a War Comrade," "The Sacrificial Lamb," "Alchemist in Distress," and "The Body of a Criminal"). (Ed being dragged off by Armstrong is part of the last, Barry's-body, chapter, so it makes sense to move that.)
As I said above, the biggest change is that visiting the Hughes home comes after Ross's apparent death in the manga. This ups the stakes when Ed is contemplating what to do, since he apparently couldn't trust Ross, but doesn't seem to have much effect otherwise. I don't have a strong preference as to either order of events; they both seem to suit their format fine.
The Elrics learn about Hughes' death from a newspaper (as does Winry, because the boys don't tell her when they dash out, boo); making it Ross in the anime is an improvement because it reminds us about her. Other tiny changes: Winry doesn't get to see Hawkeye and Mustang at Central (plus: we don't see the bit where Mustang hits on Winry (!?!), minus: we don't see Hawkeye and Winry saying "hey, I remember you!"); Armstrong doesn't question Ross, it's Douglas (makes more sense procedurally); Gracia tells the Elrics, "If the Philosopher's Stone isn't yielding any results, maybe there's another way," which is admirable sense.
The in memoriam for vol. 9 has Ross saying "What's going on!? Hey!" The one for vol. 10 has just her feet and lower legs visible as she heads back down at speed. Hee.
Finally, just for later reference: Ling is the same age as Ed (but much taller).
Episode 18, "The Arrogant Palm of a Small Human"
In which Ross isn't dead after all, and Mustang's attempt to draw out those responsible for Hughes' death may have caught more than his team can handle. (Mark's post.)
Ross!!! Hi, not-dead Ross!!! Aww, you stoic badass. I teared up with you, crossing the desert. (The manga does this better, though, by not showing your face until Foo tells you to conserve your bodily fluids.)
Unfortunately this episode makes clear the last cheated with its single unbroken shot of Mustang asking Ross her name and then snapping for the explosion; all it needed was a cut away to her looking scared in-between to make it fair.
The bit about Hawkeye getting the dental records is inference here, text in the manga; the conversation with the bitter doctor who was in on it (I think?) must be later.
But I just love how competent they all are, to set this complicated plan up so quick and have it serve multiple ends. And also: look! Sharing information in the ruins! THANK YOU FOR TALKING TO EACH OTHER.
In other news: Ling has the same question Greed did, about getting an armor body for immortality! It's so cool seeing the way this gets set up. Scar is revealed to have killed the Rockbells, with no sympathetic details to soften the blow. And Mustang is going fishing, but Hawkeye's caught Gluttony, uh-oh. (Also, lots of hints at Xerxes history that will resolve down the road.)
There is apparently a cameo of Mei at the start, which I missed and which doesn't make a lot of sense in the changed context. And someone in Mark's comments has been analyzing the alchemy symbols under the title cards, which is super-cool; I'd never bothered to pay attention to them.
Woah. This episode corresponds to a bit of vol. 9, ch. 37, "The Body of a Criminal," the Barry-related events up to Gluttony attacking Hawkeye; but the manga shows that Lanfan and Envy are also there, which the anime does not. Then literally a page of vol. 10, ch. 38, "Signal to Strike," in which Al reacts to something Ling told him off-page, and then we skip allll the way to ch. 40, "Philosopher from the West," and ch. 41, "On the Palm of an Arrogant Human Being," for the Xerxes stuff. All the Barry/Lab-3 stuff is skipped, as is Hohenheim coming home.
Someone in Mark's comments pointed out that the effect of the Ross reveal coming after the Lab 3 stuff was to give them more of a feeling that Ross wasn't really dead, because in the Lab 3 stuff we were still supposed to sympathize with Mustang. I think that's a really smart comment and a good reason to move the order of events; otherwise, someone wondering why Al would go with Mustang during the chase would either be perplexed and upset, or remember Ling's telling him something mysterious and jump to conclusions, thus removing the power of the reveal.
(I started reading the Barry/Lab-3 stuff, but decided to stop a bit after they pick Al up; I felt like I'd had enough to give me the sense of what it was like reading in that order and I wanted to approach as much of the really dramatic events fresh as I could.)
Otherwise, two things of note. First, Breda says that Mustang orchestrated the public arrest and newspaper announcements about Ross, which, uh, I guess would serve his purpose of looking like a dangerous revenge-obsessed freak much better than Douglas ramming things through? But what was his plan to get her out before Barry contacted him? I dunno, I think the anime made a good move in simplifying that.
Second, Falman hasn't seen combat (in the anime, it's not so specific, he's just an amateur)? Interesting. He's certainly old enough, maybe he was serving elsewhere in the country? For that matter, I almost would have thought Havoc was too young for Ishbal. I guess it doesn't have to have been Ishbal, what with the constant other skirmishes, but I had a vague sense that he picked up all his team there. I guess I will see when we get to that amazing, harrowing all-flashback volume. Nice that he has mad combat skillz and isn't just a friendly dude who smokes a lot, though.
From about episode 14 or so, this has been a really great run of episodes, I think: lots of amazing content from the manga and adaptation choices that make sense and work for the context.
Also, I need some more Brotherhood-specific icons. Anyone have recs for icons of a reasonably straightforward style (minimal tiny text, fancy effects, etc.)? (Edit: made myself the icon I wanted most after this set, though it was certainly not a good use of my time. Oh well!)
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