Episode 22, "Backs in the Distance"
In which Scar remembers his backstory as Winry tries, and fails, to decide to shoot him; and Ling discourses on kingship. (Mark's post.)
This has a bit of the Wrath and Gluttony vs. Ling and Lanfan fight, enough to have Ling tell Bradley about not abandoning people. (I smell a theme! Even General Armstrong, who claims to abide by a much harsher code, doesn't actually, and her men all know it.) But the bulk of the episode is Winry finding out that Scar killed her parents, and Scar remembering the Ishbalan genocide and why he killed them (not that he explains).
This is mostly good, by which I mean, harrowing and awful but well-done. (The wall being created through alchemy, against which civilians are then shot, is particularly memorable in this regard; and the use of colors is an effective embellishment of the black & white manga.) By and large, it works so well that it even manages to pull off the origin of Scar's right arm, which objectively is entirely ridiculous, through the emotional intensity and thematic resonance. (If you can seal flesh to entirely different flesh, then you can certainly manage seal flesh to itself to stop the bleeding.)
But I wish they hadn't kept the line about Winry's hands being meant for healing. Don't get me wrong, I don't think she should have shot him, but it feels too up-on-a-pedestal to me because of how broadly it's phrased. She shouldn't have shot him because murder is wrong, not because she's ~~special~~.
(Also, ugh, recap guy is back.)
This corresponds to vol. 12, ch. 46, "The Distant Image of Their Backs," and part of ch. 47, "A Girl in the Grip of Battles Past and Present" (my goodness, those are wordy titles). It also presumably draws from whatever volume depicts the genocide, which I haven't gotten too yet—Scar's flashback is entirely absent from this portion. This is why the resolution of the other fight is pushed back yet again. I still think the manga's way of dealing with Ishbal is more harrowing as a volume, but on the other hand, spreading it out through the series may make the overall effect greater? Unfortunately I'm not sure how well I can judge given the way I'm conducting this project, but I do remember the feeling that the manga gave me the first time around, a very sobered recognition that yes, our sympathetic military characters are genuinely war criminals (written by a citizen of a country that committed large-scale war crimes within living memory), and I'll see if anything gives me that, at least.
Episode 23, "Girl on the Battlefield"
In which the "using Scar to fish for Homunculi" plot concludes and the women get things done, god-damn. (Mark's post.)
Wow, I love the percussion in the music for the opening sequences—normally I don't have much to say about the music, but that was great. I also love how Winry leaving the scene is immediately followed by Hawkeye telling Mustang to stay out of the action, making it clear that there's no broad message being sent by Winry's non-combatant status. And then that's followed by Lanfan being one of the biggest badasses in the entire series and cutting off her own arm to lay a false trail for Bradley. Again, this is a thing that works like Scar's arm, better on the emotional and thematic levels than the logical—laying a false trail probably did not require an entire freakin' arm's worth of blood—but it's such an awesome reveal that I will forgive it.
(Ling and Al kick butt too. Yay competence.)
I forgot that Mei comes to save Scar from Ed and Al! It is hilarious and awesome.
Then the downshift into aftermath, which works reasonably well because the humor, like Mei's panda-thing (Xiao Mei) being in Al's armor, is balanced by ominous things, like Bradley spotting Hawkeye and implicitly threatening Winry, and Ling telling the others that he saw Bradley's tattoo.
One thing I like is that past events, especially deaths, aren't forgotten. Not just Nina and Hughes' deaths, or Mustang thinking about healing Havoc, but Gluttony mourning Lust, prompting his explosion when he hears that Mustang is there. I had completely forgotten this weirdness happens so soon!
(Oh, yes, this is the episode of Winry/Ed, which . . . they're just kids, I don't oppose it but I can't make myself care about it either. Now Riza/Roy, on the other hand, is my pure and true OTP 4EVA.)
Corresponds to vol. 12, ch. 47, "A Girl in the Grip of Battles Past and Present" and the entirety of ch. 48, "A Promise Made by Those Who Wait."
I'd forgotten how much I'd liked Al's speech about not wanting pity and believing in Ed and alchemy, in all the other big happenings. Go Al.
There's a two-page check-in with Havoc in ch. 48; he's exercising his arms and planning to catch up with Mustang and the rest. This is smack in the middle of Winry heading back to Rush Valley, which lets the manga put them in side-by-side panels while they both say, "With everyone's help, I'll pull through." It's nice to see him.
(This volume has some pretty awkward phrasing. For instance, Winry's thought is "Maybe I've been in love with him from a long time ago . . . ", which the anime renders something like, Have I been falling for him all this time?)
The anime sticks very close in this episode, just trimming dialogue a little here or there, and ends on the same place as ch. 48. I guess that makes sense, when things are much less distributed there's less room to juggle them.
Finally, a terrible joke in Mark's comments that made me burst out laughing:
(Image: screencap of Bradley looking at Lanfan's arm tied to the dog, with overlaid text "But you didn't have to cut me off".)
Episode 24, "Inside the Belly"
In which Ed literally, and Mustang metaphorically, wind up in the belly of the beast. (Mark's post.)
Interesting, someone just comes out and says it: Marcoh tells Envy he thinks the Homunculi are planning to make a country-wide transmutation circle to create a Philosopher's Stone. Envy says close but no cigar, but all the same, the plan for a country-wide circle is now confirmed, and the tension comes from waiting for the other characters to figure it out plus wondering what the goal actually is.
Later the show will do "save one life and doom the world," and get it right, but I'm less harsh on Marcoh here because there's a lot more steps required to go from "save your town from destruction and doom the country," as things stand now. (I can't remember how he leaves captivity right now, which I look forward to finding out.)
Pride's presence is acknowledged for the first time in the anime: he talks with Wrath about oddities in Wrath's behavior/attitude that Pride has observed. The spider wrapping up a bug in its web during this is just a tiny bit unsubtle. Just a tad. Also, ugh, I don't want to find Wrath interesting, with these hints of personality and, what, fatigue? he shows in talking about, basically, how it's kind of fun to have to work for something. But I do.
It's really impressive how well Pride's behavior fits both his cover identity as Selim and his true nature. That essay that he insists on reading at dinner, the one that looks like hero worship but is really reminding Wrath of his duties and Father's expectations? Amazing.
The fight scenes are great with the tense/creepy/exciting moments. Gluttony trying to avoid the Elrics because he can't eat them is weirdly funny. [*] And that shocking moment where Ed, Ling, and part of Envy vanish into Gluttony . . . wow, that's good stuff.
Also shocking: I can't believe I forgot that the entire military high command was in on it, until just before Mustang walked into that room! WTF, I remembered Wrath's backstory when Ling was talking about how he doesn't feel like the other Homunculi. I think I just didn't connect it up because it's so wrong. Ugh.
Perfect Riza/Roy moment:
"Wait here, Lieutenant. If anything happens to me then at least you'll have a chance of getting out alive."
"That was an order."
"One that I cannot obey."
" . . . you're a stubborn one."
"That's something you've always known, sir."
"All right. Will you stay here if I promise to come back?"
"Yes. Happy hunting, sir."
<3 <3 <3
[*] I didn't much care one way or another about Ed freaking out about Envy calling him a pipsqueak on n occasions, but this did occasion a funny comment at Mark's where someone imagines Ed's journal of slights and expected compensation.
Finally, this is 100% wrong, but I keep thinking about Ed in the bloody dimension inside Gluttony and expecting him to come across some Tony Stark-upgraded Roombas.
Corresponds to vol. 12, ch. 49, "A Monster Among Men," and vol. 13, ch. 50, "In the Belly of the Beast."
Not much to talk about here. The manga has Marcoh identify the North as the next point for bloodshed, and the anime builds Raven up more by adding in Grumman's story about him caring for his wounded men. Oh, and Pride's words are at one point shown coming from what might read as a head in profile, completely in shadow, which the anime omits, possibly as too big a hint or possibly because it wanted to focus on that spider in the web some more. Otherwise it's all very close.
Mark is doing daily episodes from now on, but I'm going to post with 3/5 of this week's done because I'm not sure when I'll be able to get to the remaining two, and anyway this might make things a little less tl;dr.