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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood rewatch, Episodes 34-36
Reminder: spoilers for everything.

Episode 34, "Ice Queen"

In which Sloth appears. (Mark's post.)

Well, more stuff happens in this episode, and some of it is great and some of it is really dubious.

Like, I could take Ed's general attitude about racism as his—admitted—youth and inexperience. If I didn't have a head full of snot and a desperate need to go to sleep (when writing; and, when editing, if I weren't away from home), I'd dig out my copy of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? just to confirm that "Wouldn't it be great if we were all colorblind" is one of the recognized (early!) steps in a development of a racial identity by white people. But I'm not convinced the show does enough to challenge this. The whole conversation with Miles is just . . . trying to get somewhere and failing. In a "look, a Message!" way that makes it kind of worse.

Start with Ed being so incredibly rude as to ask Miles what he's hiding in the first place. Yeah, moving the exposition along, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Then when Miles talks about what the Amestrians did to his relatives, and Ed responds by saying that the Ishbalans did bad things too! And this impresses Miles?

Uh, no. No pity from Ed, sure, okay, but Ed pulling out a classic derail move hardly is an improvement. He could either have realized it was a test and, while admitting it, asked Miles why he was serving in Amestris' military if he felt that way, or taken it at face value, admitted it, and said that even though he was only a kid at the time, he intends to do better in the future, in some way vague enough not to give the whole "working with people who intend to overthrow the military leadership of the country" thing away.

And then Armstrong's words to Miles in flashback, about needing the strength given to him by the mix of blood in his veins and needing his eyes to tell her what she doesn't see. This comes a little close to "hybrid vigor" for my comfort, and while it is awesome that Armstrong recognizes that her privilege hampers her perceptions, the way it was phrased made me feel kind of twitchy about brown people always having the responsibility of educating white people, plus I know it was metaphor, but that kind of biological essentialism always puts me on edge.

(And while I love the screencap this icon is from for the visual (Armstrong always needs to be pictured with a sword), "I will put my body on the line to satisfy your legitimate grievances over the country's treatment of your family and ancestral nation" is both unhelpful in a general sense and, given Armstrong's fighting ability, in a specific sense as well.)

Generally, the overall tone of the scene made me feel that the show hadn't quite thought through the difference between non-discrimination and colorblindness as aspirations. And I would really have liked it to do better than Racism 101, you know?

Okay! That was a whole lot of writing for, what, a dozen lines?

Miscellany: I love Sloth as someone who can't be bothered to change course, even if that course is actually working really hard—taking inertia to its logical conclusion. I love how smart Armstrong is, how she sees right through Ed and Al and how she thinks to ask Ed the right question when questioning him during Sloth's appearance. I'm waiting for the undercutting of all this "survival of the fittest" stuff that I know is coming up, thank goodness. (Luck does not demonstrate your fitness to survive! Luck isn't cumulative, it's random, that's why it's luck.)

Manga notes:

Corresponds to vol. 16, ch. 65, "The Ironclad Rule," and the first part of vol. 17, ch. 66, "The Snow Queen." (The episode ends on the cliffhanger of planning to douse Sloth with tank fuel, after the tanks' artillery doesn't work.)

The start of ch. 66 has a short check-in with Scar & Yoki, with Yoki threatening to run to the railroad security guards and Scar pointing out that since Yoki's been seen traveling with him, he'd be putting himself in danger. Still don't understand this part of Team Scar!

In the manga, Armstrong says she particularly needs Miles' respect, not his eyes. Ed's line in the manga is, "When ethnicity is all you think about, there's bound to be confrontation . . . but if we deal with one another as individuals, then it's possible to treat each other as equals." Which people in Mark's comments are pointing to as better than the anime's translation (which I admit I didn't bother transcribing), but perhaps influenced by the anime, and definitely by the rest of the conversation, it still gives me that "just ignore race!!!" vibe.

Episode 35, "The Shape of This Country"

In which the depths of the plan behind Amestris is revealed. (Mark's post.)

Ah, I like this episode. Things are moving again.

I realize that it actually makes sense for the tank to fit in the elevator—how do they move them around, otherwise?—but it is still such a ludicrously, wonderfully over-the-top image.

I had to ask Chad about the tank fuel, whether it made sense, and he reminded me that they have to vaporize the fuel anyway to use it in a combustion engine, so while the amount of freezing is fairly improbable, the fact that the fuel evaporated so quickly is not actually a problem. Good to know!

I like that there's the scene of the Briggs soldiers thanking the Elrics for looking after their comrades: that's right, survival of the fittest can mean fittest group, not every person for themselves.

Oh no, freaky doctor! Oh no, creeper Raven! Oh no, Kimblee! Oh hey/yikes, worldbuilding/backstory: alchemy is based on the energy of the movement of the earth's crust, except Mei says that it feels like there's lot of people moving around underground instead; and yes, the country has literally been designed from the start to make the country-wide transmutation circle. Which is such a great reveal.

(Mark's reaction, connecting it back to episode 1, is kind of fun but still, I think that episode is too much of a spoiler.)

Manga notes:

Corresponds to the rest of ch. 66, "The Snow Queen," and all of ch. 67, "Burgeoning Borders," but its last two pages.

The manga has a couple scattered pages about efforts to keep Sloth frozen, which is nice.

Huh, the conversation about looking after each other isn't in this.

I forgot to mention Kimblee & Miles above. The manga makes clear that Miles knows Kimblee's role in the war, which is only implicit in the anime, where he could have been just reacting to Kimblee's talking about hunting down Scar as though he's an animal.

The manga has been calling Xing's alchemy "purification arts" for a while, which I forgot to note.

It ends at the same point as Briggs, Raven asking Armstrong about an immortal army, but the chapter ends with Hohenheim ripping his chest open. That's fine, consolidating that bit with the next episode.

Episode 36, "Family Portrait"

In which Hohenheim acquires motivation, Raven becomes part of the foundation of this country, and Pride makes an unnamed appearance. (Mark's post.)

Hohenheim mini-episode and then heavy serialization with the Briggs stuff.

Hohenheim's manpain is still kind of much for me—I love Trisha pointing out that if, what, being a Philosopher's Stone, am I remembering that right? is transmitted by touch, then she'd have been infected a long time ago. (Also: two perfect tears, my my.) But it's good that he has motivation and is trying to do something.

Of course Buccaneer carries clean gloves around in case Armstrong has to wipe the blood of her enemies off her sword. (I love the contempt in the gesture of throwing them down into the concrete. And I love that she gets to be ruthless and violent and good-but-not-nice, while also looking the way she does.) Also, wow, Raven was such a creeper.

Hi, Pride! Can't wait to meet you next week. And hey, Team Scar is reunited and on the move.

Of course, the show can't let us take a breath, and so Kimblee immediately replaces Raven as the in-person threat, with delight at the opportunity, too. Hi, Winry, great to see you though wish you weren't a hostage! Hi, Mustang post-credits, keeping up with events and being contacted by Armstrong!

Manga notes: completes vol. 17, with the last pages of ch. 67, "Burgeoning Borders," ch. 68, "Portrait of a Family," and ch. 69, "The Foundation of Briggs."

Extremely close this time. Omits only a phone call between Kimblee and Bradley, and the Briggs soldiers acting for Raven, asking him to take the Elrics away. Oh, and the anime moves Raven's dying words to the concrete, for more drama.

My edition has a hilarious typo in the extras, a little column titled "Magic Books" which is clearly meant to be "Boobs," because it shows Lust cracking nuts (literal nuts, like walnuts and pistachios) with her cleavage.

Next week, Pride!

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