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Fulllmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood rewatch, Episodes 62-64
So, back in November, I was re-watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and re-reading the manga. And I wrote up the last three episodes with accompanying manga notes and then froze up on turning my final-thoughts notes into actual sentences. And so these complete episode+manga reactions have been sitting in a text file ever since.

Clearly I am never going to get back to this, and so I am putting up this blast from the past just for completeness' sake; the episode+manga reactions are untouched from November except to fix a few typos. (I will expand and annotate the final thoughts just slightly, though.)

Spoilers, obviously.

Episode 62, "A Fierce Counterattack"

In which everyone battles Father and Al sacrifices his blood seal to save Ed's life. (Mark's post.)

I love that the Briggs soldiers attack Father on their own! And, oops, what was I saying about Mustang's blindness meaning that they'd lost a major offensive weapon? SHE'S HIS EYES.

(OMG that hero shot of Mustang, Hawkeye, and Major Armstrong as the smoke clears and we go to commercial break, just look at them.)

Greed contemplating his motivations, well, getting yelled at by Ling about them. What, exactly, is he greedy for? Friends. Which looks hideously cliched when I type it but it's actually consistent from his introduction, even if he didn't realize it.

The battle is a little much, but it contains Izumi wielding two longswords, so hey.

I had COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN the Ed's arm / Al's soul thing! Whoa. How could I forgot that? (Also, go Mei, who has lots of motivation not to help Al but does it anyway.)

Manga notes:

Corresponds to the rest of vol. 26, which ends on Father destroying the "humans" he created to embody the souls of Xerxes' people (I forgot to mention that, it was horrible) and the four former sacrifices being caught in the blast, and vol. 27, all of ch. 107, "The Last Battle."

The "humans" created by Father are clearly identifiable as people Hohenheim knew, which either isn't the case in the anime or isn't nearly as clear.

The next volume preview for vol. 27 is just a two-page text-only spread, which amused me. Vol. 27 itself is extra-thick and with only two chapters, heh, I remember when those epic things were released (the length is probably why some of the details have fallen out of my head!).

I love the fist bump art that opens ch. 107, and I'm just sad that my manga volume doesn't have it in color.

Ch. 107 opens with Hawkeye literally slapping herself to try to stay conscious, also calling herself foolish for saying she wouldn't live earlier (in the Envy confrontation).

Alas, Izumi with longswords is an anime-only bit.

Al realized what he had to do with regard to Ed's arm very quickly; the anime seemed like it drew that decision out more.

Episode 63, "The Other Side of the Gateway"

In which Greed is destroyed, Father is forced back beyond the Gate, Ed sacrifices his alchemy to bring Al back, and Hohenheim dies. (Mark's post.)

You know, despite that action-packed summary line, I still feel like the pacing of this episode was kind of off. All the flashbacks seemed to drag the momentum down and it's very "look, look, a POINT!" I love the content of the episode, it's just the form was a bit distracting and not as amazing an experience as I wanted it to be. (This is a flaw the anime has shown before, exhibit A, Envy's death.)

I love the random soldier apologizing to Greed because he was knocked off his feet by Father's explosion-thingy, you know, as happens to mortals?

Anyway. Greed sacrifices himself so that (a) Ling can live and be Emperor and (b) he can land a critical blow on Father, controlling his Ultimate Shield ability as it's absorbed and reversing its strength, turning Father into graphite, basically. (Wow, I'd forgotten that this was Ed's trick, way back in the day. There are so many callbacks, and I think I'd have to mainline the entire series in a weekend to get them all.)

. . . not that I understand how, when Ed punches right through him, all the souls from his Philosoper's Stone are released. Also, embarassingly, I had to go back and look, because immediately after the episode ended, I'd already forgotten when Father loses control of the power of God (he starts to lose it just after Greed sticks his arm in his head, last episode, but doesn't actually say he can't contain it until Ed beats him with his fists, plural).

Because Father/the dwarf in the flask refused to grow or understand, the Truth/God/whatever returns him to the despair and lack of freedom behind the Gate. Ed, on the other hand, gives the right answer and the Truth sounds actually happy (compare Ed giving up alchemical arrogance and admitting he was a mere human all along to his comments to Rose in Lior, the true start of the story, and also that reference to Nina, sob).

Because everyone loves Al, Ling offers the Stone and Hohenheim offers his life to restore him, both of which Ed rejects, but both of which are so significant for those characters. And Ed calls Hohenheim his "father," even though, as Hohenheim notes later, he prefaces it with an insult.

And then Hohenheim goes home to die, and I wish he'd said goodbye to his children—have we actually learned nothing? I think I'm just cranky because the credits were trying so hard to give me Hohenheim feels, as the kids these days say.

Lastly, apparently we are just going to ignore the bit where Mustang's forces claimed that Armstrong was behind the coup? I guess they can tell the radio folks they made a mistake in the confusion and point to the prisoner generals. And tiny tiny Selim is given to Mrs. Bradley.

Manga notes:

Corresponds to vol. 27, part of ch. 108, "Journey's End."

When Ed punches through Father, he tells him to "release the people of [Xerxes] and go back to where you came from . . . dwarf in the flask." The manga doesn't actually explain why the first part, though. (The manga also has the souls' departure as much less dramatic, so much so that I think it would be easy to miss, so I do actually like the anime's change here.)

Mustang says that Ed won't sacrifice himself to restore Al because he wouldn't put Al through being left alone.

I like how the anime has Ed say "This is my last transmutation. Stand back and enjoy the show!" The manga's "The Fullmetal Alchemist is going to perform his last transmutation!" just isn't as fun.

Hohenheim sees the Curtises reunited with the boys, smiles, and turns away. There's also some more aftermath before his death, which opens with Pinako finding his body and then is much shorter, just flashback bubbles over a feather, a clear sky, and a bird over Central (I doubt I was remembering this when I found the anime intrusively manipulative over Hohenheim's death, but the comparison is even less in the anime's favor now).

Episode 64, "Journey's End"

In which there are lots of new beginnings that still honor what came before. (Mark's post.)

The title card says "Final Episode," in case you didn't know, over the country map (not a transmutation circle).

Roy is all forward-oriented and learning about Ishvalan agriculture and almost cheerful! Knox: "This room just reeks of optimism." Hee.

Interestingly, Marcoh starts out by invoking what the Ishvalans whose lives he took might want, then admits he has "no right to speak for those whose lives I have taken," so instead makes it a personal request, that Mustang accept healing through the Stone. Mustang agrees, but insists that Havoc be healed first.

Scar at the Armstrong mansion [*], agreeing to help Miles (who Mustang has, rightly, requested to help implement the new Ishvalan policy), and completing his journey—what a journey, wow. Olivier thinking about Mustang's reaction when he learns Scar isn't dead is funny, but what I really like is when he refuses to take a name, having died twice, and she calls him "Ishvalan."

[*] There's a one-page bit in the manga in the immediate aftermath where Olivier suggests he must've died as the Briggs forces quietly take him away on a stretcher, face covered.

Two months later, awww, it's the boys on their way home, and Al's voice isn't all tinny any more! Flashback to Ling promising to take care of all the clans when he becomes Emperor after bringing home the Stone [**], which Mei calls "too greedy."

I love the tackle-hug but the music leading up to Winry coming out was a bit much, really.

[**] Still don't understand how this works, obviously he can't offer the old sick Emperor immortality, otherwise how does he come to the throne? If you even can achieve immortality through that small a Stone. Does he use the Stone to offer hospice care, essentially, and get named heir that way? Or does he use the power of the Stone after the Emperor dies in an internal power struggle, and how can he do that and unite the clans?

And then two years later and they're so adult-looking, ee!

Fuhrer Grumman having tea with Mrs. Bradley is amazing and disconcerting in equal measure. As the manga notes, Armstrong isn't a candidate for Central command anytime soon because of the number of Central soldiers killed by Briggs soldiers, and Mustang wants to accomplish things in Ishval first. But, ugh, Grumman, I don't trust you.

Mrs. Bradley's conversation is also very disconcerting because until the end I wasn't sure if she knew that Bradley had been a Homunculus! I assume she must because she shows no surprise at Grumman saying that Selim must be watched, but it was really weirdly ambiguous until then. (Selim is a bit articulate for a two year old, she says with reasonable authority since the Pip was two last week, but not entirely out of the realm of possibility.)

I love that when Al visits the Hughes family, he rejects equivalent exchange again as a life principle, and possibly as an alchemical principle as well, and that he and Ed are still remembering Nina. And I love that Jerso and Zampano are still around and coming with Al to find a way to get their bodies back. All the "secondary" characters are important in this show. (There's a nice chimera appreciation in Mark's comments.)

Ed and Winry, awkward/adorable proposal at the train station, and I am a bad person because all I can think is that Ed was having 15% of a moment. (No, it was great, really, lives shared not given up, but not completely because people are still individuals.)

(As shown by Ed traveling and Winry being completely fine with it. Here's a picture from the artbook (source), of photos he sends back to her, which is adorable.)

The ending voiceover is a little cheesy, because "fullmetal" is just that kind of word, but the pictures under the credits makes up for it. LOVE Scar's hair, though Mustang's mustache is tragic. Is that Yoki, Heinkel, and Darius in a circus? Rebecca with her boytoys of Havoc and Breda! (Mark interprets this as them running a bar.) An Elric family portrait, apparently in Rush Valley because Paninya and Garfiel are in it, and with no-one crying. Awww.

Manga notes:

Corresponds to the end of vol. 27, ch. 108, "Journey's End."

Besides a wounded Scar being quietly taken away by Briggs soldiers, in the immediate aftermath of the battle Rebecca updates Hawkeye on the political situation, including a mention of an aide by the main gate who I had to look up on a wiki and pointing out that General Armstrong is going to have a hard time participating in government since Briggs soldiers killed many Central soldiers.

Knox also finds Mustang in this immediate aftermath, where Mustang does say that there's plenty he can do without eyesight, but he's not actively planning to rebuild Ishval, it's something Marcoh demands of him. I like the anime better. (The manga also has Marcoh ask to go there, which I don't think we see in the show.)

Apparently the anime had to drop a significant Lanfan scene because her voice actor wasn't available, which is really too bad, because her asking Ling to not punish rival clans is a really significant character development.

Ed's listening to the radio as he fixes the roof, which says that Brigadier General Mustang plans to establish a railroad between Ishval & Xing, and has reached an agreement with Emperor Lin Yao.

When Mrs. Bradley sends Selim to get bandages for the bird, in the manga she tells him to ask the butler, in the anime to ask Grampy.

Jerso and Zampano are working out their own alchemical theory, complete with stick figure drawings, in the restaurant before Al comes in!

Pictures changes:

Havoc is doing PT on bars with Ross and Breda supervising.

No mustache for Mustang.

No Paninya or Garfiel in the Elrics next-gen picture.

There's also a side story, "Another Journey's End," about reworking Al's armor for automail, and Den stealing the helmet to be a bird's nest; a really terrible transphobic strip in the extras making fun of Garfiel; and a three-page story about Trisha and Hohenheim meeting in the afterlife and being satisfied with how they're leaving things.

No in memoriam panel, just a hand holding a sign saying "Spoiler prevention is in effect for the final volume." So over the entire series run, Shou Tucker is still the only one shown going down instead of up.

Final thoughts (incomplete)

[This is the bit I never finished, which I've tidied up slightly to give an idea of where I was going, at least.]

Mustang, Havoc injuries: anime treats these better than the manga , but still think would have been appropriate to leave as was

can't really wish anyone else dead

(final toll for Promised Day of named good characters

Foo
Buccaneer
Greed
Hohenheim

others who might plausibly have died
Hawkeye
Falman
Alex Armstrong
chimeras )

body transformation and acceptance, need to do a list [here would be one of the places I got stuck . . . ]

generally sticks dismount, occasionally confusing but with such a huge scope to still have such overall tight themes, worldbuilding, character development, so many threads woven in

optimistic but not sugar-coated. did terrible things? okay, what are you going to do now? can't undo, maybe even can't be forgiven, but can try to make up for it.

teamwork. agency.

representation:

apparently Alex Armstrong is a perfectly stereotypical Japanese gay man? balances Garfiel? not sure.

unmarked POC (prior comment: "Amestris has people with obviously non-faux-European ancestry living there unremarked (Paninya and Hughes' co-worker, forgot about them); it seems that nationality or religion are the key dividing lines rather than ancestry.")

Ishval: manga does better re: genocide
still get twinges of super-badass-special re: Ishvalan warriors
think Scar's journey so great, though

military: already said don't agree about that 2003 anime has greater culpability [not sure where else I was going with this]

minor theme: adoption: Mustang, Selim

[also I was going to talk about the OVAs but didn't make any notes]

Dear self, no matter how many fond nostalgic feelings you have for this show and this manga now, you are not allowed to rewatch it or reread it, because you have way too many other things to be doing. Post timely next time and you won't give yourself belated warm fuzzies.

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