One of the interesting things about the manga and anime industries in Japan is how often they work hand in hand. For example, a shonen–or boys’–manga that runs in a monthly magazine may be picked up by an animation studio for adaptation early in the manga’s run, with the author churning out manga story with an eye at adapting it for TV and the studio trying their hardest to adapt the author’s work as faithfully as possible.
The original FullMetal Alchemist series, which ran for 51 episodes, started out this way. An adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s popular manga about two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, and their attempt to get their bodies restored to normal after trying to use alchemy–in this world, a legitimate science with many uses–to bring their dead mother back to life, the series, animated by Bones and partially funded by Final Fantasy developers Square Enix (who owned the magazine that also published the manga), stayed pretty true to its source for about the first half of its run. But seeing as how Arakawa hadn’t fully thought through the ending of the manga yet (it concluded in 2010), the studio was forced to come up with their own ending.
This divergence aside, the anime was a HUGE hit, both in Japan and over here on Adult Swim. Not content to rest on that success, however, Bones decided to adapt the manga again, only this time being 100% faithful and tell the tale faithfully. The result, FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was ALSO a huge hit, and, like its predecessor, was dubbed into English and released over here by Funimation, only being calledBrotherhood here to distinguish it from the first show.
A friend lent me the first 4 volumes and if the other three are as good as this one, then I’m pumped. Volume 1, containing the first 13 episodes, is spectacular, introducing the characters nicely, perfectly pacing the story and worldbuilding and always offering genuine excitement.
Part of the problem I had with the first show–which I stopped watching after not even 10 episodes–was that the pacing felt off, always being slow than the story should have merited. By contrast, Brotherhood–which also looks better than the other show, I might add–is crisp and concise, pausing when it needs to but generally keeping things moving. For example, the series’ first villain, a devious priest named Father Cornello, is dealt with in one episode, while he was given 2 in the original. While I can see how they did this in part to skip past the stuff that fans already knew, that trimming of things helps make the show exciting.
Traditionally, anime is given a lot of crap for its English dubbing; everything from the scripts not being accurately translated to the dub cast sounding stilted and awkward is picked apart by us nerds. Brotherhood rebuffs that whole idea. The English cast–former church worship Vic Mignogna as Edward, Maxi Whitehead as Alphonse, and many others–are all very talented, obviously taking their work seriously and making the show feel truly sweeping and epic.
This show fits in the yearly slot of my summer anime–every summer, I try to watch one full anime series–and I couldn’t be more excited. A lot of people complain about how we live in a remake culture where the urge to re-do everything is so strong, but, for my time, this is one do-over that improves. Recommended.