Fullmetal Alchemist by Ritalin

Japanese Title: Hagane no Renkinjutsushi
Also Known As: FMA
Genre: Action/Drama
Format: 51 Episodes
Allegiance: Studio Bones/Square-ENIX
Director: Mizushima Seiji
Vintage: 2003
Intelligence Agency Report by: Ritalin
The Law of Equivalent Trade dominates the actions of Edward Elric, age 15, and Alphonse Elric, age 14. In order to gain something, one must present something of equal value, so says the Law. Ignoring these laws after their mother passed away from an illness, Ed and Alphonse researched their runaway father’s studies on the forbidden techniques of human transmutation to try and bring their mother back to life. The result: Al lost his body and Ed lost an arm and a leg. During their recovery, Colonel Roy Mustang, the Flame Alchemist, contacted them to tell the brothers to take a test that allows them to become Nationally Certified Alchemists. Ed does so, and learns of a Philosopher’s Stone that breaks the laws of alchemy. By obtaining this stone they can return to their normal bodies and a normal life. However, getting their hands on this legendary stone is no simple task.

Field Agent Report by: Ritalin
Overall 9.00

What a joy ride this anime was. It starts off strong and ends strong, with literally no filler in the 51 episode run time.Fullmetal Alchemist is a plot-driven anime, and the plot it holds is magnificent. It has you constantly trying to predict what will happen with the whys and how’s, but always manages to throw in a twist so fast you lose your balance and end up in a daze by the end of an episode. It starts out slow, and ends rather rushed, but the sheer quality of the story-telling easily makes up for that.

Studio BONES has produced such respected and memorable anime such as RahXephonWolf’s Rain, and done animation for Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door, and Fullmetal Alchemist holds true to BONES’ standards, and goes much further. The animation is top-notch for the setting, and complements the series well. It isn’t fancy CG like most anime are doing nowadays, but its absolute eye-candy with its colorful (yet not messy) appearance. The quality is consistent from episode 1 to 51, never once losing its edge. The OST is wonderfully composed, and catchy to boot. With openings featuring the renowned L’Arc~en~CielAsian Kung-Fu Generation, and endings by YeLLoW Generation, J-music and anime fans alike will drool over the soundtrack on a constant basis. The music during the episodes are fully orchestrated, bringing pleasant sounds to the ears and worth listening to over again. However, I was not particularly fond of the third ending, entitled “Motherland” by Crystal Kay – R & B just didn’t sit well with the series and I feel something else definitely could have been better.

The heart of Fullmetal Alchemist lies within its well-rounded and intensely rich characters. Each one has a past worth digging around in and learning about; not one character is left out in importance or is uber-glorified. It isn’t always about alchemy, in some cases we see families grow and others celebrate birthdays, all of which only add to the connections of each character to the viewer. Ironically, thanks to the slower beginning we learn enough of each character to allow later development and actual growth, not just characteristics. What I found most appealing was this series didn’t overplay a character, and sometimes pushed the border on not showing some characters enough. In the end, I found that to be a good thing. Said characters are then memorable and don’t lose their quality. That said, I should note it would be wise to not trust every character… this anime is extremely plot-driven with twists and turns, so the characters naturally pick up on those twists as well. Don’t be fooled into a false sense of security with some of the characters!

The only redundant aspect of this anime was how it reinforced the point on equivalent trade at the beginning of each episode. After about 5 episodes we got the idea, so there really was no more need for it until the last 10 or so episodes when it changed. The final episodes seemed rushed, but fit well enough. The final episode ends in a manner where it doesn’t need the upcoming movie to complete it, but leaves room for the movie anyway.

Overall, Fullmetal Alchemist lives up to the seemingly unnatural amount of hype surrounding it. It is truly BONES’ best anime up to date, and will stick with otaku as a masterpiece. The story-telling is awe-inspiring and unquestionably worth the time to complete. If you haven’t checked this anime out yet, you better do so now. You’re really missing out on a grand tale.