Must-See TV: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Collection Vol 1

We’ve been talking about it for a while now on the site and the day has finally arrived. Yep. Today we kick off the ‘Must See TV’ section focusing on the coolest pop culture type stuff that myself, Josh and Nachos love to watch. My forte will be popcorn action extravaganzas and Anime with everything reviewed on blu-ray as DVD is as obsolete as Betamax as far as I’m concerned. It gives me great pleasure to make my first review one of my top five TV shows of all time, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. I’ll be breaking down the first four volumes over the next week.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is the second bite of the apple for this highly popular series. Based on a manga of the same name, the original series was launched in 2003 and quickly became a high priority on my weekly watch list. This second iteration is much closer to the content of the manga (as the 2003 series cut its own path) and operates on an entirely larger scale. It goes without saying that to capture the true essence of the show it MUST be watched in Japanese with English subtitles.

It tells the tragic tale of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, both gifted alchemists (with abilities to transform matter) abandoned by their father and mourning the loss of their mother. Alchemy’s principles of equivalent exchange have one solitary taboo; human transmutation. Ignoring the inherent dangers the brothers seek to bring their mother back from the dead using their talents, and pay a hefty toll.

Edward loses one of his legs in the process with Alphonse taking the brunt of the load and sacrificing his entire body. Distraught, Edward fuses Alphonse’s soul to a suit of armour as he can’t bear to lose his little brother, at the cost of his right arm as well. The cruel irony is their efforts were for naught as the dying creature they resurrected was not their mother. Their origin is told and shown brutally with superb voice acting that never fails to get me choked up even on multiple viewings. Make no mistake, these are adult concepts masterfully weaved together in an easily digestible package… but I digress.

Emotionally and physically crippled, Edward has retreated into himself until a chance encounter with a military official offering him a position as State Alchemist spurs him into action. With the assistance of childhood friend and automail mechanic Winry, he replaces his lost limbs with metallic ones, grabs his brother in tow and heads off to Central Headquarters to become a State Alchemist (also known as a dog of the military) and locate a mysterious and powerful object known as the Philosopher’s Stone. It is said that this mythical object can be used to amplify alchemic properties, and Edward and Alphonse are searching for one in the hope of restoring both their bodies, but there are more than a few bumps along the way.

As part of a military regime in their home of Amestris, many State Alchemists are used as a final solution during times of war with devastating effects on their enemies and themselves. A horrific civil war nearly tore the province of Ishval apart, with its inhabitants almost entirely wiped out when alchemists were brought in. A survivor, simply named Scar, believes alchemy is an affront to God and seeks to deliver righteous retribution to any State Alchemist for the atrocities of the past. A formidable adversary, his initial confrontation with the Elric brothers nearly has them shuffling the mortal coil if it wasn’t for the intervention of the magnificent Major Armstrong and his artistic alchemy (passed down through the Armstrong house for generations).

In desperate need of a patch up, the brothers travel back home to Winry and meet up with various alchemists along the way battling their own demons. It needs to be said that the brothers are portrayed as pubescent teenagers dealing with an unwavering resolve and a sense of strength and honour that is inspirational to those around them and viewers as a whole. They refuse to be taken off their path and work harder and harder to achieve their goal. It’s one of the reasons this series has such a following and resonates with viewers so deeply.

The first volume concludes with shocks all around as the brothers uncover the ingredients necessary to manufacture Philosopher’s Stones to their horror, a jaw dropping turn of events for a main character that still brings a manly tear to the eye and the introduction of a mysterious group of individuals sporting uroboros tattoos known as homunculus who seem to be at the heart of any blood soaked turmoil around Amestris.

The series is what I consider the most quintessential Japanese Anime ever released. It deals with deep philosophical concepts, honour and accountability, doesn’t shy away from violence, is packed full of action and a surprising amount of heart. To balance out the heavy handedness, there is a generous dose of humour provided by a massive supporting cast and reinforced by cutesy animations. Far beyond a great Anime series, this is a fantastic series in general and I would strongly urge anyone who has even a slight taste for Anime to take this for a spin. You won’t be disappointed.

Stay tuned for my review of the second volume over the next few days.

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Dave Kozicki

Shotgun Samurai
Video game reviewer, presenter and enthusiast. Film and TV-aholic. Pop culture geek. T-shirt and sneaker addict. All around nice guy and one hell of a sexy beast. Writer for Official PlayStation Magazine AU, AusGamers and Hyper Magazine.
  • Shush

    It’s pretty sick, just wrapped up the third volume. It doesn’t lose much in translation when you watch it in English. 

  • Anonymous

    It’s not the translation, rather the voice actors. The English cast don’t have the same intensity and intonation, plus they don’t seem to convey the same depth of emotion.