Ani-Gamers staff writer Ink contributes a weekly column in which he examines the differences between the original Fullmetal Alchemist and its re-telling, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. To read previous entries, click here.
Our apologies for the late article this week. FUNimation's video portal went down temporarily, leaving Ink without an episode to review. The next article is already written, and will be published on Sunday.
My fears proved simultaneously correct and exaggerated concerning the Al vs. Number 66 battle. Much of the initial dialog is in the same vein as FMA1, though I still prefer FMA1’s dub (probably because witty banter doesn’t translate well “Just relax and scream!”).
Meanwhile, inside Lab 5, I approve of the sand-colored room in which the Ed vs. Number 48 battle takes place. It looks altar-ish, with a touch of old-testament gore for good measure, compared to the castle dungeon quality of the room in FMA1. Another favorable difference is in Ed’s uncovering of Number 48’s hollow nature. Whereas in FMA1, Ed flips over and open his helmet (why, Lord knows), FMA2 shows Ed’s quick analytical thought processes. He feels his foot resound off of Number 48’s metal shell and notices the distance he is pushed aback thereafter. Similar, however, is the dialogue’s progression, with an elaboration and overly selfless expository back story on the hollow guard. FMA1 made Ed fight for that privileged info, or at the very least have to put up with a lot more stonewalling before getting any clear answers. Also, unlike the guards of FMA1, FMA2’s tin soldiers are self-aware of their alchemic bonds and how they serve as weak points - kind of disappointing as that’s what made the FMA1 guards so strikingly tragic.
Back to Lab 5's exterior, where frame-by-frame the animation (and dialogue) is spot-on to FMA1 until the fabulous exception that is Barry the Chopper’s back-story. Animated in storybook fashion, Barry’s exposition replaces an FMA1 episode with an amusing 2 or 3 minute reflection on why and what it was that Barry used to chop. After this brief interlude, the dialogue resumes as per FMA1, with Barry hacking away at Al’s insecurity over his fading memories.
Returning to the Lab 5 interior would be nothing of interest (in a compare/contrast sense) if it weren’t for the absolutely wicked introduction of Lust and Envy, who end the Ed vs. Number 48 fight. Vicious. Absolutely, gorgeously vicious!
Just as jolting is what happens outside of Lab 5, where Ed wins against Number 66 not upon Scar’s entrance...but upon that of Ross and Bloch, and thanks to a nicely aimed gunshot. Also, the initial explosion in FMA2 (there was only one in FMA1) happens from within, not resulting from Barry’s escape trick but from some unknown cause. And who crawls out of the crippled building that is Lab 5, but Envy with Ed over her shoulder (returning him to his brother)? Another explosion turns Lab 5 into dust, which sends Al and company running in near-theatrical style!
With the episode near over (only a bit of Kimbly and Hughes/Mustang interaction remains), this is where supposition gets interesting. There is no more Lab 5, so are we to assume that there is no Ed being forced to assemble a Philosopher’s stone for the Homunculi? There’s certainly no chance for Scar to gain any sympathy for Ed Elric’s situation. Also, since the guardians are dead, slain by Lust, who is going to take Ed to meet the chimeras and Nina clones made by Tucker? Oh wait, FMA2 killed him off in front of our eyes! That aside, is the time in-between Lab 5 explosions in FMA2 meant to infer that the events of FMA1 happened (minus the run-in with Tucker and Al’s capture), and that THAT was the cause of the second explosion? Ooooh, this is getting fun!