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.
We apologize for the late article. Both Ink and Vampt Vo were at Otakon over the weekend, so convention coverage took precedence over this column. Next week's entry will be on time again.
Harkening back to episode 1 of FMA2, the opening scene is one of action between a new (to FMA1 viewers) State Alchemist Giolio Comanche, the Silver Alchemist and Scar. I won’t linger on the fight, which is pretty much used as a plot device to give Scar a scratch of a wound, but will ask one question: is it me, or are Giolio’s moves/aesthetics close to Cowboy Bebop’s Pierrot Le Fou? ...only goofier. In any case, it’s hard to care when not a lot has been invested in either character so far. But this was promised to be the Ishbal episode, so we will wait and be patient.
After a new opening (whose song pales in comparison the previous one, which was way more awesome than any FMA1 opening), we are brought into an Ishbalan camp via Scar returning victorious, albeit injured, from battle. It is here we discover Yoki has gotten relatively buddy-buddy with the outcast/eccentric Ishbalan (at least enough so as to go around introducing himself to strangers as Scar’s master, while taking his orders) and we meet May Chang, a curious little girl from across the eastern desert (land of Xing) who can perform alkahestry. What makes her extremely curious is that her first alkahestric act is to heal Scar’s wound with a special transmutation circle. This character (as well as her creepy, eye-less panda, Shao May, which I'm deeming "Death-Panda") marks the deviation from FMA1, as neither she nor her region's mythos are included in FMA1.
We cut to an alley, with Hawkeye walking her dog, and are treated (yay!) to another bout with Barry the Butcher! A minute or two of laughter later, we’re in a warehouse watching Barry be interrogated by Mustang with Hawkeye at his side. Interesting here is that Mustang, via Barry, is learning what happened at Laboratory 5, as opposed to FMA1, where the good colonel is told by Hughes. This difference does add a little bit of lacking suppressed emotional punch to Mustang's character though, especially when he ends Barry's interrogation by asking (or rather half-accusing) the mass murderer of being involved in Hughes' death, only to face another disappointing dead end.
Next Ed & Al venture back to Rush Valley (remember, we left Winry here as an automail apprentice), for a repair job. It is here we encounter Ling Yao, another traveler from Xing, who bums a meal off of Ed; informs him and Al of Xing’s alkahestry-special, medicine; and tests him with a little surprise attack by his masked servants Lan Fan and Fu. The only relevant thing to mention here is of Al’s newfound ability to use alchemy without transmutation circles and Ed’s newfound jealousy of his brother; the equation looks a little like this: shorter older brother with alchemic talent < taller younger brother with same alchemic talent.
Both Xinglings (Xinganese? Xinganians?), end up as tag-alongs to Central: Prince Yao with Ed, Al, and Winry, and May Chang with Yoki and Scar. On a heartstring-tug difference, FMA2 is setting up Ed, Al, and Winry to find out about Hughes’ death together, whereas FMA1 had the brothers know before Winry. More bond development for the three of them, but less character development for Winry in the way of resentment towards the Elric's secret keeping.
I know, I know, we’re at the end of the episode and naught but a little rant about how special the Ishbalans’ names are to them and Scar disclosing how he doesn't think he has the right to have one. Remember. Patience. I’m sure this series will explain Ishbal one of these weeks.