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FMA: The Brotherhood Diaries – Episode 18

A gathering to uncover who killed General Hughes

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.

Due to Evan’s absence from the Internet for two weeks, this column is a little behind. If all goes well, we will be completely caught up as of tomorrow (Sunday).

Watch Episode 18 – The Arrogant Palm of a Small Human

Ed’s forced return to Resembool, escorted by Armstrong under orders from Mustang (and with May Chang and Death Panda nicely slid into the background), kicks off this episode. The tone smacks of a cross between FMA1 scenarios: the first Armstrong/Grandma Rockbell encounter and one just after the brothers go into hiding from the military and meet their father. That feeling, though, is about where the similarities end. Armstrong and Ed meet up with Lt. Breda, who takes them, with the help of Lan Fan, Xing-bound into the desert toward Xerxes.

To all who placed the world of Fullmetal Alchemist in Russia at the “Welcome to Amestris” panel at AnimeNEXT, I pull down my lower eyelid and stick my tongue out at you. Xerxes is a city of ruins, notably Greco-Roman in style (white triangular ceilings held aloft via dimpled pillars), that receives great attention this episode (having only been named and not elaborated upon in others) as the midpoint between Xing and Amestris. Both lands are bound by a similar tale of a visiting sage (from the east for Amestris and from the West for Xing), who spread alchemy amongst each region after his land was wiped out in a single day. Now I and every other FMA1 watcher knows what THAT means, but we’ll save the comparison of Ed’s reaction when the time comes. For now, like FMA1’s Ed, FMA2’s Ed is just buying the fairy tale and coming to realize its simple reality.

It is in Xerxes that the troupe come upon a familiar voice. So, to Joss Whedon, I apologize and give thanks for the way in which you’ve made Lt. Ross a possible martyr and future resurrected savior. Reunion hugs all around! Thus FMA2 continues to flush out its minor characters in a way FMA1 never did…even vicariously, shown by how Ed is affected by Ross’ involvement in the threat surrounding his quest. Breda is also flushed out. He is a closer confidant to Mustang than in FMA1 and is starting to appear as round a character in traits as he is animated.

But FMA2 has always been about action, what’s all this about character traits?! To accommodate, this episode throws in a Beast (X-men)-like Barry the Butcher vs. Barry (the metal shell) Butcher and ups the ante with a suspenseful game of extended metaphor phone tag between Hawkeye and Mustang.

Speaking of action, Ed getting kidnapped by Ishbalans?! Of course it doesn’t happen. The rogue faction of brown-skinned, red-irised people are thwarted in their attempt to start a righteous war with Amestris by their more peaceful counterparts, but at least we finally get to know some Ishbalans and are clued in on the “one child” reason behind the start of the war. While that echoes FMA1’s Ishbal rebellion story, a FMA2 diversion – that Winry’s parents aren’t gunned down by the military, but by an Ishbalan patient they were helping (one with tattooed symbols on his right arm) – definitely does not. There are good sides and bad sides to this, of course. It means Winry’s acceptance of Mustang as a good person is far less complex, it serves to make the Ishbalans seem all the more violent, and it increases Ed’s anger towards Scar, making their acceptance all the more complex. Still, a lovely way to end the episode. Wish I could say the same for Hawkeye, who’s staring down the esophagus of a gluttonous homunculus.

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