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FMA: The Brotherhood Diaries – Episode 50

Mustang begins his ambitious coup d'etat.

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.

Watch Episode 50 – Upheaval in Central

Since the primary focus of this episode is that of Mustang’s coup, I can say little about it, seeing as its setup and execution have already been noted in previous diaries. There is, however, an interesting difference in the focus on and depiction of Central’s forces between series.

Pertaining to the rebellious faction, FMA1 sticks to giving witty or dramatic one-liners about battle to a few main and ancillary characters — all of whom have a decently developed and reasoned attachment to Ed and Al. They are, after all, kids who’ve grown up in the military’s midst. This follows the series’ emotional focus by providing the affection, comic relief, and even familial tension craved by the story of loss concerning the brothers Elric. Without shame to bowing to clichés, the protagonists usually note the sacrifice of war, whereas the antagonists usually speak about revenge. Both, however, are critical themes to this series and are served well by how the lower rungs of soldiers really don’t get to speak. Since the focus is on the brothers’ struggle, anything not associated therewith is gratuitous and therefore minimized if not cut completely from the story.

FMA2, which has the decisively military-focused aesthetic, gives voice even to Central’s foot soldiers as they struggle against their seemingly impossible task of taking down the “Hero of Ishval” (Mustang) and his small group of traitors. This lends credence to the reactions and realizations not only of the lowly grunts in the field but also of their commanding officers as they receive the reports in their offices as well. Strikingly, the differentiation between realizations of field and office personnel also serves to support the sociopolitical themes of this series. Whereas a field soldier’s reaction — after realizing that no one has died, even against those endowed with skill of a level they could only dream of achieving — suggests that he knows Mustang and company are sparing their lives, the higher-ups translate these actions as tactical, militaristic taunts. This says much in a series that has often portrayed those in power as corrupt and the ordinary man as victim or cog of the military machine.

Another big distinction between series is their depiction of military prowess. From the start, both FMAs show a vast military with a few standout members that, together, comprise an unstoppable attack force. One of the main differences is that FMA1 gives Amestris the tone of an emotionally stable, satiated nation, whereas FMA2 notes that the country is under constant attack and suffering great internal unrest. FMA1 shows this at the end, when Bradley finally has to send troops out to subdue a recent (fictitious) uprising, but FMA2 creates a constant border threat from the beginning with those who share Briggs’ border. The latter also lends to the comparison of Central’s soft forces and Briggs’ combat-hardened elite by Olivier Armstrong, which also helps explain why a handful of rebels can cause as much damage and avoid capture as much as they have so far. A separate tirade of hers furthers the divide between field troops and officers.

Another sharp difference reveals itself in how supporting protagonists serve the Elrics and the overall story. In FMA1, supporting characters are little else (save Mustang on one occasion, when he takes down the Fuhrer separately). Anyone who is not an Elric is in place to support the brothers on their quest in one way or another, even if it’s by being involved in a thinly veiled plot device concerning an insurrection that diverts military attention away from the alchemy-centric struggle. FMA2 uses supporting characters and their specialties to serve whatever portion of the plot in which they’re involved, which is of primary focus in this episode. Happily, this includes the return of Havoc as an arms dealer and Maria Ross and Rebecca as arms delivery women. So well-rounded are all the characters who are not Elric by name that this episode almost feels disappointing when we rejoin Fullmetal and troupe on their way to find Father. Oddly enough, this last note carries a resemblance to FMA1 at least in plot, as Ed is heading off without Al to fight the antagonists. Different, of course, is the fact that he has others with him and Al is not the end goal.

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