I had heard about "Fullmetal Alchemist" years ago when it was first broadcasting on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup, but had stayed away from it due to it's obvious popularity with the type of anime and manga fans that I don't really connect with. By that statement I mean people who wear cat ears or goggles everyday of the week.
While at the library a few months ago, I was looking through the graphic novel section and found that they had every volume of the FMA manga available. On a whim, I checked out the first volume and became instantly hooked.
However, I'm not going to review the manga until I've finished reading it. I'm about halfway through the series and I want to review the graphic work as a whole and not in parts. The anime series, however, I'm willing to take on bit by bit.
"Brotherhood" is the second run of a FMA series. The original series was good in it's own right, but took so many liberties with the source material that by the fifth volume of the manga and the twenty-fifth episode of the show, you're really watching and reading two entirely different stories. "Brotherhood" attempts to follow the manga more closely, though still having to take some liberties since it's a different medium, and so far has not disappointed in terms of better quality and storytelling.
For the basic premise of "Fullmetal Alchemist," I'd like to post from the wikipedia page description of the story and franchise:
"Edward and Alphonse Elric are two alchemist brothers searching for the legendary catalyst called the Philosopher's Stone, a powerful object which would allow them to recover their bodies (which were lost in an attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy). Born in the village of Risembool from the country of Amestris (アメストリス Amesutorisu?), the two brothers lived there with their mother. Their father, Van Hohenheim, left home for unknown reasons and years later, their mother Trisha Elric died of a terminal illness, leaving the Elric brothers alone. After their mother's death, Edward became determined to bring her back through the use of alchemy, an advanced science in which objects can be created from raw materials. They researched Human Transmutation, a forbidden art in which one attempts to create or modify a human being. However, this attempt failed, ultimately resulting in the loss of Edward's left leg, and Alphonse's entire body. In a desperate effort to save his brother, Edward sacrificed his right arm to affix Alphonse's soul to a suit of armor. Some days later, an alchemist named Roy Mustang visited the Elric brothers, and told Edward to become a member of the State Military of the country to find a way to recover their bodies. After that, Edward's left leg and right arm were replaced with automail, a type of advanced prosthetic limb, created for him by his close family friends Winry Rockbell and her grandmother Pinako."
That's the basic start of the story, before the brothers embark on their journey for the philosopher's stone in order to gain back their bodies. The text has a very "Frankenstein" feel to it, as the constant theme of pushing the limits of science on living beings is brought up through horrible experiments and bloody battles over technique and information.
So far this story has really inspired me as a lover and writer of comics, and the Blu Ray set of "Brotherhood" Vol. One doesn't disappoint either. The color is crisp as ever, the soundtrack resonates well in HD sound, and the set itself isn't expensive.
If I had to recommend a series to watch, I'd have to go with "Brotherhood" over the original FMA anime version. Though it does have more of the cutesy Japanese style humor, as did the manga, this sort of thing doesn't really bother someone who has gotten used to it. So be warned, if that sort of thing annoys you after a very bloody and freakish battle, then I'd probably just read the manga. Which I'll review as soon as I'm done with it.
It's worth watching for anyone who is into stories of the taboos of science, or a fan of adventure stories in alternate timelines with a steam punk flair.
For this review and others check out Sequential Review by Ken Porter: