I have never understood the point of comparing Full metal Alchemist and brotherhood, mostly because for me it has always been rather obvious that Brotherhood is miles ahead of Alchemist. Then again that shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering that a part of me was somewhat disappointed by Alchemist.
There are so many amazing moments in Brotherhood, both story and action wise that it is seems hard to pick out any one specific epic incident. Yet there is no doubt that this one is indeed worth mentioning above all the rest.
So we are introduced to Mayes Hughes early in the series. Mayes is Mustang’s best friend and biggest supporter in his quest to reach the top of government. However the arrival of the Elric brothers portends several mysterious events in the capital, mostly involving secret labs and experiments and a large conspiracy that threatens the very existence of the nation. Mayes is quick to sniff out the details and zeroes in on the culprits; but unknown to him, in his search for justice, he has attracted the attention of a new enemy, a party that has joined forces with the corrupt of the government and will stop at nothing to eliminate anything and anyone that may pose a threat to the glorious plans of its head.
Mayes falls to the hands of the homunculus Envy just he prepares to pass on his newly discovered secrets to Mustang.
As expected all are distraught; Hughes was much loved. While the Elric brothers distract themselves with business of the philosopher’s stone and their lost bodies, Mustang begins work on finding out exactly what his best friend was involved in and why he had to die for it. But mostly he wants to find who it was that killed Hughes and murder them. And he gets this chance near the end of the series, first taking out Lust in earlier episodes before realizing, while saving Ed from an army of homunculi, that it was envy, the large dragon like creature that was responsible for Hughes’ death.
When you consider Hughes's death from the point of view of Brotherhood, it may seem a little premature, to see the character killed off so soon after introduction. But if you watched the original Alchemist and fill in those gaps of time with that previous knowledge (considering that some material was skipped over so as not to repeat every event from the first series) then it doesn’t seem that rushed. Either way, probably because of the prematurity of it, Hughes’ death was indeed tragic. I can think of two primary reasons why it was so impactful
First, Hughes was an easily lovable and likable character. He was simply bright and cheerful and he seemed to bring a spark of life to all those that knew him. This is best seen with his relationship with Roy. Hughes was probably Roy’s most loyal supporter in his quest to rule the country and would have done anything to see his friend’s dreams come true. It is easy to recognize Roy’s attitude towards Hughes as disdain, with the way he would drop in to the office unannounced, calling a busy Roy several times a day to recount nonsensical bits of information, and being an all round irritation to Mustang and his work.
But Hughes was more of a counter to Roy’s gloomy countenance. It is his actions and quirks that would swing Roy out of his down cast attitude and energize him to do what needed to be done. He was the friend that Roy wanted to be by his side when he finally rose to the top of nation. So it is easy to see the hole that Hughes left in Mustang’s heart and the hearts of Riza, Ross and all the others that knew him. Something was taken from the show with Hughes’ premature departure, something that could be felt through out the rest of the series.
Second, his family. You could say that Hughes and his family were one person. Barely a minute went by without Hughes making mention of his wife and child. Even in the most serious life and death conversation, Hughes couldn’t help but bring up the joys that were in his life. AS such when he died it felt like a part of his wife and daughter had died with him. You could feel for them, especially during the burial scene[ Elysia: Mommy? Why are they putting all that dirt on Daddy? Gracia: They're burying him, dear. Elysia: But if Daddy gets buried, then he won't be able to do all his work.Gracia: [crying] Elysia!Elysia: Daddy said he has a bunch of work he needs to do! No, stop it! Stop putting dirt on him! Daddy!]; Hughes wasn’t merely the best friend that Roy would never see again but the father and husband that they would never be with, and the friend that Ed and Al would never meet again.
Anime being what it is these days there is no shortage of death and any otaku could probably mention a few dozen deaths off cuff and the impact they had to the story of their respective series. But whenever any conversation regarding death in anime comes up among otaku, there is no doubt that Mayes Hughes death is one of the first five deaths to be mentioned; it is simply one of those that so easily floats to the top of your head. It was that impactful; and even thought wrath is still one of my favorite anime characters, he did lose some points with those remarks he made regarding Hughes’ death [Why must everyone make such a fuss over the death of a single soldier...? The moment a soldier dons his uniform, he accepts the reality that he might be buried in it. And about my hands... Hughes' child screeched throughout the entirety of his funeral. My hands were trembling with anger.]
But besides the death, there is its impact, specifically the revenge fueled path that it propelled Roy Mustang down. Sure Mustang had every intention of helping the Elric brothers find their answers and sure he wanted to stop father and save the nation, but there was never any doubt that Mustang held one goal above all those, one wish that he swore to fulfill the day he buried Hughes even if it cost him his life, to locate and destroy the person that killed his friend. And for a moment i feared that my favorite character had lost himself in his hate when he seemingly killed Maria Ross; but it turned out he was smarter than that. But there is no doubt that when he allowed his servants to kill Hughes, Father put all his plans for the nation in jeopardy; because inciting the fury of an individual to seek revenge is one thing, when that individual is as powerful as mustang, then you have a whole other problem.
We saw a glimpse of Roy’s fury when he went up against lust. But when he finally came up against Envy…let’s just say that that one episode took the series to a whole new level for me. The Roy Mustang that went up against Envy was cool, calm and collected. What he did was let his flames speak for him.
We have seen all those heroes out for revenge and eventually they seem to get it but i, as a fan am rarely ever satisfied. Because usually the main villain is also the subject of revenge so the hero has to defeat him and eventually kill him. What Roy did to Envy was more of a punishment that anything. He unleashed an eternity’s worth of wrath on Envy’s previously impressing self. What made that moment work was the satisfaction. Because i was so enraged and impacted by Hughes’ death, i, like Roy, wanted to see the culprit suffer to the full extent that all those affected by Hughes’ death had suffered.
And Roy did just that. He fried Envy over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. To the point that it became pitiful. Here were two individuals that had once faced each other as combatants, ready to tear each other apart. Now Envy was the helpless rabbit, fighting to survive the savage wolf that was Roy. And that was another poignant element of this moment. BY the end of it all, Envy wasn’t trying to kill Roy. He was fighting with everything he had to ran away, to save his life and more importantly, escape the endless pain that Roy was dishing out against him.
It was a piteous moment for the mighty dragon turned little lizard. You felt Roy’s pain, and anguish that he was satisfying in destroying Envy again and again. You also saw his power and ability, that he was truly an alchemist to be feared; because no matter what Envy did, no matter which strategy he executed, or ambush, or attack; nothing worked, he simply couldn’t overcome Roy’s presence [That’s enough. You were stupid enough to confess, and even more stupid to boast! Everything you said is fuel on your funeral pyre. So then, I think I’ll begin by burning out your tongue!].
At the end of it all, Riza wouldn’t let him kill envy, but it didn’t matter. because he had more or less already got his revenge. These events go hand in hand, each epic for its own reason but both impacting on one another. Hughes was that important a person in FMA:Brotherhood and he deserved this kind of retribution, or maybe i just wanted to see Envy reap some of what he had sowed.
I will admit, the one fight i wanted to see was Roy Vs Wrath, but this was just as satisfying.