Monday, 2 November 2009

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood - Episode 30

After last week's instalment eased off the action a little to build things up for the road ahead, episode thirty of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood continues this trend in a sense, shifting our viewpoint mostly to the past rather than the present or future via a number of flashbacks.

However, before you let out an audible groan at my use of the word "flashback", I have to be quick to say that the ground covered here is all relatively important to the bigger picture, and also astutely delivered (as has been the case with this series almost from the very start). First up, we get a glimpse of a very young Roy Mustang as he begins his career as a State Alchemist, despite the disapproval of his tutor, one Professor Hawkeye. So we learn of the beginning of the bonds which tie Mustang and Riza Hawkeye, while there's more than a subtle suggestion that there is more to Hawkeye and her father than first meets the eye.

From here, the lion's share of this episode deals with a more detailed treatment of the "Ishbal Annihilation" (a better term for it than a war, truth be told), showing the likes of Hughes, Mustang and Hawkeye as they begin to realise the enormity of what they're doing to the Ishbalan people, while we're also spared nothing in this show's depiction of the atrocities which took place there. Quite simply, it's a fantastically dark and brooding piece of work than manages to convey the needless bloodshed and violence without ever glorifying it, while simultaneously portraying the mental toll upon some State Alchemists with a simple change in facial expression and the like. It's expertly done stuff, and this is how all flashbacks in anime should be.

While much of this story comes from the mouth of Riza Hawkeye in conversation with Edward Elric, so Scar is also regaled with Dr. Marcoh's version of events, which yields more information about the use of Ishbalans to create the first Philosopher's Stone; a confession which leaves Envy with an unpleasant discovery come the end of the episode.

As so often seems to be the case with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood these days, it's hard to put into words quite how good this episode is - You simply have to watch it to gain the full effect. Even in an instalment such as this which could arguably be skipped without missing out on too much in the way of vital plot progression, it remains utterly compelling as an example of stroy telling via animation at its best - Brutal when it needs to be, but never needlessly so, and with a near effortless emotional depth thanks to decent dialogue served up by well-rounded characters. As ever, this series is going from strength to strength at present.


Shade said...

Seriously, this was a good episode.... but it could have been sooo much more. I think they should have devoted two episodes to this material at least. They left so much out it isn't even funny. I'd happily watch a full length movie on the ishbalan anialation campaine. Well... maybe not 'happily' I guess, but they could make a great movie of the material.

I would advise anyone to read the manga's volume 15 for more comprehensive coverage, because I actually felt traumatized reading it. And ep 30 skipped so much it seemed a bit flat to me.

some of the missed scenes:

- The Rockbells being warned to leave the Kanda region by their supplier
- Aerugo weapons being discovered
- Ishbalan officers from the Amistris military being locked up
- Armstrong trying to help Isbalan civilians
- Kimbley killing civillians Armstrong was helping escape
-Armstrong collapsing/being sent home
- Marcoh and Knox talking
- Basque Grand killing that .... commander
- Kimbley being ordered to kill the Rockbells
- Kimbley finding the Rockbells dead
- Mustang and Hughs being attacked by a 'dead' Ishbalan as they have their talk
- Riza saving them from her snipper tower
- The burning back scene/entrusting my back to you

.... and there is still more they missed... I'll quit ranting now. But really--go read volume 15!!!

Anonymous said...

yeah this episode was gret, but anyone whos read the manga, like the person above could tell you that they cut so many scenes that made it even darker and interesting. i was so disapointed they cut out things like riza being in the room when her father died, and her saving roy and hughes from the almost dead ishbalan.

Hanners said...

That's interesting to hear from you guys (having never read the manga) - I wonder if some of those items will be weaved into the narrative later, rather than flooding viewers with it all in one hit? I'd certainly love to see some of that stuff get some coverage, sounds like plenty of interesting material!