I haven't seen enough of this series yet to rate it.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, on MBS
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Caution: spoilers!

This is the second anime series based on the "Fullmetal Alchemist" manga (which I've never read). The first series, I am given to understand, diverges somewhat from the story told by the manga. This series is supposed to follow the story more closely. I loved the first series, so I'm greatly looking forward to seeing all of this one. So far, there's alot that's familiar to me, but enough seems to be different to keep it interesting. Of course, it isn't necessary to have seen the original anime, because this is not a sequel, it's... a retelling.

Well, I'm not sure if I want to do like a whole, like, summary of what happens in this series, because... I've pretty much done that for the first series. Still, I just said you don't have to see the original to watch this one, so maybe I shouldn't expect anyone to read my review of that one just to get an idea of what this series is about. So I'll try to write a bit, anyway, but mainly I want to mention some differences between the series. Firstly, though, I should mention that the English dub's voice cast is mostly the same in this series as the previous one, except that Alphonse has a new voice actor, as the old one had gotten... too old to play the kid, I guess. (Not that adult voice actors don't voice kids all the time, but I suppose it's different if you actually are a kid when voicing a kid, and you're an adult by the time the next show is being dubbed.) The new VA does a fair imitation of the old one, though.

Anyway, the characters will be essentially the same in both versions. And the main two characters are brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric. Both versions do some flashbacks, but this new series seems not to jump around in time as much as the first series did, early on. Also, the timing of certain events seems different. In a way, I'd almost say the more straightforward progression of the second series makes it harder for me to follow, but only because I'm used to how things happened originally (which was actually much more complicated than it is this time around). The trouble I'm having now is mostly about what age Ed and Al were when various things happened, and in what years events were set. In order to set up the chronology, I'll start with a flashback from the second episode. The year is 1904, which is 10 years prior to when the series is mostly set. Ed and Al live with their mother, Trisha Elric. Their father had left them at some point, which Ed resents. But the two boys (aged maybe 6 and 5) begin studying their father's books about alchemy. It's a reasonably common science, in the world of this show. People use it to transmute one thing into another, or to repair broken things. But one needs to study and understand the chemical makeup of things, to do it, and they also have to draw transmutation circles, with various symbols. And there is the law of equivalent exchange: to gain something, something else of equal value must be lost.

That same year, Trisha gets sick and dies. Ed and Al then mainly live on their own, though they are fed and somewhat looked after by their neighbor, Pinako Rockbell, and her granddaughter Winry, who is around the boys' age. Pinako is an automail mechanic, which Winry will also become, in later years. "Automail" is basically mechanical limbs. Anyway, the boys go off for a few years to train with an alchemy teacher. And then, I guess about 5 years after their mother died, they attempt "human transmutation," that is, bringing the dead back to life. This is what they've been hoping to do, get their mother back. But human transmutation is strictly forbidden by the laws of alchemy, so they must do it in secret. Unfortunately, it doesn't go as planned. Whatever comes back isn't their mother, but we don't get to see much of that. What we do see is that Ed loses his right arm and left leg in the attempt, so later, Pinako and Winry will make him an automail arm and leg. Also during the attempt, Al loses his whole body, but Ed manages to use alchemy to attach his brother's soul to a suit of armor. One benefit of the ordeal is that now, Ed doesn't require a transmutation circle to perform alchemy.

From then on, the boys' one objective is to find a way to restore their bodies to normal. To do this, they hope to find something called the Philosopher's Stone, which enhances alchemy, and may allow them to ignore the law of equivalent exchange. Anyway, I think all that happened in 1910, and the bulk of the series should be set in 1914, I suppose (when Ed and Al are teenagers). At some point, Ed had become a State Alchemist, which meant joining the country's military. (He is given the code name "The Fullmetal Alchemist, a name which often leads people to assume Al, in his suit of armor, is "Fullmetal." Of course, they have to avoid letting anyone find out there's no one inside the armor.) Ed didn't really want to do become a "dog of the miliary," but it was necessary, to gain access to information they might have that could lead them to the Philosopher's Stone. Of course, he'd also have to go on missions (on which he's always accompanied by Al, even though he's a civilian), assigned to him by Col. Roy Mustang (The Flame Alchemist).

Anyway, the first episode is about stopping a rogue State Alchemist, while the third is about stopping a phony priest named Father Cornello, in a town called Lior, who is using a fake Philosopher's Stone. It will later turn out he was part of a plot by creatures called Homunculi, including Lust, Gluttony, and Envy. Homunculi look like people, but... they're not. They can't use alchemy, but each has a unique power. Where exactly they come from is one of the story's principal mysteries. They also have an agenda, which involves getting people to find them a true Philosopher's Stone... so of course, they see Ed and Al, and many other alchemists, as unwitting pawns.

After returning from Lior, Ed and Al go to stay with Shou Tucker (The Sewing-Life Alchemist), and his young daughter, Nina. The odd thing about this is that in the first series, this happened a few years earlier, just before Ed became a State Alchemist, himself. And it's just one example of things happening in a different timeframe from the one with which I'm familiar from the original series. Meanwhile, there's been a mysterious serial killer, targeting State Alchemists around the country. Um... and I must again admit to some confusion, this time on the point of geography. There were a number of cities mentioned in the original series, and I think I did a fair job of keeping on top of where various events happened, but now... I dunno. I believe at this point in the second series, things are going on in East City, which I think perhaps happened in Central, in the first series. So, whatever, I may never be entirely confident about the setting, in either time or place. In any event, Roy Mustang is working on trying to catch the serial killer, known only as "Scar." He's working with others in the miliary, including Alex Louis Armstrong (The Strong-Arm Alchemist), as well as various non-alchemists, including Maes Hughes, Riza Hawkeye, and others. (There really are a lot of characters, at this point I don't feel like listing as many as I did in my review of the first series, nor in trying to keep track of everyone's rank.) They eventually learn that Scar is an Ishvalan, a survivor of a war some years ago in Ishval (in the first series, it was called Ishbal, though it sounds to me in this series like it's sometimes called Ishval and sometimes Ishbal; I could be wrong).

After a disastrous encounter with Scar, Ed and Al decide to head to their hometown of Resembool for awhile, to get themselves repaired. I must say, a lot of stuff seems to be entirely skipped in this series, that happened in the original, and so a lot of the stuff that is shown, happens sooner. And often, the pacing of certain things just seems faster, as if they need to establish certain things, but are mostly just trying to get to new material that wasn't seen in the original series. Meanwhile... I said before that things are different enough to be interesting, and those differences become more pronounced as the series progresses. But, anyway, it's around this time that the Elrics meet an alchemist named Tim Marcoh, who had been researching the Philosopher's Stone. The Elrics head to Central to look up Marcoh's notes, which turn out to have been destroyed in a fire at the library. Ed and Al are now escorted by officers Maria Ross and Denny Brosh, and they meet Sheska, who uses her photographic memory to reconstruct Marcoh's notes, which turn out to be a cookbook. So the Elrics spend some time figuring out the code he'd used to write the book. They eventually learn a terrible truth about a necessary component of Philosopher's Stones.

Ed and Al end up going to the abandoned Lab 5, next to a prison, where each of them ends up fighting a suit of armor with a soul attached, just like Al. The one Al faces makes him question whether he was ever human at all. In the end, the lab is destroyed by the homunculi. After that, Winry comes to Central, to once again fix Ed's automail. Meanwhile, Scar had earlier been badly hurt in a battle with Lust and Gluttony, and now wakes up in an Ishbalan refugee camp. The Elrics decide to go to Dublith to see their old alchemy teacher, Izumi Curtis, hoping she can provide information about the Philosopher's Stone. But before they leave, Fuhrer King Bradley shows up, and gives them a warning. And... something happens to Hughes in the course of his own investigation, but I don't want to spoil it. I do however want to mention that at this point, the series is up to episode 10, and relating events that happened in episode 25 of the original series. Just to give you some perspective of the pace. But, the particular event I'm not spoiling is here, as in the first series, a piece of information which would be kept from the Elrics for some time.

Anyway, Winry went with them to Rush Valley, which was on the way to Dublith. There they met a pickpocket named Paninya, who had automail legs, and stole Ed's pocketwatch. There was a similar episode in the first series, though here, Ed, Al, and Winry end up helping deliver a baby, which I don't recall happening in the first series; I think this may compensate for this series not having an episode where the Elrics were involved in Elysia's birth. Anyway, the baby is the granddaughter of an automail mechanic named Mr. Dominic, who had taken care of Paninya, who was an orphan, and given her her automail limbs. And Winry wanted to become his apprentice. But he wasn't taking on students, and directed her to someone else. Meanwhile, the Elrics continued to Dublith. They learn that Izumi had also attempted human transmutation, and like Ed, didn't need a circle to perform alchemy. They also learn that she's very sick.

Meanwhile, Mustang is transferred from East City to Central, and takes with him Riza Hawkeye, Jean Havoc, Heymans Breda, and Vato Falman. At the same time, the Elrics and Izumi encounter a homunculus called Greed, who is at odds with the other homunculi (and their creator; and here I begin to get the sense that their creation was different than it was in the first series). But Greed does have some of the same henchmen from that series, who are chimeras (who can talk, and are far more intelligent and powerful than the ones Shou Tucker had created). One of them, Martel (who was called "Marta" in the first series), gets inside Al's armor and tries to control him, while Ed and Izumi fight Greed. It's at this point that things really start seeming quite divergent to me from the original series. Bradley shows up and defeats Greed (and all his followers), though Greed can come back to life any number of times. But... oh, hell, I'll just say it, spoiler or no: in the first series, Bradley turned out to be a homunculus in the end, but he's a different one here than he was in that series; this time, he's Wrath. (On a side note, I said in my other review that I'd read somewhere that the country where the series is set, of which Bradley is the leader, is called Amestris, but that I never heard the name spoken in that series; I did hear it in this one.) It's also at this point that Al regains memories he had lost, of the time when he lost his body years ago, and experiences at the mysterious "Gate," which Ed and Izumi had each seen during their respective attempts at human transmutation. Meanwhile, Wrath delivers Greed to Lust, Gluttony, Envy, and their "father," who apparently destroys Greed once and for all. Yes, things are definitely getting seriously different for me, at this point. And the Elrics are beginning to become suspicious of Bradley.

And that, bringing us up through episode 14, is all I can say for now, but I greatly look forward to seeing some totally new and surprising things happen from this point on (not that there weren't surprising things all along). But I think there may yet be some familiar things, before the plot completely diverges from the first series. We'll see. But I will say this, the tone of the series seems pretty much the same as the first series, a nice mix of humor and drama, as well as wicked cool action, and science that looks like magic. The characters are all just the same as I remember them, so it's like meeting old friends all over again, which is fun....

Unfortunately, I lost access to Cartoon Network, so I haven't been able to see the rest of the series, and I don't know when I will.

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