In preparation for a chapter on anime fandom and cognitive narratology, I’m re-watching Fullmetal Alchemist.
I didn’t much care for FMA upon first viewing a few years ago. I found the character designs too simple, and the plot painted in broad strokes. But I kept up with it on the advice of others, and I’m happy I did. For all its cute moments, the series occasionally dips into moments of disturbing grotesquerie and genuine emotional engagement. These moments increase as the series progresses, so that by the end what was an entertaining YA sci-fantasy narrative has become an epic saga of war, post-humanity, and family drama.
But the genius is there from the first episode. As pilots go, it does everything it should: it introduces the major themes of the larger series (science vs. faith, brotherly love, sacrifice, redemption) while wrapping it up in a shiny coating of action and adventure about two adolescent boys with a whole lot of brains and nothing left to lose. Above all, what strikes me this time around is the way FMA tells the story of two very different people (brothers Edward and Alphonse) who believe fundamentally opposite things (that science is the answer to all questions, and that some things should remain unknown) but who continue to work together toward a shared goal. Don’t take my word for it, though: