Opinion Prone

My opinions, let me tell them to you.

Finally saw the first episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood tonight. As I’ve mentioned, I wasn’t that eager to see it, but then my RSS feeds started getting cluttered with other bloggers posting about it and I spent the week feeling a little impatient. It’s always annoying having to avoid reading things ’cause you’re not up-to-date, but I guess that’s something I’ll just have to deal with since I’m going to be adamant about supporting FUNimation’s stream on this one. I’m actually pretty disappointed that so many people seem to have downloaded fansubs anyway since I think a vast majority of anibloggers reside in countries that are getting a simulcast in one form or another. (Sorry, Europe!)

That said, I was surprised to find that I had ton of issues getting the video to work right for the stream. I’d previously seen all of Ouran Host Club and some of Mushishi on FUNi’s video site and never had any issues, so I’m not sure what was up — the video wouldn’t load at all in Firefox, so after several attempts, I took it into Chrome. There, it loaded… but very slowly. Like, absurdly slowly. It kept stopping to buffer, so I decided to just let it sit to load the whole thing before playing. It took like two hours to load the whole episode. Unbelievable. I’m sure there was a lot more traffic on the site than usual today, but still… I sure hope it isn’t like this every week. :|

The video quality was great once it did load though. The subtitling is consistent with the other subs FUNi offers, and that’s pretty damn good, I’d say. I would have liked to see a translation to the opening and ending themes, but that’s not a huge deal. It did bug me a little that they used “sneaked” instead of “snuck” twice in the episode; even though the former is actually more correct than the latter, “snuck” has become so much more common these days. Oh, well. All words are created equal, but some are more equal than others!

Anyway, on to the actual content of the episode…

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it. I mean, I still haven’t read any of the manga, so I still have nothing to be purist about and can’t make constant comparisons between this new series and the source material. Still, this first episode felt… very choppy. It was entirely too obvious that the whole thing was set up to introduce a multitude of characters, concepts, and plots, and even without having read the manga, it felt very fillery and forced. I’d be curious to know if someone new to the franchise would have understood any of what was happening. Ed, Al, Mustang, Hughes, Armstrong, Hawkeye, and Bradley were all introduced in this episode, with last minute appearances by Lust and Gluttony, and it was a bit overwhelming. I’m sure there could have been a much better way to kick things off.

The episode plot was exceedingly predictable, and the Isaac character wasn’t very interesting at all. I did like most of the other characterizations though. The great dynamic between Ed and Al seemed much more obvious in this version — I was really happy to see Al help out a lot more in the fights, and the brothers’ relationship felt well established even before they went into that obligatory flashback. The height joke felt a little out of place though, especially in an otherwise serious episode: they just did it one too many times, I guess.

Mustang isn’t nearly as big an asshole to Ed in this rendition. His presence just seems more comical all around. The same could be said of both Hughes and Armstrong, really. Sure, they’re more easygoing characters to begin with, but since they had been introduced separately in the previous anime, it was more obvious from the get-go that each had a more serious side to their character. I don’t doubt that all three of them will eventually get the attention they deserve, and they were certainly all quite endearing in this episode, but it was still a little disappointing to see most of the military start off so gimmicky.

It’s my understanding that the original anime kept up with the manga pretty well until about halfway through the series. If that’s the case and I’m to assume that the story will be pretty much the same for the first half of FMA:B, then I guess the long-term plot setup for this episode was all right? We know that Ed and Al fucked up with alchemy and lost their bodies, and we know they’re looking for the Philosopher’s Stone. We know that the military did some shady stuff during the Isbalan War that the brothers are unaware of. We know that there are some characters hiding in the shadows pulling puppet strings of one sort or another. That’s all the basics, right? What I didn’t get was an impression of how this story is going to play out. The preview for the next episode seems to be entirely flashback, so I don’t know what to expect next as far as the “current” timeline goes. Hohenheim being in the opening theme seems oddly suggestive, and considering how late he appeared in the previous series, I wonder if I should expect anything different this time.

Speaking of the opening theme though: it was awesome! YUI has a great voice and the song was very eerie. The tempo and general tone of the song felt very different as far as FMA goes, but I can see it fitting wonderfully if they keep a more serious mood for the series. The animation was great as well, and it worked at getting me more excited about the episode, however brief that feeling was. And the ending theme was pretty much the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. Seriously. WHY SO CUTE. The style reminded me a lot of piggyhoho’s work for her Chibi SEED Town project. The song was pretty awesome for the ending as well. :3

I’ve only seen one or two episode of the original series in Japanese — not nearly enough to get a decent impression of the original voice cast — so I can’t really comment on the new voices either. Mustang sounded pretty good to me though, as did the brothers, Hughes, Armstrong, and everyone else. The animation quality for the episode itself seemed to go back and forth a lot; one thing that really stood out was the lighter outline they used on Ed’s hair, which didn’t look that great. It makes him look too blonde, which is kind of jarring. They also added in a few thought bubbles, likely to make the series more reminiscent of the manga, but it really felt unnecessary. I want to say that the animation in the original was better, but that might be an unfair assessment based on one episode. Plus, the fact that I watched the original series off a television broadcast and not an online stream is probably significant.

Overall, I feel incredibly neutral about this series thus far. I wasn’t disappointed with the episode, but it failed to impress me. Even if it does get better though, I don’t think much can be done to sway me from my skepticism about what lies beyond the point at which the manga stops.

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  1. Mike on April 10, 2009 4:18 am

    I just watched this, and I largely agree with your review here. They really did seem to be trying to stuff so much info into one episode I am guessing many new viewers will be lost–I could only follow because I know the first series very thoroughly. I liked how gradual the first series was, and in the way it told emotionally compelling short stories to get you used to the ideas and the world before the brothers go to Central to become State Alchemists.

    This first episode is, incidentally, NOT how the manga starts. The manga starts with the story in Lior, just like in the first series, which is hinted in the very brief scene with Lust and Gluttony at the episode’s conclusion. My guess is that this will be covered in episode 2?

    Anyways, only now it seems I could get the Funimation stream to work, and I agree with and am also supporting Funimation’s effort to stream it legally rather than downloading the fansub for this one. This is what I’ve always thought the companies ought to do, and I feel we’ve got to encourage the industry to take these steps.

  2. Kiriska on April 10, 2009 4:34 am

    I also really enjoyed how the first series paced everything. We transitioned a lot between flashbacks and the current story, but it still felt very connected and fluid and definitely helped the audience understand the characters’ histories and motivations better. That we’re thrown into everything at once in this new series is pretty jarring.

    I guess we’ll cover Lior in the next episode along with a more detailed explanation of what happened back at Resembool. I don’t like that it’s set up the past to compete with the present because I’m not too confident that they’ll be able to weave the stories together smoothly.

    And yeah, I hope FUNi will be able to fix whatever issues they’re having with the stream in the coming weeks — it’s not as smooth as Crunchyroll at the moment, but I have faiiiiith. :D

  3. Omisyth on April 10, 2009 11:32 am

    BONES decided to change the entire plot of the first series surprisingly early, like a quarter way through at the most (and they did a fantastic job with the anime original plot).

    I don’t think that the episode was predictable. Sure, you knew Ed and Al were going to win, but if you were new to the series you wouldn’t expect the Ice Alchemist to try and cover Central in ice, or that King Bradley would completely pwn the way that he did.

    Mustang being an asshole was great in the last series, and I’m disappointed that they’ve made him soften up slightly since the banter between him and Ed was one of the best parts of the show.

    As for the OP- woops, manga spoilers there :P

    It seemed like this episode was made more to endear new watchers than to appeal to fans of the original series. Perhaps now they’ll develop the characters as well as they did before.

  4. P. Static on April 10, 2009 11:46 am

    I just watched the FUNImation stream, and was pleasantly surprised. The only thing the fansubs really have over them is HD video, and I can’t really blame them for not streaming in HD, The entire thing loaded at 2 MB/s for me, so I think the bandwidth issues you saw were just because of the traffic spike from everybody hitting it at once.

    As for the episode itself, it wouldn’t have felt out of place a few episodes into the series, but IMO it’s a bad way to start off. :/

  5. Kiriska on April 10, 2009 1:24 pm

    @Omisyth: Yeah, I love pretty much everything about the original anime up until the last two or three episodes.

    Really? It might just be because I’m not new to the series that I immediately thought Isaac would try and pull some fancy shenanigans since he was drawing circles all over town, and the way Bradley’s character acted — all calm and badass — really gave away that he was going to kick ass. (I also wasn’t fond of the animation of the ice covering the town, especially when it was traveling around like a giant wave.)

    I’m also disappointed that Mustang’s been softened, though I’m hoping the banter picks up as the series continues. Is his character softer in the manga or is this a whole new thing?

    Oh, awesome, manga spoilers! I’m glad I still haven’t read the manga yet. :P It makes this more interesting for me, I think.

    @P. Static: Yeah, I’m really happy with all of FUNi’s streams. Not sure what they’re going to do about the bandwidth overload though. I’m in class when the episode goes up in the morning and I’ll be damned if I have to wait longer to watch the episode every week, haha.

    I kind of think they did this kind of opening to purposefully stray from the original anime, which is silly, especially if the original was closer to the manga to begin with.

  6. TJ on April 10, 2009 1:27 pm

    Yeah, it definitely helps if you watched the older series (and is reading the manga) before watching this one. This was an anime-original episode not based on the manga, and Bones did this because the first portion of the manga has already been covered by the old series, so there is no point repeating some of the parts. The story will become more coherent once we steer back on to the manga storyline… I hope.

  7. Harry on April 10, 2009 4:55 pm

    My head’s not really working right now, so I’ll keep this brief.

    This episode is NOT friendly to newcomers. This is absolutely true.

    It is definitely a good example of things to come. I’m digging the more serious tone, and the production values thus far are very close to how they were near the end of the original series, if not a bit better. And having watched the entire series in Japanese several times, it certainly seems like they’ve gotten the original cast back. At least, for the characters thus far.

    Issac was a bit one dimensional. Seemed pretty cookie-cutter to me, though I’d have to say his alchemical specialty is certainly a first, and on that same token, his . Um. Killing style. I have to bring this up, though: if the man had one redeeming thing going for him, it’s that HE MADE A LANCE OUT OF HIS OWN BLOOD. That’s a level of hardcore I haven’t seen in a while. Even if Bradley makes short, badass work out of him in the end.

    And I also loved the opening and ending bits. The ending in particular. Very cute. :D

  8. Kiriska on April 11, 2009 12:00 am

    @TJ: The thing is, as a new, theoretically standalone series, there IS a point in repeating parts that were already covered in the first anime. This is not a sequel, this is a remake. As such, important things will need to be covered again and it should be coherent to start with.

    @Harry: Mustang is the only notable character to have a new voice, as far as I know, but yeah, I think it suited him fine, so whatever. I didn’t think the blood lance was too amazing, but I guess it takes more to impress me? XD Dunno! I like the boiling thing though.

  9. Omisyth on April 11, 2009 7:15 am

    I think his character’s pretty similar in the manga. I only picked it up at around the point the anime diverged, though, so different things could have happened before hand.

    Also, read the manga! for it is awesome :P

  10. Kiriska on April 11, 2009 10:40 am

    I told myself I’d read the manga when it finished, so there!