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.