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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood #3 PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Thursday, 24 February 2011 00:00
Fullmetal Alchemist: BrotherhoodWith this volume of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, someone a bit more hip wit da kidz than I might say that "shit gets real". I speak a slightly more normal English - after I've had my morning coffee, anyway - but even then I could sum up most of this volume in just one word: Woah....

While the first attempt at a Fullmetal Alchemist anime got really good before it ended, its scope was a little more limited - the search for immortality for a limited number of people. This time around, we have a group of people searching for the same thing but, as has been hinted before now but is only explicitly revealed during this volume, this time around we're talking about a much larger group of people who, if they succeed, will gain their immortality through sacrificing then entire population of a country. Big stakes? You got 'em.

Most curious is the little detail, revealed at the start of the set, that Ed and Al's father, Van Hohenheim, clearly knows what is going on in Amestris, and has chosen to do nothing about it, other than warn a few of those nearest and dearest to him (Winry's grandmother, for example) that they should really be looking to emigrate. Now. For the people that we're most familiar with, though - Ed, Al, Mustang and their allies - the pieces of the puzzle are only beginning to click into place: a homunculus Fuhrer. Father and his team of homunculi, headquartered deep within the military - both physically and organisationally. Amestris, a country whose borders have been very deliberately shaped into a very specific shape - a shape that Ed recognises instantly, once the clues start clicking into place. A history of atrocities, with an underlying pattern within Amestris that can only be delibrate. It all spells trouble for anyone within the borders of Amestris, should the enigmatic Father ever get his plans to fruition.

Against something so potentially devastating, Ed and Al are forced to seek new allies and put ideas of revenge behind them. A trek into the cold northern wastelands brings them to Major Olivier Armstrong (big sister of a certain strong-arm alchemist), and her impenetrable Fort Briggs; it also forces alliances with Scar, Marcoh, and a few other faces from the past that you may not have expected to see again, and brings back into play our old friend Kimblee, former dog of the military and now dog of the homunculi. Bringing all these players and plotlines together is no small feat, and the end result is 13 episodes of can't-stop-now entertainment.

The set breaks nicely into two parts: the first in Central, where Father and the Fuhrer between them reveal a lot of the detail of what the villains of the piece are up to; the second in the frozen wastelands around Fort Briggs, where the search for new allies clashes with Kimblee's search for those who could really unravel the alchemy that underpins what Father has in store for Amestris. Events in Central move fast and furious - above ground, as Mustang's ambitions are uncovered by King Bradley and quickly begin to unravel as his support network is stripped from around him; and below ground as the brothers come face-to-face with father and are left wondering just what he is - he's clearly something not entirely human - while still having to battle Envy. This is where you first begin to realise just how embedded in the military the homunculi are, but it's only when the scene moves north to Fort Briggs that the explanations of what is going on begin to come.

Things are slower in the cold, and the actions of the boys takes on a much more tactical approach there which makes for a refreshing change of pace. The introduction of Olivier and her men also brings some fresh meat to the mill, with some of them clearly being marked for great things, including part-Ishvalan officer Miles. They're a curious bunch, already-hardened officer hardened even further by the conditions they have to operate in, and they're quickly drawn into events, beginning with the appearance of homunculi Sloth in their midst and then by the arrival of Kimblee and General Raven, who comes from Central to keep word of events at the base under wraps and to tempt Olivier with promises of immortality.

If a lot of that doesn't make sense, it's because I'm trying not to spoil too much (you can skip forward to the next few pages and the episode summaries if you really want to know - they are, as usual, spoileriffic) - there's so much that goes on in these episodes that to know it in advance would really spoil the impact, something I learnt with a few episodes through sad experience. Watch this volume unspoilt, though, and you're in for a real treat. Brotherhood hit its stride very quickly, far more so than the first series, and it's continued to go from strength to strength as it's gone on - it's easily the best series I'm currently watching, and now that these episodes are done I'm positively gagging for the next installment, which is still sadly a few weeks away. This is a great example of anime that just grabs you and won't let go, and is rapidly approaching must-buy status. Go get.

Rating - *****