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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood #5 PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Thursday, 01 December 2011 00:00
Fullmetal Alchemist: BrotherhoodFullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood reaches its final act, with the fate of millions on the line in a final battle that stretches out over the full set. Which <heresy>is a few episodes too long, if you ask me</heresy>...

When Mustang's group has the Fuhrer's wife interviewed on live radio, it helps to spread the word that a coup is underway and, with support for the rebellion amongst the citizens rising, Briggs launches an attack on Central HQ. Meanwhile, Ed, Mustang, May and the others are locked in battle with the immortal legion and Envy - and when Envy admits to Mustang that he was the one who killed Maes Hughes, Mustang snaps, and all bets are off. Deeper beneath the HQ complex, Father and Hohenheim have again come face to face - two entities with deeply-entwined pasts (one could not exist without the other), Hohenheim is determined to see that Father is returned to his natural form. But while that's a task on which the lives of millions depends, it's not something he can do alone...

If all-action finales are your thing, then Brotherhood really does have you covered. The season final essentially began last volume, with the beginning of Mustang's uprising in episode 50. It continues throughout this disc, up until episode 63, leaving the final episode to tie up some loose ends and let you catch your breath along with the characters. Along the way there are innumerable individual battles, deaths, plans and counterplans coming to fruition and being thwarted, and a resolution to the story that's both complete - events throughout the series are referred back to and given closure, there are no loose ends here - and in some ways heartwarming. If I stopped writing there, I'd give it 5 stars, job done, best series in quite a while.

That's not quite the full story, though. There are some flaws here, and depending how forgiving you are they may be tolerable, or they may drive you nuts. The most noticeable one is that it's stretched almost to breaking point - I can't think of another series where the final act went on for quite so long, and while there are plenty of separate groups and battles going on that need to be given time to play out - there are usually at least two or three separate confrontations going on at any one time - there's still some noticeable padding that could have been done away with. Minor characters, both good and bad, die and get given the traditional drawn-out anime death scene - not really necessary unless you're a major character, to me. Even during battle, there's a little too much talking, too much posturing, going on - and it gets in the way of the action. It would all have been a little snappier, and a little quicker done & dusted, if the characters had just been allowed to get on with it.

There's also some flirting with the great Reset Button. The giant alchemy circle under Amestris is activated, killing millions as their souls are sucked out of them to feed Father's need - but that's okay, because Hohenheim has prepared for just such an eventuality. Characters receive serious injuries, that affect the way they have to fight and how they look on life - but that's okay, as there's a way for them to be restored to full health not too far away. There are other examples, too, enough so that it gets frustrating. I'm a great believer in allowing Bad Things™ to happen, to show that actions have consequences and that sometimes characters fail, suffer for it, and have to move on with new restrictions placed on their abilities - Brotherhood goes some way down that road, before pulling back and saying "Nah, we'd better fix all this properly". It always feels a bit like cheating to me.

Add it all together, and the buzz that I got from the previous 2 volumes isn't quite here this time around. It's still good stuff, don't get me wrong, but the way it's been put together just doesn't pull together quite as well as it good - disappointing when the series has shown so many times that it can get this right. That said, we're a long way from talking about things that ruin the series - this is no GAINAX ending, that's for sure, and the way that care is taken to tie up seemingly every loose end earns it a lot of credit to balance out the flaws. Still a top-class series and an easy recommendation overall - just a shame that this last volume didn't quite hit the right note.

Rating - ****