When I watched the first series by BONES, RahXephon, I didn’t even know who they were.
And rightfully so, their previous two series were forgetfully average at best (Clockwork Fighters & Angelic Layer). Acually the only high profile animation they worked on (in association with other studios) were the Escaflowne and Cowboy Bebop movies.
Anyways, this will be a multi-part retrospective (as I’m sure you’ve deduced from the title) and will follow Bones on some of the major animes they did and my thoughts on them. Today we look at Fullmetal Alchemist.
The heart of this anime is about two brothers on a journey to find a mythical stone in order to right their wrongs and, ultimately, to find forgiveness for past sins. This is one of the very rare pieces of art that I have seen in my life, with characters so memorable, that I’ll probably be telling my grandchildren about it.
When I first started watching anime back in 2003, I heard murmurs about some anime called Fullmetal Alchemist that was supposedly the best thing since God knows what. Thinking back on it now, people probably meant the best thing since sliced bread Neon Genesis Evangelion. I actually started watching it when it got licensed by Funimation, airing in the Fall of 2004. And after watching the 1st season (first 25 episodes) in English dub, the typical Amercan TV network scheduled the rest of the season after a 6 months break. Not being able to wait for that long, I finally got the subbed version of the remaining episodes.
Anyways, the anime. I won’t go into too much detail as there are a plethora of characters, stories, subtle and not so subtle messages within this anime to talk about. So to put it in a nutshell: in an alternate dimension Earth, in the early 1900s, the world was entering the 20th century using Alchemy instead of Science. And somewhere, two boys tried to bring back their dead mother using Alchemy. Doing so is the biggest taboo in Alchemy because of obvious reasons like, you know, playing God and all that. And for committing this act, they get punished with something terrible.
See, the first and the most basic rule of Alchemy is ‘equivalent exchange’. To create something, you have to provide the correct ingredients in the precise quantity. The two innocent children didn’t realize that the ingredient for a soul is something…..not readily available. So the laws of universe teach them a good lesson that night. Fast forward a few years, and these boys are on a journey to find the legendary ‘Philosopher’s stone'; the end all be all item in Alchemy that can forgo the basic principle of ‘equivalent exchange’. A cheat code of sorts.
In this journey of theirs, we are introduced to many characters as the two brothers join the army in a war torn country in order to do some good; also, use the military’s resources to find the Philosophers Stone. Throughout the course of their story, these two meet many people who help them and many who just want to kill them; all however have some sort of ulterior motive. Nobody’s innocent, and nobody is completely evil either. Everyone is just trying to live their lives as best they can. Words won’t do justice to the extraordinary journey these two have and how far it takes them emotionally (and physically) to heir ultimate goal. Bones, has a knack of making it’s viewers fall in love with it’s characters only to have them killed at the best of times. This is something I got used in Wolf’s Rain, but here, it was just heart wrenching.
For me, FMA holds a charm outside of just its core appeal of brilliant characters and storyline. I watched the anime during my final year at university, and at that time, my family came to visit me during the summer holidays. We went to a lot of places throughout England, enjoying the misty countryside of Portsmouth one evening and a lazy afternoon in Lakeshire District the next, only to find a beautiful sunset in Glasgow the day after. There we all were, all five of us packed in an ’89 Nissan Sunny, touring the entire country in just 8 days. And throughout that time, I was watching this anime on my laptop sitting in the backseat whenever I got a chance, and listening to the beautiful soundtrack during the (really) long rides. It was an epic holiday, and every bit of my enjoyment was punctuated with an episode of FMA here and there and the huge soundtrack (4 CDs) to accompany us.
Things have changed now, Bones have moved onto newer projects, and I’m back in Dubai; and that epic trip is all but a memory of a long time back. Still, sometimes I listen to the OST, especially tracks such as ‘Brothers’ or ‘Beaming Sunshine’ and all those memories come back in a hazy dream, getting me all nostalgic for another watch of this 51 episode epic.
Retrospective, to be continued…