Speaking about animes, I almost forgot about a new one that will be aired simultaneously across the subcontinent in Animax (8:30 pm in India) today, called Fullmetal Alchemist – Brotherhood, a sequel to the enormously popular anime that was telecast almost a year ago.
Poised midway between science fiction and fantasy, the series belongs to the lesser known genre of science fantasy. It the FMA universe, almost magical “alchemy” replaces science. I simply loved the storyline in the previous series – Edward and Alphonse Elric, try to resurrect their dead mother using the forbidden practice of human alchemy, quite unaware of the law that governs their universe – the Law of Equal Exchange: “To obtain, something of equal value must be lost”. The consequences were treacherous. Al loses his physical body in the attempt, and Ed loses two of his limbs. Ed somehow manages to attach Al’s soul to a suit of armour. The two boys, having realized that it was impossible to bring back a dead person, set out in search of the Philosopher’s Stone, possibly the only thing that could recover their bodies, and get embroiled in a frantic series of political, emotional and alchemical misadventures.
What struck me as good is that the alternate universe of FMA is not an outright magical fantasy. Alchemy in their world is governed by laws of nature, comparable to the laws of physics in our own world. The makers also made sure that their world was not a fairyland. The series has an entire collection of people prepared to misuse alchemy for their own ends – the ghastly “homunculi”, military generals, murderers, researchers and a religious leader – the host of issues enveloping their world is not unlike our own.
They were liberal in showing the negative side of such an alchemy. I remember an episode when Ed fights an armoured guardian protecting the Stone. After defeating him, he realizes the guardian was just a soul attached to a suit of armour – like Al. The guardian asks Ed to kill him, as he no longer has a purpose in life, he had failed in his task, and above all since he was just part-human. When Ed refuses, he kills himself – much to Ed’s crazy horror.
That’s why I am looking forward to seeing the sequel today – to see what more misfortunes fall upon Ed and Al…
(Animax’s previous release, LaMb, totally sucked. Except for the Simple Plan soundtrack, of course.)
Update added today after watching it: The episode was in Japanese with English subtitles!! I should have expected it. It’s still early to decide whether this is going to be a great series or not. Anyway, it was a normally good first episode.