The original Full Metal Alchemist series was one that was a bit hit-or-miss for me. I loved the first season but found the second season to drag; it never seemed cohesive to me, almost like the writers did not know what they wanted to do with it. Makes sense since the manga was not complete when it came time to make season two, and the manga writer Hiromu Arakawa did not want the anime to spoil what was still to come in the manga, so a new direction was written on the fly. So now with FMA: Brotherhood, they are attempting to redo the series, correcting the later mistakes of the first. The first thirteen episodes of Brotherhood covered the same material as the first twenty-six episodes with a few minor alterations, but this set now starts delving into the new material. And so far, the redo is well worth the effort.
The last set left off with military intelligence officer Maes Hughes stumbling onto the truth behind the homunculi and the top brass of the military and being killed by Envy. At the same time, Edward and Alphonse are continuing their search for a legendary Philosopher’s Stone while doing their own investigation into the mystery of the homunculi.
After finding out that they are important to the homunculi’s plan, this investigation leads them to plan a trap to draw out the homunculi by egging on the serial murderer, Scar, knowing that the homunculi would never allow Scar to kill either Edward or Alphonse. With this plan, they are able to capture Gluttony, but in the process, they learn that Fuhrer King Bradley, the supreme commander of the State Military, is also a homunculus, making their position even more dire. When Gluttony escapes and goes on a rampage, he swallows Ed, Lin Yao, and Envy, setting off a chain of events that leads Ed and Al to head to confront this secretive "Father" of the homunculi.
When Lieutenant Maria Ross is framed for Hughes’s murder and sentenced to death, an already suspicious Roy Mustang decides officially enter the conflict, allowing Ross to escape from military pursuit while faking her death. Knowing this will draw out the ire of King Bradley, Mustang approaches a general whom he believes he can trust with his suspicions about Bradley, only to find out that the entire high command are openly under Bradley’s control. Bradley opts not to strike immediately back at Mustang, preferring instead to transfer all of Mustang’s subordinate’s away from Central and effectively isolating Mustang, also making his position all the more precarious.
Starting with this set, FMA: Brotherhood really diverges from the storyline of original anime series, and so far, I am really liking the changes. For starters, this series is doing a much better job with building the sense of danger that surrounds Ed, Al, Mustang, and their mission. In the original series, there was never really a sense that things were ever truly out of their control. But by the end of this set, not quite halfway through the entire series, we are already at a point-of-no-return for our protagonists. Their situations do not seem like they could be any worse.
Aside from the increased sense of danger, I am also liking the changes they have made with some of the characters. There were quite a few aspects of characters’ stories and backgrounds that I did not particularly like in the first series that are no longer true. Staying intentionally vague, certain dynamics just no longer exist, and it seems to all work that much better. We have somewhat new stories for Scar, Mustang, Hoenheim, and even Ed and Al. Character histories just make a lot more sense to me this time around. Granted, there is still plenty of time for all of this to change, but for now it is going well for me.