Here we go, the new "chapter" of the new Fullmetal Alchemist series. You can stop comparing how an event is handled from the first and second series, because the series will stop resembling the first series, even moreso than the previous episode.
I see that they've juggled some events in the manga source again, however. Scar doesn't fight the Silver Alchemist or meet May until somewhat later in the manga than he does here. I think doing this so soon is the production team's efforts to keep Scar relevant to the story, since he stays out of it for quite a while in the manga. Again, this means the skipping of scenes in the town of Youswell, where Yoki was supposed to have first appeared. I guess it wouldn't have made much sense to have them, anyway, since they already skipped that earlier on in this series, but now May just sort of already knows about Edward, instead of learning about him from the Youswell citizens.
The battle in Rush Valley remains largely intact, with a few changes here and there that ultimately improve it. We learn about Ling's royalty earlier on though, with Ed having not been present in the scene in the manga, and it having taken place in Central later on, as well. The Barry the Chopper scenes with Roy and company were shortened, too, missing a lot of the humor he brought into the manga when he was hitting on Riza and when Falman was unable to trip him up with a murder quiz. We did get our first scenes with Black Hayate, too, and even though we never saw him introduced, it hardly matters.
I have to be brutally honest, though. I'm not a fan of the Xingese characters. I appreciate how Arakawa expanded the world in which FMA takes place by having other countries, and people from other countries, involved in the story. However, the Xingese feel, to me, like they're better suited for Naruto than Fullmetal Alchemist. They're flashy ninja-types who fail to do anything a real ninja would do and are there to add a little more action and comedy, but without really adding anything to the plot and themes that couldn't be added by more interesting, less obnoxious characters. If they were stars of their own spin-off manga, I wouldn't find them to be so irritating, but when they're involved with this story, I dislike them and see little reason for their existence. And having read the 97 chapters of the manga thus far, I still see little justification for their inclusion. In fact, in some ways, they're borderline Canon Sues.
On the subject of production values, the art and animation was average, nothing special at all, and I expected better during the action sequences. It seems like this series really has trouble with action sequences, as far as animation quality. It appears that all the best animation is perserved for character moments. If you're going to have more action, you can at least animate it better than you have been. It's been fifteen episodes and there've only been three really sleek, well-coreographed fight scenes (the brothers versus Isaac, Ed versus Slicer(s), and Bradley's domination of Greed). I know Bones can do better.
The music seemed inappropriately used at times, too, especially during the battle. When Ed and Ranfan fought, music played that fit more with sudden revelations or in the background during the actions of the homunculi. It might help if Akira Senju composed a few more pieces. One begins to wonder why they bothered doing a new series if they're going to be so reserved when it comes to spending their budget for it.
Maybe they spent all their money casting Mamoru Miyano (of Death Note fame) as Ling. He does a good job with the character, and will probably be even better when it comes to Ling's later transformation, because I know he can really belt it out when necessary. As does Nana Mizuki, who played the child Wrath of the previous Fullmetal Alchemist series, as Ranfan. Fu and May's voice actors worked well for them, too. Even Joliot and Mr. Garfiel sounded the way I expected them to. No complaints in the voice department here.
It was a decent episode, but not anything special. I personally found the battle between Scar and Joliot Comanche to be the low point of the episode. Even in the FMA world, I find it silly to have a man like that spinning around like a top. The combat in Rush Valley was okay, though. It's the next few episodes I'm really excited for.