You really have to give Studio Bones some credit with this episode. It may be the finest episode of either series. Not only is it well-written and contributes both to the plot and character development of at least three characters, but it also lends something to the plot down the road. Oh, but that's not all. The suspense, the action, and the tense, dramatic atmosphere it creates for not just this episode, but surely for episodes to come, is spot-on. I really can't think of a more appropriately handled episode based on manga material, even if it was missing a few elements. This is what Fullmetal Alchemist is at its height.
This episode covered chapter 38, 39, and the end of 41. This time, some of the event reshuffling actually managed to produce something worthwhile, because by pushing aside the Xingese character battle with Gluttony and Envy, we get an episode free of those awful characters (not Gluttony and Envy, the Xingese) that concentrates soley on the battle with Lust, and and a perfect ending with Ed spotting his father in Risembool. Now, I am a tad concerned that not having Ranfan battle Envy means leaving out a few fairly important plot points, but we'll see where they go with this, because it might end up better than I expect. Apparently, it's getting harder to predict what event reshuffling will do.
I really preferred the first anime's Lust. She was a more complete character. She had a sort of sadness to her that made you want to sympathize, even though she did wicked things to accomplish her ends. Plus she tied in well with Scar's background story, which helped to make him a fuller character, too. Still, it's hard to argue that she didn't fulfill her purpose in the manga version, or here. She may have played less of a part, but she wasn't really supposed to. She did what she was meant to, and that's it. You do have to admit, her death was really entertaining, especially since you don't feel particularly bad for her and can just enjoy her getting engulfed in Roy's flames.
Now, aside from that, my only real gripe is that Roy Mustang's abilities seem a little inconsistent. In the situations with Isaac and Scar, when he got wet, he was useless, and that was that. Yet somehow he realizes he can use the make up of water to his advantage here to hurt Lust. Was this somehow not possible beforehand? Not to mention, he never showed any skill in any other type of alchemy other than flames beforehand, nor does he ever again. I suppose you have to learn all sorts of things to make your specialty work, but it seems a little funny that he's so capable of just frying the hell out of Lust so easily. You can argue that he's really mad and desperate, but it still seems like a bit of a cop-out. Right now, it hardly seems like a concern, but later on into the story, you'll see what I mean. For now, I'll wave it aside.
The production values are fair throughout this episode, but it was clear they saved all of them for the combat. Some scenes had lesser values than those of the scenes in Lab 3, with skewed art. I'm just surprised Riza's eyes finally look okay. Havoc looks more like his manga counterpart now, too. The music was well done in the episode, too, with even a new track or two. My only problem with the voice performances were that I still can't get used to the new voices for Riza Hawkeye or Gluttony. Riza's was especially heinous during her anguish over Roy's apparent death. I believe the VA for the first series really would have nailed it. This one didn't. It sounded like she was a grade schooler who broke up with her boyfriend. Rie Kugimiya's Alphonse was great, though, and I think Shinichiro Miki has gone past my expectations.
I'm really looking forward to the next episode, because I really like the character of Hohenheim. The problem, though, is that now they're in volume 11, which is a bit talky, and some points are belabored or unnecessarily hammered. It's the angstiest, wordiest volume of the manga, and aside from the Rush Valley volume, my least favorite, except for the Hohenheim part.
This episode was fucking amazing. I would get this series on DVD just for this episode. It's as good, if not better, than any of the best episodes in the previous series.