I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of the Rush Valley material in FMA. In fact, reading the fifth volume of the manga, I was constantly flipping forward to the later parts of that volume just so I could get through that part. I managed to grit my teeth and get through it all eventually, though. It's by far the worst part of Fullmetal Alchemist, in the manga or in either series, a time-wasting bit with irritating new characters that feels shoehorned in between important story arcs. I was glad that in the first series, they kept it all into one episode, and glad when they did it for this series, too.
Still (hypocritically, perhaps), I felt uncomfortable with some of the light speed rushing through the story in this episode. While it was good that they cut down an entire chapter of Edward chasing Paninya to a few moments of it (am I supposed to believe that Ed really can't catch this girl? Come on.), they probably could have used the time they wasted with the alchemy introduction segment to keep a few moments of the portion of the story in which the bridge is out and Ed tries making a bridge, only to find out he's wasting time. They also didn't have to extend the actual child birth segment, either.
The humor actually worked well in this episode, whereas in some areas of the previous episodes it seemed a little forced and over-the-top. I think it's because this episode was more light-hearted, sort of a little breather after the heavy material that came before it, and had a little bit of a hopeful feel to it. The best part, humor-wise, was Ed imagining himself much taller. The best part of the episode, however, was Winry telling Paninya to go straight, because Dominic had made her automail in good faith, so she should return that good faith by earning it honestly. I'm not a big fan of Winry, but that was a great Winry moment.
I was probably more pleased with the use of a childbirth and the watch message bits in the first series, where they were given to the Nina arc (and Elicia Hughes was the one born, with the help of the brothers) and the Risembool visit (where Winry discovered why they hadn't visited since leaving), respectively, but the watch thing probably made more sense here. The result is that this Rush Valley episode turned out better than the one in the first series, but those other parts turned out better in the first series.
I didn't like how the child birth itself was drawn out and given such melodramatic music accompaniment. I'm having real trouble with the music in this series as it is, especially with its use in scenes. Yes, a baby's birth is sort of a big deal, but they made it seem like somebody was making the Philosopher's Stone right in front of them, not going into labor. Bones needs to get this music under control. The only piece I really enjoyed in this episode was the small bit of the "action music" played when Ed attacked Paninya.
Another scene the music almost ruined entirely was when Winry was crying next to Edward. They played that same instrumental version of the "Brothers" stand in for this series, but it's a horrible instrumental, and they would have been better off with the vocal version, especially during the flashback to Ed and Al burning their house down. I'm not sure whether my problem is with the music itself, though, or the use of the music. Oshima's score for the first series was far better, but it was also used better, too. The few good pieces in this series should find themselves in better scenes, and the lesser pieces should find themselves in less important scenes.
As I said before, I liked this Rush Valley episode better than the one in the first series. In the first series, it was a fairly simple filler episode that just sort of served as a transition into the next arc, whereas here it had a little more impact on the characters. Still, probably my least favorite episode of this show thus far.
Loved the bit where Edward and Alphonse passed wanted posters featuring Greed, Scar, and Yoki. Greed is coming soon!