Anime is bizarre. There’s so many weird, strange and confusing series out there that the whole thing just seems fairly unbreachable and understandably off-putting – but if you neglect to give it a chance, then there are some accessible and incredible shows that you’re missing out on. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is one of these shows.
FMA:B is set in a world in which alchemy (the transmutation of materials) is real. Water into wine, coal into gold; if you have the atomic ingredients, you can make it. The story centres on two brothers, Edward and Alphonse, gifted young alchemists who are haunted and driven by the untimely death of their mother. Unprepared and blinded by their grief, they attempt to resurrect her with catastrophic consequences, resulting in Edward sacrificing his arm to save Alphonse’s soul, binding it to a hollow suit of armour. Now the brothers travel the world in search of the knowledge needed to not only save Alphonse, but to bring back their mother.
So why is it the easiest to recommend? Probably the most convincing aspect for some is that you can watch it with an English dub. There’s no lack of emotional intensity or sincerity (found in most dub attempts), and every character is performed with heart and enthusiasm. This is closely linked to a second selling point, which is that there’s very little melodrama. The whole series feels lean and fast-paced. People trying to get into anime are typically put off by how 50% of the time is spent in the characters’ thoughts, either listening to them doubt themselves, plan ahead, or reflect on the past. In FMA:B, these moments are few and far between, as the characters don’t have much time to reflect before the next call to action. This makes the show feel much more fun and streamlined, causing the eventual breaks in the action to be all the more powerful.
Finally, it’s a complete, brilliant, and deceptively simple story. While it may take a few episodes to settle into the show, it quickly sweeps you up into its world through a unique premise, massive collection of interesting characters, and a scope which consistently widens episode by episode. It’s become a compliment recently to describe a series as not being simply about a handful of characters, but about a world (ie: Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings) and this could be said of FMA:B. It’s another story that you will want to jump back into the moment it’s finished and relive all over again. A brilliant introduction to the medium for people of all ages and levels of cynicism.