Happy New Year! Now that the holidays are out of the way, I guess I have to go back to doing productive stuff. Kinda.
I recently rewatched the first three episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist (2003 version), which I’d watched as a teenager. This time, it struck me how often they used the word “science”, which didn’t stand out to me before. Nowadays, when I hear the word “science” in TV shows or read it in books, I usually cringe a little inwardly, because it clearly means something different to them than it does to me. But here, it didn’t actually bother me.
Anyway, on to my main point. Seeing this again and hearing them talk about science really made me pay attention to how the boys learned their alchemist skills (which is treated kind of like science magic in this series). And it was really awesome that they started learning it from a young age from books. There was this scene where their mother led them into their dad’s (an alchemist himself) old library, and they ran at the books like they were going to a playground.
First, they began as self-taught, which I have a bit of a soft spot for. I kind of love it when people are shown to be able to pick up the basics by working it out themselves, so long as it’s still realistic. Some people do that. But when they needed to learn to do something serious, they had to get a teacher to actually train them. Yes, they still accomplish too much at a ridiculously young age, but this is shonen anime. What do you expect?
Now that we’ve established that I love the way learning is portrayed in this series, let’s talk about the series itself. This is one of my favorite anime. It’s dark, but it can still be funny. It transitions between the darker and lighter moments seamlessly, too. The very first scene of hte series is very gruesome and tragic, but three minutes later, the next scene is very light and comedic. And it works pretty well that way.
One of the things I love about this show is that, when it comes to a branching point, it always makes the choices that are more difficult for the characters. It starts out relatively light (relatively, given how serious the main quest is). The main characters have already made some serious mistakes and are trying to fix them. They’re still kids, though, and the series acknowledges that by eventually showing them how their mentalities are still a bit childish. They have to learn that the world is more complicated than they think it is, and that takes some progressively more complicated situations to get across to them.
This series gets progressively darker as the characters are put in more difficult situations, but it’s always beautifully done. The characterizations themselves are complex, and the characters have layers to them. Some of them are looking for redemption, some of them are looking for a way to fix their mistakes, some of them are looking for a way to go on. Even the villains have great characterization here. They’ve each got their own reasons for why their goals are so desperately important to them.
In short, wonderful series, one of the best I’ve seen. Great take on learning, science fantasy, and life in general.
The series is available from Funimation on YouTube. Here’s the first episode: