Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – 64 (END)
「旅路の涯」 (Tabiji no Hate)
“The Horizon of a Journey”
I admittedly read the remaining portions of the final chapter of the manga after watching episode 63 last week, so I wasn’t in for too many surprises in this epilogue episode. Unfortunately, they didn’t add anything new — such as Ed and Al’s reaction to Hohenheim’s passing which I would’ve liked to see — but the rest of it played out really nicely. They did change up the scene where Marcoh offered Mustang a philosopher stone to regain his sight and got him to promise to revise the policies towards Ishvalans though. Rather than taking place at some refuge tent following the ordeal, Mustang was in a proper hospital alongside Hawkeye, which I felt made that scene a lot better given the audience he had when he agreed to do so. In addition, Mustang even alluded to using the stone to help Havoc regain the use of his legs first — something that wasn’t in the manga outside of a picture showing him doing some rehab.
A scene that I found really cute is Ling gloating to May about how the Yao family will be the next emperor of Xing, leaving the poor girl weeping like crazy. He did offer to accept the Chang house under his new reign, though I couldn’t help but feel that May should have slapped him for rubbing it in her face with the philosopher stone. What was noticeably absent was the scene where Lan Fan takes Fu’s body back to Xing, which I’m not really sure why they opted to leave out. It was a pretty touching scene that they could have easily spared some time for, which left me wondering if it’s because Mizuki Nana wasn’t even around for the recording of this episode. Lan Fan had no lines whatsoever, so I suspect that was likely the reason. Aside from that, it was nice to see Scar agree to work with Miles to help revise Ishvalan policies and serve as a thorn in Mustang’s side for Olivier’s personal enjoyment. In comparison to that, it was interesting to see Grumman become the new Fuhrer and Selim reborn without his homunculus traits for now. There is a big bullseye on his forehead though, making it seem like an invitation to smack him around since I still see him as that little pip-squeak Pride. If nothing else, I guess a continuation of the series could be possible if his homunculus self resurfaced, but I don’t see that as leaving the door open for one in any way.
Ultimately, the best scenes came from Ed and Al in this grand finale. The full orchestral backtrack played during their return to Resembool with Winry welcoming them home was really sweet. It was also heartwarming to know that Al paid his respects to Hughes by visiting Gracia and Elicia and informing them of his plans to head to Xing and study alkahestry. If a real spin-off were to be made at some point, Al’s adventures there alongside Jerso and Zampano would definitely be one way of going about it. Finally, there’s Ed himself confessing his feelings to Winry in the most geeky equivalent exchange way. It was funny seeing him get all flustered when he asked for half of Winry in return, but it was a whole lot cuter when she offered all of her if he wants it. That’s a pretty bold statement to make for a girl if I do say so myself, which is why it was funny to see her try and take some percentage of herself back. Their relationship didn’t really have any time to develop over the course of the series, but that hug at the end before Ed headed out west sure made up for it. The series’ last lines about having a full metal heart were saved for Ed himself as a monologue on the train, followed by the second opening theme “Hologram” as the song of choice to go close out the series during the credits collage. Nakagawa Shoko’s RAY OF LIGHT was used earlier in the episode itself, so it was nice to see a more upbeat song end things on a high note like they should.
* A movie version of the series was announced at the conclusion of this episode. My guess is that it’s going to be a condensed version of the same story.
Back when I watched the original adaptation that aired in 2003, I wasn’t the least bit familiar with the manga. However, even without knowing whether or not BONES’ was being faithful to the original source material, I didn’t really like how the story progressed in the second half and eventually concluded. Everything leading up to Hughes’ death was really well done, but Hohenheim turning out to be the ultimate bad guy didn’t sit well with me. While I didn’t mind how the Conquerer of Shamballa movie continued on with the anime original story with its unique take on the whole gate and equivalent exchange aspect, I couldn’t help but feel that it made the events in Amestris feel a bit moot. In short, I had mixed feelings about the tangibility of that plot line even though I did appreciate the thought that went into it. As such, the original adaptation was thoroughly entertaining but not too agreeable with me at times. It wasn’t bad by any means, but left me wondering if there was a different way the story could have unfolded.
Well much to my pleasant surprise, it turned out that Arakawa Hiromu‘s original work didn’t quite turn out that way, even though she did support BONES’ original take on what she had written so far in her manga. I’m not a manga purist by any means and feel that studios can produce good original adaptations, but have to say that I really enjoyed the story she had in mind a lot more. In addition to Hohenheim not being the antagonist, I really liked how we had the Xing characters to put a completely different spin on things. Then there’s Scar and the whole Ishval incident, which Arakawa’s story gave much more depth and meaning to by having him become a pivotal character in the overall story. Last but not least are Briggs’ soldiers led by Olivier, who paved way for the Amestris conflict to reach civil war levels. For the most part, the story was still heavily driven by Ed and Al’s quest to get their original bodies back. The difference is that during their attempt to do so, the story became much more involved than their personal goals and extended to country-wide proportions. When that became apparent, I couldn’t help but take a step back and be wowed by how things progressed to that point.
That said, I did find the anime original’s plot about how a human transmutation leads to the creation of a homunculus an interesting twist at the time; however, it never really allowed the story to reach such grand levels as trying to bring God down to Earth and harnessing its powers. It wasn’t so much the scale of that revelation that I enjoyed a lot more as it was the extra dimension to the story that resulted from it. The homunculi just seemed a lot more menacing in Arakawa’s story as well, especially when we were introduced to Father for the very first time. As surprising as his mysterious introduction was, things went on to show that there are still many more layers to this story that were yet to be revealed. Once uncovered, they made the twists much more prominent and the story more engaging. The sheer number of characters made the story feel much grander as well, and I’m pretty impressed by how it all came together in the end. I was on the fence about our chimera characters becoming regulars in the series, but before long I started wondering what things were ever like without them. More than them, Scar, Greed, and Kimblee proved to be some of the most interesting characters to the overall story, making this faithful adaptation of Arakawa’s nine-year manga much better in my eyes.
Be that as it may, I still feel that BONES’ original adaptation seven years ago is a very good series. It’s not like I have to pick between one or the other or anything, so I’m just glad that BONES got the green-light to produce a remake of this epic series. It was pretty cool how it coincided with the conclusion of the manga as well, making it quite a treat for viewers such as myself who weren’t reading it. I can’t speak for those who knew well in advance how this series would turn out week after week, but I can tell you that it was thoroughly entertaining when I had no idea what was coming up. This is an easy series to recommend to almost any viewer, and is likely one of the best candidates for introducing new viewers to anime. It’ll be interesting to see what Arakawa comes up with next, as she has some pretty big expectations to live up to following the completion of Fullmetal Alchemist.