「烈火の先に」 (Rekka no Saki ni)
“Before the Conflagration”
Continuing off from the good cliffhanger last time, we learn that one of the two characters is indeed Envy masquerading in disguise. While some people deemed it was clearly obvious that the fake was Mustang because Envy can’t shape-shift a gun, I wasn’t convinced that was a dead giveaway and didn’t feel it ruined the surprise. In any case, Hawkeye lying about how Mustang calls her “Riza” when they’re alone together was a much more clever way of baiting Envy out. When the real Mustang made his timely arrival and started scorching Envy to death, I was pretty excited about him finally getting a chance to take revenge. That whole scene with him snapping like crazy actually came off a lot more powerful than the one with Lust, mainly due to all the hatred involved. I jest, but the only downside is that Mustang didn’t hit up a good beat while he went finger crazy.
What I particularly liked about this episode though was the excellent use of music during a lot of the scenes. The timing of it all really helped set the mood and bring out all of the emotions experienced by the characters, like when they had the flashbacks of Hughes. From a sheer shounen standpoint, it was probably disappointing to see Hawkeye step in to stop Mustang before he could finish off Envy, but from a moral point of view, I liked how she, Ed, and Scar lectured him a bit about how his lust for revenge has consumed him. It’s not like they weren’t planning to kill Envy anyway, so it was nice to see the story reemphasize the notion that someone can’t possibly lead a country if emotions get the better of them and rationale goes completely out the window as soon as a close friend is killed. What was even better though is that once Mustang agreed to take the high road and act like a protagonist should, they got through to Envy by pointing out how he’s jealous of humans and their will to never quit, causing him to commit suicide instead. I felt that was a much more dramatic way to conclude things with Envy, and I suspect Hughes would’ve been happy that Mustang didn’t let hatred get the best of him, even if it was for his sake.
As for the ongoing battle with Sloth and the endless horde of mannequin soldiers, this episode was entirely for Alex to shine as he somehow took a hit to pop his dislocated shoulder back into its socket and then single-handedly sent the gigantic homunculus reeling. It was pretty amazing to say the least, but the best part was when they started breaking out the heroic theme to support his fight. I mentioned a few weeks back that I was really looking forward to some brute force versus brute force fighting between Alex and Sloth, and this episode gave me just that with them exchanging a fair amount of blows. The fact that Alex can eat Sloth’s blows shows just how much he’s built like a tank, much like Olivier can attest to. With the way the battle is raging on within Central headquarters, I’m pretty excited about Buccaneer and the other Briggs soldiers breaking their way in. The best part of that had to be Izumi’s entrance though and how her exceptional digging abilities got them there. This time, she chose not to introduce herself as a mere housewife either, but a full-fledged alchemist, which I got a good chuckle out of.
Aside from the above, I liked how they opened the episode with a flashback of Mustang and Hawkeye during the Ishval War, with the latter burying a child war victim. Mentioned then was a bit of Hawkeye’s past with her father, his study of Flame Alchemy, and Mustang eventually agreeing to burn part of the tattoo on her back so that its secrets regarding Flame Alchemy are no longer comprehensible. All in all, it helped shed some light on exactly what that tattoo on Hawkeye’s back is about, but I couldn’t help but feel that Mustang could’ve done a neater job with his handy work. Poor Riza and her beautiful back. 🙁
Finally, with the way the ending sequence was completely omitted this week, giving us extra footage of Hohenheim confronting Father with the latter stating how he’ll make the former a part of himself, I can’t wait to see how all that plays out next week. The preview doesn’t seem to give us much indication one way or another, but if those two actually happen to fight at some point, I don’t think Central or even all of Amestris would be able to contain them.