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FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD, REVIEW OF THE SECOND ANIME ON NETFLIX

A work with a very wide breath, with mature themes, with exciting tones is enriched by the best possible anime transposition …

It was 2003 when Studio Bones gave life to a first animated transposition of Fullmetal Alchemist, a real timeless masterpiece of the Japanese shonen manga scene created by Hiromu Arakawa: at that time the paper work was serialized on Square-Enix’s Monthly Shonen Gangan and it had just started two years ago. The Arakawa manga would then continue until 2010, for a total of 108 published chapters and 27 tankobons – published in Italy by Panini Comics’ Planet Manga – which is why, in the now distant 2003, the original material was too thin and immature to be able to transpose a complete animated series, long-lived and faithful without making uncomfortable cuts, pauses and interruptions. For this reason, the original author and the animators of the Japanese studio decided that Fullmetal Alchemist would only transpose the first volumes of the manga of the same name, and then take a long distance and propose an alternative and autonomous story, a kind of ‘what if’ even Arakawa amazed especially as regards the origins of the antagonists, the disturbing and evil Homunculus. A mild transposition, which today makes us feel the weight of the years and which has not managed to fill the gap with the original paper material: but here, in 2009, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood arrives to save the situation. The series was also made by Studio Bones, this time in collaboration with Aniplex and other production houses, and set out to do what the original animated Fullmetal Alchemist failed: to propose a complete, faithful and visually sparkling audiovisual version of one of the cornerstones of the Japanese entertainment sector, available for streaming for all Netflix subscribers and which we have decided to retrace in view of the release of the live action film on February 19 – again on the digital platform.

Old and new friends

In the moonlight, Central City is apparently quiet. But, among the alleys of the city where the government headed by the Fuhrer and overseen by the State Alchemists resides, the Ice Alchemist wanders, ready to sow panic in the streets, chased by the military. From the top of a building, two brothers observe the situation and decide what to do, that is to intervene to ensure the fugitive to justice: before the enemy appear, therefore, a thug in armor and his minute brother, Alphonse and Edward Elric. The two protagonists of the story, the alchemist brothers in search of the philosopher’s stone: as many will know, Edward is the hero of the story and is in turn a State Alchemist – he is called, in fact, the Alchemist of Steel – and, with a couple of well-aimed blows, he shows all his worth by showing off the joint prostheses that have earned him the nickname of Hagane no renkinjutsushi (that is, the Fullmetal Alchemist, the Alchemist of Steel). We have described the first minutes of the pilot episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and you will say: but is it really faithful to the original manga? The incipit illustrated, in fact, draws very freely with respect to the first tables of the comic, a choice clearly aimed at not proposing a series beginning identical to the 2003 series. The first episode, in fact, takes care to present to the spectators since immediately the narrative structure of the imaginary born from the mind of Arakawa, with an overview of the entire cast of main characters.

Between present and past, with flashbacks that quickly summarize the painful story that marked the childhood of the Elric brothers (from the abandonment of their father, to the death of their mother, up to the fateful day in which they lost their respective bodies, or part of they, in an attempt to use alchemy to transmute poor Trisha) up to the string of picturesque supporting characters of the work that in the manga, in theory, would only appear much later. A useful trick to resume, from a purely ideological point of view, the threads of a story already widely introduced with the first series of 2003, narratively archived but certainly not forgotten by the memories of fans: a way, therefore, to allow you to familiarize yourself again quickly with characters already known, to then return them to their original role and start with the actual narration of the complete and original story of Hiromu Arakawa.

An unforgettable journey

The story of the Elric brothers, troubled and suffered, made of dreams and hopes, but also of failures and drastic falls followed by a path of profound redemption, good or bad we already know it. At least, in case you are new to the paper work, the origins of the two brothers, their apprenticeship as alchemists, the complicated family events they are forced to live and their first steps in the dark and mysterious journey that awaits them to find the much coveted philosopher’s stone, they are all dynamics well known to those who have seen in full (or even only the opening bars) the first anime series of Fullmetal Alchemist broadcast between 2003 and 2004.

What, on the other hand, many laymen of the opera may not know – or that the most aficionados may choose to relive, in view of the live action and given the availability of the series on the Netflix streaming platform – is the original development of the unforgettable adventure of Edward and Alphonse, a physical and spiritual journey aimed at discovering the truths and secrets of their past, the world they live in, a government with an ambiguous morality and a people oppressed but at the same time without something to believe in, which clings greed and ruthlessness of a few men whose work precludes individual freedom.

It is no mystery that the author, in defining the imagery of Fullmetal Alchemist, was inspired by some social and cultural dynamics of our time or which have characterized the recent history of humanity: the setting and the geo -political world created by Arakawa, so delightfully full of steampunk elements that mix fantasy with the industrial revolution with a European background, clearly draw on the historical-cultural events that characterized the first half of the twentieth century. But everything is amalgamated by a deeply intimate and touching story, by the values ​​that regulate the individual sphere set in a much larger context: the government structures and their relationship with the people wink at the great dictatorships of the twentieth century, the painful memory of distant wars – but still vivid both in the collective imagination and in the psychology of the protagonists – embraces the many testimonies that, even today, reach us from war veterans who have experienced violent and unspeakable horrors. But the story of our heroes, their dramas and their charisma, attachment to family values, coming to the aid of those in difficulty, the pursuit of truth and the noble soul of those who want to save the world make Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – and in return, of course, the original work – the perfect mix between a historical coming-of-age novel and an epic, exciting tale, made up of heroes who oppose perfidious antagonists by virtue of a greater good.

Visual pearls

Fullmetal Alchemist, in itself, is therefore a timeless masterpiece, supported by the incredible quality – both technical and narrative, speaking of mere transposition from paper to animation – of the Brotherhood series. Not a few years later (we remember that the anime was broadcast between 2009 and 2010, for a total of 64 episodes) we can say that Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a product that still today is of excellent quality, especially in production level. Studio Bones, in collaboration with Aniplex and other exponents of Japanese animation, has treasured the good but not exceptional experiment of 2003: facilitated by the technological progress that the industry has experienced in the last ten years, Brotherhood is a show of compositions, animations, colors, non-invasive use of a pinch of computer graphics and soundtrack, finally fitting and in line with the events narrated in the course of 64 episodes of a very high level to say the least.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood does not limit itself to telling the original story well, finally giving the fans what they have always wanted to see, but it does so with a remarkable technical master, with a superfine direction made of sequences and simply delicious animations, a real joy for the eyes of all admirers of a top-level visual sector. The immense work, with a very wide breath, a thousand emotions and with the ability to pour (in only 64 episodes, 108 chapters and 27 paper volumes) the portrait of the darker side of humanity, set in a fantasy context and used as a background for a beautiful story of personal and collective formation, it finds the perfect transposition in Brotherhood.

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