Onward! Having these episodes on my computer sure is convenient. When I did Shin-chan I was watching from FUNimation's site, and I had to put up with ads and crashes.
This is the first episode that opens with a brief summary of the nature of alchemy. It sorta replaces Al's speech on equivalent exchange at the beginning of the episodes in the first series. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost and all that.
I was surprised at how much material this episode sped through. It pretty much abridges the majority of the Elrics' backstory. It's not a huge problem, though; it covers all the important parts well enough, and it's easy to fill in the rest by reading a few parts of the manga if you really feel like it. It's evident that BONES was trying to speed through the first half of the story anyway, considering a lot of it was covered in the first anime. It'd have been nice if they got every single part of the manga into the show, but realistically speaking, that would have both made the series drag on for over a hundred episodes and potentially cost Brotherhood a few fans who already saw this stuff in the first anime.
The episode kicks off with Ed and Al on a train headed for Reole—Yes, Reole is the official spelling instead of Liore, so I'll be using that—discussing the stories they heard about the priest who claims to channel the power of the sun god. Ed believes his "miracles" are just alchemy, and chalks his apparent power to bypass equivalent exchange up to using a philosopher's stone. From here, we flash back to young, crippled Ed reading an alchemy book. The text describes a stone that obliterated the ancient civilization of Xerxes in a single night, and which was sealed away by the Eastern Sage. This part confused me because the Eclipse subs say "a sage from the west", which seemed contradictory considering where the story's headed. I didn't feel like checking the dub to see if this was an error, so I just went and translated what I could make out from Ed's dialogue. Huh. I'll have to edit the subtitles for this episode later.[/pedant]
The philosopher's stone is an amplifier that apparently allows an alchemist to ignore the law of
conservation of mass equivalent exchange. Ed believes that it could be used to restore their bodies, but is frustrated that all his books contain information about everything except for how to obtain the stone. Sometimes I wonder why he even believed it ever existed in the first place, considering its nature is kept secret and Ed never really struck me as the type to believe legends and folktales. But something else I noticed after reading the manga and watching this show is that the stone is a lot less enigmatic; multiple philosopher's stones exist and the method for creating one is strictly established. This really contrasts with how the stone was in the first series. If I remember correctly, only two true philosopher's stones were around in that continuity, and one of those wasn't even complete yet. The other philosopher's stone-like objects were mere imitations. Getting off topic, but I just thought that was interesting.
Ten years prior to the events in the story, Trisha discovers her sons practicing alchemy. She scolds them for doodling on the floor, but once she learns that they've actually developed a knack for alchemy she immediately shifts into "Mommy's so proud of you!" mode. I can just picture her bragging to all her friends. "Well, my sons can bend the laws of physics with magic circles! What's your boy do again? A ranch hand? How cute." Young Ed and Al are much more adorable in this series, I might add.
I do wonder why Ed would even be interested in alchemy, since his dad who he absolutely despises was an alchemist. Why follow in the footsteps of the father you hate? Then again, alchemy is pretty neat and I guess they needed some way to entertain themselves while living in a rural village with no internet. If I had to live in Resembool under those conditions, I'd probably die without Daddy's books on creating unchristlike abominations too. But Trisha's praise made them want to become even better at the science. I love their relationship with their mom. You can really tell it was a happy family, even though Trisha gets less screentime in this series.
And how. Damn, she's dead already and we're not even four minutes in yet. Like orphaned puppies, Ed and Al sit at her grave. Al mentions their dad and Ed flips his shit, saying that Hohenheim never cared about them and didn't even bother coming back for Trisha's funeral. Ed then suggests resurrecting their mother with human transmutation. Of course, Alphonse doesn't think that sounds like a good idea, but his inability to stand up to his brother ends up opening the door—No pun intended—to their punishment for committing the taboo. Al really should learn to put his foot down instead of letting Edward push him around. Good thing he eventually matures in this series. I also have to say that the lighting in the scene at the cemetery is beautiful. I just really love the art style of this show. The color choice in scenes like this is awesome and Brotherhood really does mood lighting better than the first series if you ask me.
And of course Ed and Al spend their school time reading alchemy books in class. They're prodigies, but their education in non-alchemical areas must be severely lacking. Dropping out of school to join the army can't help that, either. Back at their house—Oh my crud, awesome lighting—the brothers discuss the inherent awesomeness of scientific advancements, new discoveries and thinking outside the box. Ed likens it to the invention of stew; it contains milk, which he hates, and yet it manages to taste so good. I didn't even know stew had milk in it.
After several years of research and practice, the brothers figured they'd perfected their human transmutation formula. Now for the confirmation, as they collect the various ingredients for the average adult human body and draw the construction circle. Plus, more awesome cinematography. There's a birds-eye shot of their house◊ with this very eerie red lighting, and an evil-looking crow for added ominousness. It may be kind of cheesy, but it really gives you a feel for just how wrong this thing is that they're about to do. Another thing that I feel really adds to the atmosphere is how there's no music playing as they prepare for the resurrection. The quietness is unsettling.
When I first watched this it kind of surprised me how Ed called their blood "the information of the soul". In the first anime he seemed pretty cynical there—Or at least he did in the dub; I haven't seen much of the first anime in Japanese—referring to the concept of the soul as superstitious glorification of what's really "just the spark that starts life". It came off as just showing how bitter and jaded he was. But here it seems like he's right on the money, because this series implies that the soul and genetic information are indeed correlated. However, they were still pretty mistaken in thinking that a just few drops of their blood would be enough to pay for an entire soul.
The failed transmutation is beautifully animated. I've mentioned incredible lighting several times in this post, but wow. This scene in the first anime looked pretty good, but here it's just amazing. BONES really knows how to utilize CG effects and shading. The way the shadow hands deconstruct Alphonse's body and Ed's limbs piece by piece is aweso—And now I'm just gawking at how pretty everything is.
The rebound pulls Edward before the Gate, where he is introduced to Truth. Or perhaps the world. Or perhaps the universe. Or perhaps God. Or perhaps all. Or perhaps one. The doors open, revealing the eyeball of the Gate, and the shadow hands emerge to drag Ed inside. There's what I think is a subtle nod to the first anime here, with the sound of childlike giggling coming from within the Gate. In the first anime, this was because the Gate was inhabited by the "Gate children"; shadowy, baby-shaped creatures which owned the hands that pull people through the doors. I like how Brotherhood references the first anime with little details like this and a few others. Correct me, though, if this is also present in the original manga, because I don't feel like checking.
The information of the Gate is forced into Ed's head. I decided to slow the scene down a bit to see the images that flashed by him. Most were just maps, scenery and shots from earlier scenes in the episode, but there were also pictures of dinosaurs in there, amusingly. Anyway, Ed sees an apparition of Trisha, but before he can reach her, he is deconstructed and finds himself back in front of the doors with Truth. He says that his original theory for human transmutation wasn't wrong, but just missing something, and asks for Truth to show him the rest. Unfortunately, he's already seen all he can for the passage fee he's paid. And by "passage fee", I mean his leg.
Cut back to the brothers' house. Ed's bleeding out on the floor, shrieking in pain and calling for help. He cries out for his mother, and then sees the result of the transmutation; a misshapen black... thing that looks kind of like a contorted ReDead◊.
This is the homunculus Sloth in her earliest stage, before being fed red stones Scratch that, this is just a poorly-constructed human body, which croaks right after being transmuted. Though I guess you could sorta call it a homunculus since it's technically still an artificial human... whatever. This scene is really well done, and I think it's a lot more emotional than the corresponding scene in the first anime. The music probably helps, as does the cinematography and Romi Park's performance. The scene ends with Ed pulling Alphonse's soul from the Gate and binding it to one of the suits of armor in the room, at the cost of his right arm.
We flash forward to Roy and Hughes in Central, with Roy informing Hughes that the higher-ups are transferring him back to Eastern Headquarters. Hughes teases Roy, saying he'd better have gotten promoted to Brigadier General by the time he comes back to visit. He gives Roy the final report on Isaac; apparently the Freezing Alchemist used alkahestry from Xing. Neither of them have ever even heard of such a thing. Gee, wonder why. Hughes asks why Roy would let a kid like Ed become a State Alchemist, pointing out that he'll probably have to see hell one day. Roy says both the Elric brothers have already seen hell, and plenty of it.
Flashback again. Roy and Riza arrive at the scene of the transmutation and the colonel demands that the brothers explain what happened. When he sees their condition, he offers for Ed to join the military, explaining that he'll have access to information that might allow him and Al to fix their bodies. Hawkeye
-chuui Chewy talks to Winry, who asks why she became a soldier. Riza simply replies that it's because she has someone she has to protect. But now that I've seen the Fullmetal Alchemist: 4-Koma Theater extras, I'll always call bullshit on this claim; Riza joined the military and sticks by Roy because she wants to see him die like trash one day.
Ed decides to take Roy up on his offer, and has Winry and Pinako fit him with automail prostheses. We flash forward to after the surgery, with Ed and Al having one of their sparring sessions before Ed decides to try alchemy for the first time since the night of the rebound. He transmutes his automail arm into a blade—There's some QUALITY in this shot, with his arm being flesh from the elbow up◊, but thankfully this was fixed for the DVD and Blu-ray—and Al is amazed to see that Ed can perform alchemy without a circle like Izumi. Edward is surprised that Al can't do it too, asking if he didn't see "it", but Al has no recollection of Truth or the Gate. The scene is interrupted by Winry clocking Ed with a wrench for transmuting her automail, and she tells him that she's going to support him until he finds a way to fix his and Al's bodies. Ed's all "... Huh?" and Al gets this hilarious ":3"-face.
Ed goes to Central for his State Alchemist exam, and
Wrath the Furious King Bradley has decided to drop by and observe. Ed displays his ability to do alchemy without a transmutation circle, becoming a confirmed sacrifice in the process, and attacks Bradley, saying that this is a good way for a powerful figure to be assassinated. But of course Bradley chops that little spear of Ed's to pieces and walks away laughing, and Ed didn't even see him draw his sword. Bradley is awesome. Cut to Eastern Headquarters, where Roy gives Ed his silver watch, and his certificate which has his State Alchemist codename, "Fullmetal Alchemist". Ed likes his new title so much, he gets a raepface.
The episode ends with Alphonse waking Ed up from a nap as their train approaches Reole, and Ed just can't wait to
crush some religious hopes and throw an entire village into chaos get that philosopher's stone.
Oh, I forgot to mention it in my post for the first episode, but I really love the crayon drawing ED. It's cute.