Ever since watching the movie-like episodes of Batman: the Animated Series on a Saturday morning as a kid, I have been excited about the stories animation can tell (I guess maybe Disney films like The Jungle Book, Robin Hood, Aladdin, The Sword in the Stone, and Toy Story probably helped.) But watching this popular Japanese anime series was something different. It is a 51 episode series, telling one complete story aside from a few unrelated quests and some episodes more based on developing characters. The whole thing has a varied tone, and is (broadly) a fun adventure story – but it really made me laugh, and certain scenes are creepy, incredibly so, for such a colourful story. It deals with some big issues like the loss of family members, the dangers of all-consuming obsessions, and the difficulty of coping with death in general, as well as a background theme of the damage caused by military oppression and racism.
The strong friendship of teenage brothers Ed and Al is a staple element of the formula, and together they leave home (Odyssey-like) to discover the secrets of alchemy, so that they can un-do a past catastrophe which left Al’s soul body-less and grafted to a giant suit of armour. Being essentially a walking ghost with an imposing outer shell makes life difficult for Al (unsurprisingly) and the friendship of the brothers is put to the test in extraordinary ways throughout this fantastic journey. The military characters are also very well-realised and a highlight of the series.
Mostly you will be carried along by the compelling, often tense story into a mix of emotions. Through the main two characters we are encouraged to explore the right and just thing to do when faced with monsters and criminals, outlawed civilians and even those we have brought up or influenced (think Frankenstein’s monster). As you can probably tell, the rich plotlines and interesting themes set this totally apart for me from any other series I’ve seen. And for those who have already seen it, I hear that a new series based on the characters is in the works! Magic!
The movie [pictured above] is a fun follow-up to the series, but only for fans, and even then it's nothing to write home about.