This is a joint review of the “Fullmetal Alchemist” series (not the ‘Brotherhood’ series) on my page and on the “Comicdom Wrecks” page, under the “Saturday Morning Cartoon” feature. Episodes 1-3 are on my page; 4 and 5 are on Comicdom Wrecks.
Episode 6: The Alchemy Exam
The pre-Intro portion of this episode was pretty short. Lt. Col. Roy Mustang is in Central City with Ed and Al Elric. Ed is bragging about passing the State Alchemy Exam (in the previous episode) with ease, while Mustang is bemusedly warning him to not get too cocky just yet. He informs the brothers that they have to find training on their own but suggests that they start with the Sewing Life Alchemist, Shao Tucker. This is where they will spend the next few months of the story, training for the Exam.
The boys and Mustang travel to the Tucker Estate; Mustang gives them a brief background of Tucker. Tucker has a 4-year-old daughter named Nina but no answer was given about his wife when Al inquired about her. 2 years prior, Tucker somehow managed to combine parts of animals into a “Chimera” that could speak the human language; Tucker passed the Alchemy Exam, as a result. The military still has no idea how he pulled this feat off.
The boys and Mustang, after Ed has a close encounter with Tucker’s over-sized, friendly dog, enter the
palace estate. The place is in disorder but livable. Nina is curious about “Big Brother’s clothes, which are like pots and pans”, before she is sent outside to play with Alexander (the dog). The boys want to see the Chimera; Tucker instead tells them that it died but shows them his “Reference Room”, a not-small personal library, and opens it up to their use.
Something that I’ve noticed in this episode and episode 5: both Nina and the little girl on the train called the brothers, especially Al, “Big Brother”. Is this a term of endearment?
Later, at dinner, Ed reaffirms his commitment to passing the Exam. Nina and Al have an unintentional heart-punch moment: Nina, noticing that Al isn’t eating and worried about him, tries to get him to eat a roll. He “eats” it (by just dropping it in his suit of armor); this saddens Ed, knowing that Nina means no harm but also knowing that Al will never know what food tastes like again, until he gets his body back.
The next few scenes are a time-skip: images of the brothers studying, practicing, playing with Nina and Alexander, and in Tucker’s Reference Room. Back in the present-day, Ed is in the library when he hears Alexander barking. He goes outside to find Nina, Alexander, and Al making Snow Angels. This leads to a heartwarming scene that counteracts the Nina-Al dinner scene: all four of the kids (and dog) playing and laying in the snow, laughing.
It was nice to see the Elric boys being… well, boys.
Nina confesses that she’ll get lonely once the boys leave. In return, Ed draws a Transmutation Circle and makes her “Magic Flowers”. Major Hughes approves.
Major Hughes arrived while Ed was drawing. He came to give Ed a “study break for his birthday”, to the shock of all, even Alexander (Ed never told anyone his birthday; Hughes found out on his own).
Hughes invites everyone to his house, where we finally meet Hughes’s very-pregnant girlfriend, Gracie, a very sweet woman. There are more stills of everyone seemingly having a good-to-great time, eating, drinking tea, and being around other company.
Back to “present time”: As she brings out some extra tea, Gracie’s water suddenly breaks. Hughes freaks out before running off to get a doctor. The kids are in various stages of “Freak Out”, also. Ultimately, (somewhat) cooler heads prevail, but not before the announcement that Gracie “can feel its head sticking out” sends everyone back into Panic Mode. Ed, without using a Transmutation Circle, somehow heats some water for Gracie. In the next scene, there is a healthy baby, a bawling Hughes, a grinning doctor, and a smiling, grateful Gracie.
The next day, Al and Ed work on teaching Al how to Transmute without using a Circle.
Later, Tucker explains the format of the Exam: a written Test (first), then an Interview, then Practical Skills. With the Practical Skills portion, half is a demonstration, half is on-the-spot application. The State only accepts 1-2 Alchemists every year. The Elrics hadn’t hadn’t planned on that part.. or any of the ‘application’ parts.
It’s Exam Day!
The brothers join a motley crew of all ages, races, and sexes in an Auditorium-like building, with Mustang and some of the Military High Brass sitting/standing at the front of the room. Nina and Alexander wait outside.
After the exam, the brother stagger out of the Auditorium; Ed didn’t finish the Exam but Al, to the shock of Lt. Col. Mustang, not only finished, but passed. His solution: he meets with the boys in an alley, and firmly suggests that Al drop out of contention; if he stays in, he’ll have to explain to the military “his past” (mainly the fact that he is a walking spirit that’s bound to a suit of armor, a result of illegal use of Alchemy). Ed assures Al that he’ll be OK; Al very reluctantly agrees to drop out.
Ed next enters a room, with a 3-legged chair in the center; the legs are all in a cluster. The chair should stay balanced if Ed sits in it, as long as he “has the gift”. The chair balances. The Interview begins…
… and it begins with a big question: “Why do you want to become a State Alchemist for the Military?” Ed: “Because I made a promise to the only family I’ve got.” Later that night, Al confesses that that he no longer wants to be in the suit; he wants to touch and feel things, again. Understandable.
The next morning is the final stage: The Practicals.
Before he goes in, Ed is stopped by Nina; she gives him a sweet gift – “a Circle to hold your Wish”:
10-15 potential Alchemists are in an open courtyard; Military Staff are also on hand. They announce that “raw materials” have been provided for their Alchemy: nearby trees, hills and mountains, ice, and so on. One guy creates a tower but it exhausts him, getting him disqualified; another guy puts a couple of trees in a circle and creates a paper-blimp. However, the paper tears, causing the blimp to crash into the tower, and causing both to fall towards the Tree Alchemist. Ed rushes into action, transforms the blimp into flowers – “Magic Flowers!” – (and didn’t use a Circle!), and saves the other Alchemist. Ed is the newest State Alchemist!
The brothers, Nina, and Alexander head back to Tucker’s Estate. Ed swears to return Al to his body, while Al swears that Ed’s body will be restored on that day. Fist-bump by the brothers!
Episode 7: “Night of the Chimera’s Cry”
When it comes to the saddest moments in cartoon or anime history, the ones generally at the top of the list (at least with cartoons) include “The Death of Bambi’s Mom”, “Mufasa’s Death (from ‘The Lion King’), and the Futurama episode “Jurassic Bark”; the live-action death of Atrieu’s horse in “The Neverending Story” is also on that list. After watching “Night of the Chimera’s Cry”, I would argue loudly and heavily that 2 instances from this episode should be in the Top 5 of the Saddest Cartoon/Anime Moments.
The episode begins with Ed receiving the Dragon medallion from Lt. Col. Mustang, a symbol that Ed is a fully sponsored State Alchemist. Ed was hoping for a little more pomp and circumstance; instead, he got a ride home from Lt. Havoc.
Outside, at the Tucker Estate, Al and Tucker’s family – his daughter, Lucy, and their dog, Alexander, are playing. Tucker is standing at a window, watching… and not approving?
Ed pouts almost the entire way home, thinking that Mustang is using him to get a promotion; Lt. Havoc tells him: 1) to quit pouting and 2) “if Mustang was just about that, none of us would be following him.” They arrive back at the Estate, where Alexander immediately grabs Ed’s metal and runs off. Tucker, to celebrate Ed’s accomplishment , decides to have a fest; while appreciative, Lt. Havoc turns down the invite. However, he informs Tucker that his “Assessment Day” is approaching and that the Colonel “is looking forward to it”.
Inside, Tucker explains that every year, his work is assessed by the Military; last year’s Assessment didn’t go well, it seems. The boys suggest making another Talking Chimera, esp. since they are there to see it; Tucker only promises to show them the results.
In their bedroom, Ed is writing a letter to someone. Nina didn’t get an answer out of him but Al did: it was to Winrey – “pretty name – is she your girlfriend?”, asks Nina. Ed does not handle the question well. 😉
I have to admit: it is pretty amusing to see Ed absolutely lose his stuff when he’s either called “small” (embellishing the questions and statements that people ask and make about him), or when someone implies that there’s more to Ed and Winrey’s friendship.
Nina, inspired by Ed, starts to write a letter to her Mom. Nina states that her Mom left her “good-for-nothing Alchemist” Dad to live to her parents but hasn’t responded to any of her letters yet. Her “letter” was actually a drawing of her family, including her mom. While Nina slept, Tucker explained that she didn’t like living poor and that he joined the State Alchemist ranks “practically the day after”. He’s worried about the Assessment; Nina is not.
The next morning, Ed sees that Tucker had burned Nina’s drawing.
Ed is at Central City’s library, trying to get info on the “Talking Chimera” but he is denied: he needs clearance from the Brigadier General, the “Ironblood Alchemist”. On his way out, he passes by a tall man, with white-topped hair, an ‘X’ across his face (at this time, I don’t know if that’s a scar, paint, or both), and sunglasses. Ed grabs his arm, trying to tell him that he won’t get in, but the guy yanks away, tearing his sleeve and revealing a heavily-tattooed arm. He flees into an alley. This is the first meeting between the two, but not the last.
We next see Ed and Major Hughes, with Hughes holding his cute baby girl… with pig tails! After Gracie takes the baby away, Hughes gives Ed what little info he had on Tucker and the Talking Chimera. Basically, Tucker became a State Alchemist due to his Chimera work. The Chimera did talk but only said “I want to die”.
Ed asks about Tucker’s wife: “She died before he moved here” was Hughes’s response.
Creepy. And very interesting.
Before he can say more, a phone call interrupts. The serial killer that the Military is tracking has struck for the 5th time.
Mustang, Hawkeye, Hughes, and others are at the scene. A little boy is sobbing beside a covered-up body. When Maj. Hawkeye tries to pull the little boy away, he grabs onto the sheet, uncovered the remains… of his mother. Ed sees this and has horrible flashbacks to his Mom’s life and death. He faints.
Ed wakes up in a room of the Estate, with Tucker sitting next to him. He figures out what happened to Ed and Al and understands their motives. Downstairs, there’s a commotion: the Brigadier General, Bas Gran, and 2 of his aides show up. He throws the Elric brothers out of Tucker’s Estates, basically for “snooping around the Sewing Life Alchemist’s work”. Nina is sad to see them go but gets a promise that they will “be back to play real soon”. Bas Gran(?) threatens to personally deal with Tucker if he doesn’t pass the Assessment in 2 days, angry that Ed is getting compliments from people all the way up to the King for his work. Sheesh.
In his living room, Tucker is sitting with his head hanging, until Nina and Alexander walk in, Nina wondering if he’s hurting somewhere.
He hugs her, saying that he’s at “the end of the line”.
Outside, military guards are knocked out by Ed and Al. They sneak into Tucker’s home and come upon cages full of beasts. Chimeras.
Tucker actually heard or sensed them, because he beckons them further in (I think they are in a basement). The room where Tucker is has different Alchemy Circles all over the walls and ceiling. There is also a small lab and bench. Behind Tucker is his latest Talking Chimera.
This Chimera actually answers Tucker when he says that Edward “is your friend”: “Edward. Friend.” The Chimera sniffs Ed, nuzzles his jacket open, pulls out his medallion, and asks him “Why does it hurt here?”
Ed then challenges Tucker on his 1st Chimera and the disappearance of his wife. With a mix of rage and sadness in his eyes, he asks:
“Where exactly have Nina and Alexander gone to??”
Sad Moment #2: the Talking Chimera that is standing by Edward is a mix of NINA AND ALEXANDER.
He also used his wife in Chimera experiments – she was the previous Chimera that got Tucker is State Alchemist title. Tucker tries to compare what he did with what the Elrics tried to do but Ed was having none of it.
Tucker did not have a reason for making Chimeras, other than it was Science and he wanted to see if he COULD do it; he understood that his life was ruined, regardless. He did for knowledge and control. He gets a well-deserved punch to his jaw for that.
This section of the episode, dark as it was, felt like a commentary on the nature of Scientific Research. Just how far is “too far”, when it comes to researching and testing the latest potential new cure, new product, or new procedure? The writing staff needs an award for this!
Ed repeatedly punches Tucker – GOOD! – until a combination of Al’s pleas to stop and the Chimera’s gentle tugging on his jacket snap him out of his rage-haze. “No, Big Brother.”
Everyone also realizes that Nina/Alexander can’t be split without killing them both – a “perfect transfusion”, according to Tucker. Just then, the Brigadier General and Staff arrive on the scene, admonishing Ed for striking Tucker. Ed wants to hear none of it.
Tucker and the Chimera are taken away – Tucker, to face a Court Martial, the Chimera to… who knows where. The Brig. General tells Ed to keep quiet about tonight, then punches him in the stomach with an Iron Fist when he protests. Ed retaliates by shaking the road enough to flip the transport vehicle over, busting open its back door. The Chimera runs away, with Ed in pursuit…
… and runs into Saddest Moment #1.
In the alley is the guy that Ed bumped into at the library. The Chimera, whimpering, walks up to him. His tattooed arm suddenly flashes red when the Chimera touches it, allowing him to sense what it is. He put his hand on its head, says some brief prayers, and another red flash of light occurs…
Ed and Al come around the corner. They don’t see the guy in the alley.
They see what’s left of the Chimera, up against the alley wall. It looked like it was exploded from the inside out.
The tattooed arm guy is walking away, in another direction. His brother “gave him the tattooed arm” and he thinks he now knows the reason why: to take out all Alchemists that have “fallen from your [God’s] path”. The episode ends with Ed and Al in the alley; it’s starting to rain and Ed is starting to cry.
If you want your heartstrings tugged and jerked in all different kinds of directions, watch the last 5 minutes of Episode 6, then watch the last 8 or so minutes of Episode 7. You end #6 on such a high, only to come crashing down at the end of #7. Masterfully done, Writers, but so d#$m cruel, too.
The next review may not be up until Sunday afternoon but I will do my best to get it up on Saturday. This is a good time to take a mental break… except homework and a recording of Podicus Wrecks’ “CWWA” RPG are the true reasons for the delay. 😉
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