…especially compared to FMA Brotherhood, which had the best and most satisfying final arc I’ve seen in anime (just a bit better than Eureka Seven’s). But that’s hardly surprising, because Brotherhood is a vastly superior show in every regard; and that’s not surprising either, because that’s the whole reason it exists. I joked once that Brotherhood gave me an excuse to not finish the original show, but I never actually took it off of my on-hold list and, having waited until Brotherhood was far from my mind (over a year), I finally put the nails in that coffin.
Here’s information: I never finished FMA before watching Brotherhood, so I didn’t go into Brotherhood with the same feelings about the show that other fans did who already knew one version of the story. Instead, I went into finishing FMA that way. However, it’s not as though I’m experiencing FMA for the first time: I was a big fan of this show when it was airing on Adult Swim in 2005, and had seen the first half (26 episodes) back then. Unfortunately, my family moved before the second half began airing, and we couldn’t afford cable anymore, so I never saw any more of the show. Besides watching the first ten episodes in Japanese a couple of years ago, I didn’t ever watch more of it until Brotherhood. Now, I finally borrowed the DVDs from a friend and marathoned the show in the past two days. It’s worth mentioning that I was already spoiled to a lot of the plot points, but I didn’t know how all of it comes together or anything.
Because my thoughts on this shitty ending are so jumbled and plentiful, I’m going to spew them in a somewhat disorganized matter. Starting with what’s on my mind at the moment, there’s Dante, the completely worthless main antagonist.
Dante first appears and is apparently killed unassumingly right at the point where the anime starts to seriously deviate from the manga’s plot (AKA when it starts getting shitty). I already knew that she was going to be the big bad, but I think that even if I hadn’t, all the scenes wherein the homunculi insist on calling her “that person” and needlessly hide her identity would’ve pissed me off. One of the things I hate the most in anime is when the plot revolves around a mystery that’s only a mystery because it’s a mystery—i.e. there’s no discernible reason why the homunculi don’t call her by name when talking about her. From a plot standpoint, it only serves to throw off whether the ringleader is Hohenheim or someone else. However, it’s revealed to the viewer that Dante is the big bad almost right after Hohenheim appears; the “that person” dialog only starts effecting Ed and Al’s ideas about their dad after the fact. There’s no mystery, but the potential for maybe some character development? Nope; by the time Ed gets to confront Hohenheim about it, he already knows that Dante is the villain, and the conversation ends up being, “were you and Dante just fucking around?!” “No.” “Oh, okay, then.”
Dante ended up in Lyra’s body, which was a truly terrible idea. My guess is that when the character Lyra was first introduced early in the show, the writers hadn’t yet planned on making her Dante’s vessel. That she was a named character at all means she was likely to return at some point, because FMA just works that way, but I imagine that if they knew she’d be harboring the big bad inside of her, they’d have hired a voice actress who could properly play a villain. Instead, her voice is Kakazu Yumi, who’s only role I’ve ever heard is fucking Anzu from Yu-Gi-Oh, and who’s completely average and boring as Lyra. Never once did Lyra-Dante seem like a threatening or imposing villain in anyway. This might’ve been on purpose, which would be just as stupid.
What I find most insulting about Dante as a villain is that she’s probably the stupidest major character in the series. Maybe that was the point—after all, this show tries so hard to be grimdark (I call the result grimdork), so it wouldn’t be surprising if “dumbasses create the world’s problems” was the inspiration for her character. Ed’s best line to her is “enough with your sophistry!” and God, was I with him on that. Her reasoning about life being unfair, and therefor equivalent exchange doesn’t exist blah blah, made no sense in the scientific framework of the law itself and really amounted to the kind of ideas some jackass teenager would have about “omg life is so unfair.” What I wanted Ed to point out was that the law of equivalent exchange has effects that go beyond the individual—that it operates on a universal principle and not a personal one—but instead he just said how he prefers not to think the way that she does and to believe that effort will yield reward, which is okay but doesn’t really put her in her place.
Dante is never shown doing anything significant on her own, and in the final episodes, she stands around and watches as her plans are foiled. Someone explain to me why she didn’t just have Gluttony eat Al as soon as she captured him? Especially if she really intended, as she says, to hop into Rose’s body and have sex with Ed; wouldn’t it be better to inhabit Rose’s body before Ed gets there? Actually, I don’t even know why she needed Gluttony to eat Al. It seemed to come out of nowhere while she had Al apparently disabled, laying on the transmutation circle. This raises another question: if Al was disabled, why does he get up when Ed dies? None of this is explained at all, so it just seems to happen. Dante wastes too much time and apparently her body is too weak to defeat Ed on her own, so she has her homunculus buddies take a fucking eternity to get it done, which of course pisses off Al enough to foil her plans anyway. All of this is fucking stupid and poorly thought out, even more on the part of the writers than on Dante her fucking self.
After this, Dante is like, “well shit, guess I gotta hurry and get another philosopher’s stone made before my fucking body dissolves” which seems fairly unlikely to begin with, but then she gets killed in a way so confusing that I had to check the FMA wiki just to make sure she wasn’t actually alive and to return in the movie. Minutes before, Gluttony had been stopped from eating Al by way of Al dissolving his bottom set of teeth, which implied that Gluttony could no longer eat. However, Gluttony managed to get into Dante’s elevator (through the floor while it’s ascending; no fucking idea how that works) and looked hungry. The only thing we see is Dante clap her hands, and then the elevator opening, empty. Now, one would assume that since Gluttony’s jaw had not apparently come back, he’d have a hard time eating her, although in retrospect, the fact that he ate through the floor proved that he wasn’t incapable (SO WHY NOT EAT AL?!). On top of that, the whole clap thing implies that Dante was about to protect herself with some kind of alchemy, but we have no idea what she did. Her body may have been deteriorating, but she was still a pretty strong alchemist and Gluttony was plenty fucking slow and retarded, so what happened? If she was going to get eaten, why leave it so ambiguous? And moreover, WHY WAS THE ELEVATOR EMPTY?! Did Gluttony decide, “aw hell, I’ll jump back down this elevator shaft”? I know that Gluttony shows up again in the movie so none of this makes any sense.
The whole idea of the other side of the gate being our world is fucking retarded. I don’t understand why this idea was necessary and it seemed to come out of nowhere at the end of the show. What fucking luck, too, that Ed ended up with his dad. This could be justified if we knew that Hohenheim had been there for a while and had time to look for him; it also might explain how he’s so important that Churchill calls him for council. I’m guessing all of this will be explained in the movie as some kind of time difference between the two sides of the gate, because otherwise, Hohenheim should’ve only been on Earth for like a couple of days, maybe weeks. That wouldn’t make much sense, though, since it’s obvious that the two dimensions are meant to overlap in time-frame. I’d have to watch the movie to find out, but since I already hate this whole idea to begin with, not to mention hate everything I’ve read about the movie, I really don’t want to.
There’s no good reason for Ed and Al to have been separated by alternate dimensions in the end, which, as I understand it, is also how the movie ends. The mechanics of human transmutation in this case are left ambiguous enough that the writers could come up with whatever they wanted, so they went with something as grimdork as they could get away with. This sentiment permeates the worst parts of the finale.
I’m putting all the blame for this on Aikawa Shou, who wrote most of the episodes, including the final twelve. I’m blaming him because I’ve seen his brainchild Neo-Ranga, which like FMA is a great show that ends in a complete fucking trainwreck of fail xanatos gambits. He also wrote a lot of Martian Successor Nadesico, which ended this way as well, only with far less shittiness. I don’t know why Aikawa seems to favor the shittiest endings imaginable, but he’s writing Un-Go (also by Bones and directed by Mizushima Seiji), so be ready for it.
The grimdorkness comes from the show’s desire to be cynical and “adult.” This is best represented in the part of the finale which I hated most—Roy Mustang’s story. Towards the end, Mustang’s crew seemed to be pulling off something similar to what they did in Brotherhood, which is an uprising and overtaking of the government. Instead… honestly, I’m not all that sure what the fuck they did. As I understand it, his team staged an uprising to distract the military or something while Roy moved in to kill King Bradley. How this makes any sense, I do not know, especially since it had to result in deaths among Mustang’s ranks.
What Mustang tells Ed in episode forty-eight is that he’s going to give up on trying to become the Fuhrer in order to kill King Bradley, simultaneously getting his revenge for the death of Maes Hughes (this is also stupid, because while it’s true that Bradley was a part of Hughes’ death, it’s not as though he actually killed him) and stopping Bradley’s plans. I have no idea why Roy had to do this, nor why he had to do so immediately. I don’t even know how he was planning to do it, since Bradley is immortal and it’s by pure chance that Selim happens to deliver his weakness at the end (and then is strangled to death in the name of extreme grimdorkness). Also, why does Roy have to give up his dream in order to accomplish this? We’re told that it’s because if he attempted an assassination, there’s no way he can have a military career. But… he does stay in the military. One would assume that if it was known he killed Bradley, then he’d be executed or something; instead he becomes a regular soldier in the movie and goes to a faraway outpost. WTF? If no one knows he did it, then why did it matter? He was a brigadier-general, just a step below the Fuhrer himself! Not to mention that because of his decision, power gets passed to a council and the military corruption is presumably never exposed. We’re even told by Sheska that the country is still at war. What in God’s name happened to Roy’s resolve? Why did he come so far to turn back when he was closer than ever? None of this makes sense and is a complete desecration of his character. The biggest insult is Ed and Mustang seeming to conclude that giving up their ambitions is the “adult” thing to do. SO. MUCH. FAIL.
Like with Ed and Al, Mustang’s ending was as grimdork as it could get away with, but it clearly wanted to be even more grimdork, what with Roy Mustang getting shot in the fucking face.
Gentlemen, let me tell you of Frank Archer-bot: the stupidest thing that ever happened in Fullmetal Alchemist. Frank Archer was a mildly interesting mid-series antagonist with a calm, collected nature and dark ambitions. He didn’t ultimately accomplish much except trap three of the show’s strongest characters in a room surrounded by weak-ass chimeras, then escape with ease (the second-stupidest thing that ever happened in Fullmetal Alchemist). Archer died when Scar turned the town of Lior (then full of soldiers) into a philosopher’s stone contained within Alphonse Elric (great episode). It seemed pretty clear that he was dead—maybe I saw it wrong, but I seem to remember him dissolving into pink dust along with everyone else. Everyone in the show seemed to believe he was dead, too. However, some time later, we’re told that he’s still alive and see a brief flash of him covered in bandages, half of his body (including his fucking head) gone, screaming. In the second-to-last episode, Frank Archer is revealed to have been revived with the shittiest automail the world has ever seen. This includes an arm that has an elongated shoulder for no apparent reason and is also a gun; a leg that isn’t really connected to his hip, causing him to limp awkwardly while he walks; and a small, retractable turret gun that comes out of his mouth. Frank Archer was revived as this hideous monstrosity for one purpose—to kill Roy Mustang.
Izumi Curtis keeps Archer busy while Ed escapes the headquarters where they didn’t find King Bradley. When Roy Mustang breaks into Bradley’s house, someone in the house calls the headquarters, and for whatever reason, the message is given directly to the unstable, barely able to walk, insane canon man Archer, who’s like, “I’ll be on my way,” than starts slowly limping out of the compound. One would assume that even if the Fuhrer’s house was just a ten-minute drive from the headquarters, it probably took Archer a good ten minutes to navigate his way to a car, and another ten to reach the house—but actually, Archer ends up crashing into another car, which has a fleeing family Bradley inside. This is what gives Selim the opportunity to run back to the house with his father’s skull, but it’s clear that Archer asks for one of the cars in the Bradley entourage so he can reach the house. If Archer took a car, then why did Selim beat him to the house by such a vast margin? Whether Archer took one or not, why didn’t he notice Selim heading for the house? If he walked, that had to take another twenty minutes. How fucking long were Roy and Bradley going at it?
After some kid-strangling and King-burning goes down, Roy leaves the house and comes face to face with Archer. Archer pulls a gun on him, and the camera cuts away to Riza Hawkeye catching up. She then shoots Archer to death from behind, only to find that Roy was already shot in the face. Why he couldn’t blow Archer to smithereens in time, we’ll never know. Considering that robo-Archer did nothing except for kill Roy and then die, he clearly was brought back for no other purpose. But Roy survives anyway, so the entire fucking existence of robo-Archer was meaningless. All it accomplished was giving Roy a motherfucking eyepatch.
Beyond this point, my complaints about the ending are much more general, and some apply to the whole show, albeit more extensively in the later half. My biggest annoyance was the quantity of scenes wherein a character managed to survive or even die simply because people stood around for too long. Take the aforementioned chimera scene, wherein Roy could’ve easily blown all of the chimeras to smithereens even while Archer was still unlocking the cage, but instead spends enough time standing around for Archer to escape. Another is a scene wherein Greed is running from Lust and Gluttony—they and two of Greed’s pals are in a room together; Lust and Gluttony just stand in the doorway while the chimera guys give a minute’s worth of self-sacrifice speech and Greed escapes. They wait until one of the chimeras delivers an embarrassingly shitty line (“I’m transmuted from a dog, so I have a strong sense of loyalty”) and charges at them before Lust kills both chimeras instantly with her finger blades. Greed, of course, is long gone. Almost every fucking scene involving the homunculi is like this because the homunculi are obviously overpowered, so there’s no reason for them to fail except by shitty writing and directing.
I don’t even want to talk about episode thirty-five. That was by far the shittiest episode of the entire show, which is kind of shocking after “The Other Brothers Elric, Part Two.”
If I wanted to be a huge dick, I’d also start complaining about how this show is overrated for its animation, which was nothing special except for that one fight with Greed; but I won’t get into all that. It’s not like I hate this show—on the contrary, there’s a ton about it to like, and if it weren’t for Brotherhood, I’m almost certain that I’d consider it rewatchable, what with my love for some of the main characters. (I even think that some of the later episodes were pretty decent (late thirties, early forties).) But that’s the thing—Brotherhood makes it unnecessary. It has the original FMA’s success to thank for that. Had FMA not been rampantly successful both in Japan and the West, it wouldn’t have gotten a remarkably well-budgeted sixty-four episode masterpiece of a repeat adaptation. I’m very thankful for that (lol secret late Thanksgiving post).
Edit: Something I forgot: WTF was up with Rose in the last few episodes? We never learn what kind of hypnosis bullshit Dante was using on her, and she just snaps out of it after Ed gets killed, long enough to yell “Edward!”—and then she isn’t even fucking on-screen until the resolution.