I don’t even know where to begin with FMA. I’m sure like 95% of the population, my first exposure to Fullmetal Alchemist was through the first anime. That was pretty good! The ending did make me raise my eyebrows though, even though I was a dumb teenager. Ed living through WWI and the Great Depression was not my idea of a satisfying ending and his escapades in the Weimar Republic fighting the precursor to the Nazis from Wolfenstein even less so.
Luckily, that wasn’t the real story that the author had intended to write.
But even though the ending was incredibly dumb, FMA got me. It’s one of the shows I watched that wasn’t Naruto or Gundam when I was still in high school. And even though it wasn’t FMA proper, it had enough of its greatness still intact to draw me in.
Surprisingly, it’d be years before I got into real FMA. Once I got into it though, I found a fantastically well-crafted story. The pieces that were set in place at the beginning were put to much better use and made much more sense in this telling of the story. The vision of what the characters were facing and the size of the world were also a lot bigger and grander.
I don’t think there’s really ever a moment in the manga (and the eventual anime remake) that’s particularly dull. It keeps on chugging along, characters end up at places, and awesome things happen. The story flows really well in that it brings the characters to different places naturally, as opposed to TIME FOR TRAINING or something.
A lot of the first part of the story was pretty similar in tone and style to the first part of the first anime. So for me, where it really took off was at Briggs. It’s there where we’re in a new environment, meeting new characters, and fighting new mans. Yeah, I know the Xing characters were new, but they weren’t really as strikingly different to me as the Briggs crew.
And I suspect half the reason I enjoyed Briggs so much was because it’s where my favourite character of the series was introduced: Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong. She is an awesome lady who is arguably the best non-alchemist combatant. She’s practical, she’s competent, and she’s efficient. She doesn’t mess around with niceties. She’s values her subordinates, who reciprocate with unyielding loyalty. She’s one of the few top members of the military that’s actually deserving of the respect they command.
But where it’s most impressive is in its final act. It’s perfect. The buildup throughout the entire series is appropriate for what ends up going down. The final fights are amazing. The aftermath and resolution fits in the character of the series really well. It’s an incredibly satisfying ending to one of the best shounen manga of the last decade. If there was ever a series that was worth those agonizing month-long waits in between chapters, this was it.