Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – 53
How hot are the flames of revenge? Hot enough to boil a homunculus’ eyes and burn his tongue out. Eesh.
There is no doubt that Mustang brings the pain to Envy in a swift, brutal matter — it’s almost unfair, actually, and I might be inclined to feel some pity for Envy if he weren’t such an enormous asshole. However, while Mustang’s Lust barbeque 34 episodes back (has it really been that long??) sent many a fan — including myself — into hysterics at his badassery, there was also a coldness to his attack that is taken to a further extreme here.
And why shouldn’t it? Mustang has made no bones (lol) about his goal in hunting the homunculi: He wants to find the one who killed Hughes, and exact vengeance. Correct me if I am wrong, but Mustang never seems to refer to what he does as “justice”; he knows what he is doing is for his own satisfaction, and he is familiar with the depths of darkness into which he threatens to sink. There is a line between killing because one has to (in self-defense/defense of a country/city/whatever) and killing because one wants to — Mustang is willingly crossing this line, and the truly scary thing is that he crosses the line for a reason that is perfectly understandable, and morally gray. Who among us would not wish ill will upon someone who wronged us, or a great friend, so egregiously?
I don’t believe I would raise my hand in the name of vengeance (not a particularly violent person), but I can’t say with 100 percent certain that I would not be tempted, even a little bit.
Unlike many pieces of fiction that purport to be anti-violence/war/whatever while simultaneously glamorizing it, the art, animation and direction in this episode makes the one-sided battle between Mustang and Envy interesting to look at while not pissing all over the feeling that Mustang’s vengeance is supposed to evoke, which is that it threatens to make him as cold and inhuman as the Homunculi themselves are.
Up to this point in the manga, Arakawa’s art subtly shifts from a softer sort of look in the beginning to a harder-edged look that reflects the growth of Ed and Al, and how deep the darkness that consumes Amestris is. Certain scenes — such as this battle and the Lust/Mustang battle from a while back — are done in an even more extreme, black and white style reminds me a bit of Frank Miller’s Sin City (except in that comic the black-and-white style is a constant). Being a work in full color, the anime can’t really go that route, but it does an admirable job in making the character design and action suitably kinetic, hard-edged and dangerous, and there are also some simple directing tricks (the fisheye lens, which has been used before in the series) to show the distortion of Mustang’s revenge.
Even in the most faithful of adaptations, there is going to be a difference between what is depicted on the pages of a manga and what is depicted in full motion. Sometimes an anime diminishes the impact of certain manga scenes, just because anime art tends to be simpler than manga art because it’s just plain easier to animate that way. And sometimes anime turns out to be really effective because actually seeing something in motion brings an immediate, visceral quality to the scene. I won’t say whether the Mustang/Envy battle is better animated than on the manga page, but for me, at least, seeing it in motion really does bring to life the heat of the fight, and how utterly cold it is as well.
I agree with Epi wholeheartedly when he writes that the way Mustang goes about avenging Hughes’ death is “mega creepy”, which is absolutely intended, and, I think, would be pretty clear even without Ed speaking with Scar and expressing concern about the dark cloud surrounding Mustang’s heart. As a piece of animation, the fight looks undeniably cool; as a part of a story meant to evoke emotion, it does not glorify Mustang’s actions. He deliberately aims to cause the most pain possible to Envy — scarring his tongue, boiling his eyes, roasting him alive again and again. This is frightening. There is no possible joy that can come from Mustang’s actions; only coldness.
In a way, it reminds me of the concerns about Durarara!! Landon wrote about a while back, where the show presents morally gray characters and actions but also seems to implicitly condone them. Brotherhood has the same basic scenario — a character the audience likes and supports doing things that would not be supported by a good number of people — except that the presentation of the action and the characterization of Mustang, while believable, is also not condoned by the series (which should be even more apparent in the next episode), even if it’s done to a dipshit like Envy.
This entry was posted on 04/19/2010 at 10:23 am and is filed under Fullmetal Alchemist with tags Fullmetal Alchemist. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.