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.


19 Responses to “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – 53”

  1. Clinton Says:

    very true very true i just love how this could go very badly for mustangs if envy had just used his powers better like just changing his arm into his real arm to shelid his body from the flames so he can get close and beat mustang

    and i love how it punished Envy sin the punishment is to have ones eyes melded shut man its got to hurt

    • lol Yeah, I think it’s at first extreme arrogance on Envy’s part, then anger and then fear as to why he does not employ his considerable strengths better. From the start, even though he is portrayed as strong, he is also shown to be a fairly weak fighter as far as strategy is concerned.

      To put it into perspective, as far as ability is concerned, Envy is probably stronger than Wrath, but Wrath is such a superior fighter, both in experience in and intelligence (while also possessing superhuman abilities), that he would kick Envy’s ass 99 times out of 100. (The 100th time would involve Wrath getting distracted, whereupon Envy scampers away like a doofus.)

      • clinton Says:

        that we cant be as sure of a fight bettween Envy and wrath would be alot diffrent as we remember Envys true form was able to crush ling effortlessly but in a fight against mustang his true from is just a disavantage

        but his true from against wrath is another story his true from crushed ling easly and ling could keep up with bradley it would not be an easy fight for him

        the main reason is because Wrath only has 1 soul in his stone meaning envy just has to kill him once

        • See, I think Wrath’s vast battle experience gives him the edge — he’d quickly calculate a way to take down Envy. I mean, Greed had the “ultimate shield” and Wrath beat the piss out of him.

  2. This is why I’m glad they made Brotherhood. This is probably one of the few scenes that is better in the anime than in the manga. It was scary enough in comic form, but seeing it all in motion, watching Envy’s smug insanity when impersonating Gracia and hearing the raw fury behind Mustang’s voice just drives the point home so much more clearly. Reading the manga, this scene just made me thing “kinda brutal, but extremely awesome”. Watching the anime, all I could think was “holy shit, he’s really crossing the line here”.

    I finally found a part about the new opening that I genuinely like, namely that shot of Wrath going “I’m too old for this shit, man.” Everyone else can cry their eyes out, he’s just mildly annoyed. And that is cool.

  3. I’ve always felt, even in the first season, that Mustang would be one of the greatest anime villains if they ever decided to paint him as one. The radio broadcast at the start of the episode, for example, stunk so much of convinient timing and propaganda that simply telling the story from a slightly different point of view would portray Mustang as the villain. This episode proved it once and for all. Mustang strays closer to the evil side than the good side. He just so happens to be fighting on the side of the protagonist

    • That is a good point. Mustang toes the morally gray line more willingly than Ed and Al — not to say he LIKES it, but he’s much quicker to do what he believes must be done, even if it is not a clear-cut “good” action (which is why Olivier approves of Mustang more than Alex, haha). That view on things leaves him a bit more prone to actions such as what he does in this episode.

      And of course there’s also the controversial storyline involving Mustang in the first season that I won’t spoil, but anyone who has seen it probably knows what I am talking about.

  4. Landon Says:

    Never been much of a FMA fan, but reading this almost makes me want to watch it. I’m down with some Death Wish/Taken/etc revenge porn, especially since it’s in the name of one of the few characters (Hughes) I liked from the original series.

    • Haha, putting aside the morality, Mustang actually carrying out his revenge against Envy is an awesome — if chilling — sight. If that’s what you dig, then you’d probably enjoy that part of the episode (along with ep19, where Mustang pulls something similar against Lust).

  5. fathomlessblue Says:

    I also love how the mangas art becomes harder as the series progresses, not just to represent the aging of characters but the larger complex storylines and the increasingly brutal fighting that takes place. Ling is my favourite example of this. He first turns up taking nothing seriously and looking like a bad puppet in many scenes, with ott slanty eyes and a perpetually cheerful expression. Its only when he finds himself in over his head with the homunculi that his appearance alters to reflect his chance in attitude

    • fathomlessblue Says:

      ps excuse my terrible writing… I was tired

    • Yeah, definitely — you see a bit of that in the anime, too, how much his appearance changes when he takes Greed into his being. Death Note also works like this, as many have pointed out, with Light taking on an increasingly sinister appearance as he leans more on the Death Note.

  6. You have a point about FMA and it’s idea of morally gray characters. Almost every character in this show is morally gray even Ed and Al who’ve now both used the power of the philosopher’s stone. No one in real life is completely 100% moral, and I think the fact that this show neither condones nor condemns people for their various actions is a good thing. Letting us decide for ourselves rather than forcing people into ‘good guy’ ‘bad guy’ roles (with the exception of Kimblee) is what makes this show great.

    • Yeah, that’s what keeps FMA a step above most shounen series — it’s actually willing to test its characters as much as possible and let them come out a little more flawed than they were before.

    • clinton Says:

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha oh my god epi i want to spoil so bad so so bad why do you say things like this

  7. I’m pretty much sure he’s not crossing any line. After all, one of the episodes suggested that he didn’t even kill anyone in Ishbal. Now killing zombies and big scary monster who wants to turn whole nation into a stone seems to be quite logical, the methods could be harsh but still it’s a good choice.

    Seeing cold-as-ice Mustang was awesome by the way, nice difference. But really, don’t expect him to become some sort of badass, he can act like a badass, but after the episode with Rose I think we got our lesson.

    • I agree that killing Envy isn’t of itself a bad thing (since there is no way in hell a guy like him would ever reform), but it’s more bad for Mustang if he allows himself to take pleasure in torture and killing.

      I’m a manga reader, so I know what’s up from here on out, haha.

      • Uh-huh, sorry, had some wrong assumptions, now that I watched episode 54 everything is clear – Mustang went rampage for real.

        Sad thing about Envy though.

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