Rough Notes Archive: Fullmetal Alchemist

Management: So I heard you guys like notes or something! As with Utena and Katanagatari, I took a whole crapton of timestamped notes while watching FMA, with almost any line of any noteworthy thematic relevance being recorded and commented on in time. They’re not intended to be an actual formal piece – they’re me gathering ideas and poking at thoughts as I watch the show in real time. But if you want a big dense journey into FMA’s threads that goes beyond my essay on the subjecthere we are.

Fullmetal Alchemist

Episode 1

1:57 – Law of Equivalent Exchange: To obtain something, something of equal mass must be given

“Is that some kind of natural law? Man cannot gain anything without sacrificing something?”

6:05 – Religious radio broadcast for all the people. Indoctrination

6:45 – The people love him. Magic as religion. Science as indistinguishable from magic

7:51 – “Then you guys can perform miracles too?” “Nah, it’s just alchemy.”

11:15 – Rose does “good works” hoping for a miracle. Her faith is about payment of a debt

13:46 – But the brothers represent the military, which obviously has its own interests. It’s not about right and wrong, it’s competing priorities

15:34 – “We’re scientists, so we don’t believe in God. Ironic, because we are the closest to becoming them.” Ooh, I like this guy

15:44 – And then stuff about being burned by the son. Arrogance seems key

17:43 – And the protagonists seek the Philosopher’s Stone, which is its own kind of rule-breaking god. Everyone believes in something, or wants to

18:30ish – The “man of God” sees himself as the town’s savior. What matters how this prosperity was created, if it is real now? Like alchemy

Episode 2

5:45 – “Whether you call these works alchemy or not depends on the person.”

10:00 – “Perhaps this chimera which tweets with Cane’s voice is to your liking?”

12:50 – “Does it matter if these are the works of God? If they bring happiness, they are the same.”

18:58 – “How could you do that to us? What am I supposed to cling to now?” Even belief in a fake is a real thing. It can give you strength

Episode 3

6:03 – They compete at alchemy, their mother preoccupied with the war

8:06 – Bringing people back from the dead is the limit of belief. The show is not all for belief

11:50 – “It’s just forbidden because adults are frustrated.” The clash of faith and its limits again. The cost of attempting to realize faith is high

12:10 – “Mom was always waiting for him, and he didn’t even come home for her funeral!” Al can’t understand the value of faith that will never be realized

17:00 – “We have been searching for your father for a long time.” Everybody’s looking for something

21:50 – “I don’t want to lose you too.” The distance between faith and obsession

Episode 4

6:00ish – Al is just happy to be using his alchemy to help others

20:32 – Majhal would rather worship an ideal of his lost love than her living reality

21:50 – “I was thinking that alchemy can also delude people.”

Episode 5

10:03 – The army seems to treat their opponents as pure criminals, not respecting their offers or demands

11:30 – Ed and Al taking out the terrorists just makes the other passengers more frightened – again, their personal values taking precedence over group harmony/safety

17:50 – “Is the military using even children now?!?”

Okay, then he just turns out to be a super-simplistic “I want to get stronger!”, which is lame

Episode 6

9:52 – They’re really hammering the “family” angle here, with Ed being invited to one of his commander’s homes for his birthday

11:19 – “How can there be nothing we can do at a time like this?!?” Ed is pretty defined by his need to be able to “solve” things

12:40 – “This alchemy stuff… turns out it wasn’t any help at all, huh? In contrast, mothers are pretty awesome.” Alchemy cannot create things – it is a hopeful act, not a constructive one?

17:26 – “If you are a true alchemist, the chair will not refuse you. At no time allow yourself to be afraid!” Alchemy is its own cult, really

Episode 7

6:46 – Holy shit, Shou Tucker is actually fascinating. He’s overwhelmed with stress over not failing his annual evaluation, which is basically the symbol to him of being a successful parent.

There was also an earlier moment about how “if Mustang just cared about promotions, we wouldn’t follow him”

And now Tucker’s actions are being kept as a military secret

10:19 – Tucker sacrificed a family member for each Chimera. The cost of faith and ambition is high indeed

11:53 – Tucker sympathizes with what the brothers did. He understands sometimes you must gamble on ambition

13:22 – And Tucker is backed into the corner by his political supporter in the military. He has no choice

18:08 – “As a scientist, no! As a person, there is no end to your desire to put your knowledge into practice.”

“It’s easy when you use people.” – he turned the fuel of human connection into awful advancement

And then the man who was cursed with alchemy by his brother lets her go. God, it’s so horrible

Episode 8

5:00ish – Ed can’t get past the awful nature of Tucker’s research to embrace what validity it might contain.

9:44 – “It’s good for the youth to pursue their dreams.”

11:05 – “Alchemists are not murderers!” Ed isn’t thinking scientifically – he’s thinking “I believe in alchemists, thus they must not be evil,” not from actions outwards. He thinks he’s above faith, but wants to believe in alchemy

16:12 – “It’s so easy for people to kill one another.”

18:19 – On the edge of death, Ed is willing to kill to survive, but it does not come easily for him

18:58 – “The story became known as Ed’s first major achievement.” But of course, from the inside, it’s no achievement at all. It’s just a terrible turn of events. Mythology is built out

20:20 – “We may have to become monsters in their eyes to accomplish this. But we really aren’t devils, much less gods. We’re just tiny, insignificant humans, who couldn’t even save Nina.”

21:48 – “I like it. It has an oppressive feeling to it. I’ll take that name.” The appearance of things

Episode 9

1:00 – I like how they’re portraying Winry trying to cheer up Edward. They’re very direct, yet very specific to their characters. They respect their character emotions much more than most shows

7:13 – The coal mining village hates “dogs of the military.” They really harp on that phrase

11:09 – This coal mining town story is standard “evil military middle-management growing fat off the people” stuff, but it plays into how so much of even the “good” military characters’ narratives are political games

12:59 – “You can express all the rights of the world in terms of equivalent exchange.”

Episode 10

8:23 – pretty simple narrative, rebel resembling our heroes’ mom in disposition, causing them to think about the arbitrary nature of heroes and villains

13:19 – “a lot can happen in one life. You kids don’t know anything.” Simple morals are easy when your life is simple

18:33 – Clara keeps destroying charitable ventures for her benefit.

19:25 – She caused grief in the city to bring it publicity, to save it

Episode 11

0:23 – Now they travel to a post-industrial town, a place Ed reasons would be desperate to have a Philosopher’s Stone

10:49 – “I’ll make sure at least you get away.” “That won’t make me happy.”

18:01 – Telling your family when they’re doing something wrong even if it’s difficult is the conflict of this episode. Seems like it may continue to come up in future ideology wars

20:19 – The red water that creates a proxy-Philosopher’s Stone is unsurprisingly extremely dangerous for humans, and causing mass sickness in the town

21:45 – And the older brother’s obsession with research and chasing his father leads his younger brother to be gravely hurt

Of course, Ed is also crazy – he keeps raising the stakes of the situation because he’s a hothead who can’t back down once fathers come into the question

Episode 12

5:45 – The two false brothers are the sons of “Nash,” who discovered the red water

7:08 – Nash abandoned the research (which had been prompted by Central), but was convinced to return to it by Magwar, the central landowner of the post-gold rush village

7:33 – Equivalent exchange – the renewed gold created the sickness within the people

9:20 – “The only thing those two have is their father.” “They’re just using him as justification for what they’re doing.” Ties into the organization stuff – what you do for your support structure

13:21 – “You can’t obtain happiness by relying on the Philosopher’s Stone!”

Episode 13

7:03 – “Are you telling me to become one of your toadies? We, ourselves, have a purpose.”

9:30 – Lots of discord within the military, it seems

10:20 – “Doctor Marcoh,” the man they’re searching for who helped cure the red water disease, was apparently a deserter from the military

10:30 – And all records of him have been erased. The military uses science, but it is perfectly happy to invent a history it wants people to believe

12:22 – The Flame Alchemist loves dogs because they’re loyal servants. Lulz

19:22 – Roy Mustang was forced to kill people during an old rebellion. “Marcoh, who deserted the battlefield, was the most sensible man among us.”

21:08 – “Will you tell Edward the truth?” “He believes he’s saved a town. We can let him believe that. He’ll find out on his own sometime.” Roy Mustang understands that even scientists hang their beliefs on something

22:06 – “The bigwigs conned the Fuhrer into coming here. Five state alchemists have been killed in the capital already.”

Episode 14

0:52 – “Rose, is it okay that we’re not fighting?” “Against whom?”

1:27 – “Humans are foolish, miserable creatures.”

10:17 – As Marcoh recounts his story of a terrible battle, we see shots of the current terrible battle, grounding in that these tragedies repeat themselves

15:36 – “Scar,” the one killing alchemists, says he works in the name of God

16:42 – “If you are Creators, then there must also be a Destroyer.” Sounds like nonsense, frankly

And then he spews a bunch more “servant of God” crap. But he sees his brother’s conviction in Al? So it’s probably justification for a more personal grievance

21:13 – Really nicely juxtaposes the alchemists escaping the “servant of god” with Rose defying the alchemists’ orders

22:13 – “You still have your legs, don’t you?” “We’ll get out of this ourselves. Our legs are fine!” Alchemy is a crutch – hope in a higher power in general seems to be a crutch. It’s only individual action that can affect positive change

Episode 15

6:46 – “Scar… he was definitely an Ishbalan.” So their murderer is a refugee from a massacred people. Understandable!

7:08 – “If everyone who ever lost in a war swore revenge, there’d be no end to it.”

7:48 – “The Ishbalans saw alchemy as the work of a devil, something that perverted the earth provided by god.”

9:08 – “Because you’re trying to keep them down by force, resistance is spreading.” yeeep

9:57 – “In order to hasten the end of this war, I authorize the use of alchemic augmentation agents.” So the Fuhrer is Truman?

13:29 – “How can there be any legitimacy to his revenge when he drags people who aren’t involved into it?” That’s pretty much how all of this always works, Ed

13:55 – “Taking revenge won’t bring anything back! All you need to do is live.”

21:15 – “We’re falling apart, aren’t we?” “But we’re alive.” “Yeah. We’re alive.”

Episode 16

8:20 – Ed’s able to consider Scar an enemy once he realizes he killed Nina. The individual stuff is important

17:54 – The man lost his leg in the war, but doesn’t want to replace it – his lost leg is a reminder of his sins. You can’t wish back the consequences of your actions – your failures are reminders

18:30 – “It’s only once you’ve lost something that you gain something.” Am I really going to have to watch fifty episodes of repeating these same messages?

19:31 – “We’re living desperately to get things back. We haven’t gained anything in return.”

19:48 – “A dream that is granted can’t be called a real dream at all.”

22:00 – And Ed realizes Mustang might have been going to apologize to the mechanic’s family those years ago, and apologizes to Muscles. Everybody has their own burden

Episode 17

0:37 – “You can’t come home to a place where you’ve got no family waiting for you.” That works for a fair number of characters

11:00 – “Brother, did I ever have any friends? My memory’s all hazy.” Oh wow, this could be interesting

19:24 – “We don’t have a home to return to. We have to move forward.”

Episode 18

17:46 – “Right now, they are doing something only they can do. It is the role of us adults to watch over them.”

yeah, this episode’s basically pure plot

20:00 – Nice shots of Ishbalan refugee camp

22:04 – “I cannot stay here. I am a man who has betrayed the way of God.” Scar is a mirror of the Eldrics

Episode 19

0:20 – “The stone, red as blood.” It’s a natural instinct to want to turn back time, to undo past evils, but it’s impossible. But we always struggle against that, just as we struggle for faith.

3:42 – “God must really hate people who have committed the damnable.”

6:18 – “Is what you’ve been searching for something you’d abandon this easily?” It’s all about the search – about a quest for something unattainable

6:59 – “You’re scared, right? That the answers might disappear? That all you’ve done so far will be for nothing?”

7:35 – “It’s okay if it doesn’t mean anything. Verifying what you’ve done is worth something.”

16:24 – The homunculi want Edward to succeed, to grant them the philosopher’s stone. Everybody has a hope

20:30 – The guardians are called by numbers – alchemically created beings? Former state alchemists?

22:08 – Yeah, he’s an armored body, like Al

Episode 20

4:54 – So the numbered guards here are actually former prisoners

16:30 – “You’ll pay for doing that to my brother!” “If I die here, who’ll change Al back?!” Brothers are pretty important in this series. Even Scar is attempting to avenge his brother

18:24 – “With our bodies like this, can you really call us ‘someone’ at all? Destroy us”

20:04 – “Suppose you were a fake, what then? What if your memories were implanted in you in just the way your brother wished?”

20:14 – “As a spirit, something indefinite with no real form, how can you prove you are Alphonse Elric?” Al’s very existence may be a matter taken on faith – a dream that is believed in

21:04 – “Now that we have abandoned our bodies, it’s a miracle to think that, for the first time, we are being treated as people.”

Episode 21

8:26 – “If we ever returned to being human, we’d just be executed again.” Ed isn’t willing to accept that these men are willing to accept their fate

9:23 – “I’m glad you respect him as a human. That’s why he can never go back to being #48. And this is all he can do, as a human.” You can’t change everything. They do not have hope or faith, but they are at peace with their destiny

11:26 – “This is how far the former Crimson Alchemist has fallen.” of course some of these state alchemists would end up as crazy killers

13:44 – And of course Tucker shows up in the basement. The army recycles

16:10 – So Scar’s brother tried alchemy as well – “Ishbala will not bring her back for us” – alchemy is essentially the promise of control. That the things you hope for, your dreams, can be made reality through your will. That your regrets can be wiped away, the debt paid – “equivalent exchange” promises you that you can always pay for what you want, but in truth, there are things you must come to accept

17:10 – “Yes, Isbhal will be destroyed. It has been preordained.”

19:57 – Tucker is now trying to create a new Nina. His research is trying to turn back the clock as well

Episode 22

1:53 – “A homunculus is an artificially created person.”

5:40 – “You can’t turn them back. Either they become philosopher’s stones or their lives meant nothing at all.”

12:32 – “You’re going to pay. You, who carry his blood!” Alright, the homunculi have some grievance with Ed’s father

13:39 – “What’s the point of bringing just her form back to life? Nina’s spirit won’t be there!”

13:51 – “I do have her spirit. Right here, in my memories. Once I transmute that, the perfect Nina, the greatest one I could desire, will be born.” Terrifying

14:50 – The homunculi wish to be human

15:48 – “No! Me and Al came this far for our own sakes!” He wants desperately to believe he is in control of his destiny – that hard work and effort pay off, that he can set the path. But the homunculi’s manipulation of his journey are reflective of how the world itself works

18:44 – “For someone to live, they must take from someone else’s life to some degree.”

19:00 – “You didn’t care if you became dogs of the military? Don’t go turning back into children now that it suits you.”

Episode 23

5:54 – “Everything that happened is being chalked up as the doing of Scar.” Yeap

20:50 – “What would you have me believe, with this hollow body?” It’s true – if alchemy works the way they want it to, then virtually nothing is “real” – nothing is fundamental, everything can be changed and adjusted to the way you want it to be

Episode 24

2:00 – “Is god bestowing on us yet another trial?” “This is not the will of god. This is the karmic doing of despicable men!” Man, the alchemists really fucking’ hate those Ishbalans

5:13 – “My memories of being with Mom could be fake, too.” Maybe I’ve just watched too much Monogatari, but who the fuck cares? If your memories are real to you, they are real. It doesn’t fucking matter whether they have objective truth or not

9:45 – “In this body, do you think I’m still human?” The show cares about this conflict, but I sure don’t. The answer is “of course you are, you dumb fuck, humanity has nothing to do with your physical frame,” but apparently some people do care about your physical frame, and so this conflict is a thing

10:23 – The military folk in this episode are just crazy one-dimensional villains

12:57 – “If it means saving Rick, they can have this old body.”

14:32 – Interesting that the villains here are mercenaries. Why would there be mercenaries? Are they former soldiers, people abandoned by the military, but still trying to get a paycheck from them?

16:36 – “I was wondering if you blamed me for ending up in that body.” Family is really key here, too

17:49 – “Who are you?” “Same as you, a dog of the military.” Yeah, then they make that connection overt. Working for the military is working in service of another higher power, possibly

20:30 – The mercenary thought he was hired by the military, but was tricked by the homunculi. We are all victims of what we believe

Episode 25

1:31 – Young Roy and Maes are basically talking about “attempting what is forbidden” as if it’s suicide, or the slow self-destruction of an ex-soldier.

2:00 – “There is a better way to use up this life I’ve been given than this.”

9:59 – “He’s a killer. And he used alchemy to do it. I can’t let him get away with that.” Killers are one thing, but abusing the thing Ed believes in?

12:15 – “Vengeance just fosters the seeds for renewed vengeance.” Someone finally giving Scar a talking-to

12:28 – “Those who receive pain can still sleep. Those who give pain cannot sleep.” Can this tie into alchemy?

13:55 – “Mustang doesn’t have to hear about all that. Plus it’s likely our phones are tapped.”

21:19 – “Killed in the line of duty, and promoted two ranks.” Man

Episode 26

18:44 – “Your automails aren’t just a device. They are your limbs, and are yours alone. I don’t remember raising any daughters that weren’t aware of such a thing.” Adorable

19:10 – “I guess I was glad when I was able to stand on my own two feet again.” What is is never questioned – if automail can help you, it is not a false god. It seems like it’s just the idle hopes that are condemned by the show

21:46 – Winry is hurt by his need to get his own limbs back. He can’t rely on the people around him. He has to believe in something that will save him

Episode 27

6:21 – The childhood Elrics have heard of Ishbal, but only know of it as a cautionary philosopher’s stone fairy tale. Nice detail

6:30 – There’s more to the faith angle. “If we can decipher this, we can…” “But it’s written there that human transmutation is forbidden.” Maybe the actual presence of hopes you can’t actually acquire is key to what people respond to in these faiths. As in, the distance between what you can achieve and what a hope promises is itself the catalyst to make people believe

14:55 – “Take pride in the life you have.” More about the value of family, about family giving value to your life.

15:23 – “They watched a life being born? That must have been nice for them.” Ah, so there’s just baggage behind their teacher and children. Maybe there’s something to alchemy and the creation of a child?

15:43 – The village kids rely on their teacher. She’s basically a parent in function

15:49 – “Fix it with alchemy!” “Don’t rely on alchemy for everything. Fix whatever you can fix by yourself on your own.” Key line – alchemy is faith, but we should always do our best to make the most of our situation through what we are actually given. Fits in nicely with the other messages

16:10 – “If you don’t want it fixed so ungracefully, be careful with it so it doesn’t break.” “Thank you! I’ll be back when I break it again!” “Don’t break it, I said…”

17:23 – “Is Chico broken?” “No. She died.” “But… you can do anything, right? Fix Chico!” This show’s ideas are pretty consistent. How should I frame this?

17:36 – “A life is different from a thing, you see, and I am not God.”

17:56 – “I cannot create a life for Chico… but I can make a grave for her.”

18:20 – “Everything in the world flows around and circulates.” Circle of life yada yada

19:33 – “By knowing the law and flow of power, you can contend with all things.” And the law is a circle. There is no escaping it

19:43 – “Those who would create things after accepting this… they are alchemists.”

19:54 – “The world constantly follows a great flow. The death of people is a part of that flow, and thus you cannot think about bringing them back to life.”

Episode 28

0:33 – “Do you think like Sensei maybe doesn’t feel like we’ve made any progress at all?”

4:38 – Surviving on the desert island with alchemy forbidden. Pretty simple – like the last episode, she emphasizes what you can do yourself. Alchemy is a crutch, believing something will solve things for you

4:48 – “One is all, all is one. If you don’t find the answer in a month, I’m sending you home.”

11:00 – The rabbit they don’t eat ends up feeding a family of foxes. Everything flows into something else. Every use of alchemy exacts a toll as well.

14:51 – “All of this… what does it have to do with alchemy? I want to go home…” Can’t ever go home, kid

16:40 – “I get it. When you die, this is what happens.” As the ants take apart the cicada, he begins to accept death – but then his mother’s face flashes before him, and he gets up to save Al. His refusal to accept the cycle is actually his source of strength here

17:40 – “If I, with my small existence, were to die, my body would remain. I’m fated to be broken down, to become bacteria for plants.”

18:15 – “Without even being aware of it, we naturally go on circulating.”

18:35 – “We are one small part of a larger flow.”

They acknowledge that Sensei would not have wanted them to transmute their mother – it counters the flow. “She’d probably disagree with everything we’re going to do, as well.” So there’s basically two contradictory instincts here – the fact of the world, that things change, that we can’t control everything, that things are lost and attempting to retrieve them is folly – and the fact of faith, that we continuously push for things that fall outside that cycle, that it motivates us.

20:45 – “You intend to get back through error what you lost through error?” “Maybe that’s wrong of us. But, if that’s the case, what are we supposed to do? We’re going to move forward. We’re still alive.’’

Episode 29

1:58 – They really hammer in the motherliness of Sensei, even with this new kid

4:52 – “We became conceited, saying that the world was within us too, and tried to alter that flow.”

7:30ish – “An animal’s life is not a plaything.” “I’m playing!” HOMUNCULUS

11:47 – “Congratulations on your posting to Central!” with tears in her eyes. Pretty effective. The military bureaucracy stuff is always compelling. Can it be tied into the other themes? Seems pretty distinct

13:25 – Is the show saying anything in that the Homunculi can’t use alchemy, but humans can?

14:45 – When Ed looked into the attempted human transmutation, he saw “truth” – information flooded his brain, and that’s how he can transmute without a circle.

15:15 – “Let me see it! I need to see it one more time!”

17:00 – “You think of what you saw there as truth, huh? It was more like a magic trick, wasn’t it?” She sees it as cheating – breaking the cycle. You can’t gain anything, but it will take from you, and maybe let you leave with most of what you came with

18:30 – “He’s diligent in his military duties. And by that I mean he enjoys war.”

Aw dang, so the boy homunculus actually has Ed’s limbs

Episode 30

0:05 – Opens with a shot of the refugee camp the Ishbalans have been forced to retreat to. It seems like you can’t really stop the negative gears of the military, even if you’re a good person working within it

8:50 – “Your arm and leg were carried away in an equivalent exchange, right? How can they be here?” They need to believe in equivalent exchange, because that implies they can bargain with the world. They can control it. But you don’t always get what you pay for

11:48 – “If you did find out that was true, what would you do? Take his limbs? If not, you’re better off not finding out.”

12:28 – And yet another person sells out the Ishbalans because he thinks it will let him return to the military

13:15 – So /this/ Homunculus is just hanging out in a bar having a great time. Looks like they don’t all necessarily value the same things

13:30 – “You can’t just bust into South Central. You guys are former soldiers, you should understand.” Man, everybody’s the refuse of the military

16:05 – As expected, Sensei’s “illness” is the result of her attempted alchemy – she just lost internal organs, not limbs

18:15 – Oh man, great explanation. She used alchemy to avoid giving birth, because it would have killed her… which… wait, if you link that in with the circle of life…

Okay, yeah, that’s pretty weird, but it works. She refused to accept the cycle, and was punished, which in this case is kind of… accidentally preaching an anti-abortion message? Right?

18:39 – Oh, no, she tried to bring the baby back to life. WHEW. Yeah, that works.

And her punishment is kind of poetically evil, too – by attempting to cling to her past child, she was forced to lose any future children. Our inability to accept the past isn’t just refusing to see the way of the world, it also steals our future. Which ties in with the Ishbal stuff.

20:18 – But is her refusal to let this boy die still her clinging to the past, in spite of everything she says? Does she see this as a second chance? Or does this relate to her “you don’t know how a homunculus is born” warning

Episode 31

4:15 – The actual soldiers are all surprised to see the condemned state alchemist alive. The individual people that make up the military are often good, but putting their faith in a larger organization enables the worst of them

8:00 – So the homunculi just straight-up eat the partial philosopher’s stones, and that makes them power up or remember themselves or something

15:10 – “I was trying to kill him. But I’m the one who should die. I created him.” Can’t beat the cycle, Izumi

15:46 – Great shot of that “door of truth” here

16:13 – “What did you see through that gate?” “The truth. All that is possible with alchemy.” “To me, it looked like hell.”

17:35 – “When humans like you perform human transmutation, what is born is a soulless reject, furnished only with a body and a mind.” Oh dang – so alchemy, which is the expression of humanity’s inability to accept the world, is here indicated to be an expression of humanity’s “soul” – what makes us “human” is our desire to fix the world

19:40 – “So there’s a new Sloth, huh?” So they can die and get reborn with more of the sin names. Guess we’ll see if there’s a reason for that… though it already kind of works, since they’re representative of humanity’s attempts to use human transmutation

20:26 – And… Pride? The long-haired homunculus once again brings up them hating the Elrics’ father

Episode 32

2:25 – And Al’s able to fight him because he stole from Ed, and is now rationalizing it as “he’s not human”

7:05 – Homunculi are the grown-up versions of the botched results of human transmutation. So basically, they are living regrets – they are our attempts to break the cycle, come back to haunt us

9:19 – Nice scene of the soldiers with the Ishbalans here. Hawkeye is being “accommodating,” but there’s no sympathy for why they were asked to move, and they’re treated like cattle, all subject to counting and registration

10:40 – The fucking homunculi end up shooting from inside the Ishbalan crowd, causing soldiers to panic, etc etc

12:02 – Nice sunset shot

15:40 – “What did that boy who lost his life before he was even born gain for that price?” Yep. Sometimes you just lose

18:46 – “Alchemy isn’t special. But it can help people, and that is. I’d like for people who strive to be happy to be rewarded for as hard as they work.”

19:28 – “All those who have sought the stone have become unhappy. It may be too soon for humanity to acquire it.”

Episode 33

5:38 – Sensei’s teacher speaks in platitudes about people ending conflict – Sensei rightly says that not everyone has the luxury of sitting in the forest and thinking about alchemy all the time

6:45 – “They’ll find their own answer. Whatever it is, it’ll be different from your ideals.”

7:35 – The chimeras used to be soldiers, were used up and used as experiments, and were rescued by Greed

9:45 – Greed is greedy, unsurprisingly. He wants eternal life

15:22 – “I’m not about to lose one of my children again.” Yeap

18:56 – “We live only to be faithful to our desires, right?”

19:27 – “If you Homunculus are born of the errors made us by alchemists, then we’ll just have to correct those errors.” Still so naive

Episode 34

9:20 – Greed’s allies are remarkably loyal to him

13:30 – Homunculi throw up the stones when they’re dying, unsurprisingly

16:30 – Ed can beat Greed because he knows he’s made of human materials

18:47 – A Homunculi’s weak point is the bones of the person they originally were supposed to be

19:08 – “I can’t be locked up again. I am avarice, after all. I will do with my life as I like.”

20:00 – And that’s Ed’s first kill, unintentionally

Episode 35

1:02 – “Where do we come from, and where are we going?” “We’re alive now, and we don’t need to go anywhere. Isn’t that enough?”

2:34 – Dang, guess Lust’s got an old paramore

10:40 – “I can’t do anything! All I can do is pray to god!” The classic

10:59 – And his prayers to spare the children remind Lust of someone praying to save her – does this mean she remembers the life she was supposed to be saved as, originally?

11:29 – “You don’t have enough experience in your alchemy. I will teach you true alchemy.”

13:37 – So yeah, this alchemist guy reminds Lust of Scar’s brother, who tried to save her. SUPER AWKWARD

But she doesn’t recognize the memories

15:02 – “Like I told you, you have the talent.” But the stone helped. Effort alone can’t do this

15:18 – AND THEN THE BIRD DIES LIKE A MINUTE LATER AGH. Yeah, you can’t cheat

Also, it seems like Lust is kind of “cheating” here, too – she’s using the false gifts she has to make the memory of another man happy

15:45 – “Why did you leave me?”

“You can’t go looking for all the answers. It will be your ruin.”

17:45 – The Homunculi are the same as Ed and Al, of course. And they give people false hope – their own faith makes them implant humans with faith, to pursue the impossible

19:57 – “I won’t let you go, now.”

20:50 – But she kills him, and the whole village. “You were my small blemish.” She doesn’t want to be defined by who she was. A fair emotion

Episode 36

5:12 – “You couldn’t hurt that kid… but I could. If it’s for our goal.”

5:40 – “Compared to Al’s body, their lives didn’t seem like that much.” This show’s morality seems kind of simplistic, at least when it comes to the brothers

10:42 – “Believe in the god Ishbala. Otherwise you’ll become an outcast.”

12:10 – The Ishbalans used to have a “Grand Art” that made them rich and comfortable. But they sealed it away, and now those who use it become outcasts “and were unable to return to their homeland.” Like Ed and Al – it’s their use of alchemy that keeps them from having a home, not what they initially lost

13:48 – “That’s just an overblown version of our own theory. It’s not the one we were hoping to learn.”

14:34 – “Is this scene to repeat itself over and over?” Pretty much, Scar. People will always distrust each other

14:37 – “Will the people of Ishbal ever obtain eternal peace?” So peace itself is also positioned as something people strive for but cannot acquire – this offers a contrast to the things Ed/Al seek, as it demonstrates our hopeless striving is actually how we can maintain hope in higher things

15:53 – “My parents were killed by a State Alchemist?” And the sides repeat themselves

17:37 – “We want to stop him. After all, we’re also alchemists… no, humans.”

18:30 – “I’m a little afraid of your red eyes. But sometimes our feelings are wrong. We all have to find our own answers.” This is a really nice little scene

19:56 – “There are times when a soldier has to take someone else’s life. Even when those orders are irrational. Maybe that’s why I don’t like soldiers very much.”

Episode 37

15:01 – “How can men serve against other men when they’re afraid of things they can’t even see?” As Mustang passes the house of his dead friend

This is a silly filler episode, but that’s a nice moment

16:49 – “Science is the result of trial and error. Failing to make use of the mistakes of the past would be foolish, would it not?” To justify using the philosopher’s stone and chimeras in service of the military

Episode 38

3:09 – Probably mentioned this before, but this OP’s lyrics work reaaally well for the show. “It’s the important things you notice once you’ve lost them. Please, let me stop time just once. I’d sacrifice anything just to see your smiling face again.” We never appreciate the moment, we appreciate the past

12:38 – And now Martel wants to know about the Homunculi so she can get revenge. Another cycle begins

19:32 – “Ed and Al’s mother?” Ah shit, the secretary is their mom’s homunculi-self. That’s awkward

Episode 39

6:10 – “Greed chose death over being sealed up again. He was, more than anything, a proud man. I believe he wanted to be killed by you.”

8:17 – “So that’s really how the war’s start was presented?”

9:57 – So apparently the military actually incited the Ishbalan uprising through acts of subservice terrorism against the city. Welp

16:30 – Lots of points about withholding information from the brothers for their own good this episode – both Liore and Hughes

17:10 – Ed makes an agreement with Archer, who’s willing to support him in his individual desires because he’s useful for Archer’s military goals

19:22 – “Why did you two come here?” “Fate, maybe?” “That’s not like you. I doubt you even believe in fate.”

Episode 40

6:19 – “I sent that chimera back to God.” “Why would you do that!” “What else would you have me do?” “That’s not the sort of thing we should be deciding!”

7:51 – “Once you use the citizens of this town to make your philosopher’s stone, it will then be your turn to have vengeance taken against you!”

12:20 – “She doesn’t have a soul! She’s just a monster that has the same appearance.”

18:56 – “Forgiveness” is an easy thing to preach, but the military continues to oppress these people. What can they do?

Episode 41

0:44 – “I am going to complete the philosopher’s stone. For the sake of all people who suffer under tyranny.” They’re really attacking the simple versions of their themes here – what good is “forgiving the past” if it keeps repeating itself? If the military doesn’t change internally, don’t you have to force change? What is the actual answer?

1:02 – A really nice shot here of the graveyard

2:20 – And now Mustang calls Armstrong out on repeating the legacy of pushing him up from the shadows – they all hope Mustang can be the positive change that is needed to fundamentally alter the military

3:00 – “That man – the Fuhrer – is a homunculus!” The Homunculi are the key – they are physical manifestations of our past overreaching and regrets, the things we could not accept and let go, that have come back to instigate new cycles of loss and violence.

4:50 – “The military wants to have a just cause – that we attacked first, and they had no choice but to massacre us!” Even the military’s “evil plan” relies on the cycle of retaliation

5:16 – “It’s pretty bad taste to prop up a woman who can’t speak as a holy mother.” All back to the start

9:58 – “Liore is going to fall under the military’s control. If you have to blame somebody, blame me.” Kind of a Madoka solution

11:45 – “We are allowed to live because of that person. Don’t forget.” So who pulls the Homunculi’s strings?

13:47 – “Feed me as many as you like! I will take that accursed red light!” Scar is also a cornerstone of the big theme – he absorbs all the red stones into himself, becoming another living representative of sacrifice and violence. Even his name, “Scar,” demonstrates he is defined by past violence against him

14:31 – “We have to escape, and spread everywhere. Tell everyone what happened in Liore, in Ishabal. Of the tyranny of the military.” “It’ll just become another story.”

15:17 – “You’re Sensei’s…” “It’s Wrath! Call me Wrath!” The remnants of these old regrets want to become human, to build new identities

16:34 – “You guys are imposters. You fade when faced with the real thing.” But the feelings they represent are real. A desire for revenge is real

17:46 – “What foolishness. This is a fight over vengeance?”

18:28 – “I might indeed be hollow, but I am not meaningless.”

Episode 42

4:35 – The Homunculi’s physical similarities to their original versions just kinda grind in that you can’t get back the past, but it’s always there, seemingly just out of reach

7:46 – “There’s no such thing as a military that doesn’t have corruption or evil within it.”

9:02 – “There’s no way they’ll get their hands on the stone. Meaning, it won’t ever exist.”

9:50 – “Once I become human, I will be the same as that woman your brother loved.” “No. What is dead does not come back.”

12:48 – “I have to hand Scar over to them. It’s the only way this will stop. Equivalent exchange.” But equivalent exchange is a lie – something is always lost. You’re always giving up as long as you keep trading to get what you don’t have

13:42 – “See you later.” “Yeah. No… this is goodbye, Rose.” He’s able to let things go

16:41 – Lust: “I don’t even know your real name.” aw man

17:31 – “You can go ahead and die yourself if you want to, but don’t send these soldiers who don’t know any better in there because of your worthless lust for glory.”

Episode 43

5:44 – “A big gate… I’ve seen it before. Brother, was that the truth?”

6:20 – Now the brothers can’t touch, because of the Philosopher’s Stone inside Al

9:07 – And of course the head of the military uses the threat of Homunculi as “conspirators” with the Elrics

And Armstrong is part of the task force sent to deal with them. The consummate honorable soldier

9:30 – And Mustang is forced to hunt down the brothers. The requirements of military service are also a big thing here

10:29 – And the homunculi have turned against Lust, clearly because she’s too awesome

11:42 – “My parents were killed for being impartial.” “”That’s so sad.” “Please don’t make it sound so simple. I know the man who killed my parents. I know he is by no means a bad man. So I can’t even do anything about it.” “That’s why it’s sad.”

13:50 – “Even without a house to return to, this is their home.” It all returns to their home, the place they couldn’t originally accept. The show is so focused on how we try to escape our base circumstances, but no-one can truly avoid it

14:35 – So their father actually has discovered some alchemic secrets? Apparently he’s lived for a long, long time

15:10 – “So this is all about some promotion, then? The colonel just wants to avoid responsibility for Leore.” Tough calls all around. The colonel may have to sacrifice his immediate scruples to change the military apparatus

16:13 – Ed blocks with his automail, but the recoil hurts the soldiers he knows. A pretty neat metaphor for everything that’s happened recently

18:03 – “It’s no use. The only thing this man is interested in is his rank within the military.” Does Mustang’s drive to dominate and thus change the military actually reflect on the show’s general themes in a meaningful way?

20:20 – Ed’s just reached the point where he can no longer collaborate with the military that’s done so much heinous bullshit. Reasonable enough

22:00 – “I once killed two doctors under orders. Ever since, I’ve sworn never to follow orders that are unreasonable. The reason I’m hunting you isn’t because I was ordered to – it’s because I’m angry. Why didn’t you come to me for protection!?”

Episode 44

1:00 – And whatserface, the untrustworthy alchemist is leading Rose into the basement of another church. From an old, no longer practiced religion that seems similar to Christianity

1:23 – “Many people died.” “That’s awful. Religions exist to save people.”

2:04 – “I want to become human. After all, I was born to become human. I don’t have any other goals.”

2:23 – Welp, looks like the homunculi are working for that alchemist lady

11:57 – Apparently the Elrics’ father knows Lyra (that alchemist woman)

13:16 – “Even though they are Homunculi, the country is getting along, and the military is functioning. We need not bother with them.”

19:03 – “Mustang doesn’t want you thinking about revenge. You had something more important to do.” As Mustang scrapes to keep the military off them. Mustang works hard within this system

19:53 – “He fought for ways to get promoted, rather than dwell on feelings like revenge.” Mustang breaks the cycle by honoring his friend’s death, not seeking payment for it

20:45 – So Dante took Lyra’s body. Fair enough

21:04 – “He has lived far too long in that body. He must be nearing its limit.” And she calls him “Hoheneim of Light.” So who is their father?

And the episode ends with Ed literally digging at his mother’s grave. He really can’t move on

Episode 45

2:38 – So apparently Dante and the Elric father have lived for four hundred years, and are the ones trying to make the stone to revive their bodies. Sounds legit

10:52 – “What makes someone seek the Philosopher’s Stone? When they lose those around them, and are caught up in despair, they seek it as their only hope.”

16:03 – “That gate, the entrance to alchemy, is inside of us.”

17:55 – And Dante is basically fattening Rose up to steal her body

Episode 46

Al starts this episode with “the journey to get back our bodies is all we are,” and then later says “I am the philosopher’s stone.” A pretty neat symmetry – the stone has always been the symbol of humanity’s desire for the unreachable, and now that is his identity

5:44 – “If alchemy was for the good of mankind, why hide it?”

6:13 – “So you’re going to live your life for the gratitude of others? Why not just enlist as a State Alchemist?”

6:30 – “Humans are selfish creatures. Imagine how much destruction they’d cause if you taught them the secrets of alchemy.”

7:34 – So it is Christianity, which is now “an ancient religion that isn’t practiced now”

13:00 – So Envy (the long, straight-haired one)’s “father” is Hoheneim of Light? And he wants to kill him, for some reason? Okay…

14:00 – Lust pretty much completely cares about people at this point

17:00 – “Even if I have to replace my entire body with automail, I’m still human. What are you?”

20:04 – “You guys can live forever. Why would you want to become human?” “That’s such a cruel thing for you to say.”

Episode 47

4:41 – “No matter whose form she may resemble, that thing doesn’t have a soul!” So much focus on the soul. The appearance of things versus the essence of them

8:00 – Lust regaining her memories kind of complicates this whole “they’re soulless monsters” thing

10:22 – I like that this fight is actually happening in a munitions factory. War just keeps on propagating itself

14:45 – “If I become human, does that just mean death? Then what does it mean to become completely human?”

17:48 – “I have memories. Memories of being your mother. And yet, she is dead. I am not human. Who am I? I’m going to kill you – and by doing so, prove I am not your mother.” The homunculi themselves are incredibly conflicted about their identities as representatives of human regret – they don’t want to be that, they strive for their own goals

18:26 – “If you were no longer here, I wouldn’t be so tormented by these memories.” They want to escape the past

Episode 48

4:24 – And then Sloth disappears. The boys finally let go of their mother’s memory

7:25 – Really interesting relationship between Wrath, Sloth, and Ed. And their sensei too, I suppose – Wrath screaming “I don’t have anything to do with you!”

10:33 – “Nina is a soulless doll. That is the form his sin has taken on. He’s going to go on living, embracing that. That’s good enough for me.” Ed always refers to their regrets as sins

10:35 – “You’ve grown up, huh.” Once again, they position adulthood as something you reach once you no longer seek revenge

18:45 – Mustang: “Just swallow all the evil that comes at you, and achieve your dream. That’s what I thought the right way to do things was.”

“You’re going to avenge Hughes? You’re going to throw away everything you’ve done up until now for this?”

“You spat out the evil you’d swallowed for your brother. Both of us acting like children, trying to achieve our dreams.”

20:00 – “So long as there are people who seek the philosopher’s stone, wars will continue.”

20:15 – “Homunculi fan the flames, but we create homunculi. There’s no war we don’t have our hands in.” Our regrets and desires spark wars

21:05 – “It won’t help anything if only our dreams come true.” “There’s something more important than your dreams?” “There always is.”

Episode 49

10:42 – “Believing in and protecting children is the job of an adult.”

11:56 – “You really don’t ever learn unless you get hurt”

12:58 – “No matter how dangerous it is, I’m sure people will keep on looking for it”

13:20 – “Pain that teaches a lesson, huh? But God is the only one that can teach that kind of lesson”

17:49 – Gluttony loses it when he learns Lust is dead. Whatsherface can’t control him

18:40 – “the law of equivalent exchange is childish… there is always a price.”

19:48 – “Was this baby born to die? What is it paying the price for?”

20:25 – “Equivalent exchange is an excuse the weak use to comfort themselves.” True

Episode 50

1:09 – “In this world, mechanical machines developed instead of alchemy.” This ending is going to some weird places

1:40 – So the other side of the gate is our world? What?

5:48 – “I’m entrusting my life to you. Be sure to guard it well.” I love these scenes of the Fuhrer being affectionate with his son. Couldn’t be a better articulation of the homunculus’ humanity

7:33 – “In the future, people will die even more efficiently.” This show is pretty angry

8:14 – The energy required for alchemy is based on human lives passing through the gate. Geez. Makes sense, though – we continuously transition from one thing to another, but the cost is always a human one. It works with all the cycles of this series – everything is prompted from an existing cause/resentment, one anger will reflect another, but we always lose people in the transfer.

8:55 – Edward wants his father’s reasons to be terrible, so he can hate him. It’s easier to perpetuate the cycle than understand someone you want to hate

9:44 – Envy’s the only one who really dislikes the brothers, and he’s driven by personal resentment. Gluttony now just wants to know where Lust went

12:26 – “I am relieved to know that equivalent exchange is not true. You do not necessarily need to pay a price to gain something. When a parent loves his child, there can be no cost or reward.”

12:57 – “If you pay the price, you can obtain an equal happiness. That’s the type of equivalent exchange I’d like to believe in.”

“Reality isn’t like that, I know. If you say it’s a childish theory, I’m fine being a child.”

14:26 – “My family is more important to me than my life.” Contrasting the Fuhrer’s lines against Ed’s father’s. They’re both people you’d want to cast as villains, but neither are

15:17 – “Whether you are human or not is no great matter.”

16:01 – “There is no God!” “That may be so. However, there are devils.” Great line

21:19 – Aw shit, Envy was created from the attempt to save Hohenheim’s first son. Of course he hates him

Episode 51

2:00 – “Humans die all too quickly.” From a homunculus, symbol of undying regret, to one of the fragile humans that are trying to change the world

2:32 – “This is real life. Perhaps we just hadn’t paid enough. We always come just short of the price.”

4:09 – “Is that how badly you want to become Fuhrer?” The Fuhrer frames Mustang’s actions as born purely of ambition. But Mustang, in spite of his ambition, is not driven by ambition. He has other goals

4:34 – “This is the only way I can make my amends to dead friends.” Dang

5:40 – The Fuhrer’s son took his remains out of his safe, and brings them to him. The human connection defeats him in the end

Roy may be dead. He achieved revenge for his dead friends, but he paid for it.

10:08 – “You’d better not. There’s no telling what will happen.” Envy yanking on the gate

11:00 – Envy disappears, seeking the father who betrayed him

11:30 – Ed’s restored altogether

12:47 – Oh man, that elevator shot

14:50 – Alright, Mustang lives

15:05 – “There’s no such thing as perfect. This whole world is imperfect. That’s why it’s beautiful.”

15:30 – Alphonse is back – he’s ten years old now, and has lost his memories since they tried to transmute their mother

16:35 – Lots of babies signifying renewal and life goes on

17:26 – “If I learn more alchemy, one day I’ll see Ed again.” Humans just can’t stop hoping

20:19 – Edward’s in Hohenheim’s world, researching space rockets to make it closer to his own world. Some people never give up

21:01 – And Hohenheim repeats it. “The whole world is imperfect, after all.”

21:41 – Human experience is the price we pay – everyone we touch, everything we suffer through

22:30 – “At the time, we believed that was the law that explained everything. But the real world is imperfect, and there was no law that could explain everything.” Framing our inability to rely on alchemy as part of the beauty of the world

6 thoughts on “Rough Notes Archive: Fullmetal Alchemist

      • It definitely IS something of a trainwreck under many respects. But then again, I hated the first series as a whole (whenever it didn’t stick to canon anyway), so there you go. At the very least, it would making for an entertaining time. You did watch SAO after all, it can’t be worse than that.

  1. Just wondering if you thought any of these episodes could be skipped without compromising the story’s thematic development.
    Because 52 episodes is fairly long.

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