Full Metal Alchemist anime -- original vs Brotherhood

HareBrain

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Having now finished Brotherhood too, here's my comparison.

Where Brotherhood scores is it's big-picture plot. The origin and nature of the homonculi and "Father", and the military conspiracy surrounding it, hang together much better than the original's plot. Having said that, I'm not sure it's more interesting. The relationship between the homonculi and human transmutation in the original allows for some more poignant storylines, especially concerning Lust and Wrath. But you can't get away from the fact that the link with the seven deadly sins in the original feels almost completely arbitrary and patched over. And the ending, though interesting in a "Ooh, what's happening here?" way, doesn't stand up to much scrutiny either. In particular, the resolution of the Mustang/Bradley storyline depends on a ludicrously stupid move from Bradley which makes absolutely no sense.

Plot aside (where it's a bit swings-and-roundabouts but Brotherhood has the edge) the original still definitely wins for me. Brotherhood is 13 episodes longer, but it feels as if less happens -- partly because the last 3-4 hours are one extended multi-part climax with far too much tedious fighting. The music in the original series is an obvious winner, but I think the characterisation is mostly better too (exceptions are Bradley and possibly Envy). In Brotherhood the characters often felt like caricatures of themselves -- Edward in particular got very annoying, as almost the only way he's able to communicate is by outraged shrieking. He was played much more subtly and thoughtfully in the original, and also seemed to grow more. As noted before, I found the original moving in quite a few places, but Brotherhood managed to move me precisely twice. As a direct comparison, the fate of Nina and Alexander in the original was gut-wrenching; in Brotherhood it was just "meh".

So there we are. Overall I'd give the original 9/10 for an anime series, Brotherhood 7. If anyone happens on this thread while wondering which to watch, here's my recommendation. Watch the original, then skip the first 13 episodes of Brotherhood (which cover the same ground, but not as well) and start from there. Be prepared to put up with it not being great until about ep 25, after which it picks up.
 
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