Fullmetal Alchemist - Episode 15 Review

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Episode 15, "The Ishbal Massacre"

Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean!It's official: Ishbal is fucked.

*****SPOILERS*****

Synopsis: Alex Louis Armstrong faces off with Scar while the Elrics flee with Marcoh, and discovers that his opponent is an Ishbalan. Marcoh recounts to Ed and Al how the Fuhrer sent in the State Alchemists to put down a long-running conflict in Ishbal and they used alchemic enhancers, lesser Philosopher's Stones, to obliterate the Ishbalans. During the war, two doctors (who turn out to be the Rockbells, Winry's parents) were ordered killed for helping the Ishbalans, and Roy Mustang is the one who did it (though this is not revealed to the brothers). Back in the present, Scar finds the group, disables Alphonse, and destroy Ed's automail arm with his ability to deconstruct with his own right arm. Marcoh uses a Philosopher's Stone to ward Scar off before he can finish Ed off, and the military arrives to take Marcoh into protective custody.

"Hi, I'm Kimbley. I'll be your psychopath for the evening."Awww, what a cute pic--- OH MY GOD!

Comments:

We get quite a bit of background on established characters in this episode in flashbacks to the Ishbal conflict. There are also a couple of big revelations, like the State Military using Philosopher's Stones as alchemic enhancers during the war, Roy being the one who killed Winry's parents, the Rockbells, on order from the military. I remember being really surprised when I first saw this episode. It seems like Roy still regrets having done that, as he winces when their name is brought up at the end. Basque Gran was apparently just a big an asshole during the war, as opposed to in the manga, where he at least had some decency in him. We also get the first appearance of Zolf J. Kimbley, the Crimson Alchemist, who in this series is more of a classical maniac.

The real shock in this episode was seeing Edward so easily defeated, his automail arm broken, and him at the brink of death at the hands of Scar. Until this point, Edward had always seemed like he would come out on top somehow when faced with an obstacle, but Scar is an insurmountable force here, completely outclassing Ed and leaving Al to watch as his brother is about to be killed. It's desperate and dark scenes like this that drew me into the series, especially with its atmosphere after the flashbacks to Ishbal. I like how we see that the alchemy that we so far took for granted as this amazing, wonderous plot element, could be used so horrifically. We got a peek at that with the Tucker incident, but here it's used on a large scale to kill numerous people, even to the glee of some using it. The object of hope for the brothers, the Philosopher's Stone, becomes an object of dispair, and the assassin who himself uses alchemy to kill State Alchemists closes in on Edward, threatening to end his journey there. What's more significant is that Edward is willing to accept this fate in that moment, overwhelmed by the emotions of all that knowledge imparted on him by Marcoh and wanting to have his brother spared.

The show continues to mature as Edward is faced with the truth that alchemy isn't just abused as a criminal act, but it is actually been abused at the behest of the country's government. What difference, then, is it when Scar murders State Alchemists with his form of alchemy? Death begetting death, vengeance begetting vengeance. Perhaps in an attempt to stop this, Edward offers his life, but Scar is insulted by this, because too many of his peoples' lives have been taken for one life to compensate for that. This level of complexity in characters and drama is hard to find in the gimmick-driven shonen story.

And I love the execution of this episode. We start out with a bit of an exchange of action between Alex Louis Armstrong, this enormous, powerful alchemist, and Scar, we drive into the revelations about Ishbal, we get a bit of a showdown between Roy and his group and Scar (though why they simply don't just shoot him with all their guns is beyond me), Scar escapes and runs into the Elrics as they try to grasp what they just learned, Scar nearly kills them, Marcoh barely saves them with the Philosopher's Stone, and they reflect on how they nearly died. It's got a lot of everything in it, and Bones did a great job animating and scoring it.

Episodes like this are why I love Fullmetal Alchemist.

IMPOTENTThe first time I saw this, I nearly shat myself.

Overall Score:

5 out of 5