Episode 40, "Homunculus"
Synopsis: Olivier Armstrong arrives at Central, where she is questioned by Fuhrer King Bradley about General Raven. She requests Raven's position, and it amuses Bradley, who agrees to give it to her. Riza passes along information to Roy about Selim being a homunculus. Meanwhile, Father sleeps below Central and a flashback begins to the days of Xerxes. Hohenheim was once a slave who became an alchemy apprentice thanks to the help of a homunculus living in a flask in his master's posession. The king of Xerxes requests from the homunculus the secret to immortality, which comes at the price of many lives. An alchemy array is constructed around the country so that the king can obtain immortality, but the homunculus has tricked him and it is Hohenheim and himself that end up at the center of the circle when it activates. The result is the death of all of Xerxes' citizens, save for Hohenheim, and the transfer of those lives into the homunculi and Hohenheim. The homunculus decided to take the same form as Hohenheim, thus their similar appearance. In the present, Hohenheim meets with Izumi and Sig, and rearranges her internal organs to help her health, admitting to them that he is a Philosopher's Stone in human form.
Wooh, this was a doozy, eh? I probably would have preferred two episodes, maybe add some more to the Xerxes bit, but it was really well done as it was. The episode finally reveals not only what happened to Xerxes, but what happened to Hohenheim in the past, filling in a lot of those blanks from previous episodes, and explaining Father's origin.
One of the scenes they included early in the episode that was cut short from the manga was the one with Roy and Riza in the military cafeteria, sitting across from each other, but trying to pretend to engage in idle chatter. In the manga, they go on for a few pages, rattling off random memories, Riza's dialogue all clues for Roy to put together. They cut it a bit short here. I've decided now that I like that. It went on for as long as it needed to and no longer.
You have to hand it to Olivier. She's got a lot of guts. She kills a superior officer in plain sight of her soldiers and all but admits it to the Fuhrer in order to gain his position. Luckily, that's the sort of initiative Father's puppet government is looking for. However, little do they know she's already in cahoots with Roy and his group. Or, if they did, would they even care? They have her soldiers under their control. Supposedly. Perhaps Bradley has underestimated the resolve of the Briggs group. The smart thing to do would be to send the most trusted men away to different areas like they did with Roy's group, or else purposely stir up their neighbor countries so that the Briggs soldiers have too much to do to resist. But I guess that might inconvenience Father's plan, whatever the hell that's supposed to be (105 chapters in, I still don't quit know). But, as I've been saying, Olivier is just that awesome.
The bulk of the episode goes into a flashback to Hohenheim and Father's past, which was in a few chapters in volume 19 of the manga. Unlike the Ishbal flashback, it didn't take up a whole volume, but they gave it nearly the entire episode, which is what they gave the Ishbal flashback. Well, isn't that disproportional. Still, they handled this much better, as the material fits better in a single episode.
They handled everything very well here, including the voices of young Hohenheim and the not-yet-Father homunculus in the flask. The latter had an appropriately creepy voice to it, similar to Pride's, which makes a lot of sense. My only complaint about the flashback was leaving out the scene in the manga where Hohenheim teaches other slaves how to write. This shows his connection to other people in the community, and is the only scene where he really communicates with anyone else that isn't his master of the homunculi. Without it, the deaths of his countrymen don't really have as tragic a ring to it. But, even not perfect, the material was handled very well.
Izumi and Sig return at the end of the episode, and there's even a new piece of music in the scene with Hohenheim's admission. It's been a while.
Overall Score: 4 out of 5