Episode 43, "An Ant's Bite"
Synopsis: In Briggs, the bloody crest is made by the death of Drachma soldiers, who were tricked by Kimbley into thinking they could win the battle. In Central, Bradley admits that while his family and position were given to him, he chose his wife himself. In the Ishbalan slum, Envy arrives disguised as an Ishbalan, but is lured into a trap by Zanpano, set by Mei. Envy transforms into his true state, and takes Marcoh captive, threatening to destroy the slum town. Marcoh uses his skill in creating Philosopher's Stones to break down Envy's body, and Envy reverts to a small slug-like being, who they contain in a jar. Envy informs Alphonse that Edward has gone missing. Scar gives Envy to Mei, who heads back for Xing. Alphonse takes Winry and the chimeras to Lior. At Central HQ, Olivier is shown a room full of homunculi dolls. In Lior, Alphonse meets Rose again, who asks about Edward. Suddenly, Hohenheim appears in front of his son.
Fullmetal Alchemist being one of my favorite manga, I have many favorite parts of the story, most of which have already been covered in Brotherhood, and to varying success. Hughes' death? Pretty well done. The Greed/Dublith stuff? Aside from the Bradley part, terribly depicted. Mustang's defeat of Lust? Perfect. The Ishbal flashback? Not as good as it could have been. Olivier's introduction? Good. The Xerxes flashback? Fairly good. After these, there was another moment in the story I was looking forward to seeing, perhaps my favorite moment in the manga: Marcoh's defeat of Envy.
Why is Marcoh's defeat of Envy so important to me? For a few reasons. First, Envy is such a bastard, such a malicious prick who likes to tease and taunt, especially Marcoh. He looks down on humans and sees them as lesser beings. They're like cattle to him. Marcoh, who was used to make Philosopher's Stone, and has been bullied and marginalized by the homunculi and brought to task by Scar is a particularly sympathetic, but weak figure up until this point. Envy has been able to best even Edward and Ling in a team up, certainly Marcoh would be no match for him, right?
But wait. Marcoh has been making Philosopher's Stones for a long time. He knows how to make them, he knows how to destroy them. Envy has made a mistake in underestimating Marcoh, who seems so feeble now with his face damaged by Scar and wandering around as a fugutive. But faced with an overwhelming force like Envy's true form, Marcoh makes his stand. He shows Envy that humans aren't to be taken lightly. Marcoh breaks down Envy's body and reverts him to the little worm he really is, a spiteful little bug who can't stand that others have power over him. He's envious of those who have power over him. For Envy, power over others means everything. He has been reduced to a mere bug in a jar by somebody he looked down on. This is an utter defeat.
That's why that moment in the manga, a moment in chapter 79, probably my favorite moment in the entire manga thus far (as of this review, there are 104 chapters, and more to come). This is a human triumph over the forces that have been manipulating them for a long time, by a man who had been previously seen as weak and helpless, but had all along the skill to be more.
How did Brotherhood do in this?
Ehhh, it was okay. Not great.
Masayuki Omoro does a great job as Marcoh in this scene, playing off the character's vulnerability, but determination. I don't think Minami Takayama did as well as she could have as Envy, though. I keep reading praise over how well she did in that scene, but I've heard better from her. I was expecting a performance of outrage that matched her Dilandau from Escaflowne, but didn't get it. She's a great Envy, but undersold this scene. Kenta Miyake's Scar was still pretty solid, even if I prefer Ryotaro Okiayu from the first series.
Production-wise, Envy's true form was handled here a lot better than when it first appeared in Gluttony's stomach. It looked a lot more natural, as if they were using a lot less CGI, or they got the hang of using it correctly. I haven't analyzed it closely, though, and have been told that they only used CG for part of it. The animation was otherwise pretty good, though it seems like some of the shots of characters seemed a little detail-deprived.
The part that really disappointed me though was the actual transmutation by Marcoh, though. You could barely see what was going on. It was impossible to take any good screencaps of the moment. It was just a lot of light flashing and sparks and Envy's body didn't really seem to react until after that was over. Then they had the nerve to go to the commercial break in the middle of it. This was really poorly handled. The manga had one full page of Marcoh's transmutation that showed perfectly everything that was going on as it started. You could clearly see what was going on. Here it was a mess.
So, I was sort of disappointed. I thought they could have done a much better job with this scene. The manga handled this a lot better.
As far as the rest of the episode, we see Mei leaving the group with Envy's little fetus form in a jar, for Xing. If only this was the last we saw of either of those characters. We also see Scar and Marcoh going their own way, which in the manga, we didn't see. Actually, in the manga, Scar and Marcoh just sort of disappeared for a while, not going with Alphonse and the others to Lior, and then pop up again later. This part is something that Brotherhood actually did better, showing that Scar and Marcoh actually went off elsewhere.
It's always good to see Olivier Armstrong. For the first time in the show, we see interaction between her and Alex, and she's not a very warm and caring older sister. In fact, she's meaner to him than to anyone else, even though he clearly is fond of her (or is that scared of her?). Ah, the bond between sister and brother. She gets shown the military's "immortal army", a bunch of homunculi dolls. I'll comment on those in the next review. Here's a little preview, though: bah!
The episode ends with the after-credits scene where Alphonse, Winry, Yoki, and those two chimeras meet up with Rose in Lior, and Hohenheim appears, apparently having stayed after his meeting with Pride. Edward had his chance to yell at Hohenheim some time back, now Alphonse will have a little chat with his father, too. It'll be a less heated. After all, Alphonse is better mannered than his brother.
Overall Score: 3.5 out of 5