Episode 20, "Soul of the Guardian"
Synopsis: Both of the guardians end up being like Alphonse, armors with souls attached via alchemy, and formerly condemned prisoners. They both do battle with their opponents. While Alphonse has little trouble with his opponent, who identifies himself as Barry the Chopper, Edward struggles against his. He eventually beheads the warrior, but his victory is short lived, because there in another soul in the body of the armor. The other one attacks and Ed is forced to use deconstruction to disable him. Unsuccessful in a physical fight with Alphonse, Barry uses psychological tactics, suggesting Alphonse is a fake, his memories all false ones his brother created. Alphonse reels from this, as Edward refuses to finish his enemies, since he considers his brother human, and thus them.
Have I mentioned that I dislike "Ready Steady Go"? It's easily the weakest of the OPs in this series. Fortunately, L'Arc contributed better songs for the movie.
I keep forgetting that the reason that the blood seal is possible on armor is because of the iron in the blood and armor. Little bits like that are great, adding to the validity of the magical science of alchemy by having some sort of internal logic to it. Though it does call attention to some of the more "out there" things in this show.
I really like the blade-on-blade combat between Edward and the Slicer(s). Though I would have preferred Ed use a little more alchemy in his combat, they justify it by having his opponent moving faster than he can transmute. The back-and-forth between Ed and the Slicer brothers is great, and it's especially kind of tense towards the end, similar almost to Ed's bout with Scar. This time, however, Edward's ingenuity wins out.
The only problem I have with the action in this episode is that sometimes they use the "action lines" too much. Here and there to accentuate is fine, but when portions of the fight feel like a slide show, it cuts into the enjoyment. I know they can do better, because some other parts of the fight are really well animated, it's just like they got lazy at times, which is a shame, because this is a pretty good battle otherwise.
Since I'm dedicated to mentioning performances in the English dub I actually liked, I want to talk about the battle between Alphonse and Barry. The reason is, Barry is played brilliantly by voice actor Jerry Jewell in the English dub. You can tell he really enjoys his job, too, because Barry sounds so joyfully psychotic. I only wish they handled some of the comedy in this episode better in the dub.
Also of note is the music in this episode, really helping to sell the desperation of Ed's fight towards the end. Michuru Oshima's score is great, and I love the use of "Brothers" at the end of the episode when Barry is trying to convince Al that he's a fake at the same time Ed refuses to kill the Slicers because he considers them human.
4 out of 5