Episode 49, "The Other Side Of The Gate"
Synopsis: King Bradley returns home with a birthday gift for his son, Selim. Meanwhile, Envy admits to the captured Alphonse that he's only in on Dante's plan is to make humans suffer. Edward meets the Tringham brothers at a church (the same one Dante led Rose into). Russell mentions that when his father was working in Central he learned about a secret entrance to an underground laboratory. Edward enters the passage in the church. Edward soon finds himself in a large underground chamber with a town there. Edward arrives in Dante's lair, where he sees Rose. When Dante arrives, Edward is quick to recognize it's Dante instead of Lyra and what she's up to. She scoffs at the idea of "Equivalent Exchange", angering Edward. Then using Rose's baby, she sends Edward beyond the Gate as she did his father. Ed wakes up somewhere, and notices he has two arms of flesh. He also runs into Hohenheim. He is shocked to find he's in an unfamiliar city, with zeppelins bombing.
This episode is where the big "twist" of Fullmetal Alchemist occurs, which has always been met with mixed reaction. But there's plenty else to discuss.
It turns out that Envy has known about Dante's motives this entire time, but frankly, doesn't care. He doesn't want to be human. He despises humans. He might even despise Dante. In fact, after that scene a few episodes ago, I'd wager it's very likely he despises Dante. However, he enjoys watching humans suffer, and by keeping in with Dante's plans, he gets to see a whole lot of it. He's the anti-Lust in this regard, because she wanted to become human, but humans are scum to Envy. And as this series has shown, he might not be that far off. There are a great deal of terrible people in Amestris. However, there are also good people, but Envy is far beyond thinking that. He hates people and he probably hates himself, too, as much as he likes to brag.
There's a scene shortly at about the halfway mark, or a little past it, where Maria Ross repeats something Maes Hughes had said. "Believing in and protecting children is an adult's job." It was in reference to the Elric brothers when Hughes said it and it's still so when Ross says it, justifying her actions and the actions of the other soldiers fighting off Archer. Although it also helps that Archer is indiscriminately firing at anything in front of him.
Edward takes the secret passage to an underground city, which is sort of the first big "huh?" in the episode. How did Hohenheim and Dante manage to pull an entire city underground with alchemy, and how did nobody notice? Well, for all we know, they did, but maybe the cities and towns were further apart the several hundreds of years previous and if everyone was swallowed up maybe nobody could report the truth. I can hand wave that part. But that they pulled an entire city underground, that's a big project. I wish they'd gone further into that. The empty city kind of reminds me of that one battle area in Dragon Ball Z movie 9 or the underground city in Lupin III: Alcatraz Connection, where the criminals in Alcatraz had an underground lair of vice that JFK found out about and closed down (leading to his assassination). I think it's kind of cool as a plot element, but it is a bit of a stretch.
A lot of people complain that Edward's confrontation with Dante is very low on the action and high on the talking. People, the first Fullmetal Alchemist has always been more of a drama than anything. I think it was interesting how they argued their different points of view. Sure, they probably could have done a little more alchemy jousting, but at this point, that's so unnecessary. They're both at pretty much a draw in skill. Dante closed the gap by doing the trick with the child, sending Edward beyond the Gate. I also really like the "camera" angles used during their talk. It really helps along the feeling of Edward's confusion and disbelief in what's going on. I also enjoy that it's going on in this big theater, as Dante's been pulling strings above in Amestris, directing the country like it was her own production. She's also been an actor on that stage, first as the humble alchemy teacher Dante and second as the alchemist up-and-coming, Lyra.
I thought Dante's points about "equivalent exchange" were interesting. Basically, Edward was taking the term too seriously and applying it to everything all the time, and Dante told him that his thinking is childish.
I have to feel bad for Rose's baby. For one, it's unnamed. She's had the child for how long and it doesn't have a name? It's referred to as "my baby" by Rose (who is apparently being drugged). Name the fucking thing. Second, it's been used as Dante's main tool for removing obstacles, and she even puts it in the mouth of a big monster thing she created from the ground (is that a living thing?). Dante is the worst babysitter ever.
All right, now the big reveal.
Controversially, it turns out that the other side of the alchemy Gate is the world we live in, or a world very much like it. Edward ends up in London during the German zeppelin raids in 1916, during World War I. Go on and read about it on Wikipedia and the like. The preview for this episode even mentions the exact date, September 2. The detail in the buildings and scenario is excellent and I have to applaud Bones for it. Watching the zeppelins rising over the city was as startling to me the first time I saw this as it was for Edward. What's going on? Why is Edward on our Earth? Why is Hohenheim there? Why does he have both limbs?
Honestly, I enjoy this plot element, and it becomes justified more later on. At this point it's just a bizarre plot twist, but I liked it since the first time I saw it. There's definitely parallels between the world FMA takes place and our own, but our world went in a different direction, embracing machines, and that world apparently was able to utilize alchemy to basically do magic. And you can see that Christianity was also tossed aside (I guess it's difficult to believe in miracles that anyone who studies long enough can probably accomplish) in favor of "science", with only fringe groups still having faith in gods. And there was also flashes of our world when Edward flashed back to when he was touched by the Truth.
The biggest complaint seems to be that it's sort of an unnecessary element. I can see where one might think that. Why not just have Ed and Hoho be sent inside the Gate, where they have to struggle to seperate themselves from the various lives inside of it? But does this element of our world being the other side work? I think it does, even if it does seem a little out there.
A question, about what year in the FMA world do the events of the manga occur? I've read that it's about 1914 when it starts. If the first series starts at the same point, it's not a stretch to think that it's 1916 at this point in Amestris, which means the time parallels are proper with Amestris and the world where WWI is taking place. People often say that Edward "gets sent to WWII Germany", but even the movie doesn't have WWII in it. It's all well pre-WWII.
But enough defensive mode. I want to get into some of the production values of the episode, because this episode really worked visually and the music and voice acting was strong, as well.
On the subject of the art and animation, the expressions on characters' faces are great in this episode, especially when they go in close to Edward or Dante. I also like the animation when Edward and Rose are dancing. The detail in the city of London (which you'll see more of later). And the underground city looks excellent, too. It all looks very crisp and detailed.
The music is used well, too, specifically the music when Edward takes in the scene of the city underground and the version of Dante's theme that Rose dances, too. Rose is dancing to Dante's music, the way the whole world has been. And of course, while it's sort of cheating for them, Bones makes good use of Beethoven's Fifth in the final scene in London.
The voice acting was good. Of course, as usual, I prefer the Japanese voices, with Romi Paku really driving home Edward's anger at Dante, as well as his shock at the end, but I felt like the English cast did well enough in this episode, too, even Vic Mignogna at times. Monica Rial's Dante isn't as pointed as the Japanese voice, but it suits Dante's haughty smugness. Wendy Powell's Envy is still horrible, however.
So, while I know somebody who will undoubtably disagree with me, this was an excellent episode.
4 out of 5