You know, I’m almost running out of adjectives to describe the ridiculous run of episodes FMA has had of late. Epic. GAR. You name it, and it fits. The only thing I could compare this final arc to in terms of sheer testosterone-driven, balls-out lunacy is the second Gurren-Laggan film.
What most impresses me about FMA is the way Hiromu Arakawa has managed to take an incredibly huge and cumbersome story, with a preposterous amount of important characters, and tie all of it together in a way that makes sense. Major characters – even the nominal main characters, the Elric Brothers – could disappear for entire episodes at a time, yet it never feels as if anyone is being cheated of their role in the resolution. Everyone has their role to play and Arakawa is stringing them together in such a way that events seem to follow in a logical progression, with a refreshing lack of deux ex machina and editorial license. This is shounen at its very best.
It seems almost pointless to recap, so much is happening here – but Bradley is apparently dead and Scar has largely played his role out, it seems. Along with the wounded Gen. Armstrong they stand down, leaving the fight to Alex and our heroes at the surface, though the blind Mustang and wounded Hawkeye refuse to stay behind. Meanwhile, the Elrics, Mai, Hoenheim, the blind Mustang and the others are joined by most of the Briggs army in a flat-out assault against Father in one of the most memorable combat sequences in modern anime. While the attacks seem to have no impact, in fact they’re slowly draining Father of his philosophers stones – forcing him to search for human sacrifices to replenish his stash. Every time he starts feasting, however, be it on Ed, Izumi or the Briggs army – something interrupts his meal. In a truly memorable sequence he calls forth the souls of the long-dead Xerxes and his subjects, much to Hoenheim’s horror. Weakening and struggling to contain the God inside him, Father finally releases a huge blast of energy that leaves half of Central destroyed and our heroes in various states of disrepair.
When the dust settles, the disoriented Father sees Ed, trapped amongst the rubble with his remaining arm impaled on a steel stud (his automail arm having been destroyed) and stumbles towards him intent on devouring his soul. Trapped and unable to do transmutations, Ed seems to be toast, as none of the others is in any condition to assist. Except, of course, for Al – himself nearly vaporized protecting Mei. Always the selfless and altruistic one in this cast, Al makes one more huge sacrifice – returning Ed’s sacrifice of his right arm for Al’s soul. It all comes full circle, amazingly enough, in a deft act of writing wizardly that left me almost stunned. And so, Al returns to his emaciated body at the Gate, Ed gets his arm back and proceeds to use it to seriously kick Father’s ass.
The other fascinating – if slightly overwrought – element of this episode was the closure of sorts it brought to Greed’s arc. Now finally, he admits it to Ling and himself – what he desired to possess was not ultimate power, but companions he could trust. If that’s not a wholesome message to young homonculi, what is?
And so, we’re left with two episodes left to finish wrapping this all up. I suspect Father has at least one more surprise left in him, but the overhanging question is what Ed will do to bring Al back now. I sense that Hoenheim will find a way to trade himself for his son, somehow – Al is the closest thing to an innocent in this dark and cynical story and I can’t see him left behind when it’s all said and done. And I never expected Hoenheim to come out of this alive, anyway. We’ll have our answers in the next two weeks.