Series Breakdown Rating:
Characters and Character Development: 7
Aesthetics and Style: 7
Overall Plot: 5
Audience Assumptions: None
Episode 13: Beasts of Dublith – *****
Part One: Best Char
Okay, so Greed is the best character in this entire series.
A lot happens in this episode, which is technically a two-parter, but the gist of it is pretty simple; while Izumi is trying to help the boys figure out how to get their bodies back, Alphonse gets lured to a hideout called the Devil’s Nest and captured by half-human chimeras, on the orders of their leader, a homunculus called Greed. Through Greed, we get an explanation of what the homunculi are physically, and also get a better sense of who they are as characters. According to Greed, they’re created humans fueled by Philosopher’s Stones. They each have unique powers and are immortal, able to repair their bodies after any injury thanks to their stones. However, where the other homunculi seem to be working together on some massive conspiracy to take over the entire country, Greed’s motives are much simpler: he just wants stuff. Specifically, he wants Al’s body and so has rounded him up King Louie-style.
There is so much to love about this. First, the chimeras. Greed’s lackeys are a new sort of combatant within the world of the show, human-animal chimeras who look mostly human but have abilities of the animals they were fused with. They’re implied to be experiments that are one or two steps up from Shao Tucker’s work, but they’ve ended up with Greed as runaways and defectors. They all have unique personalities and they’re just sort of a ramshackle crew of weirdos. I’m partial to ensembles like that.
They capture Alphonse by promising him things that would appeal to a fourteen-year-old like information and friendship. It’s also not an especially tense kidnapping, either; Al is pretty casual about the whole ordeal, as are Greed and the chimeras. Al goes along willingly, even, so to call it a kidnapping is a bit of an exaggeration.
Greed is also an utter delight of a character. Not only is this little shit willing to spill all the beans at the drop of a hat, he relishes it. Telling the secrets of the military’s shady activity and the homunculi, showing off their abilities and weaknesses — it’s all just a way for Greed to brag about himself. The petty selfishness that comes with him inconveniencing the other villains is hilarious and makes for an exceptionally fun character. It’s also rather refreshing to have a character that calls other characters out on their cheesy dialogue — Greed struggling with Al’s insistence that everything he’s saying is impossible makes for an amusing little exchange. Characters that point out flaws in the series they inhabit can become grating if they break the fourth wall too much, but I think the show has struck a good balance with Greed.
He’s also very sassy.
The rest of the episode follows a similar balance between drama and comedy. While the episode has its typical anime-isms as I’m like to call them — characters exaggerating their voice to sound more dire, jokes that are a bit ham-handed, and long bouts of exposition — it all works out in this episode. Part of the reason is that the goofier elements are just part of the style of the episode and don’t actively hinder the story or weaken the characters, unlike in some of the previous episodes. They’re also fairly subdued here; for every moment of dramatic exposition, we get at least one exchange that feels sincere and free of any commercial weight. It’s also a surprisingly funny episode; the drama of the situation is real, but differs in intensity for the various characters, meaning the show can point out the humor of the situation without dampening the desires and goals of the characters. Greed’s lackeys love him and are intent on impressing him, so they work hard to bring him Alphonse and Ed. Greed only wants things in the way someone browsing fun kitsch on Amazon wants things, so he’s not especially devastated if his crew fails, but he doesn’t seem to have any deeper drive, so he goes all-out in his latest obsession. Al wants information and doesn’t like the situation, but he’s not really in any immediate danger. Ed is more strongly driven to rescue Al, so all of the nonsense Greed and his men are up to is peanuts compared to Ed’s motivation. He doesn’t have time to deal with their shenanigans, so him bursting into their lair and Greed being like, “Oh good, you found him” is simply beautiful.
Part Two: So Much Yelling
So long story short, Greed’s offer to turn them into homunculi does not go down well. Ed pops a blood vessel and Greed’s crew begrudgingly fights him.
The fight sequences and animation in this episode are quite spectacular, some of the best in the series so far, actually, even though they take place almost exclusively in one run-down room. The main fight sequence is fast-paced, tight animation that incorporates alchemy, Greed’s armor and regeneration abilities, and a variety of combat techniques that are exciting to watch, but not outside of the plausible range of the characters’ skills. It’s not especially long and the characters exchange one-liners and even stop to have a full-blown conversation about halfway through, but I don’t mind that, really. It’s largely because of Greed’s character — whereas most mid-fight dialogue exchange in anime series seems solely there for the sake of exposition and drama, it flows naturally in this episode. Greed is absolutely the sort of character who would tell his enemies about his weaknesses mid-battle and stop to exchange little tiffs. The combat dialogue accents the character and fits his motivation — he doesn’t really want to fight and certainly doesn’t want to kill Ed, after all.
It’s also kind of telling that the show doesn’t feel the need to show every ounce of the fight. We get a good sense of the brutality and length of it when the episode briefly cuts away and returns to Ed’s automail strewn about the room and him sitting crumpled up against a wall. Like in the previous episode, there’s some much-needed subtlety to this episode. Ed figuring out how to beat Greed is another good example — not only does the episode show Ed figuring out how to defeat Greed before he exposits how he figured it out, but the solution is appropriately clever. It also doesn’t automatically win Ed the fight, it just evens the playing field. The episode ends mid-battle with Izumi showing up to rescue her failure of a son and complaining about him and his new magic friend yelling.
Part Three: We Could Have Had More Greed, But No, We Need This Little Waluigi Fucker Taking Time Away From Him
This is easily one of my favorite episodes of the series, but unfortunately it’s not all just about Greed. Izumi and her husband get a few short scenes, which I don’t mind, but there are a few oddball subplots in the mix as well. One involves Scar in an Ishvalan camp teaming up with a strange but not particularly well-written comedy relief character, Yoki, and another has Mustang, in his ever-present aim to rise to the rank of Fuhrer, playing chess. These scenes don’t honestly offer much outside of a quick joke or two, but they’re noticeably weaker than the rest of the episode. The one with Scar is especially redundant, and it could have waited for an episode more focused on Scar.
I won’t bother with Yoki much in the future because he is one of the worst characters in the series, but I can give a quick overview of him here. He’s a side character who travels with Scar, winges a lot, and makes little to no contribution outside of one or two moments where he’s a useful body. The idea behind Yoki seems to be to give Scar someone he can work off of, but their few exchanges rarely add up to much of substance. Yoki is a selfish little worm of a man who has a particular dislike of the Elrics — in a later episode, we actually get a reference to the original Fullmetal Alchemist series in which Yoki is a one-off villain tricked into freeing coal miners when Ed disguises coal as gold. I don’t mind him showing up in this series, but he becomes a recurring character who sticks around through to the very end, and undergoes no real arc. Given that he’s not a particularly fun character to begin with and the series accumulates a huge number of excess characters by the end of the third season, Yoki is a problem.
However, for the purposes of this episode, all of that is benign. It’s a minor inconvenience for the show to switch to unrelated subplots when it has a particularly solid one already, but it’s not enough to weaken the episode’s strong points. I’m quite happy with this episode, and it’s honestly satisfying even when it ends on a cliffhanger.