Series Breakdown Rating:
Characters and Character Development: 7
Aesthetics and Style: 7
Overall Plot: 5
Audience Assumptions: None
Episode Nine: Girl on the Battlefield – ***
Part One: Hey, That’s Actually Kinda Clever
The protagonists’ efforts to capture a homunculus last about a full two minutes of show, so congratulations all around.
I do unironically love how this episode ends, though. If a character opening up to a giant mouth isn’t an effective cliffhanger, I don’t know what is. It only works alongside a concluded arc, though, so let’s discuss.
As in the previous episode, the show cuts between two simultaneous fights, one between Ling and Bradley, and one between the Elrics and Scar. Well, “fight” might be a bit of a stretch as far as Scar’s bit is concerned — he mainly uses the episode as a chance to absquatulate (a word I will never grow tired of using) with a bit of help from May. Ling joins up with Ed and Al, Gluttony trailing close behind, and the trio coordinate efforts to capture the homunculus. I guess this was their goal all along, though I have remained unclear on that for some time now.
More happens than just that, of course. The episode has a decent mix of spectacle-, plot-, and character-driven scenes, which shouldn’t be as rare in a series like this as it often seems. The story has depth and the means of delivering it, it’s just rare that it comes together neatly.
A lot of this episode’s weight is hefted onto Ling and Lan Fan, particularly in their efforts to evade Bradley. As an extension of the previous episode, Ling is tested in his resolve when Lan Fan (a not-so-subtle love interest, but more importantly, one of his loyal subordinates) is severely injured. After losing sensation in her arm, she amputates it so that she can affix it to a dog and lead Bradley away. The delivery of this plot point is a bit clunky because it wants to trick the audience into thinking she’s killed herself for a moment, and either way, it’s a bit extreme, but the plan works and Bradley takes the bait. The Xingese group hasn’t had much victory yet, so pulling the wool over Bradley’s eyes (eye) comes with a certain amount of satisfaction. Lan Fan gets the shortest stick, ending up nearly unconscious on a table in a strange, poorly-lit cabin after wandering the sewers for an uncertain amount of time. This is framed more from Ling’s perspective, unfortunately, but it does force him to reconsider his priorities in his quest for immortality, something he does, to his credit, almost immediately.
Part Two: Surprise! Ling Has Abs Too.
As in the previous one, this episode is gorgeous. I’m not sure if its that I’ve started paying closer attention to the animation or cinematography (I guess shot composition might be a better term), or if the quality has indeed improved, but either way, it’s prominent here and several shots in the episode show off some of the skill of the artists involved. The use of backgrounds and animations is economical, but the techniques used to cut the budget are less obvious than in the previous episode. This tends to make it look smoother, and keeps the tension high. As a result, the writing doesn’t have to work as hard.
Which is good, because this episode seems to recognize that and gives the visuals more weight than a lot of the dialogue and exposition. I mean, the exposition is still there, but it’s a bit less obtrusive.
The action scenes are surprisingly sparse, only occupying about half of the total run time, if even that. They make good use of their time, being tight, fast-paced, and pulling a few creative twists. Binding Gluttony up by using his own regenerative abilities against him is a clever move, until it isn’t. It’s effective for the story. It also gives us a shirtless Ling, which I didn’t particularly need, but fits with the show’s previous excuses to remove the shirts from Mustang, Ed, and Armstrong. I eagerly await more of the series Kirking it up through contrived circumstances.
Part Three: It’s Always the Ending, Isn’t It?
On the whole, this is a fine episode. It’s not much, but it’s fine. It could even be kinda good, maybe. But it gets three stars because DAMN YOU WINRY, FORGET THESE CLOWNS AND JUST GO HOOK UP WITH PANINYA ALREADY!
So Winry realizes that she’s falling in love with Ed in what is the single worst line in the series. Gach. I suppose the loving caresses and utter obsession were just out of a sort of friendship, then? Why do fantasy series always write in these terrible love stories when they are objectively bad at writing them? Just because we spend more time with the lovey-dovey characters does not make them more compelling. It does the opposite, actually.
When romantic subplots start to take up enough of the story that you end up resenting both of the associated parties for it, perhaps that’s a hint that it isn’t working.
In all honesty, Winry does get some nice moments at the end of the episode. She receives a phone call from the people of Rush Valley begging her to come back and tune their automail. While I have to feel a bit bad for Mr. Garfield for having to stand there while the people shit talk him, the intentions are positive and it’s a pleasant scene. Winry’s found her place and is making her own way in the world. Now if only the show would let her do that in the main plot as well.
That’s not really the ending, though.
This episode, like the others at the end of the season, is here to set up the next fight sequence. Gluttony, tangled up and the subject of tedious argument, recognizes Mustang and frees himself. In the process, uh-oh, turns out he has an even bigger mouth with teeth and an eye in it — apparently the same eye as the one behind the door, which makes for some decent imagery.
And he hungry.