All right, fun’s over. Back to business.
Series Breakdown Rating:
Characters and Character Development: 7
Aesthetics and Style: 7
Overall Plot: 5
Audience Assumptions: None
Episode Six: The Fuhrer’s Son – ***
Part One: Livin’ on a Prayer
Booyah, we’re halfway through!
This episode acts as another throughline to an end, though it introduces the last few important components of this season. As Mustang regroups with General Grummin, one of his few remaining allies who isn’t under surveillance, Ed and Al start to investigate Alkehestry. They find the library lacking, the books on Alkehestry sparse or curiously absent, so they continue their search for May to see if she’s willing to teach them. May, as they soon learn, is heading to the cold north. Meanwhile, Scar and Marcoh are on the run from Kimbley. Yep, these minor characters whose contribution to the plot is lean already sure are just running around in a game of anime tag. I love this subplot.
All of these new plot points, though — Grummin, Ed and Al heading north, and, yes, even Scar and Kimbley — will become essential developments for the remainder of the series. Broadly speaking, the seasons* are organized by enemy or location; Scar for the first one, the homunculi for the second, Briggs Command for the third, the area just outside of Central for the fourth, and the final battle at Central for the fifth. With only a handful of point-of-view characters remaining in Central, this season starts to open up the wider world and truly diverge from the earlier anime.
It’s been a while since I’ve had reason to compare the two, and that’s because after learning about events in Ishval and Liore, the plot in the original anime starts to wrap-up. The homunculi are destroyed one by one leading up to and during the final battle, and Ed and Al discover their father’s secret. Arguably, they still have yet to confront their father and defeat the homunculi in this series, but the manner of it is very different. In fact, by this point in the older series, the audience knows homunculi to have a completely different lore (Father doesn’t even exist in that one), and many of the faces are different, too.
So this latter half of the series is often what people are talking about when they say the original anime is far weaker; it lacks the worldbuilding and plot twists the manga, and by extension this series, expands upon. There are major divergences starting with the second season, but the third is where I start to agree with fans of this show and say that the additional characters, locations, and subplots are at least worth checking out, even if you’ve seen the original. Some of the time, anyway.
Part Two: Kimbley is So Aggressively Generic, It’s Almost Beautiful
As usual, I have gripes. I often do, you may have noticed. This episode is not especially egregious, but its more engaging subplots are overshadowed by several uninteresting ones.
Kimbley is quickly becoming my favorite punching bag for his uselessness as a narrative device. Is there really no reason Greed couldn’t be going after these guys? The show has introduced, what, three new villains since the start of the season? I realize it just wanted to tease Father as the final big bad, and he’s not going to play much of a roll until the end, but still. Show, you have options. Option.
What I kind of love, though, is how much the show really wants the audience to respond to Kimbley. It’s kind of quaint, really. I don’t think he was doing this in the previous episodes, but as well as his garish suit (which I’m sure is the perfect outfit for an arsonist tracking fugitives through the woods), he’s also started to adopt a deep gravelly voice. In the version I have (dubbed, fight me weeboos), it’s clearly not the default voice the actor normally uses. It’s the sort you would expect a goth teenager in a sitcom trying to look cool in front of his friends would use. I don’t know why, but it’s about the funniest thing to me. That the show clearly means Kimbley to come across as clever and cunning only amplifies the opposite effect.
Oh, and the clever thing. The show’s really not trying that hard outside of the framing of shots to make Kimbley look especially smart. Good going figuring out that they must have jumped off between two waypoints at the only place of interest on your map. Much cunning. So clever.
To be honest, Kimbley is barely a complaint for me any more. He’s still not a valuable addition, but he’s nothing if not entertaining.
The other less engaging parts of the episode are aggravating in more predictable ways. Grummin’s disguise (a lady) is fine, but the amount of time the episode spends pointing it out is not. Hey, check it out, it’s a weird lady who looks like that old guy from a few episodes back. She’s definitely not suspicious and not going to be important in this episode. Oh wait, lol, it’s General Grummin in a disguise! Aren’t you surprised, audience? And look! Mustang has just figured it out, even though you would have assumed Mustang knew already! Ha ha ha ha! A manly man is wearing a dress! Isn’t that hilarious! Men in dresses. So funny. What a joke.
He’s not even doing anything silly in the dress or acting embarrassed or uncomfortable. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunity to talk about “crossdressing as joke” in other reviews, but here it’s just bizarre. Grummin is in disguise. It’s not a bad disguise either, from the look of it. Come on Mustang, you want to rule this entire country and you waste a good chunk of a strategy meeting laughing at your one remaining ally because, dress? Pray this world’s equivalent of the Scotts and/or Ancient Greeks never invade Amestris, because they’d just walk up to Central to find the country’s exalted leader pissing his pants about the whole invading army wearing skirts.
Part Three: The Meat of the Matter
There is one subplot that makes this episode for me, and that’s Ed and Al running into Selim Bradley, as the episode title suggests, the Fuhrer’s son.
Selim himself is not a complex character. He’s a child, maybe ten years old or a bit younger. He looks and sounds like he spends most of his free time catching Pokemon. He wants to be an alchemist, so naturally he’s a fan of Ed and Al, and when he runs into them at the library, he’s ecstatic to see them.
More importantly, the two Elrics are suddenly reminded that Bradley, despite being a homunculus, has a family. Not only that, but Selim jabbers on about how excited he is to be able to help his father when he gets older. Now that the Elrics know the truth about Bradley, they have to hold two competing ideas at once: Bradley is an evil monster they must defeat, but he is also the noble hero many citizens of Amestris look up to. No matter what they do, there will be collateral damage, whether they destroy Bradley in secret or expose him for the horrible person he is. Maybe the damage is small either way, but it’s not negligible.
Furthermore, getting at Bradley means tracking dangerously close to his family. This isn’t a situation where they can just violently attack anyone affiliated with him. The morality of the situation is less clear-cut than it has been in the past.
From a character standpoint, we also have some admission that Wrath is still somewhat human. As Mustang pointed out earlier, and as Wrath himself confessed, his family isn’t just for show; he cares about them, and plays a regular part in their lives. He’s still a terrible person, but seeing him among loved ones, even as he’s threatening their own, doubtless casts uncertainty on Ed and Al’s resolve to defeat him, at least by violent means.