Series Breakdown Rating:
Characters and Character Development: 7
Aesthetics and Style: 7
Overall Plot: 5
Audience Assumptions: None
Episode Twelve: Conflict at Baschool – ***
Part One: Talking Chimeras Have Come a Long Way in Four Years
Like many of the previous episodes, this one has a few brief scenes that cut away from the main plot, but the bulk of the screentime is dedicated to the main plot. Kimbley & co. have arrived in the abandoned mining town of Baschool, Scar’s most recent hideout. While initially under surveillance by Kimbley’s men from Central, Ed and Al (and Winry, who they’ve hidden inside of Al) quickly escape their body guards and go searching for Scar — or more specifically, May — on their own.
They stumble upon May rather quickly, and soon reunite with Marcoh and Yoki as well. Ed explains to the group their findings, and Marcoh informs him about the journal, but explains that only Scar can translate it.
Scar, meanwhile, has been tracked down by two of Kimbley’s men, who reveal themselves to be shapeshifting chimeras. They pin Scar, but Ed and Al reluctantly come to his rescue. They recognize the men (which I’d call a bit of a stretch), but pretend not to recognize them, and defeat them in combat. That settled, they face down Scar, only for Winry to interrupt and interrogate him about how he killed her parents.
We need to end the episode on a cliffhanger, so there’s some commotion, an explosion, and then Ed and Al run to Kimbley, accusing him of not keeping close enough track of Winry, because, look! Up on the rooftop! Scar has Winry as a hostage!
Yeah, it doesn’t take a lot of experience with serials to know this is a setup. The dialogue throughout the main exchange, especially during combat, is not the show’s strongest, and I suppose Ed forgot that he both needs Scar and kind of made a tentative peace with the man during their last encounter. I am not a fan of the chimeras. I could probably deal with them if they were just a quirky part of this one episode, but even then, they don’t fit tonally within the rest of the series much at all. We have the homunculi for bizarre creatures with magical powers, we don’t need more. You can’t even really argue that the show has sufficiently set up the chimeras, because these supervillain shapeshifters bear little similarity to the chimeras, even the half-human ones, from earlier in the series.
But we’ll have plenty of time to rant about them later.
Part Two: Yep, This is as Useful as Yoki Ever Gets
I want to get all of Yoki’s backstory out of the way in one fell swoop, because, for the most part, I intend to ignore this character for the duration of the review series.
Yoki is Scar’s travel companion, for some reason. He’s been around for a while, intent on getting revenge on the Elrics, and in this episode, we learn why.
Now, again, I’m not clear on how this character translates from the books, but the backstory montage here is one of the very few portions of Brotherhood that directly references the older anime series. In fact, it uses direct clips from Fullmetal Alchemist as part of the backstory, with additional components added in. It’s kinda cute. Preferable to giving Yoki an entire episode to himself like the older series did, anyway.
Essentially, Yoki ran a non-union coal town, which the Elrics were sent to investigate, and upon realizing how cruel Yoki was, Edward decided to trick Yoki for the deed to the town. He sold the deed for a pile of gold, which was just alchemically-disguised coal, then gave the deed to the coal miners. In the original anime, this was all we saw of the town and its characters. Brotherhood expands upon it (though again, I’m not entirely sure why) to show Yoki’s travels after losing his fortune.
Most of this, and his griping, is a bit annoying, but there’s a sequence when he decides to rob the Armstrong household, and that part is utterly amazing. It almost makes up for the character sticking around for so much of the show. It’s difficult to describe, really, but suffice to say, the Armstrongs apparently have a sweet, tiny sister who can bench-press 500 lbs.
Yoki remains a part of Scar’s crew up through the end of the series if I recall correctly, though he doesn’t often have much to offer. He occasionally comes in handy as bait or an extra set of hands, and I think he gets a slight bit of redemption when he saves the main characters, but he could easily be cut from the story with little consequence.
You’ll hear a lot of that from me in the coming episodes.
Part Three: Not All is Black and White
There are some parts of this episode worth mentioning, most of them unrelated to the main plot.
The episode opens with a scene of Hawkeye returning home after her encounter with Pride, and I quite like how the shadows and framing of her small apartment communicate the paranoia she feels. She’s just come close to being killed by an unimaginable monster, and to her knowledge, it can track her anywhere. She can’t tell anyone about it, including Mustang, and she’s defenseless if it decides to attack again. That would shake anyone.
I also like Buccaneer’s return from the tunnel. He and his men and retrieved what remains of the rescue party, but they have been in the tunnel for too long. They instructed Armstrong to seal the tunnel with concrete if they didn’t return within the allotted time, but they’re surprised when it opens up. The person guarding the tunnel explains that Armstrong gave him a broken watch to track the time on, so they never would have sealed the tunnel with Buccaneer inside anyway. The conversation about black-and-white environments is a bit on the nose, but Armstrong denying breaking her promise to Buccaneer is well within her character. It’s just another nice reminder that the gruff isolationist mentality Briggs purports to have is only a facade to hide how close the base members are.