Mark Watches ‘Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’: Episode 4

In the fourth episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Edward and Alphonse meet an alchemist who is considered an expert in chimeras, only to discover the horrific cost of such a bizarre branch of science. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch FMA:B.


  • I’m serious, this is already one of the most pervasively disturbing things I’ve ever watched for Mark Watches. Look, Dollhouse‘s premise was unsettling by nature, and sure, it was really fucked up, but this show immediately jumps into the issue of scientific experiment on human beings, and I am going to have NIGHTMARES about that chimera forever.
  • It’s nice that “An Alchemist’s Anguish” opens with a direct acknowledgment that Father Cornello’s power didn’t really make sense. How was he able to create such transmutations without abiding by the Law of Equivalent Exchange? (It sounds important enough to capitalize it, since it’s a Very Significant Idea, right?) How was he able to create a chimera he could control?
  • Because of this, Colonel Mustang sends the Elric brothers to meet Shou Tucker, one of the best chimeric alchemists in the state. (Where is this state? Is this an alternate world or Earth? I am very interested in these ideas.) However, the very idea of hope for a positive end to this tale is immediately destroyed once we find out how Tucker earned his certification: He created a chimera capable of speaking. The chimera only said one thing: “I want to die.”
  • Nope. Nope.
  • All aboard the S.S. Leave Me Here to Die.
  • One of the more rewarding parts of “An Alchemist’s Anguish” is how aware these characters are of their precarious position in life. Tucker is open about how difficult and morally confusing it is to create chimeras. He doesn’t promise them a solution, instead granting them access to his library.
  • At the same time, there’s a secondary plot involving a man with a strange X scar on his face killing high-level state military personnel that sees Major Armstrong candidly admitting his own complicity in… something? See, I’m still confused about what the Ishval civil war thing was. The show hasn’t explained it to me yet. But the man with the scar is now the second character expressing a hateful and murderous discontent with the state military. I think that’s a big deal! And Armstrong even admits as much because he’s aware of the fact that his role in the military could very well be a betrayal to the code that alchemists were supposed to live up to. These people gave up their commitment to serve the greater good of society to sign up with the government. It was a surprising thing to hear from someone who previously had seemed rather pro-military in the past.
  • This theme pops up again at the end of the episode, and it makes me want to keep watching this show just to figure out what the hell happened in the Ishval conflict.
  • Yet all this heavy philosophizing is tempered by the introduction of Nina and Alexander. In Nina, Edward and Alphonse see themselves, especially since their own father was often too busy to spend time with them. Despite Edward’s desire to find out more about chimeric alchemy, he ultimately chooses to play with Nina and her dog, and it’s SO PLEASANT TO WATCH.
  • That’s why I completely fell for the misdirect when Tucker resigned to his own terror at being de-certified and agreed to play with Nina on the day of his assessment. After having told Edward and Al of his problems, it seemed like he was ready to give up. How was he going to come up with something amazing overnight? I thought that he saw how much fun Nina had with the Elric brothers, and he realized what he’d devoted his life to. That’s what I thought the title referred to: Tucker’s anguish over devoting himself to science at the expense of science.
  • I mean, technically I was right.
  • Technically.
  • The worst technicality of all time.
  • I don’t know, I just didn’t think this show would go there. Which makes no sense in hindsight, but as Edward and Al walked back into Tucker’s house on Assessment Day, I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see.
  • I am never going to forget that image of the chimera of Nina and Alexander. Ever. It is going to haunt me.
  • This whole thing speaks to the desperation by which some folks will go to in order to get the approval they need from this military culture. Getting his certification meant money for Tucker, and having lived in poverty once, this man was desperate to never go back to that world again. So how much power does the state military have? Does it provide people with the upward mobility that they can’t find in other avenues for life? How embedded is it in this fictional society?
  • Like the previous episode, Edward is unable to ignore how the main antagonist he faces is reflected in his own actions. I do agree that eleven-year-old Edward is not that same as adult Tucker. Tucker was far more malicious in his actions, and Edward’s own ignorance is what got the best of him. Tucker knew what he was doing. Still, this entire situation causes Edward to examine his own humanity as a dog of the military. Is he still human for what he’s done?
  • Exact moment I was done forever: When the chimera asked Edward if it was time to play. FUCK Y’ALL FOR THIS. I ONCE KNEW HAPPINESS. IT IS NOW GONE.
  • And then, just when I have clearly had enough, that man with the scar is back. And he makes Tucker explode from the inside. What the hell kind of alchemy is that??? Where did this guy come from? Why is he convinced that these alchemists have strayed from the path of God? Is this man doing the work of the “God” that Edward met in “The First Day,” or is he simply misguided?
  • Yeah, I am totally into this show, and I need to watch more now, but I’m still upset at what y’all have done to me. THIS IS YOUR FAULT.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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