For my next entry into my series of diving into scores of films. video games, and television, I've chosen the anime series Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. In this series I give a a review of how the show works with the music, and how the score can be translated properly from the big screen into your ears.
By now most anime fans know the name of the show. It's story is about two beloved characters (Edward and Alphonse Elric) who make a fatal error in their childhood, and in attempt to correct it, they search out the mysteries of alchemy for their answer. In the world of Fullmetal, alchemy is the center of all creation - but what is created must be used with the thought of law equivalent exchange. This focus leads into the shows themes of militaristic society, where states are at constant war with opposing nations and rebels. This leads the brothers into the world Amestris, where they continue to meet interesting allies, as well the shady underbellies of a government officials. Throughout the show, composer Senju Akira creates dense yet evocative music, using variations of themes to bring in a certain variety of emotions with recurring melodies. Akira knows what he is doing when it comes to translating a scene of characters onscreen, and using music to increase impact of the scene, so that leads to more memorable moments (of course the writing certainly helps).
Honestly, without spoiling too much of the show I'm going to just say that this was one of the best shows I ever watched. The character development is on another level, with a gripping story to hold it all the way through 5 seasons. Not to mention how in depth the world building is.
Senju Akira is the main composer of the show. Like all anime though, the intro and outros are performed by either in house bands or established musicians. So I'll be talking about both in separate detail as Akira's soundtrack is composed of mainly classical pieces, and the bands are geared towards more rock.
Within the 5 seasons, we get 3 separate soundtracks. That's definitely a lot of music but the main theme gets a bunch of variations which I love. Starting off with the main theme, Akira presents us with a romantic era classical piece - we have the whole orchestra giving their all for such a grandiose piece of music. The variations come in many different forms of this main piece, whether it be focused on violin, guitar, or just an extended orchestra. Other songs on the score have variations as well such as Laws of Alchemy, Lapis Philosophorum, and Trisha's Lullaby. All have their place, especially Lapis Phiolsophorum playing into the religious aspects of alchemy being the creator of all with its Gregorian chants. Akira also bides into the militaristic world with pieces such as Nightfall in Central City and Mount Briggs. The world of Fullmetal Alchemist plays around with many themes while unraveling the mysteries throughout the world, and tracks like Desolation give you a feeling of hope in the midst of failure, or tracks like Nocturne of Amestris have a sense of peace in a war driven society.
Fullmetal Alchemist is also a show with the main characters just being kids (well teenagers), and Akira has tracks that give that childhood naivety callback. He may focus on purely a classical score, but what I'm getting at is the versatility he brings with each piece - the emotion is felt through the strings in every note. Every track is thought out to have a scene related to it instead of just reused background tracks. These are the kind of composers that alleviate scores from just being there to being acknowledged.
Now, after talking about a bit of the score I'll discuss the intro and outro tracks. For the first track we are given an intro of again by YUI. This track is a melodic rock track that perfectly encompasses the young driven stars of the show. It's energetic, catchy, and fun - the basis on how the show starts and then strides into a serious tone. Then we have uso by SID, which is a more mature track that still uses energetic rock-ness that we are familiar with anime. This one is a little more varied in song structure though and could even be considered a song on its own than just a theme song. Next we have Let it Out by Fukahara Miho which is just a classic outro song by any anime fan. It encompasses the feeling of letting it out - the frustration the characters feel but also the dedication of continuing on. The next intros/outros we have are Golden Time Lover by Sukima Switch, Tsunaida Te by Lil'B (not the rapper), Period by Chemistry, and Shunkan Sentimental by Scandal (the only one I know). All these tracks are pretty standard rock anime intro/outro music, so it's nothing spectacular but gets the job done. The last two tracks are Rain by SID, and Ray of Light by Shouko. Honestly, I don't remember these tracks too much, and that's mainly because listening to the score I mainly pay attention to Akira's music.
Finally, I've come out with the next article in this series, and what a score I had to write up about. I probably didn't do the show justice by the description as it's hard without spoilers. Just envision a show of mystery, heartwarming moments, suspense, action, and just so much more that it executes perfectly well (and of course the score). My next article should be out faster as I'm free from school now, plus I've been dying to talk about this next score! Thanks for reading.
Favourite Tracks: Crime & Punishment, Desolation, Philosphorum Omega,