Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Four Loves"- Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”

(Note: There are two versions of this anime. One is just called Fullmetal Alchemist. I prefer Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. There is a big difference between the two!)

Western media doesn’t seem to like families very much. 

Let me clarify that.

How often are groups of people who are not related called “family”?

Watch a few movies. Count the times. You will probably spot a pattern fairly quickly.

These days Storge- as represented in the movies- seems to be split into two categories: 

Biological families (who are rarely shown to be “loving” in any way) 


 “We are Family” by Sister Sledge playing in the background as several characters who are completely genetically unrelated dance and hug. 

I admit, sometimes I will refer to unrelated peoples as my “family”. My best friend who I’ve known since I was six, my FroLand Family- a diverse group who I became very close to while working at Disney World, and my Venezuelan Mother- who is a lovely woman whom I admire, respect and even call “Madre” on occasion.

However, deep down I know all of these relationships are Philla.

Storge is reserved for that special group with whom I share a roof, several genetic similarities, and most of my life experiences with. 

Perhaps Hollywood should get some family counseling, because they really seem to have issues with biological families. Overbearing mothers, alcoholic fathers, and those bratty annoying siblings who are never punished for anything run rampant over the silver screen.

I can’t really relate….  yes, those issues exist, and I’m not one of those people who believe in presenting an unrealistic rosy colored view of life. However, we’ve come to the point in film, where family is presented as such a terrible thing, that in my opinion, it has already breached the point of unrealism.

So naturally for my film example of storge, I chose a supernatural thriller anime.

As the name implies, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a story about brothers.

The more I watch this brilliant piece of art, the more I see that Storge is the theme of Fullmetal. The good guys have Storge, the side characters have storge, even the bad guys have Storge!  It begins with family tragedy and ends with family restoration and celebration.

The Godfather, this is not.

In fact, there are so many positive family relationships in this series that I could spend pages and pages gushing over every detail.

But I won’t.

For this review, I will focus on the Storge that impacted me the most. So let’s get back to the brothers of Brotherhood.

Edward and Alphonse (Al for short) are the stars of this series, and right off the bat, it’s slightly unusual to see a pair of siblings take the spotlight. Even more unusual, is the fact they don’t seem to hate each other!

Very often in film, the sibling relationship is reduced to name calling and door slamming.

My sister and I feel a very strong connection to Fullmetal Alchemist, because of the love and friendship that is shown between the two brothers.

I consider my sister to be one of my dearest friends, and it’s nice to see a film series that shares those same values.

But Fullmetal goes even further in exploring the sibling relationship. Edward- the oldest- feels an incredible amount of responsibility for his little brother.

Alphonse in turn, struggles with feeling overshadowed by his talented older sibling.

They work together, laugh together, and fight with each other.

It rings of truth, and sometimes my sister and I will just look at each other while watching and nod. We know this is how we work too.

I can’t elaborate very much on what it’s like to be a younger sibling, but I have nineteen years of experience on being a “big sister”.

That being said, I relate to Edward probably more than I ever have to any fictional character.

He’s arrogant, eccentric, talks way too much, and would do anything to protect his little brother.

There’s a lot of psychological “norms” that come with being born first. One of them is an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Yeah, sometimes it’s extremely annoying having a little kid follow you around like a shadow, but if anyone ever tried to hurt that shadow- look out!

In one episode, Alphonse is trapped- I’ll be vague so as not to give spoilers. Edward finds Al, but he can’t rescue him. Ed has to leave, and the helplessness on his sharply designed animated face rips through my heart. As an impenetrable wall closes between them, Ed finds the strength to hold it back- just enough for him to tell Alphonse “I’m coming back for you”.

This is a rare cinematic gem- probably the highest level of sibling love ever portrayed on film.

Just like philla- sometimes storge is downplayed as somehow a “lesser love”. The difference between our family and our friends is the fact we can’t choose who we’re related to. And let’s face it, sometimes life seems like it would be easier if we had a choice in that area. Friendships come and go, but you can never change your DNA. Sometimes it seems like that’s the only thing you have in common. My sister and I are total opposites, and we can drive each other up the wall- but storge keeps us together. The reward of having such an incredible friend is worth all the the struggle through the rough times.

It’s good for me to have to stretch my emotional muscles, and family does just that. You can choose to spend the rest of your life with someone by marrying them-  or hanging around them incessantly, but you are connected to your family by the simple fact you were born. Those relationships tend to be life-long, and I appreciate that Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood took the time to explore and highlight such overlooked and belittled subject matter.

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