full metal alchemist
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His Darker Half... Two Sides Of The Same Alchemist., Warning! Spoilers for the FMA-1 anime
post Jan 31 2010, 08:05 AM
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Let me describe this fellow. He's a strong person, with athletic abilities. He is rather confident, overdoing it to the point of being cocky and arrogant. He has a temper so don't cross him, for he's a badass fighter (He can turn his hand into a sword!). He is devoted to his mother, but has major issues about his father (because daddy left the family).
Now, am I describing Edward Elric?
I am describing Envy. To be more precise, I am speaking about the Envy of the first anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist. This Envy is the son of Hohenheim and Dante, the elder brother (by a few centuries) of Edward and Alphonse. Confused? One will find explanation here in this essay. There is much resemblance between the firstborn son of Dante and the firstborn son of Trisha. Much that is very discomforting, for we have two facets of the same man, differentiated by good and evil.
It has been a habit of late for FMA fans to criticize the first series and its plot revelations. To them, Envy being Ed and Al's brother is a major plot hole, something that came out of nowhere and has no importance aside from an 'OMG! Shock!' plot device. First off, the family connection was hinted way back in the Lab 5 storyline. This Envy reveals his hatred for Hohenheim, telling Edward he can never forgive him for being related to that Alchemist.
Furthermore, the 'brother' connection is actually an interesting subplot for both Envy and Edward. Anime1Envy is as much a potential threat as his manga counterpart, more so in terms of his relationship with Edward. Now, the major villainy of Envy is his power to transform into other people. Wearing these people's forms, Envy performs crimes the model would never do. The evil Gracia Hughes who would kill her husband. The evil Hughes who would harm Edward or Roy. Thus, Envy portrays the character's evil double.
And the first series progresses that threat to a level the manga does not do. By being brothers, Anime1Envy has a tie with Edward Elric. He is just like him. No matter the resemblances, the majority of Envy's disguises are only surface deep. One can take solace in the fact that although Envy can duplicate Hughes, Gracia, or Roy, we know he is not really Hughes, Gracia, or Roy. But duplicating Edward is a different story. Envy is not the evil Edward by taking his form. He shares Edward's arrogance and overconfidence. Like Edward, he has a mean temper and can be rather destructive. Despite his violent nature, Envy is influenced by his mother Dante, suggesting a strong devotion for her (as Edward had for his mother Trisha). And they both share the bitterness of a father who abandoned them. A powerful moment in Episode 50 is when Edward angrily shouts at his father. "If you and that evil b---- were so perfect together, where did you get the nerve to marry my mom? Was it some sick pleasure, pretending to be human?" One can see Anime1Envy saying almost the same words. "If we were so perfect together, why did you marry that b----? Was it some sick pleasure, pretending to be human?"
This similarity reaches its zenith in Episode 51, when Envy goes through the Gate. First he transforms into Edward and then he takes a form resembling Hohenheim as a young man. Here, the message is clear: Envy was once like Edward. Thus, Edward will become like Envy. In this case, one sees in Envy a warning for Edward: the path not taken. Think about it: Suppose Envy had a better mother than Dante, as well as family and friends? Then his all-consuming bitterness over his father would have been overwhelmed (This is according to this adaptation's Frankenstein implication that the Homunculus were not born evil, but reared that way by Dante). But what if Edward had a worse mother than Trisha, and no family and friends? Then his bitterness over his father would consume him. He would be as evil an Alchemist as Kimbley or Dante (a fate for Envy if he had not died of Mercury poisoning).
So we have two forms of Edward Elric. One good and one evil. Sounds like Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. This story has gone through many more adaptations and changes. Several portray Edward Hyde as Henry Jekyll's evil doppelganger, free to express his vices without morality. In FMA's case, this 'unredeemed double' can exist alongside his good self. The hero and the villain share kindred similarities but portray them differently. The hero represses the evil in himself, but the villain to express them. There are many examples in movies. Indiana Jones has Rene Belloq as his doppelganger in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ("I am but a shadowy reflection of yourself," Belloq tells Indy). James Bond has Alec Trevelyn as his doppelganger in Goldeneye (1995) ("James and I shared everything…" Trevelyn tells a Bond girl). In comics we have Mr. Fantastic and Doctor Doom, Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, Batman and the Joker, etc.
Thus Envy is Edward's doppelganger. Any dark thing Edward harbors in his soul is contained by his conscience. But Envy expresses the darkness and fulfills it. Take their father issues for instance. Edward is bitter about Hohenheim, but despite acts of hostility he could never harm or kill him. His doppelganger violently harms Hohenheim in Conqueror of Shamballa. One can understand that Edward, like many abandoned children, would possibly be wary of new parent figures (Dare he trust another father after being betrayed by his real one?). And yet he finds himself opening his heart to Maes Hughes as a father-figure. Edward's doppelganger (daddy-wary times eleven!) kills Maes Hughes. Like many abandoned children, Edward may consider some guilt in causing his situation (Did his father leave because of him?). The series makes no evidence of that guilt until Episode 50. In the brothers' final confrontation, Envy becomes Dr. Marcoh, Maes Hughes, Trisha, and Roy Mustang. Each of these people symbolized a parental/older mentor influence to Edward. And they all blame or attack him like some bad son.
Then there is the fraternal factor. Despite moments of arguments and sparring, Edward loves Alphonse and will protect him. Nor can he kill Envy once he learns of their brotherly connection. But the doppelganger shares no brotherly love, as seen in his violence to them (as well as Wrath). Earlier in the series, Edward feared that Alphonse actually hated him for the transmutation incident that cost him his body. But despite those fears, Alphonse admits that he can never despise Edward his brother. But in Episode 49, what does Alphonse say to his brother's doppelganger? 'I hate you!' (And Envy responds by knocking his helmet off: How Edwardian!). And this repress/express link works on Envy as well. Envy appears to be very civil with Sloth, despite her identity as Daddy's new wife. That he hates the woman is doubtless (his hostility to Wrath when the Homunculus pleads for Sloth's restoration), but he never expresses it on the Trisha-Homunculus (perhaps Mama told him to behave?). This time it is Edward who fulfills Envy's desire by killing Sloth himself.
One sees a consistency to this Envy's actions. The first series removed the Manga plot revelation that Envy started the Ishbal War. With this plot-point out of the way, Anime1Envy's evil is focused against the familia. Whereas Edward is devoted to family and its protection (with the exception to Sloth), Envy is destructive to the family (with exception to Dante). His violence goes toward patriarchal figures like Hughes (Bang!), Bradley (Pow!) and Hohenheim (Crunch!), and fraternal figures like Edward, Alphonse, and Wrath. In this case, one is rather glad Envy never crossed paths with Winry. Think "Edward and I shared everything…"
But there is more discomfort to when the good and evil of Elric meet. Even though Edward is not a monster like Envy, his own actions aren't quite spotless either. Throughout the series, Edward has committed, or almost committed, some rather grave actions:
-Episode 7: Edward tries to kill Barry the Chopper to save himself and Winry. Envy is not present.
-Episode 21-22: In Lab 5, Edward considers transmuting the criminals to create a Philosopher Stone to restore Al's body. Envy is near.
-Episode 34: Edward accidentally kills Greed. Envy is not present.
-Episode 47: Edward purposely kills Sloth, his mother. Envy watches this in the form of Winry.
-Episode 50: Edward tries to kill his brother, Envy.
See the pattern? When Edward's grim actions are accidental or justifiable, Envy is absent. But when the Homunculus is near, Edward's gray actions take on a more questionable tone. Remember that story gimmick about the character seeing two tiny versions of himself dressed as an angel and a devil? Envy's presence makes him clearly the devil to Edward. The lack of an angel in these situations express which side is winning over Edward's decision (Yes, Edward had to kill Sloth to save Al and himself, but matricide really has this act hitting the border between gray and black!). This continues in Conqueror of Shamballa. Twice in the movie, Edward pulls out a gun, clearly intending on using it (which has been a shock to some viewers). And guess who suddenly makes an appearance? In response, Edward lowers or discards the weapon.
Thus, one can imply that by removing the doppelganger, Edward is for the better. In several of movie adaptations of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (specifically the 1932 Fredric March version and the 1968 Jack Palance version), the good doctor theorized that by separating the good and the evil in man, the good will rise to great things while the evil will destroy itself. As nasty as his crimes are, Envy's actions had severe consequences. His murder of Hughes led to the Homunculus losing control of the country (when Roy Mustang- seeking revenge for Hughes - destroyed Fuhrer Bradley). Envy's murder of Edward led to Alphonse's sacrifice, losing Dante her philosopher stone and sealing her fate (even if Gluttony never came, Dante's death was inevitable). Envy's consuming decision to go after Hohenheim thru the Gate led to the stripping of his powers and freedom. His torture of Hohenheim led to his final destruction.
Meanwhile, Edward shines when his 'dark side' leaves the world. He shirks his hatred for the Homunculus. He weeps for his elder brother when he enters the Gate. He tells Rose to take care of Wrath. Then Edward makes the ultimate sacrifice to save Alphonse. His face glows serene and heavenly, almost Christ-like (quite a contrast to Envy transforming into a serpent- a form of the devil!). In CoS, when Envy is finally destroyed for good, Edward becomes the noble hero. He consoles Alphonse over his guilt, defeats Eckhart and makes another noble sacrifice, leaving his home and all he loves so he can protect his native world from the Nazis. In the end, Edward had grown beyond his past bitterness. One day he will look like that blonde adult face that stared at him- and killed him. But it will be a better man behind that face.
So, one can see an interesting characterization in having Envy be Edward's brother. Sometimes the greatest evil threats are the ones close to home; Edward had met the enemy, and the enemy is himself.
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