I'm pretty much your average joe, I don't watch anime and the last time I did, it was the original Nausicaa my parents recorded from the TV when they aired reruns in Japan. (I'm Japanese, living in the US) As a child, I liked it a lot but never really understood it. After watching it recently as a young adult, it really blew me away. Nostalgic about watching anime again, I asked around for recommendations and whether it be first or last, FMA was always somewhere in that list.
DUB OR SUB?
Man, this is tough. I'm bilingual in Japanese and English and I usually go for the Japanese voicing but for this series, I enjoyed the English dubbing more. For one, it was really refreshing to have male actors voicing boys again, contrary to the Japanese norm of casting female voice actors to play young teenage boys. Vic Mignogna did an excellent job.
However, there are some things I found inconsistent or funky about the English dub. Although the voicing was superb, Alphonse just didn't sound like a year younger than Ed. And Envy was standing on the borderline between a guy and a girl, make up your mind! Envy is a guy, and should therefore sound like one! And what was with Shou Tucker's eerie whispering voice after he became a chimera?
But I think I'm just being picky, because overall, I still enjoyed the English dubbing over the original Japanese - one of the reasons being that the English writers did an extraordinary job of translating and adapting, especially with Japanese cultural references.
Really well-crafted plot, driven by defined characters. The dynamic between the brothers is phenomenal, speaking in terms of both physical combat and morals. One thing I don't understand is everyone's fantasy of Ed and Winry being together. From what I got from the series, Winry isn't much more than what Nurse Joy is in Pokemon. She is pretty much there only fix Ed up whenever his automail messes up. I guess it can be argued that she represents the home and the hospitable family that Ed lost, but I could hardly call any of their interactions "bonding" unless you count binding human flesh with metal. Especially in the movie, from Winry's perspective - Ed comes back to his world, she fits Ed with new automail and he goes back. Damn.
But anywho, what was also great about the characters was their depth, like how the villains were not inherently evil. Take Lust for example and her paradoxical desire to become human. She goes as far as betraying her peers because she realizes she has a better chance of achieving that goal with the Elrics than Dante.
The plot was solid to say the least and was backed by stellar music scoring - the Russian version of "Brothers" still gets the best of me. I don't think I can name any episodes that were straight up filler. It had enough twists to keep me guessing and I especially enjoyed the military aspect of it involving Fuhrer Bradley - its conspiracy, corruption, and eventual coup d'etat. What was most appealing to me however, was the underlying message of sacrifice and how much Ed and Al would give up to be with one another. In the end, they gave up their whole world (literally), alchemy, and loved ones just to be at eachothers side.
Overall, I have to say that the series had everything I was looking for in an anime, I could even go as far as saying it left me wanting even more. They could've coined the entire series a saga, and called it "The Philosopher's Stone" or something. There's plenty of questions I want answered. Since its like a parallel universe, where is that world's version of Ed's mother, or Winry, or Roy Mustang? What will they do in lieu of alchemy? What are their lives like knowing that that they could never return to their real home? They are with each other, in more or less the bodies they worked so hard to get back, but now what? My personal curiosity aside, FMA lives up to the hype. Anime is falling into two categories, the thought provoking animes like Paranoia agent and the all-out action shows like *cringe* Dragonball Z. FMA finds a niche which is just right