Anyone who knows anything about anime has heard of the infamous episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. But because of the viral meme, many who have never seen anime have also been exposed to some of the most traumatic things that have happened in anime. The images are so powerful that they managed to understand the concept even without the whole context. But for those who do not know exactly what happened before the frames included in that meme, the impact of the scene can only really be understood within the context of the world and the episode that contained it.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood follows the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers, as they work to redeem themselves after a tragic alchemy incident. They travel the country in search of an object they believe can help them regret what they did, and in the process they meet many people and alchemists. Such a state alchemist taught the boys that not all people really have humanity.
Edward Elric long ago lost his arm and leg, while his brother lost his entire bodily form. In their quest to return their brother to a deadly shell, Ed and Alphonse decided to visit Sewing-Life Alchemist: a state alchemist who got his license two years before when he had managed to create a chimera capable of human speech . The process of bioalkymy is able to modify an existing creature and amplify it to be better than the original species, and when used as such, the resulting creature is called a chimera. He was the first such creature capable of human speech.
This shocking scientific advance is why Ed and Alphonse believe that his research may be the key to restoring Alphonse. They visit his property to review his research to see what they are able to find. Shou Tucker and his daughter receive the two boys with open arms. Shou confides in Ed that since the original chimera he has not been able to make any remarkable scientific progress or even replicate his previous achievements. He goes even further and claims that if he cannot do so soon, he will have his license and research funding revoked. Ed notices the minor elements of desperation in the man.
Shou Tucker’s young daughter Nina is so excited to finally have a child to play with since she usually only has the dog Alexander for company. She has been alone since her mother tragically left the family just at the time her father achieved the state’s alchemist status, and her father is always too busy with his research to spend much time with her. Despite the fact that Ed and Alphonse had to mature over the years, they quickly bond with Nina and show clear brotherly devotion to her.
At this point in this little story, the audience is completely in love with little Nina, and any eccentricities shown by Shou are well explained by the disappearance of his wife and the potential loss of his license in the near future. Ed and Alphonse are also easily able to brush away all the unrest they feel.
Near the end of the boys’ stay, Shou enthusiastically, and a little manically, declares that he has finally done so, he has created a second chimera capable of human speech. They still suspect that nothing is wrong, and the boys are happy for him, until they actually see the miracle with their own eyes. Even then, Alphonse apparently does not see anything wrong, although Ed seems to have his suspicions. He slowly approaches the creature while his name is written. When it calls him brother, his whole behavior changes, and he begins to confront Shou.
What viewers may have already suspected is confirmed by Ed, Shou transformed her daughter and her dog together to create a new creature that had some of man’s mental abilities and memories, but who was obviously not the same happy child they fell in love with. even the fear of a man who first sacrifices his wife, and then his young daughter in search of a title, will be enough to cement this as one of the darkest moments in anime. But when he is finally forced to confront the truth, he shows no remorse, he sees it as a necessary step in the process and something that everyone in his position would and should have done. His complete and utter lack of humanity and empathy cements him as one of the most vile villains in the show. Especially in contrast to the strained but idealistic image that was first presented in his life.
Shou Tucker created one of the darkest moments in anime, and the creators of the show delivered it with devastating precision. The depth of shadows in the scene, the pain in the creature’s voice and the slow but increasing mind in Ed’s face, create a powerful and horrible moment that has stuck in the minds of the fans and even wormed its way into popular meme culture. Ultimately, the boys ‘failure to help her cements only the impact of what has been done in viewers’ memories.
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