Anime Spotlight: Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist (which is also known as Hagane no Renkinjutsushi in Japan), is an anime based on a manga written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. The anime aired on Japanese television from October 4, 2003-October 2, 2004, and the Conqueror of Shamballa film opened in Japanese theaters on July 23, 2005. FUNimation Entertainment used to hold the North American distribution rights for both the series and the film. Those rights are now held by Aniplex of America.

In 2009, a reworked anime series called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood aired on Japanese television from April 5, 2009-July 4, 2010. This series was produced after the Fullmetal Alchemist manga ended in Japan, and the intent of this series was to follow the original source material much more closely than the original series, since the original series was produced when the manga was early on in its run in Japan. Another anime film, The Sacred Star of Milos, was released to Japanese theaters on July 2, 2011. FUNimation Entertainment used to hold the North American distribution rights for the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood series and The Sacred Star of Milos film. Those rights are now held by Aniplex of America.

Edward Elric is the “Fullmetal Alchemist,” and is also the youngest State Alchemist in history. He and his younger brother, Alphonse Elric, are alchemists who tried to bring their mother back to life through alchemy. In the process, Edward lost his left leg and right arm, and Alphonse lost his entire body. Edward sacrificed his right arm to affix the soul of Alphonse to a suit of armor.

Roy Mustang, the “Flame Alchemist,” finds the brothers, and convinces Edward to become a member of the State Military of the country in order to find a way to recover their bodies. Edward’s missing limbs are replaced with two sets of automail, which is a kind of prosthetic limb, and the automail is maintained by his childhood friend, Winry Rockbell. Edward and Alphonse go on a journey to search for the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary artifact that would allow the brothers to recover their bodies.

The main antagonist of the series is the Homunculi, which are artificially created humans. The seven members of the Homunculi are named after the seven deadly sins: Lust, Gluttony, Envy, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, and Pride. As the series progresses, secrets are uncovered that affect the Elric brothers and their friends and comrades; these secrets also expose that there’s a lot more to the Homunculi than anyone would have expected.

While the basic story of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is rather similar to the story presented in the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime series, it’s readily apparent early on that some details between the two are drastically different, either because the elements have been put in a different place or have been changed completely from the first series. Also, the parts of the story that are the same between the two tellings are told much quicker in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood than they were in the first series. In addition, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood presents new characters, concepts, and settings that were not part of the first anime series but are very relevant to the story as its told in the original manga source material.

After watching the first episode of the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime series, I was instantly interested and wanted to see more of the series. I found the characters to be endearing and the story made me think. When I got the chance to watch the entire series, I was rather satisfied.

When I watched the Conqueror of Shamballa film, I thought there was an interesting story presented, and it overall felt like it was a logical way to continue the story from where it left off at the end of the first anime series.

After watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I liked the telling in Brotherhood more than the first anime series. While there were some elements from the first Fullmetal Alchemist series that I liked that weren’t from the original manga source material that I missed, I overall thought that the story in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was much stronger. I especially think the history of the Ishbalans is stronger in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood than it was in the first anime series.

To me, the weakest part of the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise was the film The Sacred Star of Milos. The story itself didn’t keep my interest, and it didn’t really seem to fit into the timeline of either Fullmetal Alchemist or Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

The Fullmetal Alchemist franchise, even with the portions that are on the disappointing side, is still a rather strong franchise. After seeing Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I can see why this franchise is as well-loved in anime fandom as it is.

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