Someday, I might do a list of my 10 favorite anime series and this series is bound to make that list. Fullmetal Alchemist is a shonen manga series written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa that ran from 2001 all the way to 2010. The series has been adapted into a light novel, a live-action film, and of course, two anime adaptations from Bones. The first came out in 2003 and was titled Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s a good series, but halfway through, it goes to a different direction from the manga. The second adaptation from 2009 follows the source material much closer and it’s the subject of today’s review. This is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
In the country of Amestris, alchemy is a common practice. Two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, decided to use alchemy to revive their deceased mother, but it ends disastrously as Edward loses his right arm and left leg and Alphonse loses his entire body with his soul binding to a suit of armor. Now, both boys set out to be State Alchemists to seek out the Philosopher’s Stone in order to reverse the damage done to them, all the while, combatting a mass conspiracy that could threaten the world. This is probably one the best-written shonen anime I’ve come across. It has Avatar: The Last Airbender vibes as we follow these two kids on their journey. If you’ve watched the 2003 series, then you’d noticed that the first fourteen episodes are repeats of the first half of that series done in a different way. But after that, Brotherhood follows the manga’s story much more faithfully. There’s a lot of themes presented in the story involving family, science, politics, corruption, and, of course, war. A major plot point of the story is the Ishbalan Civil War, where the Ishbalan people have been massacred by the State Military, an allegory for imperialism. Because this story revolves around alchemy, equivalent exchange is mentioned a lot, where one must give something of equal value in order to obtain something new.
This series has one of the best protagonists in the Elric brothers. This is one of the strongest sibling relationships in any medium. Their bond remains strong throughout the series as they try to fix their mistakes and become normal again. In their journey, they gain more knowledge about alchemy and how the world really. Aside from those two, there’s also one strong supporting cast. Winry, the Elrics’ childhood friend who worked on Edward’s prosthetic limbs, Colonel Roy Mustang, a State Alchemist who can use fire every time he snaps his fingers and aspires to be the next Fuhrer of Amestris, Riza Hawkeye, his trusty Lieutenant, Scar, a man from Ishbal who was on a mission to kill all State Alchemists after his people were slaughtered, Maes Hughes, a State Alchemist who’s all about his family, etc.
Now for the villains, starting with the Homunculi, artificial people created out of a Philosopher’s Stone and each named after the seven deadly sins: Wrath, Pride, Envy, Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed. These motherfuckers are hard to kill. It doesn’t matter if you shoot them, stab them, beat them to death, blow them up, etc., they’ll regenerate. The only way to kill them off for good is to destroy their Philosopher’s Stone. King Bradley, the current Fuhrer of Amestris, is actually Wrath in disguise. This is something we didn’t know initially, but the clues are there. Envy can go to Hell for all I care because they’re responsible for the death of a beloved character in the show. And Envy isn’t even the worst character in the show in terms of his actions. No, that title goes to…
Shou Tucker. Fuck Shou Tucker. This dude is one of the most hated anime characters in history for a reason. Shou Tucker is a State Alchemist who specialized in creating chimeras, which are fusions of two or more creatures. So what this motherfucker did is that he created a chimera fusing his daughter Nina and their dog Alexander. Did I forget to mention that he turned his wife into a chimera? Even worse is that he tried to justify his actions in the name of science and doesn’t see anything wrong with what he did. Yeah. Fuck this guy. This left the Elrics and the viewers mortified and this created material for sadistic meme makers.
And then there’s Father, the main villain of the series who’s pretty much the catalyst of the whole series. He created the Homunculi and he set out on a mission to become God. Seriously. He also bears a resemblance to the Elric brothers’ father, Van Hohenheim. They actually have a history together that spans for centuries.
With anything produced by Bones, you can expect some top-quality animation, which FMA: Brotherhood has. The character designs are unique and eye-popping, the backgrounds are gorgeous, and the action scenes are A1. It also knows how to balance tone. The funny moments are hilarious and the serious moments hit hard. Speaking of serious moments, this is one of those series that’ll hit you in the feels multiple times. Whether it’d be rage like the Tucker incident or several instances of sadness like the Elric brothers’ backstory and, of course, tragic deaths like the one of Maes Hughes, who was shot by Envy. Even sadder is his funeral. I’ll let that scen speak for itself.
Remember in my Avengers: Endgame review where I mentioned satisfying conclusions and I name-dropped FMA: Brotherhood? Well, I say that because this anime has one of the best conclusions ever. Near the end of the series, we see the final confrontation between Edward and Father. It’s awesome. Afterwards, Edward reaches the Gate Of Truth where he makes the choice to sacrifice his alchemy skills in order to get Alphonse back. The boys are normal again and they get a well-deserved happy ending along with other characters.
And that was Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It’s an anime classic that does everything right. An engaging story, memorable characters, thrilling action, and an amazing soundtrack. This is a perfect gateway series for those who want to get into anime, but don’t know where to start. It’s available on all of the streaming platforms and runs for 64 episodes, so go check it out if you haven’t. And check out the 2003 series as well. Next time, we’ll talk about another one of my favorite anime series, Samurai Champloo.