Anime Review: FullMetal Alchemist

“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is alchemy’s first law of Equivalent Exchange.”

Arakawa Hiromu, Square Enix, Fullmetal Alchemist (2001), “Copyrighted Image”

Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga series written and illustrated by Arakawa Hiromu that ran from 2001 to 2010. It was adapted into an anime two times – the first one being Fullmetal Alchemist and the second one being Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The story follow Edward and Alphonse Eric, in a world where alchemists exists that where some people can manipulate matter. However, one of the taboo of alchemy is human alchemy, like trying to resurrect the dead. Having lost their mother and resorting to desperate measures, the boys try human alchemy, thinking they would succeed when other alchemists failed. The result of the transmutation were horrific, as Edward lost a limb and a leg in the process, and Alphonse lost his whole body, and only his soul remains bombed to a suit of armor. Edward and Alphonse decide to head to Central to become a state alchemist, and find the philosopher stone – a stone that negates the effect of equivalent exchange – to regain their bodies.

Story and Characters:

For the main characters Ed and Al, these two are brothers that have been through many things together. Throughout their journey, you can see that these brothers really love and care for each other, as they only have each other to depend on. They face danger together and do everything together. This leads us to the first major theme of the story – brotherhood and the importance of family. There are many horrific things that happen in the story, but throughout it all these two brothers have always been together. The theme of family also carries on to the side characters, such as Winry Rockbell and her grandmother, as these are only other two family members that are left of the brothers.

Talking about the side characters, much attention is paid as well onto many of their backstory and their development, such as the Tucker incident at the start of the series. The focus on the side characters and even the villains make them seem real and even relatable. Through finding out what happened to the other characters, the Elric Brothers are able to become more mature and be able to think for themselves.

The next important theme of the story is the law of Equivalent Exchange. Through the story, this theme has always been explored and challenged, and if you work hard and sacrifice all for the sake of your desire, will it ever be realized? This leads me to talk about the ending, which I felt addressed it excellently and left me with a good conclusion, even though it left things unresolved. However, I would also recommend watching the Conqueror of Shamballa movie, as it is the true conclusion to the original FMA series. But, I will say I prefer the ending of the original series over the movie, but perhaps that may not be a popular opinion. Then again, most people I’ve talked to have never even heard of the movie, and have only seen the original ending. So, I do recommend watching the movie as a conclusion to the whole FMA series.


When the first Fullmetal Alchemist was being produced in 2003, the manga had not reached its conclusion. But, they decided to adapt the manga while it was still in production. Unlike regular long-running shonen series like Naruto and One Piece, they decided to make it a short series. This means that while there are little filler and useless episodes, they ran out of chapters pretty quickly. So, the production team at Studio Bones decided to go in a different direction and come up with their own story based on what had already been set up, as the manga artist was still drawing the manga. And them, in 2009, after the manga was completed, Studio Bones re-adapted the manga into anime in the form of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which more closely follows the story of the manga and Arakawa Hiromu’s original vision. Because of this, many people consider the original 2003 FMA to be inferior in comparison, and think that Brotherhood is better just because the story of the manga is better, thus creating the “Brotherhood Problem,” as named by one of my favorite YouTubers GR Arkada.

Whether or not Brotherhood has a better story than the original FMA is objective, as my older cousin who I talked to prefers Brotherhood. Though, his opinion is quite valid as he has seen both series. For me at least, I still strongly feel that this first FMA anime still has its merits, and I think that you should consider watching this before watching Brotherhood, As a final note, I don’t think that you will enjoy this series as much after watching FMA Brotherhood, as the animation in that show is superior in quality compared to this. Overall, Fullmetal Alchemist is a good anime with relatable characters and interesting themes, and it’s one I fully recommend you watch.