Edward Elric, a young, brilliant alchemist, has lost much in his twelve-year life: when he and his brother Alphonse try to resurrect their dead mother through the forbidden act of human transmutation, Edward loses his brother as well as two of his limbs. With his supreme alchemy skills, Edward binds Alphonse's soul to a large suit of armor.
A year later, Edward, now promoted to the fullmetal alchemist of the state, embarks on a journey with his younger brother to obtain the Philosopher's Stone. The fabled mythical object is rumored to be capable of amplifying an alchemist's abilities by leaps and bounds, thus allowing them to override the fundamental law of alchemy: to gain something, an alchemist must sacrifice something of equal value. Edward hopes to draw into the military's resources to find the fabled stone and restore his and Alphonse's bodies to normal. However, the Elric brothers soon discover that there is more to the legendary stone than meets the eye, as they are led to the epicenter of a far darker battle than they could have ever imagined.
#1: "Melissa (メリッサ)" by Porno Graffitti (ep 1) #2: "Kesenai Tsumi (消せない罪)" by Nana Kitade (eps 2-13) #3: "Tobira no Mukou e (扉の向こうへ)" by YeLLOW Generation (eps 14-24) #4: "Motherland" by Crystal Kay (eps 26-41) #5: "I Will" by Sowelu (eps 42-51)
Obsession is a very strange thing indeed, and may be one of the few human traits that so clearly falls between heaven and hell. What one does with their obsession though, well, therein lies an altogether different proposition, especially as people often define their "obsessions" in terms of what they love and hate, or even what brings them hope and fear.
Isn't it strange then, that such a well known human trait can so easily be mistaken for something else entirely?
Or is it simply a case of people not seeing what they don't want to see, especially if there something new and shiny to watch?
Many anime fans are currently raving about the new series of Full Metal Alchemist, especially as it is an almost direct adaptation of the manga, however in the light of all this new found glory, the original adaptation has become the topic of much debate and controversy, especially by those who once praised the show for being something ... a little different.
Now unlike many, the fact that the original adaptation didn't follow the manga for much of its run was something that I wasn't overly concerned about, and there's a very good reason for this too. One of the issues I had with the manga, and in turn Brotherhood, was the fact that the tale is far more "shounen" than the original adaptation, and this difference in not only plot and story content, but overall perspective as well, is noticeable in a number of areas.
As far as pacing, plot, and depth of story goes, Full Metal Alchemist does lose out somewhat to Brotherhood, however this is partly due to the fact that Arakawa Hiromu had far more time to produce a story that worked, whereas the writers for the original adaptation only had part of Arakawa's work to play with, and had to make up the rest.
Normally this would be the cause for a number of issues, not the least of which is continuity, however Full Metal Alchemist never really suffered from those except where the numerous, and unnecessary, comedy moments were included. That said, what the writers achieved was actually quite remarkable, as they produced a tale that is very clearly about one thing only - obsession - and in that respect, they actually managed to score quite a major coup over Arakawa's tale.
Some of you may be a tad confused by where this is all going, but fear not, it will become clearer as we get into more detail. Let's talk more about the actually show itself for a moment though.
In terms of looks, the original adaptation managed to transpose the characters fairly well, and while they didn't really require any bouts of creativity in general, there were a few new faces as, at the time, the manga hadn't actually introduced all the players. As for the various locations in which the characters find themselves, the first adaptation generally followed the path laid down by the manga, however there were also some surprisingly original and inventive additions to the various locales, many of which are unique to this particular adaptation.
Strangely enough though, the quality of the animation is almost the same as that of Brotherhood, and given the large degree of crossover in both adaptations, this is actually surprising as usually one version is greatly superior to the other. That said, the new series does have the advantage of seven years of improvements in animation, so one would be forgiven for thinking the margin between the two would be bigger.
Where sound and music are concerned, one might expect more pronounced differences between the two adaptations, however this is not the case. The selection of music for the first adaptation is actually very good throughout the series, and also gave rise to one of the catchiest opening themes in shounen anime - "Ready Steady Go" by L'Arc-en-Ciel. The aural effects are well chosen and choreographed, and while there are many occasions that feature frenetic clashes and lots of noise, care has generally been taken to modulate this to a level that won't unnerve the viewer (admittedly there are some minor overwhelming moments, but they're not really worth going into any detail as they don't really affect the story in any way).
As for the acting, granted there are some different seiyuu between the two adaptations, but the series' big guns are in force in both. That said, while there is some acting continuity between the two, the actual quality is a little better in Brotherhood, however this may be due to an increased familiarity with the characters, and also because Brotherhood is far more a straight forward shounen tale than the original adaptation- something which actually shows in the acting.
And now to the most interesting bit - the characters.
Unlike both the manga and Brotherhood, the original anime adaptation of Full Metal Alchemist featured some surprising and unique characters, not the least of which is Edward Elric himself.
But before we get into that though, let's talk Homunculi.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the original series was the nomenclature given to the homunculi, and although their names and purpose have been "clarified" by the manga and Brotherhood, the writers for the original adaptation didn't have this knowledge, so they actually made them work in a completely different way. The whole deal with the Seven Sins is very different in the first anime, as the writers used the homunculus to highlight the aspect of obsession throughout the series. This is why the first anime adaptation had them being "born" in a particular manner, rather than the more trite reasoning given in the manga and Brotherhood much later.
The homunculi are effectively born from the obsession of humans, a theme which is also present in Arakawa's version of the story, even though it has been downplayed a lot.
So what does this have to do with the characters? Well, rather a lot actually. Throughout the whole series, there are very few characters who don't show any of the visible signs that one would normally associate with obsessive behaviour, and this is because they're cleverly hidden for the most part. From Maes Hughes' constant babble about his daughter, to Winry's love of automail. From Izumi Curtis' longing for her baby, to Dante's desire for immortality (incidentally, one has to wonder why that particular character was called Dante).
And right at the top of the list is Edward Elric.
In essence, his obsession with being better than his father is what starts the whole chain of events, which then turns to his obsession with the Philosopher's Stone, and so on. The surprising thing though, is that Ed never actually lets go of his desires in the same manner that others who attempted human transmutation did, and there is actually proof of this too. One look at the manner of Alphonse Elric's return to his body, as well as the nature of that return, will highlight just how very different this show is to Arakwa's version, and how different the mentality is come the end.
And if you want more clarification on this, then feel free to ask.
The characters are actually pretty well developed throughout the series, and it's a testament to the writer's and seiyuu's abilities that they turned out as well as they did. That's not to say there aren't any problems, however the flaws with the characters stem mainly from a difference in goals and perspective rather than any real lack of talent.
In all honesty, it's difficult to decide which version is actually better as the differences in plot, theme and character development make this version and Arakawa's two very different tales. That said, there will be those who fall on one side or the other, some preferring the darker nature of the first adaptation while others like the more direct approach of the manga and Brotherhood. Personally, I found both versions to be very good, especially as the route that Arakawa's tale takes bears almost no resemblance to this one. While there are some broad similarities between the two in terms of locale, characters and basic plot, in actuality these are only skin deep, as the original adaptation of Full Metal Alchemist deviates quite a lot from the typical shounen sensibilities come the end of the series. The obsessive theme of the first adaptation is a far cry from what one is given in the manga and Brotherhood.
Regardless of which version one prefers though, the simple fact is that we, as anime fans, have been given two great takes on the story, and we should count ourselves lucky to have such a wealth as all too often we must suffer through mediocrity and crap just find some entertainment.
It just a shame that so many people feel the need to side with one version or the other ...read more
"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. In those days, we really believed that to be the world’s one and only truth."
I'm typing this review, and i wonder to myself, "Why am i doing this? What can i say about a show that's been talked about to death?", and you know what, i don't exactly have a clear answer. Fullmetal Alchemist premiered a decade ago and is still to this day, one of the most beloved and well known anime of our recent generation. It's so well known that talking about it almost seems redundant as about 90% of anime fans have already seen it, and if they haven't seen it then they at least have heard of it, know the premise, and might even know some of the more shocking twists in it. But over the past few years, more and more people have begun to disregard it all thanks to a little thing called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, to the point where i've heard Brotherhood fans say to people on several occasions that they shouldn't watch the original series and just go watch Brotherhood, which i answer to with a big, "Huh?". But this isn't about Brotherhood, i'll cover that elephant in the room if i ever choose to do a review of it. No this is about the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime, and why if you haven't already seen it, then you should check out as soon as possible.
As i said it's almost pointless to sum up the plot that everybody already knows but, formulaic procedure wins. The story is about the two Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, who try to use a blend of science and magic called alchemy to bring their mother back from the dead. Things go terribly wrong however, and in the process Edward loses an arm and a leg, and Alphonse loses his entire body, being forced to fuse his soul with a body of armor to survive. They soon join the country's militia, the state alchemist division to be precise, in order to search for a item of great power called the philosopher's stone, in order to revive their bodies back to their original forms. The idea of two brothers setting off on a journey is already a concept that could fill an entire show, but then there's also the story of the them joining the military and how their more childish outlook and views clash with the military's actions, which is also enough to fill an entire show. But then there's also the military itself and it's mission to reform the country, and also the soldiers that wish to change the military to better the country, and then there's the evil forces that the Elric brothers encounter with their own mission and backstory, and so on and so forth. Fullmetal Alchemist has enough plot lines to fill up 10 different anime, which could easily just make for a cluttered mess of ruined potential, but the story in Fullmetal Alchemist is a well written, perfectly paced, and air tight. But even so this seems like a lot for just a battle shounen, but you can't really call it just a battle shounen as it seems like the show has just about every genre you can think of all in one. There's action, adventure, comedy, drama, supernatural, super power, military, romance, mystery, thriller, horror, shock jock, fantasy, and sci fi, all in one. Once again, having so much in one show could easily be the death of it, but all of these genres are performed well and at just the right moments, even having them clash at times just to prove a point. And if that wasn't enough, this show completes every plot point and every character saga, and still has room for filler. To some the concept of adding filler is a bad thing, but in this case i find being able to have filler more of a compliment than anything. If you haven't gotten what's good about the story of FMA from this, let me sum it up for you. Fullmetal Alchemist is an emotional, action packed, well written saga and above all, is fucking big, displaying a vast world of different cultures, inventions and religions that just sucks you in from the very beginning.
Fullmetal Alchemist was made by studio BONES and is probably the show most responsible for the seemingly endless pockets of money that the studio had for many years. But this was an early work, so it's not exactly perfect. The show didn't have all that much of a budget to work with, and there were times when it showed, inconsistent character designs, jagged edges, and one or two episodes in particular that looked fairly cheap. But the show is still overall a good looking show. What impressed me most was probably the shading in it and how perfectly it was used to represent different emotions and foreshadowing. The character facial designs also helped this, done well enough at times that two characters could just share a scene together, with zero dialogue, and in just one stare, convey all the emotions they need to get across. Of course this is a battle series, and you can tell that this is where a good chunk of the budget was spent, with fluid animation and splendid choreographing that kept your eyes firmly glued to the screen. Fullmetal Alchemist is a good looking show with some dents here and there, but the moments of brilliance shine right though.
The soundtrack is comprised completely of orchestral pieces, all of which compliment their scenes quite well. It's in the background, always noticeable but never overpowering, a perfect accompaniment to the show. But, to tell the truth, nothing on the OST really sticks out on it's own and it's not really a soundtrack that you listen to on it's own. A good soundtrack nonetheless but nothing spectacular. If i was only judging the sound based off the soundtrack then i'd probably only give it a 7 or 8 out of 10, but there's one more important thing to talk about. The dub. This was an early Funimation show, but i'm guessing that they knew ahead of time how big the show would be, because they really brought their A game for it. Talking about Vic Mignogna as Edward Elric is almost as redundant as telling people about the plot to FMA, he's great as the role, and it's the number one reason why he has so many fangirls. Plus this was also the show that launched Travis Willingham's career for his performance as Roy Mustang, which is well deserved. And i'd be remiss to not mention Christopher Sabbat's performance as Major Alex Louise Armstrong who just does the role complete justice as though IT WAS A PERFORMANCE HANDED DOWN THE ARMSTRONG FAMILY FOR GENERATIONS. There are plenty of other big names like Johnny Yong Bosch and Luci Christanson playing ver small roles which are always nice to hear. But the thing that really impressed me about the dub is that they had actual kids playing the kids including a 12 year old Aaron Dismuke doing a bang up job in his first performance as Alphonse Elric. It's definitely a show worth checking out dubbed.
A story as big as Fullmetal Alchemist need a big cast, and not only is this cast supplied, but their also just as well written as the story itself. First off we have out two main characters Edward and Alphonse Elric. Edward is the prodigy of the two, the genius who often makes the decisions of what the two of them will do, which can proof to be disastrous at times, considering that with great intelligence and curiosity comes an overwhelming temptation to the dark side. He's the one who decided to resurrect their mother, he's the one who decides to join the military, and he's the one who constantly has to struggle with doing the right thing and doing the things that most benefit them. But he's still just a kid, and with so comes a certain naiveté towards things. He's quick to learn from his mistakes and often feels guilt for what his actions have causes, and is driven with a strong determination to set things right, making him the ideal protagonist. Alphonse on the other hand is the philosopher, usually being the moral compass of the two and keeping his older brother grounded to the right side. Between the two brothers, he loses the most, but instead of being angry and bitter about it, is often friendly and optimistic and hates to see people suffer for his sake, giving him great guilt as well for what his brother has to go through for his sake. These are of course, only the two main characters, and Fullmetal Alchemist has nearly 40 supporting and recurring character, meaning characters that show up for more than two episodes and have a role in the overall plot. And you know what, each and every one of them is left unresolved. Like the story, the characters of Fullmetal Alchemist are memorable, well written, and big. But the most important thing that these characters do in the series, is acknowledge and represent the importance of family bonds, from the relationship between the Elric brothers, to the relationship between the military soldiers, and event he weird relationship between the Homunculi of the series that form their own little family in a way. From the arrogant but gentle hearted Colonel Roy Mustang, to the incredibly manly glittering Major Alex Louise Armstrong, to the Homunculi that oppose the Elric brothers, all of the characters of Fullmetal Alchemist are fleshed out and memorable.
Enjoyment and Overall (10/10)
In case you haven't been able to tell, i love Fullmetal Alchemist, very few series have made me love them this much. I'm not really sure what i can say about this series that i haven't already said. It's an epic tale of love, determination, and passion that every one should check out. We never needed a movie, the series ended fine on it's own, and just because Brotherhood now exists, doesn't mean we should disregard this series, personal tastes aside. Fullmetal Alchemist is a series that is completely on par with the original manga and proof that a series doesn't need fidelity to succeed. I'll leave off with this quote, which is technically from Brotherhood but screw it, it works.
"There’s no such thing as a painless lesson. They just don’t exist. Sacrifices are necessary. You can’t gain anything without losing something first. Although, if you can endure that pain and walk away from it, you will find that you now have a heart strong enough to overcome any obstacle. Yes…a heart that's Fullmetal."read more
To be honest, I’m somewhat baffled by the mixed reaction this anime has received after the release of Brotherhood. Because prior to Brotherhood, this anime was often considered a classic by most anime fans. In my opinion it’s still a classic and essential for all fans. I’m probably in the minority here, but I feel as though the original FMA and Brotherhood are equal in terms of quality. Enough of that, lets get into the review.
Now I’m sure most of you already know the story. The Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse attempt to bring back their mother and as a consequence for going against the law of equivalent exchange, Ed loses his right arm and left leg. And Alphonse loses his entire body to only have his soul become bonded to a suit of armor. With the help of their childhood friend Winery, she constructs an automail leg and arm for Ed. Soon, they learn about this special artifact known as the Philosophers stone, it has the ability to defy the laws of alchemy and perform the taboo known as human transmutation. Eventually they come to the conclusion that their best bet in hopes of finding the stone would be to join the military. Although, Ed is the only one who joins because he insisted on doing so. And so they embark on their journey. Along the way, the brothers encounter corrupt government officials, homunculi, chimeras and more.
As far as the story goes, it’s fantastic. Especially considering the fact that this anime is a shonen. FMA has a far more intricate and complex plot then shonens like One Piece, Fairy Tail, Naruto or Bleach. Thematically, it delves into area’s that you wouldn’t expect a show of its kind to do. What’s a life worth? An arm? A leg? An entire body? Can human’s play the role of god ? Should we even be allowed to play the role of god in the first place? Can we disrupt the flow of nature? So yeah, Fullmetal Alchemist is smarter then your average shonen!
Also, the setting of the anime takes place in a fictionalized version of early 20th century Europe during the industrial revolution. The majority of the show takes place in Amestris. A key part of the plot that I almost forgot to mention involves the neighboring nation of Ishval. Long ago, after the tragic incident of when an Amestrian officer shot an Ishvalan child in cold blood, a chaotic war erupted between the two nations. In the midst of the war, state alchemists were brought in to exterminate the Ishvalans through horrific acts of genocide. This is where the revenge driven Ishvalan named Scar comes in.
Speaking of characters, character wise, FMA is just as good. From Roy Mustang, to Riza Hawkeye, to the Elric brothers. All are given considerable amounts of depth. Take for example, the Elric brothers. Ed feels as if he got off easy because he still has his body and is burdened by this. Alphonse is constantly questioning his humanity, existence and whether or not he was a human to begin with ( his memory was erased when Ed bonded his soul to a suit of armor). And I just barely scratched the surface.
When it comes to the production values, yet again, this anime doesn’t disappoint. The animation is very crisp and fluid. It never lets up, character designs are good and remain consistent until the very end. The OST is also worth mentioning here. Michiru Oshima did a very good job. One track that stood out in particular was “Brothers.” Simply put, it was a beautifully done string instrumental over some harmonious Russian vocals. In regards to the opening and ending themes, they’re solid. Opening 4 was my personal favorite. Lastly, the voice acting. I’ll tell you right here and now that it is mandatory that you watch the dub instead of the sub. Why? Because, hands down without a doubt, Fullmetal Alchemist has one of the best dubs you’ll ever here in anime. It’s definitely one of Funimation’s best efforts. All the performances were fantastic from Vic Mignogna, to Aaron Dismuke, to Dameon Clarke, to Colleen Clinkenbeard.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of flaws here and there that prevent Fullmetal Alchemist from achieving perfection. Most notably the first 15 episode, these episodes were unevenly paced and it really didn’t get interesting until Scar showed up. Episodes 4, 5, 10-12 were completely unnecessary and felt very fillerish (I’m not sure but I think they were actually fillers, but don’t quote me on that).
Now of course, I can’t write a review without addressing the ending because it’s one of the reasons why anime fans have such a polarized reaction for this show. I personally liked the ending, it was very bitter sweet. It wasn’t like every other ending for a shonen where everything works out in the end and all the characters hold hands and sing Kumbaya. Plus there are no beach episodes (Jesus Christ, I f**kin hate those g**damn beach episodes in anime). Well, time to wrap this review up, all in all, FMA is an amazing anime. I highly recommend it to anime fans and non-anime fans alike.
Fullmetal Alchemist is often considered an essential viewing for any anime fan and a stepping-stone for many newcomers to the world of anime. It's received universal acclaim and if you were to ask any anime fan about Fullmetal Alchemist, chances are, he/she probably has some knowledge of this series.
*Review may contain minor spoilers, may hint at things, and will not be reviewed as an adaptation of the manga and how it compares, but as a standalone anime*
The basic basic synopsis of the story is about "The Fullmetal Alchemist" Edward Elric, and his brother, Alphonse Elric, and their quest of searching for the Philosopher's Stone in order to bring back what they've lost and fix a mistake made in the past.
From the synopsis that you might read on the back of a DVD cover or so, an anime about a quest and a siblings' search for a treasure sounds something light and fun, but in actuality, the story of Fullmetal is very dark. Right from the beginning, we're introduced to a gruesome nightmarish scene depicting what would be the major mistake Ed and Al make with Ed screaming in horror; it's almost as if the director wanted to point out "This isn't going to be some happy nakama anime about fighting, this is a dark anime about redemption, tragedy and the story of two brothers who will do whatever it takes to fix the mistake they've made." The story knows where its going and there's a good sense of direction, though the series does lose a bit of focus as it reaches its end, it still manages to finish strongly with what I think to be one of the most creative and nicely done anime-exclusive endings to an adaptation of an on-going manga. They could have just dumped it like Inuyasha, but they didn't, and actually formulated their own anime ending, which I think is commendable.
Art and Animation: 8/10
The character design is simplistic and kind of quirky, but decent. Character designs vary enough that you can clearly differentiate who is who and most of them have their own sense of individuality versus 'slap a different hairstyle on the same model' designs (ex. Gundam Seed). And having one of the main characters as a walking suit of armor is definitely a unique idea and the Homunculi are just great antagonists, design-wise.
The animation quality for the series is top-notch. The colors are vivid and characters are detailed with no shortcut taken in the animation and the fights are fluidly animated. Unless you pay extra attention, shortcomings in animation is something you won't find in this series.
The music fits so well in conveying the emotion and feelings of the characters and scenes, and invoking the atmosphere and sense of wonder in Fullmetal, its music is what ultimately captures the spirit of the show, and brings the world of Fullmetal to life. With pieces like "Brother" "Homunculus" and "Dante", Fullmetal easily has one of the best OST's I've heard in any anime series.
For such a large cast, Fullmetal manages to characterize most of the characters to a decent extent. But the most well-developed characters are without a doubt Edward and Alphonse, and their selfless brotherly relationship. What I see Ed as, is the Shounen archetype ( Loudmouthed, hot-headed, and proud), but done right, and with more depth than any of his counterparts. Despite his quirks, and his stereotypical Shounen characteristics (Acting arrogant? Check. Hot-blooded personality? Check. Childhood romantic interest? Check.), Ed has proven to be an extremely mature character, with the resolve to do whatever it takes to protect his brother.
Besides Ed and Al, Mustang also has a very well-written background to his character and shows that, in actuality, his arrogant personality is just a facade to cover-up for his doubt in what he did in his past.
Now the main quirk I have with the cast of Fullmetal is the lack of development for the antagonists. They're such a colorful cast of characters, and yet we know little or nothing about them. Yes, we have Scar, who's pretty well characterized, but what about Lust? Greed? And Gluttony? They may be artificial beings but they should have their own history and character right? The series only manages to touch on those characters and give us a small taste of the stories of the Homunculi.
Aside from that, overall, the "good" side of the cast is pretty well-developed while the Homunculi are developed to only the minimal extent. Which is passable considering this was an adaptation of the manga when it was still in its early stages. And while I do commend the anime team that worked on Fullmetal to cook up its own original villain, I find her to be extremely uninspired, incompetent, generic and just a poorly done villain in general.
Not much to say besides the fact that Fullmetal is very enjoyable, it's one of those series that keeps your eyes glued to the screen from the start and manages to keeps you entertained through the whole ride with its revelations and twists, and ends leaving you speechless.
Is Fullmetal Alchemist an essential viewing for every anime fan in the whole wide world? No. But is it a good stepping-stone for newcomers, or just a very enjoyable anime for anyone who wants a good equilibrium between great action and a well-written story? I say hell yes. For such a critically-acclaimed anime, it isn't anything that's overly groundbreaking nor does it escape the clutches of standard Shounen cliches. But for what it is, it's a bloody well done anime.
Too long didn't read version:
Story (A) : Well-crafted, intriguing, original and overall, very enjoyable and intelligent.
Art and Animation ( B+) : Good character designs, fantastic animation. Homunculi are interestingly designed.
Sound (A+) : Wonderful soundtrack, conveys the mood and scenery perfectly.
Character (B) : Military cast is developed nicely, Homunculi gets the short end of the stick and the main villain is disappointing.
Overall (A) : An enjoyable anime that has a colorful cast, fantastic story and great music. Would recommend.
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