In this article we are going to go over the characters depicted in the first anime adaptation titled Fullmetal Alchemist which aired back in 2003, and although they aren't the same people we encounter in the manga and the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime adaptation released years later, they are definitely a great bunch and are in no small part responsible for the international success of the franchise. So, without further delays here they are.
Warning: Contains spoilers!
1. Edward Elric
Edward or Ed as most people know him is the titular protagonist of the series. Different from what we were used to in a shounen anime hero, he wasn't the lovable dim-witted guy who is always ready to help everyone around him, oh no. Ed is extremely ambitious, veeery smart and veeery arrogant, not really moved by a great cause like saving the world or becoming the biggest and baddest alchemist around. No, he has a much simpler goal, to get back what he and his brother Al lost as kids, a normal life.
Edward grew up in the countryside in a house with his loving mother and brother. His father Van Hohenheim was rarely home, so when their mother died Ed blamed him for not being there. Ed manifested the gift for alchemy early on and before his mother’s death he was proud because it was something that linked him to Hohenheim. Left alone, he and his brother decided they would bring their mother back from the dead. For some time the two of them dedicated all their time to alchemy and started studying human transmutation. Finally they gathered all they needed and tried to revive their mother, and it was an utter disaster. Putting aside the fact that they had to see their mother’s disfigured body (one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever seen in anime) Ed lost his right hand and left leg and Al lost his whole body, barely surviving.
At the age of twelve Edward became the youngest state alchemist, and to be honest, it was well deserved. As a side effect of the attempt to revive his mother he gained the ability to use alchemy without a transmutation circle. Also, despite his young age, he is a remarkable combatant which is the result of his training with his former master Izumi Curtis.
As previously mentioned, Ed is wickedly smart and ambitious, arrogant and quick to anger, but is in a way a sad existence caught in his struggle. And this is what makes him such a great character because it feels natural to see him in all kinds of situations. He can be a total badass, but he can also be the sweetest guy. He can be hilarious and pull pranks, but he can really convey the deepest kind of sadness. You never have to wonder why is it that he reacted that way. You can laugh with him, you can cry with him, you can be angry for him and you can understand it because given the circumstances you would probably do the same.
Lastly, it is great to see how the character evolves throughout the series, although having a tragic history which made him grow up prematurely, he is still a kid. Through his journey he is forced to face the ugly truths of the world, learn that he is still just at the beginning and that he has still much to learn.
2. Alphonse Elric
Here he is, the Fullmetal Alchemist. Nope just kidding, but it is plain to see why anybody would think that. Losing his body during the failed human transmutation attempt, Al is a walking suit of armor. Trying to revive his mother he almost died but Ed brought his soul back, and bound it to a suit of armor which was lying in the room.
Al is his brother’s counterpart, calm and compassionate, always acting for the good of the people around him. He is the voice of reason between the two of them. Alphonse also has a lot of darkness inside, caused by the trauma of losing his body. He questions his own existence inside the suit of armor. He needs to feel the warmth of a human touch again, fearing that he will never again have a normal life. In some instances he doubts that he is even human. All of this isn't helped by the fact that he blames himself for the loss of his brother’s limbs. But despite all this he retains his childlike purity, and certain never gives in to despair.
In combat Al is in no way inferior to his older brother, on the contrary as stated by Edward himself he is even better than him, and he has never beaten him ever since they were children. Having been through the same training as Edward, Alphonse is a very proficient hand to hand combatant and a great alchemist. His new body has its own advantages, being made of steel, he has great offensive and defensive capabilities. Although Edward is apparently the greater mind of the two, Alphonse isn't that far behind him. Alphonse is more skilled with words and has vastly superior social skills, but lacks his brother's focus.
It should be noted that Al's alchemy is also unique in its own way. Although not being able to transmute without a circle in the beginning of the series, Al does not require direct contact with the transmutation array. Merely by standing over a circle and concentrating he can manipulate matter without touching it. Later he gains the ability to transmute without a circle by becoming a living Philosopher's Stone.
Lastly it should be noted that, aside from the warmth of a human touch, what Alphonse misses the most is all the delicious food he hasn't been able to eat. He even keeps a journal of all the things he is going to eat once he gets back to normal. This seems to be his way of keeping up his spirit. Like his brother, Al is constantly growing (well not literally) and evolving as a character, and is definitely a good example of what makes this anime so awesome.
3. Van Hohenheim
Hohenheim of Light, as he is also known, is an ancient and very powerful alchemist. He is also the father of Edward and Alphonse. His past is a sort of mystery, with only parts of it being revealed. Approximately four hundred years prior to the series he created the Philosopher's Stone. During the process he died, so his lover Dante (the main antagonist of the anime) used the stone to bind his soul to a new body. From that point on they lived by jumping from one body to another. They had a son, but he died at the age of 18, and Hohenheim tried to bring him back through human transmutation, thus creating the first homunculus Envy. Regretting what he had done to his son, he fled. He has been in the current body for about 40 years.
Throughout the series he doesn't really appear much, only in flashbacks of Ed and Al. Because we only got to see how he left them without much explanation, the viewers get the feeling that he is a rather cold person, only dedicated to alchemy. But the truth is he is a very kind and loving individual. Always struggling against his decision to leave, he doesn't really give much thought to how people see him and doesn't care much about himself. Like Alphonse, he is slow to anger and a pacifist, trying to solve things peacefully rather than fighting. Having lived a long time, he knows to take his time and not to take things too seriously.
I have to mention one more thing and that is his love for Trisha (Ed's and Al's mother) and the boys. He is known to spout sappy lines about his love for Trisha, making him seem kind of ridiculous. He also stated that he never loved Dante and that Trisha was his one true love. Trisha changed him and sparked the will for a normal life. Part of the reason he left was to search for a way so he could die with her.
As for his alchemy skills, he could very easily be the most powerful alchemist in the series. He is skilled in transmuting light, and triggering chain reactions. Also he doesn't need to make contact with his target.
4. Winry Rockbell
Winry is the childhood friend of our two main protagonists, and she is also Edward’s automail mechanic. Being of similar age to the boys and living next door, they quickly became best friends. In her childhood, she had the perfect life with her grandmother and parents. Both of her parents were doctors and went to war to save as many lives as they could. Unfortunately they never came back. The Rockbells were officially executed as insurgents because their Ishvalan patients would return to the battlefield after treatment.
Winry's personality is closest to Edward's, strong willed, stubborn and straightforward, but with a little more tact. It could be said that only those closest to her can really get to know her, and her scary side. She is also very emotional, kindhearted and shows a lot of empathy even towards strangers. It is not rare to see her crying for those who don't cry themselves. With a strong sense of duty and morality to drive her, Winry isn't afraid to make hard decisions or lose a good night’s sleep to get things done.
Aside from family, which is the most important thing to her, she is extremely dedicated to her job as an automail mechanic. This is her great love and passion, being most at home in a workshop all greasy and working on something new. This love for automail and everything related causes Edward to mock her as an "engineering otaku", which in turn makes Winry show her real temperament.
Being one of the few people who really know the Elric brothers, Winry is everything the viewers can expect from a support character. She really helps in realizing the full potential and emotional depth of the two main protagonists.
Pinako is Winry's grandmother and something of mother figure to Edward and Alphonse. She is an elderly woman with gray hair, she is very short and always carrying her iconic tobacco pipe and glasses. She is a prominent surgeon and weapon smith. She is also a great automail mechanic and the presumed founder of Rockbell Automail. Her dwarf-like stature makes her unique, and she is also a great comedy character.
Although her role in the series is not really significant, she does represent some sort of security for the Elric brothers and her granddaughter. She is like most people would imagine someone older with a lot of off experience. She knows who she is, she has lived long enough to figure out how the world works, therefore nobody can make her do or believe something she doesn't want to. She also has a strong resentment towards the military, never being able to forgive the death of Winry's parents.
6. Roy Mustang
Colonel Roy Mustang is the tritagonist of the series. On the outside Mustang is seemingly self-absorbed, cynical and cold. He is infamous among his colleges and subordinates for being arrogant, narcissistic and selfish, acting cocky and avoiding his duties unless there is some sort of recognition or glory to be had. The fact that he is also very manipulative doesn't really help his reputation. There is also the issue of plain old envy that people feel towards him because he was able to obtain such a high title at such a young age. On top of all this he is has a reputation as a ladies man, and a lot of the troops don't particularly like him having their sweethearts taken by him.
Although all the things mentioned above are a part of his real character, the fact is Mustang is so much more than he seems to be. Sure, he has done a lot of questionable things to obtain his rank and to get where he is now. Still, it was all done with one purpose: to change the country. He is trying his best to get the title of Führer so he can make some real changes. Also his whole attitude is a trap of sorts, making the enemy lower their guard.
At his core Mustang is fully committed to his friends and subordinates. Being as powerful as he is, he considers it his duty to protect those who lack the same power he has. He protects those that serve under his command at all costs, even at the risk of his own safety. This has earned him the recognition and loyalty of those that serve with him and know him best.
Roy is also known as the Flame Alchemist, and his abilities are definitely one of the reasons the viewers respond so well to this character. Not only is he adequately versed in the traditional physical transmutation, but he is the only person who knows how to use fire based alchemy. He wears special gloves made of "pyrotex/ignition cloth" which produces sparks when rubbed, and they are embroidered with unique flame alchemy transmutation circles. The circles allow him to manipulate the oxygen concentration in the air. He uses this to raise the concentration of oxygen around his target which makes it volatile, and makes a narrow path in the same manner.
When said like this it doesn't sound that amazing, but this translates to this: he snaps his fingers and things blow up. Now that is impressive. The only thing is the snap doesn't really come from him snapping his fingers, but from the instantaneous speed at which the highly concentrated gases and sparks react together and pop. The only downside is the fact that he can't use flame alchemy on rainy days, but hey like the man himself said, the world isn't perfect and that is why it's so interesting.
7. Riza Hawkeye
1st Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye is the definition of the perfect soldier, and an invaluable asset to Mustang's team. She is always calm and collected, never losing her cool. Extremely disciplined and always rational, it is easy to see why her peers view her as something of a role model. Not unlike Mustang himself, she can be perceived as a bit cold and honestly a bit mean. The truth is Hawkeye is the perfect example of tough love. She never loses the formalities even when speaking to close colleges and never goofs around on the job. She expects the same kind of excellence from the people around her. Mostly from the people close to her, but not because she wants them to be like her, but because she wants them to be the best they can be. Like I said, tough love.
Her attitude changes and her softer side emerges when talking to the Elric brothers and especially when talking to Winry. She doesn't get all mushy with them,; she isn't really the type for that sort of thing, but she is a lot softer and shows a great deal of understanding. Riza isn't really comfortable with public displays of emotion. She is a great example of a successful woman that knows how to deal with the situations and people at work. At the same time she manages to keep her feminine side. She takes responsibility for her actions and has decided to put aside her own happiness for the good of the people.
As for her combat abilities, Hawkeye is very proficient with firearms. She is known newer to miss her mark, regardless of what weapon she is using. She never leaves for mission without bringing at least two loaded weapons. Aside from combat proficiency she is also a great administrator, and she has to be because of Mustang's general attitude towards paperwork.
8. Alex Louis Armstrong
OK, the next character is Arnold Schwar...no wait, wrong movie...but still with Armstrong’s physique I am sure he has won some sort of Mister Olympia contest somewhere. Towering over most of the other characters, remarkably large and muscular, Armstrong is definitely a character you'll remember. There is also the fact that he is one of the funniest characters in the series, with his ridiculous puns and the constant stripping. Despite his intimidating looks, Armstrong is a real sweetheart and I would dare say that he is comically emotional.
Now that we have established why he is so funny, let’s move on. Armstrong is a major in the army and also a state alchemist with the title Strong Arm Alchemist. And all of this is well earned, because despite being the comical relief, he is also one of the strongest and most reliable characters. He is a fierce hand to hand combatant and his alchemy style is very compatible with this fact. He uses a style of combat alchemy passed through the Armstrong family for generations which mixes alchemy and physical prowess. He uses two metal gauntlets with transmutation circles to punch things and by doing so, transmutes them. He uses chunks of stone, bricks, metal or any kind of rubble and transmutes them into projectiles which are propelled towards the target with the force of his punch.
Armstrong is definitely a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, but he is also a great friend. A very caring individual, he is very protective of the people around him, especial of the youths like the Elric brothers. Coming from a prominent family he takes his honor and lineage very seriously, believing it is his moral obligation to protect the people of the country. Although very protective, he dislikes violence, which doesn't mean he isn't up for a fight, but he likes to settle things peacefully if possible. This sort of softhearted attitude has kept him from getting a promotion all these years in the military service.
9. Maes Hughes
Hughes is Mustang’s best friend and leading supporter in his plan to become the Führer. He is an intelligence officer and as such he is very shrewd and analytical. He knows that certain situations require a dose of ruthlessness, and is no stranger to making the tough decisions on the battlefield. With a keen eye for details, he is usually the first one to notice when something isn't right, and the first one to act according to the situation. With all this being said, his usual behavior is totally different.
Hughes is a family man through and through, always bragging about his cute daughter Elicia and wife Gracia. He is seen on several occasions calling Mustang over a military line and talking about his family. Also he always has pictures of them with him, constantly showing them to his coworkers and friends. It is actually strange to see him on the battlefield, because in that moment he seems like a different person entirely. His death is truly a shocking and sad moment which left the viewers in disbelief.
10. Izumi Curtis
Izumi is a master alchemist and a marital artist. Although she usually doesn’t take students, after learning that they had no parents, she agreed to mentor the Elric brothers. The duration of their training was only six months, but in that time Izumi grew attached to the boys and actually started thinking of them as her own kids. When she was younger she gave birth to a stillborn child and then used human transmutation to try and bring him back. This is probably the reason for her caring attitude towards Ed and Al, and kids in general. It should be mentioned that she is the apprentice of Dante, our main antagonist. Although Dante was her mentor, Izumi never shared her master’s attitude towards alchemy and also life in general. Despite being a very powerful alchemist, Izumi believes that one should primarily work hard and not rely on alchemy, unless it is for something that you cannot do yourself.
Izumi is probably one of the physically strongest characters in the series. Being an expert marital artist she can easily handle herself even when faced with multiple opponents. However physical stress causes her to throw up blood and also causes severe stomach pain which is a side effect of a human transmutation attempt. Like Edward she is able to transmute without a circle, merely by touching her palms together. Lastly it should be noted that she is the only being in the entire series that both Edward and Alphonse are afraid of angering, which speaks volumes knowing how Edward usually treats people.
Scar is and Ishvalan survivor of the Ishval Civil War. His name comes from the X shaped scar on his face, which is something he got in the war. Scar is a person lost in the past and he has dedicated his whole life towards revenge. The people of Ishval were a religious group named after their deity, the god Ishvala. As a part of their beliefs the people of Ishval do not practice alchemy because that would mean that mankind could make God's creation better than God could. Despite all this, Scar's brother still dabbled in alchemy (attempting human transmutation) and later successfully made a Philosopher's Stone. Shortly after, Scar and his brother were hunted down by State Alchemist Solf J. Kimblee. Kimblee is responsible for the X shaped scar and he also blew off scars right hand. Scar's brother than transplanted his right hand onto Scar, and thus saved his life, but lost his own.
All this suffering and pain has caused Scar to become a ruthless person consumed with rage towards the military and state alchemists in particular. Although some traces of his former personality tend to come out, Scar seems to have buried all his emotions inside. He has renounced his name and even the teachings of Ishvala in a way. Although the Ishvalan teachings forbid the use of alchemy, Scar constantly uses his right hand, which is a part of the Philosopher's Stone made by his brother, to murder state alchemists. His right arm contains the symbols necessary for the first two portions of an alchemical transmutation - the understanding of an item's molecular composition, and the deconstruction of that matter. This means that he can destroy pretty much anything he touches. Also, as mentioned before, his hand is an incomplete Philosopher's Stone and has the ability to absorb red stones.
Although in essence Scar is a homicidal maniac, the viewers can't help but feel that his actions are justified. The man lost everything, almost died himself and became lost. With no future for his people, no family and no life he just wanted all his suffering to mean something.
12. Solf J. Kimblee
Kimblee, also known as the Crimson Alchemist is a state alchemist, and recurring antagonist of the series. He uses a special kind of alchemy which is centered on explosions. He has the transmutation circles tattooed on the palms of his hands. He is a psychopath through and through enjoying the sight of blood and death, often acting without a specific goal, other than to satisfy his own sadistic impulses. He has the habit of using humans as bombs, and apparently takes great pleasure in doing so. He uses his alchemy to shift the atomic and molecular composition within objects so as to change whatever he touches into a chemical explosive.
Dante is the main antagonist of the series. She is enigmatic and manipulative, orchestrating everything from the shadows. After being left all alone when Hohenheim left, she decided to use the Homunculi to do, well pretty much whatever she wants. She seeks them from the moment of their "birth" and feds them red stones thus making them stronger. She exploits their desire to be human, by saying that with the power of the Philosopher’s Stone she will turn them into one. Also, she is the only person to attempt human transmutation without the actual desire to bring someone back to life, but with the purpose of creating a Homunculus.
Dante's personality seems to have changed dramatically over the course of her life. Back when she and Hohenheim were lovers and managed to create the Philosopher’s Stone, she used to be a very compassionate and loving individual (momentarily jumping to save him). Somewhere along the way, after Hohenheim left her, she became bitter and vindictive without any regard for another person’s life. Thinking that humans are such a stupid and puny existence she considers herself a creature closer to a god than a human.
Like Hohenheim, she is capable of transferring her soul to another human being, as a way obtaining eternal life. This method however, is far from perfect. Hohenheim explains that every time you transfer your soul, a piece of it gets left behind in the previous body. This causes the next body to age prematurely. This is the reason why she wants to create a Philosopher's Stone.
Second only to Hohenheim in terms of alchemical prowess, she is a force to be reckoned with.
Envy is the first Homunculus to be created by Hohenheim, in an attempt to revive his and Dante’s son. His ability lets him transform into whomever he wants. He effectively uses this to make his enemies lower their guard, or just to toy with their emotions. Even when compared to other Homunculi he is especially cruel. Unlike the other Homunculi, he doesn't follow Dante because of promises of obtaining the Philosopher’s Stone or becoming human. Envy simply enjoys the opportunity to kill as many humans as he can. This hate for humans was caused by the fact that Hohenheim left him and didn't treat him as his son. Envy claims to have forgotten his original form, but that isn't the case. Since his original form is that of Hohenheim's son, he doesn't want to look like that, as it causes him a great deal of pain knowing he isn't really that person.
Envy is the main antagonist of the Homunculus group. He doesn’t have any kind of relationship even with the other members. He answers directly to Dante, and serves as her enforcer. The closest thing to a normal relationship is the one between him and Dante. Their relationship doesn't have anything to do with him being the Homunculus of her son. The only thing that binds them is their hate for Hohenheim.
Greed is the second oldest Homunculus. As his name states he is the embodiment of greed, and as such nothing is ever enough for him. He rebelled against Dante and started pursuing his own goals. Greed is, if Envy is to be trusted, based on Dante’s former lover. Greed supposedly still loves her and she doesn't have feelings for him, and that is big part of the reason he left her side.
Out of all the Homunculi Greed feels closest to a human being. He doesn’t seem to show hatred for humans and doesn’t really have much in common with the other members of his race. His primary goal is to obtain an immortal body, like Alphonse’s. He has a laid back attitude and it is hard for the viewers to consider him a bad guy.
Aside from all the traits that the Homunculi share like rapid regeneration, greater physical abilities such as strength and speed, as well as near immortality, his unique power is the ability to re-arrange the carbon atoms of which his body is comprised. He can convert his skin into Graphene, which makes him almost impervious to outside attacks.
Gluttony is the third oldest Homunculus, and the least developed one. He has a really simple and childlike mind, and doesn't seem to share his sibling’s hatred for humans. He is primarily driven by his hunger. He is always hungry and his diet often includes humans. In fact this is his primary purpose, as Dante created him for producing red stones. The souls of the people he has eaten get condensed into red stones.
Childlike and dumb, he is something like a mascot for the Homunculus group. He doesn’t think for himself, always doing what someone else tells him to do. The only time we can see express any kind of emotion is when Lust dies.
Pride is one of main antagonists of the series, and he also happens to be the Führer. Pride is obviously a gifted actor and true manipulator, managing to fool the entire country assuming the identity of King Bradley. While playing the role of King Bradley he seems to be the perfect family man and a gifted leader who is entirely devoted to and loved by his people.
The real Pride is nothing like the person described above. He believes himself above everyone and everything, the only exception being his creator Dante. Even Dante considers him her masterpiece. Extremely intelligent, calm and composed Pride is very confident in himself and his judgment. He also seems to be cruel which is shown in battle with Mustang where Pride toys with him, enjoying watching him helpless. He is shown to have nothing but disdain for the human race, the only exception being his son, but in the end even this wasn't real (he kills his son).
Pride is a master swordsman and possesses unbelievable agility. He is a special case even among the Homunculi, as he has two unique traits. His first ability is the Ultimate Eye which compliments his swordsmanship, taking it to a whole other level. The other is the fact that he has the ability to age. He is the most powerful Homunculus, even more powerful than Envy, truly a masterpiece.
She is the Homunculus created by Scar's brother in an attempt to revive his dead lover. Lust is interesting because she herself isn't really lascivious, but she is the object of lust for others. Really attractive and also very intelligent, Lust is the perfect object of desire. This makes her really appropriate for her role, which is to gather information and to manipulate people who are necessary for creating the Philosopher’s Stone. She tends to involve herself directly with the desired target, and after they are under her spell, she points them in the necessary direction. Lust is paired up with Gluttony for the majority of the series and she acts almost like a mother towards him.
Her unique ability is to extend her fingernails into long, flexible, thin blades sharp enough to cut through just about anything with ease.
Lastly, it should be noted that Lust shows the greatest desire for becoming human, although it is never really explained why.
We first see Wrath as a frightened and timid young boy, who is trying to avoid being spotted. He was created by Izumi in an attempt to revive her son. After he is kidnapped by Envy and fed red stones, his personality changes. He becomes hateful, with violent outbursts. After joining the other Homunculi he starts to favor Sloth and treats her as his mother.
Wrath is actually one of the more powerful Homunculi, displaying great endurance and a form of self-taught marital arts. His unique power is the ability to merge and fuse his body with virtually any matter, both living and inanimate, organic and inorganic. Wrath is the only Homunculus able to use alchemy. This comes from the fact that he possesses Edward’s limbs.
Wrath’s character feels like a lonely little boy craving his mother’s love. All of his anger coming from the fact that he can't be with Izumi, trying very hard to replace her with Sloth. He just doesn’t know how to deal with his emotions and with Izumi’s rejection.
She is the Homunculus created by Edward and Alphonse at the beginning of the series while trying to revive their mother Trisha. She embodies the aspect of sloth in her apparent lack of emotions. She seems totally devoid of feelings. It is latter revealed that this isn't the truth, as she still retains some memories from her life as Trisha. She is haunted by the visions of Trisha and the boys and this causes her a great deal of anguish. She is reluctant to admit that she has any connection to Trisha. She adopts Wrath, trying to replace Edward and Alphonse. Her affection towards Wrath is later shown to be a lie, because in her last moments she gives motherly advice to the Elric brothers, while calling Wrath a fool for believing that she loved him. In this moment it was clear that Sloth wasn’t able to let go of those memories that haunted her.
Her unique power is the ability to liquefy her body. In fact, her whole body seems to be made of water, which means that her resilience is at the same level as Greed, or even greater.
And that's it for now. I know that there is a lot more to be said about the characters of the Fullmetal Alchemist world and that there are some characters not featured in this list, but that is the beauty of it all. Everyone will find something different for themselves in this awesome anime, which definitely deserves to be watched.