Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime cover arts
Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Cover Arts


In honor of today’s big sportsball game I was going to review a sportsball anime, but then I remembered I’ve never watched a single sportsball anime in my life. So instead, we’re doing a long double feature of Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

Fullmetal Alchemist is a story about two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who attempt to bring their mother back to life using alchemy. Needless to say, this goes wrong and Edward ends up losing an arm and a leg while Alphonse loses his entire body.

The rest of the anime follows the Elric brothers as they attempt to get their bodies back to their original states.

Fullmetal Alchemist is an interesting phenomenon. I think I would consider it an entry-level anime, but not quite as far down as the likes of Sword Art Online and Death Note. It’s definitely an anime people tend to watch towards the beginning of their anime watching career though.

The fact that it gets watched by anime newcomers isn’t what makes it so interesting though. What’s interesting is that usually the anime community is split regarding their feelings towards entry-level anime. You either love Sword Art Online and Death Note or you hate them.

With Fullmetal Alchemist it’s different. I think generally everyone agrees that it’s a great anime. However, that doesn’t mean there’s no big debate surrounding it. For Fullmetal Alchemist the debate is around which version is better, FMA or FMA:B as we’ll call them from here on out.

Version Differences

So to set up this debate we need to know a little bit about the backgrounds of FMA and FMA:B. FMA was released in 2003, making it the first version of the series. FMA:B came out in 2009.

Now you might be thinking that FMA:B is a sequel or prequel of some sort to FMA, but that’s not the case. It’s actually the “same” series done again. I put “same” in quotes because in reality it’s only around the first 12 or so episodes which are the same; after that the two anime diverge.

Why would there be two anime that start off the same and then split? Is this like the Fate series where there are multiple timelines?

Well, this split actually comes down to how the FMA anime was created. The first 12 episodes of each are the same because they each follow the manga up until that point. However, once FMA reached that point it had caught up to the manga which was still currently running.

Instead of putting the anime on hiatus or adding filler, the decision was made to continue on passed the manga by using an original story. This is where FMA:B comes in. While FMA used an original story past episode 12, FMA:B follows the story of the manga since it came out after the manga was completed.

Edward Elric using alchemy to transmute his automail arm into a weapon
Edward Elric

The Debate

Maybe you’re thinking that it’s great there are two series, that means there’s more content. And you’d be right except that this is anime we’re talking about. As anime fans we can’t just be happy that there’s more content, we need something to argue about.

I think it’s fair to say that most people prefer FMA:B over FMA. It’s the newer version so it does have better art and animation so it makes sense that people would gravitate toward that one just by appearance. Fans of FMA:B will also commonly say that since FMA:B is the one that follows the source material, the manga, it’s therefore the superior version.

Now I won’t hide my bias from you. I’m on the side of FMA, not FMA:B. But how could I like FMA more after those compelling arguments for FMA:B?

Honestly, I think it’s whichever version you watched first. I originally watched FMA and that’s the version I prefer; other people originally watched FMA:B and so they prefer that version.

But, I’m not going to say that FMA has nothing else going for it other than the fact that some people, like myself, watched it first. I wouldn’t be a true FMA fan if I couldn’t back up my claims with some other evidence.

Now, keep in mind that to the FMA:B fan this doesn’t count as real evidence because they tend to not want to hear it, but FMA has a better plot and story. While they won’t admit this, what people do seem able to agree on is that FMA is the darker of the two versions which I’ll go into later on in a spoiler section.

But how could FMA be the better story if it doesn’t even follow the source material? Well you see, there’s a simple reason called: just because something is source material, doesn’t mean it’s the best material. I know this concept is tough to grasp, but there can be an anime original story that is better than one based off source material.

Let’s use a non-anime example to illustrate this point. There are many movies in the Batman franchise and 2008’s The Dark Knight is generally seen as the best of them which we can probably attribute to Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker. However, The Dark Knight is by no means the closest Batman movie to the source material.

**Spoilers Ahead**

Plot Differences

Let’s start off with a difference between the versions which begins back in the first 12 episodes when they both follow the same source material. Shou Tucker is the infamous alchemist who created a chimera by fusing his daughter, Nina, and her dog.

In FMA:B he is killed around the same time as Nina and that concludes his arc. In FMA, however, we don’t actually see him die at that point in the anime and it’s later revealed that he was taken and turned into a chimera himself. By doing this, the Elric brothers, as well as the viewers, are reminded of what happened to Nina all those episodes ago.

Next let’s take a look at the homunculi. The names of some of the homunculi are different between the versions as well as who the homunculi are themselves. Lust, Greed, Gluttony, and Envy are basically the same in both versions, although Envy has a “true” form in FMA:B which is kind of stupid and doesn’t make much sense in my opinion.

The other three homunculi are different in various ways though. King Bradley is essentially the same in both versions except that he is known as Pride in FMA and Wrath in FMA:B. Since Bradley is Pride in FMA, that leaves the Wrath position open and it’s filled by a child homunculus. In FMA:B, since Bradley is Wrath, the name of Pride is taken by the original homunculus.

Sloth is the final homunculus which is different between the two versions. In FMA:B Sloth is a giant of a homunculus who digs tunnels while in FMA Sloth looks like the mother of the Elric brothers and works as the secretary to King Bradley.

These visual differences are not all though, the very nature of the homunculi is different in the two versions and it plays a part in why some of the homunculi look the way they do in FMA.

In FMA:B, the homunculi were created by a being known as Father which to me is a fairly boring concept. In FMA, however, a homunculus is created when someone attempts a human transmutation and fails.

This is why Sloth resembles the mother of the Elric brothers; she was created when they attempted to bring their mother back to life. This is also why Wrath is a child in FMA; he was created when the teacher of the Elric brothers attempted to bring her stillborn baby back to life.

The final difference we’ll look at is the ending. However, we won’t be looking at the movie for each version, just the series themselves.

FMA:B has a happy ending (lame). Edward and Alphonse get their bodies back and Edward ends up with Winry. Maybe you could tell, but I’m not a fan of happy endings simply for the sake of having a happy ending.

FMA has a bittersweet ending. Alphonse gets his body back, but it’s his body from when he originally lost it years before. Edward, however, is gone. He essentially traded himself for his brother and ends up on the “other side” which is actually our world.

He finds himself in the middle of one of the world wars; I forget which one, but I feel like it’s World War 1. Here Edward learns that the alchemy of his original world was actually powered by the energy of millions of people dying from our world.

Alphonse Elric
Alphonse Elric


So we learned that there are two versions of Fullmetal Alchemist and that I prefer FMA over FMA:B, but what does this mean for the rating? Well you see, I decided to give them both ratings of 9/10. Sure, I like FMA more, but really it’s hard to choose between the two.

If you haven’t watched either anime and are interested in them then my suggestion would be to watch FMA first and then move onto FMA:B if you liked it. I don’t say that because I want you to watch my preferred version first, but rather because FMA:B kind of expands off FMA.

FMA:B has all the characters you’ll meet in FMA, but then it also introduces even more characters who aren’t in the first version. FMA:B also looks better visually and so it may be harder to go from that back to FMA.

Finally, since this is a double feature I’ll link to the first OP of both versions and I’ll mention that I do prefer the OP from FMA:B.

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