A live-action feature film adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s hugely popular Fullmetal Alchemist has been announced with a tentative release planned for 2017. Shockingly, reports say a lot of CG will be used; particularly for hero Alphonse Elric‘s haunted armored. Of course, anybody who’s seen the movie versions of Death Note, Gantz, and Parasyte might be a touch curious about how effectively such effects can render the fantastic imagery of the manga.
However the FMA movie shakes out, its announcement has caused a stir for good reason. The show rocks. This might be a better occasion to point the FMA anime out to those who haven’t explored it yet.
The titular “Fullmetal Alchemist” is Edward Elric, a young sorcerer who uses alchemy as a martial art. It’s not quite “Harry Potter with roundhouse kicks,” but think more along the lines of making weapons out of the metal in the ground or changing the environment around him to turn the fight to his advantage. Edward serves the state of Amestris, a psuedo-European nation in an alternate history cherry-picked from the World Wars’ most interesting aesthetics. Like any respectable superhero, Ed’s origin is wrapped in childhood tragedy, and big mistakes. So prodigious were he and his little brother, Al, they attempted to resurrect their dead mother through transmutation–even though it’s a grave taboo–and were cursed for their transgressions. Ed lost limbs, while Al’s soul was imprisoned within a menacing metal suit.
The semi-cyborg Elrics go on, commanding the elements as they battle rogue alchemists, bestial chimeras, and a cabal of “homunculi” personifying the Seven Deadly Sins. However, after some mysterious deaths and cover-ups, they and the soldier mages serving alongside them begin suspecting that the state they serve may be actually controlled by a conspiracy.
Brotherhood uses 64 episodes to their fullest plotting potential, pitting the boys against various powerful factions with conflicting agendas and philosophies. There are masters of foreign alchemy, giant shape-shifting slugs, and the vengeful survivor of a genocide who wants to bring the whole system crashing down. None of them can be neatly sorted into “white hats” or “black hats.” What’s this “Brotherhood” we keep harping on about, though?
To clarify one point in the preamble: Fullmetal Alchemist actually has two multi-season adaptations. The first (with no sub-title) was produced while the manga was still ongoing. The show out-paced the comic and had to start making up plot, resulting in a rushed “gecko ending” that wasn’t well-received by fans of either iteration. Years later, around when the manga was wrapping up, the producers took a second crack at the same story with Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. It’s this second iteration that we recommend more. Much more.
Surprisingly enough, when producers know how their story will end, they pace their show much tighter. Thus, there’s no “filler” in Brotherhood. The animation is well budgeted, so the last arc’s visuals are just as impressive as those in the first. In fact, the bravura spectacle of the fight scenes is one of the biggest selling points. While that could be taken for granted, the proof is consistently in the pudding. It doesn’t hurt that Critical Role’s Travis Willingham voices one of the main characters. Which one? We have an article for that.
Indeed, Brotherhood is the rarest breed: an anime produced under ideal scheduling conditions, not the mad rush to weekly airdates that makes so many other shows stumble. From this, the show also has one of the most satisfying endings. No anxious cop-out masquerading as an ambiguous ellipse. The varied plot threads are tied up, all the members of the extensive cast come to head, and the Elrics complete true character arcs as they grow into adult alchemists.
Any FMA fans in our readership? How would you sell newbies on the series? Any other epic we should spotlight here? Break all taboos and fill our talkback with suggestions!
Image Credits: FUNimation