Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood [TV]
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, commonly referred to as FMAB is the second adaptation of the hit manga series Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. In 2003, shortly after the manga began its run, the first adaptation titled Fullmetal Alchemist was made. Being an early adaptation, the first animated series outpaced the manga and veered from the original story early on in its run. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, having been made later in 2009, is thus a more faithful adaptation of the events that are depicted in the source material that was nearing its end by then. Despite being the second anime adaptation, the series was very well received and garnered much praise from its audience.
Equivalent exchange. To create one thing, another of equal value must be given up in return. That is the principle behind alchemy in the world of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.
Having grown up in the absence of their father who left earlier on in their life, Edward Elric and his younger brother Alphonse Elric were raised by their loving mother. Their time with her however, was cut short when an epidemic took her life and left the two without parents. With the overwhelming desire to see their mother again, Edward and Alphonse delved into their research on alchemy by studying their father’s notes on the subject. Through their tireless research they discovered what is considered to be the greatest taboo of alchemy, human transmutation. Having learned of this, they decided to use alchemy to create a human being. Their intention was to use the constituents of the human body to bring their mother back from the grave.
On the day of the ritual, the Elric brothers gathered the materials and performed the transmutation. However, what they managed to create was not their mother but a mere shell of what a human should be. Under the pretense of equivalent exchange, their transmutation ended in disaster; the brothers unexpectedly lost Edward’s left leg and Alphonse who promptly disappeared upon the completion of the alchemy. In desperation, Edward performed another transmutation. He used alchemy to implant his brother’s soul into a nearby suit of armor giving up his right arm in the process. During this ordeal, Edward also got a glimpse of what is termed as the Truth, represented by a humanoid shadow. During this encounter, he was pulled into a large door inside of which was the collective knowledge of the world. Having perceived the truth and knowledge of the world, Edward was granted the power to make use of alchemy without the need of a transmutation circle.
Despite being granted his new power, Edward was still maimed and Alphonse still bound to a suit of armor. Driven by the desire to undo their mistakes and restore themselves to who they once were, the brothers swear to find a way to return their bodies to normal.
Four years following these events, Colonel Roy Mustang visited the brothers at their hometown of Resembool having heard the rumors about talented alchemists living in their area. Shocked by the remnants of their failed attempt at human transmutation, he confronted the two asking how such a taboo could have been performed. Despite his initial shock, Colonel Mustang acknowledged the skill that both Edward and Alphonse must have had to be able to perform that level of alchemy in the first place. He promptly offered them a chance to join the military adding that the privilege of high level research may lead them to a means of getting their bodies back.
Spurred by the possibility of discovering a way to undo his mistakes, Edward decides to undergo surgery to implant automail as metal replacements for his missing limbs. Upon recovery, he leaves for Central to join the ranks of the military as a State Alchemist.
The anime begins years after with Edward Elric now being a “dog of the military” under the ranks of Fuhrer King Bradley. Now dubbed with the State Alchemist moniker of Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward is tasked with aiding Roy Mustang, known also as the Flame Alchemist, in capturing a former soldier turned extremist within the walls of Central. With the help of Alphonse, still bound to the suit of armor, they track down the fugitive, tagged formerly as the Ice Alchemist and manage to corner him as he attempts to freeze Central with a large scale transmutation.
The Ice Alchemist, shows a unique skill during his encounter with the Elric brothers; he reveals that he is not bound by the laws of equivalent exchange, being able to create without sacrificing something of equal value. He lets slip that this is due to his possession of a Philosopher’s Stone. The Elric brothers, having encountered the concept of the Philosopher’s Stone in their extensive research, see this as the next step to reclaiming their original bodies. Following the defeat of the Ice Alchemist, they promptly move forward to uncover the origin of the Philosopher’s Stone and hopefully, create one for themselves.
The titular character of the series, he is dubbed as the Fullmetal Alchemist upon joining the military as a State Alchemist as a reflection of his metal limbs. He and his younger brother Alphonse attempted to perform the ultimate taboo of alchemy at a young age. Their attempt at human transmutation failed robbing Edward of his left leg and right arm in the process. His life is given new meaning when he swears to take back his arm and leg and return his brother, whose soul is now implanted onto a suit of armor, to his original body.
Having seen the Truth of the world, Edward has the rare ability to perform alchemy without the need of a transmutation circle. With the clap of his hands, he is able to use alchemy governed by the law of equivalent exchange. Driven by the desire to atone for the mistakes that he made as a child, he searches for a way to take back his lost limbs, and more importantly, restore the body of his younger brother Alphonse.
Alphonse is the younger brother of Edward. He attempts human transmutation with his brother at an early age losing his body in the process. Edward, in desperation, sacrifices his own right arm and performs another transmutation to take back Alphonse’s soul and bind it to a nearby suit of armor. His life now tied to the armor, Alphonse joins his brother as they search for a way to recover their bodies.
Alphonse is often depicted as the calmer and more mature brother despite being younger in age. While unable to perform alchemy in the absence of the transmutation circle, he still demonstrates ample mastery of the art of alchemy. When confronted with danger, he proves to be a capable hand to hand fighter with the ability to defend himself.
A childhood friend of the Elric brothers, Winry is an expert automail mechanic. Having lost her parents in the Ishval War in events prior to the start of the series, she lives with her grandmother Pinako and the two Elrics serving as a sister figure to the two. When Edward undergoes surgery to implant automail limbs, Winry takes the role of his mechanic, maintaining his automail and developing new designs that will serve him better as he takes on military assignments.
With a personality that reflects Edward’s own aggression and hotheadedness, she tends to argue with Edward a lot more than most of the characters in the series. Despite this, she serves as the main romantic interest of the series protagonist and provides constant emotional support to the brothers throughout their journey.
Tagged as the Flame Alchemist and the Hero of Ishval, Roy Mustang is regarded as a highly skilled State Alchemist who played a major role in ending the Ishval War that occurred prior to the anime. He demonstrates mastery over alchemy related to flames, creating infernos with the snap of his fingers. The series focuses on his role beyond that of Edward’s direct superior and builds on him as a character.
Among members of the military, Roy Mustang has many unique relationships. Riza Hawkeye serves as his trusted aid and assistant. Beyond this relationship, the two demonstrate care and a deeper understanding of one another as a result of their long standing friendship predating their time spent together in military service.
He is also shown to have a large amount of respect of Edward Elric. Despite their constant disagreements, he acknowledges the skills of the Fullmetal Alchemist and regards him as a capable soldier and alchemist throughout the course of the series.
The idea of life is a recurring theme of the series. Life is depicted in many ways throughout the course of the entire show. Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood goes to great lengths to fully explore our understanding of what life is and attempts to aid in building a deeper understanding of what it life truly is.
The series opens depicting the Elric brothers trying to quantify life and attempting to create it from simple components such as water and iron. The result is inhuman and ghoulish. The concept of life is seen to go beyond simply combining each constituent to create a complete body.
Alphonse is a character who has lost his body, a symbol of life and humanity. His soul is bound to a suit of armor and the limitations of normal human functions such as aging do not apply to him in this state. Again the series challenges the simplification of the concept of life tackling the question of whether or not Alphonse can be considered as truly living given the state of his body and soul.
The homunculi in the series are represented in a slightly different light in that while they do have bodies, they lack a soul to call their own. Rather than being birthed like normal human beings, they are personalities taken from a single being, granted bodies through the use of a Philosopher’s Stone. They are sins embodied and pulled out from another being, without souls of their own. Having originated from an existing person and having been given life through unconventional means, the question of whether they can be considered living comes into play.
Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood highlights science. The entire world of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is built on the premise of equivalent exchange. Nothing can be gained without first giving something of equal value in return. This simple paradigm explicitly denounces the possibility of miracles by stating that there is nothing that can be gained for free.
The concept of the Philosopher’s Stone exists to counter this single law that defines alchemy. Possession of the Stone would grant one the ability to utilize alchemy without cost. Due to this uncharacteristic property, it is treated as an object that cannot exist and is considered by many in the series to be a myth. Belief in the existence of the Philosopher’s Stone is thus analogous to faith; a paradigm that highlights belief in what many consider to be an impossibility.
The Elric brothers spend the entirety of the series on a quest to retrieve their bodies through the use of this stone and demonstrate faith in the fact that despite their mistakes in the past, they will be able to restore their bodies.