If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’ve recently fallen into Fullmetal Alchemist hell. I watched Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood for the first time about a week and a half ago and fell completely in love. I’ve since gone back and watched the original 2003 anime (and started reading the manga, but we’re not talking about that right now). I’m now rewatching FMAB because I’m absolutely sick in the head.
Now, if you don’t know anything about FMA, you may be wondering why there are two anime based on the same manga. Well, that’s because the 2003 version came out before the manga was complete, so they had to create their own arc and ending. As the manga came to a close, a second anime was made, this time a faithful adaptation of said manga.
FMA follows the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, on their search for a Philosopher’s Stone in order to get their bodies back, after an alchemical transmutation gone wrong. As they uncover the secrets of the stone, they find themselves caught up in something much bigger and far more deadly than anyone could’ve ever imagined.
Today I’d like to do something I’ve done once before (when I compared The Haunting of Hill House and Bly Manor) and discuss which anime is the better show.
Fullmetal Alchemist 2003
The original anime takes a somewhat darker and more cynical tone than the manga. Though there are moments of levity, FMA 2003 doesn’t pull any punches.
After about the 10th episode, the anime is forced to divert from the then-unfinished source material and start really building its own plot and endgame. This is where the story starts to falter slightly. FMA 2003 maintains its emphasis on Ed and Al’s search for a Philosopher’s Stone, rather than weaving it into the larger story. This leads to quite a lot of filler and hinders the impact of the story’s main villain.
However, it also takes an interesting approach to the concept of human transmutation and what that means. I don’t want to give anything away, but it has a more personal impact on our heroes. I don’t think it was explored as deeply as it could’ve been, though it has a profound effect on how we view the characters.
The ending, however, is very lackluster. It takes a few odd turns and isn’t built up to well enough. It feels incomplete, unless you watch the companion movie which is difficult to find.
And yet, I still binged this show in three days and have pretty positive feelings toward it. I consider it an AU, since it’s no longer canon. I really enjoyed seeing Ed and Al in this new light and would probably watch it again.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
The second attempt at adapting FMA into an anime, in contrast, is ultimately more hopeful than FMA 2003. It’s also an extremely faithful adaptation of the source material. However, while I would categorize Brotherhood as the lighter of the two anime, it has a larger emotional impact.
Each character is developed so well, their conclusions all so satisfying. Ed and Al’s journey is intrinsically a part of the larger story. The main villain and conflict is built up slowly from the very beginning, even before our heroes realize it. Humor and seriousness are balanced so well throughout the entire show. Everything about this show is *chef’s kiss*.
Okay, there are some valid criticisms to be made. The first few episodes of the show wrap up familiar arcs quickly, presuming you’ve seen them already in the previous anime. And… well, actually that’s the only real criticism I can think of. And it doesn’t even really bother me.
Like I said in the intro, I’m already rewatching Brotherhood and trying to resist the urge to watch it for the third time in a single month. This show is an absolute 10/10.
So Which FMA Anime is Superior?
I mean, as if I haven’t been fairly obvious about which one I prefer from the opening paragraph. I think Brotherhood does it better. I think it hits themes of religion vs. science and the value of family in a more effective way than FMA 2003. I also think it tells the better overall story— Hiromu Arakawa’s story. And that woman is a goddamn genius.
That said, if you watch Brotherhood and find yourself craving more, I would recommend watching FMA 2003. For the culture, if nothing else. I’d also highly recommend the manga series.
So yeah, I highly, highly recommend Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. It’s frequently regarded as the best anime of all time for a reason. Come join me in Fullmetal hell.
Have you seen FMA 2003 and/or Brotherhood? What did you think? Do you have a favorite anime between the two? Let’s discuss in the comments!