Fullmetal Alchemist Has Two Different Anime Adaptations

Fullmetal Alchemist Has Two Different Anime Adaptations

Fullmetal Alchemist is widely regarded as one of the greatest manga and anime of all time. The story of the Elric Brothers, Edward and Alphonse, as they search for a way to restore their bodies, only to stumble into a deeper conspiracy that puts the entire continent at risk, has resonated with audiences for years.

If viewers are only now interested in watching Fullmetal Alchemist, they might be confused that there are, in fact, two Fullmetal Alchemist series. Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood may sound similar enough, but there are drastic differences between the two that viewers need to know about before watching.

The core difference between Fullmetal Alchemist and Brotherhood is how liberally they adapt Hiromu Arakawa’s manga. When the first Fullmetal Alchemist series premiered in October 2003, only five volumes of the manga had been released, with the sixth arriving later that month. By the time the anime ended in October 2004, eight volumes had been published. That means Bones, the animation studio behind Fullmetal Alchemist, had only a fragment of the ultimately 27-volume manga to adapt.

By contrast, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’s final episode aired in time with the release of the manga’s final chapter. Brotherhood was intended to be a more faithful adaptation. To use a common point of comparison, both series adapt the events of the manga, until Maes Hughes’ death, only to veer off into different directions afterward. Therefore, it is accurate to say that Fullmetal Alchemist after episode 26 and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood after episode 10 tell entirely different stories.

The original series makes decisions that further expand events and characters. We spend extra time with the likes of Barry the Chopper and Shou Tucker, so we get to know them better; Brotherhood, meanwhile, introduces these supporting antagonists at the moment they are relevant. Of all the minor characters to have their roles altered, Rose’s changes are the most drastic. She goes from a minor character introduced near the start to a linchpin of the villain Dante’s entire plan. Rose is brutalized and used as a vessel for Dante once she obtains the Philosopher’s Stone.

Even in the early episodes, a lot of content is added that isn’t present in the manga. For instance, Russell and Fletcher Tringham are characters taken from the light novel The Land of Sand instead of the manga. However, some manga characters, like Olivier Mira Armstrong, don’t appear in the original anime in fact, a common complaint is that the women in the original series, like Winry and Riza, aren’t given the same level of development or importance to the plot as they are in Brotherhood.

The Homunculi serve as primary antagonists in both anime, although their creators and even identities shift from series to series. Each Homunculus is named for one of the seven deadly sins. In both anime, Lust, Gluttony and Envy remain essentially the same, although Lust in the original plays the role of primary antagonist, with a massively expanded role. By contrast, Lust is the first to die in Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, Pride, Wrath, Sloth and Envy are entirely different. In Brotherhood, Wrath is Fuhrer Bradley, while Pride is his son; however, in the original anime, Bradley is Pride. In FMA, Wrath is a failed transmutation of Ed and Al’s mentor, Izumi, while Greed is created by Izumi’s mentor. Arguably, most startling of all is Sloth, who in the original is actually Ed and Al’s mother.

That leads, of course, to how Homunculi are created. In Brotherhood and the manga, all the Homunculi are created by Father, the true antagonist. In the original anime, a Homunculus is created from a failed human transmutation that was found and re-christened by Dante. Ed and Al make Sloth near the start of FMA, while in FMAB, their re-alchemized mother ends up being just a mess of flesh. In addition, because each Homunculus is a re-creation of previous humans, when a Homunculus comes in contact with a remnant of their former selves in the original series, they are extra-vulnerable.

Although there are many other smaller differences, the last drastic one is the identity of the final villains. Dante and Father both have ties to Hohenheim, and Dante is a former immortal lover of Ed and Al’s father. Father is tied with his origins as an alchemist and immortal and, while Father creates the Homunculi, Dante simply stumbles upon them. Their plans are different, and as the series becomes increasingly centered around their goals and wants, the plots further divide.

Undeniably, the biggest difference between FMA and FMAB is where each ends. Brotherhood faithfully adapts the manga’s ending, tying up every plot point and character in beautiful fashion. It feels organic, weaving in every previously introduced element of the story and completing the story at its natural close.

The original, however, ends with its movie, Conqueror of Shamballa, which is bizarre, to say the least. The events of the film send Ed into an alternate dimension similar to ours, where he tries to survive in what is essentially Nazi Germany as alternate universe doppelgängers of characters from the series seek him out. The ending involves a lot of characters scattered across dimensions, Greed taking on a new transformation, and even a bizarre and deeply unwelcome cameo by Hitler. The original anime’s ending rubbed many viewers the wrong way. That’s not to say the original anime is bad; it’s simply different from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Hiromu Arakawa’s manga.

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