Are you trying to decide between watching Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and the original Fullmetal Alchemist? Not sure which is better or if they are the same? Is one of them a sequel? And more importantly, should you watch one before the other? These are but some of the common questions surrounding the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise that we will answer.
If you’re part of the confused crowd, here’s a brief guide summarizing the difference between Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
Fullmetal Alchemist Manga: An Overview
To start, it’s important to note that both Fullmetal Alchemist and Brotherhood were adaptations of a single manga, titled Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa.
The story follows the exploits of two brothers, Edward Elric and Alphonse Elric, as they search for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone. After losing their mother, the two young boys attempted to bring her back to life by conducting human transmutation, a forbidden method in alchemy. Naive and desperate, the two soon discover that playing as gods and interfering with the natural flow of life comes with a terrible price.
Specifically, the art of alchemy in the world of FMA is driven by the so-called “Law of Equivalent Exchange.” Under the said principle, one cannot gain something without losing something of equal value. In their desperate attempt to obtain life, both Edward and Elric lost something precious: Edward lost his arm and leg, while Alphonse lost his physical body (his soul was later attached to a large suit of armor).
Despite the terrible prices they paid, their mother didn’t return back to life. Instead, what they got after conducting the forbidden method is a terrifying half-human, half-corpse that only managed to live for a couple of seconds. Such a traumatic experience made Edward and Alphonse realized that it is impossible to bring someone back to life.
Years later, Edward is now a State Alchemist. Together with his brother Alphonse, he wanders around in hope of finding the famed Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary device which he believes to be the key to getting their bodies back.
Their quest leads them to a discovery that will make them question everything they have believed realized man’s position in the natural flow of life.
Are Fullmetal Alchemist and Brotherhood The Same?
Ultimately, Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are two different anime series. Although they share the same set of main characters, i.e. the Elric brothers, they are completely distinct and independent from one another. They do not share the same plot. Neither is one of them a sequel to the other. Hence, you can watch one without the need of watching the other as well.
Interestingly, both series starts off with the same premise: two brothers on the quest for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone. However, the two offer completely different twists and endings.
How did that happen? The principal reason is that while one remained true to the story of the manga, the other did not. Specifically, Fullmetal Alchemist veered away from the original story. Meanwhile, Brotherhood faithfully portrayed the plot in accordance with the manga.
Specifically, when Fullmetal Alchemist was aired in October 2003, the manga is still ongoing. Eventually, the anime caught up with the manga. As a result, Bones, the studio behind the TV series, ran out of material to based their episodes on. In its effort to continue the show instead of going for a break, the studio decided to come up with their own story to fill up the remaining episodes of the TV anime.
Ultimately, the Fullmetal Alchemist manga was supposed to have a total of 27 volumes. However, only 8 had been released at the time FMA anime was showing. This means barely half of what was in the original manga made it to the anime adaptation.
Years later, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was released. It was produced also by Bones, the same animation studio behind the 2003 adaptation. Compared to the first FMA anime, Brotherhood is a more faithful adaptation of the manga.
Which Fullmetal Alchemist Anime is Better?
Both Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are highly praised by the public. Still, it needs to be said that Brotherhood is generally the darling of the crowd due to it being the more faithful adaptation, its organic storytelling, and superb animation.
However, this doesn’t mean that Fullmetal Alchemist is the lesser series of the two. Although it diverged from its source text, the anime is still regarded to be a classic and a remarkable work of art. The 2003 adaptation also has a large fanbase of its own.
But to avoid confusion and to enjoy a more organic watching experience, you may want to start with the 2009 Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood to know the original story first. After doing so, you can then explore the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist to see different relationship dynamics between the characters and witness an overall different ending.
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