Reviews: Full Metal Alchemist


I watched the series originally at 14, struggled to follow the plot. Having watched Brotherhood and feeling a bit underwhelmed I decided to see if it held up today.

It did. Amazingly so.

The simplistic ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill humans’ (actually ‘Ape Shall Never Kill Ape’, except the apes are hairless, and everything else is fair game) in Brotherhood was replaced by a nuanced discussion, actually debating What Measure Is a Non-Human?, with genuine concern for animal wellbeing (Ed scolding Wrath for near crushing a mouse to death).

The tone-deaf preaching about war, violence, and retaliation (which, being born and raised in Israel and still living in it, I loathed) was mostly gone. It had a much more sober view of human cruelty during war (e.g. with the Rockbell’s murder, the offscreen gang rape), without the audacity to outright tell the victims not to retaliate so patronisingly.

The ugly Conspicuous CGI was also mostly gone. The animation did appear slightly less polished but I preferred it that way.

What the series did bring instead was an interesting exploration of several themes, first and foremost that of atonement and acceptance of consequences that felt very poignant. The Homunculi provided complex symbols and character arcs and were mostly a delight to watch and ponder.

Characters felt fleshed out, with actual shades of grey. The semi-filler episodes, generally disliked among other fans from what I gather, were instrumental in this and I liked how they helped with the world-building and really tying the plot together (I felt they were sorely missed in Brotherhood). Unlike in Brotherhood, here the tragic scenes still made me cry (in my first viewing I was a sobbing mess).

Ed & Al actually fighting onscreen with Al about something concrete (rather than some absurd idea Al got in his head), taking time to really resolve it, was great. Their relationship felt more realistic, and, hence, more meaningful. Same with the Not Love Interest relationship Ed had with Winry; growing up so close made their dynamic feel more ‘Like Brother and Sister’, so her becoming a Love Interest felt off.

The few flaws I can mention are:

  1. Al’s character felt a bit flat: a borderline Marty Stu, following his brother around, showing little to no personality of his own beyond a narrow set of goals and principles. Fortunately there was enough going on around him and an engaging relationship between him and Ed to make it a smaller problem than a main character being a Vanilla Protagonist would normally be.
  2. Comic parts were often allowed in scenes that should’ve been completely dramatic. One glaring example is Winry and Sheska on the verge of discovering what Juliet Douglas is... and Sheska concludes she’s an alien.
  3. The final episode had a bit of an Ending Fatigue.

All in all, it definitely held up since 9th grade.


When the people's favorite falls...

In 2008, I've seen the series with eyes of an adult and I instantly loved it. As a standalone it is beautifully written with a few inconsistencies, here and there. However, with the emergence of the 2009 adaptation Brotherhood, the official FMA 2003 TV Tropes page it is dubbed a "Cult Classic" a title that shows just how much the general populous reacts to deviations from the source material. I've already delved into why adaptations aren't good aspirations in an blog post, so there's no need to repeat myself.

I've rewatched this series and yes! FMA 2003 is not a perfect anime, but none is. What appeals to some, may not appeal to others, as perfection is a subjective quality. But it is a masterpiece that has its own merits:

1. More in depth exploration of story elements and themes, which, while not abundant, give a clear sense of flow to the plot and enhances world building.

2. Characters better developed, who don't develop so much on a ideological level, having their beliefs shaken to the core, but maturing realistically on the inside, in the short period of time they are given - which is a year and a half to 2 years.

3. Great pacing and combining of events that fit into the overall themes and plot of the series. The "filler" episodes don't deter from the overall story, as they show the various aspects of the world and various different perspectives aside from those of the main characters.

4. It is filled with beautiful colours and character designs. The composition of shots does not follow the manga all the time, but make do with perspectives that make sense from a cinematographic point of view.

5. Atmosphere is displayed superbly through lighting and music, as Michiru Ooshima's score don't distract you from the scenes and only enhances them - Nina's reveal comes to mind.

6. The themes of death and repentance are touched more realistically in the anime, characters reacting to events and revelations as real people would.

7. Being a series who's main driving force is death, it is beyond me why the seriousness in tone of this anime is pointed out as a flaw.

8. The very notions that govern the world shown are put in the balance and many of the characters take a realistic interest to these aspects of their lives.

9. Lastly, the ending is superb as it fits with the messages of the story.

2003 Fullmetal Alchemist

There will never be anything like the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist. It did something very different from anything else ever made.

First off is the way it was directed. The music sounds inspired by Classical Music which fits perfectly in a Fantasy .Most Fantasy settings have this huge epic Orchestra to back up it's setting which I find doesn't draw me into a Fantasy setting as a soundtrack with actual melody would. You can see that FMA-1 choreographs the animation to its music. I find a lot of Hollywood movies don't do this, instead it looks like the music is choreographed to the action on-screen instead. Not that there's anything wrong with Hollywood soundtracks but it seems like music in this format is just an after thought.

Fullmetal Alchemist has many themes that come into play as the story progresses such as Racism, War, Politics, Science, Religion, Death, To even Life itself. These themes and their morals may fly over your head during the first viewing but the more I think about what Fullmetal Alchemist was trying to tell me, the more it makes sense. Some people call FMA pretentious with no real morals, I say to them, please think back on the series. Alchemy is just one huge metaphor for Science. That right there should already be a huge hint.

So what FMA does differently than any other show I know, is actually really hard describe why I think this. You would expect this show to a typical Shonen but it's not. It's a Fantasy epic, but not really. Unlike a lot of Epics like The Dark Knight or even FMA: Brotherhood, it's not a huge over the top epic with lot's of explosions and flashy attacks. FMA is more homely and humble than that, I remember one episode where it was almost just like a nice day, and a lot of early episodes of the first Fullmetal Alchemist either start or end like a nice day and it contrasts really well with some of the more darker moments making them a lot more tragic. I think the show is taking this mature story and putting it in the perspective of kids. In the second season, this Kid-friendly feel drops and becomes slightly more darker. This is great because things get more serious. The action builds up at this point but so does the story itself. FMA will surprise, shock, make you cry and even make you think.

Fullmetal Alchemist really impresses me, especially for a series that is 90% filler.

The entire series...AS A STANDALONE (no movie review sorry)


Brilliant characterization for Edward Elric

Bringing up themes of religion, Grayand Grey Morality, and the notion of equivalent exchange is great

Most of the other characters are very believable in their motivations (especially the Homunculi)

Choosing the Russian Orchestra for the soundtrack (Yes, its the Russian Orchestra) helps to enhance the despair that is prevalent through the setting

Taking a dramatic approach to the series rather than doing full blown shonen action is a great change (and the main difference from this series to FMA: Brotherhood in my opinion)

The story, while it can be confusing at times, is very connected. It's not like you have to pay attention to every little detail, but little things in the beginning of the series turn out to be very important later on.

The world is amazing and the Worldbuilding is some of the best worldbuilding I have seen in a while. I especially liked the parallels to Nazi Germany (Yes, Nazi Germany) although....


Making the world an Alternative History to Nazi Germany, while it makes sense, was barely foreshadowed. Like the notion of it being an Alternate History was barely hinted at and kinda felt that it came out of nowhere.

(Personal Con) The ending for this series is known to be a hit-or-miss for some people. For me. It's a little bit of both. I liked how the equivalent exchange theme was resolved but I didn't get the part where Ed sacrificed his "Sweat and determination" to get Al back...{{What.}}

Leaving all those loose ends in the ending of this series. As a standalone, this is unacceptable. Even if there is a movie.

Some characters are also one or two dimensional. The most glaring offenders being Archer (one-dimensional) and Dante. Considering that they have been the main villains for a good portion of this series. I think that I should at least get a little bit more fleshing out than just a backstory for Dante (although her philosophy about equivalent exchange is rather solid)


Yeah, it's not Brotherhood (getting to watching that) but it stands on it's own as a pretty good anime series. The themes, characters, story, and setting are all on point (most of them). But it shouldn't be glossed over just because "Brotherhood is superior"

Give it a watch guys. It may not be perfect but it's one of the best anime out there.