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Fullmetal Alchemist
Reviewer: Tong T. 07/16/2007

Fullmetal Alchemist, based on the manga of the same title, is an action adventure shounen series that takes place in an alternate version of earth, where Alchemy flourished well into modern times and become the major basis for technological and scientific advancement. The show chronicles the story of a young State Alchemist named Edward Elric and his younger brother, Alphonse, as they seek the legendary Philosopher’s stone in hopes of correcting a horrible mistake made in their childhood.
A critically acclaimed and well-renowned anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist generally lives up to its status as one of the best anime titles of recent years. An effective blend of exciting action and adventure, combined with sharp storytelling and likeable characters makes Fullmetal Alchemist a standout among the more mediocre offerings in its genre. Though the story takes a dark turn at about the half-way point, it remains enjoyable throughout and, despite a few rough edges including the rather disappointing ending, manages to keep us interested in the series from beginning to end, which is impressive for an anime of this length.
The plot itself is not incredibly complex and is largely centered on the two brothers’ quest for redemption. Much of it is not vastly different from what you would expect from a typical action adventure series, but the unique setting and the intriguing world of Alchemy that keep things fresh and exciting. We are introduced to many different and, generally speaking, interesting characters, including the brothers’ childhood friend and aspiring automail mechanic Winry Rockbell, Ed’s superior officer, the ambitious Flame Alchemist Colonel Roy Mustang, and the lazy and outgoing Lt. Colonel Hughes. However, even as the number of major characters balloons as the series progresses, there is hardly a dull one in the bunch. Each is likeable or intriguing in their own way and each has their particular quirks and nuances. For instance, Ed is especially sensitive about his height, and will quickly overreact to any comment that may speak negatively of it. Al, though fused into a giant piece of armor, is ironically surprisingly sensitive. The villains in the series are just as intriguing as the protagonists from the mysterious Ishbalan named Scar (appropriately for the X-shaped scar on his face) who sees himself as an instrument of God, to the Humunculus, evolved humans who seek the Philosophers Stone for seemingly unknown purposes. The consequence is an anime that is as much character-driven as it is plot driven.
Thematically speaking, as aforementioned, the series explores many different themes including the importance and meaning of friendship, the need for redemption, and more controversial issues such as religious tolerance, race discrimination and the nature of war. Ed and Al seek redemption for their past. Scar seeks to cleanse the world of Alchemy which he sees as a corruption of God’s creation. Also of note is the difference in tone between the first and second halves of the series. The first half is notably more light-hearted and comedically oriented while the second half became increasingly dark, melancholy and violent. Though the meaning behind this is debatable the progression is nevertheless there.
Speaking of violence, there is quite a bit of it in Fullmetal Alchemist. Though much of it is mild action violence, as the series progresses, the violence becomes more graphic (i.e. bloodier). Some mild language and innuendo is present as well but not much. Though as a warning to younger audience, some of the images and scenes later on in the series are also quite grotesque.
The first thing you’ll probably notice as you watch the series is the outstanding quality of the art and visuals. Made by BONES, who are well known for their work on the movie Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, as well as notable series such as RahXephon and Scrapped Princess, the animation is sharp, fluid, and vivid. The quality of the animation is particularly impressive considering that this is a 51-episode series, which are often inconsistent quality-wise. Not so with Fullmetal Alchemist. The animation quality remained consistently high throughout the series which is an impressive accomplishment to say the least. Along with the striking visuals, the audio is excellent as well. Each of the character’s voices fit their roles remarkably well and even the English dub is better than average, though most purists probably won’t be impressed enough by the dub to bother with it. The music is standout as well with memorable opening songs including the excellent “READY STEADY GO” by the popular J-rock band L’Arc~en~Ciel.
As great as Fullmetal Alchemist is, it does have a few missteps, though fortunately most are minor. The biggest is probably the disappointing ending which I won’t spoil, but safe to say it left me very unsatisfied. Though the release of a follow-up movie Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa does tie up the loose ends a little better. Still, given the amount of time we spent with Ed and Al on their journey, it would have been nice for the ending to be a little more convincing and little less convoluted. Some may also find the last part of the anime confusing and needlessly complex. Also, a few episodes, such as Episode 10, “The Phantom Thief” and Episode 37, “The Flame Alchemist, the Bachelor Lieutenant & the Mystery of Warehouse 13" while funny and amusing in their own right, don’t fit too well into the series overall (doesn’t add much to the plot or the characters).
Overall, Fullmetal Alchemist is series that almost any anime fan can enjoy. Whether you like action, adventure, comedy, a good story, interesting and multi-dimensional characters, etc. you’re bound to find something you like. And that’s part of what makes Fullmetal Alchemist such a great series. Even though I can’t say it’s perfect, there really is something for everyone in this series. It is a must-see for “casual” and the “hardcore” anime fans alike. If you care at all about anime or would like to see just what all the “fuss” is about, Fullmetal Alchemist is a superb choice.
The English Region 1 DVD release was handled by FUNimation and was released in 13 volumes. Each of the first 12 volumes has four episodes each, while the last volume has three. In addition, volumes 1, 6 and 10 also have “special edition” tin boxes, each of which includes a different series sound track.
The Fullmetal Alchemist manga, which is still ongoing and has past 16 volumes, is quite different from the anime story-wise. Though the first part of the anime and manga are similar and the basic premise remains the same, each goes down a very different path. This makes the manga an interesting read even after finishing the anime.

Fullmetal Alchemist
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Review Title:
Fullmetal Alchemist
Alternative Titles:
FMA, Full Metal Alchemist, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi
1275 Minutes
General Rating:
5 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Action, Adventure, Comedy,
Drama, Fantasy, Magic,
Military, Shounen
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