-Fullmetal Alchemist (鋼の錬金術師, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi, lit. Alchemist of Steel), commonly abbreviated as FA or FMA (although the official abbreviation used by Arakawa is FA) or Hagaren (Japanese portmanteau derived from Hagane no Renkinjutsushi), is a Japanese manga series, written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. It combines alchemy lore and shounen formula. The world of Fullmetal Alchemist is styled after European Industrial Revolution.followed by a film sequel (which premiered in theaters on July 23, 2005) that concluded the story of the anime. A second anime adaption of 64 episodes and 5 seasons entitled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood premiered on April 5, 2009 and ended on June 4, 2010, following the original storyline from the manga more closely. A multitude of spin-off novels, original video animations (OVAs), drama CDs, soundtracks, and video games have been adapted from the series. A collectible card game, multiple supplementary books, and a variety of action figures and other merchandise based on the characters of the series have also been released.
The manga has been licensed by Viz Media for publication in the United States, with twenty-three bound volumes released currently. Although there are no major differences with the Japanese version, some pages have been edited to avoid references to Christianity. Funimation has dubbed both anime series in the United States and Canada, and has also released them in all English-speaking DVD regions. The English version of the film sequel that concluded the story of the first anime series premiered in a limited number of theaters on August 25, 2006 and was later released on DVD. Funimation and Destineer have also been releasing the video games from the series.
The franchise has seen high popularity in both Japan and North America. As of March 2008, the Fullmetal Alchemist manga has sold over 30 million volumes in Japan. The English release of the manga's first volume was the top-selling graphic novel during the year 2005. In two TV Asahi web polls, the anime was voted #1 most popular anime of all time in Japan. It was nominated in six of the eight categories for which it was eligible at the American Anime Awards in February 2007, winning awards in five of them. Reviewers from several media have noted the characters' complex personalities and original designs.
Edward and Alphonse Elric are two alchemists brothers who search for the legendary Philosopher's Stone, a powerful object which would allow them to recover their bodies (which were lost in an attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy). Being born in the village of Resembool from the country of Amestris, the two brothers lived there with their parents. Their father, Van Hohenheim, left home for unknown reasons and years later, their mother, Trisha, died of a terminal illness leaving the Elric brothers alone. After their mother's death, Edward becomes determined to bring her back through the use of alchemy, an advanced science in which objects can be created from raw materials. They researched Human Transmutation, a forbidden art in which one attempts to create or modify a human being. However, this attempt failed, ultimately resulting in the loss of Edward's left leg and Alphonse's entire body. In a desperate effort to save his brother, Edward sacrificed his right arm to affix his brother's soul to a suit of armor. Some days later, an alchemist named Roy Mustang visits the Elric brothers, and he tells Edward to become a member of the State Military of the country to find a way to recover their bodies. After that, Edward's left leg and right arm are fitted with two sets of automail, a type of advanced steel automated prosthetic, created for him by his close family friends Winry Rockbell and her grandmother Pinako.
Edward sets out to become a State Alchemist, an alchemist employed by the State Military of Amestris, which infamously annihilated much of the neighboring country of Ishbal's population in the past decade. Becoming a State Alchemist enables Edward to use the extensive resources available to State Alchemists, but it also turns him into a what they call a dog of the military. His more friendly relationship with Col Mustang however, whom he reports to and recruited him, allows the brothers freedom to search for the Philosopher's Stone as part of Edward's research, as each State Alchemist is expected to independently research new things which may be of a use to the State Military of Amestris. The brothers set off in search of the Philosopher's Stone as a means to restore their bodies. Throughout their journey, they meet many antagonists, including those who are willing to do anything to obtain the Philosopher's Stone, Scar, one of the few surviving Ishbalans, who seeks vengeance on the State Alchemists for the destruction of his race, and the Homunculi, a group of human-like creatures who carry pieces of the Philosopher's Stone inside themselves, and from it derive the ability to survive almost any harm.
As the story progresses, Edward and Alphonse discover the vast expansion of Amestris was the result of the Homunculi, who created and secretly control the State Military. The Homunculi and much of the high-ranking military officers are commanded from behind the curtains by the creator of the Homunculi, a man simply known as Father, who gained immortality by using Hohenheim as his new body centuries before the series' time-line. He plans to use Amestris as a gigantic transmutation circle and turn the entire country into a Philosopher's Stone. When Edward and Alphonse discover Father's plans, they set out to defeat him along with other members of the State Military.
Differences in the first anime adaptation
The first half of the anime's plot closely follows that of the manga, but diverges near the middle of the story; when the Elric brothers and their friend Winry Rockbell travel to Rush Valley. A former lover of Hohenheim, Dante, acts as the series' main antagonist and only appears in this anime. Centuries ago, the two perfected methods for making the Philosopher's Stone, achieving a sort of immortality by transferring their soul and intellect into others' bodies as they age. Hohenheim was eventually overcome by the guilt of sacrificing lives to make the Stone and left Dante. Although Dante is still able to jump from body to body to cheat death over the centuries, she is able to spend less time in each body as it decays faster with each jump. She uses the Homunculi to spur Edward and Alphonse, along with other Alchemists equally desperate, into creating another complete Philosopher's Stone for her.
When Scar tries to create the Philosopher's Stone, the stone is infused into Alphonse's metal body, making him the main focus of Dante's efforts leading to him being kidnapped. When Edward goes to rescue him, he is stabbed and killed by the homunculus, Envy. Alphonse uses the Philosopher's Stone to revive him, but disappears in the process. Dante tries to escape, but she is killed when the homunculus, Gluttony, loses control after having his mind destroyed by her. After being revived, Edward risks his life to bring back his brother in exchange. As a result, Edward ends up in a parallel world, our Earth, while Alphonse recovers his original body. Determined to return with Alphonse, Edward becomes involved in rocketry research, with the intention to use that technology to try to get back to his home world.
The story is followed in Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa situated two years after the end of the anime. While Edward is working in Germany to find a way to return to Amestris, Dietlinde Eckhart, a member from the Thule Society, discovers the existence of Ed's world and starts giving him hints to open a portal to Amestris. Alphonse, having been looking for his brother after two years, also discovers the portal and opens it at the same time as his father Hohenheim opens the one from Germany, allowing Dietlinde to enter Amestris and try to conquer it. Edward reunites with his brother and they join forces to defeat Dietlinde. Knowing the danger that both worlds are now connected through the portal, Edward returns to Germany to destroy it, knowing that he would be trapped there forever. Alphonse secretly follows him, having decided to stay with Edward.
After reading about the Philosopher's Stone, the author Arakawa said that she became attracted to the idea of using alchemy in the manga. She liked it so much that she started reading books relating to alchemy, which she found very complicated due to the fact that some books contradicted others. Arakawa was attracted more by the philosophical aspects than the practical aspects. For the Equivalent Exchange concept, she was inspired by the work of her parents who had a farm in Hokkaidō and always had to give all their effort in order to earn the money to eat.
Arakawa wanted to integrate social problems into the story. She gathered information watching news programs and talking to people, such as refugees, war veterans and former yakuza. Several plot elements expand on these themes, such as Pinako Rockbell caring for the Elric brothers after the death of their mother, and the brothers helping people all over the country, to gain an understanding of the meaning of family. When creating the fictional world of Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa was inspired after reading about Europe during the Industrial Revolution period; she was amazed by how different the people from different countries were, in terms of their culture, architecture and clothes. She was especially interested in England during this period and "added to it her own original flavor to turn it into a fantasy world".
When the manga began serialization, Arakawa had in mind how the story would end. As the plot continued, however, she felt some characters were maturing and decided to change some scenes, resulting in some sketches of the faces of the characters were improvised. In creating the characters' designs, she comments that the manga authors Suihō Tagawa and Hiroyuki Eto are her main inspirations, and describes her artwork is a mix of both of them. The easiest of the series characters for her to draw was Alex Louis Armstrong, as well as little animals. Due to the fact she likes dogs, Arakawa added several of them in the story. Arakawa made comedy central in the manga because she thinks it is intended for entertainment, and tried to minimalize focus on sad scenes.
During the development of the anime, Arakawa allowed the anime staff to work independently from her, and requested having a different ending from the one in the manga. She said that she would not like to repeat the same ending in both media, as well as to make the manga longer to work more in the development of the characters. When watching the ending of the anime, she was amazed about how different the Homunculi creatures were from the manga and enjoyed how the staff speculated about the origins of the villains.
Main article: List of Fullmetal Alchemist Volumes and Chapters
Written and drawn by Hiromu Arakawa, the Fullmetal Alchemist manga series is serialized in Square Enix's monthly manga magazine Monthly Shōnen Gangan. Serialization began in August 2001 and finished in June 2010, with a chapter in every issue. Square Enix is collecting the chapters in tankōbon format. The first volume was released on January 2002, and as of November 22, 2010, 27 volumes have been released, being volume 27 the last one released. A few chapters have been re-released in Japan in two "Extra number" magazines and Fullmetal Alchemist, The First Attack, which features the first nine chapters of the manga as well as other side stories. The series is being republished on kanzenban format starting on July 22, 2011, and as of October 22, 2011, 7 kanzenban volumes have been released. Viz Media is releasing the manga in North America. The first volume was released on May 3, 2005, and the latest volume they have released is volume 17 on October 21, 2008.
The content of the manga released by Viz in the United States were mostly consistent with the original material. As of August 2007, the only edits that have been made were to a set of twelve panels from volume 8, depicting the Homunculus Greed tied to a cross-shaped stone slab in crucifixion style. In the U.S. version the stone was redesigned to become round in each panel, as commented by Viz to avoid references to Christianity. This change in the manga was made with the approval of Arakawa.
In Singapore, the manga is being published by Chuang Yi. Publishing in both English and Simplified Chinese, seventeen volumes have been released in English, while fourteen volumes have been released in Simplified Chinese. In Poland, JPFantastica is publishing the manga - as of November 2008, thirteen volumes have been released. In France, the manga is being released by Kurokawa. Volume eight, released in September 2006, was available also in a collector's edition, which consisted of the book packed with the original comedic novel Flame Alchemist, focusing on Roy Mustang's schedule. Prior to this, this novel was only available with the limited edition of volume six in Japan. In Brazil, Editora JBC is publishing the manga with thirty-four volumes equivalent to the first original seventeen volumes having been released currently.
Main article: List of Fullmetal Alchemist episodes
The animation studio Bones adapted the manga into an anime series of 51 episodes and 4 seasons. It was directed by Seiji Mizushima and co-produced by Bones, Mainichi Broadcasting System and Aniplex. Character designs were handled by Yoshiyuki Ito and the script by Sho Aikawa. The anime was broadcast on the Mainichi Broadcasting System, TBS, and Animax in Japan from October 4, 2003 to October 2, 2004, with a 6.8 percent television viewership rating. The English version of the anime was produced by Funimation and debuted on the Adult Swim block of the United States cable channel Cartoon Network on November 6, 2004. A year and a half later, Canada's YTV began airing it on March 3, 2006. The anime's later story and conclusion by Bones is different from the manga (which is still ongoing) due to a request by Arakawa. During the making of the anime, Arakawa was present in meetings to give the staff insight in the world of Fullmetal Alchemist, though she did not actively take part in any writing for the TV series.
The series has been released in a series of thirteen DVDs from December 17, 2003 to January 26, 2005 in Japan. Funimation also released the same series of DVDs from February 8, 2005 to September 12, 2006 in the United States. MVM had released the first eight volumes in the United Kingdom; however, Funimation gave the rights over to Revelation Films.
A movie sequel, Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa, was made by the same studio, and premiered in Japanese theaters on July 23, 2005. A series of five original video animations (OVAs) were also released. The majority of these OVAs are side stories and do not expand on the plot. These OVAs also include a live action segment with Alphonse Elric traveling around a city. In March 2006 a DVD featuring these OVAs was released in Japan with the name of Fullmetal Alchemist: Premium Collection. During January from 2009, Bones will release a "DVD box archives" of the anime. It will include the first anime of 51 episodes, the film, the CD soundtracks, and guidebooks from the series. In the 20th manga volume, Arakawa announced that a second Fullmetal Alchemist anime television series is currently being produced. Bones produced the new series with Yasuhiro Irie as the series director. The title series premiered in April 2009 with the same name as the previous series which was given the title Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood in the international releases to distinguish it from the first series. This new series intended to follow the original manga storyline more closely, and ended in July 4, 2010 after 64 episodes and 5 seasons. A second movie Fullmetal Alchemist:The Sacred Star of Milos that is based around the second anime has been released in Japan in 2011.
A series of six Fullmetal Alchemist Japanese light novels, written by Makoto Inoue, have been published by Square Enix. The novels are licensed for an English-language release by Viz Media in North America, with translations by Alexander O. Smith. Although Arakawa did not write the novels, she did illustrations for them, including covers and frontispieces. The novels are spin-offs of the manga series and follow the Elric brothers on their continued quest for the Philosopher's Stone. The first novel, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand, were animated as the episodes eleven, twelve and the last part of episode 37 of the 2003 anime series. The fourth novel also contains an extra story about the military called "Roy's Holiday". Novelizations of three of the PlayStation 2 games, Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel, Curse of the Crimson Elixir, and The Girl Who Surpasses God—have also been written. The first was authored by Makoto Inoue and the rest by Jun Eishima. None of these have been translated for distribution outside Japan.
There have been two series of Fullmetal Alchemist audio dramas. The first volume of the first series, Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 1: The Land of Sand(砂礫の大地)Sareki no Daichi, was released before the anime and tells a story similar to the first novel. The Tringham brothers reprized their roles in the anime and are stories based on different manga chapters with the addition of other characters from the State Military from the series.
The second series of audio dramas, available only with purchases of Shōnen Gangan, consists of short stories. There are two stories in this series, each with two parts. The first, Fullmetal Alchemist: Ogutāre of the Fog|霧のオグターレ|Kiri no Ogutāre, was included in Shōnen Gangan's April and May 2004 issues, while the second story was found in the November and December issues.
The music for Fullmetal Alchemist was composed and arranged by Oshima Michiru Oshima, who won the 5th Tokyo Anime Award in the category "Best Music" for Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa.TV Animation Fullmetal Alchemist Original Soundtrack 1 was released on March 24, 2004 in Japan and contained thirty-three tracks, including several of the background sounds used during key points in the main series and the first opening and ending theme songs. An English version of the Russian track "Brothers" (Russian: Братья, Bratja; Japanese: Burācha) was also included, and was recorded in English by Vic Mignogna, the voice actor who played Edward Elric in the series. TV Animation Fullmetal Alchemist Original Soundtrack 2 was released on December 15, 2004 and contained thirty tracks. TV Animation Fullmetal Alchemist Original Soundtrack 3, released on May 18, 2005 contained twenty-seven tracks.
Fullmetal Alchemist - Complete Best and Fullmetal Alchemist Hagaren Song File -Best Compilation- are compilations of the soundtracks that were released in Japan on October 14, 2004 and December 21, 2005, respectively. A bonus DVD, exclusive to the U.S. release, contains a music video for Nana Kitade's "Indelible Sin". Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie Conqueror Of Shamballa OST, which contained forty-six tracks, was released on December 21, 2005. All are tracks used in the featured film Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa. During December 2004, a concert titled "Tales of Another Festival" was staged in Tokyo and Osaka. It featured performances by several of the musical artists from the television series as well as narrations by the voice actors and actresses. A DVD of the concert entitled Fullmetal Alchemist Festival - Tales of Another was released in Japan on April 27, 2005.
The music for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood's was composed by Akira Senju. The first CD Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Original Soundtrack 1 from the anime was published on October 14, 2009 in Japan and contained thirty-one tracks, including the series first & second opening and ending theme songs. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Original Soundtrack 2 from the anime was published on March 24, 2010, also contained thirty-one tracks. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Original Soundtrack 3 the third and final CD soundtrack became available on July 7, 2010, also contained thirty-one tracks. Finally, Fullmetal Alchemist Final Best, a compilation of openings and endings songs, was released on July 28, 2010.
Games based on Fullmetal Alchemist have also been released. The storylines of the games often diverge from those of the anime and manga and feature new characters. Square Enix has released three role-playing games (RPG)—Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel, Curse of the Crimson Elixir, and The Girl Who Surpasses God—and one fighting game, Dream Carnival, for the PlayStation 2. Bandai has released two RPG titles, Fullmetal Alchemist: Stray Rondo and Fullmetal Alchemist: Omoide no Sonata, for the Game Boy Advance and one, Dual Sympathy, for the Nintendo DS. Destineer released a game based on the trading card game in North America for the Nintendo DS. Of the seven games made in Japan, Broken Angel, Dream Carnival, Curse of the Crimson Elixir, and Dual Sympathy have seen international release; the others have not been released internationally.
Funimation licensed the franchise to create a new series of Fullmetal Alchemist related video games to be published by Destineer Publishing Corporation in the United States. Destineer released its first Fullmetal Alchemist game for the Nintendo DS, a translation of Bandai's Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy, on December 15, 2006, and has commented that this will be the first of many titles that they plan to release. On February 19, 2007, Destineer announced the second game in its Fullmetal Alchemist series, the Fullmetal Alchemist Trading Card Game. This title was released October 15, 2007.
For the RPG games, Arakawa oversaw the story and designed its characters, while Bones, the studio which would be responsible for the anime series, produced several animation sequences. The developers looked at other titles for inspiration, particularly Square's action role-playing game Kingdom Hearts, in addition to other games based on manga series, such as Dragon Ball, Naruto or One Piece games. The biggest challenge they had to overcome was to try to make the title a "full-fledged" game rather than a simple "character-based" game. Tomoya Asano, the assistant producer for the games, noted that development spanned more than a year, unlike most character-based games.
Art and guidebooks
The Fullmetal Alchemist franchise has several artbooks for the manga and the anime; three manga artbooks called The Art of Fullmetal Alchemist were released by Square Enix and the first two by Viz Media. The first contains illustrations made between May 2001 to April 2003, spanning the first six manga volumes. The second has illustrations from September 2003 to October 2005, spanning the next six. The third has illustrations from the remaining volumes. For the anime, three artbooks were released in Japan, while only the first was released by Viz Media.
The manga also has three guidebooks; each of them contain timelines, guides to the Elric brothers' journey, and gaiden chapters that were never released in a manga volume. Only the first guidebook has been released by Viz Media, under the name of Fullmetal Alchemist Profiles. An anime character guide book called was released Japan as well in the United States. A series of five fanbooks have also been released with the name of containing each one information of the anime as well as several interviews with the staff of the series.
Action figures, busts, and statues from the Fullmetal Alchemist anime and manga have been created by leading toy companies; primarily Medicom and Southern Island. Medicom has created high end deluxe vinyl figures of the characters from the anime. These figures are exclusively distributed in the United States and UK by Southern Island. Southern Island has also released their own action figures in 2007 of the main characters. These figures and a 12" statue were scheduled to release in 2007. Southern Island has since gone bankrupt, putting the figures on permanent hiatus. A trading card game was first published in 2005 in the United States by Joyride Entertainment. Since then, six expansions have been released. The physical game was retired on July 11, 2007. Destineer released a Nintendo DS adaptation of the game on October 15, 2007.
The series has been highly popular in both Japan and the United States. In March 2007, the manga has sold over 27 million volumes in Japan, while as of March 2008, the number increased to more than 30 million. Along with Yakitate!! Japan, the series won the 49th Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen in 2004. The series is also one of Viz Media's best sellers, appearing in "BookScan's Top 20 Graphic Novels" and the "USA Today Booklist". The English release of the manga's first volume was the top-selling graphic novel during the year 2005.
Fullmetal Alchemist has generally been well received by critics. Though the initial volumes were felt to be formulaic, critics noted that the series grows in complexity as it progresses. Arakawa was praised for being able to keep all of her character designs unique and distinguishable, despite many of them wearing the same basic uniforms. The characterization of the protagonist Edward balances between being a "typical clever kid" and "a stubborn kid", successfully allowing him to float between the series more comical moments and its underlying drama without seeming false. Reviewers celebrated the development of the characters in the manga, with their beliefs actively changing during the story forcing them to grow in maturity.
The anime premiered in Japan with a 6.8 percent television viewership rating. In 2005, Japanese television network TV Asahi conducted a "Top 100" online web poll and nation-wide survey; the Fullmetal Alchemist anime adaptation placed first in the online poll and twentieth in the survey. In 2006, TV Asahi conducted another online poll for the top one hundred anime, and Fullmetal Alchemist placed first again. Fullmetal Alchemist was also a winner in the American Anime Awards in several categories. These include "Long Series", "Best Cast", "Best DVD Package Design", "Best Anime Theme Song" ("Rewrite," by Asian Kung-Fu Generation), and "Best Actor" (Vic Mignogna, Edward Elric's English voice actor). It was also nominated in the category of "Best Anime Feature" for Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa. The series also won most of the Twenty-sixth Annual Animage Readers' Polls. The series was the winner in the "Favorite Anime Series", "Favorite Episode" (episode seven), "Favorite Male Character" (Edward Elric), "Favorite Female Character" (Riza Hawkeye), "Favorite Theme Song" ("Melissa", by Porno Graffitti), and "Favorite Seiyū" (Romi Paku, Edward's Japanese voice actor). In the "Tokyo Anime Fair", the series also won in the categories "Animation Of The Year" (Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shambala), "Best original story" (Hiromu Arakawa) and "Best music" (Michiru Oshima).
The series has become one of the top properties of Square Enix along with Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. The designs of the characters have been praised remarking they are almost unique. Flashbacks have been criticized to be annoying as they are repeated several times. Others reviewers compared the series with an Odyssey and part tragic coming of age story. The plot and the music have been celebrated to be almost rich. The anime has also been praised for having a good balance between action, comedy and deep moments and remarked the emotional core of the development of the two main characters. Criticism towards the anime focused on the large number of sentimental scenes in the series abuse to make the people who watch it cry. The ending also had a negative review noting that the beliefs of Edward did not change at all as he tried once again to bring somebody back to life. Soundtracks received praise due to the fact there are different styles of musics as well as a large number of artists that makes every song enjoyable. The music of the backgrounds has been noted to never distract to it from the story and to always be pleasant to hear. DVDvisionjapan.com considered the first opening theme and the first ending theme as the best tracks of the series remarking that they made a good combination of anime and song.
The first Fullmetal Alchemist novel, The Land of the Sand was well received by Jarred Pine of Mania.com as a self-contained novelization that remained true to the characterizations from the manga series. He notes that while the lack of backstory makes it geared more towards fans of the franchise than new readers, it was an impressive debut piece for the Viz Fiction line. Ain't it Cool News also found the novel to be true to its roots, and that while it brought nothing new to the series, it was compelling enough for followers of the series to enjoy a retelling. As a whole, the reviewer felt it was a "work for young-ish readers that's pretty clear about some darker sides of politics, economics and human nature." Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times noted that the novel has a different focus than anime series, with The Land of Sand "creating stronger, sympathetic bond" between the younger brothers than is seen in its two episode anime counterpart.