When we think about Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist, a majority of fans only remember Brotherhood and forget that there was another anime adaptation in 2003. Both series focus on the Elrics’ search for the Philosopher’s Stone. They want to use the stone to restore their bodies to their original form after failing to perform a proper human transmutation.
Although the premise is the same, fans only acknowledge Brotherhood because that version stays true to the manga’s storyline. The Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) series diverted from the original manga because Arakawa was still writing the manga at the time, and she requested that the series have an alternate ending. Even though fans aren’t fond of the ending, Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) has its own merits. Here are some of its most memorable and iconic moments.
The Ill-Fortunate Story of Scar & the Ishval People
In Episode 40, “The Scar,” Edward “Ed” Elric and Scar fight in an alley. Scar tells Ed about his past and how he got the X-shaped scar on his face. Before the war, Scar’s brother performed alchemy to bring back his fiancée, who died of a fatal illness. Unfortunately, he also created Lust and made a Philosopher’s Stone. Scar reveals his plans of making another Philosopher’s Stone by sacrificing the souls of the military soldiers.
Scar presents himself as an anti-hero. In the eyes of the state alchemists, he is a criminal, but in the eyes of the Ishval people, he’s a hero. He holds the pain of the past dearly within himself. He lost his brother and his people, who were massacred by state alchemists. Hence, it’s understandable why he hates the military. The stories of Scar and the Ishval people show the dark side of militarism.
The Desire to Restore the Elric Family Tree
Episode 3, “Mother,” reveals why the Elric brothers are searching for the Philosopher’s Stone. The brothers grew up in a loving single-family household, their mother, Trisha, raised the boys after their father abandoned them. Yet even though their father left, Ed and Alphonse “Al” Elric followed their father’s footsteps by learning alchemy, and their mother strongly encouraged their endeavors. One day, Trisha dies suddenly, and the boys decide to perform a human transmutation to revive their mother. Unfortunately, the ritual goes wrong. Ed loses his left arm and right leg, while Al loses his entire body. Ed attaches Al’s soul to a suit of armor. After the incident, Ed decides to become a state alchemist to gain access to the state library so that he can find clues as to how to restore their bodies.
This episode emphasized the importance of family and is considered one of the most tragic and sad moments in the franchise. The boys have a strong attachment to their mother, and they didn’t understand how to cope and process this loss. Thus, from a child’s perspective, it makes sense why they were willing to perform a transmutation — they wanted their mother back. The brothers made a mistake and paid the price, and out of desperation, Ed was willing to do anything to get his brother back, he even sacrificed another body part. This moment showed the strength of Ed and Al’s bond.
The Unethical & Dark Side of Alchemy
Episode 7, entitled “Night of the Chimera’s Cry” shows the dark side of performing alchemy. Ed has officially become a state alchemist, and as his first order of business, he investigates the origin of Shou Tucker’s first talking chimera. Ed and Al enter Tucker’s basement and discover that he created another talking chimera using his daughter and his dog. Out of anger, Ed beats Tucker and frees the chimera. This episode illustrates the unethical side of alchemy. Shou became obsessed and desperate for state funding to continue his research, and he sacrificed his family members to be successful. Tucker argues that he and the Elric brothers are alike in their selfish desires. However, Ed and Al learned from their mistakes, unlike Tucker.
Al Questions His Existence
In Episode 20, “Soul of the Guardian,” the Elrics fought against guards whose souls were bound to suits of armor. Both these guards were active serial killers when they were in human form. Ed fights Number 48, Slicer, and Al battles against Number 66, Barry the Chopper. Ed defeats Slicer, but he does not destroy him because Slicer’s existence reminded Ed of Al, who is in a similar state. As for the fight against Barry the Chopper, Barry manipulates Al into thinking that he never actually existed and is just a pawn.
This episode gives insight into other individuals like Al whose souls are attached to bodies of armor. Yet, these particular souls lost their humanity when they decided to become serial killers, and so, it’s interesting that their souls continue to disvalue human life. Furthermore, audiences get to see Al develop as a character as he begins to question his existence and purpose in Ed’s life.
The last episode of Fullmetal Alchemist, Episode 51, “Laws and Promises (Munich 1921)” cements the bond between the Elric brothers. Al sacrificed himself and what’s left of the Philosopher’s Stone to revive Ed, who performed a ritual that successfully returns Al to his human body. They both get pulled into the Gate of Truth for their actions. Ed is transported to Munich, Germany, while Al goes back to their homeland, Amestris. In the end, the brothers vowed to be reunited again.
The conclusion of Fullmetal Alchemist is open-ended. Audiences witness another touching moment of brotherly sacrifice. In addition, viewers were surprised to discover that the Gate of Truth serves as a portal to another dimension — a modern-day world where science is the natural foundation of life. It was an unexpected twist to the story, which invited audiences to watch the movie, Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa to see the fate of the Elric brothers.
Even though the Fullmetal Alchemist anime series deviates from the original manga storyline, it’s still worth watching. Like Brotherhood, the original anime series showcases core thematic messages that define the entire franchise, such as the ethics of alchemy and the importance of family.