Fullmetal Alchemist is widely considered to be one of, if not the, greatest anime of all time. Everything in this show is rock solid! The animation is spectacular! The story and characters are unique and memorable! The pacing is perfect! The action is creative and engaging! It has the single best soundtrack any anime has ever had! Every single piece of the series fits together to create perfection!
Or at least it does in Brotherhood. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about that today. I’m talking about the first attempt at a Fullmetal Alchemist anime. I’m talking about the original series!
The original series is one of the most bizarre anime I have ever seen. And this is coming from a Studio Trigger fan! The early episodes are absolutely incredible, faithfully adapting the manga into one of the strongest openings to any anime I’ve ever seen! But then, when the team ran out of manga to adapt and started making stuff up, the show flew off the rails so hard that it launched into the air and sailed into space!
A lot of people seem to forget that this show was a thing. When they mention Fullmetal Alchemist, they’re either talking about the manga (in rare cases) or Brotherhood (in most cases). It seems like this one was an odd fever dream that everyone tried and succeeded in forgetting about.
But not me! I never forget! And if I don’t get to forget, neither do any of you! Let’s talk about this shit!
Plot: A Slow Descent Into Madness
Anime is well known for gradually becoming crazier the longer a series goes on. For most shounen shows, the characters get more powerful and destroy more stuff. But in the case of Fullmetal Alchemist? The story just becomes dumber and dumber until it’s completely forgotten what it was in the first place!
We all know the premise. Edward and Alphonse Elric are both young alchemist prodigies. After their father left, they were raised alone by their loving mother, who would later pass away from a deadly illness. Heartbroken, the two Elrics went to improve their alchemy abilities in order to try bringing her back to life, thus breaking the oldest taboo of alchemy. But the ritual fails, costing Edward an arm and a leg and Alphonse his entire body, leaving his soul bonded to an empty suit of armor. Now, the two brothers must find the Philosophers Stone, a legendary item apparently capable of miracles, in the hopes of restoring their bodies. Along the way, they’ll come across dangerous conspiracies, maddened serial killers, and the monstrously powerful Homunculi. The quest of the Fullmetal alchemist and his armor-bound younger brother is set to be a wild and dangerous one!
Emphasis on wild, because my God does this show go fucking nuts!
As I mentioned earlier, the first few episodes of this show are fantastic! Unfortunately, the staff behind the show very quickly ran out of manga to adapt. From there, the writers had to get creative. Unfortunately, I think they got a bit too creative.
Let’s make a quick checklist of what they did wrong, shall we?
- Characters suddenly becoming stupid or doing things out of character? Check.
- Adding new, pointless characters that weren’t in the manga that do nothing to the plot except make it more confusing? Check.
- Bringing back characters from the manga who have no place in the story at a later point? Check.
- Magic powers that break the rules of the world without a proper explanation? Check.
- Transdimensional travel? Check.
- Nazis? Check.
- Hitler? Check.
- An unsatisfactory ending? Check.
For those who’ve only watched Brotherhood, let me assure you. I didn’t make the last four of those up. This show ends with Ed traveling to another fucking dimension in World War 2. They made a whole movie out of it!
A movie that I might just have to watch for a Movie Monday at some point…
This show is a fucking mess! The writers didn’t have even a slight idea of what to do with this property! It’s an infuriating mess that makes you go “Yo, hold up, what the fuck?!” every twenty seconds! Sure, it’s hysterical to watch! But we don’t enjoy Fullmetal Alchemist for its comedy, intentional or not!
Now, in all fairness. This show isn’t a complete dumpster fire. While the narrative does fall into complete madness in the final few episodes, descending into a disastrous plane crash, there is one aspect that is still really good. One that actually improved as the series went on!
Presentation: Like a Fine Wine
This show has that gorgeous classic anime aesthetic! The one that will never, no matter how many times I see it, get old! However, a good look does not make for good animation. Thankfully, this show spots some of the best animation I’ve ever seen! It’s a delight to look at!
While the action scenes are easily this shows lowest point in terms of narrative, they are the high point in terms of visuals! Each fight has a ton of smooth motion and creative choreography! Each blow has a ton of weight and impact, both of which are perfectly sold by the animation! They’re a real treat for the eyes!
The music is another highlight! Each track has this dramatic vibe with an operatic twinge that just makes them feel so dramatic and powerful! They’re all catchy as hell and a delight on the ears! Plus, the OPs and EDs are great!
I’d say that I wish these visuals were attached to a better story. That the insane talent put into the presentation was put to use in something more fun to watch. That the narrative was as strong as all the rest!
But I don’t need to. Because FMA: Brotherhood exists and I can just watch that. In fact, I think I might do just that!
I’ve seen a lot of anime in my time. Some of it was phenomenal! The rest of it was terrible. Some of it was just too fucking weird to put to words! But none of them, not a single one, is as weird as the original Fullmetal Alchemist! It’s a strange anomaly that, even after having seen it multiple times, I can’t help but feel didn’t happen!
If you haven’t seen the original Fullmetal Alchemist, then I can’t say you’re missing out on much. Nor can I recommend changing that. Just watch Brotherhood. If you haven’t done that already, fix it. If you have, watch it again. Do not watch the original FMA.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go watch that FMA movie I mentioned before so that you don’t have to. Don’t call me a hero.