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Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood - A Lesson in Adaptations

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Review - Animated Apparel Company

(Image credit: Bones animation studio)

If you have followed my blog posts for a while, you would know that I’m a very passionate (and often times stubborn) guy when it comes to adaptations of books, comics, and whatnot. My reasoning is very simple: these properties built an audience for a specific set of reasons and I think that you must respect said elements in order to have a more faithful and successful adaptation as a result.

Anime in Japan has often been a lot more intelligent in that regard than here in the West, striving to adapt their mangas in the best possible manner and often doing a lot of justice to the source material, but I think Fullmetal Alchemist, one of the biggest properties to ever come out of Japan, was one of the most fascinating cases as far as adaptations go.

For those that are not familiar with the franchise, Fullmetal Alchemist tells the story of brothers Alphonse and Edwards Elric, who are searching for an object called the Philosopher’s Stone to recover their bodies (Alphonse lost his whole body and Ed an arm) after a failed ritual attempt to resurrect their mother. The manga started in 2001 and finished in 2010, but an anime adaptation was scheduled and released in 2004, lasting 51 episodes and having a sequel film, Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa, in 2005.


Image of three characters from Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

(Image credit: Bones animation studio)

All pretty straightforward so far, but this is where things get interesting: while the anime adaptation wasn’t a failure by any means, it certainly didn’t even live up to the name of what was one of the hottest mangas in the mid-2000s and there was criticism about how far the anime strayed away from the source material. There was also the fact that the anime quickly caught up with the manga and there was no longer much source material to draw from, so they started developing their own plots and subplots, further drifting away from the original story (although this wasn’t really the anime’s fault, but the nature of the beast as far as anime and manga goes in Japan).

I watched this version of Fullmetal Alchemist back when I started college in 2012 through a friend’s recommendation and I was honestly underwhelmed by the series and I thought that the plot wasn’t moving forward fast enough and the storylines weren’t really so compelling. Ed and Alphonse were and are great characters, but it was the rest of the adaptation that didn’t really hit home with me.

And in 2009 things got interesting: another anime adaptation of the manga would be coming out and this time it would be a much more faithful representation of the source material, called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

 Image of Man sitting in chair from the anime Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood.

(Image credit: Bones animation studio)

Brotherhood flows in a much more natural manner compared to its predecessor, the animation is much stronger and the characterization is a lot more insightful and compelling. By the end of the story, you feel connected to every character, with Ed and Alphonse being the heart of the anime and what makes everything tick so well. The elements of dark fantasy are played a lot better and you can tell the storytelling is vastly superior because now they have a lot more material to work with.

But the most important thing is that they took what they had and focused on making it work as an anime, instead of trying to make radical changes or coming up with their own stories and concepts, drifting away from the original idea. And perhaps some fans like that, but the reality is that the original anime didn’t fully resonate with the fandom and there was a considerable degree of dissatisfaction with the adaption, which gave leeway to Brotherhood.

It’s that simple and it’s a lesson that here in the West we tend to struggle with a lot. Most people in charge always want to give their own spin on things and they usually end up with versions or interpretations that never fully connect with the fans of the original product. And those are the fans that you can usually count on when the popularity of the product goes up and down as time progresses.


Image of the two main characters in Fullmetal Alchemist sitting

(Image credit: Bones animation studio)

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a phenomenal anime that you should take into consideration if you want to watch something new and be amazed. It’s a very solid and respectful representation of the source material and a great example of what you can achieve when you decide to make the best possible adaption with the material that you have at your disposal.

We'd like to know your thoughts. Have you seen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and what are your thoughts on this adaptation? Let us know in the comments section below. Sign up to receive our latest blog updates directly to your inbox. 

Kevin Tanza

Kevin Tanza is a Venezuelan writer who fell in love with stories, music and soccer/football when he was a child and since then, he hasn’t stopped writing about them. He has been published in multiple websites in both Spanish and English. You'll find his work at MusikHolics, Good Comis to Read, Gemr, The Busby Babe, Chiesa di Totti, La Soledad del Nueve, Sail Away, Colgados por el Fútbol, Genre, United’s Red Rain, Mariskal Rock, Sugati Fashion, Indie Artists Go and Music Existence. He has also published a series of short stories. Feel free to use the links provided below to follow Kevin on social media. For business inquiries, please contact him via email.

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