“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” makes anime accessible and entertaining

Padraig Mumper, Staff writer

Poster of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
photo by IMDb

Given the current circumstances, most people will be stuck indoors for the foreseeable future. “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” might be just the thing you need to pass the time. 

The series is 64 episodes of a great, genre-blending adventure. The story follows Edward and Alphonse Elric, two alchemist’s in service of Amestris’ military on their quest to return their bodies to normal after an alchemy accident. 

For the purpose of this review, I will be referring to the English dub, as I think that the choice in voice actors is great and it makes it a bit more accessible to people who haven’t watched any anime before. Also, this shouldn’t be confused with “Fullmetal Alchemist”, a series released in 2003 that was produced based on the same manga but deviated from the original plot. 

The show is exceptional in a number of ways. The plot is full of twists and mysteries. The show manages to balance a variety of tones, shifting from humor to dark philosophical topics seamlessly. Characters struggle with concepts like the moral implications of revenge alongside fun bits like one of the characters constantly getting chewed out by his mechanic as a result of his prosthetic arm getting damaged.

The setting is a unique blend that doesn’t really fit into a genre. It has a setting similar to 1920s Europe, but adds alchemy, which while it functions similarly to magic, is in universe just a form of science. The characters are all well developed and interesting, with many having hidden secrets. For example, Edward Elric is a prodigy, but avoids being a Mary Sue, or perfect character,  through his sometimes questionable morals and his insecurity. Alphonse Elric balances his brother out well as a loveable sidekick who has strengths that make up for Edward’s weaknesses. 

I feel nearly anyone in the main cast could be a protagonist in their own series, but none of them overshadow the main duo in this show. Nearly every character undergoes development over the course of the story. 

The music is also a standout feature, with amazing opening and closing themes in each season. 

The greatest flaw in the show is the artwork, specifically the character artwork. The backgrounds are incredible and atmospheric, but the characters, despite inspired design, are prone to being simplistic and generic in style in comparison to other anime.  This does get better the later in the series. 

In addition, the story really only begins to pick up speed late into the first season, meaning that watchers have to make it through a few episodes of mostly worldbuilding and exposition. 

I’ve watched this show fully through once, and have been rewatching it recently. I recommend “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” full heartedly; it is one of my favorite shows I’ve watched and masters nearly every aspect of storytelling. So make an equivalent exchange yourself, trade your time for a story you won’t soon forget.