While I have been working a ton lately, I can’t work every second of the day. I have been watching the “Fullmetal Alchemist” anime series (there are two), mostly late at night, to unwind.
I watched the entirety of “Fullmetal Alchemist”—which is the first anime adaptation of the manga—first. Because it veers widely off of the plot of the manga (which, since I am not a manga reader, I don’t care about), it seems to be widely considered the lesser of the two adaptations. I think that sells it short. There are lots of sad, thought-provoking episodes, especially toward the beginning of the run, in which characters and the audience question what it means to be human, and what is the value of a human soul. These questions build up to big ideas and set pieces by the end, which is satisfying. There are some structural problems with how the story is told—mostly in the way the timeline, pacing, and character balance shift between the beginning, middle, and end of the series—but there is no problem that majorly detracts from the series as a whole. You could quibble that a lot of the theory behind how the magic system works doesn’t make any sense, which is vital to the overall theme of the series. Consider, however, that it is a magic system, you have to suspend disbelief quite a bit to begin with, and of course it doesn’t make perfect sense.
I am almost done watching the second adaptation, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, which stays true to the manga plot and is generally lauded as the better of the two anime series. At this point, I don’t think of it as “better” but it certainly is much different. The stakes in “Brotherhood” are much higher, the characters are more tightly integrated throughout the series, and the tone overall is funnier and less sad, despite the raised stakes and some (somewhat) more mature relationship elements between childhood friends/teenage-phenoms Edward and Winry. Despite these advantages, “Brotherhood” is far more cartoony in style, which I don’t prefer. It uses chibi (super deformed) style far more heavily than the first adaptation did, which I find distracting—the characters are often blowing their stacks in anger or are extremely embarrassed or go into some of other extreme, but emotionally and visually, that takes me out of the story a bit. That is a relatively small demerit, however, and it is offset by the increased complexity of the story.
I am eager to see how “Brotherhood” ends, and would recommend that everyone try watching both series, especially the first one, because it is very good despite being the less-loved one.