* This is guest post written by Klara Zalokar
Although placing an anime next to renowned TV series such as The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and The Wire may seem a little childish; this particular one shiningly stands out of the awesomeness that is the anime universe.
First of all let’s check some background information about Fullmetal Alchemist.
As it usually happens with great anime, this one originally appeared as a modest manga series. It was published between 2001 and 2010 in Monthly Shonen Gangan magazine (a magazine with more than 600 pages filled with serialised manga). The author Hiromu Arakawa later gathered all chapters and published them in 27 volumes.
The series was incredibly successful and was adapted twice into animated TV series and film, got transformed into games, novels, translated in numerous languages and gathered a huge fan base.
But let’s focus on the TV series. Actually there are two of them: the older one does not follow the manga entirely (it aired before the end of the original manga and so it has, inevitably, a different ending), but the newest one Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is mostly sticking to the original plot and is being praised in this article. However, regardless of the version, Fullmetal Alchemist is thought to be the one of the most if not THE most popular anime of all time in Japan.
Why do I love it?
There is this thing with great anime (or manga): the repetition of the basic plot type, rendered with minor deviations into millions of different but basically the same stories. You realize this when you start watching the series as everything is somehow familiar and kind of comforting in a silly-naive sort of way.
You are surely familiar with the outlook: the main character is a teenager, who always has some sort of deficiency, e.g. dead parents, a missing sibling, an urge to find the absent father figure, who always knows the reason why the main character is suffering and will bring closure and the end to the constant search that is adolescence. There are of course a couple of companions, preferably one big chested female, who are always sticking with the protagonist, no matter what – in the most literal sense of the words. The characters typically live under an oppressing system, which always keeps a big dark secret (usually about the meaning of life) from the rest of the world, but mostly from the main characters. There’s the constant fight and the existential self questioning. And finally we have the big revelation, which inevitably leads to the main character landing in the arms of the then-companion-now-lover. Yup, this anime does not leave you wanting, it has it all.
But don’t get me wrong, this anime takes all above mentioned cliché to the utmost heights. It is not just the story being gripping from the first to the very last episode, manoeuvring around your predictions and making you surprised and anxious time and time again, sweetly complex but not bafflingly so. There are also the insights and musings of characters, typically portrayed in an anime fashion (meaning very very exaggerated), which sometimes touch even the big WHY questions without being too philosophical about it. There’s the alchemy, alluring to the human kind since basically forever, being described at several points in a way you can almost imagine it to be real. And there are the villains, being awesome in the guise of seven sins. And the fighting. It’s always the fighting.
The story is set in an old-ish mid European-ish country, vaguely resembling England. Edward Elric and his brother Alphonse are the two youngest alchemists of the State Military. The mastery of alchemy lets one control the natural forces, such as fire, water, earth, etc. and therefore create objects from these primal materials. In the past brothers have, in their desperate moments, used forbidden alchemy and tried to revive their dead mother. The accident left Alphonse without a body, trapped in an ancient suit of armour and Edward missing two limbs.
Luckily the era is very technically forward in the field of finest metal prosthetic limbs – Automail, which can be wired onto ones nervous system (very similar to Luke’s prosthetic hand in Star Wars). And more luckily so, their childhood (female) friend Winry makes one hell of a good job at making it. The only thing that could ever restore their bodies to normality would be the legendary Philosophers Stone …
I encourage you to enter the wonderful world of anime if you haven’t already tasted it. But beware, this one is one of the best in its genre, and they may never be another anime that reaches up to this one. You have been warned.
When not found working behind the computer or workbench, Klara Zalokar likes to research various craft techniques and spend considerable time reading books and watching TV shows. Most of what she does can be found and read about on Handmade in Moste.