Fullmetal Alchemist: A Comparison (spoiler warning)

Plot

Oh the plot I and just don’t know where to begin. From my understanding, the original series was made with the intention of not having the same ending as the manga. The problem is for the first half of the anime it closely follows the manga with a few deviations and fillers. When I’m trying to explain Brotherhood to people who have seen the first anime, I say that it starts off pretty much the same, but will suddenly branch off on its own. At that point the story in Brotherhood picks up and only gets better and better. Unfortunately, because the first anime used plenty of material from the manga, it creates an assortment of plot holes and problems the more it deviated from the manga.

Some key problems:

An antagonist incapable of creating her own philosophers stone

Really? This prime mover of the events taking place can rally the homunculi, spread incomprehensible war, and secretly lead the actions of a nation, but she can’t find out how to create a philosophers stone. The plot falls apart for me here. It’s absolutely absurd that she is relying on others like Ed or Scar to create a philosophers stone when they have as about the same chance of discovering the method as she does. Deconstruct the plot further and more problems arise. Originally there seems to be a motive brewing among the Homunculi to become fully human, but that vein never goes anywhere except a few dialogues with Lust. At that point the method to create a philosophers stone is actually already understood when Ed is nearly tricked into transmuting prisoners into a stone. You would think that for someone who apparently saw the “Truth” twice would have the alchemical knowledge and ambition to have already created a philosophers stone by attempting to transmute a large number of lives. It’s hard to fathom why such a roundabout method was used. Sink people into despair in order to push someone into trying to create a philosophers stone. Yeah.

Failed Human Transmutation Remains

Anyone notice where the failed transmutation went? In Brotherhood, Ed, Al, and Pinako bury the remains, because they believe that it was their mother and that they had only failed in some way to successfully complete the transmutation. However, in the first series Dante conveniently discovers the “homunculus” (why and how did she know to be there?) and take it away from there without anyone knowing.

Naming convention for the homunculus

Well now there’s something to discuss. Why on earth are these homunculi named after the seven deadly sins in the first series? If any number of alchemists can attempt human transmutation, then there would certainly be more than seven homunculus at a time in the world. Of course there is actual meaning to be found in Brotherhood, where homunculus are not created the same way.

“Truth” = Our world

Perhaps the most bizarre happening is discovering that what lies beyond the gate is our world. How does looking beyond the gate to our world translate to alchemical knowledge, especially when alchemy doesn’t exist in our world? It’s utterly baffling. Once again, such things aren’t found in Brotherhood which takes a much more likely course in revealing the secrets behind the “Truth.

A randomly aging homunculus

Dante can create an aging homunculus somehow, but can’t create a philosophers stone. Enough said. And yes, the reason for an aging homunculus is actually given in Brotherhood.

The Branch

As mentioned before, the first half the original series closely follows the manga. I think that because of this, the production of the similar part in Brotherhood took some liberties. The pace of the beginning in Brotherhood is just too fast. I can’t see someone getting the same feeling of familiarity with characters as the first series. It’s all rushed with the expectation that the viewer has pretty much seen this part already. Even an entire episode was omitted (Youswell Mining Town), because I assume it would have been an exact replica from the first series. There were a few marked differences in some events, but there is a strong similarity. I disagree with the approach of assuming people have watched the first series though. Brotherhood is after all a completely different anime. It may share the characters a bit, but you really can’t say that Brotherhood is a sequel. So I think that the beginning portion is better handled in the first series and that when producing an anime one should leave assumptions behind.

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I’m sure there are other problems as well. With Brotherhood, the scale of what’s going on is so much larger and the plot remains consistent. With the first series it seems like the direction of where the plot was going couldn’t make up its mind. Brotherhood has an overall better story development and has an appropriate main antagonist who doesn’t arbitrarily appear towards the end of the story.

Action

For me there is no comparison between the two. Brotherhood far surpasses its predecessor on the action front. Many characters get to shine in the limelight whereas in the first series there is hardly any action scenes to speak of, at least memorable ones. Perhaps the greatest fight from the first series was when Ed fought against Greed. The problem is this fight is a carbon copy of a fight from the manga and new series. The only difference being the purpose, resolution, and location of the fight. In Brotherhood we get to see some really impressive alchemy fights as well as some more physically demanding brawls–a nice variety.

Let us analyze the difference between the original anime and the manga adaptation in terms of action. One of the key things to note is that is one exceptional fight from the original (Greed versus Edward) is in fact a carbon copy of a fight from the manga. The differences lie in the circumstances of the fight as well as the resolution afterward. As for how the fight plays out, it is exactly similar. What I appreciate in Fullmetal Alchemist is the lack of obstacles being overcome by Deux Ex Machina type power ups and bursts of training, things you would see in other action styled anime. In Fullmetal Alchemist, the majority of problems are solved on the mental front, using strategy rather than brute force.

In the original series there are a scarce number of occasions where we’ll see characters show their fighting abilities. Mustang makes a few turns in the spotlight, though not nearly as much as in Brotherhood. Throughout the manga and adaptation thorough attention is given to various characters each getting a decent amount of treatment. Some of the more impressive bouts come from the battles involving the homunculi. Both alchemic prowess and physical strength take their roles and one can’t be dissatisfied.

Characters

What was said above about characters receiving due attention applies again. In the original series there are characters who remain to the side, but in Brotherhood they actually find use in the story. I’m mostly talking about Mustang’s team here. There are also more characters then in the first anime. More characters and more character development equals better anime, at least in that regard.

Music

This is the one category where I will acknowledge the first series as triumphant hands down. The music was memorable and fit so well to the anime. If only Brotherhood had the music from the first series. The music in Brotherhood isn’t bad or anything. It’s just that the music from the first series was so good.

Overall Rating

Fullmetal Alchemist Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood
Plot: 3/10 10/10
Music: 10/10 7/10
Animation: 8/10 8/10
Characters: 7/10 9/10
Action: 5/10 10/10
Comedy: 7/10 4/10
Overall: 6.5/10  8/10
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