Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga by Hiromu Arakawa. It was published between 2001 and 2010 in Square Enix’s monthly magazine Shōnen Gangan and was compiled into 27 bound volumes. The manga was adapted into an anime series under the same title released in Japan between 2003 and 2004. A second anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, adapting the manga more faithfully, aired in Japan between 2009 and 2010. In this article, we are going to focus on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, as we are about to reveal whether the series is a sequel, reboot or a remake.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is neither a sequel, nor a reboot, nor a remake; Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is actually the proper adaptation of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, the only faithful adaptation of Arakawa’s original story. As far as Fullmetal Alchemist is conserned, it adapted only part of the original manga and then conitnued with an original story, as per the author’s agreement.
The rest of this article is going to focus on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as we are going to bring you all the production details which will, ultimately, explain why the series was made and how it functions within the larger context of the whole franchise. This article will tell you everything you need to know to properly place Brotherhood and define what it is.
What is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – a sequel, a reboot, or a remake?
In order to explains how Brotherhood fits into the whole series, we have to tell you how the whole series originally started and evolved. It all began when a young artist arrived in Tokyo from the island of Hokkaidō. Hiromu Arakawa began her career in the world of manga in 1999 as assistant to Hiroyuki Etō on Magical Circle Guru Guru, while making short self-contained manga, such as Stray Dog, Totsugeki tonari no enikkusu and Shanghai yōmakikai.
In 2001 she was commissioned a new one-shot manga and, seeing the good quality level of the work produced and the relative novelty of the subject matter, her editor decided to serialize the work, which would later become Fullmetal Alchemist. Arakawa spent two weeks reshaping the plot so that it was suitable for a prolonged serialization, first sketching the ending of the story, in order to have a general idea of where she wanted to go and then be able to structure the individual chapters accordingly.
On July 12, 2001, the first chapter of the work was finally published on the pages of the August issue of Monthly Shōnen Gangan magazine. Arakawa decided to focus the one-shot and later the manga on alchemy after reading about the philosopher’s stone. She liked the subject so much that she began to read books about it, although she found it quite complicated, as they often contradicted each other.
For the principle of equivalent exchange, based on the fact that without sacrifice, man cannot obtain anything, that to get something you have to give something else in return that has the same value, Arakawa was inspired by the work of her parents, who, owners of a farm in Hokkaidō, had to work hard to support their family.
Arakawa wanted to integrate some real-world social issues into the story, and she learned about it by watching current affairs programs and interviewing refugees, war veterans and former yakuza members. Numerous plot elements, such as Pinako Rockbell looking after the Elric brothers after their mother’s death or Edward and Alphonse helping people understand the meaning of family are based on these themes.
Finally, the story of Scar and his resentment against the military regime are a reference to the Ainu people, who saw their territory expropriated by other peoples. Some peoples who settled in the lands of the Ainu were originally Ainu; this irony is represented by Scar’s use of alchemy to kill other alchemists, although this was forbidden by his religion.
Despite the presence of several dramatic scenes, Arakawa always tried to leave a glimmer of hope and to keep the discussion as funny as possible, according to her idea of entertainment. The names of Edward and Alphonse were inspired respectively by the protagonist of the film Edward Scissorhands and by Count Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec, while the surname is a tribute to Elric’s Cycle.
In creating the world of Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa was inspired by a steampunk style, similar to the English one after the industrial revolution, because she was surprised to see the differences in the culture, architecture and clothing of the time compared to the modern era, adding her personal touch to convert it into a world of fantasy.
After the publication of the first forty chapters Arakawa announced that the manga was reaching its conclusion and that she would accelerate the pace of the narrative. To avoid making some chapters less fun than others she removed all minor details from them and built a climax. The removal of superfluous details was also necessary because the space the author had on Monthly Shōnen Gangan did not allow her to include everything she wanted.
Arakawa initially predicted that the series would run for 21 volumes, but the final number rose to 27, for a total of nine years of serialization. The author said she was satisfied with her work because she had managed to tell everything she had set out to do.
During the production of the first anime series Arakawa allowed the adaptation staff to work independently and requested a different ending to that of the manga, which had not yet been released.
In fact, the writer did not want to repeat the same conclusion in both media and she wanted to continue working on the manga to further develop her characters. Seeing the ending of the television series, she was surprised to see how the homunculus were very different from the paper version and what the developers had imagined for the origin of the villains.
So, this is the story of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and how it was created over the years. So, what about Brotherhood? Brotherhood appeared in 2009, as a completely new manga adaptation intended to be much closer to the manga than the first anime released in 2003. The announcement was made on the back cover of Japanese volume 20. The series first aired on April 5, 2009 in Japan.
Brotherhood is, thus, a completely new anime adaptation and the ony proper one, to be frank; it is the only fully faithul adaptation of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. So, Brotherhood is not a sequel, as it retells the original story and does not continue it; it is also not a reboot, because it did not restart a “dead”series; and finally, it is not a remake, because it did not rework the 2003 series, but rather adapted the original manga for the first time.
What is Fullmetal Alchemist?
Now that we have established everything you need to know about the 2009 series, let us just quickly tell you what you need to know about the 2003 series. Back in 2003, the manga was adapted into a 51-episode anime series called Fullmetal Alchemist. To conclude the series, a film, Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa, was released in 2005 in Japan
The scenarios of the manga and this version of the anime are not exactly the same from the start, but they start to really differ around volume 6, i.e., around episode 25. The real turning point comes with the volume 8 where new characters from the land of Xing appear and the difference between the manga and the first anime version is clear and clear.
The fundamental difference is at the level of the homunculi. Indeed, in the anime, each homunculus comes from a failed human transmutation and looks exactly like the missing person.
He can even share some memories with that person and is greatly weakened when near the remains of the dead person’s body. The homunculi are guided, for the most part, by the desire to become human: they are lost, imperfect beings and it is this weakness that Dante exploits to guide them in the search for the philosopher’s stone.
So, as for this series, it was a semi-original adaptation of the original manga. It followed the manga’s plot up to a point, until it completely went its own way, which was part of an agreement that Arakawa had with the writers of the show. This is why this series has a completely original ending.