What is “Fullmetal Alchemist”
Fullmetal Alchemist (Japanese: 鋼の錬金術師 Hepburn: Hagane no Renkinjutsushi, lit. “Alchemist of Steel”) is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. It was serialized in Square Enix’s Monthly Shōnen Gangan magazine between August 2001 and June 2010; the publisher later collected the individual chapters into twenty-seven tankōbon volumes. The world of Fullmetal Alchemist is styled after the European Industrial Revolution. Set in a fictional universe in which alchemy is one of the most advanced scientific techniques, the story follows the Elric brothers Edward and Alphonse, who are searching for a philosopher’s stone to restore their bodies after a failed attempt to bring their mother back to life using alchemy.
The manga was published in English by Viz Media in North America, Madman Entertainment in Australasia, and Chuang Yi in Singapore. It has been adapted into two anime television series, two animated films—all animated by Bones studio—and light novels. Funimation dubbed both television series and films into English and released them for North America; these were distributed in other regions by several other companies. Viz Media localized the light novels, and Funimation and Destineer have localized the video games. Original video animations, video games, supplementary books, collectible card game and a variety of action figures and other merchandise have been based on the series’ characters. A live action film based on the series is also in the works.
The Fullmetal Alchemist manga has sold approximately 64 million volumes worldwide. The English release of the manga’s first volume was the top-selling graphic novel during 2005. In two TV Asahi web polls, the anime was voted the most popular anime of all time in Japan. At the American Anime Awards in February 2007, it was eligible for eight awards, nominated for six, and won five. Reviewers from several media conglomerations had positive comments on the series, particularly for its character development.
Fullmetal Alchemist takes place in an alternate Edwardian Era-themed history, in the fictional country of Amestris (アメストリス Amesutorisu). In the world, alchemy is one of the most-practiced sciences; Alchemists who work for the government are known as State Alchemist (国家錬金術師 Kokka Renkinjutsushi), and automatically are given the rank of Major in the military. Alchemists have the ability, with the help of a Transmutation Circle, to transmute almost anything they desire via their souls. However, when they do so, they must also give up something physically personal of theirs, as stated under the Law of Equivalent Exchange. The only thing Alchemists are forbidden from transmuting are humans. Doing so will not only cost a person a part of their body and create a black, inhuman mesh, but also be confronted by Truth, a God-like being who tauntingly regulates all alchemy use. They are also thrown into the Gate of Truth, where they receive an overwhelming dose of information, but also allowing them to transmute without a circle. It is possible to bypass the Law of Equivalent Exchange (to an extent) using a Philosopher’s Stone, a red, enigmatic crystal. However, Philosopher’s Stones can also be used to create Homunculi, artificial humans named after the seven deadly sins. Homunculi have numerous superhuman abilities unique amongst each other, and look down upon all humanity. With the exception of Wrath, they do not age and can only be killed via the destruction of their Philosopher’s Stones. There are also several cities throughout Amestris. The main setting is the capital of Central City, along with other military cities such as the Northern City of Briggs. Towns featured include Resembool, the rural hometown of the Elrics; Liore, a city tricked to follow the fictional religion of Letoism; Rush Valley, a town that specializes in automail manufacturing; and Ishbal, a conservative-religion city that rejects alchemy and was destroyed in the Ishbalan Civil War instigated after a soldier (actually the Homunculus Envy) shot an Ishbalan child. Outside of Amestris, there are few named countries, and none are seen in the main story. The main foreign country is Xing. Heavily influenced by China, Xing has a complex system of clans and emperors, as opposed to Amestris’s government-controlled election of a Fuhrer. It also has its own system of alchemy, called Alkahestry, which is more medical and can be bi-located using kunai; in turn, it is implied that all countries have different forms of alchemy.
Edward and Alphonse Elric live in the rural town of Resembool with their mother Trisha and their father Van Hohenheim, the latter having left home for an unknown reason. When Trisha dies of the plague, the brothers perform the forbidden alchemic technique of human transmutation in an attempt to resurrect her. Consequently, the transmutation backfires and in law with equivalent exchange, Edward’s left leg and Alphonse’s entire body are destroyed. Edward sacrifices his right arm to rescue Alphonse’s soul, binding it to a suit of armour with a blood seal. Edward is invited by Roy Mustang to become a State Alchemist to research a way to restore Alphonse’s body. Edward succeeds, becoming the Fullmetal Alchemist, the title based on his prosthetic automail limbs and use of alchemy involving metal materials.
Three years on, the Elrics search for the mythical Philosopher’s Stone to achieve their goals. They are targeted by Scar, an Ishbalan serial killer who murders State Alchemists, and their encounter with him forcing them to return to Resembool to have their bodies repaired by their childhood friend and mechanic, Winry Rockbell. The Elrics meet Dr. Marcoh, a reclusive former State Alchemist who created Stones during the Ishbalan civil war. Marcoh sends them to find his notes, but they learn the key ingredient to make the Stone is human sacrifices. Reaching a dead end thanks to the Homunculi, the Elrics go to meet their alchemy teacher Izumi Curtis. Maes Hughes, Mustang’s friend, carries on their research, but is shot dead by a disguised Envy for discovering the Homunculi’s plans.
Visiting Izumi, the Elrics learn she committed human transmutation on her stillborn child. Alphonse is captured by the rogue homunculus Greed, but is rescued by Amestris’ president King Bradley, revealed to be the Homunculus Wrath. Greed is consequently melted down by and reabsorbed within the Homunculi’s creator Father. The Elrics and Winry return to Central City to visit Hughes but learn of his death. Lieutenant Maria Ross is framed for Hughes’ murder, but is seemingly murdered by Mustang. However, Edward learns Ross’ death was staged so Mustang can smuggle her out of the country to Xing, assisted by Xingese prince Ling Yao. Meanwhile, Scar forms a small band with former soldier Yoki, Xingese princess May Chang, and later Dr. Marcoh. Edward reunites with Hohenheim but hates him for his lengthy absence from home.
As the story progresses, the protagonists encounter the Homunculi repeatedly. Lust is killed by Mustang; Gluttony is captured by Mustang and Ling, but he ends up swallowing Edward, Ling, and Envy into his void-like stomach. Gluttony takes Alphonse to meet Father, but when the others escape from Gluttony’s stomach, Father turns Ling into a Homunculus, namely the new incarnation of Greed. The Elrics are released to continue their quest as long as they don’t oppose Father.
The Elrics go to northern Amestris where they inform the soldiers of Fort Briggs of the conspiracies in Central. Finding an underground tunnel beneath Briggs, the Elrics and General Olivier Armb discover Father has been creating a nationwide transmutation circle and plans to sacrifice its citizens so he can ascend to godhood. The Elrics are forced to work with Solf J. Kimblee to track down Scar with Winry as a hostage. They learn Scar’s brother created a new type of alchemy to combat Father, leading them to team up and go on the run from the military, though Edward is left behind to divert Kimblee. Greed regains his past self’s memories and betrays Father, teaming up with Edward, Kimblee’s chimera minions, and later Hohenheim. Hohenheim reveals to his sons separately that he is immortal, turned into a living Philosopher’s Stone by Father four-hundred years ago.
The Promised Day arrives and Father prepares to initiate his plan using an eclipse and those who tried human transmutation as his key sacrifices. The numerous protagonists battle Father’s minions, with most of the Homunculi dying. Father activates the nationwide transmutation after the Elrics, Izumi, Hohenheim, and a forced Mustang are gathered as the triggers. However, Hohenheim and Scar activate countermeasures to save the Amestrians. Father is confronted above ground where the protagonists battle him to wear down his Philosopher’s Stone, but Greed is destroyed by Father.
Alphonse, whose armor is all but destroyed during the final battle against Father, sacrifices his soul to retrieve Edward’s right arm, who in turn destroys Father’s Stone, sending him back to the ethereal Gate of Truth. Edward sacrifices his ability to perform alchemy to retrieve Alphonse’s body and soul. Hohenheim visits Trisha’s grave where he dies with a smile. Several months later, Edward and Alphonse return home where they are reunited with Winry, though they both leave home two years later to explore the world.
Hagane no Renkinjutsushi won the 49th Shogakukan Manga Award for the shounen demographic in 2004. According to Nielsen Bookscan, the first volume was the top selling manga in the year of 2005, and the following issues of the manga usually appeared on the Bookscan’s weekly list. The series was published in English as Fullmetal Alchemist by VIZ Media from May 3, 2005 to December 20, 2011. A 3-in-1 omnibus edition was released from June 7, 2011 to November 11, 2014 as well as a complete box set in November 1, 2011 (which included the novel Fullmetal Alchemist: The Ties That Bind). The manga was also published in Italian by Panini Comics under the Planet Manga imprint from July 13, 2006 to September 3, 2011 and in Brazilian Portuguese by Jbc from February 2007 to April 2011.
Main article: List of Fullmetal Alchemist chapters
Written and drawn by Hiromu Arakawa, Fullmetal Alchemist was serialized in Square Enix’s monthly manga magazine Monthly Shōnen Gangan. Its first installment was published in the magazine’s August 2001 issue on July 12, 2001; publication continued until the series concluded in June 2010 with the 108th installment. A side-story to the series was published in the October 2010 issue of Monthly Shōnen Gangan on September 11, 2010. In the July 2011 issue of the same magazine, the prototype version of the manga was published. Square Enix compiled the chapters into twenty-seven tankōbon volumes. The first volume was released on January 22, 2002, and the last on November 22, 2010. A few chapters have been re-released in Japan in two “Extra number” magazines and Fullmetal Alchemist, The First Attack, which features the first nine chapters of the manga and other side stories. On July 22, 2011, Square Enix started republishing the series in kanzenban format.
Viz Media localized the tankōbon volumes in English in North America between May 3, 2005 and December 20, 2011. On June 7, 2011, Viz started publishing the series in omnibus format, featuring three volumes in one. Other English localizations were done by Madman Entertainment for Australasia and Chuang Yi in Singapore. The series has been also localized in Polish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Korean.
Main articles: Fullmetal Alchemist (anime) and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist was adapted into two anime series for television, titled Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Two full-length anime films, Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa and Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, were also produced.
Main article: List of Fullmetal Alchemist light novels
Square Enix has published a series of six Fullmetal Alchemist Japanese light novels, written by Makoto Inoue. The novels were licensed for an English-language release by Viz Media in North America, with translations by Alexander O. Smith and illustrations— including covers and frontispieces—by Arawaka. The novels are spin-offs of the manga series and follow the Elric brothers on their continued quest for the philosopher’s stone. The first novel, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand, was animated as the episodes eleven and twelve of the anime series. The fourth novel contains an extra story about the military called “Roy’s Holiday”. Novelizations of the PlayStation 2 games Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel, Curse of the Crimson Elixir, and The Girl Who Succeeds God have also been written, the first by Makoto Inoue and the rest by Jun Eishima.
There have been two series of Fullmetal Alchemist audio dramas. The first volume of the first series, Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 1: The Land of Sand (砂礫の大地 Sareki no Daichi), was released before the anime and tells a similar story to the first novel. The Tringham brothers reprised their anime roles. Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 2: False Light, Truth’s Shadow (偽りの光 真実の影 Itsuwari no Hikari, Shinjitsu no Kage) and Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 3: Criminals’ Scar (咎人たちの傷跡 Togabitotachi no Kizuato) are stories based on different manga chapters; their State Military characters are different from those in the anime. The second series of audio dramas, available only with purchases of Shōnen Gangan, consists two stories in this series, each with two parts. The first, Fullmetal Alchemist: Ogutāre of the Fog (霧のオグターレ Kiri no Ogutāre), was included in Shōnen Gangan’s April and May 2004 issues; the second story, Fullmetal Alchemist: Crown of Heaven (天上の宝冠 Tenjō no Hōkan), was found in the November and December 2004 issues.
Video games based on Fullmetal Alchemist have been released. The storylines of the games often diverge from those of the anime and manga, and feature original characters. Square Enix has released three role-playing games (RPG)—Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel, Curse of the Crimson Elixir, and Kami o Tsugu Shōjo. Bandai has released two RPG titles, Fullmetal Alchemist: Stray Rondo (鋼の錬金術師 迷走の輪舞曲 Hagane no Renkinjutsushi Meisō no Rondo) and Fullmetal Alchemist: Sonata of Memory (鋼の錬金術師 想い出の奏鳴曲 Hagane no Renkinjutsushi Omoide no Sonata), for the Game Boy Advance and one, Dual Sympathy, for the Nintendo DS. In Japan, Bandai released an RPG Fullmetal Alchemist: To the Promised Day (鋼の錬金術師 Fullmetal Alchemist 約束の日へ Hagane no Renkinjutsushi Fullmetal Alchemist Yakusoku no Hi e) for the PlayStation Portable on May 20, 2010. Bandai also released a fighting game, Dream Carnival, for the PlayStation 2. Destineer released a game based on the trading card game in North America for the Nintendo DS. Of the seven games made in Japan, Broken Angel, Curse of the Crimson Elixir, and Dual Sympathy have seen international releases. For the Wii, Akatsuki no Ōji (暁の王子, lit. Fullmetal Alchemist: Prince of the Dawn) was released in Japan on August 13, 2009. A direct sequel of the game, Tasogare no Shōjo (黄昏の少女, lit. Fullmetal Alchemist: Daughter of the Dusk), was released on December 10, 2009, for the same console.
Funimation licensed the franchise to create a new series of Fullmetal Alchemist related video games to be published by Destineer Publishing Corporation in the United States. Destineer released its first Fullmetal Alchemist game for the Nintendo DS, a translation of Bandai’s Dual Sympathy, on December 15, 2006, and said that they plan to release further titles. On February 19, 2007, Destineer announced the second game in its Fullmetal Alchemist series, the Fullmetal Alchemist Trading Card Game, which was released on October 15, 2007. A third game for the PlayStation Portable titled Fullmetal Alchemist: Senka wo Takuseshi Mono (背中を託せし者) was released in Japan on October 15, 2009. A European release of the game, published by with Namco Bandai, was announced on March 4, 2010. The massively multiplayer online role-playing game MapleStory also received special in-game items based on the anime series.
Arakawa oversaw the story and designed the characters for the RPG games, while Bones—the studio responsible for the anime series—produced several animation sequences. The developers looked at other titles—specifically Square Enix’s action role-playing game Kingdom Hearts and other games based on manga series, such as Dragon Ball, Naruto or One Piece games—for inspiration. The biggest challenge was to make a “full-fledged” game rather than a simple character-based one. Tomoya Asano, the assistant producer for the games, said that development took more than a year, unlike most character-based games.
A live action film based on the manga is in development with plans for a 2017 release. Fumihiko Sori will direct the film while Ryosuke Yamada will star as Edward Elric, and principal photography is scheduled to run from June to August 2016 in Italy.
The Fullmetal Alchemist has received several artbooks. Three artbooks called The Art of Fullmetal Alchemist (イラスト集 FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST Irasuto Shū Fullmetal Alchemist) were released by Square Enix; two of those were released in the U.S. by Viz Media. The first artbook contains illustrations made between May 2001 to April 2003, spanning the first six manga volumes, while the second has illustrations from September 2003 to October 2005, spanning the next six volumes. The last one includes illustrations from the remaining volumes.
The manga also has three guidebooks; each of them contains timelines, guides to the Elric brothers’ journey, and gaiden chapters that were never released in manga volumes. Only the first guidebook was released by Viz Media, titled Fullmetal Alchemist Profiles. A guidebook titled “Fullmetal Alchemist Chronicle” (鋼の錬金術師 CHRONICLE), which contains post-manga story information, was released in Japan on July 29, 2011.
Action figures, busts, and statues from the Fullmetal Alchemist anime and manga have been produced by toy companies, including Medicom and Southern Island. Medicom has created high end deluxe vinyl figures of the characters from the anime. These figures are exclusively distributed in the United States and U.K. by Southern Island. Southern Island released its own action figures of the main characters in 2007, and a 12″ statuette was scheduled for release the same year. Southern Island has since gone bankrupt, putting the statuette’s release in doubt. A trading card game was first published in 2005 in the United States by Joyride Entertainment. Since then, six expansions have been released. The card game was withdrawn on July 11, 2007. Destineer released a Nintendo DS adaptation of the game on October 15, 2007.