Once upon a time, I was bound and determined to complete the first Fullmetal Alchemist Anime. But, after watching a majority of episodes, I just couldn’t do it.
The manga impressed me too much, I admit it. I loved it so much that I remember being said that I’d never been able to finish the anime due to DVD restrictions and a lack of availability on the internet. I dove in as soon as I got a Netflix subscription, and my puppy-love soon blossomed into a deep disappointment. 2/3rds of the way in lead to some independent research and a towel was thrown in soon after.
The feeling of time wasted is a terrible one indeed
These days I’m watching Brotherhood, and find it immensely compelling. I don’t understand the people who complain about Brotherhood, because the 2003 anime is a story only halfway told, lost in the void when it went past the comic strips Arakawa had out. Bypassing the manga is oft the death knell of many an anime, but Fullmetal Alchemist did not heed the warning. Instead of waiting, like Attack on Titan, they attempted to plug the holes with their own ideas, ideas that only hurt the overall story in the end.
Yes, what follows below is an opinion based on an unfinished product. I am open to being told why I should continue, so feel free to comment below.
SPOILER WARNING: Skip to the end if you’d rather not be spoiled on various bits of both anime.
Bad Idea One: Fixing What Wasn’t Broke, Mr. Homunculi
When looking for some nasty antagonists, it’s hard not to go straight to the Homunculi. You got one who mindlessly eats everything in sight, a woman who lives for the thrill of murder, a boy with a severe hate-on for humanity, and a few others. These Homunculi couldn’t be bigger monsters if they tried, something the 2003 anime occasionally forgot, though it also knew how to make them at least a little pitiable in their depth.
The Homunculi were created by a mysterious an enigmatic figure called Father as extensions of himself, and they carry out his orders without complaint or mercy. They still work for someone in the 2003 anime, but the origins were drastically changed. They were no longer Father’s long-reaching limbs that stretch across the country without fail; now they’re failed human transmutation experiments. This attached some baggage to each of them, baggage that completely changes them around for the worse.
Like turning this THING into a Woobie. Right…
Each and every one of them went from an interesting character to a tired cliche: Envy went from a monster envious of humanity to a spurned child with daddy issues; Wrath was no longer a cold, merciless killer who held down the military’s corruption, but another abandoned child who just stumbled into his powers, and so on and so forth. I understand this decision humanizes the Homunculi, thus making them more relatable, but the Homunculi were never meant to be human. You’re not supposed to relate to these creatures; you’re supposed to be afraid of them. This chance in backstory removes a crucial sinister element from them, reducing any threat they may have been.
Bad Idea Two: The Old Switcheroo Makes No Damn Sense
Speaking of changing characters, my biggest pet-peeve with this series has to be the role switching that occurred later in my viewing experience. Because they had to create their own plotline, they had to switch some character roles around, and it wrecked a bunch of connections between them.
Here’s your second warning: Spoilers ahead, ye be warned. Skip to the next section if you don’t want.
I will not be responsible for exploded brains or lack of surprise on your next watch
Scar, the Ishvalan refugee and a murderer of several state alchemists, is responsible for the death of the Rockbells in the original plotline. He killed them during the war out of a blind panic and carries the guilt with him even as he continues to kill Alchemists. This also provided a great character moment for Winry to confront him and be strong enough not to kill him in return, something her parents wouldn’t have wanted.
The 2003 anime, however, decided that it would be better to make Lt. Colonel Mustang the killer of the Rockbells, to make it clear that there was corruption higher up in the military. It not only robbed Winry of her big moment, especially since she can’t really confront Mustang, it also goes against Mustang’s character. To be blunt, if Kimblee finds the idea too “shady” (and he liked to make people explode in this series) then why would a bushy-eyed, goody-two-shoes Mustang even consider it?
This and a few other changes in series made me quit actually watching because I just couldn’t buy it. But this did lead me to research who our final threat was. The disappointment I felt was crushing.
Bad Idea Three: Dante.
Dante, Dante, Dante…what a disappointment.
Now, when the anime ran out of Manga material, Father didn’t exist yet. Lacking this intensely scary villain, the show had to come up with a new one who’d been pulling the strings this whole time. Thus they created Dante, an alchemist successful in creating Human Transmutation…and suffering from Alpha Bitch Syndrome.
She also dragged Rose into this nonsense. Because stupid, that’s why.
What’s the motivation of this formidable alchemist for orchestrating all this political intrigue? To live forever by making a Philosopher’s Stone and transferring bodies, sure. But why is she now specifically targeting the Elric brothers? Because their father was her lover. All this fuss for ends, and for ends that are sub-par at best, predictable at worst. It feels cobbled together when compared to the grand scale of Father’s plan in the original story. Dwarfed and rather pathetic, Dante feels like an afterthought, they tacked on at the end. She is, ultimately, what made me quit.
In the end, I feel like Dante represents what I didn’t like about the anime the more I saw. It’s a rushed, cobbled-together mess that had a lot of promise in the beginning. Much like I said in my anime starter-pack, you’re better off starting with Brotherhood than the first anime not because “the book is better” but because you’ll find a story much more artfully crafted. Besides, when the source material is better, it shows.
How did you feel about the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime? Was I right to quit or am I a failure who shouldn’t be talking about it? Feel free to comment below, and don’t forget to like and follow more content like this.