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The Ultimate ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ Watch Guide

Edward Elrich and Roy Mustang in a promotional image for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

There are few stories put to manga pages that I love more than the absolute eternal masterpiece Fullmetal Alchemist, written by mangaka Hiromu Arakawa and widely considered one of the best of its genre. A piece of art that truly has it all, from a cast of complex and interesting characters to a plot that delves into the depths of human nature through the metaphor of this world’s “magic system”: alchemy.

So of course it comes as no surprise that such a great critical and commercial success would be adapted and animated into an anime. Several anime series, actually—all of them named Fullmetal Alchemist, so confusion is right around the corner. And that is where this guide steps in.

Whether you’ve already read the manga or you’re diving into the world of the Elric brothers for the very first time, consider this your handy guide to all the Fullmetal Alchemist anime ever put to the screen.

Fullmetal Alchemist (2003-2004)

The very first anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist has the same title as the manga and started as the latter was still being written. And since the manga’s original run was from 2001 to 2010, I’m sure you can guess where the problem arose—the anime soon ran out of material.

Arakawa herself requested a different ending, so the anime veers away from the manga plotline more or less halfway through its 51-episode run. For this reason, when people suggest watching the Fullmetal Alchemist anime, they usually refer to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. The foundations of the plot—with brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric attempting alchemy’s one and only taboo—remains the same here as it is in the manga.

Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric as they appear in the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime
The anime also comes with a series of OVAs that are, however, not considered canon and so I’ve excluded them from this list (Studio Bones)

Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa (2005)

This movie is the conclusion of the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime, so its plot has nothing to do with what was happening in the manga around the same time. The plot revolves around Edward Elric trying to return to his homeworld—where his brother Alphonse is of course doing all that he can to reach him—after having spent two years in a parallel universe. A parallel universe that ends up being our very own Earth in the mid-1920s, and not too far away from World War II.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009-2010)

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood came a few years after 2003’s Fullmetal Alchemist, when the manga was heading toward its ending—so the animators pretty much had the complete story at their disposal. With 64 episodes, Brotherhood is the second anime adaptation of the Fullmetal Alchemist story. 

Acclaimed as one of the best anime series of all time, Brotherhood faithfully follows the manga’s plot, delivering its profound messages and lighthearted moments with killer animation created by the same studio as the first anime series. It also has incredibly iconic commercial break cards, which have become a meme in their own right.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Special – The Blind Alchemist (2009)

Like many other anime, especially the very popular ones, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was accompanied by an array of OVAs that expand on certain side plots or minor characters from the main series. Brotherhood in particular has five in total, the first being The Blind Alchemist, in which Edward and Alphonse visit an alchemist who supposedly performed a successful human transmutation—the same taboo process that altered the brothers’ lives forever.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Special – Simple People (2009)

The second of Brotherhood’s OVAs focuses on Winry Rockbell and Riza Hawkeye, who have each decided to try something different with their looks inspired by the other—Winry pierces her ears like Riza’s, while Riza lets her hair grow longer like Winry’s.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Special – The Tale of Teacher (2010)

The third OVA revolves around Izumi Harnet, the alchemist who taught Edward and Alphonse as children. It explains how she survived her own training in the north and also offers a brief glimpse of how she met her husband, Sig Curtis.

A chibi version of Izumi Harnet and Sig Curtis in the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood OVA The Tale of Teacher
I love them so much, look at them (Studio Bones)

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Special – Yet Another Man’s Battlefield (2010)

The final OVA from Brotherhood focuses on a young Roy Mustang, the Flame Alchemist, and an equally young Maes Hughes as they train at the military academy together, pushing each other to do their best through a friendly rivalry. The two meet and become close with an Ishvalan soldier, Heathcliff Erbe—until the Ishval Civil War comes between them.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos (2011)

The Sacred Star of Milos is the second movie based on Fullmetal Alchemist and was released once Brotherhood had finished its run, even though its plot is set sometime around Brotherhood’s episodes 15 and 25.

The story still has the Elric brothers as main characters, of course, and it follows them as they travel to the border between their home country, Amestris, and the nation of Creta to investigate the case of an alchemy-wielding fugitive—who seems to be connected to a mysterious but important young girl named Julia Crichton.

(featured image: Studio Bones)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.