Edward and Alphonse Elric may be prodigies at alchemy, but both long for their recently dead mother. Choosing to break one of the basic laws of transmutation, the boys attempt to bring their mother back from the dead. The result is inhuman and costs the boys dearly. Edward loses his arm and leg, while his brother loses his entire body. Desperate to get their original bodies back, Ed and Al head out to join the military in hopes of finding the legendary Philosopher’s stone and the ultimate transmuting power it contains. Unfortunately for them, they aren’t the only ones after such a powerful tool.
Arguably the worst aspect of this show is its high level of violence. Thankfully all of the worst is pulled right to the front. In the first five minutes of episode one we see Ed bleeding badly from his leg being “taken” and the horrific skeleton/rotten corpse of a transmutation that was supposed to be their mother. It’s very graphic and really pushes the usual TV14 limits. Shot wounds, stab wounds and even illnesses (their teacher often coughs up blood), all don’t shy away from showing some blood. While the fight scenes and such are all necessary to the show and aren’t just for violence’s sake, they are disturbing and younger children will likely be unable to sleep for weeks, if not scarred for life, if they are exposed to it.
While there are no f-bombs in this show, the famous “illegitimate-son-word” shows up a few times, usually from Ed’s mouth. Other than that, the words sh—and da-n are also used.
A wonderful factor for this show is its lack of fanservice. While some female characters are a tad heavy on top, this is never really exploited. In fact, the only time a chest joke is made is when Ed takes down a female thief and accidentally touches her chest. There are some artistic scenes where a boy is walking “back in time” and slowly reverts back to an infant. He isn’t clothed during this process, but nothing is really shown. Also, Ed does end up on screen pretty commonly in just his boxers, although this is often only to showcase his automail (metal limbs) and really has no other purpose.
For those sensitive to it: there is a case of a girl who is heavily implied to have been raped by soldiers. We never see anything and it isn’t really discussed, but she does end up with a child and it is explained that she was “taken away by soldiers.”
Like the violence, this series hits up its theology early on. Ed is clearly scientifically minded and he reacts to mentions of God with bitterness, anger and doubt. Right from the start he suggests that science, and thus alchemists, are like gods. Interestingly enough, this attitude of his wears down over the course of the series and at the very end he admits that he needs “something to believe in.” Also the “alchemic gate” is referred to as “the truth” and it seems almost like a version of hell at first. However, that is not what it actually is and by the end of the show it’s largely explained. Overall, however, this series leaves off with a bunch of questions about existence and human souls and no clear answers, leaving the audience to come to their own conclusions about such things.
If you can stomach the violence, this show is quite wonderful. It did not become an international hit without reason. The most amazing part of this show is definitely the relationships between the characters, specifically the brothers. Most people can understand the love of a family or the desire for one and thus the overall message of this show runs deep and can easily connect to many viewers. That being said, this series was created before the original manga version finished and thus the story had an odd feeling to it about halfway in and onward. This leaves a few loose ends too. Even so, the surprises at the very end and the journey there are amazing. While the newer series reboot, Brotherhood, wraps up better, this series still has some tense, hilarious, and heart wrenching moments.
Oh and don’t panic about the last episode. There’s a movie (Conqueror of Shamballa) that continues that thread for a bit.
(I do realize the fail in how long it took me to post a review on FMA, but let’s face it. I can’t be awesome all the time.)
Personal Rating: Young Adult
Languages: Dub and Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Action, adventure, fantasy
Legal streaming: YouTube or FUNimation’s website