Fullmetal Alchemist (2003 version)
- What it’s about: The magic of alchemy makes many things possible, but there is one ironclad rule: for everything you gain, something of equal value must be sacrificed. Edward and Alphonse Elric made a mistake in their youth and paid a horrific cost. Now they seek to regain what they lost by searching for the mythical “Philosopher’s Stone”, an artifact that nullifies the rule of “equivalent exchange”.
- Why you should watch it: Generally, people will recommend Brotherhood over the original version. And it’s definitely better in some respects. Where the 2003 version shines, though, is in a much more solid first act and a second act that pays attention to developing even the secondary characters. It’s an expertly woven story of sacrifice, love and duty, populated by a wide cast of interesting and memorable characters, Fullmetal Alchemist blends action and humour with a deep plot in a fully-realised fictional world.
- Caveats: The show takes a few episodes to really hit its stride, but if you’re not a fan of it by the time the brothers leave Shou Tucker’s house, maybe give it a miss. The humour leans heavily towards slapstick, but is less and less of a factor as the story progresses. The ending is slightly controversial, though I personally think it ties in much better with the themes of the show than the original manga ending.
- Themes: Family. Guilt, hatred, and self-hatred.
- Similar works: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an obvious choice. While set in the same world and given the same start, the two stories deviate wildly after a certain point. It’s a more “shonen” take on the plot, has a much more modern feel to its animation, and has a more conclusive ending to it. Hunter x Hunter (2011) is another solid recommendation.