Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are the same show. While they were aired as separate anime, the story behind Fullmetal Alchemist is based on the manga, whereas, Brotherhood follows the Manga more strictly, and shows a better view of the authors original vision. Following these series, is a 1 hour, 44 minute movie, or OAV for Fullmetal Alchemist the original series, titled Conqueror of Shamballa.
The story follows the lives of two boys, named Edward and Alphonse Elric who are brothers, Edward being the elder by a year. At the beginning, they live with their mother in a rural town called Risembool, where they live in a home near a another home owned by a friend of the family, named Pinako Rockbell, who is literally a little old lady. In that home, Pinako lives with her granddaughter, Winry. Edward and Al’s father left the village to study alchemy when they were young, and so the two grew up with only their mother, and never really knew their father. Due to the lengthy time away, Edward grew to dislike their father, while Al simply wanted to know him. The two eventually begin to study the alchemy books housed in their fathers study, and understand it quite well. Despite implications, their mother loved that they could comprehend, and perform alchemy so well for their age, which prompted them to study it further. Their mother hid the fact that she was ill from a unnamed disease. One day, she collapsed at home, while Ed and Al were out. When they returned home, they discovered her unconscious on the floor. A doctor was called in, but he could do nothing for her. She died in bed, after requesting that Ed transmute some flowers for her. Grieved by her passing, Ed declared that they would bring her back. They studied alchemy more fervently, and even found a teacher to help them learn more, though they did not reveal the real reason behind their desire to learn more. Izumi Curtis, the teacher Ed and Al found, trained them for 6 months, before they returned to Risembool. They attempted Human Transmutation, gathering all the elements of the human body, and samples of their own blood, as the materials for the transmutation. It was not enough though, and as with many other attempted human transmutations the cost was painful. Alphonse lost his life, his body being taken away and Edward lost his left leg. Edward saw “The Gate” which he referred to as “The Truth” where pure alchemical knowledge was shoved into his mind. He felt he was close, that he had almost perfected Human Transmutation, and asked to see more, so he could figure out what it was he was missing. He was denied, saying that the toll he paid only allowed him that much. In despair, he used something he learned from the gate. Toppling over a suit of armor, he drew a seal with his own blood on the suit of armor, and bound his brother’s soul to the armor. In doing so, he gave up his right arm. Alphonse then carried Edward over to Pinako Rockbell, and pleaded for help. He was given immediate medical attention, and in time, prosthetic limbs called ‘automail’ were given to him, designed by Winry herself. Throughout the painful process of attaching the automail to his nerves, he never cried out in pain. Instead, he wept for his brother. Pinako commented “Even an adult would cry out in pain at this.” To which, Edward responded “This pain is nothing, compared to what he went through.”
The night of this event, Lieutenant Colonel Roy Mustang appeared at the doorstep. After their mother collapsed, Ed and Al sent letters to anyone associated with their father, seeking for his aide with their mother’s illness, even though Ed hated him, and didn’t want him there. Mustang was looking for information on their father, named Hoenheim of Light. However, they had no information on him. After discovering that Ed survived Human Transmutation, Mustang offered Ed the chance to take the entrance exam to be a State Certified Alchemist. Along the way, and after his certification, Roy Mustang seemed to know everything about the goings on in the country, and sent Edward on very specific missions to correct things that had been going wrong, involving a hijacked train to hold a General of the State hostage, a corrupt soldier of the military abusing his rights of supervision over a coal mine, and a false priest using alchemy to swindle the people into thinking he performed miracles by the will and power of God. Through his missions, he met some interesting beings known as Humunculus who were named after the seven deadly sins. Through his journies, he constantly searched for information on an item called The Philosopher’s Stone, an alchemical device capable of boosting an alchemists skill to the point of ignoring the principle rule of Equivalent Exchange. On the route, they found the Humunculus seemingly after the same thing. Lust claimed to want the Philosopher’s Stone so she could become human, while Greed wished for it, simply out of his desire to possess everything. The desire the others had for it, is uncertain.
It is later discovered, much to the dismay of Ed and Al, that the Philosopher’s Stone is created through the sacrifice of numerous human lives, and that the military used such a device during the Ishbalan War. Such stones were obtained by taking death row prisoners from jail, and using them to create the stone, while at the same time, some choice prisoners were brought back, and had their souls placed in suits of armor, just like Al. It is also discovered that Humunculus are created by the arrogance of humans who believe that human transmutation is possible. Failed Human Transmutations beget Humunculus, and due to such, Ed and Al soon find out that Wrath was the result of Izumi Curtis’ attempt at Human Transmutation. Fighting Greed, Ed finds out the weakness of a Humunculus is any remains of the original body that was to be ressurected in a Human Transmutation, prompting a visit back home to Risembool, where Ed dug up a portion of his mother’s remains to use in order to correct their mistake. Edward kills Greed, using alchemy to transmute the carbon hardening that forms Greed’s “Ultimate Shield”, and unknowingly having been in the presence of Greed’s former skeleton. Lust is killed by Wrath, when she tries to stop him from killing Edward, because he was still needed to create the Philosopher’s Stone. Wrath absorbs the remains that Ed obtained, to keep him from killing Sloth, but because he was a child in life, he recklessly combined himself with Sloth to protect her from Ed later on. With her own remains now within her body, Ed transmuted her water body into Ethenol. Sloth evaporated, and was no more. Wrath had become obsessed with Sloth, viewing her as his own mother, perhaps due to the fact that he had Ed’s arm and leg as his own. Due to this obsession, Envy was frustrated, and beat Wrath up, himself, and was only stopped when Edward arrived. Dante, the creator of Pride and Greed, and former lover of Hoenheim 400 years in the past, planned to make a new philosopher’s stone, and with it, transfer to a new and younger body, so that she could continue her life, however, Ed and Al wouldn’t allow it.
Scar, an Ishbalan who lost his brother during the war, but gained his arm through alchemy, went about killing State Alchemists. The tattoo on his brothers arm was that of a the transmutation circle for creating a philosopher’s stone. He became injured due to the humunculus, and the military’s attack on Lior. He created the circle throughout Lior, and evacuated the people, and used the lives of the attacking military to create the stone. However, he had to sacrifice his arms, and thus, the stone would be created within Al’s armor body, with whom he had bestowed the power in his arms.
The Humunculus eventually kidnapped Al, and brought him to a hidden structure in the ruins of an old city that had been sacrificed for the stone many years ago. Edward went to rescue him, and ended up fighting Envy. Despite Envy’s shapeshifting ability, Edward was not distracted by any of the appearances Envy used. That is, until he changed himself back to his original appearance. Envy was the son of Dante and Hoenheim, and for all intent and purpose, was Edward’s older, half-brother. The appearance shocked him, long enough for Envy to kill him. Al, distraught and in despair, used the philosopher’s stone within him to revive Edward. Edward would be brought back, with his original body, not automail, and Al would sacrifice the armor his soul was bound to, sending his soul back beyond the gate. Due to this, Wrath was left with only one arm and one leg, and Winry would give Wrath automail to compensate for it. Edward would also fall into despair, and would draw transmutation circles upon his arms and chest, and would sacrifice his own life, bringing Al back from beyond the gate, with his own body, sending himself back to the other side in turn. On the other side of the Gate was an odd world. It was in fact 1921 Europe, and on the other side, he would find Hoenheim, sent there by Dante herself when he opposed her in the end. In this other world, Edward would have wooden prosthetics, and alchemy was not possible. However, he passed the time learning about Rocketry, and eventually found that many people on that side of the gate resembled the people he knew from his old home. Al lost much of his memory involving Ed and Al’s exploits on their search for the stone, but began to dress like Edward, and studied Alchemy further to try and find a way to bring Ed back.
In Conqueror of Shambala, the story picks up two years later, with Edward and Hoenheim living in Munich, in 1923. The emergence of the Nazi party brought about trouble, as a small group within the party searched for “The Great Serpent.” The Great Serpent turns out to be Envy, who passed through the Gate because he was unsatisfied with Hoenheim simply being sent there, and wanted to kill him. Edward’s knowledge of Alchemy would be desired, so that this group could open up a portal to a world they called Shamballa, where alchemy was used, and where they could attain even greater power. Shamballa is in actuality, the world that Ed and Al came from. When Ed tries to stop them, he finds Envy in the form of a large green serpant, coiled in a circle near the roof, emulating the Ouroboros, with Hoenheim in his mouth. At the same time, in “Shamballa” Al uses a transmutation circle, sacrificing Gluttony and Wrath to open the Gate, which allows that group, along with Edward to pass through. Ed, Al, and Colonel Mustang work together to fight back the leader of the invading group, while Major Armstrong and the rest of the Military fight back the armored soldiers. In the end, Ed says he has to push them back through the Gate, and seal the Gate from that side, so that they can’t invade again. This of course would mean that Ed would be stuck there too. Al, not wanting to be parted from his brother, stows away in one of the armored suits, and would join Edward back in Munich in 1923.
In Brotherhood, the story is slightly different in some places, while in others, completely different and in my opinion, ten times better. The story focuses around a more central theme, leaving some of the minor missions that Ed and Al went on for Mustang merely mentioned in the fold, and referred to in reports and other aspects of the military organization.
The story starts with a renegade, former State Alchemist rebelling against the military, and attempting to turn Central into a transmutation circle, so that he could freeze the whole military headquarters. Edward, along with help from Major Armstrong and Colonel Mustang put a stop to his rebellion. However, later in the series, the words spoken would come back to haunt Edward. “If you only knew what the military was trying to do, you would understand why I do this.”
The major episodes of the original series all play out more or less as they had originally, however, there are a few differences. Scar kills Brigadier General Vas Grand right as he is introduced to the story, and is not toted as the one behind the goings on at Lab #5. Prisoner #66, or Barry the Chopper, escapes from Lab 5, and is actually held in protective custody by Colonel Mustang, feeding information about Lab #5 to him. He eventually runs off to Lab #3 with Ed and All, where Lust attacks them, and kills Barry. It is then Mustang who kills Lust, there in Lab #3, by repeatedly burning her so that her regeneration can’t keep up with the damage she takes. Gluttony goes crazy when this occurs, and wishes to kill Mustang himself because of that. Edward fights Greed, and quickly discovers the secret to his “Ultimate Shield” but is not the one to kill him. Wrath, who is Fuhrer King Bradley in this series, instead of Izumi’s son, “kills” Greed numerous times, and brings him back to the one the Humunculus call Father. Father looks exactly like Hoenheim, and has a deep history with him. Father kills Greed, and takes back the philosopher’s stone that created him. Gluttony “swallows” up Lin Yao, Ed, and Envy during his hunt for Mustang. Alphonse demands they be released, but Gluttony says he can’t, but that Father could. Al follows Gluttony to Father’s secret hideout. By this time, Ed has found a way out on his own, and in a feat that nearly kills Gluttony, Envy, Ed, and Lin emerge from the fake Gate that was within Gluttony. Greed is later reborn, when Father places Greed’s philosopher’s stone within Lin Yao, Prince of Xing, who came to Amestris in search of a means to immortality. Colonel Maes Hughes still discovers what’s truly going on within the military, and hints at the fact that it’s big. When he is killed, Mustang goes overboard in his hunt for who killed Hughes. The upper echelon of the military, who are under the control and beck and call of Father go so far as to frame 2nd Lieutenant Maria Ross. Mustang knows it’s a set up, however, and has her secreted out of jail, and to the east, while Mustang puts on a performance of toasting her to ash in the streets of Central.
Eventually Ed and Al find out what got Maes Hughes killed. While in Briggs in the north, with Major Armstrong’s older sister, Major General Olivia Armstrong, they reveal what that was. Every military uprising against “rioting” countries was under the influence of the humunculus, and when marked on the map, it created a huge transmutation circle used for creating the philosopher’s stone. It was to be used to give Father the power to attain God, and become an invincible power. Major General Armstrong and Colonel Mustang began orchestrating a plan to take down the upper echelon. Sloth was sent to build a tunnel under Briggs, to use Briggs as one of the final points in making the transmutation circle, the fight ended with Sloth going back into the tunnel after an attack on Briggs, and Armstrong’s killing of Lieutenant General Raven. Days rolled by till the Promised Day, which was the day of a Solar Eclipse. With that alignment, Father would set about his plans, to turn all of Amestris into a Philosopher’s Stone. A total of 50 million people. Hoenheim had been preparing for the day though, and managed to intercede on those plans, and restore the Amestrians that had died in the creation of the stone. In doing so, even after attaining Godhood, Father did not have enough power to keep it, and it eventually led to his death. Along the way, Envy was killed when he tore out his own philosopher’s stone. Gluttony was killed when Pride absorbed him into his own body. Sloth died in Central, when fighting against the combined forces of Major General Armstrong, Major Armstrong, and Izumi Curtis. Wrath was killed by Greed along with Captain Buccaneer from Briggs and Lin Yao’s body guards, Fu and Lan Fan. Greed was then taken back by Father, leaving Lin Yao without the power of a humunculus. And Pride, even with Gluttony within him, would meet his end at the hands of Edward. When Father had Edward in a bind, his automail arm destroyed, and pinned to a wall, Alphonse sacrificed his metal body to rejoin his body beyond the gate. This gave Edward his real arm back. He was angered about this sacrifice, not at Al, but angered, and in his fury killed Father till he didn’t have enough power from any philosopher’s stone to sustain his body, sending his original form back beyond the gate. As his last act, Ed would then summon up the gate, and go back to the other side. He would sacrifice his entrance to the world beyond the gate, in other words his capability of using Alchemy, to bring his brother back. Such was accepted, and he was sent back to Amestris, with his brother. Al would go to the hospital to recover, his body having become weak and thin as a bone from the lack of sleep and food. Once he was well enough to walk, albeit with a crutch, Ed and Al returned to Risembool, to live with Winry and Pinako. Hoenheim went to his wife’s grave, and there died after a long and tiring life.