It might be playing with semantics by breaking animation into it’s own category, but with the wealth of quality stories the medium has provided over the years, I feel it deserves it’s own. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is by far my favorite story in animation, and even very close to the top overall. I’ve enjoyed Japanese entertainment since I first saw Dragonball Z in 1994. I was obsessed, and needed to tune in everyday to see the next chapter. I loved anime for one prevailing reason, serialization. Every episode mattered (mostly). You needed to tune in everyday or else you might miss something. I didn’t even know it was possible to tell a continuing story on television. Every show I had seen to that point (animation or otherwise) told their weekly story. Missed one? That’s fine, the status quo wasn’t interrupted, you didn’t miss anything. Or the other side, a show with an ongoing premise. Some mission or goal that could delayed infinitely to keep the show going as long as it was watched. Until it wasn’t, and canceled without any sort of resolution (Pirates of Dark Water comes to mind). Believe me, I can go on about the current state of anime (and believe me, I will), just at a later date.
Fullmetal Alchemist is the story of two brothers, Edward and Alfonse Elric. In there world, alchemy is the prevalent science, not physics. I want to stress that it is a science and not magic, something the show never forgets. Though young, both are very talented alchemists. The show starts with them in present day, with the older brother Ed as a state alchemist for the military, the youngest one ever. We learn in short order that Ed is missing his right arm and left leg, while his brother Al doesn’t even have a body, his soul is anchored to a suit of armor. Their condition is their own doing.
What seems to be a straight forward tale, the plight of these two to find the power needed to fix their bodies, quickly unfolds into something larger. Conspiracies spreading back hundreds of years, weaving a complicated web of lies and manipulations all for the sake of the protagonists thirst for power and knowledge. Not for a moment is the story confusing, overwrought, or dull. I could not imagine the meticulous work that went into plotting the outline. The attention to details and payouts are amazing.
Going back to my opening of DBZ, in hindsight, the plot was incredibly slow, turning a story that should have been 100 episodes, into 291. FMA does not waste a moment. Every episode counts. If you check this series out (and I implore you to do so), I dare you to not finish it in a week or two. The story of these two brothers, and the love they share for each other, is one that everybody should experience.
In case you missed it, seriously check out this opening sequence.