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Fullmetal Alchemist

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Fullmetal Alchemist
Cover of the first Japanese manga volume published by Square Enix, featuring Alphonse and Edward Elric.
(Hagane no Renkinjutsushi)
Genre Action, Adventure, Science fantasy
Written by Hiromu Arakawa
Published by Enix (2001-2003)
Square Enix (2003-2010)
English publisher
Demographic Shōnen
Magazine Monthly Shōnen Gangan
Original run July 12, 2001June 12, 2010
Volumes 27 (List of volumes)
Light novel
Written by Makoto Inoue
Illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa
Published by Square Enix
English publisher
Viz Media
Original run February 28, 2003April 22, 2010
Volumes 10 (List of volumes)
Anime and Manga portal

Fullmetal Alchemist (Japanese: 鋼の錬金術師 Hepburn: Hagane no Renkinjutsushi?, lit. "Alchemist of Steel") is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. It was serialized in Square Enix's Monthly Shōnen Gangan magazine between August 2001 and June 2010; the publisher later collected the individual chapters into twenty-seven tankōbon volumes. The world of Fullmetal Alchemist is styled after the European Industrial Revolution. Set in a fictional universe in which alchemy is one of the most advanced scientific techniques, the story follows the Elric brothers Edward and Alphonse, who are searching for a philosopher's stone to restore their bodies after a failed attempt to bring their mother back to life using alchemy.

The manga was published in English by Viz Media in North America, Madman Entertainment in Australasia, and Chuang Yi in Singapore. It has been adapted into two anime television series, two animated films—all animated by Bones studio—and light novels. Funimation dubbed both television series and films into English and released them for North America; these were distributed in other regions by several other companies. Viz Media localized the light novels, and Funimation and Destineer have localized the video games. Original video animations, video games, supplementary books, collectible card game and a variety of action figures and other merchandise have been based on the series' characters.

The Fullmetal Alchemist manga has sold approximately 64 million volumes as of 2014. The English release of the manga's first volume was the top-selling graphic novel during 2005. In two TV Asahi web polls, the anime was voted the most popular anime of all time in Japan. At the American Anime Awards in February 2007, it was eligible for eight awards, nominated for six, and won five. Reviewers from several media conglomerations had positive comments on the series, particularly for its character development.


Edward and Alphonse Elric are alchemist brothers searching for the legendary catalyst called the Philosopher's Stone, a powerful object which would allow them to recover their bodies. The brothers were born in a village called Resembool in the country of Amestris (アメストリス Amesutorisu?), where they lived with their mother Trisha. Their father, Van Hohenheim, left home for unknown reasons and a year later, Trisha died of a terminal illness. After their mother's death, the brothers ask a woman named Izumi Curtis to teach them more alchemy, an advanced science in which objects can be created from raw materials, as Edward was determined to bring her back to life using alchemy. Edward and Alphonse research human transmutation—a taboo in which one attempts to create or modify a human being. Their attempt to bring back their mother fails and results in the loss of Edward's left leg and Alphonse's entire body. However, Edward manages to save his brother's soul by sacrificing his right arm to affix Alphonse's soul to a suit of armor. A few days later, an alchemist named Roy Mustang visits the Elric brothers and proposes that Edward become a member of the State Military of Amestris in exchange for more research materials to find a way to recover their bodies. After that, Edward's left leg and right arm are replaced with automail, a type of advanced prosthetic limb, built for him by his friend Winry Rockbell and her grandmother Pinako.

Edward then becomes a State Alchemist (国家錬金術師 Kokka Renkinjutsushi?), an alchemist employed by the State Military of Amestris, which has annihilated most of the Ishbalan race in the past decade. Edward's role allows him to use the extensive resources available to other State Alchemists. The brothers set off in search of the philosopher's stone as a means to restore their bodies back to their original forms. Throughout their journey, they meet allies and enemies—including those who are desperate to obtain the philosopher's stone. The brothers meet Scar—one of the few surviving Ishbalans who seeks vengeance on the State Alchemists for the destruction of his race, and the homunculi—a group of human-like creatures whose core is a philosopher's stone and derive from it the ability to survive any harm until the stone runs out of souls.

As the story progresses, Edward and Alphonse discover that the vast expansion of Amestris was the result of the homunculi, who created and secretly control the State Military. The homunculi and many high-ranking military officers are commanded in secret by the creator of the homunculi, a man known as "Father." Father, who gained immortality through a philosopher's stone, plans to use Amestris as a gigantic transmutation circle to transmute the entire country. When Edward and Alphonse discover Father's plans, they and other members of the State Military set out to defeat him. The Northern "Briggs" Army invades Amestris's capital Central City, and comes into conflict with the Central forces.

As the forces collide, the remaining homunculi are defeated and Central City's troops learn the truth of the situation. Father tries to transmute Amestris to gain god-like powers but Hohenheim stops him. After Father is defeated by Edward with his original arm, which Alphonse has brought back by at the cost of his soul, Edward returns Alphonse to his original body, sacrificing his ability to use alchemy in the process. The Elrics return to Resembool, but two years later, they separate to repay the people who helped them during their journey.


After reading about the concept of the philosopher's stone, Arakawa became attracted to the idea of her characters using alchemy in the manga. She started reading books about alchemy, which she found complicated because some books contradict others. Arakawa was attracted more by the philosophical aspects than the practical ones.[1] For the Equivalent Exchange (等価交換 Tōka Kōkan?) concept, she was inspired by the work of her parents, who had a farm in Hokkaido and worked hard to earn the money to eat.[2]

Arakawa wanted to integrate social problems into the story. Her research involved watching television news programs and talking to refugees, war veterans and former yakuza. Several plot elements, such as Pinako Rockbell caring for the Elric brothers after their mother dies, and the brothers helping people to understand the meaning of family, expand on these themes. When creating the fictional world of Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa was inspired after reading about the Industrial Revolution in Europe; she was amazed by differences in the culture, architecture, and clothes of the era and those of her own culture. She was especially interested in England during this period and incorporated these ideas into the manga.[1]

When the manga began serialization, Arakawa was considering several major plot points, including the ending. She wanted the Elrics brothers to recover their bodies—at least partly.[3] As the plot continued, she thought that some characters were maturing and decided to change some scenes.[2] Arakawa said the manga authors Suihō Tagawa and Hiroyuki Eto are her main inspirations for her character designs; she describes her artwork as a mix of both of them. She found that the easiest of the series' characters to draw were Alex Louis Armstrong, and the little animals. Arakawa likes dogs so she included several of them in the story.[4] Arakawa made comedy central to the manga's story because she thinks it is intended for entertainment, and tried to minimize sad scenes.[2]

When around forty manga chapters had been published, Arakawa said that as the series was nearing its end and she would try to increase the pace of the narrative. To avoid making some chapters less entertaining than others, unnecessary details from each of them were removed and a climax was developed. The removal of minor details was also necessary because Arakawa had too few pages in Monthly Shōnen Gangan to include all the story content she wanted to add. Some characters' appearances were limited in some chapters.[5] At first, Arakawa thought the series would last twenty-one volumes but the length increased to twenty-seven. Serialization finished after nine years, and Arakawa was satisfied with her work because she had told everything she wanted with the manga.[3]

During the development of the first anime, Arakawa allowed the anime staff to work independently from her, and requested a different ending from that of the manga. She said that she would not like to repeat the same ending in both media, and wanted to make the manga longer so she could develop the characters. When watching the ending of the anime, she was amazed about how different the homunculi creatures were from the manga and enjoyed how the staff speculated about the origins of the villains.[1] Because Arakawa helped the Bones staff in the making of the series, she was kept from focusing on the manga's cover illustrations and had little time to make them.[5]


The series explores social problems, including discrimination, scientific advancement, political greed, brotherhood, family and war.[6] Scar's backstory and his hatred of the state military references the Ainu people, who had their land taken by other people.[1] This includes the consequences of guerrilla warfare and the amount of violent soldiers a military can have.[7] Some of the people who took the Ainu's land were originally Ainu; this irony is referenced in Scar's use of alchemy to kill alchemists even though it was forbidden in his own religion.[1] The Elrics being orphans and adopted by Pinako Rockbell reflects Arakawa's beliefs about the ways society should treat orphans. The characters' dedication to their occupations reference the need to work for food.[8] The series also explores the concept of equivalent exchange; to obtain something new, one must pay with something of the equal value. This is applied by alchemists when creating new materials and is also a belief the Elric brothers follow.[3][9]



Written and drawn by Hiromu Arakawa, Fullmetal Alchemist was serialized in Square Enix's monthly manga magazine Monthly Shōnen Gangan. Its first installment was published in the magazine's August 2001 issue on July 12, 2001; publication continued until the series concluded in June 2010 with the 108th installment.[10] A side-story to the series was published in the October 2010 issue of Monthly Shōnen Gangan on September 11, 2010.[11] In the July 2011 issue of the same magazine, the prototype version of the manga was published.[12] Square Enix compiled the chapters into twenty-seven tankōbon volumes. The first volume was released on January 22, 2002, and the last on November 22, 2010.[13][14] A few chapters have been re-released in Japan in two "Extra number" magazines and Fullmetal Alchemist, The First Attack, which features the first nine chapters of the manga and other side stories.[15] On July 22, 2011, Square Enix started republishing the series in kanzenban format.[16]

Viz Media localized the tankōbon volumes in English in North America between May 3, 2005 and December 20, 2011.[17][18] On June 7, 2011, Viz started publishing the series in omnibus format, featuring three volumes in one.[19] Other English localizations were done by Madman Entertainment for Australasia and Chuang Yi in Singapore.[20][21] The series has been also localized in Polish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Korean.[22][23][24][25][26]


Fullmetal Alchemist was adapted into two anime series for television, titled Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.[27][28] Two full-length anime films, Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa and Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos, were also produced.[29][30]

Light novels[edit]

Square Enix has published a series of six Fullmetal Alchemist Japanese light novels, written by Makoto Inoue.[31] The novels were licensed for an English-language release by Viz Media in North America, with translations by Alexander O. Smith and illustrations— including covers and frontispieces—by Arawaka.[32][33] The novels are spin-offs of the manga series and follow the Elric brothers on their continued quest for the philosopher's stone. The first novel, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Land of Sand, was animated as the episodes eleven and twelve of the anime series.[34] The fourth novel contains an extra story about the military called "Roy's Holiday".[35] Novelizations of the PlayStation 2 games Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel, Curse of the Crimson Elixir, and The Girl Who Succeeds God have also been written, the first by Makoto Inoue and the rest by Jun Eishima.[31]

Audio dramas[edit]

There have been two series of Fullmetal Alchemist audio dramas. The first volume of the first series, Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 1: The Land of Sand (砂礫の大地 Sareki no Daichi?), was released before the anime and tells a similar story to the first novel. The Tringham brothers reprised their anime roles.[36] Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 2: False Light, Truth's Shadow (偽りの光 真実の影 Itsuwari no Hikari, Shinjitsu no Kage?) and Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 3: Criminals' Scar (咎人たちの傷跡 Togabitotachi no Kizuato?) are stories based on different manga chapters; their State Military characters are different from those in the anime.[31] The second series of audio dramas, available only with purchases of Shōnen Gangan, consists two stories in this series, each with two parts. The first, Fullmetal Alchemist: Ogutāre of the Fog (霧のオグターレ Kiri no Ogutāre?), was included in Shōnen Gangan‍‍ '​‍s April and May 2004 issues; the second story, Fullmetal Alchemist: Crown of Heaven (天上の宝冠 Tenjō no Hōkan?), was found in the November and December 2004 issues.[31]

Video games[edit]

Video games based on Fullmetal Alchemist have been released. The storylines of the games often diverge from those of the anime and manga, and feature original characters. Square Enix has released three role-playing games (RPG)—Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel, Curse of the Crimson Elixir, and Kami o Tsugu Shōjo. Bandai has released two RPG titles, Fullmetal Alchemist: Stray Rondo (鋼の錬金術師 迷走の輪舞曲 Hagane no Renkinjutsushi Meisō no Rondo?) and Fullmetal Alchemist: Sonata of Memory (鋼の錬金術師 想い出の奏鳴曲 Hagane no Renkinjutsushi Omoide no Sonata?), for the Game Boy Advance and one, Dual Sympathy, for the Nintendo DS. In Japan, Bandai released an RPG Fullmetal Alchemist: To the Promised Day (鋼の錬金術師 Fullmetal Alchemist 約束の日へ Hagane no Renkinjutsushi Fullmetal Alchemist Yakusoku no Hi e?) for the PlayStation Portable on May 20, 2010.[37] Bandai also released a fighting game, Dream Carnival, for the PlayStation 2. Destineer released a game based on the trading card game in North America for the Nintendo DS.[38][39] Of the seven games made in Japan, Broken Angel, Curse of the Crimson Elixir, and Dual Sympathy have seen international releases. For the Wii, Akatsuki no Ōji (暁の王子?, lit. Fullmetal Alchemist: Prince of the Dawn) was released in Japan on August 13, 2009.[40] A direct sequel of the game, Tasogare no Shōjo (黄昏の少女?, lit. Fullmetal Alchemist: Daughter of the Dusk), was released on December 10, 2009, for the same console.[41]

Funimation licensed the franchise to create a new series of Fullmetal Alchemist related video games to be published by Destineer Publishing Corporation in the United States.[42] Destineer released its first Fullmetal Alchemist game for the Nintendo DS, a translation of Bandai's Dual Sympathy, on December 15, 2006, and said that they plan to release further titles.[43] On February 19, 2007, Destineer announced the second game in its Fullmetal Alchemist series, the Fullmetal Alchemist Trading Card Game, which was released on October 15, 2007.[44] A third game for the PlayStation Portable titled Fullmetal Alchemist: Senka wo Takuseshi Mono (背中を託せし者?) was released in Japan on October 15, 2009.[45] A European release of the game, published by with Namco Bandai, was announced on March 4, 2010.[46] The massively multiplayer online role-playing game MapleStory also received special in-game items based on the anime series.[47]

Arakawa oversaw the story and designed the characters for the RPG games, while Bones—the studio responsible for the anime series—produced several animation sequences. The developers looked at other titles—specifically Square Enix's action role-playing game Kingdom Hearts and other games based on manga series, such as Dragon Ball, Naruto or One Piece games—for inspiration. The biggest challenge was to make a "full-fledged" game rather than a simple character-based one.[48] Tomoya Asano, the assistant producer for the games, said that development took more than a year, unlike most character-based games.[49]

Other merchandise[edit]

The Fullmetal Alchemist has received several artbooks. Three artbooks called The Art of Fullmetal Alchemist (イラスト集 FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST Irasuto Shū Fullmetal Alchemist?) were released by Square Enix; two of those were released in the U.S. by Viz Media.[50][51] The first artbook contains illustrations made between May 2001 to April 2003, spanning the first six manga volumes, while the second has illustrations from September 2003 to October 2005, spanning the next six volumes.[15] The last one includes illustrations from the remaining volumes.[52]

The manga also has three guidebooks; each of them contains timelines, guides to the Elric brothers' journey, and gaiden chapters that were never released in manga volumes.[15] Only the first guidebook was released by Viz Media, titled Fullmetal Alchemist Profiles.[53] A guidebook titled "Fullmetal Alchemist Chronicle" (鋼の錬金術師 CHRONICLE?), which contains post-manga story information, was released in Japan on July 29, 2011.[54]

Action figures, busts, and statues from the Fullmetal Alchemist anime and manga have been produced by toy companies, including Medicom and Southern Island. Medicom has created high end deluxe vinyl figures of the characters from the anime. These figures are exclusively distributed in the United States and U.K. by Southern Island.[55] Southern Island released its own action figures of the main characters in 2007, and a 12" statuette was scheduled for release the same year. Southern Island has since gone bankrupt, putting the statuette's release in doubt.[56] A trading card game was first published in 2005 in the United States by Joyride Entertainment.[57] Since then, six expansions have been released. The card game was withdrawn on July 11, 2007.[58] Destineer released a Nintendo DS adaptation of the game on October 15, 2007.[44]


Manga reception[edit]

Along with Yakitate!! Japan, the series won the forty-ninth Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen in 2004.[59] It won the public voting for Eagle Award's "Favourite Manga" in 2010 and 2011.[60][61] The manga also received the Seiun Award for best science fiction comic in 2011.[62]

In a survey from Oricon in 2009, Fullmetal Alchemist ranked ninth as the manga that fans wanted to be turned into a live-action film.[63] The series is also popular within amateur writers who produce dōjinshi (fan fiction) that borrow characters from the series. In the Japanese market Super Comic City, there have been over 1,100 dōjinshi based on Fullmetal Alchemist, some of which focused on romantic interactions between Edward Elric and Roy Mustang.[64] Anime News Network said the series had the same impact in Comiket 2004 as several female fans were seen there writing dōjinshi.[65]


The series has become one of Square Enix's best-performing properties, along with Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.[66] With the release of volume 27, the manga sold over 50 million copies in Japan.[67] As of January 10, 2010, every volume of the manga has sold over a million copies each in Japan.[68] Square Enix reported that the series had sold sixty-four million copies worldwide as of June 25, 2014, fourteen million of those outside Japan.[69] The series is also one of Viz Media's best sellers, appearing in "BookScan's Top 20 Graphic Novels" and the "USA Today Booklist".[70][71][72] It was featured in the Diamond Comic Distributors' polls of graphic novels and The New York Times Best Seller Manga list.[73][74] The English release of the manga's first volume was the top-selling graphic novel during 2005.[75]

During 2008, volumes 19 and 20 sold over a million copies, ranking as the 10th and 11th best seller comics in Japan respectively.[76] In the first half of 2009, it ranked as the seventh best-seller in Japan, having sold over 3 million copies.[77] Volume 21 ranked fourth, with more than a million copies sold and volume 22 ranked sixth with a similar number of sold copies.[78] Producer Kouji Taguchi of Square Enix said that Volume 1's initial sales were 150,000 copies; this grew to 1.5 million copies after the first anime aired. Prior to the second anime's premiere, each volume sold about 1.9 million copies, and then it changed to 2.1 million copies.[79]

Critical reception[edit]

Fullmetal Alchemist has generally been well received by critics. Though the first volumes were thought to be formulaic, critics said that the series grows in complexity as it progresses. Jason Thompson called Arakawa one of the best at creating action scenes and praised the series for having great female characters despite being a boy's manga. He also noted how the story gets dark by including real-world issues such as government corruption, war and genocide. Thompson finished by stating that Fullmetal Alchemist "will be remembered as one of the classic shonen manga series of the 2000s."[80] Melissa Harper of Anime News Network praised Arakawa for keeping all of her character designs unique and distinguishable, despite many of them wearing the same basic uniforms.[81] IGN's Hilary Goldstein wrote that the characterization of the protagonist Edward balances between being a "typical clever kid" and a "stubborn kid", allowing him to float between the comical moments and the underlying drama without seeming false.[82] Holly Ellingwood for Active Anime praised the development of the characters in the manga; their beliefs changing during the story, forcing them to mature.[83] Mania Entertainment's Jarred Pine said that the manga can be enjoyed by anybody who has watched the first anime, despite the similarities in the first chapters. Like other reviewers, Pine praised the dark mood of the series and the way it balances the humor and action scenes.[84] Pine also praised the development of characters who have few appearances in the first anime.[85] In a review of volume 14, Sakura Eries—also of Mania Entertainment—liked the revelations, despite the need to resolve several story arcs. She also praised the development of the homunculi, such as the return of Greed, as well as their fights.[86]

Light novels reception[edit]

The first Fullmetal Alchemist novel, The Land of the Sand, was well received by Jarred Pine of Mania as a self-contained novelization that remained true to the characterizations of the manga series. He said that while the lack of backstory aims it more towards fans of the franchise than new readers, it was an impressive debut piece for the Viz Fiction line.[87] Ain't It Cool News also found the novel to be true to its roots, and said that while it added nothing new, it was compelling enough for followers of the series to enjoy a retelling. The reviewer said it was a "work for young-ish readers that's pretty clear about some darker sides of politics, economics and human nature".[88] Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times said that the novel has a different focus than the anime series; The Land of Sand "created a stronger, sympathetic bond" between the younger brothers than is seen in its two-episode anime counterpart.[89]


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