Fullmetal Alchemist has been adapted into two anime television series, two animated films—all animated by Bones studio—and light novels. Funimation dubbed the television series, films and video games. The series has generated original video animations, video games, supplementary books, a collectible card game, and a variety of action figures and other merchandise. A live action film based on the series was also released in 2017. 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, action scenes, symbolism and philosophical references.
The series explores social problems, including discrimination, scientific advancement, political greed, brotherhood, family, and war. Scar’s backstory and his hatred of the state military references the Ainu people, who had their land taken by other people. This includes the consequences of guerrilla warfare and the amount of violent soldiers a military can have. Some of the people who took the Ainus’ 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. 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. The series also explores the concept of equivalent exchange; to obtain something new, one must pay with something of equal value. This is applied by alchemists when creating new materials and is also a philosophical belief the Elric brothers follow.
Edward and Alphonse Elric live in the rural town of Resembool with their mother Trisha, their father Van Hohenheim having left without a reason. Edward since bore a grudge against their father as he and Alphonse showed a talent for alchemy before Trisha died of the plague. After finishing their alchemy training under Izumi Curtis, the brothers attempt to bring their mother back with alchemy. But the transmutation backfires and in law with equivalent exchange, Edward lost his left leg while Alphonse was dragged into the Gate of Truth. Edward sacrifices his right arm to retrieve Alphonse’s soul, binding it to a suit of armor with a blood seal. Edward is invited by Roy Mustang to become a State Alchemist to research a way to restore Alphonse’s body, passing his exams while given the title of Fullmetal Alchemist back on his prosthetic automail limbs and use of metal in his alchemy. The Elrics spent the next three years searching for the mythical Philosopher’s Stone to achieve their goals. One such lead resulted in them exposing a corrupt religious leader in the city of Liore while unaware of events occurring behind the scenes by the mysterious Homunculi.
Following their time with the State Alchemist Shou Tucker, which taught them a horrific lesson, the Elric brothers had a near-death experience from encountering an Ishbalan serial killer labeled as Scar who targets State Alchemists for his people’s genocide in the Ishbalan civil war. After returning to Resembool to have Edward’s limbs repaired by their childhood friend and mechanic, Winry Rockbell, the Elrics meet the guilt-ridden former State Alchemist Dr. Marcoh who provided them with clues to learn that a Philosopher’s Stone is created from human souls. After the Homunculi hindered them by destroying the hidden laboratory, the brothers are joined by Winry as they attempt to find an alternate means to restore themselves. At the same time, Mustang’s friend Maes Hughes continued the Elrics’ research and ends up murdered by a disguised Envy when he learned of the Homunculi’s plan.
After their defeat at the hands of Scar, the Elric Brothers decide to visit their teacher Izumi Curtis in the city of Dublith, hoping that she might be able to train them in higher forms of alchemy. which backfires when she discovers their failed attempt at Human Transmutation. Izumi tells the Elrics how she committed human transmutation on her stillborn child, following which she expels them as her apprentices, though following a determined argument, she allows them to stay with her for extra training. following which Alphonse is captured by the rogue homunculus Greed, who then ends up being captured by Amestris’ president King Bradley, who is revealed to be the homunculus Wrath. When Greed refuses to rejoin his fellow Homunculi, Greed is consequently melted down by and reabsorbed within the Homunculi’s creator, Father.
After running into the Xingese prince Lin Yao, who is also after a Philosopher’s Stone to cement his position as heir to his country’s throne, the Elrics and Winry return to Central City where they learn of Hughes’s death with Lieutenant Maria Ross framed for the murder. Mustang fakes Maria’s death and smuggles her out of the country with Lin’s help so he can focus on the Homunculi. The events that follow result in the death of Lust, revealing that a Philosopher’s Stone forms a Homunculus’s core along with an upcoming event the Homunculi are working towards. Meanwhile, Scar forms a small band with the Xingese princess May Chang, who also seeks the stone, and a former military officer named Yoki whom the Elrics exposed as a corrupt official.
Following an attempt to capture Gluttony using Lin’s sensory skills, the Homunculus end up accidentally swallowing Edward, Lin, and Envy into his void-like stomach, with the two humans learning the Homunculi orchestrated Ametris’s history over the centuries. Gluttony takes Alphonse to meet Father as the others manage to escape from Gluttony’s stomach, meeting Father who considered killing Lin for not being one of the human sacrifice like the Elrics. But Father instead makes Lin the vessel of a new incarnation of Greed with the Elrics attempting to escape upon seeing Scar. Edward has Envy admit to having caused the Ishbalan civil war. Soon after, with Winry used against them as a hostage, the Elrics are allowed to continue their quest as long as they no longer oppose Father. Mustang receives a similar threat with his subordinates scattered to the other military branches. At the same time, finding Dr. Marcoh held captive, Scar spirited him out of Central as Scar’s group head north.
The Elrics eventually reach Fort Briggs under the command of General Olivier Armstrong, revealing what they know following the discovery of an underground tunnel beneath Briggs made by the Homunculus Sloth. The brothers soon learn from Hughes’s research that Father created Amestris to amass a large enough population to create a massive Philosopher’s Stone. Forced to work with Solf J. Kimblee, a murderous former State Alchemist and willing ally of the Homunculi in tracking down Scar, the Elrics make their move to save Winry and split up with Kimblee’s chimera subordinates joining them. As Edward is joined by Lin and Greed, who regained his former self’s memories, Alphonse encounters Honenheim in Liore. Honenheim reveals he was made an immortal when Father, once simply known as Homunculus, arranged the fall of Xeres four centuries ago to create his body while giving half of the sacrificed souls to him. Honenheim also explains he left his family to stop Father from sacrificing the Amestrisan people to achieve godhood by absorbing the being beyond the Gate of Truth on the Promised Day.
The Promised Day arrives and Father prepares to initiate his plan using an eclipse and capture the human sacrifices to trigger the transmutation, the protagonists having assembled days prior and orchestrate an all-out attack on Central with Sloth, Envy, and Wrath killed in the process while Gluttony was devoured by Pride. But despite the opposition, Father manages to activate the nationwide transmutation once the Elrics, Izumi, Hohenheim are gathered along with Mustang after being forced by Pride to perform Human Transmutation. But Hohenheim and Scar activate countermeasures to save the Amestrians, causing Father to become unstable from housing the absorbed superior being within him without the souls needed to subdue it. Father is confronted above ground where the protagonists battle him to wear down his Philosopher’s Stone while he attempts to replenish himself, Edward managing to defeat the gravely weakened Pride before joining the fray.
Alphonse, whose armor is all but destroyed, sacrifices his soul to restore Edward’s right arm while Greed leaves Lin’s body and sacrifices himself to weaken Father’s body enough for Edward to destroy Father’s Philosopher’s Stone. This causes Father to implode out of reality while dragged into the Gate of Truth from which he was created. Edward sacrifices his ability to perform alchemy to retrieve a fully restored Alphonse, Lin receiving a Philosopher’s Stone while promising May to be a just ruler. Hohenheim takes his leave and visits Trisha’s grave where he dies with a smile on his face. The Elrics return home months later, still motivated by those they failed to save in learning new forms of alchemy to prevent repeated tragedies. This leads to the Elrics leaving Ametris two years later to learn about other cultures and their knowledge, with Alphonse leaving for Xing in the east while Edward heads westward. The epilogue finishes with a family photo of Alphonse, May, Edward, Winry, and Ed’s and Winry’s son and daughter.