Fullmetal Alchemist is a Japanese shōnen 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 two alchemist brothers named Edward and Alphonse Elric, who are searching for the philosopher’s stoneto restore their bodies after a failed attempt to bring their mother back to life using alchemy.
The manga was published and localized in English by Viz Media in North America, Madman Entertainment in Australasia, and Chuang Yi in Singapore. Yen Press also has the rights for the digital release of the volumes in North America due to the series being a Square Enix title. The manga has sold over 70 million volumes worldwide, making it one of the best-selling manga series. The English release of the manga’s first volume was the top-selling graphic novel during 2005.
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. A side-story to the series was published in the October 2010 issue of Monthly Shōnen Gangan on September 11, 2010. In the July 2011 issue of the same magazine, the prototype version of the manga was published. 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. 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. On July 22, 2011, Square Enix started republishing the series in kanzenban format.
Viz Media localized the tankōbon volumes in English in North America between May 3, 2005, and December 20, 2011. On June 7, 2011, Viz started publishing the series in omnibus format, featuring three volumes in one. Yen Press has the rights for the digital release of the volumes in North America since 2014 and on December 12, 2016 has released the series on the ComiXology website. Other English localizations were done by Madman Entertainment for Australasia and Chuang Yi in Singapore. The series has been also localized in Polish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and Korean.
Square Enix has published a series of six Fullmetal Alchemist Japanese light novels, written by Makoto Inoue. 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 Arakawa. 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 first anime series. The fourth novel contains an extra story about the military called “Roy’s Holiday”. 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.
Along with Yakitate!! Japan, the series won the forty-ninth Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen in 2004. It won the public voting for Eagle Award’s “Favourite Manga” in 2010 and 2011. The manga also received the Seiun Award for best science fiction comic in 2011.
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. The series is also popular with amateur writers who produce dōjinshi (fan fiction) that borrows 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. Anime News Network said the series had the same impact in Comiket 2004 as several female fans were seen there writing dōjinshi.
Fullmetal Alchemist takes place in an alternate history, in the fictional country of Amestris. In this world, alchemy is one of the most-practiced sciences; Alchemists who work for the government are known as State Alchemists and are automatically given the rank of Major in the military. Alchemists have the ability, with the help of patterns called Transmutation Circles, to create almost anything they desire. However, when they do so, they must provide something of equal value in accordance with the Law of Equivalent Exchange. The only things Alchemists are forbidden from transmuting are humans and gold. There has never been a successful human transmutation; those who attempt it lose a part of their body and the result is a horrific inhuman mass. Attemptees are confronted by Truth, a pantheistic and semi-cerebral God-like being who tauntingly regulates all alchemy use and whose nigh-featureless appearance is relative to the person to whom Truth is conversing with; the series’ antagonist, Father, and some other characters, claim and believe that Truth is a personal God who punishes the arrogant, a belief that Edward denies, citing a flaw in Father’s interpretation of Truth’s works.
Attemptees of Human Transmutation are also thrown into the Gate of Truth, where they receive an overwhelming dose of information, but also allowing them to transmute without a circle. All living things possess their own Gate of Truth, and per the Gaea hypothesis heavenly bodies like planets also have their own Gates of Truth. It is possible to bypass the Law of Equivalent Exchange (to an extent) using a Philosopher’s Stone, a red, enigmatic substance. Philosopher’s Stones can be used to create Homunculi, artificial humans of proud nature. Homunculi have numerous superhuman abilities unique among each other and look down upon all humanity. With the exception of one, they do not age and can only be killed via the destruction of their Philosopher’s Stones.
There are several cities throughout Amestris. The main setting is the capital of Central City, along with other military cities such as the northern city of Briggs. Towns featured include Resembool, the rural hometown of the Elrics; Liore, a city tricked into following a cult; Rush Valley, a town that specializes in automail manufacturing; and Ishbal, a conservative-religion region that rejects alchemy and was destroyed in the Ishbalan Civil War instigated after a soldier shot an Ishbalan child. Outside of Amestris, there are few named countries, and none are seen in the main story. The main foreign country is Xing. Heavily reminiscent of China, Xing has a complex system of clans and emperors, as opposed to Amestris’s government-controlled election of a Führer. It also has its own system of alchemy, called Alkahestry, which is more medical and can be bi-located using kunai; in turn, it is implied that all countries have different forms of alchemy.