Genre: Fantasy, Action
Creator: Hiromu Arakawa
Length: 64 episodes
Highlights: Intricate plot, loads of characters, awesome action, ample humor
Another problem is that, due to the nature of many anime series (as covered in our introduction), it is almost impossible to tell whether you will like a series based solely off its first episode. A general rule of thumb exists among the anime community that one needs to view between 3 and 5 episodes of any given series before deciding on whether to watch the rest of the series. This sounds intimidating, but it is mitigated by the fact that anime shows run on a half-hour schedule.
Fortunately, I soon remembered one series that grabbed me immediately and pulled me in so thoroughly that I could not stop watching until the very end. It made me laugh; it made me cry; it made me cringe with horror, often all within the same episode. Somewhere between the first and last episodes, it became a solid member of my top 5 favorite anime series. The name of this series is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
Based on the manga written by Hiromu Arakawa, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is set in a fictional country known as Amestris, which is modeled on World War I-era Imperial Germany. It is the story of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, and it follows them as they search for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, a mythical object said to be able to cheat the Law of Equivalent Exchange (detailed above). This stone would allow them to restore their bodies after a horrible accident, where Edward lost his arm and leg and Alphonse his entire body during a disastrous attempt to use forbidden human transmutation in order to resurrect their dead mother (Edward replaced his lost limbs with prosthetics, and Alphonse is now a soul bonded to a suit of armor). Their search leads them to a dark conspiracy involving the entire nation, and stunning revelations about their family as well as the true nature of alchemy itself.
What I love about this series is that it has a little bit of everything. For starters, it has a stunningly well-written plot that keeps you interested for all 64 episodes (and I very rarely find a series good enough to hold my attention for that long). It sucks you in from the very first episode and barrels along at breakneck speed, without any filler or indeed anything that doesn’t contribute to the greater plot. While the show can get quite dark at times, it never feels depressing and always manages to stay hopeful despite the conspiracies and horror sometimes on display. The ample amount of comic relief ensures that the show never loses track of its fun nature. The series also has quite a lot of awesome action, especially involving the magical nature of alchemy. One common attack involves transmuting the ground around you into weapons to hurl at an enemy. The action is fun and fast-paced, but doesn’t attempt to make up for a weak plot by any means.
As a side note, Brotherhood is the second anime series based on the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. The first one, simply titled Fullmetal Alchemist, was made several years earlier. While the first show is quite good on its own, Brotherhood is better for several reasons; the primary one being that it follows the plot of the manga much more closely. It also features better animation, superior voice acting, higher quality action sequences, and more comic relief. In short, Brotherhood is simply an all-around better show than its predecessor. Still, the first show is still to be recommended.
If you want to start getting into anime but don’t know where to begin, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a fantastic starting point. It has all of the elements that make a good anime in one neat package: a compelling story, interesting characters, cool action sequences, an interesting fictional world, and ample comic relief. In short, it’s the complete anime package. There is a reason why Japanese anime fans voted it the best anime series of all time. If you’re looking for a place to start, look no further; just don’t try any human transmutation while you’re here.