"There's no such thing as a painless lesson. They just don't exist. Sacrifices are necessary; you can't gain anything without losing something first. Although, if you can endure that pain, and walk away from it, you'll find that you now have a heart strong enough to overcome any obstacle. Yeah...a heart made Fullmetal."
This page deals with Hiromu Arakawa's original manga and its direct anime adaptation (entitled Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood). For the 2003 anime adaptation, please see Fullmetal Alchemist (anime).
Fullmetal Alchemist (Japanese title Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) follows the story of the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse. The brothers live in a world where those who know how to do so can practice the art of alchemy (transmuting one material into another). After a failed attempt to bring their mother back to life using human transmutation -- a forbidden, taboo practice of alchemy -- costs Ed his right arm and left leg (now replaced with artificial "automail" limbs) and leaves Al as a soul affixed to an empty suit of armor, the young brothers set out to find the legendary Philosopher's Stone, an artifact said to allow any form of transmutation without Equivalent Exchange.
Since the State tightly controls knowledge about the Philosopher's Stone, Edward takes -- and passes -- the State Alchemist Examination to become "a dog of the military" and gain access to the State's information. In addition to their own search, the brothers also do the government's work by solving problems no matter where they end up -- though, just as often, trouble finds them first. As the Elrics dig deeper into the mystery of the Philosopher's Stone and search for a way to create one, they stumble onto truths about their family and friends, the military, and even the very nature of alchemy itself -- and they also discover a vast conspiracy led by dark forces who wish to use their search for their own reasons.
The first anime adaptation of this work (which started in 2003) followed the story at first, it quickly spun off in another direction and ended up with an entirely different conclusion (since the manga's monthly release schedule made it impossible for the show to follow the manga without tons of Filler). For more information on this series, as well as the tropes and characters involved exclusively within its canon, check out its own page.
In 2009, as the manga neared its end, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood premiered. This series followed the manga's story much more faithfully; it quickly skimmed through material already covered in the 2003 series so it could get to the point where the 2003 series and the manga diverged. Almost every member of the oft-praised cast of the 2003 series' dub returned to reprise their parts. Needless to say, fans reacted extremely positively, especially fans of the manga who hated the 2003 series' changes and those who enjoyed the 2003 series but wanted more Fullmetal Alchemist. With amazing animation, a brisk pace, catchy opening and closing themes, and a plot far more faithful to the source material, Brotherhood earned its place as a must-watch series.
After the end of Brotherhood, a movie set within the series -- Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos -- began its Japanese theatrical run on July 2, 2011; it showed in select North American theaters in early 2012. Unlike The Conqueror of Shamballa (based on the first anime series), this film exists as a side-story to the manga/Brotherhood continuity.
In the US and Canada, Viz Media licenses and publishes the manga series, while FUNimation handles Brotherhood (which fans can watch, subbed or dubbed, on YouTube and Hulu). (Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, Brotherhood is licensed to Manga Entertainment in the UK and Ireland, while Madman Entertainment distributes both the show and the manga in Australia and New Zealand.) Brotherhood still airs on the re-booted Toonami in its new timeslot of Saturday nights at 1:30 AM (Eastern Time).