This 2003 anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist can be described as something quite a bit different from its manga adaptation and the more faithful 2009 Brotherhood anime remake that later came out. At the time this aired, Hiromu Arakawa's hit shounen manga series was still ongoing thus she gave consent to series animator Bones to go in their own direction with the story and character elements to her work. While retaining the title's plot of alchemist brothers Ed and Al Elric seeking the whereabouts of the Philosopher's Stone to restore their bodies and coming across a major conspiracy connected to it, the anime goes in a different direction with exploring its story and themes that have varying results of quality when comparing it to how later events in the manga pan out.
Before I dig into how well this anime adaptation creates its own spin on the manga, I guess I should elaborate on what it gets into for those who experienced the series through the manga or the later Brotherhood anime. To make a long explanation short, Fullmetal Alchemist mostly adapts the major events that take place from the first eight volumes of the manga while adding in some anime-only developments, an original storyline that explores the reasons surrounding the conspiracy uncovered for later episodes, anime-exclusive original characters and incorporates some characters and story elements that would not be introduced in the series proper until later chapters within the manga. Essentially, the series is a mish-mash of content coming from the manga series and Bones adding a number of unique elements to it.
In regards to how well Bones adapts this 2003 take of FMA, the results of it are mostly solid yet have some issues. But before addressing the issues, I'll elaborate on what this adaptation does right. While the manga adaptation of FMA breezes through many of its events at a breakneck pace, this anime slows things down a notch to allow more time for the audience to take them in. This is done by adding in some anime-only scenes to fill in gaps not covered in the manga to help enhance the mood and impact of a number of the title's major story points. This allows viewers to better immerse themselves into the drama and suspense that occurs through famous scenes of the series that FMA fans know very well of from earlier volumes of the manga enhanced from Bones' additions to the anime.
And this brings me to the second major element that the 2003 FMA adaptation improves with the series in that it offers a more mature bent on the events faced by its characters. While the manga opts for a more traditional idealist and “good vs evil” type of storytelling, the 2003 anime is focused on many of its relevant characters finding themselves having to make morally questionable actions in order to fulfill their goals or for the sake of self-preservation against an enemy threat. Characters like Ed and Roy find themselves faced with having to cross said moral lines to fulfill their goals either coming from their tragic pasts or confronting the enemy threat connected to the conspiracy they come across. The decisions are not easy ones to be made and would be frowned upon by others, but the series offers enough depth to the motivations of said characters to make their actions seem justified in spite of the lines they cross.
The mature storytelling also leads the series to explore a ongoing theme throughout the series in what it means to be human. Outside of the moral decisions made to define how someone could be considered human in spite of committing morally questionable acts, the series also challenges the specific definition of humanity as racism and characters like the Homunculus and chimera are considered less than human among others due either to their actions or different physical appearances. These lead many of the major characters to have their views of what it means to be human get challenged, what value the lives of human have and have their limits on tolerance and forgiveness be tested. The questions in of themselves are not easy ones to answer, but a number of the character in the series come to their own conclusions over what the value and definition of a human being means to them throughout the series.
Praises aside, the anime still runs into its fair share of bumps from adapting its own spin on FMA. These issues start to rear their head in the anime's second half as the revelations over the conspiracy and origin of the Homunculus lead to some rather glaring plot holes with its story elements and what is revealed about elements to its world within the final few episodes of the series stretching things quite a bit with the world that FMA established throughout the majority of its run. In addition, the anime ends inconclusively as its actual resolution comes from the Conqueror of Shambala movie that later came out.
The handling of characters in the series is also a bit of a double-edged sword. While the anime's mature storytelling leads to characters like the Homunculus and Ed to have more complex depth and development compared to their manga counterparts, it does come at the expense of other characters like Roy's Squadron members, Hohenheim and Winry who get more development and presence in the manga.
Visually, the FMA anime is on par with the quality you would expect out of a mid-2000s anime. The lining on scenery and character designs are thicker than the later Brotherhood adaptation with more brighter color, while showing off more detailed scenery in scenic shots. The animation is nothing groundbreaking to a good extent as the animators made use of tricks and shortcuts to simulate fluid movement. But other than the occasional still shots, the show implements its tricks well enough to create solid choreography in its fight scenes and has its moments of fluid movement such as a later fight between Ed and Greed or Scar attacking a group of would-be attackers on motorcycles.
In terms of music, FMA's insert music sticks out strongly for the series. Offering a variety of tense and light musical pieces, the insert tracks fit very strongly into the varying serious and comical moments witnessed throughout the show's run. The opening and ending pieces, on the other hand, offer a mix of J-pop and J-rock vocal themes that are hit-and-miss with how well they fit the given mood of particular points in the series.
Overall, the 2003 animated adaptation to Fullmetal Alchemist is a great quality show in its own right thanks to Bones' unique spin on the story and themes of the series. While having some hiccups in quality that rear their head in the show's second half, it is still one of the decade's remembered and more popular shows that establishes its own identity and is easily among the more better titles put together for the shounen demographic.
Rating: 8.5 of 10
Someday I’ll be gone To somewhere that we belong And God has never played his role 'Cause I’m the one who saves my soul It’s a perfect world we’re longing for
Personally, I prefer the 2003 FMA over Brotherhood because it has better story and characters, even though I think that both versions of the series are for people with different interests, Brotherhood -> For those who look for action, FMA -> For those who look for story.
The music was very memorable for both series. The 2003 FMA along with Inuyasha and FLCL made Adult Swim memorable to me back then. It was far different from the Saturday cartoons on Kids WB and Fox Kids. Same level as Tech TV's Anime Unleashed which was more sci-fi and mech than Adult Swim's shows. I wished I had cable for longer.
EVA01: Personally, I prefer the 2003 FMA over Brotherhood because it has better story and characters, even though I think that both versions of the series are for people with different interests, Brotherhood -> For those who look for action, FMA -> For those who look for story.
That's probably the best comparison without going into the whole manga faithfulness. Really, anime adaptations' success shouldn't be tied to being faithful to the source material. A lot of folks are very passionate about that. I know where they are coming from. It's rare to see a show being successful without following the manga. FMA is one of those exceptions.
There were some things made me cringe in the 2003 since I was younger and immature. The Rose's rape thing was a bit uncomfortable; albeit never shown on screen. The description of it was a bit dark.
Some characters were more fleshed than out than the Brotherhood notably Lust and Edward's mother (as Sloth). I found out cool.
I felt both series can kind of stretch things out. I would love the 2003 version if it didn't involved another world. The Brotherhood involves alchemy of the whole world or so.
Old Man Dream: ...later titles in the Macross franchise can finally come stateside with all involved parties finally coming to a truce over how to handle things with the Macross trademark and all later anime in the franchise associated with it.
Apr 9, 2021 10:26:05 GMT
Taka: I see. A global release will benefit it. Gundam did pretty good. The only few franchises that are only popular in Japan but not popular in the west - Yokai Watch comes to mind.
Apr 10, 2021 1:55:16 GMT
Master Menos: F for Respects. DMX did all his work while suffering from a drug addiction, and I almost never knew until a point. I hope his next life treats him far better.
Apr 10, 2021 15:30:45 GMT
HungryWorld: Sorry for taking so long for the things i have to do, have been suffering from some health issues (including mental health deterioration). Anyways hope i can be a bit more active here soon enough once i am properly patched up again.
Apr 27, 2021 17:45:38 GMT
Taka: No worries, health, family, school, and work take priorities first.
Apr 28, 2021 7:41:52 GMT