Equivalent Exchange

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a popular shounen anime adapted from the manga series Fullmetal Alchemist, created by Hiromu Arakawa. It follows Edward Elric and Alphonse Elric on their quest to find a Philosopher’s Stone to restore their bodies.

This show takes place in a fictional universe called Amestris, where alchemy is a basic science. Alchemists live and die by the principle of equivalent exchange – humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. This means that objects can be created only if something of equal value has been sacrificed.

But nothing in the world is an equivalent for a human soul, which the Elric brothers learn when they attempt to bring back their dead mother and are horrifically mutilated in the process. The only thing that can bypass equivalent exchange is the mythical Philosopher’s Stone and the brothers set out in search of it.

FMA:B is brilliantly created. The universe of Amestris and its neighboring countries, Ishval and Xing, are delightfully constructed. The worldbuilding is a work of art and the science of alchemy is vividly explained.

Perhaps my favorite part of this show are the characters. There’s the protagonist, Edward Elric, whose short [literally] temper gets him into all kinds of trouble. But there’s no doubting his devotion to his brother, Alphonse, as he scours every corner of the world looking for a way to save him. Then we have the Flame Alchemist, Roy Mustang, as he attempts to right the wrongs of his past and come to terms with the enormous destructive power of alchemy.

Even the villains are intriguing. Envy, whose shapeshifting form causes chaos whenever he joins the field, is deliciously flawed and lives up to his name. The other homunculi, who all disrupt and distract Edward’s quest to find a Philosopher’s Stone, are positively sinful. And even Truth, the malicious god of the universe, is a delight to watch.

But the real reason you should watch FMA:B is because of its story. The twists and turns and loops-de-loops keep viewers on tenterhooks. Once you start watching, you’re liable to not stop until you finish it – and when you do, you’ll start watching all over again. The story is carefully crafted from start to finish and every plot twist will leave you wanting more. The ending is the best part of the show and ties everything up with the main theme.

To create, something of equal value must be lost.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is extremely violent and has disturbing images, which start in the first episode with the twisted abomination the brothers bring back instead of their mother. It’s not for the squeamish.

This is also one of the few shows whose English dub does not sound like Americans butchering Japanese in a dimly lit torture chamber. The words follow the onscreen actions and the emotions have been translated near perfectly.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood should not be confused with Fullmetal Alchemist, the anime. FMA is the darker, edgier, earlier version which does not follow the manga storyline and ended up running its plot into alternate timelines.

All in all, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a must-see anime – especially if you’re ready to sacrifice your heart.

Rating: 4 Stars.


Neha Upadhya (Medical Electronics)

Illustration by Mridula M (Biotechnology)

This article was written by 19a

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