What Should You Watch: Fullmetal Alchemist vs. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

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Whenever there are two or more different versions of one same TV show there is always debate of which version is the best one. In the world of anime, we have many examples of this. The Fullmetal Alchemist vs. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood debate is one of the finest examples. We are not going to be arguing which version is the best because that is often a matter of taste. Instead of that, we are going to focus on the debate of which one you should watch first (or which one you should watch, period) according to your preferences when it comes to anime.


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First of all, let’s explain why there are two different versions. Fullmetal Alchemist is a Japanese manga by Hiromu Arakawa that came out in 2001. An anime with the same name produced by studio Bones started airing in 2003. However, Hiromu demanded that the anime didn’t follow the story from the manga and instead went its own way because the manga wasn’t finished and she didn’t want the anime to influence her or the original story. Because of this, the 2003 eventually ends up leaving canon territory and creates an entire different ending.

Despite of that, both the manga and the anime were very successful, which is probably why Bones announced in 2009, after the manga was over, that they were going to be releasing a new anime that actually followed all the manga events. Because Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is fresher, with better animation and faithful to the manga, many consider this to be the best adaptation of the two and one of the best well-made shonen anime in recent years overall. If that wasn’t enough, the soundtracks for this anime is one of the most beautiful OSTs I’ve ever heard from an anime.

However, there exist many differences between these two shows and in this case we’re not referring to their endings and their overall adaptation, but to the general feel of their viewing experiences. So again, this goes back to your tastes.


Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)

Fullmetal Alchemist - the daily fandom

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-If you like animes with darker themes, slight gore and drama
-If you prefer ambiguous and sadder endings
-If you prefer more mature animes or seinen in general
-If you like animes that treat deep topics such as war, racism or morality
-If you prefer slow-paced animes that pay attention to detail
-If you like interesting and morally ambiguous characters

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009)

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-If you enjoy shounen animes
-If you prefer happy, closed-endings
-If you enjoy battles, action scenes and comedy
-If you prefer lighter animes that cut to the chase
-If you place a lot of importance on animation and music
-If you like stories in which there are a lot of characters and all of them are relevant

What I often recommend is to watch ‘Brotherhood’ first and, if you really love it, check out the 2003 version for a different version of the story. But if you just want to watch one, I hope this article helps you decide!

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24-year-old TV journalist. I especialize in fangirling over TV shows and anime. Currently fighting for fan studies to be recognized as a valid academic field.

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2 Comments on "What Should You Watch: Fullmetal Alchemist vs. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood"

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ch3ru
September 24, 2015 2:16 am

Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like the bullet points are mostly backwards. (2003 is darker than Brotherhood? Really?) I think FMA 2003 would be kind of disappointing after watching Brotherhood. All the important set-up is the same in both series, but where 2003 veers off into ambiguity, the ongoing conflict builds and builds in Brotherhood AND reaches a defined conclusion in the aftermath.

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