Fullmetal Alchemist has two different anime adaptations. Whats the difference between the two of them?
Fullmetal Alchemist is widely regarded as one of the greatest manga and anime of all time. The story of the Elric Brothers as they search for a way to return their bodies to normal only to stumble into some deeper conspiracy that puts the fate of the continent at risk is one that has resonated with audiences for years. However if you are only now interested in watching Fullmetal Alchemist you might find yourself confused by the fact there are two Fullmetal Alchemist series. Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood might sound similar enough but there are drastic differences between the two you need to know about before viewing.
Loyalty vs. Liberty
The core difference between the two anime is how liberally they adapt the manga. When the first Fullmetal Alchemist series aired in October 2003 five volumes of the manga had been released with the sixth arriving later that month. By the time it ended in October 2004 a year later exactly eight volumes had been published. That means that Bones the animation studio behind Fullmetal Alchemist had only a fragment of the ultimately 27volume manga to adapt.
By contrast Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhoods final episode aired in time with the release of the final chapter. The anime was released to be a more faithful adaptation of the manga. To use a common point of comparison both series adapt the events of the manga until Maes Hughess death only to veer off in different directions following that. It would be redundant therefore to say that Fullmetal Alchemist after episode 26 and Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood after episode 10 are entirely different stories.
The original series however makes decisions that expand events and characters further. We spend extra time with characters like Barry the Chopper and Shou Tucker so we get to know them better Brotherhood meanwhile introduces these supporting antagonists at the moment they are relevant. Of all the minor characters to have their roles altered Roses changes are the most drastic. She goes from a minor character introduced near the start to a linchpin in the villain Dantes entire plan being essentially brutalized and used as a vessel for Dante once she obtains the Philosophers Stone.
Even in the early episodes however a lot of content is added that isnt present in the manga such as Russell and Fletcher Tringham original characters taken from the light novel The Land of Sand instead of the manga. However some manga characters like Olivier Armstrong dont appear in the original anime. And a common complaint is that the women in the original series are not given the same level of development or importance to the plot as they are in Brotherhood like Winry or Riza.
The Homunculi in both Fullmetal Alchemist series serve as primary antagonists though their creators and even identities shift from series to series. Each Homunculus is named after one of the Seven Deadly Sins. In both anime Lust Gluttony and Envy remain essentially the same though Lust in the original plays the role of primary antagonist with a massively expanded role while Lust in Brotherhood is the first to die.
However Pride Wrath Sloth and Envy are entirely different. In Brotherhood Wrath is Fuhrer Bradley while Pride is his son. However in the original anime Bradley is Pride. Wrath is a failed transmutation of Ed and Als mentor Izumi in the original anime while Greed is created by Izumis mentor. Arguably most startling of all is Sloth who in the original is actually Ed and Als mother.
This leads of course to how Homunculi are created in both series. In Brotherhood and the manga all the Homunculi are created by Father the true antagonist of the series. However in the original a Homunculus is created from a failed human transmutation that was found and rechristened by Dante. Ed and Al make Sloth near the start of the series of the original while in Brotherhood their realchemized mother ends up being just a mess of flesh. In addition because of each Homunculus being a recreation of previous humans when a Homunculus comes in contact with a remnant of their former selves in the original series they are extra vulnerable.
While there are many other smaller differences the last drastic difference is that the final villains are completely different. Dante and Father both have ties to Hohenheim with Dante being a former immortal lover of the Elric Brothers father while Father is tied with his origins as an alchemist and immortal. While Father creates the Homunculi Dante just stumbles upon them. Their plans are different and as the series becomes increasingly centered around their goals and wants the plots further divide.