Fullmetal Alchemist vs Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

If you’re an anime fan long enough, you start to come across major debates either on the Internet or even talking to fellow fans. Classic debates like subs vs dubs are pretty frequent, but another long fought debate that gets brought up pretty frequently is Fullmetal Alchemist vs Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and which one is better. This is a very divisive topic like the other ones and I thought I’d give my two cents in this debate because I’ve been on both sides of it before.

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Before we get started, there are a couple of important, key pieces of background information needed in order to understand just why these two shows are so dramatically different from each other.

1. When the original Fullmetal Alchemist began in 2003, this was only a couple of years after the manga took off in 2001. At the time, Hiromu Arakawa wanted to expand on some of the characters, and asked that the anime take the story in its own direction because she knew the anime would end long before the manga. Because of this, the stories begin to diverge significantly around halfway through the anime.

2. Brotherhood was announced as a faithful adaptation of the manga in 2009, and the first episodes were handled with the assumption that most fans had already seen the original. To compensate for showing the same content again, these early episodes were sped through in order to introduce the new characters and story at a quicker rate. Brotherhood was completed in 2010, and both Brotherhood and the manga ended in the same week, and Arakawa was present during much of the planning of Brotherhood.

It’s important to understanding the reasons behind why these two adaptations are so wildly different from each other because, when talking about the stories of these two shows, it almost isn’t fair to compare them. The original anime is obviously going to be at a disadvantage because it was forced to essentially write its own story after setting the foundation based on the manga, so making it connected and compelling is challenging. Furthermore, Brotherhood is going to have the superior story because it’s following the manga and allowing those plot threads to connect organically, so deciding which one has the better story based on these points alone isn’t even a question.

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While it’s important to look at both series as a whole, I also think it’s worth looking at individual moments as well and see how the execution is handled with both. For example, the flashback when Ed and Al are abandoned on a deserted island by their teacher Izumi and forced to survive for a month is expanded in greater detail in the original. These couple of episodes the anime spends is much more intense in addition to emphasizing the bond between Ed and Al. Brotherhood had to rush through much of this content within a single episode, and so a lot of the emotional moments that I loved in the original are essentially glossed over. The original handled those moments better, but then again, Brotherhood worked with what they had and still did a pretty good job hitting those emotional points.

You’re probably seeing the issue with this debate very quickly. Both shows are at a disadvantage against each other: if the original could have followed the story, it may have been great, and if Brotherhood didn’t have to rush the early episodes, it could be even more perfect than it already is. You could make the argument that these points don’t matter, but it does make this debate more difficult to resolve.

So the question shouldn’t be “which one is better” because that’s honestly not a fair fight on either side, but more of “which one should be experienced”. Because both shows are good in their own right, but it becomes more of a question about which one should be watched. Most fans, when they discover Fullmetal Alchemist, often have the question of which one they should watch first and get different answers depending on who they talk to.

What some fans ultimately came up with was a compromise: they suggested watching both to experience each of them in some shape or form. The formula recommended watching the first several episodes of the original and then switching over to Brotherhood where the plots diverge. This isn’t a bad idea, but it’s risky because of how connected Brotherhood’s story is from beginning to end, so there’s a chance of missing some key points.

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So now we’re back to square one, and no closer to determining which one should be the Fullmetal experience for anime fans. What it comes down to is preference. I watched the original before watching Brotherhood, and there was a time when I thought the original was better. And in a lot of ways, there were certain scenes and episodes that made that true for me. Like the intro scene of the first episode of the original? That still gives me chills down my spine because of its execution. But once Brotherhood’s story takes off, it’s impossible to deny how interconnected the story and characters are, plus the fantastic action sequences and animation make Brotherhood a wonderful experience in its own right.

Both shows are good and received critical acclaim worldwide – that much is certain. Over time, I’ve come to truly love Brotherhood and declare it my favorite anime of all time, but I still have a soft spot for those exceptional moments of the original Fullmetal Alchemist as well. I would say that both shows are worth watching for very different reasons, but I can’t tell someone which one they’re going to like better. Sure, I can tell you that Brotherhood is the superior anime and give you a list of reasons why, but that’s just my opinion. Some people may share that opinion with me, and others may not. It’s up to the individual to decide which one they want to experience first though, and which one will stay with them long after the credits roll.

But I think we can all agree Brotherhood has the better ending.
But I think we can all agree Brotherhood has the better ending.

8 thoughts on “Fullmetal Alchemist vs Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood

    1. Yeah, I enjoy both for different reasons. I don’t care for the second half of the first show, but a lot of the first half content was good. And Brotherhood has such strong action and animation throughout. It’s great. I think Brotherhood is the stronger show, but I do think the original has good moments as well that make it worth watching. It’s really one of the situations where it’s not an “either or” question when it comes to watching one or the other. Both should be watched and appreciated for their strengths. 😀

  1. I’m still going through the episodes of Brotherhood, but I think I’m nearing the end. I definitely watched the original a long time ago when my cousin first introduced the series to me and I instantly fell in love with the show. The humor, characters, and story were so easy to get into. I remember laughing really hard one minute or crying the next. I always believe when a show or movie successfully manages to pull those emotions out of me, you know you’ve got a great series in your hands! 🙂

    It’s hard for me to compare the original and Brotherhood against each other now because of how long it has been since I’ve seen the original. All I can remember of the original was liking it a lot and that’s about it. Any differences in story between that and Brotherhood is completely lost to me unless I go back and rewatch the original, which unfortunately, I barely have time for that either. I do wind up remembering what was similar between the original and Brotherhood as I watched the new series, but I can’t judge if I preferred one over the other.

    I think I would probably suggest someone watch both series honestly. The original was still great to watch even if the story is significantly different from how the manga portrays it, but Brotherhood is obviously a not to miss show either because it’s faithful to the manga (a manga I haven’t had a chance to read but I love the anime either way). I actually think there’s much to be enjoyed from both series because both will be different experiences in many ways. Nothing about it will feel like you’re watching a repeat on something you’ve seen before. It’s how I felt when I went back and rewatched the entire ’90s Sailor Moon when all seasons were released with the Japanese subbed and then I watched Sailor Moon Crystal when that came out. I saw what I liked about the original one over the new series, but there were aspects of the new series I still liked too. Neither really felt good or bad just different and another way to experience a favorite series in a whole new way. 🙂

    1. Yeah, when I first started watching Brotherhood after watching the original years ago, I compared them way too much. Once I finished out Brotherhood, I learned to appreciate the strengths of both and not feel so inclined to judge one over the other harshly.

      I hope you get to finish Brotherhood soon! It’s a great show, and seeing where the story goes is great. But in terms of recommending one or the other to somebody, I think I’d recommend both too. Just so then they have the option of deciding which one they like best, because it’s ultimately up to the viewer to figure that out. 🙂 But with that said, I hope to rewatch Brotherhood again soon. It’s been too many years since I’ve watched it start to finish. 😀

  2. I prefer Brotherhood because even if the pacing is off early on, the story is far more satisfying. The end of the original drove me crazy and even knowing why it ended that way, it didn’t make for a satisfying viewing experience.

    1. Yeah, I agree that the ending of the original was…not the best. I remember being really devastated by it because I wanted a happier ending hah hah. Luckily Brotherhood fixed that problem. Considering that the original had to write its own second half, it did okay. Could have been worse for sure hah hah. But yeah, I also think Brotherhood is superior. 😀

  3. I’m going to have to go with Brotherhood on this one. I enjoyed both series, however where the first one had one of my least favorite anime endings, Brotherhood has one of my favorites. Endings can leave such a lasting taste for a series, and Brotherhood’s manga-faithful ending nailed what I wanted for a finale. If it weren’t for the 2003 anime’s ending, I might have appreciated it more.

    1. I can agree with that! The ending of the original left a lot to be desired, and it’s sort of frustrating how some of those loose ends aren’t resolved very well. Brotherhood definitely has the better ending, but it’s not gushing with so much happiness that it feels too perfect or cookie cutter. It had the right balance of being satisfying but not without some emotional moments. 😀

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