Roughly two decades after the manga’s first release in 2001, Full Metal Alchemist continues to be a sterling example of a classic action shounen series. Two adaptations of the manga exist – the original FMA television show and FMA Brotherhood, which segues naturally into the question below.

How is Full Metal Alchemist different from Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood?

The most significant difference lies in their plot – simply put, FMA Brotherhood faithfully adapts the manga’s story, while the original show creates its own storyline for the latter half. Other differences exist between both shows, so read on to see what they are.

What is Full Metal Alchemist?

The original Full Metal Alchemist TV series is set in a fantasy world where alchemy is prominent scientific discipline. It introduces two main characters, brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric, and their search for the Philosopher’s Stone – a powerful item that can restore their deformed bodies after they failed an alchemical ritual to resurrect their mother years before. 

Full Metal Alchemist

Their hunt eventually clashes with threats such as the anti-alchemy murderer Scar, the artificially-made Homunculi, and an enigmatic figure known as Dante.

Upon the request of Hiromu Arakawa, the creator of the manga, the TV series took an entirely new direction halfway through the original storyline.

What is Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood?

Brotherhood is a more straightforward adaptation of Arakawa’s source material. It depicts the setting and the main characters similarly to its predecessor, but removes Dante as the primary antagonist in favor of a being known as Father, the progenitor of the other homunculi. 

Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

While the first show ultimately built up to Dante following Maes Hughes’ demise, Brotherhood brings up a government conspiracy in the form of King Bradley, the fate of Amestris, and the Gate of Truth. 

Due to being made after the manga’s conclusion, Brotherhood portrays several characters with their established backgrounds, motivations, character arcs, and future reveals already in mind. 

Differences Between Full Metal Alchemist and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Plot

Both shows set up the storyline in roughly the same way. The main point at which they diverge comes after the death of Maes Hughes.

The original focuses on Dante’s manipulation of the Alchemists and Homunculi to retrieve another Philosopher’s Stone and remain immortal.

In contrast, Brotherhood introduces King Bradley and Father’s conspiracy to use Amestris in producing a massive Philosopher’s Stone for achieving godhood.

Primary Antagonists

The manga and Brotherhood features Father as its overarching villain, being the entity responsible for the creation of the Homunculi and even the nation of Amestris itself, among other legendary feats. Father was cold and cruel, considering himself a god above humanity, and could perform alchemy using only his thoughts.

On the other hand, the anime-only villain Dante has a much more personal, but no less sinister motivation – transferring bodies and remaining immortal with a Philosopher’s Stone. She was once the lover to the Elrics’ father, Hohenheim. Due to her rapidly rotting body, she acts through her masterful manipulation of Amestris, and uses the Homunculi, whom she treats as slaves. 

Greed’s Arc

Greed is notable in both television shows for attempting to find his own path away from his duties as a Homunculus. This eventually leads to his demise at his creator’s hands, but not before he aids the Elrics in some way. 

He meets a permanent end in the original after being turned mortal by Dante, although he managed to teach Edward the secret to killing Homunculi before his death.

In Brotherhood, Greed returns to share a body with Ling Yao and redeems himself as the Elrics’ ally.

Scar

Scar is ultimately an anti-hero in both settings, but his dying act in the original sacrificed 7,000 soldiers to make a Philosopher’s Stone. He goes through Brotherhood as a more villainous character, but gains a deep redemption arc later.

Xing 

Xing palace in FMA
Xing palace in FMA

This faraway country was only prominent in Brotherhood, as it set up sideplots for Ling Yao and May Chang. Xing had virtually zero presence in the 2003 version. 

Identities of the Homunculi

Dante and Father “discovered” or made the Homunculi in their own storylines.

The original anime had King Bradley as Pride. Wrath, Sloth and Greed were failed copies of Izumi’s son, the Elrics’ mother, and Dante’s old lover, respectively.

Brotherhood made Bradley the Wrath Homunculi, his son as Pride, a simple brute as Sloth, and Ling Yao as the second Greed.

Themes

The original 2003 anime is known for its darker and more dramatic tone. Its theme narrows down to the history and deeply personal struggle between Dante and the protagonists.

Brotherhood’s story had a much broader scope, encompassing multiple nations. As such, the theme was generally larger-than-life, including more action and humor.

Comparison Chart: Full Metal Alchemist Vs Brotherhood

AreasFull Metal AlchemistFull Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood
PlotPrevent Dante from remaining immortal. Prevent Father from achieving godhood.
Primary AntagonistsDanteFather
Greed’s ArcShorter; dies instructing Ed on killing HomunculiLonger; aids the Elrics against Father
ScarConfused anti-heroFully-redeemed ally to the Elrics
XingUninvolvedProminent nation; origin of Ling and May
Identities of the HomunculiMost homunculi had past connections to other characters.Homunculi engineered by Father.
ThemesSerious and personalBoisterous and wide-reaching

How is Full Metal Alchemist similar from Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood?

Despite the divergence in plot and character arcs, the 2003 and 2009 versions are broadly similar in many aspects - the Elric brothers, the hunt for Philosopher Stones, a plot about a conspiracy at the heart of Amestris, and Scar’s status as an anti-hero all remain constant. 

FAQ

Why is Edward Elric so short?

For such a formidable protagonist with the title “Fullmetal Alchemist”, Edward is noticeably short – standing at 4’ 11” (149 cm). The series makes fun of his height on several occasions, bringing up the fact that he outright refuses to drink milk as the reason for why his growth appears to be stunted.

By Chapter 84, Ed appears to have grown taller than Winry, which would place his new height at roughly around 165 cm or more.

Why did Roy Mustang lose his eyesight?

As the regulator of alchemy in the world, the Truth takes away a part of anyone who is performing human transmutation. The part removed is often symbolically significant. As examples, Edward lost limbs to diminish his agency, Alphonse lost his body and could no longer feel warmth.

Father states that the Truth removed Mustang’s eyesight because he looked toward Amestris’ future and had his sights set on becoming Fuhrer one day.

Conclusion

Both interpretations of Full Metal Alchemist carry their own unique charms, in addition to following the heroic exploits of the Elric brothers across Amestris. 

Brotherhood is a more grandiose and faithful adaptation to the manga, while the original 2003 release showed a more intimate story with a darker theme. The original also fleshed out most of the Homunculi and supporting characters, while Brotherhood expanded on Scar, Greed, Ling Yao, and Winry in particular.