This article is about the actual series. If your looking for the title character, go to Edward Elric.
Fullmetal Alchemist, commonly abbreviated as FMA or Hagaren by fans, is a manga series created by Hiromu Arakawa and serialized in Monthly Shonen Gangan. It has also been adapted into an anime TV series and a movie sequel, as well as several spin-off novels and video games.
The manga is still running in Japan, and 14 volumes have been released so far. The anime, on the other hand, is finished, and consists of 51 episodes and a full-length movie sequel. Both incarnations (the manga and the anime) have seen massive popularity in both Japan and North America; last year the anime was voted #1 best liked anime of all time in Japan in a September 2005 TV Asahi web poll. It was put down for #1 again for 2006 in a recent poll.
Fullmetal Alchemist is set in the early 20th century in a country called Amestris in an alternate-historical Earth with technology dating from early 20th century Europe. In this alternate world, the pseudoscience of alchemy is heavily used, but takes on a further fantastic element not seen in real-life alchemy. Real-world alchemists attempted to transmute gold from lesser metals. In the fictional world of the series, alchemy becomes the science of transmuting matter into different matter through the use of transmutation circles—based on real-world science, yet also magical, with seemingly infinite uses. Talented alchemists may apply to take a State Alchemist test to join the Amestris military's State Alchemists.
Edward and Alphonse Elric were children living in the rural village of Resembool in the country of Amestris. Their father, a talented alchemist, had left home when Edward was very young and Alphonse was still an infant. Years later, their mother, Trisha Elric, died of a terminal illness. After their mother's death, the two boys decided to attempt to revive their deceased mother using alchemy. They studied alchemy with a teacher and then used their father's books and notes that he had left behind to recreate a human transmutation circle. However, this attempt failed, costing Edward his left leg and Alphonse his entire body. In a desperate effort to save his brother, Edward sacrificed his right arm to affix his brother's soul to a suit of armor. After that, Edward's left leg and right arm are fitted with two sets of Automail, a type of advanced prosthetic limb. In the original Japanese, the term "Fullmetal" is used to describe a person who is stubborn. In the series it is often mistakenly attributed by minor characters to Ed's automail arm and leg, or Al's armor body.
A State Alchemist by the name of Roy Mustang arrives during the failed human transmutation in response to letters the boys had sent out seeking information about their father (in the hopes that they could get the attention of their father so that he would come home). After seeing their skill at alchemy, Mustang suggested that the way for the two boys to achieve their goals would be to become State Alchemists and work for him. Spurred on by the man's proposal, Edward set out to become a State Alchemist, enabling him to use the resources available to State Alchemists to discover a way to restore what he and Alphonse had lost. The brothers eventually learn of the Philosopher's Stone and set off in search of it as a means to restore their bodies. Along the way they discover secrets about the Philosopher's Stone and find other people who seek it as well.
- Edward Elric: The main protagonist, Edward ("Ed") Elric is the titular Fullmetal Alchemist, though Al is occasionally mistaken for him because of his armored body. He has a prosthetic automail arm and leg, is of short stature, and typically reacts in an exaggerated manner to any remarks about his height. He is known for being the youngest State Alchemist.
- Alphonse Elric: Alphonse, often nicknamed Al, is Fullmetal Alchemist's secondary protagonist; he is Edward's younger brother. For most of the series his soul is trapped in a large suit of armor, causing other characters throughout the series to confuse Al for the "Fullmetal" Alchemist. Alphonse is the calmer of the two, and can be seen as a foil to Edward's character.
- Winry Rockbell: Winry is a mechanical expert who is a childhood friend of the Elrics. She, along with her grandmother Pinako, built Edward's automail, and she also helps maintain the automail when it gets broken. Her parents served as impartial doctors during the Ishbal rebellion, but were killed. In the anime, they were killed by then-Lieutenant Colonel Roy Mustang, but in the manga they were killed by Scar.
- Colonel Roy Mustang: Roy Mustang is known as the Flame Alchemist. His gloves are made of a special material, called ignition cloth, which allows him to create a spark by snapping his fingers. He then uses alchemy to change the oxygen density in the air with the help of transmutation circles on his gloves, causing a controlled explosion. He is Edward's direct superior officer in the military, but has his own goals and intentions in mind. His main goal is to become the Führer, the leader of the military.
- Lt. Colonel Maes Hughes: A member of the Investigations Division and a good friend of Colonel Mustang and the Elric brothers. He wishes to push Mustang up to Führer by working closely under him. Hughes loves his wife, Gracia, and is overly enthusiastic regarding his love for his daughter Elicia.
- Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye: A hard-working member of the state military, and a loyal, capable aide to her superior officer, Roy Mustang. She is especially proficient in the use of firearms.
- Scar—One of the few surviving Ishbalans (In the manga, Ishvarlans). His real name is never revealed, but he is referred to as "Scar" because of the X-shaped scar on his forehead. Scar's right arm, which is covered in an elaborate alchemic tattoo, was given to him by his brother shortly before he died. He believes himself to be an instrument of God, and kills State Alchemists using his alchemical skills.
- King Bradley: Known as the Führer, he is the military dictator of Amestris, holding the official political title of president (King is his first name). Although he seems to be quite easy-going and perhaps a little eccentric, he has the mind of a steel trap, and maintaining Amestris is his chief priority at all times. He is also renowned as an exceptional swordsman.
- Lust: Sultry and cool-hearted, she is the first of the Homunculi encountered in the series. She has the power to extend her fingers into lances in the blink of an eye to use as a weapon, and is thus known in some translations as the 'Ultimate Lance'.
- Gluttony: A large figure who eats anything he can get his hands on, including humans and inanimate objects. He latches on to Lust like a child to his parent.
- Envy: Sarcastic, sadistic, and cold-hearted, Envy has the ability to change appearance. He hates mankind, viewing them as pitiful and weak. In the anime, Envy is clearly referred to as a male, but in the manga, Envy is known as an "it".
- Alchemy—Alchemy within the Fullmetal Alchemist anime, put simply, refers to a three-step process. The steps are analysis (to understand the structure and properties of the substance that is about to be transmuted), destruction/decomposition (to break the substance down to its rudimentary properties), and reconstruction/recomposition (to rebuild the substance into another form or with different properties). In the manga, the source of alchemical power is still unknown to both the main characters and the readers. However, in the anime, the energy for alchemical reactions comes from the other side of the Gate, supposedly from the deaths that occur in the world on the other side of the Gate. In both versions, rather than being a method of manipulating forms via their accidents (the basis of historical alchemy, derived from Greek philosophy), it is essentially modern chemistry without a reaction medium.
- Automail—A kind of prosthetics, made from metal and linked directly to the nerves of the body. Well-made automail can allow a range of movement and strength as good as or better than the original limb it replaces. Some forms of automail include ballistic devices or other enhancements. It appears to be a type of cybernetic technology, well ahead of real world cybernetics research. Edward typically has been seen altering his automail arm with Alchemy, refashioning it into a bladed weapon in the manga and anime.
- Equivalent Exchange (also referred to as "Equivalent Trade," "Alchemical Equilibrium," and "The Law of Conservation" among some fansubbers)—The rule that alchemists in the series consider to be the foundation of Alchemy, or even the fundamental law of the world: to obtain, something of equal value must be lost. One of the themes of the series is examining the implications of Equivalent Exchange as a philosophy. It also investigates into whether Equivalent Exchange is a natural law, or rather, a false ideology. As an example, the two brothers frequently quote the chemicals present in the human body, in thinking that this simple chemical exchange would be all that was needed to bring back someone from the dead.
- One is All, All is One—A cryptic way of explaining the essence of alchemy, this phrase is used by Izumi Curtis to test whether the Elric brothers are worth teaching alchemy to. According to this, if a person were to die, as such there would be no material effect on the world. Since a human body is made up of certain basic elements, when a person dies, his or her body is decomposed and these elements are returned back to nature. These elements, in turn, provide nutrients to plants which, in their turn, become food for herbivores, which are then food to carnivores. This is the cycle of life, and the death of one person is insignificant while considering the whole cycle. However, without these individual deaths, the cycle cannot be maintained and hence the individuals as a whole are significant to the continuation of the cycle. Thus, the cycle of life can never be reversed. Understanding this and working with the cycle of life in order to create new things is what alchemy is about. In other words, as the Elrics put it, "the world is the all, and I am the one."
- State Alchemist—An alchemist serving in a special branch of the state military under the direct command of the Führer. State Alchemists are selected by a series of examinations, and are regarded as some of the most powerful and talented alchemists. The position of State Alchemist also holds considerable authority and influence, automatically being promoted to the rank of Major. However, State Alchemists are despised by the general public, often called 'dogs of the military' - meaning that the person sold their soul to the military in exchange for special entitlements.
- Transmutation Circle—Transmutation circles act as catalysts in alchemic reactions, and are needed for any transmutation; however, some alchemists, like Edward Elric, can transmute without one. The circle represents the constant flow of energy, the patterns decide what effects the transmutation has. A circle may be drawn on the spot, embroidered into an article of clothing, or even tattooed onto the alchemist itself. Transmutation circles can be drawn with any substance that leaves behind a trail, ranging from chalk to blood (see Blood Seal below).
- Philosopher's Stone—A legendary stone said to allow the holder to completely bypass the law of Equivalent Exchange. As with all things, however, to create a philosoper's stone requires the expenditure of raw materials: in this case human lives.
- Red Stone or Incomplete Philosopher's Stone (Akai Ishi)—An unfinished or impure Philosopher's Stone, commonly referred to as a Red Stone. Though far less powerful than a complete stone, a Red Stone can act as a powerful amplifier for an alchemist's abilities. A related material (that appears only in the anime) is Red Water, which, while toxic to humans, can be refined into a Red Stone.
- Blood Seal—A special type of transmutation circle that acts as a seal to bind a person's soul to an object, such as a suit of armor. It must, as the name suggests, be written in blood; the soul is tied to the blood and an element in the blood must be bound with the object itself. This typically only works on armor as the iron in the blood binds with the armor. Thus the blood acts as an intermediary between the soul and the object. If a blood seal is destroyed, the soul will no longer be tied to the object, and the person will enter the Gate. Some translations refer to it as a "Blood Array."
- Chimera—A Chimera is the fusion of two or more different species into a single being created using alchemy.
- Gate of Alchemy—Also known as the "Gate of Truth" or just "Gate", it is said to be the source for all alchemical power. In the manga, an alchemist who sees into the Gate can then perform alchemy without the use of a written or tattooed circle because of the knowledge gained during the experience. In the anime it is said that the Gate swings forward each time the energy for Alchemy is summoned, that there is a Gate inside everyone, and that all that is necessary to access the gate is knowledge of how to do so. It is also said that a weak link between the body, mind, and spirit is what calls the Gate - in other words, death. A baby, the anime posits, has a weak link between the body, mind, and spirit, and thus it is easy to summon the Gate using a baby. In the anime the Gate resembles Rodin's sculpture The Gates of Hell, but in the manga it is more akin to an obelisk, featuring the Kabbalahistic Tree of Life.
- Truth (also referred to as the "Genuine Truth", the "Truth behind Truths", or the "Universal Truth" among some fansubbers)—The ultimate goal of every alchemist. In the anime, it was just Ed's point of view to describe what he found in the Gate. In the manga, though, it was displayed as an omnipotent god-like being that exists in the Gate, enforcing the law of Equivalent Exchange.
- Rentan Jutsu (manga only)—A type of Alchemy that is used in the eastern country Xing. While similar to Amestris alchemy (called "Renkin Jutsu" by people from Xing), the source of energy is different. Rentan Jutsu uses the power called "Lungmei" which exists everywhere on the earth. The type of alchemy that the character Mei Chan uses is Rentan Jutsu. Scar's tattoo is a mix of Renkin Jutsu and Rentan Jutsu.
- Human Sacrifice—In the manga, it is a term that the Homunculi use to refer to alchemists who have opened the Gate and seen the Truth. Human Sacrifices are a crucial part of the Homunculi and "Father"'s plan, but to what end is still unknown.
- Human Transmutation- a forbidden art. Attempts to create a human who had died. However, it takes something from the person who performs it (example: arm, leg or organ) but instead of creating a human, it takes the alchemist to the Gate, where he or she gains knowledge proportional to what was given up in the transmutation. In the Anime, each human transmutation attempt also creates a Homunculus
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