AKA: FMA, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi, Hagaren
TV, 51 episodes
By BONES, Square-Enix. 2003-4
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Magic.
In the world of FMA, there exists a science/magic ability known as Alchemy. This ability allows people to manipulate objects into different forms and shapes (such as an iron bar into a sword). However, the basic law of alchemy is The Law of Equivalent Trade, which states that in order to gain something, you must first sacrifice something of equal value. The story follows Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who are excellent alchemists. Years ago, they had attempted to bring their dead mother back to life using alchemy. However not only did they fail to do that, but Ed lost his left leg and Al lost his entire body in the process. Ed managed to seal his brother's soul into a suit of armor using alchemy, but lost his right arm in doing so. In order to gain back what they have lost, they now seek the legendary Philosopher's Stone, which is said to be able to bypass Equivalent trade. Over the course of the series, they realize that there are others who also seek the stone.
Art and Animation: 9.5/10
Looking at this anime initially, the art style may seem somewhat cliched, but it really grows on you over time. At the very least, it deserves points for remaining very consistent in it's quality. Frames are rarely ever reused and the special effects such as the alchemy (which I will explain in a moment) are truly awe-inspiring. The fight scenes that exist are also very fluidly animated and never stutter like some animes tend to. And the character expressions are incredibly realistic - if a character is horrified, they genuinely look horrified, and if chibi moments occur, they look the part.
Voice acting/Music: 9.0/10
The soundtrack of Fullmetal Alchemist is quite impressive. All of the music is fully orchestrated and suits the situation perfectly. From the intense fight scenes, to those extra silly moments, to the moments of utter terror, no background track ever feels out of place. With 4 openings and endings there is more potential for error and unfortunately, the first opening doesn't really fit the series very well. However, the remaining openings are excellent and fit the tone of the series at their respective points well. The voice acting is also excellent. Ed and Al, the two protagonists, fit into their characters perfectly, and the rest of the cast is just as exceptional.
This is truly where the series shines. The story is truly compelling and philosophical. There are also many plot twists present, so you can never really have everything figured out until the very end of the series. While the story is at times quite heartfelt and even hilarious, at its core it is very dark, violent, and downright disturbing at times. We get to see the true malice of human nature as well as the innocence.
As for the characters themselves, there is amazing diversity amongst the cast. Edward is a kind person but engagingly (and not overly) bitter, while Alphonse contrasts quite well with a great deal of innocence. And there are no truly one-dimensional characters either. Even characters like Armstrong (flexes a lot) and Hughes (shows off his daughter a lot) who are mostly comical, have the capacity to be serious at appropriate moments. I have seen very few animes which can match the level of humanity seen in FMA (with the possible exception of Gundam SEED).
Bottom line is, FMA is, in my opinion at least, the greatest anime ever made. With vibrant animation, a catchy soundtrack, a compelling story, and excellent characters, FMA is a true acheivement, and if you haven't seen it, do so now! You will not regret it (unless you give up on it before you even give it a chance, in which case I pity you, because you would deprive yourself of a wonderful experience).