Back in 2003, an anime was made of the manga Fullmetal Alchemist.  Because the story was still ongoing, and Arakawa didn’t want to give away any of her story, this anime took a turn at about episode 29 into a completely different direction.  There’s nothing wrong with the remaining 20 episodes of the anime, but it doesn’t follow the manga.  With the publication of the 20th volume of FMA, Arakawa announced another anime series, this one reported to follow the story of the manga more closely.  Also called Fullmetal Alchemist, this anime is available in the US from Funimation, who is streaming it subtitled on their site.  But how close is this new series to the manga?  I’ve read most of the manga and have been following this new anime to see how well it stays on track, and I have to say, I’m impressed so far.

The first episode of the new FMA has a very “WTF” feel to it.  It comes out of nowhere with a rouge state alchemist trying to attack Central Headquarters.  Ed and Al help to stop him.  This is NOT how the manga starts, but I think it’s meant to be a sort of re-introduction to the series.  It starts in the “present” and then goes back to retell Ed and Al’s story.  The Beet the Vandalbuster anime used this same technique.  I prefer starting at the beginning, but I guess some directors feel it’s necessary to introduce the characters that way.  After this, it’s a whirlwind run through the first 8 volumes of the manga.  The first 14 episodes cover what the original anime did in 29.  So, a lot of details are missing, A lot of Ed and Al’s initial journey is left out in favor of moving quickly to get to the new material.  Their time on the train, meeting the fake Elric Brothers, and their time at Eastern with Mustang are all left out or shorten to only a few brief scenes.  But all the major plot points are hit, so the story still flows well.

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Starting in episode 15, the anime picks up the manga storyline with the introduction of Lin Yao, from Xing, the land to the east.  The pace slows down a bit as the next 7 episodes only covers 3 volumes of the manga, with episode 21 ending with volume 11.  So far, the episodes have been faithful to the manga.  The introduction of Lin Yao is right on, though the introduction of May Chang gets moved around some, I think to keep the focus on the Elric Brothers and not break up their action with the slower scenes of May Chang.  The pace of the series in general has slowed down some, but it hasn’t let up on the action.  The fight between Mustang and Lust was awesome.  The Elric Brothers attempt to lure out Scar was just was funny, and the drama between Ed and Hohenheim as palatable.

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While I enjoyed the first anime and thought the direction it was taken in interesting, I have to say I think the manga storyline is better.  It’s really great that we’re getting a chance to see this animated, by the same studio as the first and with all the same voice actors.  Another tradition that’s been kept from the first series is the excellent openings, both musically and visually.  The first opening is “again” by YUI.  The second opening is “Hologram” by NICO Touches the Walls.

If you are a fan of FMA, definitely check out this new series.  It doesn’t go into the minutiae of the manga that the first series did.  The first 14 episodes were more like a recap since the full story had already been shown in the first series.  But it was kind of nice to see it condensed too.  It had been a while since I read the early volumes, and this recap really reminded me why I love the manga so much.  And an action series like FMA is just all the more awesome when animated.  Even though I will always enjoy the manga more, this is pretty damn close to perfect otherwise.

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