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FMA (2003) vs FMA : Brotherhood
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Posted 6/26/13 , edited 6/1/15
Disclaimer

This thread will provide un-tagged spoilers likely in great amounts, and as this is a discussion about the entirety of both series in a side by side comparison, if you do not want them to be spoiled, avoid the thread completely.

This is a Zipzo thread. What this means is you are either prepared to use that noggin of yours and read a little bit or you may as well abandon ship immediately because big blocks of overly analytic text are my specialty and this thread will be no different than the others.


Now then. Let's get to it.

Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga that deployed in the year 2001 and running as late as 2010. In 2003 it was adapted in to an anime appropriately titled Fullmetal Alchemist. It was a 51 episode series that grew to popularity even in the US, and had a very strong english VA cast who to some degree get just as much attention as the originals do. I've seen both and I think they're fantastic all around.

Fullmetal Alchemist : Brotherhood is an anime that aired starting in 2009, 6 years after that of the first and its origin story is one of progressive wonder. Essentially, the first series, although widely appraised, did have criticisms and one of those major criticisms was its lack of faithfulness to the manga approaching the end, approx. around the time Greed becomes a prominent character in both shows. If the anime itself weren't enough, the 2003 series also interestingly ends with a cinema, Conqueror of Shamballa, which concludes the series even further in the complete opposite direction of Brotherhood.

Brotherhood has a lot of followers, and I'm afraid that I'm likely in the minority here, but let's throw following the manga out the window for a second as a reason why Brotherhood could possibly be better and allow me to pose the following topical question...how on earth is Brotherhood a better show than the original FMA anime?

I've seen very little in the way of substantial evidence that would equate to Brotherhood being a more well done series aside from "It actually followed the manga". This is understandable as a criticism from those who were huge fans of the manga, as I can reason being disappointed that not every single bit of the content you grew to love ended up on screen originally, and if you weren't a fan of those deviations...then that could only make it worse, I get that.

Brotherhood is a shallow, bare-bones show with a modicum of effort behind it meant to give itself an actual identity as a show. It's a gimme to the manga fans, a crowd pleaser (which it accomplished), but I can't seriously take the idea that it is actually better than the 2003 show seriously.

The first half of brotherhood covers essentially what would be the first 3rd or so of the original show, and it does it in a viciously and seemingly expedited manner that is not only jarring for the non-manga readers, but audaciously pretentious. It's understandable this needed to happen, but the show played out as if they knew you had already seen (or read) this stuff. It's actually almost embarrassing to watch. What's unfortunate is that they expected the manga or the original series to essentially be the pillars on which they slop-fed you that whole first half, letting the older non-related (by non-related I mean canon material that isn't Brotherhood that you'd have to have gone out of your way to see beforehand) content fill the gaps. It makes sense as a plan, but individually for Brotherhood, makes for a terrible conglomeration of episodes that is really in the top three of Brotherhoods faults as a show. Once the manga picks its own pace up around the time it moves along its own unique path (the manga one), it becomes more intriguing. Basically the problem here is they covered the material incredibly poorly in the first half of this series.

I pose to you...does a great book (manga in this case) always make for great audio/visual entertainment? Some things are better left to the pages...and unfortunately I think Brotherhoods story and some of its details fall squarely in to this syntactical basis. There are a few unique traits about the original series that make a huge difference in how you interpret both the anime and the characters...and I'll go over two big ones.

In Brotherhood, Scar is responsible for the death of Winry's parents. He killed them in a fatigued rage as it was during a hectic time of war despite them being doctors. Now...in the 2003 series they made an incredible change to this historical event. They re-wrote Mustang as the killer. In the heat of war, they were treating the enemy, and he was given no choice but to execute them as traitors.

This one single change does a few things. First...it completely absolves Scar from being the biggest hypocrite in the show. His life goal ends up being to kill off all of the state alchemists for what they did, but guess who spilled innocent blood long before the war was over? Scar. He murders in cold blood two defenseless doctors who were giving him medical attention for his wounds. This makes Scar a preposterous hypocrite, and as a result makes it increasingly difficult to sympathize with his motives if at all. On the other hand, Mustang is now the murderer of Winry's parents. How can you ask for a better ticket to drama? Edward Elric's commander killed his best friends parents! One simple detail changed & it both fixes a conceptual flaw, and creates an amazing new dynamic to the Fullmetal Alchemist canon. A brilliant change.

Next are Homunculus. In Brotherhood/the manga, these are simply horrific creations spawned of the power of the philosopher juice with the steady hands of the original homunculus. Boring. They changed this in the 2003 series...to something way more both intelligent and clever. In FMA 2003, a homunculus is born every time there is a failed human transmutation...and not only that but it takes on the form of the failed human ingredient. This was also a brilliantly thought out change as it provides the potential for so much character drama in the face of their unsightly relatives/friends as a form with a personality they can no longer recognize. This is most prominent around the time they are killing Sloth (Elric's Mom). This is another dynamic creatively woven in to the "new" story of the 2003 series.

A big issue I have with Brotherhood lovers is how they criticize the original show for its ending (as in the direction it went as a whole in the last few episodes). I think this criticism is utterly pathetic, because Brotherhoods story is equally if not multiple times absurd. Watching the anime makes it almost seem laughable. The moment the main enemy becomes "God", Hoenheim is right there to enact the plan he has been preparing from the beginning of the damn series, and from there it's a slow process to the main antagonists eventual defeat. How stupid is this? It defeats the purpose of almost the entire series's events, because Hoenheim has the master plan all along. Also, I completely skipped over the absurdity of becoming God and the swallowing of some giant door the size of the planet and...yeah all of that stuff is just weird & abstract.

While the 2003 series isn't innocent of being abstract or out there, it went for something more close to home. Something that was more closely tied in to the Elric Brothers themselves instead of some wafty and tiresome tale about a civilization that was wiped out by some...thing in a beaker and this things demise.

Story details aside...a major issue not related to brotherhood's horrid pacing is that almost every identical scene, side by side in comparison to the 2003, is inferior. I'm referring to scenes that played out in both series because as you know for the most part the two shows were incredibly similar up until the point the 2003 show deviated. My best example is the church scene in the very first episode of both series. Watch them side by side. Edward explains to rose the chemical composition of the human body in both scenes...brotherhood does an amazing job of making it look like a joke. In the 2003 series they did an excellent job of making this a powerful scene of conceptual thought provocation. The brotherhood scene makes it an anime lul moment. This is only the first in a long line of examples down the road until the two branch off from one another, and it's closely tied in to my criticism that Brotherhood did the first half very poorly.

Now a valid criticism from manga fans on the first series was that it was too dark. It was much darker than the air of the manga or brotherhood. Ed is even killed. He's impaled through the damn chest. It's gruesome stuff. Fans felt that the first series deprived FMA of its humorous light-hearted value...and this I feel is the only valid point behind Brotherhood being what it is. It's not that Brotherhood is all jokes, it definitely has serious moments, but it suffers very painfully for viewers like me from a bad case of the Brock. Things are constantly being overly explained on screen because there is so much information from the pages of the manga that are hard to show in a finite amount of episodes. The 2003 series took the concept of FMA and made it much grittier, which in my opinion is quite appropriate given their circumstance...and a lot of details of the canon. It's because of this route that 2003 sees many more emotionally charged moments than Brotherhood does, because it capitalized on what it believed its strengths were, which given the story was definitely the drama. Brotherhood haphazardly turns many of these great moments that the 2003 series did in to fleeting moments of anime lulz...and you find yourself saying so often "The first show did that part so much better!". These aren't even deviations, these are moments that happen in both series that the 2003 series did better. Opinion? Yeah I suppose, but is a scene like when Edward is at the end of his rope in a fight against the soul bound samurai supposed to comedy? It became comedy in brotherhood, and it was nothing of the sort in the 2003 series. It's not a big deal here and there, but I felt Brotherhood had an unfortunately thorough means of de-human-ifying a lot of great scenes with a lot of relate-ability that made the original show more emotionally gratifying. It made Brotherhood feel as though it lacked "heart", simply going through the motions of essentially being hand puppets for the manga instead of standing on its own as a good show. Tapping in to that human connection, that very basic need to live, or understand the motives behind a killer. This is what the original show did so well.

Lastly, is I find the ending of brotherhood to be too quaint. I don't mind a perfect ending to a simple anime but the story of FMA is anything but simple. It's incredibly complex (more so in the manga/brotherhood), and for everything to be peachy at the end, what with the guy getting the girl, Winry pops out some kids, Al has his body back, yippee...just doesn't sit right. Conqueror of Shamballa was a great movie with a great concept, and it gave us a an ending that, while it didn't leave everything in a state of peachy keen, gave us something that left you thinking "...I can handle that". A non-perfect ending for a non-perfect sequence of events, is what I think should be the recipe. Ed and Al are together, but now they must explore a new world...with even a few recognizable faces. What's even more intriguing is it allows you to wonder about the future. What will happen next? Brotherhood denies you of this potential intrigue.

All in all...I find Brotherhood to be a weak adaptation of what would be a great manga, and the original FMA series of 2003 to be a strong, creative landmark for anime that decides to branch off from its source material. It's emotional, it still retains enough of that wacky FMA humor, but it keeps it under control to harness a better potential. The potential to be thought provoking with all the concepts of life & death, the making of the philosopher stone and the choices people make. There are just so many great scenes that were done so well, making FMA one of my top shows because it has a sprinkle of almost everything it. You can laugh, you can cry, and you can cheer. That, my friends, is the recipe for great anime.

Tootles.
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23 / F / Chittenago, New York
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Posted 6/26/13
I really like both and both are my favorite anime.
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21 / M / Tiphares
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Posted 6/26/13
No versus threads.
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28 / M / under fire
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Posted 6/26/13

Shrapnel893 wrote:

No versus threads.


Mod can change the title if they want, it's not a typical "WHICH IS BETTER GUYS?" thread, you should be smart enough to at least conclude that.
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Posted 6/26/13

zipzo wrote:


Shrapnel893 wrote:

No versus threads.


Mod can change the title if they want, it's not a typical "WHICH IS BETTER GUYS?" thread, you should be smart enough to at least conclude that.


....

Still. Well whatever, I was just sayin' is all.
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27 / M / USA
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Posted 6/26/13 , edited 6/26/13
Having only watched a few episodes of each, this was still a really interesting read.
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36 / M / Planet Sanno
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Posted 6/26/13
*grunts*

Seal of approval has been granted.

*stamps*
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27 / M / in a world where...
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Posted 6/26/13 , edited 6/1/15
i would read through this thread but zipzo's hubris makes me apathetic to do so

maybe later
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28 / M / under fire
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Posted 6/26/13

uhohimdead wrote:

i would read through this thread but zipzo's hubris makes me apathetic to do so

maybe later


I'm sorry if I let a little bit of my edgy cander through, I would usually remain more neutral but this is a comparison I'm pretty passionate about, I guess. I promise that my responses will be as considering as can be.

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25 / M / Yamaku Academy
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Posted 6/26/13
I agree with mostly everything you said and I also prefer the 2003 anime,but i think you might of been a little bit too harsh on brotherhood though.
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Posted 6/26/13 , edited 6/1/15
So, guess what? You're not the only one who prefers the original to Brotherhood.

A very smart critic who's thoughts I respect a lot says that Brotherhood is the weakest out of the two shows and the manga because of its terrible pacing problems.

She said that it blindly dumped the manga on screen, so it's an anime told at a manga pace.

Gen Urobuchi talks about adaptations in this



I don't hate Brotherhood, but I've started to become annoyed with people who claim it's better because it "follows the manga". I've gotten into arguments with people who say that the original was bad just because it wasn't written by Arakawa Hiromu, to which I tell them that not only did she approve of the way that they took the show, I hear she was even at the meetings and provided input. It upsets me that everyone suddenly loses respect for the original, which I've never heard anybody say anything bad about before, until Brotherhood came out. Now all I hear is "The original sucks, Brotherhood is so much better".

About 2 years ago when I started watching anime in my free time, I had not seen either all the way through. I'd seen a few of the original as a kid and all my friends, even some family loved the show. I saw a handful of episodes and liked it, but I could never keep up with the schedule. I decided over summer I'd marathon a bunch of shows. I was gonna get caught up with Shippuden, Fairy Tail, One Piece, and the two FMAs. I watched a few episodes of the first three, watched one of FMA and got hooked instantly. I killed the whole thing in like a week. When I started Brotherhood a month or so later, I had to force myself through. It didn't grab me until like 30 + episodes in.

The main thing between them is how much respect I hold for one and not the other. The original took 6 volumes of manga, changed what they had to, and came up with something completely original all on its own. Becoming one of the most well received and popular shows out there, still being a show that most if not all anime fans have seen.

So I completely agree with you Zipzo. Brotherhood comes off as a fanservice show. Not fanservice in the sense that there are boobs bouncing around everywhere, but a cash grab. Scoring money off the manga fans, and the pre existing FMA fanbase with the promise of following the manga to a T. A lifeless adaptation with a massive budget on it because they knew people would eat it up.

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Posted 6/26/13
I liked both of them to be honest. FMA:B had more action so I tend to lean more toward it. The 2003 version was good because you got to see non-canon material so it was like a bonus story if you already knew the sources outcome. They tried to hard at the end to make it a non common ending compared to most action animes that reach a conclusion though. I just take it as " I'm happy the first series did well enough they made a second one faithful to the manga". Enjoy them for what they are.

poodles!
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Posted 6/26/13

HUIT21POCHTLI wrote:

I agree with mostly everything you said and I also prefer the 2003 anime,but i think you might of been a little bit too harsh on brotherhood though.


If I had to pick one thing from Brotherhood that I wish they'd have had in the 2003 series it would probably be the Ling x Greed thing.

Ling was a great character, and the whole idea behind him becoming Greed was, in my opinion, one of the best elements of Brotherhoods story. Unfortunately the other character from the same country in the show is terrible.

Where do you think I was too harsh?
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23 / M / England
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Posted 6/26/13 , edited 6/1/15
Nope not reading
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23 / M / Free World Jail
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Posted 6/26/13 , edited 6/1/15
Dat wall of text...i will finish reading later lol but i must agree that FMA (2003) is superior to FMA Brotherhood. I felt it had more heart than Brotherhood, but they are both obviously great series.
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