‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ and ‘Brotherhood’: Do You Need to Watch 1 Before the Other?

Fullmetal Alchemist is recognized as being one of the most popular anime and manga series ever made. Hiromu Arakawa wrote and illustrated the original manga. The story follows Edward and Alphonse Elric, who are brothers who have learned to harness the power of alchemy. As children, they made substantial sacrifices while trying to resurrect their mother. Now, they must find the philosopher’s stone if they hope to make themselves whole once again. The franchise has now expanded into two anime series and two full-length animated feature films. The series would later branch into a live-action movie, video games, and other merchandise.

What’s the difference between ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ and ‘Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood’?

The original Fullmetal Alchemist series aired from 2003 until 2004. Over the course of its 51 episodes, it loosely tells the story outlined in Arakawa’s manga series. The original show concluded with Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa. The film follows Edward Elric from another universe, who seeks to fight back against the Thule Society. Their goal is to retrieve weaponry that could turn the tides during World War II.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is another anime series that ran from 2009 until 2010. It more closely follows Arakawa’s manga over the course of 64 episodes. While it’s based on the same story as the 2003-2004 original show, Brotherhood follows the manga’s story much closer.

‘Brotherhood’ makes assumptions of its audience

Edward Elric and Alphonse Elric in 'Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood'
Alphonse Elric and Edward Elric | Funimation

Anime fans who are looking to start Fullmetal Alchemist regularly ask the question: do I need to watch the original before starting Brotherhood?

Since it isn’t a sequel series, you technically don’t need to watch the 2003-2004 original to start Brotherhood. They are completely different series. They share some similarities towards the beginning and through the cast of characters, but otherwise, they aren’t connected.

However, it’s worth watching the original series before jumping to Brotherhood to fully immerse oneself in the characters and the story. Brotherhood somewhat makes the assumption that you’ve seen the original series, even though it isn’t a follow-up. They go in different directions and there are loyal fans of both who prefer one over the other. However, the majority of fans tend to prefer Brotherhood overall.

Original ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’ vs ‘Brotherhood’

The biggest difference between the two series is in the overall story trajectory. The manga was still unfinished when the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime television show was airing. It went in a different direction due to the fact that the anime was progressing faster than the source material. Brotherhood is overall a much more faithful adaptation to the source material. Its conclusion occurred around the same time as the manga was finishing up. The endings between the two animes are extremely different. With the original series ending with the underwhelming movie, many fans were disappointed with its conclusion.

There are a wealth of changes between the. two series, including the antagonist themself. For those who are looking to be fully immersed in the universe of Fullmetal Alchemist, It’s advised to watch the original and then Brotherhood. It isn’t required in order to understand the events taking place in the latter. It does provide a more complete experience, as the original anime spends more time developing its characters over the course of the episodes. The original anime has some episodes that can be considered as filler, but they do help establish the characters and make the audience care more for them.

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