The central characters of the anime are Edward and Alphonse Elric: two alchemist brothers who are searching for the Philosopher's Stone so they can obtain their bodies after a failed attempt to bring their dead mother back to life. A sequel film which was not based on the original manga, Conqueror of Shamballa, was released in 2005.
Following the expiring of their license, and the transfer of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime rights to Aniplex's American branch, Funimation no longer has the rights to the FMA 2003 anime.
Please Note: This plot summary is condensed for purposes of easy reading. There are many instances in the anime that have no significant bearing on the overall plot which does not appear in this summary.
Edward and Alphonse Elric—more commonly known as Ed and Al—are teenage Alchemists with a tragic past. When Edward was eleven years old, and Alphonse only ten, the brothers tried to bring their dead mother back to life. Their attempt failed, costing Alphonse his entire body, and Edward his left leg. In a desperate attempt to keep his brother on Earth, Edward willingly sacrificed his right arm in exchange for Alphonse's soul. Edward bond Al's soul to a suit of armor. Al then rushed Ed's body to Rockbell Automail, a company run by close friends of the Elrics. There, Edward's arm and leg were replaced with "automail"– heavy steel prosthetics that act as if they were truly human limbs, attached to a body through an excruciating surgery and rehabilitation process.
The brothers burned down their home so that they could never turn back from the path they have chosen—a life of wandering until they can regain their original bodies. Roy Mustang convinced Edward to take the State Alchemy Exam. As a State Alchemist, one's first duty is to the military or Fuhrer, causing State Alchemists to be commonly referred to as "dogs of the military." To aid his research, Ed took the State Alchemy Exam and passed to become a State Alchemist. The main reason for his passing is that Ed can transmute—or perform Alchemy—without a transmutation circle. Ed could now gain access to research off-limits to most civilians. He received a pocket-watch that amplifies Alchemy. Ed later discovers that his State Alchemist name is the "Fullmetal Alchemist."
During their stay in Central City, Ed and Al encountered a man with an X-shaped scar on his face (known as "Scar") and an unusual tattoo on his right arm. They also discovered that there is an artifact called the Philosopher's Stone, commonly thought to be a myth. The brothers decided to search for the Stone.
In the present day, the Ed and Al discover that the Philosopher's Stone was used in the Ishbal Civil War and that a man named Dr. Marcoh used it during this time. The Elrics meet Dr. Marcoh. With Marcoh's aid, they battle with Scar, who they discover is an Alchemist. Marcoh returns to his hometown, where he reveals that he has notes in Central City related to the Philosopher's Stone. Two mysterious individuals, called Lust and Gluttony, appear and extort this information and kill Dr. Marcoh. Marcoh has also given this information to Edward and Alphonse, who search for the research notes in Central City, where Marcoh told them it would be.
The Elrics discover that live human beings are the key ingredient in creating the Philosopher's Stone and that inmates who were said to have been put to death were, in fact, moved to a secret laboratory (called Laboratory Number Five) and used to create Philosopher's Stone. They realize that in order for these inmates to have been sacrificed, there must be those higher in command who must be involved. During a battle in Lab No. 5, Ed and Al discover that Lust and Gluttony are Homunculi, as is Greed, who was an inmate in the prison from which the Death Row inmates came. Following the events at Lab No. 5, a friend of the Elric brothers' named Lieutenant Colonel Hughes is killed by Envy, another Homunculus.
At this time, the anime diverges severely from the manga plot line.
The brothers' teacher, Izumi Curtis, seeks out Ed and Al and sends them to an island in her hometown called Yock Island, where they meet a boy who is a talented enough Alchemist to transmute his own body. Believed to be a Homunculus, the military imprisons him. Izumi Curtis attempts to rescue him but finds herself in a five-way fight over the boy. Envy rescues the boy, who becomes known as Wrath. Wrath wants Ed's arm and leg to make himself completely human. Edward and Alphonse are sent to learn from a new Alchemy teacher, who is Izumi's own teacher, named Dante.
Afterward, Winry Rockbell (a childhood friend), Ed and Al start to travel to Ishbal and help some refugees. Winry then returns to Central City where she decides with a friend to investigate the death of Lieutenant Colonel Hughes (promoted in death to Brigadier General Hughes). Solf Kimblee, a leader in the Ishbal civil war, is reinstated in the military, much to Colonel Mustang, Alphonse, and Edward's chagrin.
In the city of Lior, riots have broken out, and Scar is there as well. Edward confronts Scar and battles him. Before they get far, however, they are interrupted by Lust and Gluttony. Ed helps many citizens of Lior escape the riots. Alphonse's armor is becoming an explosive compound following an attack by Kimblee. The only person who can help Al is Scar.
Winry meets Ed and Al's father, Hohenheim, in Ed, Al and Winry's hometown. The Elrics escape to their hometown, while Colonel Mustang's team is in hot pursuit, having been ordered to capture the brothers. Hohenheim decides to confront the leader of the Homunculi, who are behind the confusion in Lior. As Hohenheim battles the leader, it is revealed to be Dante, Izumi's old teacher. Ed and Al are tempted by Lust and Shou Tucker called The Sewing-Life Alchemist to create Philosopher's Stones.
Ed, Al, Wrath and Sloth arrive at a factory and Ed and Al must confront a creation of theirs. Al is captured later, and Ed is soon to follow him to Dante's city below the ground, where he confronts Dante. There was a Philosopher's Stone inside Alphonse, and Dante intends to use it to transfer her soul to that of a younger woman. Then Dante sends Ed and Hohenheim through the Gate, or Portal, into the world very like our own. It is London, during World War I, and bombs are raining on the city.
Edward and his father escape from the city. As they watch from afar, Hohenheim explains to Ed that in this world—our world—physics, instead of alchemy, has become the most evolved science, and that they both are living in the bodies of this alternate universe's Ed and Hohenheim, who they are nearly identical to (The Ed in this world is not missing any limbs). Hohenheim tells Edward he must open the Gate inside himself to return to his own world. Edward, soon after, is trapped in the wreckage of a burning Zeppelin and is assumed to have died.
When Edward returns to his original world, he attempts to set Al free by fighting Dante. Ed soon becomes involved in a fight with Envy, and when Envy reveals that he is Hohenheim's son, Ed is caught off guard and killed by Envy.
After his brother's death, Al attempts Human Transmutation on himself as an equivalent exchange for his brother's life. Ed awakens and finds that his body is whole again, his arm and leg flesh and blood, but Alphonse has been taken through the Gate. Edward offers his own life in exchange for his brother. Al is returned to his own body, except that he is 10 years old and has no memories since the day that he and Ed attempted to bring their mother back to life. Edward is pulled back through the Gate and appears on the other side in Munich, Germany, again in our world.
This is where the anime leaves off. The show is concluded in the movie Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa.
Adapted from the original manga by the animation studio Bones, the anime was directed by Seiji Mizushima. Fullmetal Alchemist was co-produced by Bones, Mainichi Broadcasting System, and Aniplex. The character designs were created by Yoshiyuki Ito and the scripts written by Sho Aikawa. Hiromu Arakawa was present in meetings during the creation of the anime, to give the staff insight into the world of Fullmetal Alchemist.
The series ran on the Mainichi Broadcasting System, TBS, and Animax in Japan from October 4, 2003, to October 2, 2004, with a 6.8 percent television viewership rating. FUNimation's English dub of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime debuted on the Adult Swim block of the United States cable channel Cartoon Network on November 6, 2004 and it ended on the run on March 18, 2006. A year and a half later, Canada's YTV began airing it on March 3, 2006.
- "Melissa" by Porno Graffiti (episodes 1-13)
- "READY STEADY GO" by L'Arc-en-Ciel (episodes 14-25)
- "Undo" by Cool Joke (episodes 26-41)
- "Rewrite" by Asian Kung Fu Generation (episodes 42-51)
- "Kesenai Tsumi" (Indelible Sin) by Nana Kitada (episodes 2-13)
- "Tobira no Muko he" (To the Other Side of the Door) by YeLLOW Generation (episodes 14-25)
- "Motherland" by Crystal Kay (episodes 26-41)
- "I Will" by Sowelu (episodes 42-50)
Fullmetal Alchemist on DVD
The series has been released in a series of thirteen DVDs from December 17, 2003, to January 26, 2005, in Japan. FUNimation also released an English-dubbed series of thirteen DVDs from February 8, 2005, to September 12, 2006, in the United States. MVM had released the first eight volumes in the UK; however, FUNimation gave the rights to Revelation Films.
A series of five original video animations (OVAs) based on the series were also released. Most of them have little or no plot continuity, and director Seiji Mizushima stated in an interview that none is intended as an official continuation of the series. These OVAs include a live-action segment with Alphonse Elric traveling around a modern city. In March 2006, a DVD featuring these OVAs was released in Japan; the dubbed version of this collection, featuring the original English cast, was released by FUNimation under the title Fullmetal Alchemist: Premium OVA Collection in February 2009.