I will attest to this day that the 2003 version of Fullmetal Alchemist is superior to 2009’s Brotherhood. Now this is a surprisingly unpopular opinion that I myself once held. The first time you watch Brotherhood, you are in awe of something you once loved being redone with a fresh coat of paint and a cherry tone you didn’t quite expect. It is common to see something new and think it’s better, simply because it’s exciting and fresh and makes you think in ways you hadn’t previously. By the time Brotherhood came out, I had already seen the original a couple of times, and as with anything excitement dulls with repetition and Brotherhood allowed me a gateway to revisit something I loved with new zeal.
However, that being said, the original FMA is the one I have rewatched the most over the years, while the most I have revisited of Brotherhood are select scenes online or blasting the opening songs (regardless of this conversation, Brotherhood has some of, if not the best openings in Anime). It’s not because Brotherhood is bad. No, far from it. I would even go as so far as to call it one of the best Shonen out there, having one of the best rides I’ve experienced in media (it helped that I was forced to watch only one episode a week as it were airing). However, despite that, Brotherhood doesn’t quite have the emotional gravitas as the original FMA. Brotherhood gives us a happy ending where each character mostly receives closure and is forgiven of their sins. While this is a pleasant alternative to the emotional onslaught that is the original, it unfortunately means that you leave Brotherhood not feeling that much.
In the original however, no such happy ending exists. Characters are sometimes left worse at the end of the series than when they started. Characters we like are forced to deal with the consequences of their actions in ways that may not always be pleasant. It’s not so much as they are being punished, so much so as that there is a natural sense of cause and effect in the universe. A concept that is no better exemplified than in original FMA sequel movie, Conqueror of Shamballa.
This is a divided movie amongst fans of FMA and honestly, I never understood it. It’s a beautiful ending to a series that shows us the bittersweet understanding of the world. Many people wanted to see Ed reunited with Al and his extended circle in Amestris, bust instead we were given the brothers forever separated from their home in Nazi Germany. And yes, this is an odd direction for a series that viewers wished to revel in magic, but it fits. Ed, having broken the taboos of the world more than once, has to live in a world far from his own. Not necessarily as a punishment, but because that is the path his decisions have opened up for him. Similarly, Al joining him trapped in Germany, is not a punishment, but a choice contingent on the journey they have made together.
I don’t know, but for whatever reason, there is something so refreshing about Conqueror of Shamballa’s ending. It is often said that the point of media is to offer escapism from the world as we know it, but I would say that sometimes art reflecting life is more soothing. Despite how melancholic it is, it allows a viewer to see how even though you may make mistakes that have lasting consequences on your life, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason to go on. The world continues to spin, we adapt, we change, and we grow. Ed and Al don’t get a perfect ending at the conclusion of their series, but do any of us?