Humankind cannot gain anything without first sacrificing something of equal value.
This is Alchemy's First Law of Equivalent Exchange, and the extremely succinct theme of FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST.
A little over a year ago, I was watching something on Adult Swim, probably Robot Chicken or Harvey Birdman, and as I fast forwarded through the commercials, I saw some pretty awesome animation happening on one of the commercials. So, I jammed the handy 3-second jumpback on my DVR a couple of times, and behold. I saw one of Cartoon Network's amazing 15 second long commercials for its anime shows. They've got a magical ability to take a show, and by clipping frames and sequences, and putting it to techno music, make it totally compelling. I learned a long time ago to trust these. The one they made for Gundam Wing was incredible, and I got shivers every time I saw the one for Neon Genesis Evangelion, even though I'd already owned the show on DVD for years before it ran on Adult Swim. So, back to the point. The show was Fullmetal Alchemist, and the 15-sec promo was amazing. I immediately switched to the guide, to set it up to record the next episode.
Later, I would watch the episode, and it would blow my mind, but I could tell that I was picking up the story too far into the middle to really understand what was going on. So, I did what any rational man with a blown mind would do. I went to Best Buy, bought every FMA DVD they had, went home, and hammered out about 12 episodes in one sitting. I was hooked. The storyline was very grown up, despite the main characters being children. The arc plot was totally engaging, and each individual episode was a complete story all to itself.
So, FMA's run on Adult Swim is complete, and yes, I'm asking you to go out and spend a couple hundred dollars on DVDs, but trust me. You will not regret your purchase. FMA will make you laugh, cry, shiver, and need a hug. It will make you question your choices in life, try to see the big picture, and wonder why all television is not this good.
I'm going to try to write this next part without spoiling the show at all, so bear with me. Fullmetal Alchemist tells the story of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric. Both are gifted young alchemists and idealists devoted to the credo, "Alchemist, be thou for the people." They believe that through Alchemy, they can make the world a better place. Their world is not so different from our own in the early 1900s. Trains, telephones, automobiles and automatic weapons all find their place alongside alchemical transmutation. Science and alchemy move forward together to explain all of life's mysteries, save for one. Human Transmutation, the use of Alchemy to raise the dead, is strictly forbidden. What could possibly be an equivalent exchange for a human soul?
This is the question the brothers ask at the beginning of the series, when their mother dies. They learn all they can about alchemy, and attempt to bring her back, but they fail, and pay a high price for their arrogance. Edward loses his right arm and left leg, while Alphonse loses his entire body and finds his soul attached to an antique suit of armor.
And so their quest begins. They vow to work together to get their real bodies back, no matter what the cost, and their adventures begin.
The full collection is available now on DVD as well as the movie, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa. At around $20-30 per disc, it's going to cost a couple hundred bucks to get the whole collection. Which probably makes it too much of an investment for most people who are going to read this. But to those lucky ones who decide "What's a couple hundred bucks for over 50 half hour episodes of excellent entertainment?", I promise you will not be disappointed.
Fullmetal Alchemist. Watching it may not make you a better person, but it will sure as hell try.