Hagane no Renkinjutsushi, or Fullmetal Alchemist, is a manga series by Arakawa Hiromu. (The series is known as Hagaren or FMA for short.) It began in January 2001 and currently runs in the Japanese magazine Monthly Shounen Gangan. So far, 21 volumes of the manga have been released. There are also many spin-offs of the series:

FMA is an action/adventure shounen manga with fantasy elements. Though the story can be quite dark, there is also a lot of comedy and comic relief. FMA is set in the fictional country of Amestris, which is based loosely on England during the Industrial Revolution. However, Amestris is a military-run state, and in the world of FMA, alchemy is a real science. The main law of alchemy is "equivalent exchange" - something can only be created (or "transmuted") from something of equal value.

The story follows two brothers, Edward ("Ed") Elric and Alphonse ("Al") Elric, in their search for the Philosopher's Stone. The Philosopher's Stone allows its user to transmute freely, without being bound by the laws of alchemy.

As children, Ed and Al attempted to perform human transmutation, a forbidden act, in order to resurrect their mother. The transmutation, however, failed, and during the process, Ed lost his left leg and Al lost his entire body. In a desperate attempt to save Al, Ed sacrificed his right arm to bind Al's soul to a suit of armor.

The two now need the Philosopher's Stone in order to regain their true bodies. To achieve their goals, Ed becomes a State Alchemist, which means he is also a member of the State Military. At times, his status as a State Alchemist comes into conflict with his personal goals. There are, of course, many other obstacles in the brothers' path; most notable are the Homunculi, deadly creatures who resemble humans and who have their own connection to the Philosopher's Stone.

In regards to the fhe first anime series, the first half of the anime is very similar to the manga, with a few anime-only adventures and some other differences. However, the anime series then diverges quite wildly from the manga, and the two are ultimately extremely different in story. (Arakawa actually requested that the anime series be different from the manga.) The second anime series is based much more on the manga, though there are still some changes.


Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) is © Arakawa Hiromu.
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Equivalent Exchange