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Fullmetal Alchemist (鋼の錬金術師, Hagane no Renkinjutsushi; Literally meaning "Alchemist of Steel"), is an ongoing Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. The world of Fullmetal Alchemist is styled after the European Industrial Revolution. Set in a fictional universe in which alchemy is one of the most advanced scientific techniques known to man, the story follows the brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric, who want to restore their bodies after a disastrous failed attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy.
The manga is serialized in Square Enix's Monthly Shōnen Gangan magazine (starting August 2001) and currently has 22 tankōbon volumes. It was adapted into an animated television series of 51 episodes by Bones from October 4, 2003 to October 2, 2004, later followed by a film sequel that concluded the story of the anime. Fullmetal Alchemist would later spawn a second series called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which first premiered in Japan on April 5, 2009. A multitude of spin-off novels, original video animations (OVAs), drama CDs, soundtracks, and video games have been adapted from the series. A collectible card game, multiple supplementary books, and a variety of action figures and other merchandise based on the characters of the series have also been released.
The manga has been licensed by Viz Media for publication in the United States, with nineteen bound volumes released currently. Although there are no major differences with the Japanese version, some pages have been edited to avoid minor references to western theology. Funimation has dubbed the anime episodes in the United States and Canada, and has also released them in all English-speaking DVD regions. The English version of the film premiered in a limited number of U.S. theaters on August 25, 2006 and was later released on DVD. Funimation and Destineer have also been releasing the video games from the series.
The franchise has seen high popularity in both Japan and North America. As of March 2008, the Fullmetal Alchemist manga has sold over 30 million copies in Japan. The English release of the manga's first volume was the top-selling graphic novel during the year 2005. In two TV Asahi web polls, the anime was voted #1 most popular anime of all time in Japan. It was nominated in six of the eight categories for which it was eligible at the American Anime Awards in February 2007, winning awards in five of them. Reviewers from several media have noted the characters' complex personalities and original designs.
Edward and Alphonse Elric are two alchemist brothers searching for the legendary Philosopher's Stone, a powerful object which would allow them to recover their bodies (which were lost in an attempt to bring their mother back to life through alchemy). Born in the village of Resembool from the country of Amestris (アメストリス, Amesutorisu), the two brothers live there with their parents. Their father, Hohenheim, leaves home for unknown reasons and years later, their mother, Trisha Elric, dies of a terminal illness leaving the Elric brothers alone. After their mother's death, Edward becomes determined to bring her back through the use of alchemy, an advanced science in which objects can be created from raw materials. They research Human Transmutation, a forbidden art in which one attempts to create or modify a human being. However, this attempt fails, ultimately resulting in the loss of Edward's left leg and Alphonse's entire body. In a desperate effort to save his brother, Edward sacrifices his right arm to affix Alphonse's soul to a suit of armor. Some days later, an alchemist named Roy Mustang visits the Elric brothers, and he tells Edward to become a member of the State Military of the country to find a way to recover their bodies. After that, Edward's left leg and right arm are replaced with automail, a type of advanced prosthetic limb, created for him by his close family friends Winry Rockbell and her grandmother Pinako.
Edward sets out to become a State Alchemist (国家錬金術師, Kokka Renkinjutsushi), an alchemist employed by the State Military of Amestris, which infamously annihilated much of the neighboring country of Ishbal's population in the past decade. Becoming a State Alchemist enables Edward to use the extensive resources available to State Alchemists, but it also turns him into what they call a "dog of the military". His more friendly relationship with Roy Mustang however, whom he reports to and who recruited him, allows the brothers freedom to search for the Philosopher's Stone as part of Edward's research, as each State Alchemist is expected to independently research new things which may be of a use to the State Military of Amestris. The brothers set off in search of the Philosopher's Stone as a means to restore their bodies. Throughout their journey, they meet many antagonists, including those who are willing to do anything to obtain the Philosopher's Stone; Scar, one of the few surviving Ishbalans, who seeks vengeance on the State Alchemists for the destruction of his race; and the homunculi, a group of human-like creatures who carry pieces of the Philosopher's Stone inside themselves, and from it derive the ability to survive almost any harm.
As the story progresses, Edward and Alphonse discover the vast expansion of Amestris was the result of the homunculi, who created and secretly control the State Military. The homunculi and much of the high-ranking military officers are commanded from behind the curtains by the creator of the homunculi, a man simply known as "Father" who gained immortality by using a copy of Hohenheim as his new body centuries before the series' timeline. He plans to use Amestris as a gigantic transmutation circle, possibly to transmute the entire country into the Philosopher's Stone. When Edward and Alphonse discover Father's plans, they, along with other members of the State Military, set out to defeat him.