So, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is bad because it isn’t a perfect adaptation of the manga?

Please don't hate me

I’m really enjoying Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I haven’t read the manga, but I loved the first anime, even when it diverged from the source material, so I’m not someone that demands an adaptation be a frame-for-frame duplicate, it just has to be good!

Anime is a totally different medium of entertainment to manga and as such, the dream of a ‘perfect adaptation’ is impossible to realise, because what works in a comic won’t always work for animation. The transition between the two effects everything, from the way the dialogue flows to the selection of a certain scene at the expense of another; an anime series will always have a limited number of episodes to fill and when the source material is particularly long-running, not every single panel can be included. This is a limitation of anime and one should approach an adaptation with that in mind.

The problem is that hardcore fans are often unwilling to compromise, and, in the case of FMA: Brotherhood, this really seems to be effecting the reception of the series, as if the fandom is literally expecting to watch a slideshow of the manga, and when it doesn’t materialise, they feel betrayed, despite the fact it was never going to be like that anyway.

It’s frustrating because depending on which reviews you read, FMA: Brotherhood is either a great, exciting series or just a terrible waste of time. I think it has been fine so far, but all the whining seems to be obscuring its true quality.

A great adaptation should always be true to the spirit of the original, but it should also have its own personality. An extreme, yet perfect example is Gankutsuou, which retains the decadent, rich corruption of Parisian society in Alexandre Dumas‘s The Count of Monte Cristo, whilst transporting his story thousands of years into the future. Mahiro Maeda got away with it because the majority of anime fans aren’t as well-versed in 19th century French literature and as such, saw Gankutsuou as a stand alone work of anime, and as difficult as it may be, I think people should try to view FMA: Brotherhood in the same way too; wanting it, or any adaptation, to be a perfect duplicate of the original will always end in bitter disappointment.

Author: bateszi

A huge bloody nerd. I apologise in advance. I live in Cambridge, England. That's not an excuse, by the way.

27 thoughts on “So, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is bad because it isn’t a perfect adaptation of the manga?”

  1. “wanting it, or any adaptation, to be a perfect duplicate of the original will always end in bitter disappointment.”

    I couldn’t agree more. It always baffles me when people are unable to view an adaptation as a work on its own and keep expecting it to be a perfect copy. That just defeats the purpose of an adaptation, IMO. That said, I don’t like FMA:Brotherhood, simply because I don’t like the manga. I’d read some of it before the first anime was announced, but it failed to impress me me to the extent that I forgot I’d read it. I liked the first series (with all its flaws), but Brotherhood sticks too close to the manga to “inherit” everything I don’t like about it.

    To be off-topic: I don’t know about ‘Gankutsuou’ though. I’d read and loved the novel several times, way before the anime was made, and I was still willing and able to view the anime as a stand-alone – after all, when one sees “anime adaptation,” “24 episodes” and “Gonzo” one should know better than to expect a faithful adaptation. In my eyes Maeda succeeded because even though he went his own way with the plot and the characters (case in point: Eugénie), and the character development of the Count was the complete opposite than that of its novel counterpart (which I loved because anime!Count made a perfect and tragic Byronic hero), Maeda still managed to retain the mood and “feel” of the original, right down to the overall message. To me, this is the key to the success of an adaptation. (In fact, I consider ‘Gankutsuou’ the best adaptation of ‘Monte Cristo’ that I’ve seen so far, and I’ve seen quite a few… and with the exception of ‘Gankutsuou’ I hate all of them.) (By the way, a sci-fi version of ‘Monte Cristo’ is not anything new, after all – see ‘Tiger! Tiger’ which was one of the inspirations for “Gankutsuou’).

    Of course there’s a limit to everything, and while I love ‘Gankutsou,’ ‘RomeoxJuliet’ made me roll my eyes. There’s paraphrase/loose adaptation and there’s “what the hell is this?” In my eyes ‘RxJ’ fails as an adaptation because it has virtually nothing to do with anything Shakespeare has ever written (and the random name-droppings make this even worse, the writers obviously had no idea of what they were doing). Nobody could’ve told it was supposed to be ‘Romeo and Juliet’ if not for the title and the characters’ names.

  2. mmm
    here is my opinion,Bones are going with fast pace to cover quickly what they already animated in the first anime,from the start they had two option 1-to make their own first half 2-or to reanimate the first season and that’s what the fans hoped for,but normaly they have to do it fast or it will be a waste of time and money

    so actually,I think the fans should thank Bones for doing a complete canon anime

    from ep.16(they even made a promo to announce that the anime will be covering the new materials starting from this episode as if it’s a new anime)

    also,the absence of Bones no.1 animator (imo best animator ever Yutaka nakamura
    (see his work in sword of the stranger and you will know why he is number one)
    makes me believe that

    so actually the real FMA didnt start yet,I think the fans will get their perfect adaptation once ep.16 starts

    so let’s wait and see how it plays?:)

  3. I enjoyed the 1st FMA anime,i also read some manga volumes but i have not yet started watching Brotherhood but i am familiar with what is going on thanks to some blogs,anyway I think it is the fans of the 1st FMA anime and who may not be that familiar with the manga that are not liking Brotherhood,i see no reason why the manga fans are not happy with this new season,maybe because Bones goes at a pace that might be too fast,but when they will reach the moment when this anime will deviate clearly from the 1st one i a sure the pacing will settle down,also this anime follows the manga very closely so i really don’t see the problem.

    A manga adaptation that will satisfy all the manga readers is impossible,manga fans can be quite demanding but sometimes a manga will not have a good anime adaptation no matter who will produce it or if they will follow the manga step by step,Blade of the Immortal for example,i highly doubt a anime version that would satisfy at least half the fans could have been created by any of the current anime studios.Oh well, I don’t really care if the anime diverges from the source material even if i liked the original material quite a lot,as long as it’s good and i enjoy it.

  4. Gankutsuou is a truly rare example of changing so much of the original material yet still come out the winner. Not only its setting, but also changing characters, strucutre of narrative, plot events, giving a 180 degrees twist to the ending, all doing this while still retaining those things that are timeless, that make us human (love, betrayal, pain, corruption, vice, and hunger for vengeance). A masterpiece.

    I guess it’s unfair for me to compare the new FMA series to Gankutsuou. But as someone who is not keeping up with the manga, the first few episodes of the new season did not impress me for few reasons, the main ones being rapid pacing, more silliness that for me was jarring (others might find it funny though).

    But I agree with you that adaptations should be regarded separately from the source material. One might bring up source to compare the difference for the sake of amusement, but criticising something for not being loyal is something I frown upon. However, I guess I can sympathise with those who loved the manga, but was disappointed that the experience of watching anime wasn’t as nearly as satisfying as reading manga (regardless of how faithful it’s being to the manga). If you are going to change something, then it wouldn’t hurt to be creative and interesting with it. Like Gankutsuou!

  5. I think it is unfair to say whether something is a good adaption if you haven’t read the source material. Perhaps Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is enjoyable on its own right but it’s been lackluster compared to the manga. Maybe the pacing will get better now that they are onto the material not covered by the 1st series, but it doesn’t seem that way from how much they are covering in the preview for episode 15. I don’t need a frame for frame adaption but I just want them to slow down the pace. I mean episode 13 they adapted an entire volume into 1 episode. That’s just ridiculous. Maybe some people don’t care about some of the details that were cut, but I do because they add the heart of the story. I mean I love FMA so I will stick with this series but sometimes I wonder why I don’t just stick with the manga. An adaption should add to the manga not take away from it, which is exactly what this adaption has been doing so far (not that all the episodes were bad I did quite enjoy 4, 8 and 9). Not to mention there have been plenty of well done anime adaptions that were pretty faithful to the source material: Maison Ikkoku, Honey & Clover, Hikaru no Go, Monster, just to name a few.

    And I actually think Gankutsuou was a great adaption of the novel because while it made changes it stayed true to Dumas’ themes in the novel (well except for maybe the Count’s ending).

  6. @kuromitsu

    I’ve read the Count of Monte Cristo too, albeit after I’d seen the anime adaptation, and I’ve often suspected that Gankutsuou might well be the best adaptation of Dumas’s story, as well as adoring the idea of a fanatic having to begrudgingly admit as much!

    For what it’s worth, I think the different in quality between Romeo X Juliet and Gankutsuou simply comes down to one man; Mahiro Maeda, his contribution to the latter is so inspired as to be genius. It’s like a perfect storm of high budget, experimental animation and limitless source material; the streets of 19th century Paris seemed such a perfect fit for Maeda’s colourful imagination!

    @qwertypoiuy

    I checked out the Yutaka Nakamura MAD on YouTube and it was mightily impressive, reminds me that I need to rewatch Wolf’s Rain and RahXephon some time too. Oh god, I really love BONES, they’ve created so many of my favourites!

    @Akikaze

    I believe we are in complete agreement! :)

    @gaguri

    Exactly! Gankutsuou is obviously an extreme example to compare to a mainstream hit like FMA, but the spirit of the former is wonderful, so much so in fact that it feels like an original work. The same can be said of series like Honey & Clover and Monster, one can respect the quality of the original source, yet when I think of those series, I think of a spinning ferris wheel, dotted with beautiful lights, and Johan’s blonde hair and sad voice, all of them images from their respective anime.

    @Kim

    I just think I disagree with the argument that “[…] An adaption should add to the manga not take away from it […]” because I don’t find any worth in comparing the two; it always ends in heart ache. In this case, the complaining has particularly confused me because I’m genuinely enjoying the adaptation; it doesn’t feel rushed at all, which is why I think the (manga) fandom should be trying to view Brotherhood as a separate entity, because it is turning out to be a good series with great production values, and it would be a shame to pick it apart and complain every week rather than just enjoying it for what it is (I suppose I just want everyone to enjoy it!) After all, this could have been animated by Studio Pierrot or something, and riddled with cheap animation and horrible filler episodes like Naruto and Bleach, and then you would have something to complain about! :)

  7. Well trust me I am happy that you and others are enjoying this adaption. I want people to like the manga storyline so I am happy to hear that. I understand that someone who has not read the manga is not going to have the same issues that I have as a manga reader. But having been a big fan of the series for 5 years now well I can’t help but be disappointed at some things that cut and changed. Now keep in mind that I am not upset at everything they cut and changed and there is also a lot I am enjoying. But there are quite a few things I am displeased about. Since you don’t know what you are missing you also don’t understand what the complaints are precisely about.

    But really it’s not just manga fans complaining. A lot of 1st anime fans have been complaining too. I guess that is what happens when not only do you have a manga to compare to but also another anime series (at least now that we have reached manga only territory you can’t really compare this new series to the first anime anymore).

    And of course I do understand the series could be worse, but it could also be better. You know if they can do such a quality job with episode 14 then I don’t understand why they can’t keep up that quality for the entire series. Maybe my expectations are too high but they are only that high because that is how much I enjoy the manga. But again I am really happy you are enjoying the series and I don’t want to take that away from you or anyone.

  8. My impression was that fans were complaining because it wasn’t as good in terms of drama as the first series. Having read the manga, I can say that FMA:B is probably the closest BONES could get to doing a 1:1 adaptation of the series. It’s only rushed in comparison with the first anime, in any case. Anyone who’s still complaining that BONES aren’t being faithful is simply wrong.

  9. I saw the title and I couldn’t walk away without saying something. I’m an uncompromising hardcore fan of the manga who constantly griped about the first FMA anime series. Though, I’m not complaining about Brotherhood because I’m more excited about the new animated material. I’m actually sort of glad they’re pacing it fast. There are a couple scenes I’m just dying to see (Roy v. Lust). It all depends on how well they handle the rest of the series for me.

  10. there will always be these pathetic FMA fans, always craving for manga-anime chemistry…why won’t they just relax, and enjoy the show? it’s not like someone will actually care what they think…

  11. @Kim

    I totally understand where you’re coming from. Having been badly effected by the Bokurano adaptation, I ended up dropping it and feeling bitterly let down by the whole thing, but months later, I had another go and realised it wasn’t that bad after all. I understand that you’re a huge fan of the story and want the adaptation to be as good as possible, it’s just that I’m seeing a lot of FMA fans talking about Brotherhood as if it’s a bad series, which it totally isn’t; I feel confident in predicting it’s going to be one of the greatest shonen anime series of all time, but whether or not that pleases the hardcore fans is another thing entirely, which is what I’m trying to address with this post. Regardless, it’s great discussing FMA with as passionate a fan as you, and we’re on totally different sides of the fence this time, which makes the debate all the more fascinating.

    @Omisyth

    We’ll see on that point, I think it’s hard to feel the ‘drama’ when you know it’s coming. I watched episode 14 earlier this evening and for the first time in a while, something really violent and twisted happened that I’d totally forgotten about (hint: it involves King Bradley, a sword and Al’s ’empty’ suit of armour).

    @Xerox

    WOW! YOU’RE STILL READING MY BLOG?! I hope you’ve been keeping well? It’s always nice to hear from an old blogging acquaintance!

    @AnimeNerdz

    I’d can’t agree with that, hence this post, really. I think it’s interesting how people are viewing FMA from such totally different perspectives, and how opinions seem to vary wildly between those perspectives.

  12. yutaka did the action scenes in the new opening as expected,now wait for him ^_^

    the anime is going to be hell alot better

  13. The first FMA run had drama, mystery, and backstory it actually had you hooked. The fight scenes in Brotherhood are brutal. In eps 22 when Al and Ed team up to take on Scar a little Chinese girl with a Panda save him?? Are you freaking kidding me? Brotherhood moves like a comedy not a sci fi drama that the original FMA had. Brotherhood just is plain old boring, a major let down.

  14. christ if you’re going to write an article, at least know basic grammar. it’s AFFECT not EFFECT – like YOU’RE is not YOUR, NEITHER is not EITHER.

  15. I had only seen part of the first FMA anime after I began reading the manga. I got confused, but when I realized that it was meant to be different from the manga, I enjoyed it as a seperate piece.

    I began watching Brotherhood, I was confused at first, because I wasn’t sure if it was an adaption of continuation, but I realized it was following the manga’s series (which I prefered) I was able to enjoy it again.

    Of course the new adaption has flaws, I felt that the first few epiosdes moved way too fast, but once we got to around the time Greed showed up, it was just getting better.

    The only thing I don’t advise you to do is to start going to your friends who never watched Brotherhood/read the manga and say “Ohmigod That was so cool when Mustang did [spoiler]” You can easily get into a fight.

  16. Fullmetal Alchemist brotherhood isn’t bad because it isn’t a perfect adaptation of the manga, it’s bad because it claims to be a perfect adaptation of the manga and isn’t. It’s a lie. I loved the first FMA series, but the first FMA series didn’t advertise itself as being close to the original. That’s my problem with brotherhood. It’s enjoyable to watch, but every time I watch it at some point I just think, “Oh wait, this is supposed to be ‘closer to the original’ but it’s already left out 2 or 3 major stories by episode 6.” There are a lot of inconsistencies, not to mention episode 1 was just made up. I don’t mind if It’s not a panel by panel adaptation, I don’t care if it’s a completely different story, just be careful not to advertise yourself as such.

  17. i’m a fma fan, and i don’t have any reasons to dislike the new series of it. i love the manga and also with its anime.

  18. i’m a fma fan, and i don’t have any reasons to dislike the new series of it. i love the manga and also with its anime.

  19. I have to agree with you, my dear author. Yes, Brotherhood doesn’t deserve all the bashing it’s been getting. I’m totally enjoying this new version, and I don’t want to judge if it’s better or worse. As long as it’s good story, I don’t see why we should be so critical, as to say it doesn’t follow the manga perfectly. I’ve read the manga, watched the first the adaption, even read the light novels. So I’d consider myself a total FMA freak.
    The first adaption is materpiece in its own right, although it did diverge from the manga half way through. I indulged myself in both the anime and manga version simultaneously, and I loved both. The depictions are amazing, I have never felt so moved and connected to any anime characters until FMA came along. However the ending wasn’t very satisfying as many of you have said. I thought they rushed the big finale.
    Now, for Brotherhood..
    The pace was definitely off for the first 10 episodes or so. But…I don’t think there IS a way to plot a perfect path for these starting episodes. There WILL be complaints however they make it. If they decided to reenact the whole beginning, let me guess, some people might render it boring and repetitive. So the alternative is to build in the major events that are crucial to plot development, and eliminate the details that serve for character development. In this new version, character introduction is more straight to the point, there isn’t enough room for suspense like we had in the original.
    I’d assume most people who are watching Brotherhood have already seen the first adaption. So we are already VERY familiar with the characters, including their nature and role. Therefore, just doing a recap is understandable and Brotherhood truly begins after Hugh’s death, that’s when things really get interesting. Brotherhood introduces characters in the manga that were never in the first adaption. Sure we could compare certain elements, but as a whole, I think we should regard them as independent journeys with their own stories to tell.

  20. For me personally, I read the manga, saw the first series, and is currently watching Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood and for me it’s been an awesome experience. It’s really sweet that I get to see what I read in animated form. There’s some times that I do nitpick, but that doesn’t make the new series so horrible. I still enjoy it and am glad that other people–manga readers or not– still can appreciate Bones for doing a wonderful job on the series. I don’t hate any of the versions of FMA and look at it as two different stories. It takes the enjoyment of watching a great anime if I have to criticize every cut they make. Plus, it’s not over yet so we never know if they ARE going to have some part of the story explained in another way. I’m just trying to say don’t let the manga or the first series to keep you back from enjoying Brotherhood. It’s a good adaption that I’m glad they did.

  21. Honestly I have to agree with Bateszi. The same can be said about movies. Honestly it defeats the purpose by nitpicking a series apart just because it doesn’t mirror a manga or book 100% it’s literally impossible, and as you said, they’re the same general ideals just customized to make it unique in it’s own way. I like Full Metal Alchemist the 1st series and I’m waiting until I finish watching the first season before I watch brotherhood but I’ll still watch it. especially since the movements are much smoother than last time I dunno I feel it’s be worth watching in my opinion. but since they’re changing the english voice actors I may end up watching it in Japanese unless the new voices are really good.

    1. Just have to say that if I were new to FMA to begin with, “Brotherhood” would piss me off and turn me away. I would have preferred had they done it RIGHT, as in, made scenes appropriately drawn and whatnot. I tried the manga and found it uninspiring and droll as hell (not dull, just droll), but the first series worked well, even with its multiple flaws.

      Perhaps it’s that the first anime adaptation was it’s own work, and went its own way. It wasn’t this “frame for frame” thing that manga/anime hardcorers supposedly want to see. Thank god for that–what i’ve seen so far and read of the manga is disappointing after a bit.

      The narrative flow and the dialogue (Hughes in particular) was well done, particularly the English dub–I’m debating whether I can stomach the next 8 episodes just ot get to “new” content, but so far, FMA: Brotherhood seems like “yar” or, yet another rehash.

      Manga faitful or not, it’s klacking the kind of strength of character (at least as presented in the rushed, spit out what you know fahsion of these early episodes.)

      .rant.

  22. well, let me tell yu this- i was introduced to the world of fma only through brotherhood and i never had a problem with it. i felt there was some heart in the story and the characters truly had their influence on me. it was only after i read the manga and saw fma1 that i realized its flaws but i never bothered. brotherhood was still amazing and the action sequences were smooth. morover, brotherhood, as most of u said so, didn’t want to really repeat the whole thing that was already there in fma1. the japanese audience wanted the real action fast. they wanted to see the scenes that weren’t there in fma1. u may say fma1 had more heart, but if u forget about the manga and fma1 nd look at brotherhood seperately, u will notice that brotherhood also has heart. except it is very subtle and is hidden between the actions. many of u said that the chimera episode in brotherhood was a mere shadow of the first adaptation… it was enough to shake my heart and also the hearts of many other friends of mine. fma1 was beautiful, i must say. but i could appreaciate it only cuz i seperated it from the manga and brotherhood. i looked at it as a completely different anime. so, i basically do not want to comapare the two series as both are close to my heart and have been great support during bad times. but i do want to say that one is not inferior to the other in any way. and even the manga is truly wonderful! and i am glad that there are people who agree with me!
    long live fullmetal! :D

  23. Most of you don’t seem like you have a problem with FMAB. Well, I don’t. (not much anyway)

    I was a little disappointed when they cut the most exciting parts. Say for Eg. Kimblee has been my fav. char for a long time. It was a shame that they cut his badass line: “How rude! Getting blown up while I was talking. ” They really made him look like an old thug with that permanent expression of annoyance. (I’m an artist so I look out for the subtleties. I assure you manga Kimblee is more appealing than FMAB Kimblee.) :P
    Nope, I’m not exaggerating. My friend didn’t quite like FMAB Kimblee and when she read the manga, she was mind-blown by his character. (and MJ suit)

    There are a lot of details they missed out, particularly the dialogues that define the character. But the outcome was not bad. It was just different, no denying that. A difference that some people liked, some people didn’t. (I’m with the latter.) For most of the part, it is an excellent adaptation. :)

    Well, I guess I shouldn’t complain. They didn’t do a BAD job. They did cut a lot, but my sorrow and bitter disappointment arose out of my expectations out of the series.

    But they did a good job, you can give ’em that!
    *Hat’s off in Kimblee fashion.

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