Formerly a Funimation licensed show, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an original anime based of the manga of the same name about two brothers on a journey to reclaiming their bodies. The original name is 鋼の錬金術師 (hagane no renkinjutsushi); roughly translated it means “The Steel Alchemist”, which is very fitting due to Edward Elric’s right steel arm. The show heavily focuses on the theme of 等価交換 (Tōka Kōkan) or other wise known as “equivalent exchange”. All alchemists within the universe all adhere to this basic law of alchemy, “In order to create or obtain something, something of equal value must lost or destroyed.” It’s the entire foundation of the plot and how the Elric brothers lost their bodies in the first place.
This show is based of a manga from the author Hiromu Arakawa spanning from 2001 to its ending in 2010. There are two different animated versions of the story: Fullmetal Alchemist which aired 2003 to 2004 with a sequel movie in 2005, and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood which aired 2009 to 2010. I am not talking about the first series because the plot went in a separate direction from the original manga and the brotherhood series. The show is based in an alternate Edwardian Era after the European Industrial Revolution. It’s mostly set in the country Amestris, a unitary state, with a large military power. They appoint accomplished alchemists as State Alchemists to better serve the country. Alchemy is constantly regarded to as a science, not magic, and uses it alongside the growth of technology.
Equivalent Exchange is a prominent theme throughout the show, it’s shown in almost every scene or referenced to by Edward Elric. When alchemy is being used there is always a step-by-step explanation of the process of the action. For example in the pilot episode of the series there is a rogue State Alchemist that attempts to freeze Central (the main city) and in the midsts of the fighting the antagonist of the episode found the time to explain how the water in the air aided his ever-growing ice wall to freeze the whole city. They break down the action of alchemy to make it relatable to science, there’s a causation and effect.
To me Equivalent Exchange is a way for the author to teach his audience about being humble; you cannot ask for something without giving something of equal value in return. There is always a form of equality in the series, even in the background. While you watch the anime you’ll realize that there is a form of stability in the scenes, even buildings, large grasslands, a fortress in a mountain that is surrounded by snow, even the sewers have some kind of stability. Its goes hand in hand with the message that there must be equality in the story, it also says a lot about the society we live in today.
In today’s modern world we have nearly decimated our natural resources in the name of progress, but in this fictional world they’ve made progress without sacrificing their land. There are some parallels to the two realities though; instead of sacrificing the land they live in, the person who was the founder of the country only created the country to kill all the people who live in it. It’s sort of like how we (the real world) are slowly bringing about our own destruction and Arakawa made the Father character in the show the bringer of destruction. It required everyone in the series to band together and end his plans, and we can use that same message and have the world population work together to end our global destruction.