Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is the second Fullmetal Alchemist series. I almost didn’t watch it because I liked the first series so well. I’m incredibly glad I did watch it, since I think I ended up liking this second series better. From what I can tell, the first Fullmetal Alchemist series ran ahead of the manga, so rather than do filler arcs and wait on the manga, they diverged and created their own story line. This second series on the other hand, follows the manga. So the first roughly 7-8 episodes of this series are the same as the first 2/3rds of the original series. Then this series becomes its own.
The story here follows two young boys, Edward and Alphonse Elric. These two are alchemists and can do magic. Their father disappeared when they were young and their mother died, so they are on their own. They find a teacher named Izumi to teach them what she knows of performing alchemy. When they’ve learned as much as they want to from her, they go home and try to use alchemy to bring their mother back from the dead. Human transmutation however is one of alchemy’s big taboos, mainly because alchemy works on the basis of equivalent exchange. To create something you must use something of equal size or value.
In the process of attempting to raise their mother, they open a GATE between the living and dead, and Ed loses a leg and arm to it. Alphonse loses his whole body. Ed manages to keep Al’s soul alive by binding it to some nearby armor, but Al’s body is lost. So Al exists as a suit of armor and Ed has a metal (automail) arm and leg, which are provided for him and maintained by a neighbor girl named Winry and her grandmother. Ed and Al begin a quest to find a fabled philosopher’s stone, with which it is rumored that great things can be done, including retrieving Al’s body and Ed’s arm and leg.
In order to gain access to military records regarding the philosopher’s stone, Ed tries out for and becomes a State Alchemist, known as the Fullmetal Alchemist. This gives him access to records, but also makes him answerable to and order-able by the military. There he falls under the supervision of a Colonel named Roy Mustang and his squad of soldiers. Roy is also a powerful alchemist known as the Flame Alchemist, and he and his soldiers become Ed and Al’s allies along the way.
Other allies Ed and Al gain as they go include people who start out as their foes for various reasons, often because they are also going after the philosopher’s stone. Two of these are a prince and princess from the neighboring kingdom of Xing, Lin Yao and May Chang. Another original foe and later ally is an Ishballan man named Scar.
As the story proceeds, Ed and Al begin running afoul of a group of artificially created humans called homunculi, who were created and are led by a shadowy figure known as Father. As they go, Ed and Al discover that the main ingredients for creating philosopher’s stones are humans. Once Ed and Al discover this, they stop trying for the philosopher’s stone, but are already deep into the battle with Father and the homunculi. Father and his group are creating a massive transmutation circle out of the entire country of Amestris, so that the lives of the entire population can be used to create the ultimate philosopher’s stone and make Father the “perfect being”. To do this, along with the entire population of Amestris, Father needs as human sacrifices strong alchemists who have attempted human transmutation and survived and opened the GATE. These human sacrifices include Ed, Al, Izumi, Roy, and Ed and Al’s father Hohenheim.
In the end, the good guys prevail, although it’s a near thing with everyone working together at various points around Amestris, and Ed fighting Father in his new younger body. In addition, Ed manages to retrieve Alphonse and his body from the other side, so Al is whole again.