Although it was the second adaptation of the manga that serves as its source material, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is arguably the more beloved version the Fullmetal Alchemist story — in part because of its ending. The anime series follows a pair of brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who were raised in the village of Resembool by a single mother after their father left the family. Following their mother"s passing, the boys attempt to use their skills in alchemy to raise her from the dead — something that"s incredibly dangerous and impossible to complete without huge consequences. The human transmutation attempt leaves Al"s physical form destroyed and Ed without a leg; Ed then gives up another limb, his arm, to allow Al"s soul to remain and be placed into a suit of armor. After Ed and Al burn their home to the ground, they forge ahead to become State Alchemists, with Ed becoming the "Fullmetal Alchemist." Their aim is to return to the fully human young men they once were, and the journey they embark on is quite thrilling, filled with trials, tribulations, and the threat of the antagonistic "Father."
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The ending of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which ties up virtually every loose thread that the story has created over the course of its run, serves as a fully satisfying conclusion for fans who wanted to anime to be faithful to the manga it was based on. Brotherhood"s ending also reinforces some of the central themes that the story had established throughout its run, and emphasizes the powerful love between the Elric brothers that had long propelled the story forward. The world of Fullmetal Alchemist is one of fundamental balance, governed by the law of equivalent exchange, and its ending reinforces that philosophy through the sacrifices it asks both Ed and Al to make in order to emerge victorious in their struggle against Father.
As Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood winds its way toward its conclusion, the final showdown between Ed and Father feels inevitable. Ed"s victory is far from guaranteed, though, and is put into jeopardy after Father successfully destroys Ed"s automail arm. Realizing that his brother will need both arms to defeat Father, Al encourages May — his love interest who"s a Xing princess and an expert in alkahestry – to help him perform a transmutation, sacrificing his own soul so that Ed can get his arm back. Al then reunites with his body on the other side of the Gate of Alchemy, and Ed is eventually able to successfully defeat Father.
Even after Al"s sacrifice, though, Ed still needs help to further weaken father. He relies on Greed, one of the Seven Homunculi that embodies Father"s greed (or at least a portion of it), who decides to sacrifice himself to turn Father"s body into weak charcoal. Ed is then able to punch a hole through Father"s chest, releasing the souls of Xerxes that were trapped inside and sending Father through the Gate of Truth, where he is trapped for eternity.
As everyone mourns Al in the aftermath of Ed"s victory, Ed refuses to use a philosopher"s stone to try and bring his brother back. Instead, he performs a human transmutation on himself, agreeing to give up his use of alchemy forever in exchange for getting Al back in his original body. Ed"s sacrifice means that he"ll never be able to perform alchemy again, but it"s a sacrifice he"s willing to make in exchange for his brother"s life.
Following the chaos of Father"s defeat, Ed and Al"s father Hoenheim is finally allowed to come to the end of his own journey. Although Ed refuses to allow Hoenheim to sacrifice himself to bring Al back, Hoenheim still dies, having finally vanquished the force that was giving him his unnaturally long life. Father"s rise to power was largely because of Hoenheim, and Hoenheim obviously feels enormous guilt over what he"s caused. While Hoenheim was not able to defeat Father on his own, Father"s death allows Hoenheim to die peacefully at the site of his wife Trisha"s grave.
As he passes, Hoenheim says he"s grateful that he knew Trisha and his children, and that he"s sorry for all of the pain that he caused them. The show"s penultimate episode closes with Hoenheim"s death, in part because it suggests that Father"s demise may really be the beginning of a new era.
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Although Ed loses his ability to perform alchemy, he doesn"t lose interest in the subject completely. Two years after the events of the main series, Al and Ed agree to travel east and west, respectively, hoping to learn more about alchemy and eventually combine their research. Meanwhile, Ishbalan priest-slash-warrior Scar works to rebuild the nation of Ishval, and Ed"s superior State Alchemist Colonel Mustang, who has now been promoted to a general, continues to aspire to become Führer.
Before Ed leaves for the west, he and his childhood friend Winry profess their love for each other in the only way he knows how: through the language of equivalent exchange. The closing image of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is of a family photo that shows Ed and Winry married with two children, surrounded by Al and other close family and friends. Ed may have lost the ability to perform alchemy, but he still leads a meaningful life, one where his brother has been made whole.
In its final moments, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood offers hope for the future, even as it suggests that none of the show"s characters have forgotten about the trauma they have already been through.