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The Fullmetal Alchemist anime and manga series feature an extensive cast of fictional characters created by Hiromu Arakawa. The story is set in a fictional universe within the 20th Century in which alchemy is one of the most advanced scientific techniques known to man. Although the story in the first anime and the manga basically start the same, the first anime, midway through its run, begins to differ greatly from the manga; characters that are killed early on in the manga survive to the end of the first anime and vice versa. The second anime's (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) events, however, follow the ones from the manga.
The story follows the adventures of two alchemist brothers named Edward and Alphonse Elric. While trying to revive their mother, the brothers lost parts of their bodies, with Alphonse's soul being contained in a suit of armor, and Edward replacing his right arm and left leg with two sets of automail, a type of advanced prosthetic limb. Advised by Roy Mustang, an alchemist from the State Military, Edward becomes a State Alchemist, and starts traveling with Alphonse through the country of Amestris in order to find a way to recover their bodies. In their search, they hear of the Philosopher's Stone, a powerful alchemy artifact that the brothers can use to recover their bodies. However, after becoming a State Alchemist, Edward discovers that several members of the military are also attempting to get the stone, most notably humanoid creatures known as homunculi, who start chasing the Elric brothers.
When creating the series, Arakawa took her inspiration from several experiences in her childhood, including her parents' jobs and the manga she used to read. Several types of merchandising have also been released based on the characters from the series. Reviewers from manga, anime, and other media have also commented on the characters. Most of them have praised their development in the story as well as Arakawa's artwork.