The Forgotten Anime Classic That Inspired Fullmetal Alchemist

"Fullmetal Alchemist" is one of my favorite anime series ever. The series of two brothers searching for the Philosopher's Stone balances insane fight scenes with intensely emotional moments, thanks to the deft work of author Hiromu Arakawa. Who can forget the horror of learning what Shou Tucker did to his daughter? Or Roy Mustang raining down an unceasing firestorm on Envy? It also doesn't hurt that the Elric brothers have perhaps one of the most compelling journeys when it comes to shonen protagonists, literally bending the laws of the universe to help each other.

Arakawa has been fairly open about the influences on "Fullmetal Alchemist," which include doing research about the Industrial Revolution in Europe and her childhood memories of her parents' farm on Hokkaido. In a 2017 video interview, she revealed another major manga series that inspired her — and it happens to come from another legendary manga artist.

Waste not, want not

Arakawa named "Urusei Yatsura" by Rumiko Takahashi as her biggest influence, as it was the first manga she ever read. And while most artists often pay homage to the works that inspire them, it was Takahashi's storytelling efficiency that stuck with Arakawa the most.

I think Urusei Yatsura is what I started being conscious of how to write manga. I mean there's no waste in this manga. I read it again when I grew up and thought it was astonishing.

"Urusei Yatsura" follows the misadventures of high schooler Ataru Moroboshi, who manages to win a game against the alien invaders known as the Oni and their ruler Princess Lum. Lum mistakes Ataru's celebration of getting married to his girlfriend Shinobu as a proposal to her, and falls in love with him. Although "Urusei Yatsura" would receive an anime adaptation and kickstart Takahashi's career, Takahashi's following works including "Ranma 1/2" and "InuYasha" proved to be more popular.

A philosopher's legacy

True to her word, Arakawa kept "Fullmetal Alchemist" moving with a momentum that most manga lacked, while still allowing for character development and action sequences that are the hallmarks of shonen series. The end result was a successful series that rivaled Takahashi's own work; it even ended up being the most popular anime series in its native home of Japan, and led to two anime adapations including "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood", which is more faithful to the source material. The series even inspired a live-action adapation — though I can safely say that you'd be better off watching the anime, as the live action film feels less like a polished Hollywood production and more akin to a fan film.

Arakawa continues to work as a manga artist, with her most recent series "Silver Spoon" wrapping in 2019; she also adapted the popular "Heroic Legend of Arslan" novels into manga form.