I've actually never posted on here, and have always been too daunted to get involved here, but after hearing your heartfelt story on the blog, Dearheart, I felt inspired to share my story as well. I agreed with practically everything you said, and was so happy to be reminded of why I love this story so much. Here's my story.
1. I think it's only fitting that I was introduced to FMA through my brother. My brother is two years older than I am, and has been my best friend literally since the day I was born; he is very much my Nii-san like Ed is to Al. He's always discovering new things and introducing them to me, so one day he said he'd been hearing a lot of good things about an anime called Full Metal Alchemist. He showed me a fanart of Ed with angel wings and a huge sword, and in that moment we both agreed we needed to watch it. (Never mind that Ed turned out not to have wings or a sword, unless you count his arm XD)
We actually watched episode 40 first (the last episode with Martel), just to see if it looked interesting. I had no idea what was going on, couldn't figure out why they were calling the girl in the armor "he" or how the armor could talk on its own, but it looked serious and intriguing. So we decided to watch the whole show, and promptly forgot everything from that episode.
Then we watched the actual first episode, and...I was hooked instantly. I had no idea what to expect, but all of a sudden there were these two boys kneeling on the floor and screaming and bleeding all over the place. Those first few minutes were exhilarating
and riveting. Then it switched to Ed slouching through the desert, and it was so funny! I was immediately interested and wanted to find out more, so we excitedly watched on.
2. It took me nine episodes before I really felt like I had a handle on the characters and how the world worked, but that was all it took for me to fall in love with it and want it to keep going forever. (It was the Youswell episode that really made me understand what drives Ed and how he responds to things.) I could talk about any number of elements that made FMA interesting and lovable, from the character design to the hilarity to the deep questions brought up in the plot, but at the end of the day I have to realize that what brings me back every time is the Elric brothers.
Not until I'd watched through the entire first series twice did I realize that I felt so connected to the brothers because they reminded me so much of my brother and myself. I've grown sick and tired of siblings who are at each other's throats all the time, because I think that siblings are built-in best friends and should be regarded that way. It was so refreshing to see brothers who were best friends, and who would give up everything
for each other. One of the most powerful moments of the entire series is when Ed is drawing transmutation circles on himself in his own blood, shouting, "I'll give you my leg, my arms, even my heart - HE'S THE ONLY LITTLE BROTHER I'VE GOT!!!!"
I was blown away by the sheer love and devotion Ed and Al have for each other, and I still am. I kept watching the first series, read the manga, waited on the edge of my seat every month for each new chapter, and kept up with the release of each Brotherhood episode online, because of the Elric brothers. And I will continue to read and watch because of the brothers.
3. Starting to notice a pattern here?
The heart of FMA is brotherly love. The Elric brothers are the main characters, and their love for each other is what drives the story forward. Not romance, no matter how much it might look like that from fanart and fanfiction. The brothers are the core, and everything else is an offshoot of them. They move forward, fight, and persevere because of their bond. It's what ties the entire story together, and I can't express how much I love that. There are precious few stories that include such a strong brotherly bond, let alone put it in the center.
More broadly speaking, FMA is about selflessness, and giving up everything for the people you love. Ed and Al do that, obviously - to each other but also to their friends like Winry and Mustang - but so do all the protagonists. You can see this same theme in characters like manga!Hohenheim, Mustang, Hawkeye, even Mei Chang.
FMA is about seeing others as more important than yourself, and doing whatever you can to help them.
4. FMA taught me - surprise surprise! - to value my brother more. Well, all my siblings, but especially my brother. I realized that I was taking him for granted, that I wasn't valuing our relationship enough. As I've fallen head-over-heels in love with the Elric brothers' story and bond, I've realized that while the bond between me and my brother is different, it's just as powerful and important.
When my brother left for college a year ago, I had a really hard time accepting it and learning to adjust. I spent roughly five months leading up to his departure crying every day. I'm not even exaggerating. I cried every day, because I didn't want to say goodbye to my best friend who'd always been there, who'd never been separated from me for longer than a couple weeks. And I was terrified that, because we wouldn't be together physically, our relationship would change. I dreaded losing the closeness, the instant understanding we shared because we grew up together and our tastes were often almost identical. FMA had taught me to treasure that bond, and now I was afraid it would snap in two. But FMA helped me through that transition, because I wrote a fic in which the brothers had to say goodbye, and did and said everything I wished I could with my brother. I gave it to him when he left, and he understood what I was trying to say. Moreover, nothing essential in our relationship has changed. We're still just as close as ever, and just as Ed and Al are able to go their separate ways at the end of Brotherhood without breaking off all ties to each other, so I can strike out on a new path without my brother constantly at my side. It's because we know how important we are to each other; it gives us the strength to move forward.
On another note, FMA has improved my writing by showing me how an excellent
story can be put together, and by inspiring me to write lots of fics and get in lots of practice. I've improved greatly in the six years I've been writing FMA fics. Also, those fics have introduced me to several very dear friends and strengthened several other friendships. I would never have met those wonderful people if not for FMA.
5. FMA is unforgettable because it is my life.
That sounds obsessive, and I suppose it is, but FMA has been something I could look forward to, enjoy, and daydream about since I first started watching when I was fourteen. It is one of those timeless stories that I'll never get tired of, that I've had to share with almost everyone I meet, and that I'll want to introduce to my kids someday, even if the drawing style looks woefully outdated by then. I will never forget how FMA captured my heart and made me better, stronger, softer, and more open. Never ever forget.