In the steamnpunk fantasy anime Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, are the main characters on a quest to heal their bodies and atone for their sins. One of their most vital allies is Colonel Roy Mustang, the famed flame alchemist (and a rather ambitious guy).
What are they capable of? Both Edward and Roy are great fighters and capable alchemists, but they are hardly the same. Edward has some skills, knowledge, and aptitudes that Roy does not, and as a Colonel and flame user, Roy has some capabilities that Edward can’t possibly match. So, let’s review what unique skills each of these alchemists bring to the table. Note: we’re using Roy before he was forced to open the Gate of Truth during the Promised Day.
10 Edward: Fit Into Small Spaces
Ed is often teased or mocked for being a little guy, and he bristles at every chibi or short joke that’s flung his way. It’s a sore topic, but actually, being petite has its advantages. Remember that time Ed slipped into the air duct in Laboratory 5? Roy couldn’t do that.
On top of that, Ed’s small stature makes him tricky to fight against in melee combat, since his opponents are more used to an opponent who is closer to their own height. But Ed is a tough target to hit just from his body size, let alone his own skills.
9 Roy: Move Officers Around
Roy Mustang may not like all the paperwork that comes with being a Colonel of the Amestris military, but he does have some powers with that rank. Edward, despite having the equal rank of Major, lacks these powers.
At will, Roy can order troops around, including his most trusted officers such as Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, Falman, and Furey, among others. If Roy needs something done, he can move his “chess pieces” around as needed.
8 Edward: Alchemy Without Transmutation Circles
See those white gloves of Ed’s? He doesn’t have any transmutation circles on them, which sets him apart not only from Roy Mustang, but also from Major Alex Louis Armstrong and most other state alchemists, too.
Due to the meeting with Truth, Ed (and Alphonse, too) can use alchemy just by clapping his hands together, and prince Ling thinks that it resembles prayer. This often takes enemies by surprise and dodges the liability of a damaged transmutation circle.
7 Roy: Fire Alchemy
This is Roy Mustang’s primary combat method: creating flames! He is practically unique in this regard, thanks to the flame transmutation circles on his glove (complete with a salamander symbol). He can devastate his enemies with those flames.
Roy tends to use his right hand for his main flame attacks, and not even homunculi will last long against such firepower. He defeated both Lust and Envy with his fire, and the mannequin soldiers couldn’t survive his flames, either.
6 Edward: Use Science
Both Edward and Alphonse have shown a remarkable aptitude for science ever since they were boys, and they amused and slightly exasperated their mom with their nonstop experiments and hypotheses.
Edward uses this to his advantage during battle, such as when he broke down wet dynamite into its separate ingredients, including ammonia, to overwhelm his opponents. He also realized that he could alter the hardness of Greed‘s carbon-based skin shield. Compare a diamond to pencil lead, as Ed put it.
5 Roy: Precise Flame Control
In this shot, Roy is using his flame alchemy in a pretty straightforward manner: he’s blasting Envy to ashes with one blunt strike. But he is capable of more. Roy can control the molecules in the air to determine exactly where his flames will go.
The result is that he can channel his flames around in narrow tendrils, to roast his targets while causing no collateral damage. He did this on the Promised Day, when he burned up the mannequin soldiers without harming Ed, Scar, or the others.
4 Edward: Appreciate The Quiet Life
At first, this seems ridiculously mundane. But it counts for a lot! Both Edward and Roy have been through a lot, and they have a healthy perspective on the world and their own lives. They know what they want, and what they don’t.
After he lost his alchemy, Edward effectively retired from alchemy and from the military, and he settled down with Winry to start a family. We’re really happy for them, and Ed couldn’t possibly be happier about it. What’s some fancy alchemy compared to a lifetime of domestic bliss?
3 Roy: Pinpoint Strikes
If Roy is using his right hand for devastating flame attacks in combat, then what is he doing with his left hand? As Envy found out the hard way, Roy can use it to perform pinpoint, miniature flame attacks at will!
This means that Roy’s flame style has no real blind spots; he can do blunt and precise attacks as needed. He snapped his left hand’s fingers to heat up and vaporized the water in Envy’s eyeballs, and he even did the same to Envy’s tongue. Now that must hurt.
2 Edward: Decipher Alchemy Notes
Roy Mustang is good with paperwork, but he doesn’t enjoy it. Nor would he be able to handle Dr. Tim Marcoh’s research notes! Both Ed and Al wanted to uncover the truth of the Philosopher’s Stone, and with the aid of Sasha, they were able to recreate all of Marcoh’s notes.
Those notes were heavily encrypted, disguised as cookbo0ks and other innocent writings. Ed and Al had a long slog ahead of them, but eventually, they cracked the code and realized the horrifying truth before them.
1 Roy: Communicate Covertly
Well… maybe Ed could do this too, but based on what we’ve seen, Roy is much better at using codes and secret messages than Ed is. Roy is a rather public figure and gets himself caught up in Father’s scheme, so he needs ways to communicate secretly.
And that he does! Riza Hawkeye uncovered Pride‘s identity as Selim Bradley, and Roy didn’t miss a thing when Riza ultra-covertly sent him that message in a conversation. Roy also slipped Olivier Armstrong a message in a bouquet of flowers, nice and subtle. No one had a chance to intercept the message.
Both Edward and Roy are great fighters and capable alchemists on Fullmetal Alchemist, but there are things each character can do that the other can't.