Original creator of anime/manga hit hopes to please veteran fans and franchise newcomers alike.

The release of the live-action theatrical adaptation of hit anime/manga Fullmetal Alchemist is less than a month away, and the general attitude among fans in Japan seems to be cautiously optimistic. Yes, anime-to-live-action movies have a spotty track record, especially when the setting and characters aren’t Japanese (as is the case for Fullmetal Alchemist). However, there’s a ray of hope in the fact that the films are being produced by Warner Brothers, the company responsible for the Rurouni Kenshin live-action trilogy, arguably the best-received and most financially successful anime adaptations in decades.

But while the film’s portents are mixed, one thing that’s being met with more unanimous joy among the fanbase is that original series creator Hiromu Arakawa is once again picking up her pen to draw a new Fullmetal Alchemist manga chapter, something she hasn’t done since the series’ manga concluded in the summer of 2010. To get fans’ hearts really pumping, the film’s official Twitter account has shared the gorgeous cover illustration for the new installment, which is titled Fullmetal Alchemist 0  (read “Fullmetal Alchemist Zero”).

As the name implies, the new episode takes place before the first chapter of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, which was originally published in 2001 and dropped readers into an official investigation by protagonist Ed and his brother Al. Fullmetal Alchemist 0 will instead take place just after Ed obtains his certification as a State Alchemist, a position that will afford him the financial and research resources to search for a way to restore the limbs he lost in a forbidden alchemic ritual which also claimed Al’s corporeal form entirely.

▼ Trailer for the live-action Fullmetal Alchemist

As is common when adapting one form of media to another, it looks like the live-action Fullmetal Alchemist movie will be condensing, combining, and rearranging events that took place in its source material, which consists of 27 collected manga volumes. But by making Fullmetal Alchemist 0 a prequel that takes place before the start of Ed’s hourney of redemption and reclamation, Arakawa elegantly sidesteps the problem of alienating preexisting fans or confusing newcomers, since by setting it before the start of either version, it can function equally well as a starting point for either continuity. As a matter of fact, Arakawa wrote the new manga chapter after watching an advance version of the live-action film, with the goal of having the manga’s conclusion flow smoothly into the upcoming film’s beginning.

But while Fullmetal Alchemist was a bestselling manga during its serialization, the new chapter won’t be sold in bookstores. Instead, it’s a very special freebie included with advance ticket purchases for the film (sort of like the Nicolas Cage snack sticks for  the Japanese release of Army of One). The manga is available while supplies last, though if you miss out, you can take solace in knowing that from December 23, ticket pre-purchases will come with a 2018 calendar using the new cover.

Related: Fullmetal Alchemist live-action movie official website
Source: Mantan Web via Hachima Kiko, Twitter/@hagarenmovie