Envy is the first born and the oldest surviving Homunculus in the first anime, and the fourth born in the manga. In both versions of FMA, he has the ability to shape-shift and copy the voice of whomever he is impersonating at the time. In both versions he also displays the ability to change into non-human forms. In the manga, Envy turns into animals on multiple occasions; in the anime he transforms into a dragon. He can also turn his limbs into inanimate objects such as blades. He has also been shown to have the ability to manipulate just certain parts of the body while keeping the rest of him the same. An example of this in the first anime appears in the episode "Death", in which Envy only transforms his head into various other peoples' to taunt Ed. In the manga, Envy transforms his right arm into a snake to battle Ling Yao. Full-body inanimate object transformation has yet to be seen in any incarnation of Fullmetal Alchemist, however.
In the anime and manga (and also Brotherhood, considering the manga) Envy's personality is similar. Not exact, considering different pasts, but very similar nonetheless. He's sadistic, uncaring, irritable, vain, heartless, reckless, and merciless. As is expected of a character named "Envy", he is very envious in both versions, but for some different reasons. In the anime, he's envious of everyone, it seems. Especially of the Elric brothers for the fact that Hohenheim did not acknowledge Envy as his first son, and that they have everything that Envy does not, and will never have. As far as the manga goes, he is envious of the inner strength of humans and their bonds with others (as in friendship and camaraderie).
Vengefulness seems to be a recurring trait. The Envy seen in the first anime is vengeful toward Hohenheim for abandoning him long ago, and intends to kill him. Envy as characterized in the manga displays some vengefulness as well, as in Chapter 40 (Philosopher from the West) he seemed eager to "finish off" Roy and Havoc for killing Lust.
Aside from the aforementioned traits, it is obvious that no matter what version, Envy is undeniably evil and insane. Like the villain he is, he harbours no empathy or sympathy for anyone and cares not for others' suffering. His mental state is also obvious, as he is very anti-social and very homicidal; he even displays traits of the schizoid or borderline personality disorders. This would account for his bad relationships with everyone, lack of empathy, instability, and apparent lack of interest in intimacy (which could be indicative of possible asexuality in the character).
In the first anime of Fullmetal Alchemist, Envy is a very cynical character. He is sadistic, sarcastic, cruel, and very hateful. He has a dry wit and vindictive personality as well. He angers easily, and is very irritable; an example of this is in the episode "Reunion of the Fallen" when he kills the diner owner for simply asking him to leave for closing time. He claims to have forgotten what his original face looked like, but that was a lie that came about from his hatred for his "father" (Von Hohenheim). Hohenheim had been the one who performed the human transmutation that spawned Envy, but he abandoned his "son" shortly after. Envy had obviously become very upset by this, and seeks vengeance by intending to kill Hohenheim and his new "perfect family".
Envy works for Dante and plays either an assassin or spy role during missions. His ability allows him to easily infiltrate places and gather information. It is also useful in assassinations, as it was seen when he killed Lt. Colonel Maes Hughes. Envy enjoys killing humans and watching them suffer, so he obviously enjoys the many opportunities he gets to do so. His views on the topic of humans are made clear many times; he even states that "humans are truly pathetic". Unlike the other Homunculi working for Dante, Envy does not want to become human, and he knows what Dante truly wants the Philosopher's Stone for. He does not care about such things, but only wishes to see humans suffer. In the episode "Death" Envy states that "We'll kill them all. Until only Homunculi are left". This seems a rather lofty, yet grim (and possibly attainable, though it was not) goal for the character, besides killing his father and the Elric brothers.
In addition to spying and murder, Envy uses his morphing ability for other tasks. These include posing as Father Cornello in Liore after the false prophet was killed by Edward, using the form of Basque Gran in the fifth lab, spreading the fossil disease, and capturing Alphonse by turning into Winry.
In the anime Envy hardly takes any authority role over the other Homunculi, despite his being the eldest and the Master's favourite. He fed Wrath the red stones that changed the boy into a mature Homunculus, and it was mentioned that Envy played a major role in the sealing of Greed in the fifth laboratory. Envy is also brave enough to lash out at both Pride and Dante (simultaneously even); this confrontation leads to him beating a gigantic crater into the floor. Aside from all of these, he is never in a real leadership position.
As far as fighting goes, Envy prefers to use simple punches and kicks in combination with capoeira techniques. He uses his shape-shifting for fighting less than his manga counterpart.
In the manga of Fullmetal Alchemist, Envy acts like more of a comical character. Unlike the anime version, the manga Envy displays some admiration for certain humans (such as Kimbley for his violent tendencies) but he still mostly hates humans and loves to toy with them.
It is revealed that Envy started the Ishval War by impersonating a soldier and shooting a child. He is very proud of this achievement, and brags about it at Edward and Ling while the three of them were trapped in Gluttony’s stomach. He shows them his true form shortly afterwards. (Envy’s true form is discussed later on this page).
The original manga version of Envy is not as good at fighting as the anime version is. The manga Envy leaves himself open constantly, which warrants him deadly wounds at every turn. Although he uses his ability more often for fighting than anime-Envy; he also uses the forms of animals more often. Envy also uses his true form to his advantage in some battles, by using the souls connected to his body to distract and unnerve his opponent. The weakness with Envy’s shape-shifting in the manga is that he can only change his physical appearance, but not the actual weight that comes with the natural mass of his body. While he can be the size of any normal human, he weights tons. He sinks into the ground, creates cracks, and bends solid metal structures by landing on them.
While manga Envy is still very easily angered and irritable, hardy anyone actually takes him seriously. Some tell him to shut up, or that he’s ugly; and Pride scolds him as well. Even so, Envy still has a love for human killing, homicidal tendencies, and the habit of going insane at the drop of a hat, including a particularly disturbing slasher smile. (Also note: considering the attitude others hold toward Envy in the manga, and the fact that they can tell him to "shut up", one must wonder exactly how the first-anime Envy would react to such an order.)
Manga Envy is very unlike the anime Envy as far as creation goes. In familial relations, they are still similar though not exact. In the manga, Envy was created with the thousands of souls that Father took from Xerxes, after taking a human-like form from Hohenheim's blood. As confirmed by Hiromu Arakawa, Father and the seven Homunculi are technically blood kin to Edward and Alphonse, as they are uncles to all of the Homunculi.
In chapter 94 Envy was confronted by a psychotic Roy Mustang who was bent on avenging the death of Maes Hughes. Envy was eventually reduced to his parasitic form and picked up by Edward, who refused to let Roy destroy him. In chapter 95 Edward sympathises with the Homunculus and stated that Envy was actually envious of humans because of their inner strength. Envy became disgusted and reminded the surrounding humans of their bloody past troubles.
He escaped from Edward's grasp and continued to say "How humiliating... reduced to this pathetic form... with you humans... you pieces of shit mocking me. And worst of all, the lowest, most disgusting one of you... that fucking kid, is the one who understands how I feel! It's the ultimate insult." It was at that point where Envy tore out his own Philosopher's Stone. As his stone and his own body deteriorated he continued with his last words "How much further will that simplistic outlook take you? Good Luck. Bye bye, Edward Elric." After that Envy's entire body had been reduced to dust.
As far as the gender issue goes, it is very simple. Envy is a shape-shifter, which means that he can turn into either a male or a female at any time. This would technically mean that he has no definite gender, especially in the manga.
In the FMA manga, Homunculi (save for Wrath and Greed-Ling) did not have previous human bodies. This means that the form that Envy is most often seen in is of his own creation entirely, seeing as how it is not his true form. It has been revealed that he is actually a monstrous dog-like creature with multiple limbs and the souls of thousands living on his body. When his Philosopher’s Stone power is exhausted he reverts to a parasitic form that resembles a foetus, with multiple arms, large eyes, and a slit-shaped mouth with many sharp teeth.
In the FMA anime, it is said in the episode “Death” by Dante that Envy was once her son that she had with Von Hohenheim, but their son had died of mercury poisoning (supposedly) at the age of eighteen. Envy then reveals his true face to Edward, which looks remarkably like Hohenheim, although much younger. This means that by the anime canon, he is technically biologically male.
If one studies Envy’s body closely (his usual body) one can see that it exhibits both male and female traits. His shoulders are broader than his hips, his arms are developed, and he has flat pectorals like that of a male. But his legs display more feminine characteristics than what is usually seen on a male. Although from what someone can see, his usual form seems to be more male than female, which explains why he is most often referred to as being a “he”. In actuality, given his ability to change form and the fact that his usual body looks both male and female, the term “it” would most likely be more accurate (though "he" generally seems to be preferred by fans). However, from what is observed of his character and personality, Envy is an individual who prefers a form of androgyny as opposed to a definite gender identity.
When one looks at the character of Envy, they may be reminded of a certain Norse mythological figure.
Loki is an androgynous shape-shifting trickster god from the Scandinavian Pagan religion. Sometimes he is described as one of the "jötunn" or "giants"; sometimes he is both a jötunn and a god. He is able to change his form to any man, woman, or even animal. He often attempts to instigate quarrels between the other gods, bringing up matters from their lives to fuel their anger.
Obviously, many of these traits can be applied to Envy, who happens to be an androgynous shape-shifting "trickster" (who also has a rather giant true form) with the ability to change into any man, woman, or animal. Envy has a similar method of provoking humans by trying to turn them against each other as well. However, like Loki, Envy was unsuccessful in this attempt.
Interestingly, Loki is also said to be the father of the great wolf Fenrir and the world serpent Jörmungandr. Jörmungandr is the Norse version of the Ouroborus; the serpent which devours its own tail. Additionally, one may recall that dogs and wolves are the symbolic animals associated with the sin of Envy. These may be nothing more than coincidences, but it is interesting nonetheless.
Of course, it's never been stated by Hiromu Arakawa or anyone else as to whether Envy was inspired by or directly modelled after Loki. All the same, the interesting and very peculiar traits and associations are still there, and quite fun to speculate about.
In the Fullmetal Alchemist PS2 game “Dream Carnival” (only released in Japan), Lust states that "even Envy enjoys his chocolate parfaits". Envy denies this, but blushes whilst doing so, which only reinforces the possible truth behind the statement.
But personally, the bit of information in the happening that I find most interesting is the fact that Lust was the one who knew about Envy’s apparent fondness for chocolate. This could imply a friendly (or otherwise very close) relationship between the two. Or, it could indicate that Lust had obtained her information by less-than-honourable means.
I have seen it written once before that Envy has an "Ultimate" nickname. Like Greed is the Ultimate Shield, Lust is the Ultimate Lance, and Wrath/Pride is the Ultimate Eye, I had read that Envy was the Ultimate Mask. This would make sense, but since I only saw this information written once before, and on a site that I can no longer find, I must question the validity of this nickname.