Fullmetal Alchemist #1 by Hiromu Arakawa Manga Review


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Title: Fullmetal Alchemist #1

Author: Hiromu Arakawa

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 1591169208

May Contain Spoilers

Meet the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse.  Ed is a State Alchemist, and Al is a soul trapped in a suit of armor.  While performing forbidden alchemy to resurrect their mother, Al was snatched away, and Ed was forced to give up an arm and a leg to get his brother’s soul back.  Sealing him into a suit of armor, the two travel the land in hopes of regaining their original bodies.

Ah, I’m revisiting my FMA obsession.  I watched the anime a while ago and absolutely loved it.  Until the last of episode, when I screamed and started tearing my hair out.  WTF! This was before Conqueror of Shamballa was released in Japan.  After watching the movie, I said it again.  I guess it’s hard to come to a satisfying conclusion when the manga is still running in Monthly Shounen Gangan.

This volume introduces the world of FMA.  It’s a rather stark place, where its inhabitants suffer from both governmental and religious corruption.  As a state alchemist, Edward is greeted with both suspicion and resentment.  Al, in his hulking body, is met with more friendliness.  No stranger to alchemy himself, Al provides needed backup-up for his brother, and people are more forthcoming with him, despite his intimidating appearance.  Ed, physically small in stature (which he more than makes up for with the size of his mouth), is known as the Fullmetal Alchemist because of the auto-mail limbs that replaced those that he lost during their attempt to bring their mother back from the dead.  Al is often mistaken for the Fullmetal Alchemist, and Ed is often dismissed due to his puny size.  This leads to some misplaced fits of rage from Ed, who is sensitive to the fact that he is vertically challenged.  It brings some needed comic relief to the weighty story.

I love the concept of equivalent exchange.  Magic isn’t free, and for Ed and Al, the cost was very dear.  Mourning their mother, they tampered with forbidden alchemy to bring her back to life and they paid for their folly.  Not only did Al lose his body, but Ed, to recover his brother’s soul, had to sacrifice an arm and a leg. Their experiment was a massive failure.  As simple as the chemical ingredients for the human body many appear, they learned that there’s something missing from the recipe, and they were only able to re-create a hideous shell of their mother.  What death obtains, it does not easily return.

I’m not going to focus on the censorship controversy surrounding this title.  I haven’t seen the Japanese editions,  therefore I wouldn’t know when something was retouched to make it more palatable for gentle Western tastes.  Be aware that there have been edits made to the art, and there is a detailed thread in the forums of AnimeOnDVD if you’d like to read up on them.

I like the art in FMA. Though seemingly simple, the fine lines comprising the characters effectively reveal the emotions churning within them.  There are a lot of humorous touches to the illustrations, like when Ed creates a little megaphone complete with a braid like his own.  Most of the backgrounds are barren to allow the characters to be the main focus.  The page layouts, in keeping with the action theme of the story, are a collection of frantically paced panels.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of Fullmetal Alchemist.  Though this volume had seemingly episodic chapters, they are laying the foundation for a larger storyline. 

Grade: A-

Rated for Teen

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