Title: Fullmetal Alchemist.
Writer(s): Hiromu Arakawa.
Artist(S): HIROmu Arakawa.
Publisher: Viz Media/Yen Press.
Release Date: July 12, 2001 – June 11, 2010.
Genre(s): Adventure, Dark Fantasy, Steampunk.
My Overall Rating:
Grief has a way to gnaw into your rationality, slowly breaking the thin fiber holding it together, and protecting the most sane individuals from falling into an abyss of emotions and feelings. Without experience, it is through raw and life-changing events that they can ever be able to understand the terrifying consequences that could arise from decisions made under such intense pretenses. For two young alchemist brothers, one tragedy will bring them to commit a terrifying act that will lead them on a journey of enlightenment and understanding. Written and illustrated by mangaka Hiromu Arakawa, this seminal and popular shōnen manga Fullmetal Alchemist has garnered countless fans over the years and gave way to two anime adaptations and one live-action movie.
What is Fullmetal Alchemist about? Set in a fictionalized world based on the European Industrial Revolution, the story follows two young alchemist brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, off looking for the philosopher’s stone in hopes to utilize its inherent powers to restore their bodies to their original state following a botched alchemy experiment conducted to bring back their dead mother. As they venture off into the country of Amestris, promising themselves to see their quest to the end, they are confronted by various obstacles, from the vengeful Ishbalan killer Scar motivated by the genocide of his people during a civil war to the artificially-created humans known as homunculi who have their own secret and deadly agenda regarding the philosopher stone.
The impressive pacing of this manga series makes for an incredibly captivating read that continuously develops its minor and major characters and meticulously progresses through its overarching story without faltering. On top of this quest for the philosopher’s stone, readers will also be introduced to the mystery behind the homunculus, the enigmatic identity of each homunculi named after the seven deadly sins, and their own secret plans regarding the philosopher’s stone. The story occasionally explores the history of the two Elric brothers, the infamous Ishbalan civil war, and the background of various secondary characters to further depict the unique motivations that drive these individuals to do the things they do. As the pieces of the puzzle come together with each volume, it is only in the final stretch that everything is delivered in an action-packed and tightly-knit ending.
Beyond its core narrative, the story does see its various characters go through different stretches of land, bringing them to confront the vision and lives of an ensemble of colourful individuals, and challenging them into becoming better versions of themselves. As they progress their way towards their goal, making new allies and foes along the way, a dominant focus on human empathy, the pursuit of knowledge, the innocence and purity of friendship, and the notion of sacrifice can be found throughout the myriad of experiences obtained. Sometimes the most mundane of encounters could turn out to be the most important and life-changing event in their lives but it is only through these experiences that they ultimately realize the importance of one another to bring about a universal notion of peace, humility, and altruism.
Mangaka Hiromu Arakawa’s artistic style for this series is also fantastic, consistent, and lively through and through. With sharp character designs, an impressive attention to emotional climate, and a crucial exploration of individual experiences of life expressed through demeanour, she does a phenomenal job in keeping this relatively dark series human at heart and delivers fantastic sequences that capture the intimate journey of these characters. Her action sequences are also beyond reproach, dealing with some truly creative battles and characters (e.g. chimeras, homunculi). This series is also infused with an incredibly well-balanced dose of humour, which often also comes with a dramatic caricatured style of drawing that effortlessly enlightens the mood, often times mocking Ed’s size. But who wouldn’t want to call the kid a pipsqueak though? That being said, there is little chance that mangaka Hiromu Arakawa’s artwork could deter you from this excellent shōnen.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a fantastic adventure centered around humanity’s greatest virtues and worse vices while authentically exploring themes of friendship and sacrifice.