Fullmetal Alchemist (Volumes 1-27)
By Hiromu Arakawa
Guest Reviewer: Crystal Bandel
Edward Elric has an arm and leg made of metal prosthetics, called “automail,” while his younger brother Alphonse lives as a soul bonded to a suit of armor. The Elric brothers are alchemists, scientists in the world of Amestris who can transmute objects from one form to another using the power of the tectonic plates. As boys, they attempted to bring their mother back to life using alchemy; as a result, Ed lost his arm and leg, and Al lost his entire body. Since this incident, Ed has become a State Alchemist, and they’ve been looking for the Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that increases alchemical abilities, which they hope can help them regain their original bodies.
As they look for clues to getting their bodies back, Ed and Al encounter many, many people and lots of obstacles. As a State Alchemist, Ed has to report to the military, so we get to meet a large number of people in the military, including other State Alchemists. Amestris’s recent past involves the slaughter of the Ishvalan people on their eastern border, and this comes back to haunt Ed and Al, along with other members of the military. Finally, there are the mysterious homunculi who follow “Father” and get in the way of Ed and Al finding the Philosopher’s Stone, though they also call the brothers “human sacrifices.” What does it all mean?!
Fullmetal Alchemist may seem complicated and heavily plot-driven (which it is), but the series excels at being reader friendly and explaining every development so that it makes sense. Given my inability to follow politics, this is a big deal for me. The various political maneuverings and plot developments kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire series, and it was torture reading it while it was being serialized. I’m so glad that it’s finished now, since it can be re-read without having to wait agonizing months for more! Another feat of the author’s excellence is how much I love the characters in this series—I can’t think of anyone I genuinely dislike in this series, and it has a HUGE cast, including many villains. Nearly every main and secondary character sees a good deal of development in this series, and there are even enough strong relationships to keep the fangirl in me squealing. Really, Fullmetal Alchemist is a shining example of manga at its best, as it has excellent plot, character development, and art all in the same series. I can only hope that the author’s next series is as great and gets a release in the U.S. soon.