Fullmetal Alchemist

Alt title: Hagane no Renkinjutsushi

Vol: 27; Ch: 108
2001 - 2010
4.515 out of 5 from 11,188 votes
Rank #5
Fullmetal Alchemist

The first law of alchemy is that "one cannot gain something without giving something of equal value in return" - a rule that two souls dare to cross. When Edward and Alphonse Elric try to revive their dead mother, breaking the taboo of human transmutation in process, Ed loses his right arm and left leg while Al loses his entire body. After the tragedy, an alchemist named Roy Mustang visits them and tells Edward to become a state alchemist to find a way to recover what they have lost. Accompanied by Al, whose soul is now attached to a metal suit of armor, Ed is fitted with auto-mail parts in place of his lost limbs and becomes a state alchemist by the name of "Full Metal Alchemist." Together, they set forth on a journey to find the Philosopher's Stone - the one item that is rumored to have the power to restore them.

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Story: It took a fair amount of time from my introduction to anime to properly start enjoying manga, and I generally started with series whose anime counterparts I liked. Despite this, I still hesitated to pick up Fullmetal Alchemist until the 2009 series, Brotherhood, began and caught my eye in spectacular fashion. Hearing that it was faithful to the manga’s plotline and being apprehensive about the anime’s release in the first place, I decided to give it a shot – and boy, was that ever a good decision! Fullmetal Alchemist documents the journey of two young brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, and their attempt to regain their original bodies following a failed attempt to bring their dead mother back to life. As they research more into the world of alchemy, the pair becomes embroiled in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the lives of the entire country’s citizens, and extends far beyond their wildest imaginations. Despite being a fantastical plotline, never once does it seem too far-fetched or utterly implausible. No matter how many mindless immortal armies or bizarre homunculus-related powers rear their heads, mangaka Hiromu Arakawa manages to infuse a certain sense of realism into the story that makes even the oddest creations pose a truly creepy or horrifying threat. The convincing feel embedded throughout the storyline also carries through to the various action packed and awe-inspiring fights. With stone spikes skewering skulls and lion chimeras literally going for the jugular, the narrative’s brutality not only causes the reader to flinch at every stab, slice and bite, but also gives these bouts an extra edge. Impressively, Arakawa manages to create such gripping sequences without glorifying war in any way at all. Real battles aren’t like the polished or graceful shounen standards where individuals only ever get punched in the face or wounded in the shoulder before receiving a finishing blow of a single – and fairly bloodless – wound to the heart. Nor do they end with a massive impact that sends the enemy soaring into the sky with a ‘DING’ and a shiny light sparkle. No, they’re messy, dirty affairs that aren’t always pretty or even fair. Somehow I can’t imagine Zulu warriors playing nicely with the invading English… they’re more likely to turn the enemy into a human kebab with their spear before disembowelling them. Certainly, the plot’s no-holds barred violence (without resorting to full-on gore) and Arakawa’s extensive research into war, human experimentation, and the psychology behind murder make Fullmetal Alchemist all the more engaging and memorable. Amongst all the blood and epic peril, Arakawa sprinkles in plenty of humorous content to keep the story wholly entertaining. A well-placed and appropriate use of chibification and exaggerated facial expressions mean that exchanges between the characters often evoke regular hearty laughs, without being inappropriate to the dramatic nature of the plot. This lighter tone also helps the reader to become more emotionally invested in the characters, which ultimately gives the manga’s events all the more impact. Though the narrative itself is enough to keep the reader entertained, Fullmetal Alchemist throws in odd bonuses at the end of each tankoubon. Short 4-koma omake show the characters in a variety of humorous situations, such as Ed repeatedly trying to convince ‘Genie Al’ to make him taller, and Lin discovering the effectiveness of citrus fruit when fighting the homunculi – all of which frequently result in a giggle or two. Other odd flourishes added to the back pages such as random comical images and the special ‘In Memoriam’ section depicting those that have shuffled off the mortal coil floating up to heaven, all add to the overall enjoyment of your reading experience. Art: Hiromu Arakawa’s artwork throughout all one hundred and eight chapters is consistently impressive (as well as impressively consistent). Her relatively simple facial designs work nicely in tandem with more detailed clothing and backgrounds, while her competent use of screentone helps add texture, shadow and weight to every object or fabric depicted. Though Arakawa’s artwork may not incite an intense mangagasm with each turn of the page, she still manages to produce some exciting – and at times realistic – imagery that, when coupled with the events of the narrative, manage to take your breath away time and time again. While not part of the main manga, and only really a bonus, the pages separating the chapters in each volume offer up a beautiful visual treat. Consisting of a solid black background with a simple white line sketch of a selected character in one corner, the simplicity of these layouts results in some gorgeous imagery that looks as if it has leapt straight out of the mangaka’s sketchbook. Characters: It’s rare that any series with such a sizable cast demonstrates such good characterisation. Despite the legions of individuals appearing throughout the manga, Arakawa doesn’t allow any of them to simply fade away into complete obscurity. No matter how minor their role, every character has a definite part to play and – be it a glimpse at motivations, personality, or showing an evolution in their mind-set – they all make some form of impression. Part of this comes from the fact that while Ed and Al are undoubtedly the central protagonists within the series, they are far from being the only heroes. Even in the final climactic battle, they work as part of a larger team who fight to defeat their enemy, all of which gives opportunities for other characters to step forward and claim the limelight for themselves. Possibly the best example of the above is Mustang, who plays a huge role throughout the series. His ambition, calculating mind and, at times, harshly unforgiving personality bounces off of the Elric brothers’ idealistic views extremely well. On the other hand, his more carefree and flirtatious nature allows him to become an amiable individual. Meanwhile, his friendship with Hughes highlights the colonel’s more human side, which saves him from being portrayed as little more than a single-minded, arrogant upstart and instead accords him far more depth as a character. Much like the difference between his war-weary cynicism and Ed’s naivety towards the world, Mustang’s humorous persona also works nicely as a stark contrast to the icy demeanour of Olivier Armstrong, providing a perfect opportunity for humour. However, this also helps emphasise the narrative’s gravity, by showing individuals who are seemingly polar opposites co-operating for the greater good. Overall: Arakawa manages to hit the ideal balance of action, emotion and humour without relying on one too heavily, resulting in the reader developing a relationship with the characters and actually caring what happens to them. Without a doubt, Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the few manga that will manage to repeatedly make you laugh, cry, and desperately grasp for the next chapter like a zombie incessantly crawling around to sate his desire for brains.


Arakawa Hiromu's smash hit manga "Fullmetal Alchemist" inspired an anime series, a remake of the anime series, a few movies, and a sequel. So it should come as no surprise that this is perhaps one of the most popular anime/manga franchises of all time. Story: The story of "Fullmetal Alchemist" covers nearly every topic out there. The Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, are state alchemists working for the government. (Okay, that was kind of redundant.) Having lost an arm and a leg (Ed) or a whole body (Alphonse) in an attempt to resurrect their dead mother, the brothers set forth to find the Philosopher's Stone (no reference to the Harry Potter thing) in order to change their bodies back to normal. Perhaps one of the most incredible things about "Fullmetal Alchemist" is how well the story is executed. Ed and Alphonse have one of the most tragic backstories ever, yet they do not succumb to it. Instead, they try to fix their mistakes through sheer will and determination. Along with this, the story is a thinly veiled allegory of Adolf Hitler's reign. Fuhrer Bradley (guess who he represents) rules over all the alchemists as he attempts to rid the world of all Ishbalans (a discriminated race). The Ishbalans were mostly wiped out in a raging war which occurred only a little while before the start of the series. However, some still survive, including one particular Ishbalan hungry for revenge. Most provocative stories, manga or otherwise, would not even touch on this difficult subject matter. The fact that "Fullmetal Alchemist" manages to use it so seamlessly deserves a round of applause. Art: Arakawa-san can draw anything, as I have discovered. The art can be generic (see next point), but works very well. It's occasionally nothing special, though. The character designs are great and, even if some are unoriginal, they certainly fit the characters. For example, Lust, one of the deadly sins, is a curvy seductress with silky black hair. Of course, this is the epitome of a "beautiful woman," and therefore is not very unique, but that is the point. The woman is lust personified, so of course she has to be gorgeous. The comedy in this series ranges from overused schticks to "Azumanga Daioh"-type comic gold. The gag-style art during these scenes heightens the experience. But the most famous aspects of "Fullmetal Alchemist" are the fighting and the tragedies. It is difficult to rate a fight scene in manga, but the fights are varied and use well-drawn alchemy. As far as the deaths go, they are enough to make any seasoned anime veteran reduce into a puddle of tears, and the shock of most of them only makes them more sob-worthy. And, since such a mature topic as Hitler cannot be overlooked, even the deaths of simple commoners is noted. A man could be killed. He has never once said a word throughout the whole manga, in fact, we just met him. He could be in the distance, an unnamed soldier. We will still cry for him, because of the beautiful way Arakawa-san handles death. She seems to think that every man deserves to be known by all, and her artwork shows this. Characters: The characters of "Fullmetal Alchemist" make this a wonderful read. The story may be great, the art may be really good, but the characters are fantastic. Every backstory is shown in a way which makes the characters more than just three dimensional; it makes them seem like walking, talking people whom you've known your whole life. Every action is explained, and every character is fully fleshed out. The Elric Brother's love for themselves and for their friends is shown in full detail. Roy Mustang is more than just the perverted slacker he seems to be; he is a man with admiration for his country and love for his subordinates. Scar is not just the murderous madman he is on the surface; inside, he hates the white men because of their horrible treatment of the Ishbalans. His backstory is another moment which will have you blowing tissues like it's pollen season. "Fullmetal Alchemist" also boasts some of the best villians of any manga, period. If I delve into this, I will probably start to spoil, so I will stop and tell you to read it to find out more. Overall: "Fullmetal Alchemist" is a manga everyone should read. There is not much else to say, because I don't want to say much more in fear of spoiling. So I will end my review with this: Read this manga.


Story: I have come across many mangas that either try to do too much or be more than they are. However, even with all the hype that Fullmetal Alchemist had, it does not fall short. It coveres so many aspects of different genres while excelling in each and every one. It can be full of action, drama, comedy and romance but do them all brillantly and with justice. Throughout the series, you can find your heart being pulled from anticipation, sadness, horror, action or you can end up not being able to breath because it can be so funny at times. It's really a journey with a great ending to boot. I was worried about it being anticlimatic at the end but it wasn't. It didn't fall short. It has so much impact in all it's detail. You see the how fully developed each aspect is and how nicely it all comes together. It's not just thrown in there but it has it's purpose. It's definitely a classic and will be an all time favorite of mine for years to come. Art: Stunning. There is so much attention to detail without being excessive. You're drawn in and you're glad. Arakawa creates a colorful world and cast. Memorable characters who you will recognize in a glance. They are not just a generic shounen cast. Also, the art is moving. It will make you laugh, cry or gasp. I have little bad to say but Arakawa sensei does impecceble work. Characters: I had issues with some which is why it's not a 10 but a 9.9 is pretty good. The characters are deep, profound, and relatable. You cry with them. You yell with them. You get angry with them. You fall in love with this cast. Even the side cast all have there place. People aren't just thrown in there. They are memorable and make a solid impression. Also, the relationships are deep and beautiful. You see the love and respect and where it came from. These aren't shallow relationships but people who care about each other. Sometimes, in series, it feels like you just have to accept that people like and fight for each other but you don't see the feelings behind. However, you see why and it cames you want to fight to. Also, the cast of villans is impecceble. All in all, a really wonderful cast. Nobody is perfect but you still love them. You see their flaws but it ends up not mattering. Also, a major plus for me is that you have a group of incredibly strong women. I get really annoyed when a girl can't hold her own but, trust me, the women of FullMetal Alchemist can really kick some ass :) Overall: This ties as my all time favorite series which I would recommend to just about anyone. I don't just hand out 10s. Go read it :) You will not be disappointed (except you may not be able to stop once you've started)

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