Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 15 by Hiromu Arakawa

Main Characters: Edward and Alphonse Elric
Location: Amestris, a country in an alternate world
Time period: roughly analogous to the late 1910s
Genre: YA Manga, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

On the recommendation of the kids in my Manga Book Club, Fullmetal Alchemist was the first anime that I watched. I was captivated immediately. I also love the manga series. One of the things I'm enjoying about it is the differences between the two formats. It's almost like an alternate alternate reality which allows me to still have that sense of anticipation and surprise.

This entire volume is an extended flashback to the Ishbalan Massacre. We get to know more about the relationship between Hawkeye and Roy Mustang, Marcoh's experiments in creating the philosopher's stone, Scar's brother's studying of alchemy from other countries, and Kimblee's murder of Scar's brother. We get a different but no less shocking look at the fate of Winry's parents. I was personally delighted to see Maes Hughes again. Mostly we watch Mustang as he is changed by the war and he arrives at his understanding that the only way he will ever be able to make the world better is to rise through the ranks and become president.

Two very brief moments had an impact on me. The first comes when Hughes goes into one of his trademark raptures upon receiving a letter from Gracia. Mustang tells him to stop it: "Soldiers who go on and on about their family and loved ones have a high probability of getting killed." Is this why Mustang has no one waiting for him at home? Why his loved ones are his fellow soldiers?

Then, in what I think may be the most significant line in the book, Scar's brother is surrounded by books, charts, and scrolls. Something catches his attention and he realizes "There's something strange about this country's alchemy!!" Is this somehow referring to how the homunculi are influencing alchemy in Amestris?

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