The rules of alchemy state that to gain something, one must lose something of equal value. Alchemy is the process of taking apart and reconstructing an object into a different entity, with the rules of alchemy to govern this procedure. However, there exists an object that can bring any alchemist above these rules, the object known as the Philosopher's Stone. The young Edward Elric is a particularly talented alchemist who through an accident years back lost his younger brother Alphonse and one of his legs. Sacrificing one of his arms as well, he used alchemy to bind his brother's soul to a suit of armor.
This lead to the beginning of their journey to restore their bodies, in search for the legendary Philosopher's Stone.
Hagane no Renkinjutsushi won the 49th Shogakukan Manga Award for the shounen demographic in 2004. According to Nielsen Bookscan, the first volume was the top selling manga in the year of 2005, and the following issues of the manga usually appeared on the Bookscan's weekly list.
The series was published in English as Fullmetal Alchemist by VIZ Media from May 3, 2005 to December 20, 2011. A 3-in-1 omnibus edition was released from June 7, 2011 to November 11, 2014 as well as a complete box set in November 1, 2011 (which included the novel Fullmetal Alchemist: The Ties That Bind). The manga was also published in Italian by Panini Comics under the Planet Manga imprint from July 13, 2006 to September 3, 2011 and in Brazilian Portuguese by Jbc from February 2007 to April 2011.
One of the problems with something being truly good is that every so often it becomes a victim of its own success, and in a sense that's what happened with the fans of Full Metal Alchemist.
Arakawa Hiromu's tale of two brothers and their adventures in alchemy is one of the most well known stories in anime and manga to date, and has spawned a horde of games, a movie (with a second one planned), numerous doujins and fanfics, piles of merchandise ranging from tatoos to chibi plushies, and two very different anime series. The story itself is very typically shounen at times, however there is a depth to proceedings that belies the initial look and feel of the manga. While things begin innocuously enough, it's not long before the reader finds themselves wrestling with moral, religious, and even philosophical motives and actions as the Elric brothers make their journey towards their destiny.
Enough waxing lyrical, on to the nitty gritty. Anyone familiar with Arakawa's other works, especially her one shot manga, will undoubtedly find some surprising similarities to certain events and situations that occur in Full Metal Alchemist. The reason for this is because Arakawa had the foresight to test out various ideas in another form and format before adapting them for use in her flagship title, and this refinement process shows throughout the story. Although this is a shounen tale in the truest sense, there's a degree of complexity and innovation which has been carefully applied in an effort to draw the reader in, and this is one of the hallmarks of Arakawa's storytelling style.
As with any work though, there are a few areas that could have been improved upon. In an effort to lighten the mood from time to time the mangaka has seen fit to apply a few doses of comedy here and there, and while stories like Raiden 18 make it clear that Arakawa has some skills in that department, the application of humour in Full Metal Alchemist is sometimes a bit haphazard. That said, it seems like the mangaka herself also had a similar realisation as the tone of the series becomes much more serious during the latter half, and the frequency of comedic moments drops quite sharply. Surprisingly, the humour is less of a distraction and more of an anodyne for the reader during the later stages of the story, which is a testament to the idea that "less is more".
The artwork is very typical of the mangaka, however once more there is that look of refinement about the characters and settings, and even some of the action sequences. One big plus is that the reader is given a more visual, and sometimes visceral, look into the author's world than one might find in other shounen manga. That said, Rumiko Takahashi's InuYasha is a serious contender in this department, but like that manga, Full Metal Alchemist also suffers from the same problem - the highly stylized characters.
The main issue with the design is that some people may find it doesn't suit their tastes, which will in turn impact upon their appreciation of the story. That said, as an advocate of more individualism in manga and anime, it's nice to read something that remains true to the author's style as there are far too many titles that look identical to each other (e.g. harem romantic comedies and about half of the shoujo manga out there).
As for the characters themselves, suffice to say that the development of the lead roles is very good indeed, and the supporting roles are given a healthy amount of space to shine as well. One of the more interesting aspects is the pace at which the characters are developed throughout the story, and a big plus is the degree of attention given to the "bad guys", especially later in the series. It's a sad fact that shounen tales are filled with shallow antagonists who serve no other purpose than to give the lead character a wall they must "beat down" in order to move the story forward, and while Full Metal Alchemist contains the basic elements of this type of progression, it manages to mask them far better than most action manga out there.
Is there a major downside then? Well, unfortunately there is, but it's one that's very much dependent on personal taste. The reason why the Full Metal Alchemist franchise is a victim of its own success is because of the original anime adaptation of the unfinished manga.
Now one of the problems that fans have is that the two versions of the tale are wildly different in terms of atmosphere, story and character mentality (basically they're like chalk and cheese). The main issue at hand is that while the manga version of Full Metal Alchemist is an excellent series, the original anime adaptation is becoming maligned and misunderstood because it deviates too much from Arakawa's story. Personally I consider both to be equally good, just not in the same way.
Here's what I mean.
Arakawa's manga is a very good story that incorporates a number of typical shounen aspects like never giving up, trusting in one's friends and allies, etc, and while the tale is excellent in both content and execution, in all honesty, it lacks a degree of "darkness" that was inherent in the first anime. One of the things that struck me about this dissonance was the fact that the whole theme of obsession seems to peter out by the end of the manga, whereas the first anime actually ended with that theme still running strong.
Now, some of you maybe a little confused by that perspective, especially as both tales feature the same characters to a degree, however one look at their respective endings will begin to make things a little clearer, and pay particular attention to Alphonse Elric as he is the reason why I consider the two tales to be so very different (and if you're still unsure, then feel free to ask me about it).
It's pretty obvious that I enjoyed Full Metal Alchemist immensely, however my only real gripe with the manga, especially after reading Arakawa's other works, is that there are too many occasions where it feels like the author has purposely moved away from a theme or situation that was used in the original anime, and this can make parts of the story feel a bit rushed. That said, this is actually a minor problem as the whole tale fits together extremely well, and in terms of content Full Metal Alchemist is easily on par with Takahashi Rumiko's masterpiece.
What Arakawa Hiromu has given us is a work that is truly good, despite some minor niggles here and there, and while there are some typically shounen aspects to the tale, Full Metal Alchemist, like Inuaysha, is a far cry from what one would consider a typical shounen manga.
Isn't it ironic then, that the two of greatest shounen tales weren't written by men?read more
I shed a tear as I read the last chapter of this manga. A manga that I've been following since I was in Primary School has just concluded with the most epic and satisfying finale. I'm sad to see one of my favourite series of all time finish, yet I'm happy to see such a great ending. I really want to procrastinate more, but I should press onwards with the review and leave that for discussion in the forums.
Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the most innovative manga I've ever had the pleasure of reading. The concept of Alchemy itself was a superb idea, and in its nine-year run, there has never been a single wasted pages from Arakawa-sensei. The plot was developed with utmost detail into what is arguably one of the deepest and most engaging storylines to ever grace itself to us Manga fans. There is practically no fillers chapters at all, unlike most other shounen manga to reach this calibre of popularity. Also, the entire storyline has been perfectly planned out and stayed linear for the entire nine-year run, a staggering feat when you compare it to other Mangas in the same genre. If you read this manga from start to finish, you will be amazed at the coherency of the chapters and the inter-relations. You won't think that this was drawn over nine years, more like one long movie shown from start to finish. The ending is also incredibly rewarding for those who follow it up to the end. I won't leave any spoilers here, but know that you won't be disappointed, regardless of how high your expectation is.
FMA, in its nine-year run, had plenty of time to develop a large family of colourful characters. Arakawa-sensei is downright masterful when it comes to her characters. From beginning to end, every character was tweaked to perfection and not a single person is wasted. Also, the reader will not have any trouble getting into their shows because they're all so believable and realistic. From Ed and Al's passionate desire to be reunited with their mother to Roy's tragic past in the Ishballian conflict, and how everything was simply a Chesspiece for the Father's master plan, everyone fits right into place. The plot itself is completely character-driven, and is dependent on all of the characters to make it flourish.
The philosophical deepness of this manga is simply mindblowing for a Shounen manga. Behind each fight is a meaning waiting to be explored. Nothing in this manga happens for show. FMA explores the very purpose of existence, consistently refers to "the purpose of fighting" and goes deep into human emotions. From start to finish, as the character discover the answers to their questions, the reader will also be brought into their World and learn with them, just because that every character is so humane and understandable. The homunculi, named after the seven deadly sins, are also testament to the deepness on FMA. Despite their incredible powers and might over humans, all of them show true sadness that are completely delivered to the reader with Arakawa-sensei's masterful storytelling.
As for the Artwork, it isn't anything mind-blowing, but it's clean and efficient. Arakawa-sensei doesn't waste any panels in her chapters and gets straight to-the-point. One page of FMA will easily deliver more content than 3 pages of Bleach, and since FMA is a plot-driven manga, there's no room for complaints here and doesn't do anything to diminish the enjoyment. It should be noted that, despite the simplistic artwork, Arakawa-sensei never failed to express human emotion with the utmost accuracy and precision. You can really feel the characters on the page.
The enjoyment of this Manga is off the charts. Throughout its run, there are few manga that can come close to competing with FMA in terms of my expectation and urgency to read the next chapter. Arakawa-sensei is quite simply one of the best raconteuses in the industry. From the pace of the narration, the structure of the panels, and the distribution of roles amongst the characters - everything becomes relavent when you simply read the manga in front of your eyes and let the story flow into your brain. The process is so natural yet so intense. For a person who just picked it up, he/she will have trouble putting it down until the final chapter is read. It is simply a seamless, perfect experience that most other manga artists can only dream to draw.
Despite the simple artwork, the engaging plot, deep characters and perfect enjoyment easily overshadows this to earn FMA a very solid 10/10. You've wasted enough time reading this review. If you haven't started reading FMA yet, you should start right away. Regardless of your gender and age, Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga that no one should leave this World without reading first.
Taken from my Blog: http://imperialx.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/fullmetal-alchemist-review/read more
Fullmetal Alchemist is not spectacular. What I mean is that nothing about the art or the plot immediately strikes the audience as impressive or unique. The art is not flashy or detailed. It gets the job done, but only just. The action is easy to follow from panel to panel, and it is just dynamic enough to be interesting. The characters are all pretty much distinguishable from each other, despite their simple designs, and some of them look kinda cool. More than anything, the art is solid. It never gets in the way of the audience's enjoyment. And sometimes that's enough. The only times I ever took issue with the style were when the characters were morphed into chibis in a weak attempt at comedy.
And that brings me to my next point: The comedy. It's not comedic. Early on, there are many repetitive running gags and the only thing they accomplish is kicking me out of the story. Such a blatant attempt to appeal to the audience can backfire if delivered poorly, and so it felt like a slap in the face delivered through the 4th wall. I don't want to deal with that. But I think that the mangaka realized this direction wasn't working early on, and the manga generally gets more serious as time passes.
Although the presentation of the plot changes over time, the plot itself rarely deviates from a single unified arc, and this becomes more apparent towards the middle of the series. It's clear that the overarching plot was plotted out from inception to conclusion from the beginning. The major villains and major allies are essentially the same throughout the manga, and this helps with the sense of unity and harmony that I get from it. (A unity that reinforces the main themes of the manga, which might otherwise seem to be poorly applied pseudo-philosophy.) There are no major power-ups or ridiculous ass-pulls. All of the plot developments are logical and well-paced.
The action, unfortunately, can be a bit of a weak point. There are several characters who use special alchemy techniques to interesting effect, but Ed's (the main character) fighting style is rather pedestrian in comparison. Still, the idea of equivalent exchange helps the fights maintain an appealing sense of reason and rationality that I appreciate quite a bit. It makes them feel less contrived, something that this genre tends to suffer from severely. Also, nothing was ever dragged out unnecessarily and mid-fight dialogue/flashbacks were never taken too far. Fullmetal Alchemist avoids the major pitfalls of battle shounen and brings in a sense of logic that is very rare to see.
The characters are mostly static, and there is no unexpected development. Sometimes they can feel like cardboard cut-outs. But other times I find myself thinking "wow, a couple of these cardboard cut-outs actually look pretty good in context." Rather than linear development, the characters are developed via increased insight into them and information about them. They are developed from the perspective of the audience. This is a very sensible approach given the relatively short time frame that the series covers; there is some linear development, but it is subtle. Not subtle as in hard to spot, because it is pretty clear when you see it, but it is slight. The characters don't suffer from any about-faces or drastic personality transplants. The most apparent changes that the characters undergo are simply a result of us learning more about them. This makes the manga somewhat reminiscent of a well-structured canvas painting. It is all one unified and unmoving image, but as you look at it, you notice more about it and it seems to tell a story. There are also some irritating imperfections, it looks better from a distance than it does up-close, but these flaws fail to ruin the whole.
The issue with the above picture is that the foreground is probably weaker than the background, and isn't that where our eyes are drawn? Ed's character is mostly defined by basic traits, habits, and general goals; all nuance is absent. This is certainly intentional, to avoid alienating any of the audience from him, but this lack of ambition is irritating for me. Al's character is kind of empty. (Pun retrospectively intended.) His most significant developmental event was his contrived existential crisis that was quickly resolved and never really dwelled on again. These criticisms apply to many of the characters, in varying degrees. Even as we get more in depth into them, they don't ever feel real. That said, they are often entertaining and they get the job done. Ed is not always the focus and even minor characters are established early on and given essential roles. Rather than any individual characters being well-written, what is well-written is their interactions and relationships with one another, and where they are placed and what they do. Every character has purpose and motivation and defining character traits, even if they don't quite feel organic. If you pulled one character out of the plot, everything could collapse. No character is superfluous and no character is forgotten. This says more about the plot than the actual characterization, but it's a positive nevertheless.
More than anything, Fullmetal Alchemist is solid. Most of its imperfections are minor and don't reach the series' core. Nothing about the series is all that exceptional or original in itself, but it adds up into a very well-structured and cohesive work that manages to avoid making a lot of mistakes that are not often avoided. (And, despite its popularity, it never overstayed its welcome and was relatively concise for what it was.) Still, it doesn't really accomplish all that much that I haven't seen done as well or better. It is simply less flawed than most similar works. This makes it feel unique holistically, but not on a more critical examination. It is unique in that you'd be hard-pressed to find a more perfect battle shounen, but this quality is negatively defined: Fullmetal Alchemist is most praise worthy for the things it does not do; what it does do is not nearly as impressive or difficult.
The lack of originality or risk-taking factors against Fullmetal Alchemist, but the form and presentation of it warrants a solid 7. It's quite good, but not quite great. read more
Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the most amazing, interesting, emotional series I've ever been fortunate to read. The powerful mix of brilliant characters, an outstanding plot, interesting settings, and thoughtful concepts drew me in from the very beginning.
Story: (10) I give this series 10 when it comes to story. Fullmetal's plot is one of the most well-developed and interesting plots I have ever encountered when dealing with manga. Every event has a reaction that ends up playing larger roles in the story than you would think.
Art: (8) I give this series an 8 when it comes to art. Hiromu Arakawa has, without a doubt, tremendous skill when it comes to expressing emotions and human anatomy. However, her work slips in some places, some more noticeable than others. The fact that she is working on at least two series at one time is obviously effecting her work, as the quality of the art does not have a steady line as more chapters are released. Regardless, Arakawa has definite skills, and makes up for her slips with dedication to the characters, plots, and settings.
Character: (9) With every character that is introduced, Arakawa has never failed to surprise me. Fullmetal's characters are some of the most well-developed characters I have ever come across. Their personalities are unique and effective to other characters and the plot, and their pasts are explored with such detail and emotion that the characters alone could keep me dedicated to this series.
Enjoyment: (10) I have followed this series since its August 2001 debut, and it has never lost my interest, or hit a dull note. The excitement, suspense, sadness, anger, and happiness I have felt alongside the characters amazes me.
Overall: (10) Overall, I give this series a 10. This series is definitely worth my time and money, and I highly recommend it to everyone!read more
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