Manga Review: Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 1 (Fullmetal Alchemist #1) by Hiromu Arakawa

Full metal Alchemist, Vol. 1 (Fullmetal Alchemist #1) by Hiromu Arakawa

Publisher: Viz Media LLC

Publication Date: May 3, 2005 (first published January 1, 2002)

Edition: Paperback, 183 pages

Genre: Manga (Shounen), Science Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5


I had forgotten how much I love Fullmetal!

Backcover:

Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg…and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders…even to kill. Except his powers aren’t unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher’s Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are…

I used to watch this anime all the time when I was in high school! After Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh as a kid, this was first anime that I got hooked on when I was older. (‘Older’ meaning around 15. I’m in my twenties now and I watch more anime now that I did when I was twelve XD) Why has it taken me this long to finally jump into the manga though? I have no idea. But, I’m here now, and are excited to finally read these!

This first volume definitely feels like an introduction into the series, having an episodic feel.

Chapters 1 & 2 start off with the brothers at an outdoor food joint. Over a speaker we hear a man, Father Cornello, preaching to the people of the Sun God. We learn that apparently Cornello has the ability to perform ‘miracles’, and has gathered a following of everyone in the town. A girl, Rose, is one of these devote followers and is looking to him to perform a task that is seemingly impossible. The brother suspect that the only way he would be able to perform an act of that magnitude would be through alchemy, and only with the possession of the Philosopher’s Stone

Chapter 3 has the two brothers walking into a mining town looking for a little R&R. They quickly find out that the mining people are actually under this tyrant and unjust rule of Lieutenant Loki, who has been unfairly taxing the people, cutting into their wages, using money to bribe people in the government for his own rule, and leaving the towns folk to essentially starve.

Chapter 4 takes place on train where a government General, along with the whole train, has been taken hostage by an extremist group known as Blue Squad. It is up to Al and Ed to now save the train, general, and all the hostage on board.

The Fullmetal Alchemists series is about two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who are both Alchemists. Alphonse Elric is the younger brother, who wears a GIANT full body armor suit, however it is his older brother Edward Elric, who is known as the ‘fullmetal alchemist’.

For those of you who don’t know what alchemy is, it’s essentially being able change to anything into anything – i.e. turning a loaf of bread into chair would be completely possible with alchemy. This is because everything is made up of the same elements, and only differ in the amounts and arrangements of them – think chemistry.

Right away into the story we see what alchemy is capable of, how it is performed, and learn the most important rule of all…

“To obtain something, something of equal value must be lost”

From first few pages Edward appears to have this very confident, slightly cocky personality, and can be quick to lose his temper (especially is you call him short!) Meanwhile, Alphonse – who is tremendously bigger than Edward – instantly gives off the feeling of being a little brother; slightly shy, very kind, and always calling Edward, “Big Brother”. You get the sense Al looks up to him greatly.

Hiromu begins to lay down the foundation of the Elric Brother’s past, and why it is that they are in search of this Philosopher Stone. As we get into the mining town, we begin to learn more of who it is that Ed works for – The State Alchemists. We see his feelings toward his position, and how some of the common people perceive what it is that these State Alchemists do. We also start to learn some of the laws that the government has put in place for alchemists, and what kind of person Edward is.

The fourth chapter was personally my favorite. Tons of action, fighting, and alchemy! (The chapter is called, ‘Battle on the Train’). While the first three were more of a meet-and-greet, setting the foundation – this was all run-and-gun! There is a great scene with a Chimera earlier on, but that was a few pages – this is a whole chapter! It shows the potential of how alchemy can be manipulated and also the type of fast-pace that the story can achieve if wanted.

The overall pacing of the volume was very balanced. In the first couple chapters I would find myself taking time to read the dialog, and see the emotions draw on the faces. Then in the last chapter, felt like I didn’t read a single word. There was so much going on! I felt like the drawings could tell the story themselves and I wanted to see what was going to happen.

In the both parts –  character dialogs and action scenes – there is so much humor! Hilarious at times! I was a big fan of Hiromu’s art style. One of the things I love about manga and anime, is the over-the-top exaggerations the artists do on the faces to emphasize certain emotions that characters are feeling. When Edwards gets ‘that face’ when someone calls him short, midget, or runt – I can’t help but laugh even harder!

The dialogs, drawings of the background settings and characters, it all came together quite well. There was good balance where neither was overpowering or lacking to each other. There was (my college writing prof would hate me for saying this) a good “flow”.

We have humor, action, alchemy (aka. magic), like-able main characters, mysterious/unknown background to these characters, and an intriguing plot being built up. No reason not to continue reading on.

Having watched most of the original anime, just from reading volume 1, I already like it more than the show!

4.5/5 Rating

-DJ

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