By Leroy Douresseaux
May 27, 2007 - 22:34
Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric are using a forbidden alchemical ritual to bring their dead mother back to life when it all goes wrong. Edward loses a leg, but Alphonse loses his entire body. Edward grafts his younger brother’s soul into a suit of armor, but that process also costs Edward his leg. Replacing his missing flesh with “auto-mail” limbs, Edward eventually becomes a state alchemist and serves the Amestris state military. In the meantime, he searches for the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary substance that can restore the brothers’ bodies.
Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 13 is the latest entry is a series that is consistently one of the best selling manga on both sides of the Pacific. This volume finds Edward and Alphonse battling the homunculus, Gluttony, whose torso is a gullet lined with dagger-like teeth. Meanwhile, fellow alchemist Colonel Roy Mustang discovers that another homunculus resides high in Ametris’ military command.
It’s easy to see why Fullmetal Alchemist is a hit. Not only is it a multi-character story, but the main plotline, Edward Elric’s quest for the Philosopher’s Stone, is a tributary fed by rivers of subplots, which are themselves fed by smaller threads. This kind of multi-player, multi-storyline epic can run for years over several volumes – if it’s done right. Mangaka Hiromu Arakawa deftly mixes sci-fi and fantasy with religion and the occult, but the series is at its heart a military drama. Yes, weird science, strange creatures, and esoteric mythology abound, but this is about politics and war. That makes Fullmetal Alchemist one of the stranger war epics that many comic book and manga fans will ever read.