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Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 01: 05/13/11

cover art

Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa is one of the most popular shonen manga series. It's also a damn fine anime series, so good that it was redone to better follow the manga. The first time around the anime ran quicker than the manga (a fairly common occurrence) and so the two plots diverge. Last December Ian and I watched the first anime series. Now as we're reading the manga we are also watching the newer Brotherhood series which is like a director's cut version.

Volume 1 begins with Edward and Alphonse Elric arriving in a desert town that worships the Son God Leto. They're under the control of a charlatan named Cornello who claims to be able to able to resurrect the dead.

Ed and Al know first hand that can't be done. They bear the scares of their attempt to bring back their mother. And while it's important to know what happened to Ed and Al and the choices they made, how that part of the story is told differs from the manga and the first version of the anime.

The first anime uses every single piece of the story, probably to buy more time as the manga was released. The earliest episodes suffer most for the decision to expand everything. The Leto, for example, gets drawn out to painful extremes.

The manga, though, keeps things brief and doesn't pull any punches. Most of Ed and Al's history is left for later episodes. Only enough is told for the reader to catch on that the Leto miracles are smoke and mirrors.

Instead of focusing on the gore of what happened with their failed transmutation, the story sets up the basic themes and plot threads:

  1. transmutation of human life bad
  2. homunculi pulling the strings for some unspoken reason
  3. equivalent exchange and
  4. Ed and Al's search for the philosopher's stone.

While there are a few times in later volumes that I prefer anime's pacing, for the most part I think the manga's close to the cuff approach is better.

Five stars.

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