Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fullmetal Alchemist

written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa

Grade: 4 1/2 stars
Story summary: Far too complicated to explain the whole thing. The gist of it is, there are two brothers who lost all or parts of their bodies through a dangerous alchemy experiment, and now they're searching for the philosopher's stone to help them get their bodies back. Also there are anthropomorphic personifications of the seven deadly sins, political intrigue and military overthrows, centuries-long plots, and really funny bonus strips at the back of each volume.

Thoughts: The plot! Wowee. I don't want to spoil too much about the plot details, but it seemed to me to be one of the more well-plotted series I've seen (including TV series). As far as I could tell, most of the questions were answered by the end. All the little things you'd forgotten about popped up again near the end and clicked with everything else.

And the characters! The main relationship of the series is the two brothers, Edward and Alphonse, which I love. Sibling relationships are always my favourite. Colonel Mustang is just one of the coolest people ever, and I'm thinking of writing a Top Ten (Or So) list of people associated with fire, mostly so he can be on it (with Zuko from A:TLA). Unlike Death Note, there are tons of great female characters as well. My favourite would Lt. Hawkeye. In fact, all the military characters were great, and I greatly appreciated the nuanced take on the military. They tend to be either decidedly the good guys or the bad guys in most things, while here they were very, very flawed good guys who contrasted nicely with the central brother characters. Here are the best of them, in their cool blue uniforms:

Whatever you do, by the way, don't just read the first volume and think, "Ah, this review was all nonsense," and never pick up the second volume. The first volume was by far my least favourite, and didn't seem to have much to do with the rest of the series.

Also, like Death Note, there is some philosophical weirdness, especially at the end. I might not bother with mentioning it, except that it centres around one of my top theological pet peeves. There is this view of God, which pops up all over the place, as essentially a creature--someone or something inside of creation that whose powers can be grasped and taken. Totally non-transcendent. Anyway, I can go on about this for ages, but I won't, because it only comes up in a few small places and didn't really detract from my reading pleasure. (However, you can read this article for clarification on what exactly I mean, if you want.)

Now, for your pleasure, the seven deadly sins incarnate. SPOILER ALERT FOR THIS PICTURE!!! (I hope it isn't already too late... Try to forget what you saw, ok? I know I shouldn't have put it up in the first place if I was going to say all this, but I couldn't help it! It was such a good picture! And they're so cool!)

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