I have a confession to make: I’ve never gotten around to reading Fullmetal Alchemist. It appeals to me and I have the full series lying around; it just hasn’t found its way to the top of my reading list yet. When this collection of 4koma comic strips came across my desk, I was interested to see if it would have anything for me or if it would only appeal to people who were already fans of the comic.
The answer is that it’s not impossible to follow and a lot, but not all, of the gags are funny and understandable even if you’re not versed in the actual comics, but this is really a book for hardcore Fullmetal Alchemist fans. Rather than being their own stand-alone thing, the comic strips sometimes rely on readers having a knowledge of the characters going into them and tend to comment on specific moments from the comic and its two anime adaptations.
The comics themselves are really cute and usually have a funny punchline to them. While Hiromu Arakawa doesn’t give the artwork the same kind of detail that she does in the series proper, the rough artwork has a certain charm to it. She does more detailed drawings for strips with visual gags, though sometimes Al is basically reduced to an outline and some screentone. Even this kind of works though, as it gives him a sort of wobbly, boneless look that makes for a few cute jokes, and my favorite thing in the entire collection is the running gag of cats taking up residence inside Al.
At the end of the day, however, this is a book not only for fans of Fullmetal Alchemist but it’s really only for the biggest fans. It weighs in at a slim 130 pages or so, and about a third of that is content that’s already in the individual volumes. What you’re really getting here is the comics that originally came with the DVDs of the two anime adaptations and a smattering of strips from other Fullmetal Alchemist projects like the character guide or a strip that was found on the Fullmetal Alchemist website when it launched.
While the strips themselves are cute and funny and it’s possible to follow and enjoy most of them without a huge amount of knowledge of the series, this is really only for completionists and people who list Fullmetal Alchemist in their top five favorite comic series. If you are in that group or if you couldn’t get enough of the 4koma strips when you were reading Fullmetal Alchemist, there’s a lot to like here.