With the release of Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition Vol 1., it’s time to revisit one of the most iconic manga series of all time. Viz Media brings us a brand spanking new special edition that’s fully remastered with lots of goodies inside.
In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Their journey to restore their bodies through the power of the Philosopher’s Stone begins here.
What’s the skinny?
Edward and Alphonse Elric are alchemists known to the world at large as the famous Elric brothers. Edward Elric is the youngest ever State Alchemist, known by many as the Fullmetal Alchemist. Under the employment of the militaristic state government, Edward and Al travel the countryside on government tasks and along the way they search for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone.
Alchemists use the power of alchemy to transform elements, animals, and even humans into weapons, tools, and various other useful materials. Alchemy has a system of rules based around equivalent exchange–break these rules and face dire consequences. Ed and Al broke these rules in an attempt to resurrect their dead mother, which resulted in Ed losing an arm and a leg and Al losing his body. Ed’s arm and leg were replaced with automail, granting him the moniker of Fullmetal Alchemist, while Al’s soul now inhabits a suit of armor.
The Elric brothers are forever searching for the Philosopher’s Stone which they hope to use to return their bodies to normal. Unfortunately for them their fame has earned them the attention of several nefarious and mysterious parties. While we know that one dangerous individual simply known as “Scar” wants them dead, we don’t know why. Another group lurks in the shadows plotting to ends we can only guess at.
What’s the catch?
I’ve been out of the manga game for a long time. It’s entirely possible I missed something from a lettering or art standpoint that a seasoned manga veteran wouldn’t have, but I’m not going to complain that I couldn’t find a problem here. I sucked this book down in less than an hour. It’s 280 pages of awesome.
Is it good?
The first thing you’ll notice about this book is the quality. Viz doesn’t make it hard to understand that you’ve got your hands on a collector’s edition. The book is hardcover with a nice solid binding that feels durable, well-made and will surely endure the numerous readings you’re bound to put it through.
The lettering along the spine of the book and across the cover is in a metallic reflective red that really pops out at you. A gorgeous colorized illustration of Edward Elric showcasing his trademark metal arm stretches across the front and back cover. The image looks fantastic and Edward’s closed fist is overlapping his and Al’s iconic alchemy symbol, found on Ed’s cloak and Al’s armor respectively.
Inside are several colored inserts and select black-and-white pages have been presented in color for the first time ever. After you’ve finished the story you can enjoy the privilege of seeing several of series creator Hiromu Arakawa’s concept sketches. For the price of $19.99 this book is a simply incredible deal.
I haven’t read a manga in probably ten years and it was nearly fifteen years ago that I first came across Fullmetal Alchemist. This book quickly reminded me of what I enjoyed so much about this series in the first place.
First and foremost the story is fantastic. Most importantly it’s unique; you won’t find anything else out there like it (at least not that I’m aware of). Arakawa doesn’t waste any time with familiarizing you with Edward and Al’s unique personalities and their shared tragic past. Alchemy is nothing like what we know it to be; in this world it has entirely different rules and as the story progresses you’re fed more and more rules and possibilities you’d never have imagined on your own.
The humor is arguably my favorite aspect of the story and the characters. Ed and Al drive the story and the author’s use of humor is a great bridge to shift your attention towards other minor characters that otherwise may not receive your full attention. Alongside the humor is excellent worldbuilding. It doesn’t take long for a visualization of this world and its people’s culture to form in your mind. There’s an odd mixture of feudalism, steampunk, and a militaristic society all tossed together in a unique medley.
Lastly, the most important element to any manga is the art. I absolutely love Hiromu Arakawa’s style. What sticks out the most for me is her work on facial expressions, tone, and expressing emotions. Facial expressions are used in so many different styles within the manga medium. Manga has a very specific style of expressing humor, comedic backgrounds, shock, fear, and really just emotions at large. At times the emotion is drawn with sharp detail right in front of you, while at other times it’s a small simple doodle in the background. Every approach Arakawa takes works for me. I found myself laughing frequently while reading this book and it was more often than not a result of a relatively simply drawing she produced.
The backgrounds are almost uniformly simple, which works very well with characters that have a high level of detail, such as Alfonse. The use of simply backgrounds is a great tool for directing the reader’s attention to wherever Arakawa wants it. She’s shown she can handle creating highly detailed backgrounds as well, so don’t confuse it for a crutch.
From start to finish this book was an absolute treat to read. I devoured it in less than an hour and didn’t put the book down once during that time. My disappointment on finishing it and realizing I didn’t have the second volume on hand was quite large. My small problem aside, Viz Media has done an absolutely superb job of remastering one of the best manga series of all time. With a price of $19.99, you’d be crazy not to pick it up. This is an entry point to the series that any newcomer should celebrate their good fortune at having the opportunity to grab.