If you’ve ever picked up a manga, chances are high that you’ve heard the name Fullmetal Alchemist, and for good reason. Not specific to this review in particular, Fullmetal is widely regarded as a pinnacle of the medium. So carry this knowledge with you as we take a trip back to where it all began, following the story of two brothers attempting to fix their mistake. Their horrible, ungodly mistake…
Teachings that do not speak of pain have no meaning…because humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. Such is the world of Fullmetal Alchemist, wherein this teaching permeates not only those who dwell within its confines, but the power which they wield: Alchemy. A science that strides beyond humanity and into the domain of God. Transmuting the component elements of existence into whatever one desires, so long as the product’s composition is equivalent to that of it’s precursor. Those who bear said power utilise their gifts for the betterment of humanity…or join the military and weaponise their talent. Regardless of their choice, there remains one unbreakable rule: No Alchemist shall attempt human transmutation. That is to say, bend the rules of the universe and resurrect the dead, lest they pay a terrible price…as our protagonists are all too aware.
Meet the Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who committed the ultimate taboo and paid the price with their bodies. Having lost a leg for his heresy, Edward sacrificed an arm to save Alphonse’s soul and bond it to a suit of armour, his entire body having been disintegrated. Jump forward a few years and Edward is now a certified State Alchemist, travelling with his brother in order to return their bodies to the way they once were. How will they achieve this you may wonder. Well the answer is simple my friends: the Philosopher’s Stone. The embodiment of ultimate power, able to bypass the laws of alchemy and create anything out of nothing. Take that reality. Of course acquiring such an object is no simple feat, thus creating the exploits that we witness over the course of the three volumes. Though as the the Elrics travel the land, a mysterious plot begins to unfold around them, drawing them further and further into the truth of their desire…whether they wish it or not.
Despite the ease with which such a story may utilise action, which it most certainly does, one of Fullmetal’s most engrossing features is its intense and intricate dialogue. Even in the early chapters, a complete character is created for each Elric brother. Not shying away from anything, as is evident from the very first page, we are rather swiftly treated to both the darkness and innocence that dwells within these brother’s. Though humourous elements, such as Ed’s Napolean Complex outbursts, provide a reprieve, you may find yourself longing for the next sombre moment and the character development that undoubtedly follows. Said aspects also culminate in a believably paradoxical personality within the Elrics, possessing both a child’s longing for adventure and the terrible burden of sacrifice and necessity. This only deepens as the volumes progress, avoiding tedium by explaining further the elements that most need it. Small hints in dialogue also serve as guidelines for what will come, embedding within you an interest that shall not go unrewarded.
If one were to ignore dialogue for the time being, they would most certainly notice that Fullmetal Alchemist possesses fantastic visuals. The Elric brothers for example, cut a truly unique figure, standing out from even the insanity of a world bearing Alchemy…might have something to do with the whole “giant suit of armour thing”. Though Ed’s outfit certainly isn’t muted. Tremendous effort is also placed into expressing the emotions of Alphonse who, as a hollow suit of armour, lacks the ability for facial expression. On a more explosive note, action sequences are handled with the detail that an alchemical process necessitates. This results in combat that is as interesting as it is impactful. After all, you can’t tell me that turning a pipe into a sword isn’t cool.
Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1) Volume 1 is quite a hefty release. Containing a sizeable chunk of story, we are able to enjoy the introduction of the series with the knowledge that we will not have to wait a month for the story to truly kick into gear. So, if you’ve never read Fullmetal Alchemist, or just have a hankering to revisit the series, pick up this release and tear through three volumes at once. Enjoy the humour, revel in the action and linger on the sadness. After all, you’ll only get out what you put in, such is Equivalent Exchange.
Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1) Volume 1 can be found in all its compiled glory at Madman.