Life is a journey. An ever stretching path that leads into uncertainty. For most who walk this path, there are a few surprises, some unexpected turns that serve to remind them of existence’s inherent unpredictability. And then there are the others. Those who deign to set a waypoint in the mystery, a goal to strive for, regardless of the road that rises to meet them. Though noble in its conception, there are instances where such desire leads to the road better not travelled, a way of mistakes, a way of pain. But whether or not one walks a path of light or darkness, or even refuses to walk at all, there remains one irrefutable fact: there is no turning back.
As their quest threw them into a world of secrets and subterfuge, the brothers Elric discovered the truth that had eluded them for so long…along with the horrifying details of its origin. Torn between their innocent desire, born from their hubris, the brothers found themselves pitted against enemies who tested both their minds and bodies. With that rather swiftly put to an end in the earlier parts of the Volume, we are left with two battered and broken brothers, forced to recover from their encounter. In a moment that beautiful illustrates rage, sadness, doubt and fear all at once, we catch a glimpse of the feelings that Alphonse keeps deep down within. Though not a necessarily long time until his thoughts are quelled, this is just a little moment that makes this manga stand out in regards to character development. Despite his belief in scientific fact and evidence, one unfounded comment is all it takes to expand the doubt within Al. Ed’s reaction also took a decided turn from a more commonly used manga trope (reciprocal fury), showing just how mature these young boys are forced act. It is also from this moment forward that Winry begins to step into focus, exploring more of her motivations and connection to the brothers.
Once emotions have been quelled and relationships mended, the Elrics decide to continue forward by going backwards. Realising that they are not strong enough to best the foes who are appearing before them, they decide to visit their teacher, the terrifying person who drilled the basics of alchemy and fighting into their heads…very forcefully. Through this training from hell montage, we see the slow transformation the brothers underwent, transferring into them the strength and sense of responsibility that still continues to drive them forward. Though neither was enough to stop them from attempting the greatest taboo. It’s actually ironic, in a twisted, tragic sort of way, that the training designed to guide them away from the misuse of alchemy is what ultimately gave them the skill to attempt the forbidden.
Though by no means a dull issues, this collection of volumes features a much higher ratio of conversations to action. As such, a great importance is placed on facial expressions, namely using them to crush your soul. As this Volume spends a great deal of time exploring the origin of the Elric brothers as we know them now, you’ll find yourself privy to a number of truly tragic scenes. Though not an entirely depressing tale (what with the chibi reactions and all), the more intense moments are the most visually powerful by far. So if you didn’t feel for characters already, you definitely will now…poor guys. On a lighter note, and continuing on the topic of world building, this Volume also explores Automail in more detail. Even this story elements, that could quite easily be glossed over as simply being useful and cool, receives a very realistic set of pros and cons. The most notable being when Winry, undisputed Automail fanatic, expresses her hope for the day when prosthetics are not such a profitable business, owing to the events that caused the Automail boom. It can also be gathered that Ed is very lucky to have known the Rockbells, otherwise the steep price of Automail would’ve prevented him from doing anything to help his brother or himself. Also Mustang helped motivate them. Also Izumi trained them. Man, there are a lot of awesome people in this series.
Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1) Volume 2 is a very solid continuation of the series. Since the last Volume ended on the promise of answers, this release kicks right back into the story and doesn’t ease up. Though not necessarily as fast paced and explosive as the Laboratory 5 incident, the heavy emotional moments of this release are more than equal in both importance and impact. The story continues to build upon itself in an intriguing and, most importantly, believable way, allowing a sense of genuineness to permeate this fictional world. So continue this tale of redemption by witnessing how a single choice can skew fate along an unforeseen path. All the while waiting for the danger still yet to come…
You give Madman money, they give you Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1) Volume 2. Equivalent Exchange in action.