Manga Quick Information

Title: Fullmetal Alchemist - 3-in-1 edition: Volumes 1-3
Original vintage: 2001
Mangaka: Hiromu Arakawa
Published by: Viz Media USA
Genre: Action, Adventure, Shonen, Supernatural
Material length: 568 pages

Ian Wolf's review

Ian Wolf scored this with 9/10.

"Oh, ye seekers of perpetual motion, how many vain chimeras have you pursued? Go and take your place with the alchemists." – Leonardo da Vinci

In the second article in my series looking at the big four shonen manga, I am examining Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist.

There are several differences between this work, and the other three shonen manga I am looking at (Bleach, Naruto and One Piece). The key ones are that this is the only one of the four created by a woman, it seems to come across as a bit more mature than Bleach - whether it is the most mature out of the four is still something to find out - and it is not a Shonen Jump manga. This is key because this is the only one of the four that does not constantly display annoying messages telling you to, "Read this way" all the way through it.

For those new to the series, Fullmetal Alchemist is set in a world in which alchemy is a major scientific advance. The series follows the adventures of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric. Edward, the "Fullmetal Alchemist" in the title, tried to cast a spell to bring his dead mother back to life. However, the spell went wrong, resulting in Edward losing his left leg and Alphonse losing his entire physical body.

In order to save Alphonse, Edward used another spell to place Alphonse's soul into a gigantic suit of armour in exchange for his right arm. As a result Edward has metal artificial limbs. Edward becomes a "State Alchemist" working for the army while he and Alphonse try to find the philosopher's stone in order to return their bodies to normal.

In terms of the art, both Fullmetal Alchemist and Bleach both seem to be very similar, although I would say that the latter is more action-packed. Fullmetal Alchemist seems to concentrate more on the plot, something which is evidenced by the fact that the chapters are longer. Over the course of three volumes, Fullmetal Alchemist is 12 chapters long, whereas Bleach is 25. Bleach is something that is easily digestible; it's quick and simple to read. Fullmetal Alchemist is something that it is probably better taking your time over.

Fullmetal Alchemist also contains moments of humour, most of it concerning Edward's lack of height, with him flying into a rage whenever someone calls him small, and constantly trying to prevent anyone from knowing what his exact height is. For example, when one character is talking to Edward about his size, he gets a pole with a disc on the end and covers the number of centimetres he is tall (p. 388.) Just before this there is some rather enjoyable though graphic slapstick moments involving a wrench to the head (p. 387.)

Another positive point is that this has more extras in it than Bleach. Whereas Bleach just has some character profiles, Fullmetal Alchemist has bonus strips. Translation notes are lacking, but as it is located in a world with a western hemisphere setting, this is needed less than most manga.

Out of the two, I personally prefer Fullmetal Alchemist over Bleach. Both are good, but I like the grown-up nature of Fullmetal Alchemist more.

Review Information

Score: 9 out of 10
Review By: Ian Wolf
Date Published: Wed, 28 Mar 2012

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