Fullmetal Alchemist (novels) Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Friday, March 17, 2006
Release Date: Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Makoto Inoue
Translated by:Alexander O. Smith
Adapted by:

What They Say
Alphonse and Edward get caught up in a string of terrorist bombings. Enlisting the help of Col. Roy Mustang, the two alchemists must hunt down the insurrectionists and stop their reign of terror.

The second of three novels based on the best-selling VIZ Media manga!

The Review
Fans of the Fullmetal Alchemist franchise will find a nice surprise with this novel, featuring new material that has neither been animated nor appeared in the manga. And the best part is that Roy Mustang has a big presence here!

When comparing the cover to all the other anime and manga covers that already exists, the novel covers are not the cream of the cop. The colors in Arakawa's illustration do however look quite sharp on the matte finish. Inside, the printing is on the heavier, yellow-tinted paper that is very easy on the eyes with the text looking quite sharp. A color illustration is included at the front of the book, as well as a few black and white pieces of artwork throughout. There is also an afterword from writer Makoto Inoue that talks about his writing process.

The translation reads very smoothly and does a great job at capturing the personalities of the characters, especially Ed and Roy. The banter and jokes between these two are very humorous and completely match their anime/manga personas. The action sequences are also well done, making sure the intensity and suspenseful nature is kept intact. The content here is not very complex or heavy, so the lightness and fast-paced reading feels just right.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The first novel released by VIZ provided the original material for two episodes of the TV anime adaptation. It was a fun and different take on the anime material, which most of the fans saw first before the novel, but a little part of me couldn't help but wish for something new from the franchise. With the diverging manga storyline on the horizon and the anime movie even farther out, this second novel provides the fans with a new side-story that was not animated and does not appear in the manga that will hopefully quench our thirsts for something new in the world of FMA. The Abducted Alchemist will not add any insider info regarding the ongoing epic of the Elric Brothers and the Philosopher's Stone, but it does offer a fun action romp with some great moments of cantor between Ed and Col. Roy Mustang. The one major component I thought was missing from the first novel was the other State Alchemists and members of the Army whom fans have become quite enamored with. This second novel now includes Mustang, Hawkeye, Havoc, and other members of Col. Mustang's crew, which in turn makes for some quippy and fun banter, especially between Mustang and Ed.

With the search for the Philosopher's Stone going nowhere, a deflated Ed and Al head back to Eastern Command where they learn about an unidentified group of terrorists who have been bombing the train lines surrounding Eastern. Even with all the bombings, there have been no civilian casualties, seemingly part of the terrorists' plans. With the Army unable to stop the attacks, compounded with the delayed train routes and the growing lack of confidence in the Army, the general public is starting to grow frustrated with the Army's inability to stop the terrorists. With the public unwilling to help, Mustang, Ed, and the rest of Eastern Command will have to find out the terrorists' plans themselves.

The pace this time around definitely seems to be much smoother and livelier, with a good amount of time dedicated to letting the characters come to life with their dialogue between themselves. There are definitely quite a few great laughs to be had here; especially the ongoing joke about Ed being Mustang's son, starting out as a bit of interference run by Ed to curb the Colonel's flirting, only to end up being a big part in foiling the terrorists' plot. The progression of some events might be a little bit hurried, but I always felt comfortable with how the story and mystery behind the terrorists was unfolding. There is a surprise midway through that comes when the story feels like it is relaxing, providing a nice little twist even though I never really felt like characters were in danger. Let's face it, when it is alchemy up against plain old guns, how worried can we get?

The story ends of course with big action sequences against the terrorists that would probably rival Hollywood blockbusters if ever it was made into a movie. Lots of alchemy, which actually was pretty much absent up until this point, gun fire, chaos, and an overall nice flow that allows the reader to feel it all. When Ed and Mustang are pinned down like rats in a cage due to heavy gunfire, you can feel their frustrations and fear, but also get excited as they implement their strategies. The resolution of the story comes quite briskly, eventually ending on a whimper rather than the bang preceding it, but nonetheless the journey was definitely a fun one.

The Abducted Alchemist outshines its predecessor by providing much more engaging dialogue, especially between Ed and Mustang, as well as itself being a whole new story in the FMA franchise that has not been experience by those watching the anime or reading the manga. The pace can be a little brisk at times, but I always felt quite comfortable with where the story was leading me and there is some good care here given to unfolding the mystery of the terrorists' plot. The action is pretty heavy in this volume, so those looking for some more excitement will definitely enjoy this one.

This second volume will not offer anything new to the overarching story behind Fullmetal Alchemist, but it does offer some humorous and entertaining moments with some of the characters whom fans of the series have grown attached to. It's light, easy reading that fans of the franchise should enjoy.

Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: All
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 240
ISBN: 1-4215-0222-4
Size: B6
Orientation: Left to Right
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist (novels)