Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #05 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Sunday, January 15, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hiromu Arakawa
Translated by:Akira Watanabe
Adapted by:

What They Say
Winry, Ed and Alphonse go south in search of Izumi Curtis, the master alchemist who taught the brothers how to use alchemy many years ago. But in the boomtown of Rush Valley, an encounter with a pickpocket turns them down a different path, in search of an auto-mail blacksmith whose handiwork is the best that Winry's ever seen. Then the action flashes back to the past, to show how Ed and Alphonse first learned alchemy...

The Review
After a whirlwind of a last volume, the pace slows down for a bit to allow Arakawa's characters and setting to once again soak into the reader, reminding me of why I enjoy this story so much.

Viz continues with the same motif for the cover, using the original artwork from the Japanese tankubon release while changing up the top and bottom sections with a different color scheme and the English anime logo created by FUNI. The color printing on the cover is quite sharp and bright. The cover once again does not have the same metallic, glossy finish as the first three volumes. The print reproduction is still adequate with small issues of checker-boarding grey tones on occasion. There are no color plates used in this volume.

A volume header featuring artwork of Winry along with character profiles are at the beginning of the book. Chapter headers include character artwork. Extras include a strip gag manga and a one-page diary manga from Arakawa, as well as a couple small goofy illustrations.

Arakawa-sensei's artwork continues to be quite solid. Very clean, thin lines and tone work with a variety of character designs and facial expressions. Backgrounds are nicely detailed and quite frequent. I love the early 20th century Europe style of the cities and towns. While there is not a lot of action in this volume, the little bit there is impressive, the perspectives in each panel are very interesting and do a nice job of helping illustrate the story.

SFX are translated with overlays, which looks really good. Translation and adaptation continue to really impress me. The dialogue perfectly captures the characters' emotions and personalities quite well. The interactions between Ed, Al, and Winry continue to feel just so natural and touching.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Hopefully the past two months have been enough time to gather your collective breaths after an emotional and eventful fourth volume. If you haven't had a chance to come down, no worries. This fifth volume temporarily leaves that dramatic madness behind for a bit as the story focuses more on the brothers Elric and their childhood friend Winry, taking some time to reconnect with the world as well as an old teacher for some advice and a few bruises.

As far as the story of Fullmetal Alchemist is concerned, the previous volume had the jaw-drop-meter ratcheted up past level ten, with the Elrics and Winry completely oblivious to what went down as they left Eastern HQ. The story in this volume takes a gentler turn into more character development material as they now arrive in Rush Valley, the auto-mail capital of the world and Winry's heaven of carbine and steel. The economy of Rush Valley is completely dependent of the sale of auto-mail, which of course means that for them war is good business, one of those sick ironies of life. While Winry stares slack-jawed at all the auto-mail technologies, Ed starts up some trouble by taking on a giant of a man, who is equipped himself, in an arm-wrestling match and ends up getting his State Alchemist watch pick-pocketed from him by a juvenile girl named Paninya. There is not a lot of alchemic action in this volume, but most of it does occur here as Ed does his best to capture Paninya, who effortlessly avoids Ed's alchemy and traps as well as packs a little surprise in her legs.

Eventually Paninya leads the group out to the middle of the mountains to the home of a great auto-mail mechanic named Dominic LeCourt, a hermit who avoids public eye while living with his son and pregnant daughter-in-law. The story really becomes much more of a relaxed character piece as the Elrics, especially Ed, come to realize the power of birth and human life, as well as how the power of alchemy can't be used to fix or help with everything. Winry as well discovers her own motivations in becoming a better auto-mail mechanic and begins to more understand what Ed and Al are going through in their journey. After such a hectic previous volume, it is quite nice to be able to relax with the characters and enjoy them for just being themselves.

From Rush Valley, Ed and Al say their goodbyes to Winry and head to Dublith, where they meet up with their old training instructor Izumi Curtis--a scowling wife of a butcher who shows affection through her fists, uses alchemy, and suffers from a possible terminal illness, frequently coughing up blood which is usually oddly illustrated in a humorous manner. Like so many other characters in this title, she is another character with a tragic past but we do not quite know what exactly happened as of yet. However, she notices things in Ed that lead her to believe that he did experience some tragedy on his own. The group reconnects in their own way of tough love, where the story then goes back into time before the Elrics' accident when they first met Izumi and asked her if they could become her apprentices. I am always really glad when authors will take the time to help explain character histories using a few chapters worth of material rather than a few pages of flashbacks. There are a few minor bits of new info that will affect future volumes, but for the most part this part of the story remains as relaxed and peaceful as the previous one in Rush Valley.

The previous volume of Fullmetal Alchemist completely wore me out (in a good way) with all the new information and emotional drama, really hitting a high point in the series. With this fifth volume, it is nice to take some time out away from all the State Alchemist storylines and relax with the Elrics and Winry as they reconnect with themselves and the world around them. By taking a break from all the mystery and intrigue, Arakawa really shows how much she cares for the world and characters of her story.

I was even very much surprised at how quickly the new character Izumi Curtis just came to life and became instantly memorable. To me, that is what Arakawa does best. She creates characters that feel relatable, have real issues and problems, and have to deal with harsh environments and decisions. Even in a volume with not a lot of action or story, I feel right at home with these characters and their everyday lives. It's definitely a treat to be that connected with someone's creation.

Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 1-4215-0175-9
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist