Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #06 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2006



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

What They Say
The origin of the Elric Brothers! Once, Edward and Alphonse Elric were willing to do anything to become alchemists. But when they tried to use their newfound skills to resurrect their dead mother, they broke a taboo and encountered something more terrifying than death itself. Now, hardened by years of military training, Edward and Alphonse have returned to the woman who first taught them alchemy...but can she help them, or even forgive them?

The Review
With the manga beginning to diverge from its anime counterpart, including a major shift in the story, Fullmetal Alchemist continues to prove why it's one of the most successful titles around.


Packaging:
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 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 moiré grey tones. 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 continue to include sketches, gag artwork, and 4-panel manga, all of which are humorous.

Art:
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. She breathes a lot of life into her characters with her artwork, making them instantly memorable. The super-deformed designs can feel a little out of place at times, but I understand the need to break up the serious tone of the story at certain points. Again, it just gives the characters life and makes them more personable.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated with overlays which look really good. The English script continues to really impress me. The dialogue perfectly captures the characters' emotions and personalities quite well. The script also has this flow to it that is very natural. Great work!

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
One of the more difficult aspects of reading and reviewing Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist manga is keeping the events and structure of the story separate from the anime, which I have seen a few times by now. This time I actually had to go back and flip through all previous five volumes to make sure I had the right context. If you aren't aware, Arakawa's original story of FMA eventually takes quite the diverging path from the anime (the manga was early in its serial run, but used her ideas). With this sixth installment, it seems as if that path is beginning to split off.

Most of the volume wraps up the trip back in time with the Elric Brothers, as they finish up their training with Izumi and head back home to research more into the forbidden human transmutation, against Izumi's teachings. I didn't realize it at first, due to being exposed to the anime, but this is the first time we experience the events in detail surrounding the botched transmutation of their mother. Here are these young boys, putting all their time and energy into this moment, only to have it unravel in a horrific fashion. A new layer of mystery is added as well with Ed having a strange other-world experience during the transmutation, the price paid with his arm and leg. This whole background story really just solidifies the strong bond between the Elric brothers, and Arakawa does it with such realism and honesty. We also now begin to understand why they are searching for this legendary stone with such determination.

So yes, there are big differences from the anime that introduce here, the major one being that there is no Wrath! Well, not yet anyway. That means there is no talk about the Homunculi being creations of failed human transmutations, and Ed's arm and leg are not attached to some wildly kid Homunculus that is the result of Izumi's miscarriage and failed transmutation. At this point in the manga, there are a lot more questions surrounding the mystery of the Homunculi than there were in the anime. Not that more uncertainty is a bad thing, quite the contrary.

Arakawa's characters continue to steal the show, as the entire cast are all very likeable and memorable. There's a great scene with Riza Hawkeye and Winry as Roy is trying to recruit the newly dismembered Ed into becoming a State Alchemist. The conversation is essentially two "women" talking shop about protecting the men they admire and love, Hawkeye with Mustang and Winry now finding her calling by creating the best auto-mail for Ed. So very poignant and touching, really flushing out these two characters much further than their anime counterparts. It is such a simple scene, but it really speaks volumes about the characters. I am also quite the big fan of Izumi and I love how she plays the role of a disciplinarian mother for the Elric brothers.

Comments
I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record here, but Fullmetal Alchemist continues to be one of those special titles that just seems to get everything right. And Arakawa is not done yet! With this volume, major changes and shifts in the storyline occur that should make the manga a completely stand-alone version from its anime counterpart.

I can't think of any other title that manages this size of a cast with seemingly such ease. They all have their own identity and personalities, all of them memorable; their actions and conversations, all just feel so very real and honest. There are some great moments here with some secondary characters, like Winry, Hawkeye, and Izumi, as Arakawa never forgets about her supporting cast that allow the main protagonists to be who they are.

FMA is just great manga. Period.



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: 1-4215-0319-0
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist