Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #03 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 1-59116-925-9
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #03

By Jarred Pine     September 22, 2005
Release Date: September 06, 2005


Fullmetal Alchemist Vol.#03
© Viz Media


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

What They Say
Accompanied by their bodyguard Alex Louis Armstrong, our heroes seek out a childhood friend: Winry Rockbell, mechanic extraordinaire, who can fix their battered "auto-mail" body parts. Soon their quest for the Philosopher's Stone takes them to the great central library, where the Stone's formula may be hidden... if the mysterious figure named Lust doesn't get there first. But the secret of the Philosopher's Stone may be even more frightening than the beings who guard it!

The Review
Continuing the quest of the Elric Brothers, Hiromu Arakawa continues to prove to me this title's best-selling status with it's great mix humor, mystery, and memorable characters.

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 has a high-gloss finish that looks perfect, really highlighting the colors and metal-like textures. The print reproduction has its issues, with some fair amount of smudging and the heavy black tones feature a little bit of fading.

This volume has a lot of great extras and Viz does a nice job at helping with promoting all the other various items available surrounding the FMA franchise. There is a 10 page extra chapter that features a duel between Ed and Roy Mustang, three strip-panel comics, and some other various illustrations, including some of our characters dressed up in traditional Japanese gang outfits. Also in the back of the book is a 7 page preview of the upcoming novel being released by Viz under their new Viz Media Fiction label. The inside of the back cover also has an explanation of their new upcoming line of fiction novels. Attached in the back of the book, for those that buy the book in time, is an exclusive trading card featuring the character Lust.

An excellent put together package overall, where the extras and previews all outweigh the slight printing problems.

Art:
Arakawa's artwork is really clean, with thin line work matching nicely with the strong use of tones, giving off a great texture. She also does a great job at creating an array of different character designs: the buff pig-tail-haired Armstrong, the cute girls in Sheska and Winry, the angry and gruff Scar, the curvy and sexy Lust, as well as the fantasy styled armored guardians of Lab No. 5. There's just a lot of variety here, helping make each character memorable. There's a good amount of background art that when done looks quite nice.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated and retouched. I may have been harsh on the retouch job before, but this time around I am mostly impressed with the work. It's not overdone and the fonts for the most part look quite nice.

I really enjoyed the translation this time around, possibly due to the fact that there is a familiar adaptation person listed in this volume who's work I've always enjoyed, the one and only Jake Forbes. The dialogue for Armstrong is nailed, coming across as very noble and proper. All the dialogue matches the characters' personalities, but for me Armstrong stood out as the best. Great job.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
The third volume of this best-selling manga continues where the last volume left off, with the Elric Brothers still on their quest for the Philosopher's Stone. As they make their way to Central to find the hidden lab research left behind by Dr. Marcoh, the Elric Brothers will uncover a secret that will shatter their beliefs to the core, as well as possibly change their outlook on this journey to get back their bodies.

After an intense previous volume, this third installment starts the story off on much gentler footing. The Elrics, along with their bodyguard Major Armstrong, make their way back to the only home they have left, The Rockbells. Here Ed will get his auto-mail repaired by his childhood friend, now tube-top wearing auto-mail mechanic specialist, Winry Rockbell. Once Ed is fixed, he can use his alchemy to repair the shattered suit of Al, and like the wind, they will be on their way to Central. While this respite is over in one chapter, it does provide some nice character moments both on and below the surface. The Elric Brothers destroyed their home when they decided to go on their quest, leaving them without a place to return. The Rockbells now provide this sense of family to them, and it is quite touching at times. Ed tries to play the tough guy who never sheds a tear, but you can tell that he really likes having a place to call "home". There is also some great moments here with Al playing the role of big brother, looking after Ed and carrying on quite an emotional conversation with Winry about their pain and sadness. The two brothers are so different from each other, but their strong bond and common goals make them quite a lovable pair.

As the story moves back to Central, the mood changes as the Elric Brothers slowly uncover the truth behind the Philosopher's Stone. Scar, who is currently trying this best in the East to thwart off an attack from Gluttony, is still on the loose and so the Elrics must still remain under guard while doing their research in Central. Once they get a hold of the research materials, they find out that the text is in code, written as a recipe book entitled "1,000 Meals for Daily Living". All the alchemists encode their research in order to keep their secrets safe so they can remain protecting the people, leaving the Elrics spending night and day locked up in their room trying to crack the code. Once they do, they find that one of the ingredients is something so horrific, opening up a floodgate of new questions and conspiracies involving the State Alchemists and the government. It will also test the Elrics' bonds, as they must decide whether to give up now or continue ahead to keep uncovering the truth behind the truth.

For those familiar with the anime adaptation, this is the beginning of the Lab No. 5 story arc. I was definitely surprised at first at how quickly the manga got to this storyline, with the anime taking about 20 episodes, but it's Arakawa's direct and tight plotting that keeps me engaged and constantly flipping the pages with great intensity. What at first seemed to be a bit of meandering, with the first chapter in this volume, turns out to be a necessary time to build up the bond between the Elric Brothers, as this bond is put to the test in the second half of this book.

If I had to fault one thing with this volume, it would be that it is too focused on the Elrics. It is their journey, but some time spent with fleshing out some of the other State Alchemists, officials, or The Rockbells would be a nice touch. Having said that, Arakawa does do a great job of creating instantly memorable characters. Who could forget the cute mechanic Winry, the mysterious burgeoning megalomaniac Roy Mustang, along with his leash Hawkeye, the body-flexing and always noble Armstrong, or Sheska, the book fetish with a photographic memory. Somehow Arakawa has me connected and invested in all of these characters. Mix in alchemy, a conspirational government, State Alchemists with a dark past, Scar, and mysterious inhumane characters behind the scenes, and you have a recipe for success.

Comments
Keeping the wheels turning, Arakawa continues with her story about two brothers' quest amidst a background of political conspiracies and dark secrets. While I don't get quite the epic feel as I do with the anime, the story has a much more compact pace, better suited for the mystery surrounding the government secrets that the Elrics must slowly uncover, going deeper and deeper into that rabbit hole. Most of the time in this volume surrounds the Elrics, but all the characters are so memorable with all their individual quirks and personalities. Blending humor, drama, mystery, and action all into one manga that appeals to just about everyone, Arakawa continues to prove to me why this manga is a best-seller. Highly Recommended.

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