Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #04 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1-59116-929-1
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #04

By Jarred Pine     October 28, 2005
Release Date: November 01, 2005

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol.#04
© Viz Media

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

What They Say
Edward Elric's battle at the alchemical lab ends in disaster. But his enemies don't want him dead... they have other plans for him. As Edward recovers from his wounds, his brother Alphonse broods over the question that has gnawed at him since his fight with Number 66: is he nothing but a lifeless metal shell? With the Fullmetal Alchemist and his brother out of commission, Lust, Gluttony and Sloth are free to pursue their murderous agenda... except that the mystery man named Scar is back.

The Review
With this volume, Arakawa-sensei proves why Fullmetal Alchemist is a breakout hit by filling it with lots of plot and character development, the type of which is not commonly seen in shounen manga. Just make sure to have a tissue nearby.

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 this time however does not have the same metallic, glossy finish. The print reproduction again has its issues with a little bit of smudging and the grey tones checker-boarding on occasion. There are a good amount of extras in this volume, including a 10 page side story (Dog of the Military?), 7 strip comics that are hilarious, a 2 page preview of the next volume, and a few extra sketches.

Arakawa-sensei's artwork continues to be quite solid. Very clean line 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. Arakawa-sensei is also quite good at directing a scene and enhancing its effects through her panel work. It makes for the quite the intense, page-flipping experience.

SFX are translated with overlays, which looks really good. Some of the overlays even maintain the transparency of the original SFX, letting the artwork come through. 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 just feel so natural and touching.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Three volumes have been released by VIZ so far, with all three placing in the BookScan Top 10 GN list for a combined 30-plus weeks and counting. ICv2 even recently named Fullmetal Alchemist as a "breakout property of 2005". In case you haven't noticed by now, Fullmetal Alchemist is a hit and it deserves to be called such. If you still remain unconvinced, the fourth volume should make it pretty obvious. This volume fires on all cylinders, providing lots of great character development as well as an emotional event that goes for a punch straight to the gut.

Picking right up where the last volume left off, Ed finds himself at the feet of two inhuman characters with strange tattoos on their body named Envy and Lust. Envy brutally does away with guard #48, but decides to let Ed live for reasons that seem predetermined. These two immortals seem to have a lot of knowledge about the Philosopher's Stone and all the other secret events going on with Lab No. 5, talking about plans that seem to involve Ed in some way. Is Ed really searching for the stone by his own will, or is his fate being woven by these two or the higher power they serve? This ongoing story line is still filled with a whole lot more questions then answers, but I really enjoy seeing the mystery slowly unfold with each and every volume.

One of the stronger aspects of this manga, which is especially showcased in this volume, is the ample amount of time and care that Arakawa-sensei gives to her characters in order to fully develop them and their relationships between each other. Sacrifice is one of the overarching themes in this title, which many times does include those people in a character's life. It is therefore very important that, as a reader, the dynamics, emotions, and everything between characters is well fleshed out. After Al takes on the other guardian of Lab No. 5, he is left with a lot of doubt about his existence. How can he be certain that his memories were not just creations by his older brother, fused into this artificial body? It is a pretty heavy topic for a young boy of Al's age, and quite a harsh issue to deal with between brothers. The way these two brothers worked out this particular issue and got back on the same page together really touched my heart. It just felt very natural and real, further strengthening these two Elric brothers' bond.

Even Winry gets some great panel time here, as she lugs her tools all the way to Central in order to once again repair Ed's broken automail. She worries about the brothers so much, but usually is left out of all the details. It is here that I really begin to connect with her character, understanding her feelings towards the brothers as a caring older sibling who is probably tortured inside worrying about the fate of these two alchemists. There are also some really touching moments with her visiting the Hughes family for Elicia's birthday, seeing a happy mother and father with their child and experiencing what is like once again to be a family. Winry is one character that I would love to see more time devoted to in order to help bring her out into the forefront a little more.

Now for the emotional part of the volume. I will do my best to remain as spoiler-free as possible, but I am sure those of you who have seen the anime will know what tragic event I am talking about. After going through it again for the 4th or 5th time I can say this, it doesn't get any easier. It is quite a sad circumstance, but I think helps illustrate that Arakwa-sensei's world is one filled with a lot of tragedy. The moments that pack the most punch are after the tragedy, like when we see a Colonel Roy Mustang looking up into the sunlight sky with a tear streaming down his face, saying "This is rain.". He has now become a much more driven character with more purpose than just becoming President.

If the mystery with the Philosopher Stone and the strong relationships between the characters weren't enough for you, then you can now add military espionage and conspiracy. There is just so much going on that it could become dizzying, but Arakawa-sensei does a great job with the pacing to keep the reader's attention and keep them hooked until the last page.

Alchemy, political conspiracies, military espionage, sacrifice, tragedy, familial bonds, the list goes on and on. With each volume I continue to be just so impressed with how much intriguing material Arakawa packs into 200 pages, keeping my attention at each and every page turn. There is a lot of development in this volume, both in plot and character. It is truly a volume that just feels like everything is firing on all cylinders. I love how Arakawa-sensei takes time away from all the action and mystery to help further her characters and their dynamics between each other, and does so in such a way that feels so natural.

This volume also contains the tragic event that many anime fans have debated. I for one still find this event rough to get through, but the way it sets up the future progression of the manga I think perfectly fits with the overall themes of the story. Break out the hankies. Highly Recommended.


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