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Manga Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume Four by Hiromu Arakawa

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Fullmetal Alchemist Volume Four is a manga by Hiromu Arakawa, and it was released in North America by Viz Media in 2005. Fullmetal Alchemist is rated “T” for teens; from what I’ve read of the manga and from seeing both of the anime series, I would agree with this rating.

Edward and Alphonse Elric are brothers who practice alchemy. After the death of their mother, they try to bring her back to life by using alchemy. In alchemy, there is law of equal exchange; when they tried bringing their mother back, Alphonse lost his body. Edward attached Alphonse’s soul to a suit of armor; in order to do this, Edward had to sacrifice one his arms and one of his legs.

Their friend, Winry Rockbell, and her grandmother Pinako, created prosthetics for Edward that are known as “auto-mail.” Edward has become a State Alchemist, and has been given the name “Fullmetal Alchemist;” he is also the youngest State Alchemist in history. The series follows Ed and Al as they search for the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary artifact that the brothers believe will allow them to recover their bodies.

During the first three volumes of the series, Ed and Al go through several adventures; during some of those adventures, Ed finds himself going through some soul searching. This reaches a peak during the story where he meets Shou Tucker, the “Sewing-Life Alchemist,” and his daughter Nina. The brothers also meet a man known only as Scar, who uses alchemy to kill State Alchemists. They learn a very important secret in regards to the Philosopher’s Stone, and they also meet a woman with photographic memory named Sheska.

Volume Four begins with Ed and Al at the 5th Laboratory located in Central. While Ed encounters two Homunculi and ends up getting a hint to something that will happen later in the series, Al’s opponent plants seeds of doubt into his mind about whether or not he truly existed before he was the suit of armor.

This volume provides some important character development not only for the brothers, but for Roy Mustang, the “Flame Alchemist.” There’s a very important plot point that takes place near the end of the volume that begins a change for Roy’s characterization and motivation.

I had seen both the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime series and the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime series before I read this volume, so I already know where the story is headed. I’d heard that Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was supposed to follow the manga more closely than the original anime series, and so far, this has been the case.

In Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa has found a good mixture of action and character development to tell a compelling story. As a reader, I became so engrossed in this volume that I didn’t want to put it down until I reached the end. I also appreciate how Arakawa is able to incorporate comic relief in the story, and is able to make it feel natural in the context of the story that she’s telling.

Arakawa’s art in this series is also visually stunning. All of her characters are very expressive; even Al, as a suit of armor, is able to have times where he is able to show his emotions. The combination of both the story and the art make Fullmetal Alchemist a compelling read. Even though I already know the story from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I’m still wanting to read Volume Five to see how the story continues in the original manga version.

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About Lesley Aeschliman

Lesley Aeschliman is a freelance writer who began writing on a full-time basis in 2007. She has served as the Anime editor at BellaOnline.com, and she also writes and maintains two blogs: Lesley's Musings... on Anime and Manga and AeschTunes.