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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Manga Review: Fullmetal Alchemist GN 27

Full Metal Alchemist volume 27
Author: Hiromu Arakawa
Viz Media
210 pages

Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the finale of the Full Metal Alchemist series.

The Final Chapter: With the help of Hohenheim and their allies, the Elric brothers launch a desperate final attack against the homunculus “ father.” But to claim victory, some may have to make the ultimate sacrifice. And when the dust clears, will a happy ending await our favorite characters in the final volume of Fullmetal Alchemist? (Source: Goodreads)
It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that this is the end of Full Metal Alchemist. After twenty plus volumes, it felt like it was going to last so much longer. But all wars much draw to a close, and the Elric brothers' quest eventually had to end. But even though the series has ended, the possibilities for all the characters involved seem endless, and we are left with a story that will continue to draw in readers and linger in their minds long after this final book.

Arakawa has managed to neatly wrap up every major player's respective story line in this one volume, and she does it flawlessly. It does so in an all-out epic battle between alchemists and Father, the fate of the world resting in the hands of two young brothers and some military hands, one of which has been blinded. The odds, it seems, are not terrific. But this is FMA; the underdog always manages to win out in the end.
Really, this is Ed and Al's volume. Their narrative, which has been the back bone of the entire series, is what dominates the series finale. In the end, it is not the defeat of Father that defines the end of the story, but the end of the Elric brothers' quest to regain their original bodies, no matter what the cost. And the cost is so very very steep, as Edward must sacrifice an integral part of himself at the doors of equivalent exchange: his alchemy.
But before Edward does this, it is Alphonse's turn to make the ultimate sacrifice - he sacrifices his own body in order to give back Ed his original arm that can beat Father to a pulp. He leaves his metal shell behind, sending Al into a cataclysmic fit of rage. Even as he regains his arm, he has lost his beloved little brother, and it is this anger that fuels Edward's strength - his anger and his love for Alphonse, who seems lost forever. Ed doesn't always lose it, but when he does it is usually for a pretty good reason, losing his most precious person in the world being on the top of the list.
There are really so many great things about his volume - Edward and Al, Mustang and Hawkeye's impeccable teamwork, Greed's farewell, the final moments of Hohenheim, the end of Father - that it's hard to highlight any one of them over the other. But let it be known that if you read this series for its diverse cast of characters, you will not be disappointed. Everyone gets their share of the action. It's pretty awesome, to say the least.
Another highlight is Arakawa's amazing artwork. The way she creates action scenes that are both engaging and move fluid across the pages in vivid ways. I continue to love how she draws the scenes that take place in the world where Alphonse's spirit has been living for so long. She also does a great job of drawing hunky dudes and gorgeous ladies, sometimes in the same family - hello, Armstrongs! The fact that she can fit so much emotion in one scene, even over something like a tin suit of armor, is a testament to her artistic skill.
I've been reading Full Metal Alchemist since I was in high school. It's been at least five years for me since I first stepped into the world of alchemy and politics and beansprout antennae-heads, and now I've reached the end of their tale. It was a beautiful, wonderful series that was filled with fantastic characters and cities and stories, and this finale only cements its position as a modern classic in its genre. Plus, the little ending scene where Hohenheim is reunited again with his true love will certainly touch the heart of everyone reading it.
I will certainly miss you, Edward and Alphone Elric. Well, until I watch the Brotherhood anime anyway. May you always have a fullmetal heart.