Fullmetal Alchemist review

Apr 16, 2021
I have watched FMA: Brotherhood first then picked up this manga, and rewatched Brotherhood again to compare (you could say my latter half of 2016 was dedicated solely to FMA). It is the first manga that I've finished and I gotta say it was well worth the ride.

Story (9) Arakawa managed to combine various genres into 108 chapters with hardly any filler which is quite a feat. Fantasy/magic (alchemy) mixed with politics with some sprinkled action and adventure on the side (and a bit of romance too). The alchemy side of things seem well-researched also and I appreciate the effort put on that.

The story moves along at a smooth pace from the introduction of our main characters right into the climax and into the inevitable conclusion. I think my only negative comment here is the introduction of the Briggs arc with the reason that one character hid something important there. It just seemed quite far-fetched and execution was a bit clumsy- all to show a new place.

I also had a incredibly minor issue with Arakawa's execution of the various deus ex machinas in her story. Can't let our main characters get themselves too much in a bind, eh?

Art (8) This is only my second manga to read so I don't really have a good basis for comparison. However, on its own, the art is quite clean, crisp and consistent. Though not spectacular enough for me to be wowed, in general it is detailed and descriptive enough to add to the atmosphere.

Character (8) FMA has a wide array of characters so it'd be impossible not to find a favorite: we have a cynic, an optimist, a vengeful murderer, a visionary, an ambitious prince and a handful of loyal henchmen among other things. I like how some of the antagonists of the series, the homunculi, aren't exactly cookie-cutter villains and were given depth to their characters.

On the other hand, almost any story will have typical secondary characters who have hardly any growth and are merely used as plot devices; FMA is no exception to this. However, they are introduced and utilized in such a way that you will come and care for them no matter how small their roles may be.

Enjoyment (10)
When I first watched the anime having not read the manga, I thought the way the comedy/seriousness went fluidly from one to another was off-putting, but having read FMA I realized it was just adapting whatever was in the manga. My initial reaction was to side-eye Arakawa's propensity for this but I have since come to appreciate this wacky side of things.

My main gripe on FMA centers around Al. He is my favorite out of the Elric brothers and this is the problem: often times he is forgotten as people mention the trials and suffering Ed face. Both brothers went through a lot together even though Ed may have been exposed to a lot more ridicule as a State Alchemist. I may be biased but I've always thought Al has always been in a tougher place than Ed is; it's just that Ed is more vocal and cynical while Al tries to be constantly cheerful despite living in an armor body. Part of this is my thinking that there are two MAIN protagonists in the story, but Ed is and has always been the primary character with Al as the supporting one.

The above paragraph is my only 'real' hindrance to me thoroughly enjoying FMA and even then I'll give it a top score just because it was incredibly fun to read, it wasn't boring, it can be as deep as it wanted to be but at the same time it made me laugh out loud in some scenes.

Overall (9)
I think one of FMA's greatest strengths is that it is very easy to dive into but it has every little bit of everything that will please everyone. I've said almost everything I've felt about it in the above paragraphs.

The next on my list is to watch the 2003 version, though having spent a long time in the Amestris world I might need a few more months to cleanse my palate first.


Fullmetal Alchemist
Fullmetal Alchemist
Author Arakawa, Hiromu