Fullmetal Alchemist, vol. 19
Story and Art by Hiromu Arakawa
Translation by Akira Watanabe
Adapted by Jake Forbes
Original Japanese edition: Square Enix, 2008
While reading vol. 19 of Fullmetal Alchemist, it’s hard not to get the feeling that the series is slowly heading towards its endgame. This is not to say that it is going to be wrapping up immediately. A little web research shows the series is up to vol. 23 in Japan and still running, though supposedly ending soon. But at this point in the story, Fullmetal Alchemist is now definitely more concerned with bringing established characters and plot threads back together rather than with introducing new story elements.
In this volume, Ed is facing off with Kimblee at Briggs, while May, Scar, and Dr. Marcoh continue to pour through Scar’s brother’s research in search of answers. Meanwhile, Olivier Armstrong heads south to Central to face King Bradley, while Mustang and his crew continue find ways to work despite the new constraints on their behavior. And most importantly, Hohenheim is on the move, and we finally get the full story behind his seeming immortality.
Arakawa’s tight plotting is very much in evidence throughout all of this action. For example, Ed’s battle with Kimblee could have been just another shōnen smackdown, but one key moment builds upon a previous fight in such a way that the fight ends up telling us something new about the FMA world. The revelations about Hohenheim have also been carefully set up. They are shocking but not entirely surprising, given what we the readers already know.
At this point of the story, it’s also very interesting to pause and consider the large cast of characters that Arakawa has assembled. When the story began, the “good guys” pretty much consisted of the Elrics and Mustang’s team. Now it also includes soldiers from Briggs, travelers from Xing, escaped chimaeras, and Scar. (The traveling group of May, Scar, and Dr. Marcoh pretty much sums it up.) Given that the history of Amestris has been one of ethnic hate and warfare, this is a pretty good response. It does gloss over many of the real-life difficulties of overcoming that kind of history, but it’s definitely preferable to a scenario in which the Elrics save the world all on their own.
Fullmetal Alchemist continues to set the standard for smart action adventure, and as usual, I am looking forward to the release of the next volume. In the meantime, I will entertain myself by watching the new anime adaptation, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, over at Funimation.com. Unlike the first anime adaptation, this new one is very faithful to the manga storyline.
This book includes in the usual funny extras at the end of the book and features another fine adaptation by Jake Forbes. Volume 20 of this series will be published on September 15, 2009.