Friday, July 24, 2009
Fullmetal Alchemist, vol. 2
The story: Edward and Alphonse meet the Sewing-Life Alchemist, who performs biological alchemy by creating chimeras, a creature with two or more population of genetically distinct cells. When the Sewing-Life Alchemist must succeed in his research for his upcoming assessment lest he lose his funding, he commits an atrocious act that causes Ed and Al a fair amount of heartbreak. When the Sewing-Life Alchemist and his research subject are killed, the Elric brothers learn about a new danger -- a state alchemist serial killer solely known as "Scar." Soon though, the two brothers are on the road again, again searching for the elusive philosopher's stone. So, what exactly do the dangerous and still-mysterious Lust and Gluttony have to do with their quest and what do they want with the stone?
Reaction: Wow! A lot of story and plot were contained in this fast-paced, action-packed volume. There's also time to learn about Edward's past and his feelings about failing to resurrect his mother. It's obvious his failure still haunts him, which is an interesting contrast with his outward bravado. While so much happened in this volume, plenty of questions were raised, too, and it seems that there are plenty of enemies that the Elric brothers will have to face eventually.
Deep thoughts: Hiromu Arakawa raises a surprising ethical question in this second volume -- is it right to experiment on animals and how is it different from experimenting on humans? Is a person's life truly worth more than an animal's, or is all life created equal? It's a topic that Osamu Tezuka has explored in detail himself and I found Arakawa's take on it fascinating. If nothing else, it sheds light on the lengths that some scientists will go through for research success.
Artwork: There's quite a bit of destruction in this volume and Arakawa gives all of it a fair amount of detail. I particularly liked the mechanical failing of Ed's arm, the many bits and pieces falling away are well done and showcase his vulnerability. Arakawa is also a great illustrator of human emotion, portraying everything from shock and horror to apathy and despair, even in non-human creatures.
The verdict: Highly recommended. I'm finding Edward and Alphonse to be fascinating characters, both in their skills and abilities, but also for their emotional depth and humanity. Their design and personalities are a fitting tribute to Arakawa's skill as both an artist and a writer. I wholeheartedly look forward to reading more of this series. Fullmetal Alchemist is available in the U.S. from Viz.