Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fullmetal Alchemist, vol. 3

The story: Al and Ed venture back to their hometown for repairs to Ed's prosthetics and Al's body. While Winry and Grandma Pinako welcome them like family, the Elric brothers are soon on their way back to Central to figure out the secret of the philosopher's stone. But, when they finally get there, they find out that the library containing the stone's formula burned down. Thinking that all hope is lost, they're lucky to run into a former library employee with a photographic memory who relays the "cookbook" created by Marcoh. Unfortunately, the Elric brothers soon learn that the creation of a philosopher's stone has a bigger cost than they're willing to pay. Upon investigating research connected to the stone, Ed and Al are caught in a tough situation with Lust and Gluttony. Will they escape the mysterious duo, or is the Elrics' journey at its end?

Reaction: I'm constantly amazed at how much Hiromu Arakawa can pack into one volume! She has a tight and compact storytelling style that not only splashes action scenes across the page, but takes the time to explore the depth that the main characters, Al and Ed, possess. I also really liked Pinako and Winry, as they not only are a great family of sorts to the boys, but because they also have awesome technical skills. It's refreshing to have such a great spectrum of female characters!

Deep thoughts: In this volume, an ex-librarian named Sheska has a photographic memory. Photographic memory, also known as eidetic memory, is the ability to recall an image any time from 30 seconds to decades after first viewing it. While it is a fascinating skill to have, it is quite controversial and many scientists doubt its existence. Many believe that those with so-called photographic memory actually use a pneumonic device of some sort in order to memorize information. In any case, Sheska's skill proves quite valuable!

Artwork: The artwork in this volume was just as competent as it has been in past ones, but I noticed a layer of detail that I haven't seen before. From flashbacks and old, grainy photos to scenes in libraries or out at Pinako's country home, there was a lot to look at in each panel. Speaking of Pinako, her character design was a nice change-up, especially her funny hairdo that Arakawa explains in a couple of panels at the end of the volume.

The verdict: Highly recommended. There's so much going on here, but it's all interwoven together in a compelling main plot -- the Elric brothers' quest to regain their original forms. There's heart, intrigue, comedy and action -- and I'm enjoying every last panel of it! Fullmetal Alchemist is available in the U.S. from Viz.

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