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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

Tale of Boys Growing Through Adversity

[From September Issue 2013]

201309-6-1

The cover of issue 1.
By ARAKAWA Hiromu.
Published by Square Enix Company.

 

Fullmetal Alchemist

Serialized in the monthly boy’s magazine “Gan Gan” from 2001 to 2010, this story mainly takes place in the imaginary country of Amestris. It is a popular work with over 61 million copies printed in book form. The issue of the magazine that ran the final episode sold out, despite the fact that 20% more copies were printed than usual. The same episode was reprinted two months later for those who missed the chance to buy this issue.

The protagonists, siblings Edward ELRIC (Ed) and Alphonse ELRIC (Al), are both alchemists. In the story, alchemy is a form of technological research founded on advanced theory. This theory is based on the law of equivalent exchange. As it’s impossible to get something for nothing, in order to get hold of something, you must exchange it for something of equivalent value; this is the main theme of the story.

Through their training in the art of alchemy, Ed and Al learn this principle. But their real goal is to bring their mother back to life. Resurrection of a human body is forbidden and their attempts end in failure. Having exceeded the alchemist’s law of equivalent exchange, Ed loses his left leg, and Al loses his entire physical body in compensation. In addition, Ed loses his right arm in order to bring Al’s soul back and house it in a suit of armor.

Devastated, Ed is advised by MUSTANG, a member of the Amestrian State Army to try to become an alchemist for the state. Mustang says that the privileges granted to a state alchemist will come in handy as in order to recover his own body, Ed must obtain the Philosopher’s Stone and gain a deeper knowledge of alchemy. But this also means that Ed is enlisted in the army. If war breaks out, he will be obliged to fight as a human weapon.

Strengthening his resolve, Ed becomes a state alchemist. After this, he replaces his lost arm and leg with prostheses called Automail (automotive armor) and is granted the title of “Fullmetal Alchemist.” Ed and Al will face up to the homunculi (cyborgs), a man who targets State Alchemists, as well as to foreign citizens who want to get hold of stones. Soon they find out that the Philosopher’s Stone is made from human souls, and the two become caught up in a great
conspiracy.

It all began a long time ago with the accidental creation of a homunculus in the kingdom of Xerxes. “It,” was simply a black substance in a flask, but through alchemy it acquired the Philosopher’s Stone and a body in exchange for Xerxesian citizens. After this, over a long period, the homunculi attempted to gain divine power by using alchemy in exchange for all the souls of the Amestrian people.

In order to thwart their plan, old enemies and people from various walks of life join forces with Ed. Many people are sacrificed in the midst of the battle until at last Ed faces the homunculi on his own. Throughout the story the law of equivalent exchange is put into practice and against the odds, Ed has to rise to the occasion numerous times. He is devastated when he makes a mistake and loses a close friend, but bounces back stronger than ever. This is an ambitious work that paints a portrait of the suffering boys face during the process of growing up.

Text: HATTA Emiko


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