Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fullmetal Alchemist (manga, vol. 16) by Hiromu Arakawa

In this volume, Scar rescues Doctor Marcoh in order to enlist his help in figuring out how the alchemy of Xing differs from the alchemy practiced in Amestris. The Elric brothers also want to investigate the differences, but the books at the Central City National Library aren't very helpful and the only person they could ask has left. The brothers are told they can find this person if they travel east and then north, braving a cold, miserable climate and Major Armstrong's dangerous sister. In addition to all of that, Kimblee, a ruthless, murderous alchemist, is freed and given the task of finding and killing Scar and bringing Marcoh back to the Humunculi.

If you haven't read any of the previous volumes of this manga (watching the anime doesn't count, because by this point the plots of the manga and anime differ wildly), the first paragraph of this entry probably made no sense to you, which is reason enough not to start with this volume. I don't consider this volume to be one of the most interesting in the series, not on its own, although it does move the general series plot forward a bit more - nearly everyone's goal is now to figure out how Xing's alchemy is different. After the previous emotionally devastating volume, this volume feels a little like a pause that allows readers to collect themselves.

It is fun, however, to see Kimblee really have trouble with someone - he's the kind of scary character you just love to fear and hate. I also enjoyed getting to see another one of Major Armstrong's family members - this shows readers a different facet of his family that's less amusing than what's been shown in previous volumes. There's several exciting action scenes, including one where Ed fights in conditions he's not cut out for, and one between Scar and Kimblee. Also, there's a short scene where Ed and Al get to meet President King Bradley's son and wife - it's a strange-feeling scene, knowing what I and other readers who've been keeping up with the series know about King Bradley.

As far as the extras for this volume go, there are a few funny comic strips. Arakawa chose not to include one of her "body count" comics, which would've been sparse anyway (only one chimera, I think).

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:

  • The Golden Compass (book) by Philip Pullman - Lyra Belacqua, a young orphan in a world where everyone is accompanied by a daemon, a being that looks like an animal and basically reflects a person's soul, is given a mysterious alethiometer. After she escapes from a woman who wants to take it from her, Lyra goes looking for her friend and other children who have been kidnapped by a mysterious group she and others call gobblers. Along the way, Lyra makes lots of friends and discovers shocking things about herself, those around her, and the gobblers. Those who want to read something that is thought-provoking and yet has exciting action scenes might like this book. Lyra's world, like that of the Elric brothers, feels like a mix of things from the past and amazingly magical technology (the alethiometer may seem like magic, but it's actually considered technology). Also, Lyra, like the Elric brothers, is on a long journey. Her journey, similar to this volume, takes her into some cold and inhospitable places.
  • Last Exile (anime TV series) - In a world that looks like 19th century Europe with awesome flying technology, Claus and Lavie are pilot and co-pilot of a Vanship and act as couriers. When they rescue a little girl and complete the mission that involves her, they end up becoming crew members of the legendary mercenary ship Sylvana. As this series progresses, the powerful and often scary Guild also gets involved a lot. Those who enjoyed reading about a world that mixes a chronologically older feel with awesome abilities and technology might like this series. There are also lots of battles - mainly between ships but also occasionally between individuals.

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