The first thing you’ll have to get over about the new Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition series is that they’re not actually metal. I admit, I literally thought the whole book would be metal and I was looking forward to carrying around ten-pound metal manga, but it’s paper. Not even the covers are metal, what gives?! Guess I’ll have to learn alchemy and turn the covers into metal myself!
Although it’s not actually metal, it’s still pretty heavy. And that’s due to the primo paper stock. These pages are thick, stark white and beautiful. And perfectly suited to make Hiromu Arakawa’s incredible art pop like never before. She’s an expert at using heavy contrast to achieve a dramatic flair. There’s a lot of white space on her pages because her line work is so good she doesn’t need shading to enhance it. So when she shows objects or people by just their silhouette it practically jumps off the page. It almost has Sin City feel on some of the more extreme pages. Even if you’ve read the original volumes a million times, you’ll be impressed by how it looks in the new editions. And I should know, I was the editor of the manga back in the day, and I have read some of the volumes a million times!
The hardbound covers are a sight to behold. The logo and text are shiny as are the several alchemic icons taken from the manga. And there’s a secret transparent shiny alchemic summoning circle on the back! It’s a really neat effect because you have to actually move the book to see it. Basically, if you love cool shiny stuff on your manga covers, these volumes will make you happy.
And in the first few pages, there’s a really neat red semi-transparent page that lets you through it to the next page which has full body color art of Edward. It’s a cool effect, and one I’ve never seen in a manga before. There are also a few color pages that kick off the first chapter that look absolutely gorgeous. The design of this book is exceptional. The designer definitely earned their paycheck on this one.
As for the story, if you haven’t read it there’s a reason this became such a universally beloved series. Right from the get-go, you'll fall in love with the two main characters and will be intrigued by the strange world they inhabit. A world where alchemy is a real science, bound by rules and processes that get explored throughout the series. The setting has an old-world European feel with a steampunk edge. A place where the common man is constantly trampled under the heavy feet of religion or militarism.
But within this oppressive world, there is hope! In the form of Edward, a young lad with incredible alchemic powers and a body made of mostly of steel. And his brother Alphonse, who is a living suit of metal armor. Together they travel the world righting wrongs wherever they go in search of a way to fix an attempted alchemic disaster that cost one much of his body and the other all of his. Along the way, they’ll make friends and enemies and get embroiled in a much larger plot.
One thing I rediscovered upon reading volume one again is how funny it is. Edward and Alphonse are hilarious and the dynamic of their relationship is half the fun. Edward is hotheaded and quick to jump to conclusions or into a fight. Alphonse is the complete opposite, and his thoughtful, shy nature is the perfect foil to Edward’s hyperactive antics. Although they make an odd couple, the love between them is powerful. They have the kind of bond that only siblings who have faced terrible tragedy together can understand.
Even if you have read the series before, it’s worth collecting again in these fancy editions. The art has never looked better and it’s a blast to jump back into this world and experience the adventure of these two unlikely heroes again.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition, Vol. 1 is available here.
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