I start a large number of these reviews by explaining all the ways I came to never having read or watched something before: “it’s new” or “I wasn’t alive then.” Not today! I was a fan of Manga in high school, long before I became a fan of comic books. I had read things like Naruto, Hikaru no go, and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. I was not a big reader in those years, and rarely strayed from the books that I already knew, but a friend recommended Fullmetal Alchemist to me, and I read the first two volumes.
I stopped reading it because, and I'm not ashamed to say this, at the time this book scared me. Some of the concepts in those first eight chapters were frightening (and still haunt me today), and totally went over my head. All that said, now that I am an adult, this book genuinely impresses me with its content and its new look.
Most likely, if you are thinking of buying this book, you are already a fan of the series. I’ll tell you why The Fullmetal Edition is special in a minute, but for those who don’t know the story, or, like me, are hesitant on Fullmetal Alchemist, let me remind you of the story.
The Elric Brothers, Edward and Alphonse, are alchemists that are traveling throughout their country to find an answer to their problem. Edward is missing a leg and an arm, and Alphonse’s soul is trapped inside of a suit of armor that walks around in. The brothers got themselves in this particular conundrum when they were children by attempting to bring their mother back to life using Alchemy. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t work out the way they had hoped it would.
Now, in the six chapters included in the Fullmetal Edition (normal volumes of manga typically have four chapters), you get a solid introduction to this world and the characters in it. You have a struggling populace in a country with countless powerful characters trying to take advantage of them. From alchemists posing as the children of Gods to alchemists trying to play God, the world of Fullmetal Alchemist is not a safe or generally happy place. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t any moments of levity and enjoyment, but that does mean that those moments are frequently followed by a crushing turn. It is like the Law of Equivalent Exchange, which governs the world of alchemy, “To obtain something, something of equal value must be lost.” It is in these low moments, this exchange of something positive and something negative, that we learn so much of the Elric brothers and the world around them.
All of this is exquisitely presented in the Fullmetal Edition. Anyone who has read manga knows what the cover and paper are like, and this hardcover edition is a tangible improvement. First, the Fullmetal Editions departs from the standard manga cover, instead choosing to focus on one character in full color, in the case of the first book, Edward (“The Fullmetal Alchemist”). This theme continues on the inside on the title page, which is a red transparent page on top of another full-color rendition of Edward. (The next volume in the Fullmetal Edition, released on August 14th this year, will be featuring Alphonse on the cover.) On top of this, the quality of the pages is outstanding. While maintaining the classic look of a manga, this edition has “large-trimmed archival-quality paper,” which is one of the first major differences you will notice when you pick it up. (And I need to mention that I even tried to rip these pages, in the normal ways you may rip a manga page, and it didn’t rip!).
Overall, this book is remarkable. This makes its price point at $19.99 fall within the parameters Law of Equivalent Exchange if you are a fan, or if you want to experience this story for the first time.