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[blog] Hagane no Renkinjutsushi

Long, long ago, in the ancient forgotten year of 2005, I watched an anime series called Fullmetal Alchemist, and it was good. Well… it was okay. I won’t speak to whether the plot was really as confusing and contrived as my foggy memory tells me, but I know I was disappointed with the ending, and the subsequent movie didn’t add much closure.

I didn’t know at the time, but the source manga was still running—and continued to do so for another six years. Almost half of the anime series (most of episodes 29–51, I believe?) was fabricated to explain and conclude the first half of the manga’s story. It’s the rough equivalent (in quality, as well) of a fanfiction author finishing up the Harry Potter series right after Goblet of Fire.

And then, redemption! A new series was made from scratch, following the manga more closely now that it’s over. We spent the last two weeks watching this masterpiece: myself, Marl, and Mel (who hasn’t seen the old series). While the correct story is still fresh in my head, I want to collect some impressions. Beware, spoilers, obviously.


  • Hughes’s death is much less tragic when it happens in episode 10 instead of episode 25. I know the new series wanted to accelerate through the parts that we’d already seen, but Hughes hadn’t quite made his mark as a major character by the time he died.

  • Maybe I’m already biased from the parallel-world stuff in the old anime series, but there is a lot of emphasis on alchemy being a parallel to science. It feels as though the story is trying to make a point about science, then, but for the life of me I’m not sure what it might be. Truth punishes those who dare to dream too big, in as twisted and fitting a way as possible, but will give back what was taken in exchange for permanently revoking one’s ability to use alchemy/science. This smacks of Icarus, which is just as bogus a tale: “don’t try too hard, or the universe will fuck you”. What a crock.

    You can also recover what you lost by sacrificing dozens of innocent lives, which basically everyone but the protagonists are more than willing to do. Mustang wasn’t even trying to resurrect anyone, and he lost his vision… and then used a Stone to recover it… so the net change is just that a bunch of people had their souls sucked out for nothing. The incarnation of cosmic equilibrium is kind of a dick. He could at least be appreciative after our heroes saved possibly the entire universe.

  • Al’s body was, apparently, just kind of hanging around in the void for years. Ed’s limbs were attached to his Truth. Is there a Truth out there somewhere holding onto Izumi’s uterus?

  • It’s a shame that Armstrong didn’t transmute as many busts of his head in this series; it was mostly just spikes. More effective, but not as Artistic. ★ ★

  • Lust was pretty lame here. Her powers were a strict subset of Envy’s, and besides having the most cleavage of the homonculi, she didn’t act like she embodied lust. And then she died.


  • The old series latched on really hard to the “fake” Philosopher’s Stone used by the priest in Lior, but the new series barely addresses it at all. Was it really a fake, or did it just run out of juice? Is there such a thing as a fake?

  • Speaking of juice: Homonculus used the country’s entire population as fuel for his Dastardly Plan, but Hohenheim swiftly returned the stolen souls to their bodies. But they’re a power source, so wouldn’t a significant number of them have been burned up? How about the parts of Hohenheim’s soul restoral circle: did they burn themselves up in the process, or are they just inhabiting the dirt now?

  • For that matter, I’m surprised Hohenheim was the only person to consider that a Plan B might be a good idea. For all the emphasis on Scar’s brother’s reversal circle, it didn’t really do a lot to stop Homonculus. Though I wonder if alchemists are just permanently more powerful in general, now.

  • Wrath is the only homonculus that can’t regenerate. Why? It can’t be because he has a human body: Greed, inhabiting Lin’s body, can still regenerate.

  • If Ed can do any alchemy he pleases without a circle, why does he need to draw one for the body-reconstruction transmutation? For that matter, why doesn’t he do fire alchemy? Mustang’s a much more effective fighter, and for all the mutterings of the secret of flame alchemy, it’s pretty easy to see and copy the transmutation circle he has on the backs of both hands at all times.

  • Do you need any special training or innate ability to activate a transmutation circle? Scar uses his brother’s arm tattoos on his first attempt just fine, and the people of Xerxes can activate, er, themselves. I ask because I’m curious whether Ed lost his ability to perform any alchemy, or just the ability to clap his hands together.

Excellent series, cleverly put together, and provides much more closure than that Conqueror of Shambala nonsense. TWO THUMBS UP. 👍👍 Could use maybe twenty episodes of in-depth explanations of how transmutation circles work, but I guess I can live without that.

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(illus. by Rumwik)