Viz’ Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1 Edition), Volumes 22–24 includes Volumes 22, 23, and 24 of the original Japanese manga1. Story and art are by Hiromu Arakawa; English translation by Akira Watanabe; English adaptation by Jake Forbes; touch-up art and lettering by Wayne Truman. The original manga appeared in 2009.
Adults are offered many opportunities to defer gratification, such as spacing out the last few volumes of a limited series instead of hoovering them up all at once. Adults can also say “screw delayed gratification; finish the series!” and get away with it. Guess which kind of adult I am.
Which brings us to the eighth, second-to-last, 3-in-1 omnibus of Fullmetal Alchemist. In this volume, plans come together. Sorta kinda.
Our heroes—Edward, Alphonse, Scar, Roy Mustang, the Armstrong siblings, a simple housewife, and many others—have turned to be adept at planning and improvisation. They also seem to do pretty well at not getting in each other’s way, even when they have no idea what their friends are doing2. They trust each other; they are resolute.
But, even though our heroes have many advantages, so do the homunculae. The enemy are hard to kill and have cunning tricks in reserve. President Führer Bradley may seem to have died, but given that he’s a homunculus, his opponents shouldn’t count him out without seeing the body.
AND … a desperate senior officer unleashes what he thought would be an unstoppable wave of fanatical soldiers, which turns out to be an unstoppable wave of voracious, flesh-eating monsters. All is confusion and possible doom.
This volume needs a “horrific injury” warning. Poor homunculus Sloth.
Homunculae are often flawed by overwhelming pride. They go out of their way to humiliate the puny humans, which often backfires. While they are hard to kill, they’re not invulnerable. As a result, half of the homunculae are dead by the time this volume ends. Most of the rest have been badly hurt. The heroes, on the other hand, go from win to win, albeit sometimes at the cost of their own lives.
A stirring volume. Cast of thousands! The power of friendship! Daring gambits! Lectures on moral clarity so compelling that one character commits suicide to escape having to listen to more! But we’re still one omnibus from the end of the series and it’s not at all clear how many of the protagonists will survive; it definitely won’t be all of them. And they may not win. They’ve inconvenienced Father but they haven’t slowed him down enough to prevent a final catastrophe.
1. Previous reviews:
Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1 Edition), Volumes 1–3 was reviewed here.
Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1 Edition), Volumes 4–6 was reviewed here.
Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1 Edition), Volumes 7–9 was reviewed here.
Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1 Edition), Volumes 10–12 was reviewed here.
Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1 Edition), Volumes 13-15 was reviewed here.
Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1 Edition) Volumes 16-18 was reviewed here.
Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1 Edition) Volumes 19-21 was reviewed here.
2: The communication technology in this setting is as powerful (or not) as mid-twentieth-century tech. It’s interesting that nobody seems to have applied alchemy to the problem of long-distance communication. The plot would look very very different if both sides had mobile phones.