Viz’ Fullmetal Alchemist (3-in-1 Edition), Volumes 19–21 includes Volumes 19, 20, and 21 of the original Japanese manga . 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 2008.
All seems lost!
Roy Mustang’s trusted subordinates have been scattered across Amestris;
Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong (formerly of Briggs Fortress) appears to have gone over to Team Evil, leaving her beloved Fortress in the hands of officers very definitely loyal to the malevolent Father;
the great transmutation circle needed for the sacrifice of an entire nation is almost finished;
and worst of all, Alphonse Elric’s soul is beginning to reject the armour that houses it.
Amestris’ current difficulties—being groomed as a giant murder machine which will commit the largest mass human sacrifice ever seen in this world’s history—have their roots in the past, in Xerses, a now vanished kingdom. The emperor of that realm combined monumental gullibility with outrageous ambition. Desperate to win immortality, he handed the supernatural being now calling itself Father all the tools it needed to use the entire Xersian population into fuel for Father’s alchemy. This is why Father is so confident his current plan will work: he’s done it before, albeit on a smaller scale.
Alas for Father, this is the volume wherein the inherent weaknesses in his approach begin to manifest.
Father spared the slave who helped him suborn the vanished kingdom of Xerses . That slave, Alphonse and Elric’s father Von Hohenheim, is functionally immortal and has spent centuries figuring out how to stop Father.
The difference between “scattering the enemies forces” and “handing them a widely distributed intelligence network” may seem small, but it turns out to be important.
The homonculae’s habit of treating their mortal allies with open contempt turns out to be an excellent recruiting tool for the people opposing Father and the homonculae.
Nonetheless, it’s still quite possible for the good guys to lose. Edward, for example, makes a miscalculation that leaves him pinned to the ground like a butterfly. At least one of the apparently disgruntled enemy minions is making reports to the Homonculae. And not only is Alphonse struggling to keep soul and metal-armour body together, it turns out that one of the Homonculae is able to commandeer that metal shell for his own...
Important supporting character Major Armstrong sparkles. So does his intimidating sister Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong. And their father sparkles, too. There’s never any explanation for this. Apparently the entire Armstrong family sparkles from sheer awesomeness.
There’s a lot of grimness in this episode (the massacre of an entire nation, for example, and Von Hohenheim’s realization that he made it possible) but to balance that, there are moments of hope. Most of these are due to Father’s ruthlessness. He discards allies as soon as he deems them useless. The Elric brothers have been forming an expanding network of friends and allies. The bad guys betray each other at the drop of hat; the good guys have each others’ backs.
Arakawa does an excellent job of juggling a large cast of characters. While the Elric Brothers, Edward in particular, are arguably the main protagonists, the other characters are not there to fill out the cast list. Characters like Mustang, Von Hohenheim, and Scar have their own character arcs and significant plot developments. Not that this makes them invulnerable. Who will live? Who will die? I have no idea, so I’ve reserved the last two omnibi of the series.
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.