Winner of the award for Wordiest Title of the Month, this anime also features a long, confusing plot extracted from the original manga by Hiromu Arakawa. In brief, the “holy land” of Milos has been relocated like an entire nation of refugees (echoes of Tibet and Palestine) to the bottom of a vast canyon where its citizens pick through the trash dumped from above. Into the valley come brothers Edward and Alphonse, both alchemists disfigured by their first forays into magic. Ed now sports a prosthetic metal arm, while poor Al, despite his prepubescent voice, has been entirely transformed into a giant iron sumo. There in Milos they meet rebel fighter Julia—also an alchemist, though without any metal hardware—and the three set about solving the mystery of “transmutation circles” that might allow the Milosians to reclaim their old surface domain. The alchemists’ battles and special powers involve palm-blasting force fields, suddenly snaking bridges of ice, and stalagmites erupting from the ground. There’s a giant wolf in pursuit and above, an elegant squadron of bat-winged guerrilla babes who swoop over the desert canyons and spindly railroad viaducts. The Balkan maps and ethnic cleansing suggest recent history, but there are older allusions to Prometheus, Metropolis, and the Tower of Babel. It’s silly and excessive, but Fullmetal Alchemist occasionally strikes a note of adolescent truth, as when Ed wishes for “some way to get our bodies back.” Every pimply teen will know just how he feels.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 18, 2012