Manga Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 20

Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric know how to perform alchemy, and tried performing a forbidden alchemy technique to bring their mother back to life. In the process, Alphonse lost his body and Ed lost one of his legs. In order to attach Al’s soul to a suit of armor, Ed ends up losing one of his arms. Ed now has “auto-mail” prosthetics, which are designed by his childhood friend, Winry Rockbell.

Ed has become the youngest State Alchemist in history, and has been given the name “Fullmetal Alchemist.” The series follows Ed and Al as they search for the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary artifact that they believe will help them to recover their bodies.

Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 20
Written by: Hiromu Arakawa
Publisher: Square Enix
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: September 15, 2009

The beginning of Volume 20 sees the Fort Briggs soldiers handily defeating the troops from Drachma. It’s also revealed that Drachma had been planning this attack with allies in the Amestrian military command for years, and they’d been promised there would be dissension in Briggs’ ranks. When the Drachma troops try to attack Kimblee, he uses the Philosopher’s Stone and finishes them off.

This ended up being another example of how the people in the world of Fullmetal Alchemist were being deceived in order to realize Father’s dream of completing a transmutation circle and using everyone’s souls for his own purposes. I admit that I have a hard time feeling any sympathy for the commander of Drachma’s troops for being duped.

Meanwhile, Zapano brings a disguised Envy to see Doctor Marcoh and the others. Envy doesn’t anticipate the trap that’s waiting, This forces Envy to transform into the large creature and capturing Marcoh. The joke’s on Envy, though, when the doctor uses his alchemy to destroy the Philosopher’s Stone in Envy. Once the Philosopher’s Stone is gone, Envy turns into a little creature that kind of looks like a tadpole with one eye. They store the new Envy in a jar with holes, and May is told to return to her country with Envy. Unfortunately, Envy tricks May into returning to Central City.

I already knew what was going to happen with Envy due to seeing it in the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime series, but I still enjoyed seeing Envy’s come-uppance at the hands of Marcoh. Of course, I also wanted to yell at May for listening to Envy instead of doing what Scar asked her to. Again, from seeing the anime, I know what’s coming next with Envy’s storyline. Even if a reader hasn’t seen the anime already, they’ll already be able to tell that nothing good can happen from Envy’s suggestion.

King Bradley questions Hawkeye concerning what she knows about him and Selim. While she’s figured out a lot of truth, she’s surprised that she was wrong about Bradley’s wife. Meanwhile, Olivier is shown the currently inanimate soldiers that will soon have souls transferred into them in order to create the perfect army with soldiers that have no fear of death. This is then followed by Olivier telling her father he should retire and make her the head of the family. Louis and Olivier are forced to fight, and Olivier wins. The other family members move out of the house, and Olivier takes it over.

Al, Winry, and the group traveling with them arrive in Liore, where Al has an unexpected reunion with his father. Father and son are able to have an important conversation to catch up and share what information they have about the situation. This was a nice scene, and it was touching to see Al say that he forgives Hohenheim for everything. It’s even more touching because the reader knows how much Ed hates Hohenheim and wants nothing to do with him.

This scene between Al and Hohenheim is also important, because this is includes a reference to “The Promised Day.” This is important, because “The Promised Day” is also referenced later when Izumi breaks into Briggs and is caught so she can deliver a message to the soldiers there about it. Word starts spreading, and Grumman starts getting the wheels in motion for the troops in the north and east to prepare to make their move.

Speaking of Ed, we discover that he’s being treated by an older couple that runs a clinic. The military is looking for Ed, and they don’t see him there. Ed went out to buy some food, and when he hears himself being called short, he goes ballistic. Because of the trouble that was caused, Ed and the two chimeras flee.

Ling, as Greed, also has an important storyline in Volume 20. He encounters Bido, but Greed claims to not recognize him and ultimately kills Bido. After Bido’s death, Greed starts having glimpses of the past, and Ling scolds Greed for killing a friend in cold blood and there’s a major argument between Greed and Ling. A confused Greed goes to attack King Bradley. After a major fight, Greed flees.

Ed’s and Greed’s storylines intersect when they run into each other at the house that Ed and Al had used as a hideout earlier in the series when they were still traveling with Ling. By the end of the volume, Ed agrees to be Greed’s henchman, and the two chimera traveling with Ed are dragged into it.

There’s a lot taking place in Volume 20, and as it goes along, the various stories start becoming more intertwined. By the end of the volume, it’s blatantly obvious to the reader that the story is building up to a major event. Of course, that major event would be “The Promised Day.” I really don’t want to say any more in order to avoid providing any spoilers for readers who haven’t ready any further in the manga or haven’t seen the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood television anime series.

In some respects, having seen the anime before reading these volumes does make it difficult at times to write these reviews. And even though I may already know what’s going to be happening before I read each volume, I still enjoy reading these events in the manga. I still believe this is a testament to Arakawa’s storytelling that she uses for the Fullmetal Alchemist series.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the previous 19 volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist, then I believe you’ll also enjoy reading Volume 20 of the series.

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