Manga Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 21

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 21
Written by: Hiromu Arakawa
Publisher: Square Enix
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: November 17, 2009

Volume 21 continues the buildup for “The Promised Day,” and there are several plot threads that run throughout the volume. Winry returns to Resembool and finds Ed, Greed/Ling, and the two chimera traveling with them hiding out in her grandmother’s house. Ed doesn’t stay long, and his party ends up in Liore. He reunites with his father there, but it’s definitely not any kind of a happy reunion. Ed and his party ultimately find themselves battling against Pride and Envy.

I have a couple of favorite moments for Ed’s part of the storyline. The first is when Winry discovers Ed in her bedroom as she’s starting to change. As readers of this series have come to expect, Winry gets upset and clocks Ed with a wrench. It actually surprises me that Winry’s wrench gag hasn’t gotten old and stale to me yet. I still find it just as amusing as the first time I saw it. My other favorite scene with Ed is when he reunites with Hohenheim and punches him with his automail arm. Should I be concerned that both of my favorite scenes with Ed in this volume include violence in them?

The major storyline in Volume 21, though, is the military exercises taking place between the northern and eastern troops. At first, it appears that a wrench has been thrown into the plans to overthrow King Bradley when he shows up to personally oversee the exercises. However, when Bradley catches wind that trouble is brewing in Central City, he and a couple of his men board a train to head back. Little do they know that the train ride ends up being part of Mustang and Graman’s plan.

Since I’d already seen the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood television anime series before reading this volume, I already knew that the twist with the train was coming. However, I remember when I first saw this section of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood that this twist had caught me by surprise because I honestly hadn’t seen it coming.

As news of the attack on the train and the whereabouts of King Bradley being unknown afterward spreads, unrest begins to grown in Central. And throughout Volume 21, we see Mustang and the others making their final preparations before launching their operation on “The Promised Day.”

As I read Volume 21, I could feel the anticipation as the various parties involved in “The Promised Day” were making their final preparations. Even if I didn’t have familiarity with the story from watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I think I would have still sensed the anticipation and the heightened tension that this volume brings to the story. I don’t want to say any more than I have, since I run the risk of providing “spoilers” from information that I already know from watching the anime.

But 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. To me, this is evidence for just how strong Arakawa’s storytelling is in the Fullmetal Alchemist series.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the previous 20 volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist, then I believe you’ll also enjoy reading Volume 21 of the series.

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