Manga Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 23

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 23
Written by: Hiromu Arakawa
Publisher: Square Enix
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: July 20, 2010

Volume 23 focuses on the various battlefronts that are taking place around Central. First, there’s Al getting a hold of a Philosopher’s Stone. He refuses to use it at first, but is encouraged to use it so the people who were used to make it can fight, too. By using the stone, it allows Al to fight on an equal level with Kimblee and Pride. I thought it was great getting to see Al having such a prominent role in a fight by using alchemy. That was usually Ed’s job, so it was nice to see Al shine in the spotlight for once. While Al isn’t able to succeed on his own, he gets help from his friends that causes serious injury to Kimblee and allows the group to escape. It was funny, yet cool, to see that Yoki could actually do something to help!

Another battlefront rages at Central Headquarters, where the Armstrong siblings are trying to take on Sloth. It turns out things aren’t what they seem when they discover that while Sloth is lazy, he’s actually the fastest Homunculus. When other members of the military, who have been told to shoot Major General Armstrong on sight enter the scene, they find themselves in a chaotic situation. It becomes even more chaotic when the dolls brought to life with Philosopher’s Stones find their way to this battleground. If it wasn’t for the seriousness of the situation that was taking place here, I’d be tempted to laugh at these military members who thought they could ignore Sloth and follow through on their order to take down Major General Armstrong.

May is trying to outrun Envy as the zombies try to capture her, and she ends up finding Ed, Scar, and the others, who are busy trying to take down the zombies where they’re at. But shortly before May and Envy’s arrival, we see Mustang and Hawkeye finding Ed and the others.

When Envy and May arrive, Mustang starts asking Envy who murdered Hughes. After mocking Mustang for a little while, Envy finally reveals the truth. We then see Mustang go into a rage that we’ve never seen before. Honestly, his expressions during this section actually make him look rather frightening. Mustang is now a man driven by revenge, and he has appeared to snap. This drive for revenge plays a very important role during this section, and we see Ed and Hawkeye trying to snap him out of this rage and keeping him from killing Envy. This section was so intense. Even though I knew what was going to happen from seeing the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime, I still thought that this scene was intense. Arakawa did a fantastic job portraying the intensity and emotions of this scene through both her art style and through the characters’ dialogue. Envy’s final speech to taunt the humans is also a standout moment from this scene.

We also get to see some of Mustang’s men using Bradley’s wife and the media to try to turn the people’s opinion to their side. I thought Arakawa did a great job showing how manipulation of the media and propaganda are just as important as the fighting in this kind of a situation.

With the various battlefronts going on, Volume 23 has a lot of action going on, which helps it to be a relatively quick read. Between the action and the various progressions that are made on the various battlefronts, Volume 23 is one that you don’t want to put down.

This volume also includes a short story called, “Special Episode: Fullmetal Alchemist, Wii: Prince of Dawn.” This story was included in order to promote the Fullmetal Alchemist: Prince of the Dawn videogame for the Nintendo Wii that was released in Japan. From what we see in the story, it appears this is supposed to fit somewhere in the middle of the timeline that’s presented in the manga, after Mustang and his men are split up. I don’t really have much to say about this story, except that I liked the panel that shows Mustang’s disgusted reaction when he hears the female military members gushing over Prince Claudio.

Even though I already know what’s going to be happening before I read each volume, I still enjoy reading these events in the manga. To me, being able to still enjoy the story even though I already know it from an anime adaptation helps to prove just how strong Arakawa’s storytelling and character development is in the Fullmetal Alchemist series.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the previous 22 volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist, then I believe you’ll also enjoy reading Volume 23 of the series.

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