Manga Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Omnibus Volume Two

The second volume of the Fullmetal Alchemist 3-in-1 releases combines Volumes Four, Five, and Six of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga into one volume.

Fullmetal Alchemist Omnibus Volume Two
Written by: Hiromu Arakawa
Publisher: Square Enix
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: August 2, 2011

Volume Four begins with Ed and Al at the 5th Laboratory located in Central. Ed has an encounter with two of the Homunculi (Lust and Envy), and through them, gets a hint to something that will happen later in the series. Meanwhile, Al’s opponent (a suit of armor with the soul of murderer Barry the Chopper attached to it) plants seeds of doubt into Al’s mind as to whether he truly existed before he was the suit of armor. This doubt creates some tension between the brothers for a good portion of the volume, until the two of them talk it out.

We get to see Ed and Al’s childhood friend, Winry, have a strong presence in this volume. Because of the fight at the 5th laboratory, Ed is injured and has damaged his automail. Ed asks Winry to come to Central to help fix the automail, and this gives her an opportunity to become an important character in this volume. She also meets and gets to know Maes Hughes, as well as his wife Gracia and his daughter, Elicia. It’s touching to see the bond that Winry and Elicia form during this volume.

In the second to last chapter of Volume Four, Maes discovers more than he’s supposed to in regards to what the Homunculi are up to. Unfortunately, this ends up costing him his life. The chapter ends with Maes’ murder, and wow… what a cliffhanger to end on. As a reader, I really came to like him as a character. Every time I read this scene in the manga or see this scene in the anime, it still feels like a punch in the gut even though I know it’s coming.

In the last chapter of this volume, Ed, Al, and Winry are on their way to Rush Valley, unaware that Maes has been killed. However, the reader knows it, so it makes a scene with them on the train a little sad. After this, there’s the scene of Maes’ funeral, and it becomes one of the emotional scenes of the series when three-year-old Elicia keeps calling out not to bury her father because he won’t be able to go to work. Unfortunately, Elicia is just too young to understand what’s going on, and as a mom, this scene really tugs at my heartstrings. At this point in the manga, two of the most emotional scenes both involve young children.

We also get to see how Maes’ death affects Roy Mustang, as well as what investigating he’s able to do into his friend’s death. Unfortunately, he can’t get very far, because higher-ups have told men lower than Roy that they aren’t allowed to say anything about what they know. And right at the end of Volume Four, we get to see what happened to Scar after he fled from the explosion of the library in Central. And this is the only sighting we get of Scar in this omnibus volume.

The beginning of Volume Five sees Ed, Al, and Winry arriving in Rush Valley, which is basically an automail mecca. It’s so amusing to see Winry geeking out over the various kinds of automail she sees. Unfortunately, Ed becomes the victim of a pickpocket when his watch that proves he’s a State Alchemist is stolen. This leads to a chase with the pickpocket, and it turns out she’s got automail for her legs that are quite impressive. Winry catches the pickpocket, who we learn is named Paninya. Winry is so enamored of Paninya’s automail that she wants to meet the designer. Paninya leads the group there, and they meet Dominic, his son, and his son’s wife. Dominic is depicted as a gruff, older man, but as we see later in the volume, he has a soft side to him. However, when Winry asks to be his apprentice, Dominic turns her down because he doesn’t take apprentices.

A couple of important things happen while they’re in Rush Valley. First, Winry forces Al’s watch to open (which he’s sealed with alchemy) and see what’s inside. She realizes what the engraving means and closes it back up. She later admits to Ed what she did, and he doesn’t take it well at first. However, after a talk between the two, they have a bonding moment, with Winry realizing what she needs to do.

But prior to this, Dominic’s daughter-in-law goes into labor while there’s a storm outside. Dominic has to go get the doctor, but obstacles make it take longer for him to get to one. But the baby isn’t going to wait, and Winry takes it upon herself to help deliver it. Her parents were doctors, and as Ed says at one point, Winry looked at medical books a lot when she was a child. As a reader, I was impressed with how much Winry remembered from glancing at her parents’ medical books, because she was able to oversee a smooth delivery. When the doctor arrives, even he’s impressed. While Dominic is grateful for Winry for delivering his grandchild, he still won’t take her as an apprentice. However, he offers to introduce her to someone he knows who does good work and is currently looking for an apprentice. At this point, Winry stays behind in Rush Valley as Ed and Al continue on to Dublith to meet up with their teacher. By staying in Rush Valley and learning from another automail designer, this will give Winry an opportunity to hone her skills and be able to help Ed even more with his automail going forward.

Ed and Al find their teacher, Izumi Curtis, in Dublith, but the reunion isn’t what the reader expects. This volume begins to provide character development for Izumi, as well as reveals the fact that Izumi has encountered Ed and Al’s missing father, Hohenheim. The final chapter in Volume Five begins a flashback from Ed and Al’s childhood, which covers the death of their mother, meeting Izumi, and the beginning of the training she puts them through (she leaves the two boys on a deserted island and they have to survive without using alchemy, and they also have to figure out the answer to a riddle she gives them). The month on the island is just getting underway when this volume ends.

Volume Six begins by continuing the flashback of Ed and Al that started at the end of Volume Five. Not only that, but the majority of Volume Six consists of flashback material. After their month on the island, we skip ahead to after the boys finish their training with Izumi and return to Resembool. This then leads into seeing Ed and Al trying to perform human transmutation to bring their mother back to life, and how Al ended up in a suit of armor and how Ed lost one of his arms and one of his legs. We also get to see when Ed is shown “the truth” during all of the this when he goes beyond the doorway. We also get to see when Roy and Hawkeye arrive in Resembool looking for Ed and Al, and how Al ultimately became a State Alchemist.

The final chapter in this volume sees Izumi expelling Ed and Al as her students. At first, it seems like she’s letting them go because she’s angry about them trying to perform human transmutation. However, she lets them go as students so she can talk to them on more of an “equal” footing. As we learn, Izumi is also guilty of trying to perform human transmutation, so she understands better than anyone else what the two of them have gone through. While she understands, she’s not entirely happy with them for taking what they learned from her and try to commit the same sin that she did. I really like Izumi’s character, and I appreciate how Arakawa depicts her.

The last chapter also sees Roy learning he’s being reassigned to Central, and he asks that his subordinates he reassigned with him.

Even though I’m already familiar with the story from watching the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime (which I’m currently in the middle of re-watching at the time I’m writing this review), I still enjoy the story and have many of the same reactions to it that I did the first time I encountered these plot twists and plot progressions. I think this really serves as a testament to Hiromu Arakawa’s ability as a storyteller. She has written such a compelling story that readers want to keep coming back to this series and experiencing it multiple times. I also really appreciate Arakawa’s art style. It’s visually stunning, and the characters are all expressive. Even with a character like Al, who is a suit of armor, she still finds way to make him look expressive.

If you’re a fan of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and haven’t purchased the series yet for your collection, your main options for getting it at this point are through these paperback omnibus releases that first came out in the early 2010’s, or the hardcover releases that have been coming out since 2018. Since I already purchased the first paperback omnibus volume around a decade or so ago, I am continuing my collection with this paperback omnibus edition to try to maintain some kind of sense of consistency in my collection.

Additional post about Fullmetal Alchemist:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.