Written and illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa, Fullmetal Alchemst tells the story of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, on a quest for redemption after committing alchemy’s greatest taboo, human transmutation. As young students of alchemy, the two boys tried to use their skills to bring their mother back from the dead. The ritual went wrong and left Ed missing an arm and a leg and Al as a consciousness dwelling in a suit of armor. Equipped with “auto-mail” prosthetic limbs, Ed becomes a State Alchemist, exchanging military service for access to military research, in the hopes of discovering the philosopher’s stone, a legendary object that could return both brothers to their original bodies.
In their quest to find the philosopher’s stone, Ed and Al travel around the country of Amestris, a fantasy version of Europe in the early twentieth century. It has trains and cars and radios, but it also has the magical science of alchemy and the mechanical science of auto-mail, both of which are described in depth by the series’ practitioners. Ed and Al meet people who help them, most notably other alchemists and military officers, and face off against Homunculi, powerful creatures created by alchemy who are named for the seven deadly sins. There are tons of secondary characters, each with their own quirks and personalities, many of whom are easy to love or easy to loathe.
The brothers’ research leads them to harsh truths and military secrets. Epic battles are fought, and questions of morality pondered. Through all of the hardships they face, Ed and Al show genuine affection for each other and try to maintain a sense of humor. The relationship between the two brothers is the core of the series. It makes their dark moments even more heartrending and their victories that much more triumphant.
I highly recommend Fullmetal Alchemist to anyone who enjoys intricate world building and memorable characters. It has a little bit of everything, and a lot of important pieces, but in the end, they all fit together perfectly.
— Erin Daly, currently listening to Golaith by Scott Westerfeld, read by Alan Cumming