As the year comes to a close, I finally finished rereading Fullmetal Alchemist with volumes 21-27. The buildup to the final battle. The battle itself. The insane changes of side and friendship and the exciting final exchanges. The denoument of what happened afterwards. You get the idea. It was as thrilling today as it was back in 2010 when this was first published in the United States. It may have been a bit of a trek just to get to this point, but damn was it worth it.
Before I get distrated by the actual content, I wanted to be sure I talked about drawing Edward like I’ve meant to for the past several days. The story of Fullmetal Alchemist covers a good chunk of time, and we see Ed in particular grow and change as a character. He makes mistakes and learns from them, he makes new friends and allies, he grows up and becomes an adult. This isn’t just reflected in his attitude, actions, and emotions, but also in his physical appearance. It’s one of my favorite subtle parts of the series, that we see Ed’s facial structure mature throughout the story as he grows from a 12 year old (or sometimes a 3 or 4 year old in flashbacks) up through an 18 year old in the epilogue. This also enables us to see his resemblance to Hohenheim once the Elric brothers’ father finally becomes a main character instead of a shadowy figure that was never around. It gives the reader a sense of the time passing over the course of the series, because people don’t grow up overnight.
But that conclusion. I am not even certain where to start when it comes to that conclusion. It was, of course, the epic showdown you would expect from a shonen manga that involves so much violence and physical conflict, not to mention that Amestris is a military dictatorship. There was also drama and emotional conflict to be resolved as well, tying up so very many storylines that have been running throughout most of the twenty-seven volumes that make up this story. Not everything is tied up nicely with a bow, but it’s close enough to satisfy me.
When Fullmetal Alchemist first came to this country, it was a big deal. I was there, and I remember it, from the moment we watched the first two episodes subtitled in Anime Club. Later, the dub was aired on Cartoon Network, and I watched it in full. I have the ending theme as an mp3 and it’s disturbing how well I still remember it, even without the audio prompting. It’s weird that, looking back, I think of how Inu-Yasha seemed to be a bigger deal, and especially One Piece and Naruto when they came over, but that doesn’t deny Fullmetal Alchemist as a force to be reckoned with. Actually, the biggest difference between it and the other series I’ve named is that Fullmetal Alchemist wasn’t created with filler. Hiromu Arakawa always had a clear conclusion in mind and was always working towards that goal. She wasn’t in the competition to have the longest running series ever, and that’s just fine with me.
Admittedly, twenty-seven volumes of manga isn’t short, but at least it’s a practical number. Both One Piece and Naruto have at least seventy volumes, which is utterly ridiculous. The longest series I own in full is Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a total of thirty-eight volumes. Even Rurouni Kenshin beats out Fullmetal Alchemist with twenty-eight volumes.
I don’t mind long series, but there just seems to be a point where I (or the author) should question whether or not the series is worthwhile anymore. Something like Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar, Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, or C.J. Cherryh’s Alliance-Union universe can have twenty or thirty books in it…but because you’re never obligated to read the entire thing in one go, it’s not an unwieldly number. Fullmetal Alchemist was getting closer to something of an obnoxious length to have to read in a single go, but at least each individual volume isn’t too long. I think that Lackey in particular may have spoiled me for long series where I don’t have to read ten or more books in a row, because I do find it more difficult to keep up with them the longer they go on. If anyone remembers November 2016 when I reread all of Safehold leading up to the new book, At the Sign of Triumph, you know what I mean.
I mean, I guess I do it to myself with my insistence on rereading up to said new books, but I always find it helpful to have the previous events fresh in my mind. There are some bits that I never forget from any book I’ve read, but the details tend to slip away given time and the sheer mass of other literature I’ve devoured in the meantime.
Fullmetal Alchemist is another manga series to feature a single character on the spine of each volume and, like Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, not one is repeated…technically. Some characters have multiple appearances, and those forms may both be represented. Or the final volume which doesn’t actually have a person, just Ed’s automail arm. Still, it’s a nice touch. And Arakawa remarked in the inside cover of one of the volumes that somehow she only featured characters that made it to the finale.
Moving on, I wanted to tie up some more loose ends and go into 2018 with a fresher slate. Which means not leaving unread comic books lying around. So I grabbed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #21-22 to reread an older issue as well as the new one. This particular new issue is more talk than action, but it’s very interesting talk. There are definitely more secrets being kept from various people, including the rangers, and I still have misgivings about Grace. However, it seems that the writers don’t want their readers to trust anybody outside the six superheroes, given the evasiveness being shown by Zordon, Alpha, and even Saba. And Finster continues to be a sociopath of an artist. I approve of the whole current arc, where it definitely seems like the writers are driving to drive their poor characters to the edge of insanity just to show us how heroic they truly are.
Meanwhile in Go Go Power Rangers #4-5, Rita is being the weirdly focused supervillain we all know and love from the old TV show, but much more effectively. It never made sense, on reflection, why she would spend so much time and effort trying to screw up the rangers’ real lives. However, in this case, she’s trying to create discomfort and dissension in the ranks, to destroy them as a team and not merely defeat or humiliate them as individuals. By destroying the ties that bind them together, Rita hopes to make it easier for her to take them out one by one.
But until this story arc comes to an end, it’s the sort of thing that’s going to make me cringe just because I really, really hate this type of story. Oh well. I’ll just have to endure a bit longer. Luckily only one issue comes out each month, so it’ll be a while before I have to think about this series again. In fact, given my current habits and inclinations, I probably won’t pick up more comics until Doomsday Clock #3 is released. But that’s partially because Doomsday Clock is such a big deal, the local comic book shop reminds me of the release dates on facebook.
As the year comes to a close, I have a nice large Pile to keep me supplied with new material, as well as more books expected, particularly from January releases. The Pile is currently thirty-four books of various shapes and sizes, although I am still missing some that are necessary to starting or continuing some of the series contained within. Six of those are anthologies as well, but you’re probably not surprised by that.
Given my plans for the rest of my holiday weekend, I don’t foresee a lot more time to read before I go back to work. After all, I do still need to go through and select games to bring. I’m thinking I’ll be gearing towards anthologies, novellas, and lighter reads in general for most of the month of January, in order to keep myself from getting bogged down due to overtime. Luckily, I just so happen to have new material in all of those categories, and a recommendation from a friend to not reread the novels related to a certain novella. Which is…intriguing.
Anyway, I hope you all have a happy new year and that you’ve enjoyed reading my blog this 2017! I’ve made 212 posts this year, including this one, and read so many more books than that, especially if you count manga volumes and comic issues separately. (I’m not counting them regardless – I refuse to go through 212 posts just to figure out how many individual things I’ve read. Maybe if I didn’t have plans tonight, but I do.) I’ve gotten twelve new followers this year (this is a lot for me because you know I don’t do much advertising or anything like that) and almost a thousand views.
So I want to end by thank you everyone who reads this blog, whether you keep up with every post, poke your head in every once in a while, or even if you’ve only read a single post. It means a lot to me that you do take the time to read my random thoughts and ramblings about whatever I’ve been reading. I started this blog to keep better track of just how much I read, and now it’s a mark of pride for me. I still do this entirely for fun and in my own free time, and I have no intention of changing that. This isn’t my job, I don’t get any money for it, I do it for the sake of pride in my own accomplishments.
Thank you again, and I hope everyone has a healthy, happy New Year!