May 18, 2009
by: Adam Beck
The north is cold, but the latest addition into FMA is far from it.
Manga Description:Automail engineer Winry is captured and held hostage to force Edward to do her captor's bidding. Hawkeye discovers the disturbing truth about President Bradley's son. Our heroes have fortuitous and not-so-fortuitous reunions with old friends and enemies. And multiple intrigues and double-crosses ensue as some plot to save the world while others scheme to destroy it.
Content: (This section may contain spoilers)
The Fullmetal Alchemist and his bodiless brother are back to head even further north into the thunderous frozen piece of land which Olivier Armstrong governs. The only thing now is childhood friend Winry has been taken hostage by Kimblee to ensure the Elric brothers will cooperate in finding Scar and taking down Briggs’ Fortress. Will the Elric brothers comply, or will they find a way around Kimblee’s cruel threats?
I really enjoy a new plot development wherein Winry can be used so easily to sway Edward’s emotions. Ever since the beginning of the series, she really hasn’t had a large part to play, with the exception of nearly avenging her parents’ death. Finally, Winry becomes a large portion of Edward’s life, a little more direct in his current stature. It’s pretty unnerving to think such a cute girl as Winry could be used in blackmail so Edward would murder everyone in Briggs’ Fortress. Of course you know that our hero isn’t going to let that slide, and he is even willing to go to someone he hates to help Winry escape the grasp of the psychopathic Kimblee. Winry’s portion in the 18th volume is more of concept rather than execution considering she does very little throughout. She mainly exists to add tension to the story, making you worry what will become of her (and she also adds a tot more comedy to the mix). It’s hilarious to have Edward flung across the room when remembering a “lovely” memory between him and Winry. Other than that, she’s still in the background, but at least we see her name (and figure) added to the story a little more.
The 70th chapter (first in the volume) is mainly the comical relief when Winry arrives. Wriny is the main source of this considering her fun nature, not to mention being so perennially ecstatic about automail. This mainly overlaps the first half of the chapter, which is without doubt an excellent addition, setting a perfect mood in a dark setting, while the second half is a little more informative as we get to know what Roy is doing, and we finally get to know who the final homunculi, Pride, is. I’m a little surprised how subtle Pride’s revelation is. While it’s chilling to see the sexy Riza being threatening and forever watched, it’s as if Pride will be attached to Riza and Riza only. It feels like Riza is going to have a larger connection to Pride than anyone else; not because Pride is watching Riza but the way the scene is handled. It’s very similar to Roy Mustang’s case with Envy. Still, I’m glad all of the homunculi have been revealed. There really weren’t any leads to who Pride was in previous volumes and to have him finally revealed is good news; finally the story can move forward a bit, and give us details about both both the mastermind and Wrath.
Following this revelation, the first half of the 71st chapter is more or less the same. It’s very informative as there are a lot of talkative people, conjuring up something in their mind. Kimblee – as I mentioned – tells the Fullmetal Alchemist his demands from headquarters and their extermination of Scar and the Briggs’ Fortress, and the proper explanation to Winry why she really is there. I’m a little surprised why Kimblee allows Edward to do this considering Winry really is more of a secretive hostage. Explaining it just gives Winry a better understanding of the current situation and puts it in her mind that she needs to escape somehow. Even though Kimblee has the idea that there is no way she could leave without dying, it just seems a bit out of character for the psychopath. Sure, he’s a gentlemen (either that or just really sly) when it comes to the ladies, but having this just ensures something is being setup. The second half of the chapter is a little more progressive as the Elric brothers, Winry, and Kimblee and his men all go out into an abandoned city (which is abandoned for good reasons) in search of Scar. This isn’t too action packed, but it is a little more adventurous as the Elrics escape from Kimblee and run around like little children.
The final two chapters in the 18th volume are by far the best. There is a good balance between both comedy and action as there are three teams going up against each other: Kimblee’s chimera freaks (which seems to have been perfected in the past ten plus volumes), Scar and the Elric brothers. It’s action-packed, offering a nice back and forth fight (well, besides the chimera as they are pretty much wiped out in a couple pages) which made the volume solidly exciting. One not-so-great moment does happen in the middle, when Scar catches Winry in the background and flinches for a second (which causes him to lose the current battle). His regret seems to be catching up with him, and ultimately affecting his actions, but to me it would have been a better fight if the Elrics actually won legitimately.
The rest of the novel is a focus on who is on whose side. It’s a great conspiracy among even Kimblee’s men, but it would seem that things are just about to hit the fan as the story is beginning to follow multiple groups as they are on the move. Not only are the heroes and heroines in the midst of the conspiracy, but it would seem the original source of the homunculus is continuing his plot against the land. As much as we’ve seen that before, it would seem if his plan is mixing in the Elric brothers and other alchemists.
In the end, the 18th volume is a great addition to any manga collector’s wall. The first half of the novel is a little more informative, revealing Pride and updating everyone on their current status. The second half is a little more action-packed and even adds a bit of comedy to the mix, but I do think there are some cliché moments that only add to a disappointing conclusion. If you have been following the series so far, you can’t miss this as Miss Winry is made into a larger character, and Alphonse’s body seems to be calling his soul. It’s entertaining and a fresh addition to the series.
Artwork: You really cannot compare Hiromu Arakawa’s artistic skill to any manga artist. Fullmetal Alchemist contains some of the best and well balanced artwork you will see in any series. The 18th volume displays this greatly with the significant attention to detail in both characters and environments. Most of the character models are sketched in a cartoonish manner, using very little facial detail, but have realistic proportions per person. Clothing and accessories are pretty standard as most of the characters use the same pieces we’ve seen before. There are exceptions such as Winry’s ever so cute jacket and scarf, or Kimblee’s fancy jacket and his fedora hat, but most of the characters are wearing and wielding what we’ve seen before. The majority of the novel focuses on the detailed character models, but there are a few moments when the artwork dips for the comedic flair, which ultimately lightens the serious mood. Environments are as good as ever, but they are a little more limited. There are some really good shots over the abandoned city, but the backgrounds are generally limited to crumbled buildings and the plainer side of Briggs’ Fortress. This addition into the series isn’t as diverse from what we’ve seen before in environments, but the ones that are there are still immersing. For a relatively mainstream title such as Fullmetal Alchemist, it sure has some of the best visuals. It’s not the amount put on screen but the attention of detail put into every character and piece of environment. It’s one of the most immersive and excitingly drawn manga titles you will read.
Translation: The English-translation is perfect. Plain and simple. There are no apparent errors or issues within the grammar or spelling, and there are no crooked or poorly printed pages to be found. Sound effects are presented only in English and are stylized based on the events. Dialogue, like many manga titles, is a lot less formal and represent how each character speaks. This is mainly through the contractions, but there really isn’t a distinct difference between speech among the characters, with the exception of military soldiers talking to their superiors, which is a bit more formal.
For extras, there is a two-paged preview into the next volume, and three mini-comics. There really isn’t a lot, but for $10, don’t expect a lot.
The Bottom Line: I personally cannot say this is the best addition into the Fullmetal Alchemist, but it definitely is a solid one with Winry becoming a bigger part of the conspiracy. It’s sad that she has to get caught up in things, but it does make things interesting as Edward’s emotions continue to swirl. There is a couple really intriguing moments to be found and the conspiracies and plots against the world continue. With amazing visuals and better character development among other characters besides Edward. Fullmetal Alchemist’s 18th volume continues the terrific plotline and includes a good balance between informative and exciting reading.