Fullmetal Alchemist is a wildly popular manga that has spawned, among other things, two anime series, a movie, light novels, and video games. Although technically a shonen manga, it also has a huge female following, thanks to mangaka Arakawa’s brilliant cast of characters and the heart and complexity she weaves into the plot. The American translation of Volume 26 has recently been released, and you can read on for the review. (For those interested in my reviews of earlier volumes, you can find them here).
The story centers on Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who attempted to bring their dead mother back to life through a forbidden alchemical ritual. However, the ritual went wrong, taking Ed’s leg and Al’s entire body. At the cost of his arm, Ed manages to graft Al’s soul onto a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical “auto-mail” to replace his missing limbs, Ed becomes a state alchemist in hopes of finding the one thing that can restore their bodies…the legendary Philosopher’s Stone.
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With all the pieces now in his possession, the homunculus “father” executes his master plan as Edward and the others watch in horror. When the dust settles, the entire world has been reshaped. With the help of Hohenheim, the Elric brothers lauch a desperate final attack, but is it all too late…?
Things aren’t looking good for our heroes at the opening of the volume. Despite desperate fighting from Team Elrich, the former Dwarf in the Flask has everything and everyone where he wants it. Interestingly, the Dwarf, who’s been rather impassive for the most part, gets caught up in his moment of triumph and takes on a maniacal glee, which is made even creepier by his multi-eyeball form.
The Dwarf’s creepiness, however, is quickly outmatched by the creepiness that sweeps over Amestris once his plot is unleashed. His aspirations are of planetary proportions, and the panels of him attaining “God,” are reminiscent of the concluding scenes from the Evangelion anime.
At this point, it looks like it’s curtains for humanity. But it’s not. While those within Amestris’ borders get turned into philosophers stones, those closest to the center (e.g. May, Hawkeye, the chimeras, Scar) are spared, including the five “sacrifices.” Considering the Dwarf called them sacrifices, I thought they would literally be sacrificed (killed) so it felt a bit like cheating when they were still around after all the portal-opening ended.
Arakawa-sensei makes up for it though with the ingenuity in our heroes’ two counterattacks against the Dwarf. What I love about the first counterattack is that it ties into some formerly inexplicable actions several volumes back and also draws from the Cselksess arc. And the second attack turns the spotlight on Ishbalans’ role in the fight and provides a long-awaited explanation on the secret behind Amestris’ alchemy.
Although Chapters 105 and 106 resolve much of the mystery in Fullmetal Alchemist, the story’s not over yet, and Arakawa-sensei concludes this penultimate volume with an everyone-against-the-Dwarf battle in the middle of Central Headquarters!
Despite Team Elric’s best efforts, the Dwarf in the Flask attains his ultimate goal! Yet all is not lost. The long-lost citizens of Cselksess and Amestris’ former enemy Scar counterattack in ways the Dwarf couldn’t have imagined. Humanity still has a fighting chance as Fullmetal Alchemist heads into its final volume!
First published at the Fandom Post.