The international smash-sensation, Hiromu Arakawa’s FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST, is the subject this week on Mangasplaining! How can a universally beloved series be anything but universally beloved? Well you’re about to find out…
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Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1
By Hiromu Arakawa
English adaptation by Egan Loo. Translation by Akira Watanabe.
Touch-up & Lettering by Wayne Truman
Published by VIZ Media. Print from VIZ, Digital from Yen Press.
00:00: SPOILERS: We spoilt the hell out of this episode. Fair warning.
1:00: Lum and her family, those Irresponsible Aliens, is the sort of the title of Rumiko Takahashi’s Urusei Yatsura in Japanese. Deep cut.
1:10: For the record, Arakawa-sensei had only completed a few short-stories, chief among them Stray Dog and Ghost Demons of Shanghai, before starting Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA) which was her first serialization.
Also worth noting that Arakawa-sensei serializaed other stories during the serialization of FMA, including Hero Tales, which has been released in English by Yen Press. Currently out of print, but not impossible to find.
01:20: It’s true! Fullmetal Alchemist is a massive property, the second-bestselling one we’ve covered following AKIRA. Actually, Akira might have sold fewer total copies eventually, particularly as FMA runs for 27 volumes! Dang. Certainly hope Chip likes it, otherwise we’ll have a whole world of disappointed folks to contend with.
3:30: This won’t be the only time we mention Hiromu Arakawa’s other big work, Silver Spoon. Started serializing after the end of Fullmetal Alchemist, it’s a VERY different story. Here’s the publisher’s official description:
“Defying the expectations of family and teachers, Yuugo Hachiken chooses to leave the city and enroll at Ooezo Agricultural High School. Having always been at the top of his class, Yuugo assumes a rural school will be a breeze, but mucking out stables, gathering eggs, and chasing errant calves takes a lot out of him-and fills him with something he’s never experienced before. Surrounded by endless fields and fresh air, Yuugo discovers a new connection to the land and to life…Springtime begins at Ezo AG!!”
It’s a manga about farm school, and as mentioned, Deb absolutely loves it.
5:00: Christopher is thinking here of Steam Detectives by the way, Kia Asamiya’s noir steampunk mecha thriller which has an admitted Mignola influence on top of Asamiya’s early-shonen-manga-inspired artwork. I feel like Arakawa’s work on the first few volumes of FMA shows a definite influence from both Asamiya and his influences, though that dissipates considerably as the series moves forward and Arakawa comes into her own.
Fun fact: Steam Detectives was published in English in 2002, and in 1994 in Japan. Were you even born then? Is that why you have no idea what I’m talking about?
07:35: Oh no, the hate mail we’re gonna get.
09:15: Meme idea: Chip hates the colour pages. We all sort of laugh it off, but here’s the colour page in question, we’ll let you decide for yourself.
10:30: Fullmetal Alchemist is the rare manga to get two (2!) anime adaptations. The first, simply titled Fullmetal Alchemist, is a more straight-ahead adaptation starting at the beginning of the manga and continuing forward. Meanwhile, the remake, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, starts the adaptation much further down the line as the leads are more established within their world, while still take care to introduce the characters, themes, and plot to viewers unfamiliar with the property. David says, if you wanna check it out, definitely check out FMA: Brotherhood.
10:45: Square Enix launched their North American manga/book publishing arm a year and a half ago: https://squareenixmangaandbooks.square-enix-games.com/en-us
The basic version of this one is that Square and Enix used to be separate video game companies making competing Japanese Role Playing Game series (among many other games) before they merged in 2003. They then gobbled up a bunch of other companies including the folks who made Space invaders and Bubble Bobble (Taito), the folks who made Tomb Raider and Deus Ex (Eidos), and a bunch of other smaller companies.
They make games, they make game engines, they make online games, they make arcade games, they have a film division, they publish manga, art books, and merch, and they control dozens of top pieces of intellectual property.
12:15: Light novels! What are Light Novels? Out of the mouths of babes. Light novels are easy-reading novels for otaku, basically. There’s more to it, I’m sure that LN fans are fucking furious with this description, but like… that’s what they are. In Japan as soon as a light novel gets too heavy, it becomes SF. Books for people without friends.
15:00: “Oh no! My podcast crew discovered that I was a teenage light novel reader in another world and now they keep prodding me to say meaner and meaner things about light novels!”
The other world is pre-pandemic.
If you want a less biased description of light novels: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_novel
17:00: Literally genocide in volume 2. If you bounce off volume 1 because it all seems a bit surface, definitely give volume 2 a shot to see that the mangaka, Arakawa, is thinking deeper about these issues. There’s a reason this one went to 27 volumes…! This is a theme we return to throughout the podcast.
Also, this is in deep opposition to how similar themes are handled in Attack on Titan, and I’m eagerly awaiting the 10 minute Youtube video explaining hot AoT f’d it up and FMA got it right, considering how much the fans of AoT hated the end of that series.
18:40: So there are multiple versions of Fullmetal Alchemist in print right now. There are three editions:
OG: Stand-alone, original editions, running 27 volumes at U.S.$9.99. They have backup material!
3-in-1 Edition: Collecting 3 of the above volumes in a half-price bind-up, for U.S. $14.99 each. 9 volumes. These have the back-up material too!
Fullmetal Edition: It’s the new hardcover editions, complete with nicer paper, colour pages, and great binding. 13 Volumes total. Doesn’t have the back-up material in each volume, but they did release a stand-alone volume called The Complete Four-Panel Comics which collects them all, and they’re great definitely get this volume too.
There’s also: A box set of all 27 volumes; 2 stand-alone art books; a Complete art book collecting the two separate art books;1 manga profile book; 5 light novels; 1 anime art book; 1 anime profile book. That’s just the print material, there’s also the anime and toys and stuff. All in print, so far as we can tell.
20:00: It’s GREY. like, it’s actually really grey. Chip’s copy from ComiXology had significant production problems. Here’s a screencap of one page from the book from Chip, and here’s what it would look like if it was the right shade of black.
21:15: Double page splash of a train is… not the best use of a double-page spread. Particularly in a book with some incredibly bad-ass fight sequences.
22:55: Alphonse is an expressionless suit of armor! Everyone loves that!
24:15: Here we go, it’s the story about the little girl and her pet dog, so fucking sad it’s literally a meme. Sorry we’re talking about this but like, you can’t talk about FMA without talking about it. So, here it goes.
28:00: Friendship! Effort! Victory! The three pillars of Shonen Jump’s shonen manga… but shonen manga is published by other publishers too, which give us things like Attack on Titan and Fullmetal Alchemist, among many others.
Funny enough, if you google that phrase you get a Quora question asking if this motto is still relevant in today’s world. The top answer is from manga translator William Flannigan, but the second answer? Why it’s from our very own Deb Aoki! Check it out:
31:25: David makes a great comparison here, being a Marvel fan or DC fan is akin to being a Shonen Jump fan or a fan of Shonen Manga from other publishers. I think Mermaid Saga might technically have been Shonen, instead of Seinen too, now that I think about it.
34:00: Oh yeah, there are live action FMA movies too. Can’t stress how big this series is, and how mid we’re all being on it.
35:00: Look, it’s a shonen protagonist! I think this one’s name is Edward, but does it matter? Not in the first volume it doesn’t!
37:00: There’s a LOT going on in this series as it goes on, around religion and maybe thinly veiled religious references? David is the expert here and gives a good explanation of the road ahead, and what the series is trying to say and what it becomes, but if you’re paying attention to what’s going on in the world you’re going to maybe be left with some questions about what exactly the manga is trying to say here.
39:45: We’re not getting into it because saying his name summons him and his awful fans, but suffice’d to say that dude is a dude who sucks, and it makes watching the anime in English kinda suck. Watch it in Japanese with English subtitles. Google “Edward Elric voice actor” if you wanna dig in.
41:15: This is a hell of a reaction image.
Shout out to Halliday! Thanks for listening buddy <3 <3 <3
42:40: Deb trails off there when talking about Hiromu Arakawa’s great female characters (none of which get any real screen time in the first volume), but let’s simply say that shonen manga, especially very popular shonen manga, aren’t always great to their female characters.
43:15: It’s time for the BREAK!
Please remember that time-stamps after this point are approximate.
43:30: Daredevil advertisement by Chip Zdarsky. I wonder if we got paid for that? Hmm. Anyway, if you want us to read your ad on-air, hit us up at email@example.com and like, we’ll chat about it. 🙂
45:00: What’s a good detective manga? Why Deb has so many answers for you!
Case Closed (aka Detective Conan), by Gosho Aoyama. explain plus image. A top teen detective gets magically turned into a small child, but still wants to solve mysteries! This long-running (99 volumes in Japan!). https://www.viz.com/case-closed
There’s a whole museum dedicated to him, the Gosho Aoyama Manga Factory in Tottori Prefecture! https://www.detectiveconanworld.com/wiki/Gosho_Aoyama_Manga_Factory
Kindaichi Case Files, by Yozaburo Kanari. Another teen detective solving crimes the police can’t. Out of print, but lots of volumes floating around second-hand bookstores for cheap (despite insane online prices), and most volumes are stand-alone complete mysteries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kindaichi_Case_Files
Sherlock Bones, by Yoma Ando and Yuki Sato. Same author as The Drops of God, the wine tasting manga, under a pen name since this series is for kids. But yeah, it turns out that the lead character’s dog is the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes, and they hang out and solve crimes. But he’s a dog. https://kodansha.us/series/sherlock-bones/
I Tell C, by Kazusa Inaoka. A young woman investigates crime by like, almost committing crimes, to push criminals to turn themselves in? I dunno, but there’s six free chapters on the Jump website: https://www.viz.com/shonenjump/chapters/i-tell-c?locale=en
So there’s 4 detective manga for you to enjoy, not counting Panorama Island which we discuss in a few weeks down the road.
Here’s the second Question of the Week:
CactusGalactus asks: “While I love the deep dives into specific books on Mangasplaining, I am finding myself snap-buying the books they mention off-handedly like Skull-Faced Bookseller Honda-san and Wakakozake. This is becoming a problem. “
So we go ahead and make his problem worse. Have we got some oddball recommendations for you!
A Man and His Cat, by Umi Sakurai. A windowed man adopts an ugly cat, and he cares for it and the cat cares for him and it changes both their lives and it’s just adorable. Really sweet and cute. https://squareenixmangaandbooks.square-enix-games.com/en-us/series/a-man-and-his-cat
BL Metamorphosis, by Kaori Tsurutani. A 75 year old woman accidentally buys a BL, or Boy’s Love manga one day, and instead of pulling a Karen and demanding the library pull it or the bookstore stop selling it, falls in love with it and wants to know more. She connects with a shy highschooler who works at the bookstore, and they develop a friendship. Really lovely, sweet, and nostalgic. https://sevenseasentertainment.com/series/bl-metamorphosis/
FrankenFran by Katsuhisa Kigitsu. A sexy-horror-comedy about a reanimated sexy young lady frankenstein who becomes a very bad surgeon with darkly hilarious results. Despite the cover, not actually hentai. Shout out to Christine Wong / OneChrispy.com for the recommendation. https://sevenseasentertainment.com/books/franken-fran-vol-1-2/
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for an Otaku, by Fujita. Really chill series about adult workers at a typical Japanese company who slowly reveal to one another that they’re secret otaku, and romance blooms. Rare to get a manga about actual adults… Great manga, great anime too. https://kodansha.us/series/wotakoi-love-is-hard-for-otaku/
Ping Pong, by Taiyo Matsumoto. Two highschool boys have a complicated relationship with one another, that revolves around the sport of ping pong. As the characters progress through the story, their friendship and relationship to each other and the world changes in amazing ways. Surprisingly not a BL manga. Christopher’s top 10 manga of all time, probably. https://www.viz.com/ping-pong
Maiden Railways, by Asumiko Nakamura. A josei (women’s) romance/slice-of-life manga centered around trains and trainstations south of Tokyo. A unique, rare josei manga, short stories, perfect to pick up and enjoy. https://denpa.pub/manga/maiden-railways
Oh, and if you were curious about the horny Super Hxeroes manga Christopher mentioned, well, here ya go. https://sevenseasentertainment.com/series/super-hxeros/
Fun Fact: We completely forgot this entire conversation when we were picking books the next week. Despite Chip wanting to read some of them, we just totally forgot to pick them. I think we collectively blame Covid for the brain-drain, here, apologies to anyone hoping for a Wotakoi episode. Won’t happen til at least July at this point. Gomen nasai.
And that’s it for this week!
Coming up on Mangasplaining:
Ep. 12: Oishinbo, by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki. Published by VIZ Media. (May 4)
Ep. 13: Beastars, Vol 1, by Paru Itagaki. Published by VIZ Media. (May 11)
Ep. 14: Paradise Kiss 20th Anniversary Edition, by Ai Yazawa. Published by Vertical Inc./Kodansha. (May 18)
Ep. 15: Naruto Vol 1, by Masashi Kishimoto. Published by VIZ Media.
Ep. 16: The Strange Tale of Panorama Island, by Suehiro Maruo. Published by Last Gasp.
Thanks so much for listening to this episode, see ya next week!