Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Aug 6th 2011
The final battle between the homunculi, the Central City troops, and the Fort Briggs troops rages on. Ed, Al, and Izumi have all been taken out of the fray by “Father” as three of the five human sacrifices King Bradley and Father need to reach their goals. Hoenheim is sacrifice number four, but who will be the fifth? And what's this about Al having a chance to regain his body?
If you're in this series for the Elric brothers, you are doomed to disappointment for the second volume in a row. As Arakawa races to the finish of her alchemical epic, Ed and Al are forced to the sidelines so that other plot threads can be gathered up. The bulk of this volume focuses on Roy Mustang, and while he's not the series' primary hero, he still makes for good reading material as we get the story back to its central plot.
In some ways this is the book that Roy/Riza fans have been waiting for. In order to enact their dastardly plans, the homunculus faction needs an alchemist to open the Door of Truth. A captured Colonel Mustang is the perfect patsy, but he is unwilling to cooperate. The villains hit on a surefire method of forcing the man to do as they wish: kill Riza Hawkeye. Roy's reaction is nearly all that an analytically minded fan could hope for, and no doubt the fanfiction writers will be (or have been) busy. While Arakawa doesn't give us anything definite, it's still a good dose of romance.
Unfortunately most of this volume is very scattered. We shuttle between Ed and Izumi, Roy and the homunculi, Greed/Lin and Bradley, and even throw May around as if she were a Ping Pong ball of plot development. Yes, shounen action series should provide action, but this is getting to be a bit much. Happily all of these characters are easy to tell apart, providing that you've been paying attention for the previous 24 volumes. Character deaths are almost always regrettable, some leaving the reader with a sense of genuine loss. Even the deaths of some villains are a bit sad. As always Arakawa provides a little “rest in peace” comic at the end of the book, so you can either have a preview or a giggle about who is going to leave the cast.
Roy and Al get the majority of the actual character development this time around. While Al has a very small part in this volume, it is an important one. His confrontation with himself in front of the Door of Truth gives the readers insight into how he has grown and makes us ponder just which of the two brothers actually has the most potential. Would Ed have made the same choice Al does? It is hard to say, though this may be because Ed has been a largely absent character for several volumes now. As for Roy, his reaction to Riza's peril is both exactly what and entirely not what we might expect. Their relationship is explained in a way that is more extreme than we have seen before. Yes, their mutual trust was known, but the depth of it is really revealed this time around.
If there is one character who has been consistently shortchanged in this series, it is Mrs. Bradley. As King Bradley's unsuspecting wife, she is given barely any page time and then only as a sort of wilting woman figure. That continues to hold true here. While it is not reasonable to expect every female in the story to be as amazing as Riza, Izumi, and Winry, it still would be good to see Mrs. Bradley do something besides looking panicked. Given that her home has been attacked, her husband and son are missing, and that no one is really telling her anything, something more than questioning about her family's whereabouts would be nice. She could easily be an ally to the side of good if only she were given the chance.
As always, Arakawa's art is full of movement. Although she does not have a wide range of facial expressions, they do get the job done, but the real strength of her work is body language. The clench of an arm, the slow movement of deliberate walking, and the swift stab of a blade through a palm are all amply shown and to an extent felt by the reader. Men have a variety of figures that many artists neglect – some are wiry, others brawny, and still others are somewhere in between. Women's bodies are slightly less varied, but Arakawa doesn't seem to have an “a” and a “b” set for figures.
As the series hustles along towards its end, it almost feels like it would be better to wait for Viz to put out volumes 26 and 27 before picking up this one. It hurries along at a rapid pace, but with so many plots to tie up, it might be more rewarding to just wait for the series to be over. Reading this book is like eating a dessert. It depends on your preference if you want to savor it slowly or gobble it down all at once.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Art that really moves, some nice carrots for Roy/Riza fans, and an exciting plot.
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