Review: Fullmetal Alchemist (Volume 15) Manga | My Reviews 08 FEB 2012

The horrors of the Ishbalan campaign occurred years before Ed became a state alchemist, and had serious repercussions, which set the tone for the complicated dealings of present-day state politics. Lieutenant Hawkeye reluctantly tells Ed all the dread details of the role Colonel Mustang and the other state alchemists played in this tragic event.

As you might be able to tell from the volume blurb above, volume 15 of Hiromu Arakawa’s popular Fullmetal Alchemist is devoted entirely to telling a backstory around the Ishbalan Civil War, focusing in particular on Colonel Mustang as he is drawn into the senseless conflict through his military orders, as well as the pretty bloody and dirty stuff the state alchemists were called upon to carry out, as the Amestrians under King Bradley systematically killed every man, woman and child living in Ishbal. Other stories touched on is the tragic birth of Scar, the death of Winfrey’s parents, the betrayal of Solf J. Kimblee, as well as the expanded actions of Colonel Gran.

Hiromu steps out to make this a very bloody and cold-hearted book, as she leads you through what can only be called murder by all the characters you have come to love and admire in the military up until this story arc. This doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the Amestrian military but it certainly does paint a lot of the backstory and reveals a lot of the motivations for what is happening in the main story timeline.

Of course, this does mean a book with much less (if any) humor and reads quite differently from what has come before. It is dark and dirty, and certainly won’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy as you turn the final page.

Artistically Hiromu continues her interesting look made up of very simple and flat lines mixed in with great backgrounds (and quite often pretty bloody spotches), but as per usual her somewhat “cartoony” style (well to me at least) just doest match the tone of the book, though that said, this is a complaint I’ve had from volume 1 right up to this point, so it wouldn’t be fair to lump that criticism on this volume’s shoulders alone.

It’s important to note that this isn’t a good volume to jump on the bandwagon in terms of Fullmetal Alchemist as a whole, thanks in particular to the lack of appearances from the main protagonists, i.e. Ed and Al, but if you have been following the story up until now, then this one is actually pretty crucial thanks to all the backstory and character motivations it reveals.

A decent and entertaining read most certainly, but certainly not a must read, and certainly not one to take off the shelf if you are more interested in the laughs Ms. Arakawa provides than her horror segments.

In other words, even if you are a big fan of Fullmetal Alchemist, if you don’t care too much of the history, then you can quite safely give volume 15 a skip!

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About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.