The fight with Scar leaves Edward's arm destroyed and Al’s body ravaged. The brothers decide to make a trip home to see Edward’s mechanic, Winry, but with Scar on the loose and Ed not able to perform alchemy, Major Armstrong has volunteered to escort the boys. Armstrong is the "Strong Arm Alchemist." On their way home, Armstrong recognizes an alchemist and doctor he served with during the Ishvalan Civil War. Their encounter leads Ed to information on the gruesome nature of Philosopher Stones. Their further investigation brings the brothers to a mysterious lab guarded by vicious armored men, and a lot of debate about what makes someone human.
This volume provides a lot of background knowledge on Ed and Al without breaking up the narration. With their trip home to see Winry and Granny, many details of the Elric's childhood are revealed to Major Armstrong (and the reader) while progressing the present-day storyline. Arakawa also has a wonderful ability to revive hope for her characters in ways that are not cliché or cheesy. The chapters in this volume also represent a shift in the tone of the story. One of the great things about this series is the moral conversations that take place, and those begin in this volume. We also get into the darker side of the storyline, and the art shifts to reflect that. The lab scenes are drawn particularly dark to match the seriousness of what is being discussed. Arakawa's use of shading and inverted colors are exceptional in that chapter.
Some of the content and moral discussions may be a little too heavy for younger audiences, but a mature middle school student will be able to read this series and wonder these same questions that Edward has.
Sara's Rating: 10/10
Suitability Level: Grades 7-12
Reviews of previous volumes in this series: vol 1
Tags: Rating: 10/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Manga,
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