Arakawa, Hiromu: Fullmetal Alchemist, vol. 2

I wasn’t intending to read volume 2 of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist just now, as my entry on volume 1 indicated. However, despite my express requests, Chad bought me a copy, and well, if it’s right in front of me . . . .

We’re up to episode 20 in the anime now (so again, if you spoil me for future developments, I will kill you with my brain—also unwelcome are hints, clues, suggestions that something will be important later, and the like. Sorry.), and volume 2 is again stuff that we’d already seen. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Chapter 5, “The Alchemist’s Suffering”: corresponds to the Shou Tucker plot of episodes 6 and 7, “The Alchemy Exam” and “Night of the Chimera’s Cry.” Again, unlike the anime, these chapters are not flashbacks: Ed and Al are using Tucker’s library to research bio-alchemy after arriving in East City after the events of the first volume, as Tucker undergoes strange stresses leading up to his yearly assessment to renew his license as a State Alchemist. The anime’s ending is also different in a way that I find more interesting and complex.
  • Chapter 6, “The Right Hand of Destruction,” and chapter 7, “After the Rain”: these correspond to the Scar sections of episodes 14 and 15, “Destruction’s Right Hand” and “The Ishbal Massacre.” A serial killer targeting State Alchemists is on the loose, and Ed is in danger.
  • Chapter 8, “The Road of Hope”: this corresponds to the Marcoh sections of episodes 14 and 15, as well as the beginning of episode 16, “That Which is Lost.” The brothers accidentially happen upon a hot lead in their quest for the Philosopher’s Stone.

I personally find that the anime’s interleaving of the material in chapters 6-8 / episodes 14-15 works better from a dramatic standpoint, as does its expanded history of the Ishbal Massacre. And I’m beginning to think that Roy Mustang’s complexities were created out of whole cloth by the writers of the anime (a good thing, as far as I’m concerned).

I recall reading that anime tends to be produced faster than manga is written, so that anime ends up with filler episodes, or plot divergences, or both. Comparing story choices with the manga confirms that some anime episodes felt like filler because they were, though at least they were thematic filler; however, it also seems that the difference in production schedules encourages, or at least permits, more time spent on backstory and on setting up later developments. As before, the manga isn’t bad, but in a straight comparison between the manga and the anime at this point, I like the story choices of the anime better, filler bits and all.

I’ve got some further comparison notes, with spoilers, over on my LiveJournal; the specific anime episodes spoiled are 8, 14-16, 18, and 20.

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