Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 23

By Hiromu Arakawa. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialized in the magazine Shonen Gangan. Released in North America by Viz.

Skipping ahead here, obviously, to review the most recent volume. In the interim, stuff has happened, and all the major characters (minus Winry, who's back home - at least the author hasn't tried to shoehorn her into a situation she doesn't belong in) are continuing to fight the remaining Homonculi. This, of course, means that the majority of the volume is a giant fight, with all that this entails.

However, the real reason to read this volume, and what makes it one of the best to date, is Roy meeting Envy. Finding Hughes' killer has been a major focus of Roy's and this time when he asks he finally gets the answer he's looking for. Roy's reaction is... well, predictable, as we all sort of expected that he'd flip out. What's more intriguing is the reaction of the other characters there.

Scar and Ed immediately realize what's going to happen, but Ed's going to have to act alone, as Scar is not about to lecture anyone going off on a huge hatred-filled cycle of revenge, for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, they've still got to catch Envy, who I must admit is really being an asshole here. The comments on Maria Ross, morphing into Gracia Hughes... Envy is trying hard to make Roy lose it. (Great to see Maria running around again, by the way).

Then we have a series of wonderful moments that are not only great character drama but are pure gold for shippers of Roy/Riza. First we get Riza's elaborate double bluff, playing on the fact that everyone already thinks that Roy and Riza are closer than they actually are. Then of course Roy arrives and reduces Envy to its true form, and prepares to kill it... but is stopped by Riza's gun to his head. She won't let him kill Envy out of murderous hatred.

This is pretty much the best scene of the book, beautifully drawn and making a terrific point about letting your emotions consume you. Scar and Ed both get really good shots in, but Roy is still ready to murder Envy anyway (and it is totally played as murder, not anything else). It's Riza who gets through to him though, especially when he realizes what she's willing to do should this situation happen. He backs down... and Envy just loses it, screaming at everyone that they're all idiots. Ed, of course, can see what's really behind this, and pushes Envy (unintentionally) into one final act of pettiness.

This, believe it or not, still leaves out the best line of the volume. That's because the best line of the volume is on the final page. If you've ever loved watching one specific character kick ass and take names, you will be cheering when you get to this page. Further, deponent sayeth not.

Clearly, this isn't a volume for new readers, and I wouldn't expect them to read it. For FMA fans, though, this is just terrific, giving our heroes plenty of awesome scenes of combat (even tiny powerhouses like May) and some real emotional drama, especially involving Roy and Riza. Fantastic shonen, one of the best currently coming out in the United States. It's a shame it'll be another 6 months till Volume 24.

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