The Ishbalan Civil War draws to an end… Scar’s and Roy’s reasons… Rockbells’ deaths… Kimberly’s secret… Full Metal Alchemist continues to deliver its highly emotional and mature entertainment.
Congrats on 5 years of serialisation!
The destruction of Ishbal continues at the hand of the State Alchemists. Scar finds his family, and his brother gives him the notebook with his research. At the same time, Kimberly shows up and attacks them, causing destruction as far as the eye can see. Scar and his brother survives, but Scar has lost his arm and is bleeding profusely. Unable to find the arm, Scar’s brother uses alchemy help him.
Scar wakes up in the Rockbell’s makeshift hospital, and the first thing he sees is his brother’s arm – now attached to himself. In his hysteria, blinded by his hatred of State Alchemists and Ametrisans and his grief at the loss of his family, he kills the Rockbell doctors. He wanders to the top of a hill, and as far as the eye can see lies the ruins of Ishbal.
Kimberly and his soldiers arrive at the hospital to find it abandoned, with only the corspes of the doctors left. When the soldiers comment that they don’t understand why the doctors were helping the Ishbalans. Looking at a photo of the Rockbells, Kimberly says, “To kill your enemies in a war is the responsibility of you soldiers; to save people is the responsibility of doctors. They fulfilled their responsibilities until the very end. I like people who do that. It’s a shame, I had wanted to meet you while you were still alive.”
Roy stands in front of the last Ishbalan, and asks him for his last words. “I hate you”, and with these words Roy burns the man and symbolically end the Ishbal Civil War.
In the shadows sits Envy, one of the puppeteers behind the war.
Back at the base, the soldiers celebrate the end of the war. One by one soldiers introduce themselves to Roy, and when asked they reply that they were in Roy’s battalion. Roy laments that, even after such a long time on the battlefield, he did not even know the name of the soldiers who supported him, let alone the Ishbalans who he killed. The soldiers tell him that he had already done enough – he was always at the front line helping them, and it was only because of him that they were still alive. To them he was a hero, and it was because of him that so many survived. In reply Roy thanks them for surviving. Roy discusses his ideal and uselessness with Maes, who tells him that the only way to protect the country is to stand at the top.
When asked to return the Philosopher’s Stone, Kimberly swallows it and kills everyone who knew he has it. Envy, who sat in the shadow, praises the Kimberly for doing well.
Roy finds Liza Hawkeye sitting in front of a grave, a grave she made for an abandoned Ishballan child. They talk about the war, and Liza laments what she has done to aid in the killing of innocents. She asks Roy to burn her back, which holds the secret to Roy’s flame alchemy. Roy refuses to burn her, and says that it’s ironic, so used to burning people did he get during the war.
Back at Amestris, Roy begins to find the people who cares about their subordinate, people who share his ideals and people who he needs to reach the top. Liza also joins him, and Roy makes her his second-in-command – “I wish you to protect my back; do you understand? I give you my back, and that means that at any time you can shoot me in the back. If I ever stray from the right path, shoot me with your own hands. You have that right.”
Having lost everything, Scar walks alone through a desert. The only thing he lives for is revenge.
Roy’s subordinates… the people who share his ideals.
Phew that was a long ass summary… FMA is so hard to write summaries for, since a lot of things are very hard to put into words without repeating the entire chapter. BUT I SHARE PERSEVERE! I wish I could just purchase a ring of health and a void stone to get perseverance.
Anyway, the last chapter in the Ishbalan Civil War arc, and it answers a few questions that’s been begging to be answered. Why did Scar kill the Rockbell doctors? How did he get his brother’s arm? Why was Kimberly jailed? How did Liza end up becoming Roy’s subordinate?
There were also a lot of insights into these characters in this chapter. This is the first time we truly see Kimberly, and his character is very twisted and warped; he cares very little for the people around him, he enjoys destruction, and he ‘s a perfectionist who respects people who do their duty – though I can’t decide whether this is genuine or simply his excuse for enjoying his wanton lust for carnage.
Apart from finding out about the existence of Scar’s brother’s notebook, how he got his arm and how Winry’s parents died, there is very little story exposition. The main point in this chapter is to tell the story of Roy and Scar, and why they became who they are – the person who lives to protect, and the person who lives to avenge because he’s lost everything he wishes to protect. The contrast between the two is at its strongest at the end of the chapter.
Scar and his brother wishes to protect their family, but in the face of the overwhelming Philosopher’s Stone, there’s nothing they could do. Even without relying on excessive blood and gore, Arakawa very ably shows the terror that faces the Ishbalans. Mattias’ pain and despair in the face of utter hopelessness, and the one remaining hope he finds resting in his arm can also be felt very keenly, even though only a few frames were used.
The ruined Ishbal… and the ruined Scar.
War is a topic that not many manga directly tackle, let alone shounen manga, but Arakawa has does a very admirable job in purposing her views through Roy Mustang. Throughout the whole Ishbalan War arc we’ve explored the depravity and terrors of war, but only in this chapter do we see what is perhaps Arakawa’s own view. Roy’s conversation with Maes show us a very idealistic view towards how war should be fought, but in reality those at the top simply do not see those are the bottom, and when one person is in command of hundreds or even just scores of lives, people simply become names and guns. The conversation also shows a much more naive Roy compared with the one we’re familiar with, but it’s interesting to see that his ideals and determination never wavered.
Roy’s conversation with Liza also represent other aspects of war – the need for redemption that haunts many soldier, and the naive view that many hold of war before they actually see it in action. These ideas are repeated from when we saw how Armstrong experienced the war. Even though these themes are not deeply explored, it’s good to see them at least mentioned because these things become food for thought.
The contrast between Roy and Scar is very strong in this chapter. As I previously mentioned, the contrast becomes very clear at the end of the chapter, specifically in the last two pages. Roy’s speech towards his subordinates about protecting those beneath them, and Scar’s declaration that he has lost all the things he wishes to protect, and lives only for revenge, shows two very strongly contrasting personality emerging from the war. Furthermore, as King Bradley very acutely noted, Roy lives for the future, but Scar lives only for the past. Roy’s purpose is to create a better future, but Scar does not have a future, because his only purpose is vengence.
It was also interesting to note that Roy gave Liza the right to shoot him if he ever strays from the path he had chosen. It shows that he understands well that power corrupts, and he knows that if he gains power, he might become corrupt as well. It also shows that he is determined to create a better future, even if he needs to give up his own life to achieve that future.
Overall this chapter maintains Full Metal Alchemist’s high level of quality. It’s nice to finally see the reason behind Scar’s and Roy’s ambitions and why they turned out like this, and to find out more about Riza and Roy’s relationship. Scar and Roy are two very important character in the story, and it’s great to finally see their back story. It’s also great to see that Arakawa didn’t screw up… it’s not that I’m not confident in her story telling abilities, but there’s always this fear residing in my head that the FMA manga might suddenly ‘jump the shark’ the same way the anime did. I’m really happy that it continues to be the wonderfully emotional and thought provoking story that it is.