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"Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 9": Death + Drama = Dynamite!

The last volume of Fullmetal Alchemist left us with one hell of a cliffhanger: Ed and Al at the mercy of Greed and his band of half-human, half-chimeras, and the rogue State Alchemist Zolf Kimbley in their midst… Whew. Now let’s see what fate has in store for our heroes in volume 9.

ImageGreed and company escape with Alphonse in tow, leaving Ed to mend his wounds. While in captivity Al gets to know Greed’s gang a little bit. They were all former soldiers for the state that were injured during the Ishbal rebellion and subjected to experiments which crossed their genes with animals’. Though honorable, they have sworn allegiance to Greed for saving them from Laboratory 5, regardless of his motivation or plans. After Izumi fails to rescue Al, Ed attacks Greed in his hideout – the Devil’s Nest bar. Greed is nicknamed the “Ultimate Shield” because his rock-hard body can repair any damage done to it. Their fight is interrrupted by Archer’s military assault before it really gets going, and Greed and company attempt to escape with Al.

This is a great episode. Greed is a really cool character, and his monologue to Al is perfectly written. His henchmen are also humanized, receiving deep characterization despite their few lines.

Next we continue with more of Greed and company’s escape from the Devil’s Nest. Having been betrayed by Kimbley and Tucker, most of Greed’s men are wiped out in the military strike. Taking a moment to catch their breath in a nearby cabin, they are ambushed by Lust and Gluttony. Law and Dorachet, Greed’s enforcers, agree to stall the Homunculi while Greed, Al, and Marta, the snake-woman, escape. Greed then decides to pay a visit to Dante, instructing Al to keep Marta safe as he knows he probably won’t survive the fight. He finds Dante dead, and Lyra, her assistant, goads him into stepping into an alchemical array, which causes him to vomit up red stones. Seeing the bright flash, Ed charges in and, discovering Greed’s weakness, defeats him. He is left with a guilty conscience for taking Greed’s life, and a new outlook on Homunculi.

The fight scene in this episode is tremendous, and no matter how little he appeared in the show, Greed’s passing will be mourned. God rest a fantastic character!

The 35th episode is much slower-paced than the previous two, and gives Lust more of a backstory and motivation. While sitting in a restaurant with Gluttony and Envy, Lust muses on what will become of a Homunculus when they die. Complicating matters is the arrival of an alchemist named Lujon whom she had helped in the past by giving him the same fake Philosopher’s stone she’d given Cornello. Requiring her assistance again, Lujon escorts her back to his home town, where through flashback we see his attempt to save his home from a mysterious illness, and his fledgling love for Lust. Back in the present Lust disturbingly attempts to rid herself of any feelings of humanity by murdering Lujon and allowing everyone in the town to die.

ImageAll in all, this episode is somewhat disappointing, due to the amazing ones that came before. Certain scenes, like Lujon’s failed attempt to save an ailing child are truly visceral and frightening, while others, like Ed, Al, and Winry’s reaction to the entire town becoming corpses seem like missed opportunities for good drama. Ah well. Still a good episode if you like Lust, and frankly who doesn’t?

Now that Lust has been given some much needed characterization, let’s get back to the Elrics. After hearing about Mustang quelling a potential Ishabalan uprising (remember waaaaaaay back when Yoki was killed?), the Elrics rescue Rick and Leo from the camp to procure their help in locating Scar. Due to Scar’s actions Rick is very suspicious of anyone who doesn’t believe in the teachings of Ishbala, even Ed and Al. Eventually Ed and Al meet up with Hawkeye and some military people and go their separate ways, while Winry heads back to visit the Hughes family.

By and large, this is an uneventful episode, but it packs a lot of punch regardless. The tension is truly evident when Winry hears it was Col. Mustang (a man she admires) who killed her parents 12 years ago, and some unspoken sorrow hangs in the air when she declares that she wishes to see Hughes again. Winry always had a lot of untapped potential, and this episode makes her into something far more than just a blonde in a tube top.

The extras are the usual wash, rinse, and repeat routine, but the series itself is so good it doesn’t matter one bit. Fullmetal Alchemist proves that a DVD can soar on the strength of its feature content alone. What else can be said? If you’re not watching this series, you’re missing out on the greatest cartoon ever made.

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