The threat of imperialism looms over the modern world, just as it looms over the world of Fullmetal Alchemist and the characters within.

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[Do I seem unusually informal? It’s because I’m the script for an audio essay! Please don’t mind the occasional joke throughout.]

[This article also contains spoilers for all of Fullmetal Alchemist. Proceed with caution.]

Fullmetal Alchemist. Written by acclaimed mangaka Hiromu Arakawa and published from 2001 to 2010 in Monthly Shounen Gangan magazine, it’s a shounen — or boys’ — manga (or seinen, depending on who you ask), that follows the brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric, the former of whom took the phrase “it cost me an arm and a leg” a little bit too literally.


Imperialist themes are strong in Hiromu Arakawa’s manga, going so far as to be personified through it’s primary antagonist.

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Panels should be read right to left.

[The following article contains spoilers for Fullmetal Alchemist, specifically chapters 74 and 75.]

Originally introduced through its somewhat sub-par 2003 anime adaptation, Fullmetal Alchemist was the first manga I would ever read, sought out when a Google search informed me its ending was wildly unlike the confusing disaster of it’s anime counterpart. I almost instantly fell in love. Its art style captured me, its characters felt grounded despite their fantastical nature, but it was the story that always enthralled me. I had never before found a comic that had a narrative depth on par with the fantasy novels I read in my free-time.


Anthony “Tony” Wright, Digital Managing Editor for Results Radio, speaks on how his love of comic books led him to where he is now.

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Anthony Wright and his only child, the author of this article.

Walking into my father’s office in the Results Radio building in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is like walking into a highly condensed toy store. Behind Tony Wright’s desk are shelves littered with figurines, placed purposefully amongst framed photos of family. Disney Infinity figurines — almost all of them scale replicas of Marvel characters — and the occasional Pop Funko figure rest on the lower shelves, dwarfed by the three foot tall figures of Darth Vader and Stormtroopers towering at the top. The whiteboard on the wall has a fading, and altered, Star Trek quote scrawled on it, above the ghost markings of an anime character his child drew and left on the board months ago. It is an office that draws the eyes of curious adults and enamored children, a reminder that growing up doesn’t necessarily mean chucking the joys of your childhood into the garbage. …


In a world where transgender stories are treated as inaccessible and complicated, mangaka Chii can tell her story in four simple boxes.

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“Husband-kun” and “Chii-chan”.

Any discussion about LGBT+ matters in society, particularly ones pertaining to transgender people, inevitably becomes a point of contention. This is the case for almost anywhere in the world, which makes the sharing of these kind of stories incredibly valuable for normalizing and helping people come to accept LGBT+ peoples’ places in society. Thus, when I came across the autobiographical manga The Bride Was A Boy (Hanayome wa Motodanshi in Japanese), I was elated, both as an avid reader of manga and as a transgender person myself.


A brief summary of “(Fullmetal) Alchemy: The Monstrosity of Reading Words and Pictures in Shonen Manga”, by Lesley-Anne Gallacher.

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As an avid fan of comic books, I am more than familiar with the pervasive assumption that comics are a lesser form of both literature and art, and is therefore undeserving of analytical review. It’s a frustrating reality that is beginning to change, but something I have yet grown used to, especially in regards to the realms of manga, which don’t even benefit from easy recognition by popular culture. So, one could imagine my excitement when I came across a peer-reviewed article in the academic journal Cultural Geographies, all focusing on Hiromu Arakawa’s series Fullmetal Alchemist.

“(Fullmetal) Alchemy: The Monstrosity of Reading Words and Pictures in Shonen Manga”, by Lesley-Anne Gallacher, is an article that came as part of her doctoral research on how shonen manga can be understood and read through the combination of words and pictures. Gallacher argues that manga’s use of illustrations and text act as a “monstrous” composite text, and that even after becoming recognized, or “domesticated”, remain open-ended, as meaning is always a dynamic form. …


When your inspiration comes from famous literary works… And the authors who wrote them.

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The main cast of Bungo Stray Dogs

Often when we speak of “reinventing” characters, we have in mind the passing of an old character through many hands, with each hand just slightly tweaking the character to be more like how the new creator sees it. We see this constantly in superhero franchises, as decades-old figures are fitted to the desires of an aging or changing audience. This act is well reflected in Harold Bloom’s writings on poetic misprision, in which one creator finds inspiration from a previous creator, implementing already-used elements into the new writing.

Discussions like these generally involve the adaptations of fictional stories and characters. But, is it possible to apply some form of Bloom’s poetic misprision to the reinvention of real people, of historical figures? …


Even if cliffhangers exist to cajole a reader into purchasing the next volume, they can contain more than just exciting one-liners.

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[The following article contains spoilers for the manga series Platinum End, through volume 9.]

When I saw the words, “The creators of Death Note return,” scrawled across the back cover of Platinum End’s beautifully illustrated, slightly holographic cover, I knew I was in for yet another ride. From mangakas now famous for their not-so-subtle religious symbolism and allegory, and their ability to turn even the most internalized mind games into a visual treat, I had high hopes for Platinum End, and it seems Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata did not fail to meet them.


The scariest thing about this comic? Five dollars is enough bribe money to dig up a corpse.

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Are you not shuddering in fear?

A far cry from the Marvel and DC we’ve come to know, Entertainment Comics — shortened to EC — was something like an irresponsible middle child in its illustrated history. Renown for their horror and science fiction stories, EC comics were filled to the brim with 1950s-scandalous violence, sexual promiscuity and horror content. They eventually took the spotlight in the eyes of more than just their adolescent readers, when they became one of the primary subjects in congressional hearings over the safety of comic books. Ideas championed by Fredric Wertham, comics suddenly became responsible for everything from illiteracy, to violence, to childhood delinquency. …


A story of spandex-clad mask-donning patriotic heroes fighting crime on the streets of… Tokyo.

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Image of Izuku “Deku” Midoriya from My Hero Academia

In a world where the comic book medium has touched nearly every side of the globe, there seems to exist a rift between two major players in the game; America’s spandex-clad legion of crime fighting superhero comics, and the black-and-white big eyed collection of beautiful men, women and robots filling up the pages of Japanese manga. The two art movements have co-existed side by side for decades, but rarely cross streams. Not to say there’s never been crossover between the two genres; mangaka across the decades have cited masters such as Stan Lee as inspiration, and as manga continues to take up more and more Barnes and Noble shelf space, major American publishers have begun to see the appeal of their Japanese comic cousins. Even so, most creators are sticking to what they know; Both in terms of art style, and in terms of stories they’re willing to tell. …


When Comics Speak Louder Than Their Action

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Volume one of the Japanese language version of Fullmetal Alchemist along with figures of the protagonists Alphonse Elric (left) and Edward Elric (right).

Valuable commentary can be found in any media, even if it wears the guise of an edgy teenage boy with daddy issues.

The insistence that any media dipping its toes into the world of popular culture, cannot possibly offer anything of academic substance is both annoyingly pervasive, and growing increasingly dated. As Marvel continues to sweep the world with its formulaic yet far-reaching cinematic universe while DC scrambles after them, as Netflix and other TV-entities pick up the diamonds dropped in the ongoing duel, trying to write off comics and the stories they tell as inconsequential is a pointless endeavor. And many people in academia have begun to accept this revelation. Black Panther has been lauded for changing what used to be the face of a “successful super hero” into something less white, as has Wonder Woman into something less male. …

About

Chy Wright

An undergraduate at Southern Oregon University, focusing on digital illustration, comic design and creative writing. @Horodragon on Twitter/IG. They/Them.

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