Manga Giveaway: Fullmetal Alchemist Giveaway

It’s the last Wednesday of April (not to mention the last day of April) which means it’s time for the monthly manga giveaway here at Experiments in Manga to begin! This month you have the opportunity to win the first omnibus of Hiromu Arakawa’s wonderful manga series Fullmetal Alchemist as published by Viz Media. The omnibus collects the first three volumes of the series in one convenient package and makes a great introduction to Fullmetal Alchemist. (And for you collectors who like your manga to match, never fear! The final volume of the omnibus edition is currently scheduled for release this November.) As always, the giveaway is open worldwide!

Fullmetal Alchemist, Omnibus 1

Gender has been a fairly hot topic in comics over the last few years (if not longer). The discussion isn’t just about who is represented in comics, but who’s reading and creating comics as well. Amazing women creators are out there, and they have been for a long time.  This is not only true for comics in general, but for manga specifically. Women are and have been creating for all demographics. I am aware of plenty of women mangaka working in seinen and shounen, which are primarily aimed at men and boys, not to mention those who are working in josei and shoujo, which are primarily aimed at women and girls. Of course there are all of those manga that don’t neatly fit into one of the four main demographics and women are creating those, too.

Now, when I’m looking for manga to read, I’m looking for great characters, great stories, and great art. Whether the creator is a woman or a man (or any other gender for that matter) can be important, but for me it usually isn’t a deciding factor when it comes to choosing what to read. Sadly, that’s not true for everyone. I know of readers who will intentionally avoid the work of women creators, authors, and artists simply because they’re women. And they’re missing out on some fantastic material because of it. Take Fullmetal Alchemist as an example.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win a copy of the first Fullmetal Alchemist omnibus?

1) In the comments below, simply name one of your favorite women mangaka and tell me what you enjoy about her work.
2) For a second entry, name a shounen or seinen manga series (which hasn’t been mentioned by me or by someone else) that is written and/or illustrated by a woman.
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

And there you have it! Each person participating in the giveaway can earn up to three entries and has one week to submit comments. If you have trouble leaving a comment, or if you would prefer, entries may also be submitted via e-mail to phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. I will then post the comments in your name. The giveaway winner will be randomly selected and announced on May 7, 2014. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, a link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Fullmetal Alchemist Giveaway Winner

My Week in Manga: March 25-March 31, 2013

My News and Reviews

Last week was March’s Manga Moveable Feast, hosted by Khursten at Otaku Champloo and focusing on historical manga. I particularly enjoyed Khursten’s post on Manga and Memories. As for my contributions to the Feast, I reviewed the third omnibus in Takehiko Inoue’s award-winning manga series Vagabond. Based on a historical novel which is in turn based on the life of the legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, Vagabond is a great series. The most recent manga giveaway at Experiments in Manga has also been posted. Come tell me about your favorite historical manga for a chance to win Shigeru Mizuki’s semi-autobiographical Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths.

Unrelated to the Feast, I also posted a review of The Infernal Devices, Volume 1: Clockwork Angel, HyeKyung Baek’s graphic novel adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s novel of the same name. Now, I actually haven’t read the original novel, although I am somewhat familiar with the series (one of my sisters loves the books.) I do get the feeling that the graphic novel will be better appreciated by someone who has read The Infernal Devices. To that end, I have invited a housemate who has read the original novel to submit a guest post to Experiments in Manga with her impressions of the graphic novel adaptation. It should be posted sometime in the near future, so be on the look out for it! I’d also like to thank Manga Critic’s Kate Dacey once again for sending along a review copy of Clockwork Angel for me to read.

Quick Takes

Emerald and Other Stories by Hiroaki Samura. Published under the title Sister Generator in Japan, Emerald and Other Stories collects seven short manga works as well as several illustrations by Samura. All of the stories except for one feature women in lead roles. I was very excited about the collection for several reasons. First and foremost, I am a fan of Samura’s work. Emerald and Other Stories also includes a brief mahjong manga “Low-Grade Strategy: The Mirror Play” which won’t mean much to people unfamiliar with the game, but I got a kick out of it. I really enjoyed the collection as a whole, too. Samura’s shorter works can be odd, dark, quirky, and rather weird, which I appreciate, and I love his artwork.

Eyeshield 21, Volumes 11-14 written by Riichiro Inagaki and illustrated by Yusuke Murata. As much as I’m enjoying Eyeshield 21, I still don’t really care about American football. But the manga is a lot of fun. It’s filled with great, likeable characters (even those who are complete asses) and Murata’s artwork is fantastic. His fluid, exaggerated style fits the exaggerated characters well. At this point in the story, the Devil Bats have returned from their training in America and the fall tournament has begun. The manga moves through most of the games fairly quickly. Sometimes only a page or two is spent on each, just enough time for the teams to leave an impression. But then the Devil Bats face-off with the Kyoshin Poseidons and several volumes are devoted to their rivalry.

Gakuen Heaven by You Higuri. Because I’ve enjoyed some of Higuri’s past work, I picked up Gakuen Heaven on a whim out of a bargain bin for a mere pittance. I’m not convinced that it was worth it. The manga is the first volume in a series of adaptations of the dating sim game Gakuen Heaven: Boy’s Love Scramble. Probably not surprisingly, the characters and story are one cliche and trope after another and nothing creative is done with them. To some extent, the direction that plot takes was left up to reader polls. The artwork in Gakuen Heaven isn’t terrible, but like the rest of the manga it is very generic. The detail and sensuality found in the artwork of Higuri’s other manga is nowhere to be found.

Hero Tales, Volumes 1-5 written by Jin Zhou Huang, illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa. I was unfortunately very disappointed by Hero Tales. A Chinese-influenced fantasy with strong wuxia underpinnings (which I liked), the manga unfortunately ends up feeling very derivative and fails to distinguish itself. The characters have very little depth to them and even more problematic, the story itself frequently doesn’t make any sense as plot developments are either skipped over entirely or come out of nowhere. Arakawa’s artwork is nice, and there are some decent fight sequences and martial arts, but even this can’t save the manga. I did, however, very much enjoy the end-of-volume comics following Arakawa and her assistants around China as they gather reference materials for the series.

Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade directed by Hiroyuki Okiura. I’ve been meaning to watch Jin-Roh for a while now. I’m glad that I finally got around to it; I really should have seen it sooner. Set in an alternate history of Japan, the anime follows Kazuki Fuse, a member of the military police’s elite special unit. He comes under investigation when he fails to shoot a young suicide bomber before she detonates her charge. Although there are several key action sequences and firefights, the pacing of the story is rather slow and deliberate. Personally, I don’t consider this at all to be a bad thing and was thoroughly engaged for the entire movie. The animation and overall atmosphere of the film were excellent.

Fullmetal Alchemist, Omnibus 1

Creator: Hiromu Arakawa
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421540184
Released: June 2011
Original release: 2002
Awards: Seiun Award, Shogakukan Manga Award

My introduction to Fullmetal Alchemist was through the first anime series. The franchise is so popular that it has spawned a second anime series, films, light novels, drama CDs, and video games, among other merchandise, but it all began with Hiromu Arakawa’s manga series. Somehow, I am only now getting around to reading the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. Fullmetal Alchemist began serialization in Monthly Shōnen Gangan in 2001 and would later win the Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen in 2004. The first three volumes of the series (out of twenty-seven) were originally released in Japan in 2002. Viz Media initially published the individual volumes in 2005 before releasing a “3-in-1” omnibus edition in 2011. I really enjoyed the first anime series (I haven’t seen the second one yet, though I do plan to); I saw the omnibus as a perfect way to finally give the original manga a try. And as much as I love the anime, I think the manga might be even better.

In alchemy, one of the most important rules that must be followed is the law of equivalent exchange—in order to gain something, something of equal value must be given. Even working within this constraint the science of alchemy is capable of amazing things, but it is still not able to solve all of humanity’s problems. Edward and Alphonse Elric learn this difficult lesson the hard way when their attempt to bring their dead mother back to life goes horribly wrong. Human alchemy is forbidden and the two brothers have paid the price. Al has lost his body and Ed lost one of his legs, further sacrificing an arm to save his brother’s soul. Now, in an effort to return their bodies back to normal, the brothers are searching for the philosopher’s stone. Ed even became the youngest state alchemist to have ever been certified in order to pursue the stone. It’s a military position of prestige, but more importantly it’s a position with research money and access to restricted resources.

I don’t know how far ahead Arakawa had the story planned when beginning Fullmetal Alchemist, but the world it takes place in is solid form the very start. Her artwork is strong and clear and is fairly straightforward with excellent page layouts that ease the flow of the story and help to emphasize emotional climaxes. Occasionally the fight scenes could have used an extra panel or two to clarify the action a bit more. While Arakawa’s artwork isn’t overly detailed, the world and characters of Fullmetal Alchemist are marvelously complicated and complex. There is a palpable tension between alchemy and religion and no easy answers are given. Science can be used for good or for ill; the alchemists have to make personal and moral choices and compromises and then deal with the consequences of those decisions. Science is capable of wondrous things, and it is also capable of terrible things. The fact that most alchemical research is funded by the military only complicates matters further.

The story of Fullmetal Alchemist is actually fairly dark, dealing with serious matters of life, death, sin, war, and responsibility. However, Arakawa includes enough humor that it never becomes overwhelmingly depressing. And even though the Elric brothers have a tragic past they don’t wallow in self-pity. Instead, while always being very conscious of their circumstances, they are determined to reach their goals, pushing forward one step at a time, showing tremendous strength of character. But while they are mature for their ages and have been through a lot together, they are still young. Most of the other characters in Fullmetal Alchemist are also dealing with difficult situations although some of them certainly handle it better than others. Fullmetal Alchemist is a fantastic series and an engrossing read. From these first three volumes alone I know that I want to see the story through to its end.