I hadn’t planned to review Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition Vol. 1. Partly because this isn’t the first time I’ve read these stories (thanks Fresno library!), and partly because reviewing volume one of a manga that ended 12 years ago didn’t seem like a great use of blog space. I only put out so many of these posts per year, you know.
However! After finally ponying up to purchase this first volume of the kanzenban, or “perfect complete edition,” of Fullmetal Alchemist, I decided I had something to say about it. And that something is: Holy cow, the production value on this book kicks ass.
If you’re somehow not familiar with Fullmetal Alchemist, it’s the story of two brothers who:
- Can perform alchemy.
- Tried to use alchemy to bring their mother back to life.
- Paid a steep price for doing 2, and are now working to restore their quite-messed-up bodies (one brother actually doesn’t have a body; his soul’s possessing a suit of armor).
It is a very good manga. So good, in fact, that when I first found the deluxe, hardback, and slightly more expensive Fullmetal versions of the story, I immediately decided “that’s the way I’m going to buy FMA.” I’ve waited a couple years to start collecting these Fullmetal Editions, but now that I’ve bought my first one, I can safely say they are the correct way to for anyone who loves Fullmetal Alchemist to buy it in print.
Typical manga volumes are perfectly serviceable books. They are compact and made to be carried around, splayed open, and tossed on a stack with other volumes. Their paper stock and bindings? Well, they exist.
The Fullmetal versions of FMA, on the other hand, are not just serviceable books. They are a joy to look at, hold, and page through. Because of their hard covers, solid binding, and nice, glossy paper stock, they have some heft to them. They feel substantial in your hand, like you’re holding a (and I’m mad at me for writing this, too) real hardback book. This hardback, however, has had more care put into its appearance than most “real” books.
For one thing, the book’s title, volume number, and a few other filigrees are set in maroon foil, on both the front cover and spine. If you catch them in the right light, they shine quite nicely.
The book’s back cover features an embossed alchemy circle, which you can also see if you hold the book just right. When you open the volume, you’re greeted by a semi-transparent title page, which contains another alchemy circle and lets you catch a glimpse of the color illustration of Edward Elric that graces the next page.
While no version of Fullmetal Alchemist‘s story pages is hard to look at (Arakawa’s expressive, clean art is one of the story’s main draws), the Fullmetal Version‘s illustrations are remarkably crisp. This is likely thanks to both a higher-quality printing process and the aforementioned full-white, glossy paper stock. Unlike normal manga volumes, in which close-together gray tones sometimes blend together or get lost in the book’s just-off-white paper, this book’s “color” separation is perfect.
When I reached the end of Fullmetal Edition Vol. 1, I immediately wanted to rush out to buy Vol. 2, not just to continue the story, but because I wanted to have Vol. 2 on my bookshelf. (I did not do that, though, because I am a responsible adult … and I know my local Barnes & Noble did not have Vol. 2 in stock.) I also couldn’t help but compare the Fullmetal Edition‘s production value to Vol. 2 of The Nice House on the Lake, which I’d purchased on the same trip. Whereas FMA: Fullmetal Edition was practically pristine and felt very satisfying to hold, flip through, and read, Nice House Vol. 2 had worse paper quality than Vol. 1 of the same series, a slightly-banged-up soft cover, and a misprint that added an issue and a half’s worth of duplicate content to the book. All that (and less story pages, though all in color), for the exact same price as a volume of Fullmetal Edition. Is it any wonder more and more comics readers are turning to manga?
I like rewarding publishers for putting out high-quality books. Not just superb stories, but actual well-put-together physical volumes. With Fullmetal Alchemist: Fullmetal Edition, Viz has put out a version of FMA that I think any fan of the manga or anime would be delighted to have on their bookshelf. While the cost is about double the normal versions, the hard covers, fun flourishes, and incredibly-high print quality make the cost more than worth it. I’m very glad I decided to buy Fullmetal Alchemist in the Fullmetal Edition, and I think anyone else looking to own the best version of the story will be just as satisfied.