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Born in Hokkaido (northern Japan), Hiromu Arakawa first attracted national attention in 1999 with her award-winning manga Stray Dog. Her series Fullmetal Alchemist debuted in 2001 in Square Enix's monthly manga anthology Shonen Gangan.
This manga inspired the popular series now airing on the Cartoon Network and captures the show's brand of mystical, action-packed adventure. Set in a steam-powered locale that isn't necessarily in our world, the series follows two teenage brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric-one bearing two cybernetic replacement limbs while the other's soul animates a cumbersome suit of armor. The two are government agents wielding prodigious abilities in alchemy who carry out the hazardous assignments issued by their handlers. Their exploits range from thwarting the machinations of a fraudulent and ambitious priest who abuses the faith of his oblivious flock to cunningly extracting an impoverished mining community from the exorbitant clutches of a corrupt official and dealing with a train-hijack situation that owes a serious debt to the film Under Siege. In a market glutted with too many like-minded efforts, Arakawa's work grabs readers and shakes them with simple yet eloquent visuals and a bizarre concept. To give away more would ruin the story, but the snippets of the brothers' origin hint at much darker things to come, and such portents herald fun in upcoming installments. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
In this series' science-fantasy world, alchemy's rule of "equivalent exchange" states that for something to be created, something of equal value must be sacrificed. When the prodigiously talented young alchemists Edward and Alphonse Elric attempted a forbidden alchemical procedure to resurrect their mother, the results were disastrous. Not only did they fail, but Edward lost an arm and a leg and Alphonse's soul was trapped inside a suit of armor. Now Edward, with cybernetic replacement limbs, is a State Alchemist working for the military government, traveling with his brother in search of the Philosopher's Stone that may be able to help them become whole again. Along the way, they find themselves fighting corrupt leaders and righting wrongs. The anime TV show based on this manga, shown on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, has made quite a splash among fans. The more formative manga is, so far, less emotionally compelling than the anime, and closer to a typical shonen (boys') quest adventure story, with cartoony artwork and exaggerated action scenes to match. But both versions are entertaining, with moments of comedy among the fights and the drama, and the manga is recommended for teens and adults. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.