Fullmetal Alchemist and the Power of the Ending

A truly classic ending


Ed realizing it's not so bad.


You have a dearly beloved series that is finally wrapping up, and now it’s up to the author to come up with a way to close the story for good. But how can that be done? How can all the unresolved plot threads be wrapped up nicely, and how can you give the characters and story a final sending off? It’s an extremely common sentiment among fiction creators that starting the idea isn’t that hard, but finding a satisfying ending is a surprisingly difficult thing to accomplish. This can be doubly so in a serialized story such as manga, where things like low sales or dropping popularity can lead to a series’ cancelation and rushed ending. Sometimes, even with all the time needed, the author just can’t come up with something that feels right. But even so, sometimes a series comes along and reminds everyone that a completely satisfying ending is possible, and there’s no better contender for that than the modern classic, Fullmetal Alchemist. It’s been 11 years since the manga first came out, and Arakawa’s story remains not just fun and well-written, but extremely rewarding in its closing as well.


The cast of FMA

Image via VIZ


One of the most amazing things about Fullmetal Alchemist is how its group cast is utilized. Arguably, if there was a single ally that was taken out of the final battle, the entire thing would have collapsed. As a result, it’s important to show what those same people ended up doing. The happy ending is a tricky one, the author needs to show that there is not just happiness in the present, but in the future as well. One easy way to do this is to show the main cast settled down with children, because that’s coded as stability. However, Fullmetal Alchemist chooses a different route; it decides to show what people go on to do. It’s not necessarily about showing them after they succeed, but about the resolve they have found to follow those paths. 


It isn’t just the happenings in Amestris that the story focuses on either, but other counties as well. Ishbal has been a long-running reminder over the course of the series, of both what was done to the nation and its people. Now that the truth of the war came to life, there are people who are willing to fight for its rebuilding, such as Scar and Miles, and people who have come to sympathize with its plight. Equally, the political conflict in Xing is solved by Ling becoming emperor, but also quelling the infighting with the 12 major families. The final battle didn’t just solve one country’s problems, but helped pave the path for future peace across the entire region. 


Ed and Al in Fullmetal Alchemist

Image via VIZ 


Of course, it’s not just nations and groups that deserve their happy endings, but individuals as well. When Ed is faced with giving up his life for Al’s return, he’s stuck, at least until he decides to give up alchemy itself — and it works. The brothers are finally wholly reunited, and the panel where they return home to Winry is unquestionably heartwarming. I remember reading the part where Ed gives up alchemy as a shock because I didn’t expect he’d give up something that seemed so intrinsic to him, but he did. It was worth it, and delivered on the one thing so many wanted to see: the brothers joined together again, able to live their own lives. Even though Ed loses his alchemy and Al has his body back, they also make clear that their journey's not over. Their main goal was accomplished, yes, but there's still more to do — another adventure, somewhere, someday. 


The final volume

Image via VIZ 


One particular scene stands out in my memory more than anything else: Ed standing on a roof, making repairs. He pauses, tries to use alchemy to fix the damage but of course, it doesn’t work. He laments that alchemy would have let him do the repairs from the ground, but then he looks at the countryside view and decides that doing it the hard way isn’t that bad after all. The work is going to be hard, but ultimately, there is joy in the journey and in the future. We know that with a lot of hard work, the characters of the story we love will be okay. 


What was your favorite part of the finale? Tell us what you think!



Noelle Ogawa is a contributor to Bubbleblabber and Cup of Moe. She can be found on Twitter @noelleogawa.


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