The idea that people only ever showing the better part of themselves in society has fundamentally shifted us to developing a society where we hide a majority of our truths.
First, a Question. How did you get here? Like, how are you reading this right now? We’ll get back to this in a moment.
I remember watching FMA (Full Metal Alchemist) as a child on a Canadian TV network called YTV. I never really got into it. I would watch it up until the fifth episode, and then quit. Then return to it months later to try and watch it again, maybe until around the 6th episode, just a bit further, but then I would stop. Me giving this anime a try, before finally actually watching it throughout, happened 5 times in a span of 18 years. Then recently, I started running out of Anime shows to fill my leisure time with, so I gave FMA another shot. This time, knowing the difference between the original series, and "BROTHERHOOD".
NOTE: The main difference is that the original series is missing about 20 episodes and has an alternate stopping point/ending because the manga was unfinished while the anime series had been completed in its production. The studio needed a way to end it. Long story short, Full Metal Alchemist “Brotherhood” is the series that is based on a completed version of the story, and the one that fans say is a more accurate telling of the manga. So if you’re going to watch one, Brotherhood FTW.
What does the globally acclaimed business book 'Think and Grow Rich' have in common with Full Metal Alchemist Manga? Or at least the overall message? Well, the fundamental rule in the law of alchemy is the same thing as the underlying premise of building a successful business: you cannot gain something, without first sacrificing or giving up something of equal value. The Law of Equivalent Exchange.
I want to give you a basic synopsis of the message I extracted from the show personally, but with a more holistic view about the significance of alchemy and it's relevance to present societal structures. The goal of alchemy is to achieve the “Master Work”, whatever that may be. Alchemy is introduced to us as a science, or way to turn base metals into gold, but really it's about the evolution of humans and their craft being in harmony with nature. A way of living and being in the world as we see it. We are called human BEINGS after all. Ancient texts include a dream potion, the Elixir of Life, and a solid possessing otherworldly powers, often called the Philosopher’s Stone. The story of FMA follows two talented adolescents who go through their own personal journey of loss and gain, aiming for a greater external strength in the coveted Philosopher's Stone. Not any different from a person whose goal is to get better at one thing. The theme revolves around one general principle, the “Law of Equivalent Exchange”. Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. In a real world application, this could be ROI from a business perspective.
FMA has a great amount of philosophical commentary, many abstracted wisdoms through allegories, and it takes us through a journey that creates a conversation around human values not often brought up today. And through its well animated style thanks to the communal work done by the studio Bones and Aniplex, we’re given a unique interpretation of simple biblical messages long put aside. There is nothing extra or wasted in the anime, except for maybe that little panda bear thing may has, but other than that thing, every character is essential. They preface the importance of equivalent exchange in its many subplots, but it goes over our heads if we aren’t paying attention.
Okay, so back to the question: How did you get here? What lead’s anyone to any situation in their lives? It is a simple (but not so simple) game of probability and focus. A nice combination of art with science. In the quantum realm, your current reality is based on your perception of the world. You are reading this out of curiosity, or maybe the headline caught your attention, either way, serendipitous moments exist to point us in the direction we were ultimately supposed to lead. I like to say it’s better to embrace all experiences, good and bad. Every experience in it has its lessons if you actively try and learn what that is.
The reason I found a satiable call to explore the message and intention around this particular show was because I needed to test my creative writing skills, one, and two, because I really felt after crossing it off my anime checklist, that there's a much more powerful message, far reaching past the political innuendo and social strife that you is physically represented in the anime, portrayed in the themes of familial tragedies and war-torn countries. A good manga can be interpreted in a lot of different ways depending on the audience’s circumstance and views. And how did you end up here? It relates to how the stars align in mysterious ways, leading people to destinations that were already likely to be. Sooner rather than later, and because if not you then who?, and if not know, it was just a question of when?
The great philosopher Plato talks about two worlds, the world of appearances and the world of forms. The idea that people only ever showing the better part of themselves in society has fundamentally shifted us to developing a society where we hide a majority of our truths. This is where the Gate of truth becomes an area where an alchemist has a meeting with their interpretation of a “God”. I have interpreted this space to be our minds. When we concentrate enough on putting two elements together, just like in the practice of alchemy, the transmutation circle representing our selected passions, we unlock the next level of awareness. We are placed in the matrix, an empty dimension where we, as the seeker, become faced with a silhouette of a blank visual representation of pure truth. “God, The Universe, You..” This is where only a mouth is present on our familiar blank figure. Signifying the importance of our own voice, and how we have the choice to speak and think our next thoughts.
Spiritual alchemy is the search for awareness. The ultimate state of transformation.
Basically, can a human be humbled through experience and be dictated and skewed by his environment for worse, or for their betterment? A lot of the values of FMA dances around Christian Theology . Along anyone’s journey of self-indulgence, we face common human cardinal sins, better known as the 7 deadly sins.
First thing to note also, is the fact that the main enemies are embodied beings called "Homunculi". Demons literally created from the souls of lost or broken humans. The 7 deadly sins: Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Envy, Sloth, and Pride.
There cannot be an exciting story, without an enemy. Superman would be boring without his weakness to Kryptonite. In reality, there is a dichotomy of the idea of living a balanced life. But a scale will always have two sides, and so will any person. The better idea is to trap that darkness in a bottle, and be able to speak with him consciously.
The evil presence, main protagonist or the “Dwarf in The flask” is an entity resembling darkness. I took his presence to mean temptation. Like the proverbial snake only wanting to share fruit in the garden of eden. What then starts as a controllable interest in power, becomes an obsession to vice.
So lets quickly introduce you to our Homonculi:
Lust Leads us to Selfish impulse, we seek sexual fulfillments even if those actions are detrimental.
Gluttony leads to over consuming.
Sloth is the practice of physical laziness, also showing disinterest in growing the spiritual self.
Wrath: uncontrolled feelings of vendetta or anger.
Envy: sadness towards, but with the desire for the possessions and happiness’ of other people.
Pride is an excessive love of self or the desire to be better or more important than others. Forced Vanity, also known as a God Complex. Pride, is one of the toughest of all to overcome because it’s ego inflating. Empowering one’s own importance and putting them on a pedestal.
Greed is the Excessive desire for possessions.
Greed, can actually be mutually beneficial. The word itself can have some essences of negativity, but it’s possible to be selfish for the right reasons.
Why I believe Greed was the only sin that was controllable, was because prosequently, being selfish can at times be an act of altruism. Selfish acts are good when they are acts that grant the protection of the community, or empower and influence the masses or like minded individuals.
In the end, it’s a huge lesson in humility for our main characters. An ending where the Homonculi, a fallen father figure resembling the original Alchemist, is seeking the power of a God, but then becomes humbled by facts of truth by none other than his own spiritual representation.
So what’s the link in finding the Philosopher’s stone? A material treasure that all awakened Alchemists seek. Similar to the study of Alchemy, the practice of being thrown into the world to hopefully grasp all the knowledge the universe has to offer them on their proverbial journey, only to be sent back to where they came from so they can share that knowledge with anybody else who becomes ready.
To conclude, Full Metal Alchemist is rich with symbolism. There are a number of central themes in FMA like how making choices in our lives help us unlock all the riches, both literal and metaphorical. It’s a therapeutic analysis of Free Will vs Faith. FMA demonstrates that everyone has the ability to follow their Personal legend. Finding out why our destiny is calling us, ultimately leads to growth, and to working in tandem with all things from people to creatures, to deciphering omens and learning to integrate ourselves with the elements and with the Gods themselves. Like an Alchemist. If you’ve read the book “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coehlo, you’ll know why this connects on many levels.
Alchemy is introduced to us as a way to turn base metals into gold, but really, it's about the evolution of humankind and their ability to harmonize their crafts with nature. Being an Alchemist, in the metaphorical sense of the word, shows us a way of living and being in the world. We are called human BEINGS after all.
Well, those are my documented thoughts about the anime Full Metal Alchemist. Great anime / manga for anyone to get into. Thanks for the read!