Railway lines are being blown up thanks to a mysterious group of terrorists rallying against the military. Despite the constant attacks there have been no casualties and seemingly no motivation, leaving Colonel Mustang and the rest of military personnel under the pressure of civilian frustrations. The public dissatisfaction is loud enough to distract from the string of kidnappings happening across the eastern region, with children of wealthy families being taken for ransom and returned safely.
After discovering the situation when coincidentally meeting Mustang and Havoc on their rescheduled train trip, Edward and Alphonse Elric find themselves trying to help discover the truth and reasoning behind everything going on–ending up right in the middle of trouble yet again!
Once again Makoto Inoue returns with a new Fullmetal Alchemist story for fans in the familiar ‘problem of the week’ style that builds the earlier parts of the series (especially the earlier 2003 anime series). Unlike the previous book in this series, none of the content in this novel was adapted or incorporated in the anime adaptations, so this comes as a whole new adventure starring our favorite Brothers Elric, and Col. Mustang.
The story starts off strong, introducing our characters as they wait hopelessly for a train that doesn’t seem like it will arrive. Up until the opening of the book Ed and Al had been on another trip to search for the Philosopher’s Stone, cut off from major communications for several weeks, so the two have no clue to the problems currently plaguing the country. Once the train does arrive–late and packed to bursting with people–it’s quickly obvious as to why the train schedule is so disrupted. An unnamed terrorist group has been blowing up the rails and causing transport problems without any real motivation, according to the Colonel. Central Command has been pushing for results, but the perpetrators have always managed to slip away without witnesses. In addition to that major problem, Mustang believes the recent string of kidnappings is somehow connected, but can’t convince his superiors of the same thing.
The story in this book is fairly simple, with and obvious problem and set up that leads to a satisfying conclusion and at least one action scene in typical shonen fashion. Edward and Alphonse are of course the main characters we follow in this book, but the true focus is Colonel Roy Mustang. This book is the first true introduction we’ve gotten for his character within the light novel series, and Inoue takes the opportunity to show off his strong personality and instincts in the story. He’s dedicated to his position, but not to the disadvantage of common sense or instinct. The relationship he (and his team) has with the Elrics is also front-and-center for the book, highlighting the mix of irritating teasing and genuine care they all share. Arakawa has created all of these characters with plenty of personality and realistic relationships, and Inoue definitely tries to capture that in the writing. I don’t think everything in this book feels true to the characters of the manga (Ed’s early joking of calling Mustang ‘Dad’ felt particularly out of character thanks to his own problems with his father and the lack of any resemblance between them), but I think that owes a lot to character revelations that were revealed after the publishing of this book rather than a flaw in the writing itself. I did appreciate Alphonse’s interactions with the little girl the brothers meet at the inn, but that may be due to my love for the character in general–the youngest Elric seems to have avoided any major personality discrepancies in these books so far, and his sweet, patient temperament is a nice balance with his more-fiery older brother.
The villains of this book are the weakest part, in my opinion. All of these Fullmetal Alchemist books are short, and both this book and the previous have handled some fairly straightforward-but-expansive plot lines. Whilst the reasoning behind what the terrorists want is fairly easy and typical, as an audience we get very little in justification or characterization for the members of the group before the finale looms and the book is done. Understandably, none of the villain characters are ones fans and readers know–completely created for this novel and to serve their function within the story–but it means we have little to invest us into their cause. You don’t need sympathetic villains for a good book, but the stakes never felt particularly high between the two groups.
Functionally these books are definitely on the “light” side of light novels without demanding a huge amount of attention to follow, and this one especially feels like a middling interlude in these characters’ lives–even as we have kidnapping and the threat of train crash. Compared to the previous book I reviewed in this series, the language use and intended audience seems much the same, continuing to be very accessible for new young light novel fans. Fullmetal Alchemist – The Abducted Alchemist is exactly what the title promises, and although it has some fun action pieces, the book is overall skippable for most people. It’s not terrible, but it sticks a little too close to the expected formula to be engaging outside of the larger franchise it’s tied to.
Gee’s recommendation: Satisfactory, but skippable