From 2001 until 2010, Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist was serialized in Monthly Shonen Gangen magazine, introducing Japan to a parallel Earth (and hinting at some aspects of the hollow earth theory), where “alchemy,” a pseudo-science-magick seemingly rooted in Semitic Kaballah and Hermetic practices, knowingly used and recorded by history in our own real world, has more or less beat the steam engine to the industrial revolution and progressed to the era of the 1920’s. The characters are a pair of brother alchemists, who attempted to bring their mother back from the dead through alchemy, and have since suffered the consequences. The elder brother, Ed, has lost his right arm and left leg, and replaced them with mechanical prostheses, his younger brother Al, however, has lost his entire body, and his soul has been attached to a hollow suit of armor, much like Motoko from Ghost in the Shell. These two brothers are on a quest to achieve enlightenment in order to re-attain their own bodies; Ed feels guilty about the whole situation, and wishes to find a way to restore his younger brother’s human form, while Al forgives Ed, and wishes to find a way to end his brother’s suffering and restore his lost limbs. These selfless protagonists are extremely easy for an audience to empathize with, and therefore the creator can draw the audience’s attention toward the inner struggle of the heroes, and the philosophical questions, once again; what is it to be human?
The two brothers have seen beyond the veil of reality, so to speak, and therefore they understand the true nature of reality, and thus their journey through consciousness progresses as they seek true enlightenment. One of the earliest lessons the two learn, and therefore the audience learns, is “One is all, and all is One.” That’s some serious philosophy to work into the minds of the average audience member, and is certainly a thought that will spark internal debate among any who are brought to its awareness. The main point I’m trying to make is that these philosophical themes are coming at us in big way through modern 2D animation. With the post-modern age already fully set in place, and the post-human age peeking over the horizon, these heavy themes are going to be brought to the forefront of popular media in the coming months and years. In the space above I’ll share with you some of Fullmetal Alchemist’s attempts to ask the question, “what is it to be human?”