Ed and Al return, but is the Fullmetal Edition of Fullmetal Alchemist the ultimate version?
Warning: image-heavy post ahoy!
Appearance and Format
As you would expect, the Fullmetal Edition is larger than the original at about 1″ taller than the Tokyopop edition and 3/4″ wider (2.5 cm and 2 cm). It’s also thicker, but mostly due to the cover. It isn’t obvious right away that the Fullmetal Edition is equivalent to 1.5 original volumes. This is a downgrade from the previous re-release, the 3-in-1 version. According to Amazon, the omnibus version is 5 x 1.3 x 7.5 inches while this one is 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches. So it’s slightly smaller, but obviously a lot thicker. And, of course, a softcover release. Otherwise, I think it’s the same as the original.
The first couple volumes of the original release’s first print had a foil-like effect to give the feeling of steel. The Fullmetal Edition has red foil on the text and symbols on the front cover and spine against a matte binding.
I do wish VIZ had gone full minimalist on the back cover. There’s no inside flap for a summary, so I guess that’s why it’s on the back. Still, the bright red background clashes with the muted tones of Arakawa’s artwork, even if it’s only blocking a small part of his cloak.
It’s hard to see in photos, but the back cover has a large transmutation circle.
The cover is solid, and it does appear thicker than, say, Kodansha Comics’ Queen Emeraldas, which was the first hardcover manga I could find.
As with most hardcover releases, the corners are prone to dings, but paperbacks are prone to curling. The new edition is still a bit stiff, but the binding looks as if it won’t crease when opening the pages. However, I haven’t had a problem with my originals either. Weight-wise, the Fullmetal Edition is a little too big to hold in one hand. The larger size does make the scenes inside feel more epic though.
I have some slight red marks at the top of the fore-edge. I’m guessing it’s some light ink bleeding from the foil? It doesn’t affect the inside, but be aware.
I do kind of miss the little character shot on the spine, even though the front covers are probably going to be character-centric. The new cover doesn’t seem like new art. Well, to be more accurate, it’s probably a new drawing, but it doesn’t feel different, but it’s definitely very Edward-ish, moreso than the original cover.
Note that the cover is slightly altered from the Japanese kanzenban. The symbols seem to be a VIZ addition, but the transmutation circle was moved to fully being on the back cover. (The list of symbols replace the snake-on-a-cross in the end-of-chapter buffer pages.) I believe this is because the Japanese edition has an overlay unlike the English version. Still, though, I do love the symbols being added.
VIZ Media started releasing Fullmetal Alchmist in 2005, and it does show sign of age. It’s not something I would really notice, but when you compare it to the Fullmetal Edition…
I will say that because of Arakawa’s art, it isn’t a dramatic difference in reading quality. This is even less noticeable when looking at Yen Press’ digital version. Sure, between the three, the newest version isn’t the best, but it’s like watching TV in 480p vs 1080p. Sure, 1080p is sharper and brighter, but if the picture was already looking good, is seeing slightly different shades or some additional crispness really worth the effort? For most people, I’d say no.
However, the series has been completely re-lettered. The new font (Digital Strip?) definitely has a lot more impact, especially on the paper thickness. Even the side text has been redone, and it is often oriented slightly differently because of the change in fonts.
Winner: Fullmetal Edition
“Fully remastered with an updated translation”.
The key here is updated translation, not a new translation. From what I read, it has only very minor changes. I know there are some typos and inconsistencies in the original (most notably Ishval/Ishbal), so I assume the later volumes will have slightly more improvements than this first one. I didn’t read every page side by side, but I read the majority of the original’s first volume with the new version, and it’s like 90% the same script. The original people who did the translation and the adaptation are still credited, so I’m guessing Jake Forbes was brought mainly to quality-check the script in an editor-like capacity.
Seriously, this counts as a “major” change.
That’s because most of the differences just involve … and switching from !? to ?! in the speech bubbles. Otherwise, it’s super, super minor changes like “200 thousand” to “Two hundred thousand” and “brand new” to “brand-new”. That’s it. Unless you read them side-by-side, they’re hardly noticeable. Like 99% the same or virtually the same.
Although speaking of speech bubbles:
I checked, and yes, VIZ Media did remove the second speech bubbles in those two panels in the original version. So the Fullmetal Edition is more authentic in regards to the art, but, as usual for the publisher, sound effects are replaced.
I don’t know if Arakawa added the panels or if VIZ Media erased the second bubbles in the original version. Either way, I don’t have much else to say. I’m not saying that the original adaptation was horrible and needed a complete overhaul. For those of us who have read this before, it doesn’t feel like new or fresh experience like with some other manga rereleases. Which is good, as it always stinks when people buy a series have to rebuy it for a translation that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out.
I must also add it’s possible that some issues were corrected in second printings or with Yen Press’ digital version. I’d lean toward no, but a couple of things may have been caught just after it went to print the first time.
Winner: Fullmetal Edition by a hair… Edward’s hair antenna that is.
Of course, after the cover and size difference, there’s the color pages. Yen Press’ digital version does include some color pages, but I have no idea if it includes, for example, the color insert at the beginning of Chapter 6, which is the second chapter of the second volume in the original. The only other color pages here is the opening pages, which is included in the digital version, so it’s not like color pages are completely new to an English audience.
At the very end, there are some initial design sketches. It’s very short at only two pages long, and at least some of them seemed familiar to me. Were they in one of the artbooks perhaps? Or have I just seen them on the Internet sometime over the years?
Yes, no author’s notes, either new or old. And worst of all, none of these:
Considering Arakawa’s great sense of humor, it’s a huge blow to not have these 4-koma and the other humorous bits like the In Memoriam section. I first thought they were find out there is a bonus volume in the original Japanese, a guidebook called 鋼の錬金術師 CHRONICLE (Fullmetal Alchemist Chronicle). However, I learned that all the original 4-koma have been reprinted in 鋼の錬金術師４コマ (Fullmetal Alchemist 4-koma). I couldn’t tell if the other extras like the images below are included in 4-koma, but I assume so.
I also have no idea if the extras in subsequent volumes will be more early concept designs or if there will be other types of extras. Considering this one is only featured Edward, I’m assuming that each volume will feature early art of the character on the cover.
Original: Bonus comics
Digital: Bonus comics + Some color artwork
Fullmetal Edition: Color artwork + some early designs
Original physical: $269.73
Original physical box set: $219.99
Original digital: $188.73
Fullmetal Edition: $359.82
So, yeah, you really have to consider whether a hardcover format, improved paper quality, and color images are worth it to you. If the series was out-of-print, it would make this version more enticing. But the lack of extras don’t make this feel like a deluxe, complete version.
Of course, if Fullmetal Alchemist 4-koma is licensed, that would be at least another $9.99 to add to the Fullmetal Edition. But at least it wouldn’t feel like something’s missing. The omnibus is the cheapest, but paper quality tends to be lower. More significantly, it’s hard to hold and carry around, which is a big deal for some people.
The Fullmetal Edition is visually impressive, perfect for this beloved series. It’s also priced for collectors, and yet isn’t full of collectors-level extras. A lot of those 4-koma made it into the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime, and that’s because they were some of the best bonus strips I’ve ever read. Nothing can beat Riza defeating the “invincible Elric brothers” with a magnet, and the other bits like Arakawa buying a bunch of war/murder books all at once at the bookstore are also humorous.
I think for the vast majority of fans who have bought the Fullmetal Alchemist manga in some form before, this is a wholly skippable release. There are artbooks out there to help fill the void of color images, and I don’t think fixing some typos and leaving speech bubbles intact demand spending such a large sum. However, fans who do choose to double-dip can dump their original copies as long as they don’t care about the bonus material (including the original covers) or are betting on VIZ Media bringing over Chronicle and 4-koma once this Fullmetal Edition is complete.
For those who haven’t added this classic to their collection, if you were such a huge Fullmetal Alchemist fan or manga fan in general, I’m sure you would have started collecting it sometime over the years. If you do suddenly want to own the series, I’m sure price is the #1 factor, which puts the Fullmetal Edition at the bottom of the barrel.
Also, if we’re requesting things, can VIZ Media please allow an option where we can buy this box??
Seriously, take a look at it. The original release had one volume available in a special edition where you could buy an Ed or Al figure, so it may be possible? An option where we can buy Chronicle plus the box or make it larger and Chronicle and/or 4-koma + box. Although most of the boxes they’ve released before were packaged-together singles… But please???