For this presentation, I intend to analyse the audience response to the series Fullmetal Alchemist, through the application of semiotic theory.
Semiotic is the study of sign and meaningful communication, and the process includes, indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism and signification. Semiotics tells us things we already know, in a language that we don’t understand.
Sometimes is important for us to understand the signifier and the signified, signifier is the object itself, for example a picture, a stop sign, an advert on tv, signified is the meaning convey by the signifier.
Fullmetal Alchemist is a steampunk-influenced fantasy, Japanese anime series. The target audience is 16+ audiences and it appeals equal to both genders.
In many ways, the creator of the series integrate philosophy, science, social issues in the plot, and also her own beliefs such as The Law of Equivalent Exchange, inspired by her parents who worked hard in a farm to earn a living. A lot of meaningful content can be absorbed by watching the series, but, I’m going to zoom in a few that have caught my eye:
The Head of State and The Society
I think this is a representation of what happen in our society, that is a society ruled by another society. The Homunculus created the head of the state (Fuher King Bradley), and all his actions are on benefit of the Homunculus. The military forces, the media, the religion, the Priest, all of them works for the Fuher. The war against Ishvalan, it was just an arrangement in order to collect human souls to perform a ritual to obtain the philosopher stone, is not much difference than some wars in our system that are politically justified but, in the end is just to achieve a scientific or other goal.
An important note is that, Arakawa states that, she was mostly inspired by her own country history, a lot of Europeans happenings also served as inspiration to write the story, and sometimes the series seems like a “Fantasy Version of Hitler’s Holocaust”, due to some similarities like: the Ishvalan’s people skin colour and their believes, Fuher King Bradley and Adolf Hitler, The concentration campus and the alchemy laboratories; The villain who wants to become the perfect being, is illustrated as a Blond Caucasian men, is not much different from the Nazi idealism of the Master race.
Believes and Struggles
Scar, in my opinion scar is the representation of a true human mind, who is clouded by an emotion that made him lose is path. And at the end he realizes that he’s wrong and just need to find himself. He is filled with a hatred towards the Alchemists, because of the genocide of his people, and he also believes in God. Scar also can perform alchemy, because his brother gave him, both of his arms during the war. Scar then is on a quest to kill every alchemist that he finds, on his path because, trough his eyes, only God should have the power to create, and those who do, are devious creature that need to be destroyed. And always that scar kills an alchemist, he prays saying that he is sending one more soul to receive judgment, but at times he feels guilty because he knows that by killing is doing something wrong, so sometimes he also prays asking for forgiveness. In my point of view is nothing more than a religious man, that knows that he’s doing wrong, but he keeps on doing because he feels like, he has a propose but he pray to his Father in the moment next, asking for forgiveness, because deep down he believe that he is a good person. I also think that the writer, wanted to do a sort of relation between religion and science, because although are worlds apart, both were created by man, and can be good or bad, depending on how we see it.
7 Deadly sins and Judgement.
The villains, the Homunculus represent the 7 deadly sins. Whenever they interact with a character on the show they seem to be putting said character on a morality trial. In fact, in many ways the Homunculus’s fight scenes and assaults tend to represent divine judgment.
Lust – She kills the serial killers 48 and Barry the chopper. Barry brags about killing women because their, weak but first he’s defeated by Riza Hawkeye then is completely annihilated by Lust. Lust is defeated by Roy Mustang who was on trial for being a womanizer (he states at one point that, when he becomes head of command he wants to force all the women officers to wear miniskirts). After Mustang kills, Lust he stops womanizer altogether and is more open to his feelings about Hawkeye.
Pride – He kills Zolf Kimblee. Kimblee was a psycho who thoroughly enjoyed committing acts of violence for what seemed to be his own amusement. He betrays the entire human race and sides with homunculus just because he’s curious what the battle would be like. Edward Elric could have easily been one of Prides victims considering his arrogance are the reason why he and alphonse lost their bodies. Edward is confident, but as he grows up he learns that he doesn’t know everything there is to know about everything. When Edward defeats Pride, Pride screams Mommy in a shrill voice. The whole time he claims he only looked like a child and was far more evolved but Edward reduced him to sniveling kid crushed by fear.
Greed – Weakens Father and is the reason why father was defeated. Father wanted to become god and thats as greedy as you can get. Greed possesses Ling, but while Ling liked the idea of riches he was always looking out for his own people selfishly. He redeems himself by vowing to helping May’s country with their problems. Edward and Alphonse could have been weakened by avarice due to their ambition to obtain the impossible but it was never anything they could be punished for (or at least more so). When Greed, first dies he is submerged in lava and compressed to liquid which i believe is straight from the greed circle in Inferno.
Sloth – People tend to be confused by the exact definition of Sloth. While it refers to extreme laziness it can also mean apathy or the lack of concern or interest in others or a given situation. Sloths victims are the corrupt people in the Military. Raven dies by being submerged in cement (also from a Book entitled Dante’s Inferno, for that exact sin, for the slothful, become one with the ground so they can be stepped on) which only happens because of Sloths actions. Other military leaders die directly at his hand. They suffer because they stopped caring about the people they swore to protect, and tried to play other people like pawns, while never getting directly involved in a majority of situations. Sloth is killed by Armstrong siblings. The Armstrong’s stand for the complete opposite of what Sloth represents. They are born in a rich family, with who have influence in the military (meaning they could have easily schmoozed their way into high rank and enjoyed a life of leisure) but instead they chose to work hard and persevere. They become great leaders because of this and were able to unite the broken willed soldiers to defeat the abomination before them.
Wrath – Kills the chimeras who were working for greed. They plotted anarchy due to the governments experiments and were willing to harm innocents to get revenge on the government who wronged them. Fu is also killed by Wrath and was known for being incredibly short tempered and harsh on his daughter. His daughter tries to avenge his death by fighting Wrath. She teams up with Greed and Scar and defeats Wrath. Scar was the main character on trial here, for killing, alchemists that were involved in his people’s genocide. The priest Scar encounters, urges Scar not to follow this road or else he would be no different than King Bradley/Wrath. Scar redeems himself by seeing the error of his ways through Winry (who could have gotten revenge on scar for killing her parents and chooses to forgive him instead) and realizes how far he has fallen. He’s far from free from his past crimes but other characters are willing to give him a second chance by destroying everything Wrath represents.
Envy – Envy is interesting because unlike the other homunculus he kills innocent people (such as Hughs and the Ishvalan child). He gets off on manipulating the weak minded. May was the most vulnerable. She was envious of Ling and his country and was willing to be more devious than him to obtain what she thought the world owed her (teaming up with a serial killer for example). Because of this envy is able to trick her and is the reason why he was released to do damage in the final fight. He’s defeated by Mustang and Hawkeye (Hawkeye had jealous insecurities, but is often reassured by Mustangs modest devotion).
Envy commits suicide when he’s revealed by his enemies to be self-loathing and pathetic and finally gives in to his to depression and humiliation and takes his life before their eyes. “(interesting note Mustang was the one who ultimately defeated Envy by both destroying his body and by tormenting him in manner that was basically worse/harsher version of what he was doing to others. Father later forces Mustang to open the gate resulting in mustang losing his eyesight. Having one’s eyes removed is part of the divine Judgment for the envious but Mustang was never really jealous of anyone and is cured at the end of the series by proving that father was a false messiah).
Gluttony – Doesn’t really kill anyone important but he eats people, sometimes he’s not hungry is only for amusement. With his portal mouth, he swallows Edward and Ling (who were both extremely gluttonous when it came to food). He eats the remains of father Conrello who was one of the few fat characters but considering he was already dead… It would have been interesting to see Gluttony attack someone with a more severe issue when it comes to food. Gluttony is killed by Pride by being devoured completely while crying in pain. Pride says he doesn’t consider it cannibalism but I can’t think of the worse punishment for the Gluttonous.