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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/16/2005 Archived Entry: "Book review: FullMetal Alchemist Volume 1: The Land of Sand"

FullMetal Alchemist Volume 1: The Land of Sand (novel)
by Makoto Inoue
Translated by Alexander O. Smith
Published by VIZ Media

Review by Tom Good

This novel, based on the hit anime and manga series FullMetal Alchemist, tells the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two boys who have suffered the consequences of an alchemy experiment gone wrong. This disaster left Edward with an artificial leg and hand, and his younger brother Alphonse as a disembodied spirit inhabiting a large suit of armor. The two heroes search for the Philosopher's Stone in the hopes that it can restore their bodies. On their journey, they come across a desert mining town in decline, with the gold rush over and its fortunes long past. Here, another pair of boys has been impersonating the Elrics and conducting alchemy experiments of their own.

Though The Land of Sand is the first FullMetal Alchemist novel, the main story is actually based on episodes 11 and 12 of the anime, which were called "The Other Brothers Elric." This is followed by a short, 44-page bonus story called The Phantom of Warehouse 13, which is an amusing "ghost story" based on part of an unrelated episode.

This novel presents a very competent adaptation of the anime, and gets the characters of Edward and Alphonse just right, contrasting Ed, who is outgoing and headstrong, with his shy, sweet, and thoughtful brother Alphonse. The two Elric impostors also share some of these characteristics, which the brothers cannot help but notice. And Ed's famous sensitivity about his own short stature, which figures into almost every episode of the anime, also appears here.

While reading this, I could not help comparing it with Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence, After The Long Goodbye. Whereas the Ghost In The Shell novel reveals a whole new side story and adds more depth to the character of Batou, The Land of Sand does not really add anything new. If you have seen the FullMetal Alchemist anime, you already know what happens here. The book is fun, but could have offered more if it had presented some new information about the story or characters.

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