Why Fullmetal Alchemist’s darkest moment is haunting fans two decades later

Fullmetal Alchemist is one series that wasn’t afraid to go dark, but that one moment early in the manga’s run has haunted fans for years.

The darkest moment in Fullmetal Alchemist has haunted fans for two decades and it’s pretty easy to see why. First published in 2001, Hiromu Arakawa’s popular manga series follows Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who try to bring back their dead mother using alchemy. However, when it backfires, Edward loses his leg while Alphonse loses his body entirely. Edward manages to save his brother’s consciousness by giving up his right arm and transferring it into a metallic body, vowing to restore it. As the series ventured into dark places as a conspiracy began to unfold within its government, one moment in particular has stuck with fans so much that mentioning it causes chills.


Chapter 5, “The Alchemist’s Affliction” follows Edward and Alphonse as they search for a bio-alchemist to see if there is anything in the field that will help them restore their bodies. They are referred to a chimera specialist named Shou Tucker, a man credited with creating the first talking chimera, a creature created by the merging of two beings who are not genetically the same. When they meet him, he is struggling to get his driver’s license renewed and is taking care of his young daughter Nina and her dog Alexander. After getting to know her for some time, the brothers return and see that he has created a new Chimera…but as soon as she speaks, Edward is horrified to discover that it is Nina who has merged with her dog. It ends up being depressing as they can’t turn their backs on her.

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Why has this moment stuck with fans years after its debut? The answer lies in his clever writing style and tonality. For starters, this is a chapter that’s packed with foreshadowing. Little clues are thrown through the chapter that come back later when Edward realizes what’s going on. For example, a chimera they are told about in the beginning lines up with Shou and mentions that his wife “left” him. It later turns out that this chimera is actually the result of a failed experiment in which Shou fused his wife with another creature, resulting in her death. On re-reading it, fans can see that the clues to this reveal were there all along.

Nina is turned into a chimera in FMA

Furthermore, the drastic change of tone arms the reader for the chilling revelation. Before Nina’s transformation, the atmosphere is constantly filled with humor. For example, Edward being jumped at by Alexander is a way for Arakawa to frustrate readers’ vigilance by relieving tension. Then, in one drastic cut, she pulls the carpet to the next day, when storm clouds form and there’s more shadow than usual. Everything comes to a head at the reveal when the artwork takes on the tone of a horror story. It’s so unexpected, but it works.

However, the biggest reason this chapter is memorable is how it establishes Nina and Alexander. They are present throughout, allowing the reader to get to know and care for them. Nina is a delightful character and seeing her interact with Alphonse and Edward creates a bond with them. Arakawa spends just enough time with them to make them likable, and then she completes the arc with the end of the belly punch. It’s a finale that upsets readers because not only is this a little girl turned into a chimera, it’s the little girl that readers like. And now she’s just…gone.

Fullmetal Alchemist would be another nine years before it finally ended, but nothing in the story ever came close to being a horror show like this chapter in the saga. It’s dark, depressing and, after four chapters of relative ease, surprises the reader. Had it not been for Arakawa’s clever writing, this could have been a pit stop in the Alchemists’ journey, but the development of Nina and the use of premonitions heighten it. This is character work at its finest, and it was done in this moment Fullmetal Alchemist the most memorable for obscure reasons.

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