Monthly Archives: December 2014

Gender Equality in FMA: Civilian Women

Last week I took a look at the military women in Fullmetal Alchemist, focusing on just how well Hiromu Arawaka represents female characters. Of course, there are also incredibly influential woman outside of the military of the series. So let’s take a look at the rest of our leading ladies:

Izumi Curtis

Izumi is as talented as any of the state alchemists in the show but is incredibly anti-state. Instead of following a career in alchemy, she is incredibly proud of her position as a housewife.

Shortly after Ed and Als mother died, Izumi took the boys in and taught them the basics of alchemy and fighting. She also inadvertently acts as a surrogate mother for the boys, which is particularly poignant when you find out that she lost her own child and (like the Elrics) attempted human transmutation in order to bring him back. Izumi is the key motherly figure in the boy’s life and also initially acts as a mother to the homunculi Wrath in the 2003 anime. Her devotion to Wrath (who came from her own son) is best demonstrated in the scene where she single-handedly takes on the military in order to save him.

Interestingly, Izumi has one of the few romantic relationships in the series and despite her often cold and angry temperament its one of the sweetest relationships imaginable. Izumi and Sig care very deeply for each other and were both devastated when they lost their child. Sig also shows a great deal of concern over Izumi as she lost some of her innards during her attempt at human transmutation, and as a result is constantly coughing up blood.

Izumi is the perfect depiction of a woman being both tough and caring. She knows exactly when she pushes too far and when the people need affection and when they need discipline, which makes her the ideal mother figure.

Winry Rockbell

Winry is the main woman in the Elric boys’ life and even marries Edward at the end of the series.
Similar to Roy and Riza, Winrys romantic feelings towards Ed aren’t apparent until the very end of the series, which is pretty rare in most series. Winrys main role is as Ed’s automail mechanic and she is shown to be incredibly talented and pretty progressive in her field. Winry is incredibly enthusiastic about engineering and is even referred to by Ed as an “automail otaku”. Interestingly, Winry manages to retain her femininity and doesn’t fall into the typical tom-boy stereotype. She also has a range of surgical knowledge gleaned from her families’ textbooks, and manages to deliver a baby.

Interestingly, despite her role as the main female, Winry is very rarely cast as the damsel in distress. In Brotherhood, Winry is used by Kimberly as a pawn to control the Elric brothers but she soon finds out and manages to use her position to her advantage. The most striking instance of Winry being a damsel in distress is when she is kidnapped by Barry the Chopper. However, during this time Edward is also captured and Ed is in fact presented as being the most vulnerable and is the most traumatised by the events.

Despite not having a particularly active role in the course of the series, Winry is still an incredibly talented mechanic who is integral to the boy’s travels and is a pretty good depiction of woman who can be both feminine and groundbreaking in fields such as engineering.

Dr. Pinako Rockbell

Pinako is Winry’s grandmother and raised Winry when her parents died and also cared for the Elric brothers when their mother died. Unlike most doting grandmother characters, Pinako is both a surgeon (which surprises a lot of people, but it is implicitly stated that Winry comes from a long line of doctors. Plus she would need the medical knowledge in order to do auto mail surgery) and an engineer, working as a self-employed automail mechanic despite her old age. It’s pretty clear to see where Winry got her talent from.


Pinako doesn’t factor in greatly in the story line, but she does provide a great mother-figure for the protagonists. After their mothers’ death, Ed and Al are shown going to Pinako’s home every night for meals. And despite the fact that they burn down their own house, the boys still consider Risembool their home thanks to Pinakos efforts to make the boys comfortable in her own home.

Chris Mustang (aka Madame Christmas)

I really wish that Madame Christmas got more screen time and development in the series. At first, it seems like Roy visiting her bar is just further proof of his debauchery. But towards the conclusion, we discover that she is Roys paternal aunt and adoptive mother and that all of the women under her care act as informants to Roy and that Madame Christmas is a skilled informant, which was one hell of a plot twist that defied all expectations of her character.

Paninya

Fullmetal Alchemist is pretty much the best TV show around for representation (which is pretty rare for anime since most are based solely in japan) and Paninya is probably the best example of this, being a disabled woman of colour.

Paninya was involved in a train crash as a child, where she lost both her parents, both of her legs, and in the first anime, one of her arms. She was homeless until Dominic (an automail engineer) took her in and gave her automail limbs. Like Edward, Paninya is a great example of disabled people thriving. She may not set the best example of a petty thief, but you can’t deny that she’s awesome at it. She even bests Edwards in their initial confrontation (only to be caught by Winry later in the fight). Paninya does eventually reform her ways after Winry explains that stealing isn’t the best way to repay Dominic for all of his help.

May Chang

May is a Xingese princess and instead of the typical trope of the princess doing nothing and waiting to be saved, May is on a mission to save her clan despite her young age. May is presented as being a sweet little girl, who is one of the few characters who has romantic aspirations (first Edward and then Alphonse).

Despite this characterisation, she is also incredibly intelligent. Similar to the Elrics, May is a prodigy and is exceptional at alkahestry (the Xingese version of alchemy) and is also incredibly skilled in martial arts. She is often depicted as besting the Elric brothers either in fighting capability and intelligence which given her age is incredible.

Lan Fan

Lan Fan is the personal bodyguard to Prince Ling Yao. Similar to Riza Hawkweye, Lan Fan is fiercely loyal to her boss and (also similar to Riza) this relationship is never played up as a romance as it would be in most other series.

When Lan Fan is first introduced, her gender isn’t shown and most people assumed that she was male due to her profession. During a fight with Edward, her mask is destroyed and Ed is so shocked by the fact that he is fighting a women that Lan Fan managed to get the upper hand.


Lan Fan is an incredible fighter, however she was wounded in a fight with Wrath and the injuries left her arm immobilised. Realising that she and the prince are trapped after she attempts to run away, Lan Fan mimics a trick that Edward used when they first fought by cutting off her now useless arm and using it as a decoy.

Her dedication both to her prince and her clan is incredible and Lan Fan is certainly one of the more underrated characters in the series.

Martel

Now that I think about it, I probably could have included Marta in my list of military women as that was a part of her background. Marta fought in the Ishvalan war and was subsequently imprisoned in laboratory five where she was turned into a chimera after her body was combined with that of a snakes.

After an escape from the laboratory, Marta became a henchman of the rouge homunculus Greed. I do really feel for all of Greeds henchmen as they were unjustly imprisoned and experimented on and then were subsequently killed by the military and homunculi. Martas death was particularly traumatising purely for the way that it affected Alphonse. Marta discovers that the Fuhrer is actually a homunculus and slips into Als armour while she tells him the new information. Whilst she tells Al, the Furher approaches them and stabs her through the armour. Which leaved Alphonse with a corpse inside his body and he is later shown still covered in blood.

Marta is a particularly tragic character who retains the courage to fight against others and this is stressed in the 2003 anime in which she fights Bradley as she blames him for the death of her friends. Despite her initial representation as being a part of a criminal gang, Marta is a particularly admirable character.

Rose Thomas

I’m never quite sure how I feel about Rose. I particularly hate the whitewashing that happened in the Brotherhood series (which I talked about in this post) but as far as I’m aware Hiromu Arakawa had no part in that (although there are some reports that this was done in order to make the character look more like how she had been drawn in the manga).

I do like that different types of religion are depicted in the series. Edward is a devout atheist and pretty verbal about it when the topic comes up. Rose was very involved in her faith until she found out that the priest was a sham. I’m not fond of the 2003 depiction as this takes the religious depictions a bit too far as after the revolution, Rose becomes the “holy mother”. It is revealed that during the rebellion, she was captured and raped by a solider. Due to the trauma of the event, Rose became a mute. She was later kidnapped by Dante who planned on stealing her body to use as her own. Thankfully Rose wasn’t portrayed as a victim the entire time, however it isn’t until she sees Edward again that she can suddenly talk and she confessed that she’s always been in love with him.

All in all, I like Roses character in the manga and in Brotherhood, but I think that the 2003 version took too many liberties with the story line where she was represented as a constant victim who could only be saved by the appearance of the male protagonists, which is highly uncharacteristic for Hiromu Arakawas work. I much prefer the original version where Rose embodies the spirit of people who repair and rebuild after a disaster which is depicted in her involvement in the rebuilding of Reole (aka Lior) after the revolution.


That’s all for today’s post. You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t included the female villains (Lust and the 2003 Sloth). This was mainly because I don’t really think they’re designed to represent women as they are a different species who are supposed to lack humanity. But if people are disappointed that I’ve left them out, I’d be more than happy to do a review of the homunculi. Just let me know.

Thanks for reading. Remember to leave a comment telling me what you think.

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The Liebster Award

So a few months ago I was nominated for the Liebster Award by The Idle European. I meant to post a reply, but completely forgot about it until I was going through the comments on my blog… Oops.

As far as I know, the award if given to bloggers from other bloggers in an attempt to create a community of sharing different blogs. So here’s my (very belated) reply to The Idle Euopeans questions about myself.

1. What’s your favourite Pokemon?
I’m going to be honest with you guys here…. I have never owned a pokemon game (gasp!) I watched the series on and off as a kid, but never really played the games. So based solely on the most memorable pokemon, I’d go for Jigglypuff. I loved that little guy as a kid.

I’ve always been more than a Digimon fan though. I’ve recently gotten my little sister into the series, so we’ve been watching the first season from the beginning. I have much stronger feelings about Digimon, so here’s my favorite, Patamon.

2. What are the top three things on your bucket list?
– Publish a novel
– Go back to Disneyland
– Learn another language

3. Time to confess, do you still sleep with a soft toy?
Sometimes. And I regret nothing!

4. Who is your favourite super-villain?
I think my favourite right now is Loki. I bought the first few Agents of Asgard comic, and given that the first panel was him singing Wicked, it kind of bumped him up to my favourite.

5. Where do you see yourself in 60 years from now?
Eighty-one…. Well hopefully I’ll have achieved some of my bucket list by then.I honestly don’t know I tend not to plan too far ahead.

6. Who is your favourite author and why?
Definitely JK Rowling. I mean I took a class in her work while at university, so I’m pretty invested at this point.

7. Which celebrity do you lust for?
Yeah, no. I’m not really big on the lusting thing…

8. Which movement of architecture is your favourite?
I also know absolutely nothing about architecture. I like Ancient Grecian buildings though? I studied classical civilizations in college and we looked at the houses and temples from Pompei Ostia and Herculaneum, that was pretty cool.

9. What is your blogging sin?
Going weeks without posting anything. Sorry guys.

10. Were you traumatized by an animated character as a child?
I like to think that I was never really scared of tv when I was a kid. But there are a couple of instances where animated characters fully traumatized me.

Hugo, Barts siamese twin, from the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror screwed me over pretty bad. I have no idea why this episode freaked me out so much, watching it back its actually pretty tame, but it did and I was terrified to go in our attic for years after watching it.

Screweyes from ‘Were Back: A Dinosaurs Story’. This is a pretty cheesy kids film that not a lot of people remember, I posted a review of it here, which explains why he freaked me out and how his death was creepy as hell.

And this one didn’t happen until I was older, but the death of Nina in FMA is something which definitely traumatized me (along with most of the fandom). Both her and Hughes death are way too emotional for me, which sucks because they flashback to it in every opening and every other episode.

11. What is the meaning of life?
Don’t be a jerk to other people.

As I understand it, I have to nominate people and ask them eleven questions now. So since I dont really know many bloggers, I’ll just nominate two. Steph (Aspiration and Might) and Just Another Anime Fan, here are your questions:

1. If you could have any pet in the world, illegal or not, what would you get?
2. What was your favourite cartoon growing up?
3. Coolest thing you’ve ever been for Halloween?
4. What’s your dream job?
5. When it’s New Year’s, do you make New Year Resolutions and actually commit to them?
6. Which horror movie scared you the most?
7. Strangest food you’ve eaten?
8. Do you play an instrument?
9. Do you swear in front of your parents?
10. Someone offers you a chance at immortality. Do you take it?
11. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Good luck guys 🙂

Gender Equality in FMA: Military Women

It’s very rare to see solid, well developed female characters in any form of media, and this is something that I’ve always admired Fullmetal Alchemist for. Even though the protagonists of the series are male, the supporting ladies are incredibly well developed and not just used as love interests for the men.

Regarding why she writes strong working women, Hirmou Arakwa states: “Our family motto is, ‘those who dont work don’t deserve to eat’. Many people think that farmers in Hokkaido live a laid back life, but everyone has to work hard to make ends meet – even the women and kids. That’s the reason there are so many working women in ‘Fullmetal.’”

This philosophy is something that is apparent throughout the series and fully visible in every female character Hirmou writes. This is particularly true of the military (a stereotypically a male dominated area) where we have: First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong, Second Lieutenant Maria Ross, Second Lieutenant Rebecca Catalina and Second Class Private Sheska.

First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye:

Riza is a member of team Mustang and is clearly represented as being the most valuable member of the team. In his chess analogy, Roy refers to her as the Queen, which if you’re familiar with the rules of chess makes her the strongest piece. Riza is a firearms specialist and proves herself invaluable in any adaption of Fullmetal Alchemist and constantly saves Roy from harm.

Interestingly, the devotion shared between her and Roy isn’t given a romantic focus. Both Riza and Winrys’ aspects of the story could easily be adapted to make them just the love interests, but instead Hiromu gives them their own personality and storylines. Instead of being romantically involved, Riza is simply incredibly loyal to Roy which is portrayed as being one of her greatest strengths.

Overall, I definitely agree with Roy’s description of Riza. She is a queen and should always be treated as such.

Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong

I’m always upset that Olivier was missed out of the original 2003 anime. In the original, we were introduced to the rest of the Armstrong family but the eldest sister Olivier was entirely missed out of the storyline. Thankfully she shows up in Brotherhood and is just as incredibly as she was in the manga. Olivier is known as the Ice Queen as she is the commanding officer at Amestris’ northern border; Fort Briggs.

Olivier is an incredible commander and leads her soldiers with a fierce and unwavering commitment to her duty. There are issues with her personality however, particularly how abusively she treats her younger brother Alex, seeing him as a coward due to his refusal to take part in the Ishvalan war. Thankfully the pair appear to reunite in the finale of Brotherhood, where they fight together to defeat their enemies.

Second Lieutenant Maria Ross

Maria Ross is the single most underrated character in the Fullmetal Alchemist series.

After Ed and Al escape to tackle the Fifth Laboratory, Maria and her partner race after the pair to protect them. After ensuring Ed is safe in the hospital, Maria slaps Edward, berating him for ignoring Armstrongs orders about staying away from the laboratory. Maria is visibly terrified immediately after doing this, as Ed is a much higher rank than her. But Ed admits that he deserved it, and thanks her for doing so.

In the 2003 adaptation, Maria is part of the rescue force to save Ed and Al from Laboratory 5.When they finally find the boys, they find that Edward has triggered an extremely powerful transmutation which makes him a hazard to approach. Unlike the other soldiers, Ross walks through the incredibly dangerous array in order to hug Ed, causing him to relax and thus saving everyone.

Our protagonists are constantly forced to act like adults and Maria is one of the few characters who acknowledges that they are still children and treats them as such. Another more subtle instance of this is when Ed struggles to salute as he is still adjusting to military life. Instead of forcing him to continue the salute, Ross offers her hand to shake.

Later in the storyline, Maria is framed for the murder of Hughes and has to pretend to have been killed by Roy in order to escape execution for a crime she would never commit. She takes this in her stride and despite having to abandon her family and friends, Maria agrees to escape to Xing for her own safety. She is later shown during The Promised Day, helping with Mustangs resistance, despite the danger she faces by returning.

All in all, Maria is an incredibly caring person and deserves a lot more recognition for her actions throughout both series.

Second Lieutenant Rebecca Catalina

Rebecca shows up late in the manga, and as a result wasn’t featured in the 2003 anime. Her first appearance shows her and Riza talking about how Rebecca wants a husband (which is unusual for an anime which avoids romantic relationships when it can).

However, it transpires that during the meeting, Rebecca has slipped Riza an incredibly important message about the oncoming resistance. She is later shown during The Promised Day where she is represented as being just as talented in combat as Riza. Rebecca provides a good contrast to Riza showing that a woman can be tough whether or not she is interested in romantic relationships.

Second Class Private Sheska

Sheska received a job at the military after the military’s records were destroyed as her photographic memory allows her to provide perfect copies of the missing files.

In the 2003 adaption, Sheska was fired from the military shortly after Hughes death, but was rehired by Frank Archer in order to recreate some files. Sheska uses this opportunity to investigate Hughes murder and figures out that the Fuhrers secretary ‘Juliet Douglas’ was actually killed during the Ishvalan war. Sheska does initially believe to be the work of aliens, but the information that she and Winry discovers is instrumental in the Elrics figuring out the identity of Sloth.

I’ve always found Sheska to be the most relatable character in the military. But that may be because of her love of books. She is initially show buried in a pile of book in her home. Sheska is incredibly passionate about reading and manages to gain a job in the military because she excels at what she loves.

So those are our military ladies. I don’t think that I missed anyone out, but if I did, then feel free to let me know. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for an analysis of the other brilliant women in Fullmetal Alchemist