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