Vengeance, Virtue-Signaling & Anti-Blackness in Fullmetal Alchemist

We've seen it before.

The bald social commentary behind animation.

We saw it in The Incredibles 2, the animated X-Men series, The Winx, and Arthur.


As you can see, sometimes I write about it (like I will with The Incredibles 2) and sometimes I don't.


But today, I'm writing about the anime Fullmetal Alchemist, particularly the crap (virtue-signaling and anti-blackness) featured in season 1 episode 34.

Please note the following:

  1. Everyone knows that anime, as well as other forms of media used to tell stories about fictional things, aren't real. However, ALL forms of media used to tell fictional stories have real consequences because they condition their viewers. This media draws on real life. Otherwise: how could we understand, relate to, or find meaning in any of it?

  2. If you get upset that I use the term "Black" in place of "brown-skinned" or "White" in place of "white-skinned", cope. I know these characters aren't Black in the sense of a Black American or White in the sense of a White American. I know this just as well as you know that "black" and "white", as it relates to people, is used to describe a collection of phenotypes that tend to appear together. For this post, these terms will be used in a strictly phenotypic sense.

This anime follows two brothers, Edward Elrich (a state alchemist nicknamed "the Fullmetal Alchemist", shown right) and his brother Alphonse Elrich (an unofficial alchemist) as they try to escape the punishment they're enduring for breaking one of nature's primal laws. Ed and Al are from a war-mongering nation called Amestris. Amestris is fashioned as a central Asian nation far west of Xing (which is fashioned as China, bastion of "the East") but east of what they called "the West" (a well-known moniker of continental Europe and the accompanying heavily euro-colonized places). Amestris is a land populated by predominantly white-skinned people like Edward.


There are a few brown-skinned Amestrians. Of course, because the creators of this anime are trolls, Black Amestrians are frequently depicted in the racist, Little Black Sambo style (i.e. dark skin + thick, shapeless pink/red lips). Check out one of the generals to the right who is drawn this way. For more context, you can check out one of my other blog posts in which I trace this trend throughout the anime sphere.


In any case, the general whiteness of the Amestrian population is reinforced by a slew of explicit references to Christian European (particularly Germany, Greece and Nordic countries) culture.


Earlier, I called Amestris "war-mongering". Here's why:

  1. It's stated in the anime that the country has an established militaristic organization. This is said to be due to the current king (called the Fuhrer). Please note that Amestris became militaristic even though there seemed to be little need for it (the people never wanted for anything, and no one ever antagonized them).

  2. Amestris currently has a truce of sorts with Drachma (a country to the north of it). This may seem obvious, but I'll state it for the record: you'd only call a truce if you were fighting in the first place.

  3. Amestris (unprovoked) annexed a neighboring country, Ishival. Ishival is a nation of brown-skinned people with red eyes and white/gray hair. Amestrian soldiers describing Ishivalians describe them as religious extremists (as if that's a reason why they should have been treated the way they were). Ishival, once annexed, became the eastern region of Amestris.

  4. The Ishivalians resisted (as they should) being annexed by burning Amestrian fields (scorched earth policy).

  5. While occupying Ishival, what appeared to be an Amestrian (later found out to be a disguised third-party) soldier suddenly murdered an Ishivalian child.

  6. This enraged the Ishivalians and sparked armed resistance. Amestrians found it increasingly hard to maintain order in the newly-annexed Ishival.

  7. Ultimately, the Amestrians, who had superior military might, decided to eliminate the Ishivalians to get the "peace" they wanted. This became known as the 'Ishivalian Massacre'.

  8. What's left of the Ishivalians? They’re now a rag-tag group of refugees, mostly women, children, and old men. They live in hiding and in exile.

There is one exception. There is a notorious Ishivalian named Scar. He is a warrior-monk that is out for vengeance for his people. He is described as a "radical"/"criminal"/"serial killer"/"terrorist" because he successfully targeted and killed state alchemists.


He's a bAd gUy.

Or is he?


Because radicals are sown seeds, not magic tricks.


Radicals are grown when Burkina Faso gets colonized and Hawaii gets annexed and Palestine is occupied and Haiti's sovereignty is undermined and a fake war on terror reduces Iraq to rubble, etc...

In season 1 episode 34, Ed and Al run into an Ishivalian at a northern fort that they visit for information. After their overblown "Que? Es negro???" reactions to finding out that the soldier they're with is an Ishivalian, we see an interesting exchange take place.


The (irrelevantly admixed) Ishivalian randomly tries to guilt-trip Edward by talking about the massacre of his people. (Why did I call his admixture "irrelevant"? 1. He presents as a full-blooded Ishivalian, so what does it matter? 2. Are we supposed to think that because he's mixed that that allows him to really see it from both sides??? FOH with that essentialism. There are no fixed mindsets for anyone. We all know an Uncle Ruckus. And we all know a...whoever the opposite of Uncle Ruckus is, lmao.) I found this to be an interesting ridicule of what salty Whites refer to as "The Race Card" when they're sIcK oF tHe PiTy PaRtY.


What happens next is even more hilarious:

We see Edward struggle with his fake white guilt.

But then: He suddenly grew a pair, lol.


Whereas his brother (Alphonse) was content to be polite and politically correct (i.e. hide behind white liberalism and colorblindness--YES: we are fans of CRT here--cope), Edward wanted to go a different route:


Eddie went the: "Yeahhhh, that wasn't our best moment, but we both did some things, so....let's not point fingers." route. I didn’t know Sybil flew in from Downton Abbey!


The caucasity(!) of Edward (as a white-skinned person) AND the audacity (!) of the Japanese people behind Fullmetal Alchemist to have such an exchange!


ASTOUNDING.

But then again, maybe not.

After all:

That was them, wasn't it?


How dare they sit there and insinuate that we should "get over" atrocities committed in the name of race/nationality-based domination just because people had the courage to employ self-defense when faced with genocide and murderous imperialists?

After an exchange in which the Ishivalian apologizes for making things uNcOmFoRtAbLe for Edward, they had the nerve to have Edward say (I'm paraphrasing here): "...This one Black guy (Scar) did me dirty, but I ain't mad. We cool now. Everyone should get over this race thing. There's only one race, the human race!"


Oh!

So now Edward is forgiving, and objective, and eMpAtHeTic!!! His "cup runneth over" with virtues!


Oh!

So it's rUdE to bring up government-sponsored genocides for which there were no reparations, huh? Just because it's in the past??? It seems that confederate sympathizers, nay, White Americans in general, might have some ideological buddies in Japan...


It makes perfect sense to me that the Koreans (and many other people) are still pissed at this Japan (https://www.history.com/news/comfort-women-japan-military-brothels-korea), which is furiously trying to rebrand itself through soft-power (global otaku fever).


I rebuke them!

That "can't we all get along" crap is dead.


I guess they thought they could do/write whatever in the anime simply because the victims were brown-skinned. Japanese anti-blackness always shows itself in anime like these. It's at these times that my affection for anime wanes. If you can't respect us, at least don't disrespect us.


Don't be this guy:

Let me lay it out for the dummies reading this post:


The point is that the context of Edward's stupid-ass, white-fragility perspective was ALL WRONG.

THE AMESTRIANS STARTED THE STRIFE.

As Magno said: "Don't start no stuff, won't be no stuff!"