Sorry for the lack of posts last week. Our dear Lieutenant Basil, who was scheduled to post, is in Korea having a grand old time with first graders throwing things out windows and receiving random free food from random acquaintances with minimal English-speaking skills. Let’s all show our support for Basil by sending her love through the Potted Led email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now that that’s out the way, let’s move on to my latest Netflix venture: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. This show gives me all the feels. SO MANY FEELS!
Anyway, I’d like to talk about the portrayal of some of the female characters. Because most of them are given Traditional Roles for Girls in adventure stories, but they’re totally human and have agency and allowed to be both feminine and badass in their own way at the same time. It’s excellent. Let’s talk about a few of my favorites, shall we?
As always: spoilers ahead.
When Izumi stopped the flood in Rosembool, she told the crowd she was just a housewife passing through town. She’s the wife of a butcher and sometimes seen sharpening knives (then throwing them). Many years ago, she wanted a child, but her husband and she were unable to conceive one for a long time. When they finally conceived, the baby died, and Izumi attempted to bring the baby back to life via human transmutation. Instead, Izumi lost parts of her inner organs, rendering her nearly bedridden on those days she’s not sharpening knives.
Essentially, she’s the sickly maternal figure, but she’s a foil to Ed and Al’s mother, who is also a sickly maternal figure just not in the least bit dangerous. Then again, Trisha didn’t survive a month in the Briggs Mountains by stealing military food rations. Izumi is the alchemist that agreed to be Ed and Al’s alchemy teacher because they were orphans. As such, she’s given a fair amount of respect from the boys, so we the viewers see her in an authoritative light.
Izumi is my favsies, if only because her husband acknowledges that she’ll kill you via flying knives.
Everybody knows Hawekeye has feelings for Mustang. It’s not exactly a secret. This would worry me because if you’re watching an action/adventure-heavy story, then the majority of the women are probably going to be defined by their romantic relationships. As a young woman with romance fairly low on the Life Priority List, this is something I’ve noticed. Which is why Hawkeye is such a relief to be in this position.
Yes, Hawkeye is the second-in-command to her One True Love that wields quite a bit of power over her, but this does not mean she’s afraid to undermine his authority on multiple occasions. She saves him from various idiotic situations (like Mustang’s first encounter with Scar, in which he forgets that it is raining and his alchemy is useless in the rain) and scolds him more than once (such as when he risks being associated with a group of military soldiers following a soulless body). Hawkeye is not defined by her relationship with Mustang, and it is such a breath of fresh air because she totally could be.
For the record, Hawkeye is defined by her sharpshooting skills. Characters will say something sneaky like “We got the hawk’s eyes on us” and the entire group will relax a little bit. She’s awesome.
Winry is even more at risk of being there only for the sake of being a romantic interest. She’s pretty much the only girl the same age as Ed and Al that associates with them often. She’s not very helpful in a fight, she’s only there to fix up Ed’s automail. You might be surprised what she contributes to the story.
The major world as it concerns the audience in Fullmetal Alchemist is split in two concerns at the beginning of the series: the military government of Amestris and it’s victims (mostly Ishval). Ed and Al, Our Main Protagonists, are narratively obligated to be connected to both sides of the conflict to remain neutral. Ed takes care of the connection to the government by being a State Alchemist. Al can’t be connected to Ishval if the narration wants to keep his relationship to his brother as close as it is supposed to be. And so their childhood friend Winry serves as that connection: her parents were killed during the Ishval conflict.
In addition to this, she’s a notable automail mechanic, as seen through many, many people admiring her work, especially in Rush Valley. Perhaps most importantly, as Maes Hughes happily points out in Brotherhood, she’s the emotional support behind Ed and Al’s convictions. She will always be there for them.
The best thing about these women? There’s not a single bouncy boob in sight. I love a good show without fan service, don’t you?