dragonimp: (Ghost flamel)
[personal profile] dragonimp
I'm in the middle of watching the first Brotherhood DVD with my mom, and it's triggered some thoughts. If you want to read my ranting about Brohood it's all under this tag here, but what I wanted to repost and share here are some thoughts about the way Ed's characterization is done in the early stories in the manga:

I’m so used to the Ed we have later on in the series that I forget what he’s like in these early stories, but mom remarked that he comes off as rather cold in the Liore episode. At first I was thinking that because this was the first story Arakawa wrote she might not have had a good sense of their characters yet, but when I thought about Liore and Youswell together and put them against the rest of the series - I think it’s deliberate.

Ed is supposed to come across as an arrogant little shit here. He’s fifteen, he’s been on his own since he was 12, fending for himself and his brother in the adult world without supervision and without decent role models, totally wrapped up in solving his own problems. this panel sums it up pretty well:



The official translation makes it even more explicit: “You know, to be honest, I could care less about my country or the military.”

Ed never thinks outside himself for this whole arc. He dethrones Cornello not for any notion of the greater good, but because he wants Cornello’s Stone and because Cornello pissed him off. He never gives a thought about what he might be doing to this town or her people. He never stops to think about Rose, either; he shows her the truth about Cornello and his religion because he wants to prove to her that he’s right, and because he wants to use her as leverage. His speech to her at the end barely acknowledges that he’s just devastated her by destroying the entire foundation of her world. His “get up and walk” advice is what he does, what works for him; he never considers that her experiences and her temperament might be different.

This attitude continues into the Youswell story arc. For much of this story Ed is selfish and self-centered. These panels illustrate it pretty well:




He’s bothered by the thought that these people aren’t getting enough food, but his very next thought is how this affects him. Al just finished telling him about how Yoki is draining this town dry and all but starving the people here, and the first thing on Ed’s mind is “fuck this guy, he’s really making it hard for me.”

This is pretty typical teenager behavior. Ed isn’t a bad person, but he’s so wrapped up in himself and his own worldview that he simply isn’t registering everything that’s going on around him. He thinks the way he interacts with the world is the way to interact with the world, and he doesn’t even realize how egocentric and self-centered he’s being.

These two pages both illustrate this attitude and give him a turning point:



He refuses to help not because making gold is illegal but because he wouldn’t be getting anything out of it. His advice of “If it’s so bad here then leave” is again what he would do.

But Halling’s words shake him out of his egocentrism. It’s right after this that he comes up with a solution - one that works for these people, not just him. He stays an arrogant little shit through all of it, but his compassion and empathy are peeking through and he’s starting to think about the world outside of himself.

The Nina storyline is what kicks his character development into high gear, but I would say it started here. This is where he starts maturing, and gradually starts coming down off his arrogant alchemists-are-closer-to-god perch. This is what starts the journey that ends here:



And it was done so well that even after repeated readings, this is the first time I’m noticing it.

Date: 2015-06-24 01:29 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Very nice. Really like what you've done in pointing out Ed's development from the beginning of the manga to the end of it. Also love that you point out egocentrism is a hallmark of being a teenager. (Sorry I don't have a dreamwidth account, but I'm callasyndra over on LJ.)

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