Fullmetal Alchemist: What Makes Us Human?

Hey Grimms,

I must say rewatching Fullmetal Alchemist has really been the fodder for a bunch of new blog post ideas. It’s just such a deep show when you get down to it I can’t help exploring some of the themes.

Something that Fullmetal Alchemist brings up for me is this idea of what makes someone human. How do we dish out this title? Is it how were look? Act? Where we are born? The ability to learn? The ability to know right from wrong? The ability to feel? How do we determine this?

If you have never watched Fullmetal Alchemist before I’d like to suggest you check out my post Fullmetal Alchemist Revisited. This post will contain spoilers so if you want to avoid them please do not read further!

What Makes Us Human?


In Alchemy the idea of trying to bring a human back from the dead is highly taboo. Ed and Al find out why the hard way when they try to bring back their Mother. In the process Al ends up losing his entire body while Ed ends up losing his arm and leg. That alone sounds terrifying but it isn’t the worst part. What the end up transmuting is a hunk of grotesque flesh and bones that seems capable of speech but is horrifying to the eye. As Ed gazes upon it he comes to the realization that this beast of a thing he has created is NOT his mother and he has risked his brother’s life for nothing.

He moves on though. Ed is able to get his brother’s soul and attach it to some armor. He is later made an automail arm and leg thanks to his friend Winrey and her grandmother. Both the boys finally realize that a human transmutation to bring back their mother is impossible and settle instead on trying to recover what they lost, Al’s body and Ed’s limbs. To achieve this the decided to pursue The Philosopher’s Stone and Ed joins the State Alchemists in order to gain funds and resources to reach their goals. Everything seems set for a wonderful adventure.

But wait…

What about the horrible creature Ed witnessed during his transmutation? What Ed realizes much to late is that the creature he created didn’t die or disappear. It grew stronger and grew into a homoculus. In fact every time an alchemist attempts to bring someone back from the dead a homuculus is created. It is said that these creatures are not human even though they have the same apparence as the person that was being ressurected. Instead these homoculus are considered cruel beings without the capability to love. However as the show progresses we have to ask ourselves if that is really the case.

The homoculus are consistently told that they are not human and because of it they are willing to sacrifice anything in order obtain The Philosopher’s Stone themselves and become human. The interesting thing is that each of the homoculus exhibt characteristics that according to the alchemist they shouldn’t be capable of.

But they do…

They show that they are capable of human emotions. Fear, love, pain, jealousy, all of these things they are able to exhibit. I couldn’t help feel for Wrath who wanted nothing more than a mother. His fear of losing Sloth and his devastation when he did was genuine. Even though he’s a homunculus how can we say that he didn’t care for Sloth? Gluttony is so distraught when he loses Lust that has his mind completely taken away just so that he can focus on eating people instead of mourning. If those feelings weren’t valid why would such drastic measures be necessary? Envy may not seem like a ball of a emotion but he was willing to sacrifice his life going through the gate not knowing if he would make it or not just to find his Dad to kill him. I know killing his Dad doesn’t sound very nice but think about it. He was so hurt by the fact that his Dad abandoned him that he was willing to go that far and to be honest I’m not 100% sure he really wanted him dead. I think it was more about he wanted his acknowledgement.

The situation is so sad in a way. They are created by humans yet denied the right to human emotions. Had they been given that right than maybe they wouldn’t have been so focused on finding the stone. This again begs the question what makes them human? If the homunculus had been treated differently I think it is very possible that they wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to try to become human through the stone. What they were really looking for was someone to not only validate them as individuals but as people worthy of having emotions.

Did they do some awful things in the name of the stone. OF COURSE! But they were not the only ones! The truth is that while they poked and prodded things each human made their own decision. Showing that humans are quite capable of brutality as well. While some of the soldiers were haunted by their experiences at war other basked in it. How is it that they can be called human? The homunculus killed and manipulated people but Tucker turned his own daughter into a Chimera with no remorse.

Both humans and homunculus were capable of horrendous things during this show and at the same time they were capable of beautiful things. The Alchemist didn’t understand the homunculus and because of this they dehumanized them before they even took the chance to know them. I think this can happen in the real world as well amongst humans. We see people of different races, cultures, religions, genders, sexual orientations or whatever it is and judge them as beneath human status before we even get to know them. This has been the bases of some of the most terrible blights on human history. We can never forget for example slavery in America was possible because people were told African people were just animals and not actual human which justified their horrible treatment and enslavement.


I think as people we have to be really carefully on how we judge others and who we consider worthy of our consideration. Just because someone is different doesn’t automatically make them a bad person and sometimes by judging them prematurely we create a self fulfilling prophecy. Which is a shame because maybe given a chance they could really surprise us and we could learn from them. I seriously wonder how Lust, Wrath, Envy, etc would be different had they been treated with humanity from the very beginning of their creation.

That’s it for me today Grimms! Comment below with your thoughts on humanity. I know it’s a big topic but I really do love discussing stuff like this with you guys ❤


I do not own these images

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