I’m proud to present an article today on Fullmetal Alchemist from KnightofCalvary, a graduating seminary student and chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army Reserves and former A.D. Vision partner through Suncoast and Anime Central. If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, send us a pitch via email.
It might be cliche to write and talk about Fullmetal Alchemist, one of the most successful manga and anime series to date, but isn’t that really only because it’s so incredibly well written and executed from a technical aspect? In fact it was so well received that an entire additional series which followed the manga storyline more closely called, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, was commissioned and released. Like most FMA fans, I liked the original, but loved Brotherhood. It’s edgy, rough, and messy. Which brings me to the topic of conversation today, the real size and nature of evil.
The world that we live in is ugly, broken, and full of so much mess. Perhaps it will be a school shooting this week or another report of ISIS killing and beheading women and children. There is an abundance of evil in the world and it seems to know no end. So what does this all have to do with FMA: Brotherhood? In what is perhaps the greatest sequence of events on the power of forgiveness and the nature of evil, FMA: Brotherhood episode 54 and Mustang’s battle against Envy, offers an unparalleled look into the human soul and it’s struggle against the bitterness, anger, and hatred that plague our hearts in world filled with so much evil. Now of course if you’ve never seen either of the FMA series, this would be a good time to stop reading.
***SPOILERS TO FOLLOW***
“Is that what you want to be Colonel, another monster?!”, Edward Elric screams at the rage filled Roy Mustang as he is finally about to exact his revenge against the homunculus known as Envy for killing his best friend and honestly one of the shows most beloved characters, Maes Hughes. After arguing amongst themselves and convincing Roy to stand down, Envy goes on a rant about how this is the perfect opportunity for them to get revenge for killing their friend, but they still refuse. In fact Edward makes a point of pitying Envy for they way it responds. In the end, the kindness shown to Envy leads Envy to commit suicide and kill itself. There are simply layers upon layers of deep biblical connections and truths to draw from in this scene. There are two major points that I would like to address. The first is the power of actioned forgiveness. The verse for that which stuck out most in my mind was Romans 12:19-21
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
– Romans 12:19-21
The phrase, “heap burning coals on his head,” is entirely culture from the time period that Paul is writing Romans and would express something similar to surprise or shock. Based upon the way that Envy responded to the whole thing, I would say that there was just a little bit more than simple shock. You see in a lot of ways, society tells how we should respond to being injured or hurt. We are to either cut off those relationships as unhealthy or confront the person and demand retribution, but Jesus offers another way. Jesus offers a way that nullifies the effects of evil and makes the whole thing powerless. Summarized the teaching would be, “Do good because doing good is always the right thing to do. Don’t use someone else’s evil behavior to justify sin in your own life. That’s just silly. Guard your heart by not giving evil a foothold and do good no matter what’s done to you.” That is certainly far harder to do than it is to say, but it is none the less what we as followers of Jesus are suppose to striving for in the world.
The second point that I want to briefly touch on because I think it’s something that is rarely pointed out, though the biblical narrative makes the point clear enough. God is bigger than the devil and all the evil in the world. So often it seems like we have this gigantic picture of evil in the world because of how destructive its forces are in the world today, but is this reality. Is there really some kinda of supernatural wrestling match going on in the world between two equally powered gods? One good and one evil. No! Not even close. The devil and all of the evil in the world is constantly shown in scripture to be under the complete rule and authority of God. Now, I grant you that brings up a whole host of other questions to be sure. However, we can be comforted at least in some respect that while the monster known as Envy seems to tower over Roy’s tiny body at the beginning of the fight scene, Envy is really nothing more than a worm which can be stomped on under his boot. Interestingly enough this is the promise that God gives to Eve in the Garden story in Genesis 3:15, “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Don’t be afraid. The world is certainly a scary place to live in most days, but the God who made it is bigger than all of our problems and fears and is looking out for us. Even when it doesn’t seem like it and evil things happen, remember, “never avenge yourself.” God will dispense far more justice to someone that wrongs us in his perfect judgement than we can do with our flawed understanding of situations. So, “Keep Calm, Trust God and Forgive.”
KnightofCalvary graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary with a Masters in Divinity, and is an Ordained Minister with the Assemblies of God and a Chaplain Candidate in the United States Army Reserves. He’s worked with Disney World and Suncoast, and been a staffer at Anime Central. Through an Independent Study in Film and Theology course, he ran a film review blog as a project.
Featured image art by ル一キ一ドリフト | reprinted w/permission (pixiv illust: 40234845)