I haven’t stepped foot into the world of Fullmetal Alchemist in quite a while. Still, time has done little to diminish the soft spot I have for Winry Rockbell. It’s only fitting that over a decade since the most recent series ended, my foray back into the series begins with Fullmetal Alchemist: A New Beginning. Originally released in Japan in 2007, it’s the sixth in a series of light novels. While the Elrics still have their part in this Fullmetal Alchemist story, this one is really all about Winry.
In a series that’s firmly about boyhood, it was nice to have a female character that was her own person. Still, Winry’s role in the shows felt limited, albeit sweet. That makes sense, as she wasn’t a main character. Still, I felt as though I wanted more from her. A New Beginning seems to take that into consideration and gives us a story that is almost entirely focused on Winry and her journey towards learning what it truly means to assist those who come to her.
This Fullmetal Alchemist story begins simple enough, with Winry starting an apprenticeship at an automail shop, Atelier Garfiel. As a sort of homebrew technician herself, this is Winry’s chance to come into her own as a professional. Under her new mentor, Winry blossoms! But not without some missteps along the way. In true heroine fashion, she must fall before she can truly thrive.
Among the different plot lines that run through A New Beginning, the most pivotal one centers on Winry and a young boy who has lost his leg and currently wears an ill-fitting automail leg. On top of the trauma he brings with him after losing a limb in an accident, he’s also been forced to deal with mechanics that care less about him and more about a quick buck.
He’s an angry child, upset by all that life has given him and, understandably, his first meeting with Winry goes terribly. As a technician her job is to fix issues, but a limb isn’t just an inanimate object. It was honestly surprising to see the novel go in the direction of showing what it means to have a physical disability and deal with able bodied people who feel they can “fix” you. Winry was well-meaning, but she was also ignorant to the ways in which she invalidated that child simply because she neglected to consider his automail leg as an extension of him.
Despite the novel’s relative shortness, the conversations about providing a service to a disabled person were good! There’s a deeper message about the unintentional ignorance a lot of us bring into situations with non-able-bodied people. Regardless of the simplicity of the message, it nonetheless surprised me to see this discussion in a light novel.
The Fullmetal Alchemist light novels fill in the gaps and tell canonical side stories within the series’ world. Despite the 14 years it took for the English localization to come out, Fullmetal Alchemist: A New Beginning feels relevant. Winry received the character development she deserved.
Fullmetal Alchemist: A New Beginning was localized by Viz Media. It’s currently available for purchase through multiple storefronts.