I just finished watching both series and movies so I am finally free to read the forum and post without fear of being spoiled! So while this is a late response and the original posters may not be around to read it anymore, I can’t help but give my two cents here.
Question: Dr. Marcoh says he can help Mustang regain his vision with the philosopher's stone. However, from something Honeheim said earlier, isn't that impossible?
Well here my understanding comes from something I thought when I first saw the scene with Izumi – before I knew what would happen later. It did not seem to me he was saying he cannot do it because of ability – actually it was clearly implied earlier in the series that philosopher’s stones can heal – I think he was unwilling to do it because of principle – the same kind of principle that pushes Ed and Al to refuse to use the stone to get their bodies back once they find out how the stones are made. He just does not want to counter-act the “punishment for a sin” that the Truth inflicts on people.
I remember thinking it was ambiguous at the time and later events seem to go in the direction of “unwilling, not unable”. I mean after Al “dies” to get Ed his arm back, Hohenheim clearly offers them to use his stone/life to bring Al back – even though Al lost his body as a price for human transmutation in the first place. So that would be an even more egregious contradiction than Marcoh’s repairing Mustang’s sight. Clearly if he offers, it means the stone CAN do it. He just did not want to do it at the time he met Izumi.
So if there is a contradiction, that’s in the change of Hohenheim’s attitude (since Marcoh never said he could not do it) and that can be explained in many ways: many things have happened in between that may make Hohenheim willing to drop those principles. On top of it, by using his stone, he would be sacrificing his own life to bring his son back so technically he would fit within the equivalent exchange principle still – stone or no stone. So he may not even have dropped that principle. He is still acting within those parameters.
So the stone CAN do it. I think the issue was Hohenheim’s sentence being ambiguous when he talked to Izumi (maybe intentionally so that she wouldn’t ask him to do it if he can?) rather than a contradiction.
Why did Hohenheim die?
They don’t explain what the trigger for his death is but clearly it is explained why he is at the end of his rope by the time he does die. If you remember, to create the circle of transmutation that he uses to give Amestrians their souls back, he took the stones inside of himself to plant around the country. So by the time he reaches the final battle, he has already given up much of the source of his immortality. Then when he is protecting Al and Ed underground from one of Father’s attacks he does mention his abilities/stones are slowly getting drained by the battle. And finally by the time of the incident I mentioned earlier, where he offers his “final stone” to bring Al back, he does clearly say he has only one stone aka one life left in him before he becomes back the original normal human he was before all of this – aka one that should have been dead a long time ago. A bit like the homunculi, he has a set number of times where he can use the stone aka die but because he had so many in him, that’s what made him immortal.
So we are to believe either he was gravely wounded and his last stone could not protect him but that would be kind of against the canon, or more ambiguously that after saving his children and understanding the meaning of his life, he decided to let himself die in peace – a bit like Envy did but without the ripping the stone out part. It is indeed not clear how it is possible within the mythology of the anime/manga but at least we knew that he was not quite immortal anymore by the time it happens. And the fact he ages clearly means that he did indeed go back to his human form.
My main problem with the finale of the series – and admittedly it is a rather minor one – is this.
I get that most fans were more interested in the Ed/Winry stuff, the what happened to Al or Mustang and his men stuff. I too wanted to know and the finale was emotionally satisfying on that count.
But my personal favorite part of the show – especially during the final 30 episodes – has always been the plotting, military power struggle, coup/counter-coup storylines. And after spending so much time detailing the alliance, power shifts, play-by-play military maneuvers, I was surprised the show spent so little time in the last episode telling us what happened to the country after Father’s defeat.
More crucially, I wish they had explained to us how and why Grunman became the Fuhrer-President. Considering the last we had seen of him, he was seen planning to double-cross two fan favorites, Mustang and Armstrong, knowing he became Daisoto is not very emotionally satisfying. So, while it is not out of the blue because he was a clear possibility, it would have been nice to explain it to us.
Because it does not make sense that Mustang – and more crucially Armstrong - did not get the throne.
I understand that the show is hinting that Mustang – a new more mature Mustang – decided to first make amends by helping rebuild Ishbal as General for the East. But wasn’t that always the plan – to become Fuhrer-President so he could atone for his behavior in Ishbal? So why would he settle for simple General when he could accomplish the same and more as King?
But at least they took the time to at least hint at that. There is zero reason Armstrong did not try to become Daisoto herself. First of all, we know she wanted it badly – so badly she was ready to get herself super close to Bradley and Father at the risk of losing her principles so that she could be near power when they fell. We also know she does not give up – she fights, that’s what her character is about. And crucially, from a military point of view, she was in control by the time Father dies. Central and Central Command are in the hands of the Briggs soldiers loyal to her (notice not a blue uniform in the final battle scenes and presumably many of the remaining rank-and-file normal soldiers die when Father blows the building). Mustang is incapacitated and Grunman is still in the East. There is no reason she would not have seized power at that point.That was her goal all along!
So it would have been nice to have a scene – even a short scene – where Grunman pleads to a military council he should become Fuhrer-President because Mustang is now physically unable to do it (since he is still blind at that point) and Armstrong is disqualified, say for instance because she is unpopular (because of Breda’s backstabbing radio broadcast blaming her for the events of the coup) and as an old wise man he can stabilize the country etc.
It would have been intellectually satisfying for those of us who cared about that storyline and would have wrapped it up less lackadaisically than a throwaway sentence in a conversation