So in general Chapter 9 is a lot more comedic in tone, but it's really here to give us a lot more information about Automail which we've been told very little about so far. We learn that first of all the Automail process is so infamously painful that an adult will recoil at the idea, setting up how strong Ed is. We also meet Pinako, a character we see far too little of, Den and of course, Winry.
We also get probably my least favourite running gag of the series; Winry throwing a wrench at Ed when he pisses her off. I'll explain why I don't like this wrench joke. It's just too cartoony for the series which is a tiny bit more grounded in reality. Ed should be dead about five times over just from Winry's wrench alone. I do like how throwing a wrench at Ed seems to be the equivalent of teasing someone you like.
Winry is shown as being pretty automail obsessed here, but what's weird is that when we see her in past... she's not really AS obsessed as she is now. I'm gonna take a guess and say her obsession with Automail has grown out of her obsession for something or someone else. I think this is also the first time we get mention of Ed growing in the series. That sounds pretty minor and obvious but it's very rare that a character grows up in a series like this unless there's a huge time skip, and in FMA, Ed grows gradually over the course of the series via small art changes. This is one the best aspects of FMA, so it's nice to see it addressed here.
I like Ed's line; “I'm not the kind of person who takes it easy” because it's so true it's unreal. As I've already discussed, Ed's guilt pretty much drives him to do everything he does, so his frustration here is understandable. I'm also gonna take a guess that Ed probably wouldn't have visited his mother's grave here if Al hadn't suggested it. In fact notice that it doesn't even occur to him until Al suggests it. Weird until you consider how Ed feels about his mistakes, as brought up when he meets Hohenheim.
I also enjoy the fact people in Resembool know each other, as shown with some farmers recognising Ed, it's nice and really sells the fact this is a tiny little place. The flashback to when Al brought Ed to Pinako and Winry is nice to see, but what really strikes me is what Pinako says nearly immediately after;
“Because he's so strong, I worry that when he finally does find an obstacle he can't overcome, will he be able to get back on his feet?”
At first this seems to be about how Ed is headstrong and kind of a reference to what happened with Nina when you think about, but I think Pinako is probably referring to Ed's guilt again. Yeah I mention it a lot but it's a pretty big theme. Ed drives forwards to forget the past and if he can't move forwards, he'll be forced to face something he doesn't want to. This is further evidenced by the fact Ed burned down his house, as Hohenheim helpfully points out in Volume 11. For now we're made to believe it's because the task they are undergoing is so scary or something, which is the exact opposite really of the truth.
Speaking of Hohenheim we learn that he used to be an old drinking buddy of Pinako, which should instantly strike us as weird. Given we've seen Trisha now, and we've seen Pinako as well, this must mean that Hohenheim is a lot older than Trisha. Perhaps only just younger than Pinako, so this gives us an idea in our heads how old Hohenheim must be logically... and it's weird because it means Trisha was probably pulling a Catherine Zeta Jones and had children with someone a lot older than her. This is actually true but in ways we'd never imagine.
I mentioned in Chapter 5 and 6 that there's really only two careers that seem to garner much profit in Ametris, one of which being connected to the military. Well here we learn the other; Automail mechanics. We also learn why, because there's so many wars in Ametris (Ishabl specifically) that a lot of people are left with missing limbs. This is something not really commented on beyond this chapter but there's a lot of people in Ametris with missing limbs, and the fact that a child like Ed has missing limbs and no one really bats an eye lid is especially telling. From what we learn about Ametris' history, it's unsurprising that this is the case, nor is it surprising that they've developed this technology at all.
Pinako also mentions a couple of times that Ed is their primary source of money, which is weird because he can't be the only person who comes to them for Automail. Well there's probably another reason that Ed is their cash cow, which has been hinted at before but wont really be revealed until the next chapter. Let's just say for now that Ed can pretty much afford any price they charge. Also I love that Ed ignores Winry for Al. Oh how that will change.
This chapter also marks the first time we get a full explanation of how Al works and how the blood seal works. This also establishes that Al is not immortal and that if his blood seal is damaged, he'll die. Well... sort of die anyway. We also find out why Ed and Al are such capable fighters, and how it relates back to their teacher again. Winry's disapproval of them doing this reflects her disapproval of them fighting at all, she doesn't want them to get into dangerous situations. It's why she freaks out so much when she sees Ed's army is damaged. She's worried about him, not the arm. Okay not just the arm. Pinako on the other hand doesn't seem to mind this at all, she jokes again about them being her cash cow, but it's more likely because she knows they can handle it.
We get an explanation here for why Ed helped the people of Youswell which I still don't totally agree with, but Al also tells us that he and Ed see Resembool as home, even if Ed doesn't admit it. And as if to prove Al right, Ed makes out that he and Al have no home very soon after. Winry also notes that Ed refuses to cry because he's too tough, and Al mentions that he would probably cry if he could. This highlights a core difference between them; Ed is running from his past and doesn't want to confront it, while Al (probably because of his constant state of awake) has somewhat come to terms with his past and is willing to accept what has happened.
Chapter ends with Winry realising she forgot the screw which obviously becomes a big point later on. Chapter 9 isn't my favourite chapter, it's more sedate and character based than most before it, but it does set up a lot and finally gives us some answers as to how Ed's friggin arm and leg work and gives us some backstory for them beyond what we already knew. Overall a solid chapter.
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