So, I'd love to hear people's thoughts about what differentiates Xing's alchemy from Amestris'. (And please, don't feel you have to read the entire post. In fact, just tell me what you think if you'd rather not read any of it. I'm just curious, and these are just my guesses/ideas.)
(For those interested, the ZOMGFTA translation notes for the Return of Scar have a short discussion of the different terminology they use to describe the different powers, and chapters 53-58 or so, have relevant details for review.)
So, my best guesses are as follows:
I think the use of different terms for Xing's Alchemy-like-Power and Amestrian Alchemy is significant.
In case you're wondering because you didn't catch the differences (and I didn't, actually):
Renkinjutsu is Alchemy.
Rentanjutsu is "pharmacy," rendered as "Geomancy."
Ryuumyaku (a technical term used in Mei's description of Rentanjutsu) refers to lines of magnetic force. ZOMGFTA identifies these as Yin/Yang --the concept is more familiar to me as ley lines.
Chi or Qi is the "life force" or "energy flow" present in all things. (What I would call an animus. Well worth looking at the Wikipedia short on it. There are a lot of interesting connections between chi and health and healing.)
Anyway, so I don't think I'll get much argument on the first point. Arakawa doesn't name anything at curious. But what's the significance?
Well, we've seen ScarBro studying books from Xing, and discovering something strange about their alchemy, though we don't know what, just yet. He incorporated this knowledge into the tattoos on his arms --one arm for creation, one for destruction.
Mei catches sight of the Destruction Arm on Scar, years later, and identifies the symbols on it. "That is geomancy. The art of knowing and using the power of chi. That is what makes up the flow of our country's geomancy." We've seen Mei use Geomancy several times: in repairing that mine, in destroying the water tower during her confrontation with Edward and Al, in healing Scar's leg, and healing Marcoh's face.
When she heals Scar's leg, she draws a pair of lines resembling a cross on his thigh. The point where the two lines meet is the bullet wound. She tells Scar and Yoki that, "Just as there is a flow of power in the earth called Lung-Mei, there is also a flow of power in the bodies of humans. I cannot fix anything where that flow has stopped. It's also impossible to do things like grow back a missing arm." She adds that Scar's tattoo is a mixture of Retanjutsu and Rekinjutsu.
I suspect that the dead and the Homunculi are examples of beings who are beyond Mei's reach, whose flow of "chi" has stopped for good. If she can sense the "chi" lines in the earth and the body, it would also explain her reaction to Father and the Homunculi. Maybe Mei can see them walking around, but sees their energy signatures are either 1) dead, or 2) impossibly confused. (Perhaps a tangle of energy as a result of taking the lives of all those people in Xerxes, sticking them into Philosopher's Stones, and then feeding off the stones?) Either of which'd be plenty creepy.
Anyway, so during his confrontation with the Elrics in his secret laboratory, Father does something that "turns off" Alchemy in the area. Hohenheim feels this, even across an immeasurable distance. Neither Elric brother can do anything; and none of the Alchemists summoned to deal with the mess overhead can do anything either. However, both Scar and Mei still have their powers. The obvious connection is that both use a form of Retanjutsu. So, what's the difference? I have some guesses but I'd like to hear what other people think too.
While Ed, Ling, and Envy were chilling in Gluttony's gut, they discovered an old Alchemical array from Xerxes for a "normal human transmutation." This had a symbol for "throwing God to earth" incorporated. Hmmn.
- The legend of the Sage of the West and the array they discover suggests that someone was coaxing Xerxes along the alchemical path towards Human Transmutation, the Philosopher's Stone --something big and destructive, whatever it was. (Envy never does confirm Ed's guess, so we can't be sure.)
- Also, I'll bet a commission for fan-fiction that the Sage from the West was Father.
So, what happened to Xerxes?
Ed speculates that someone (Father, perhaps) tried to use the array on the roof that he saw in Xerxes and in Gluttony's belly to transmute a human from a human, opening the gate. It's not yet very clear what the relationship is between killing a bunch of people, creating the philosopher's stone, opening the gate, and attempting human transmutation.
- We know that the resident of the Gate identifies itself as Truth, and as God.
- We know that Human Transmutation opens the Gate. (And lets you petition or interact with God/Truth.)
- Transmuting a human to a human has also opened the Gate. (As above.)
- Part of the array that Edward draws for human transmutation states that God Inverted (Casting God Down) results in a Male and Female Dragon joined (Hermaphroditism, the Perfect Existance.)
- The Philosopher's Stone takes human souls as its ingredients, in an alchemical reaction.
- The relationship between the Soul and the Gate isn't clear. The Soul could be the "road" or "passage" to the Gate; it could be what typically enters the Gate (like in Christian Heaven) when someone dies.
- Then stealing souls and using them in Philosopher's Stones would be denying the souls to Truth/God, to use them for your own purposes and power.
I don't think any of these are especially out-there conjectures, most of us have probably come up with these things on our own. But I'm just trying to get some stuff out there, even if it gets nitpicked to death or ignored.
Anyway: whyever and however it happens, Xerxes vanishes in a night. Poof.
- Maybe when Xerxes was destroyed, Xing and Amestris were cut off from one another, and their respective forms of Alchemy took different paths as a result.
- If he were the Sage of the West, then Father would have had to come to Xerxes out of Amestris. And once Xerxes was destroyed, perhaps he returned to Amestris, where he's been chilling all this time, building himself into that tubing. Ick on the tubing.
Why would he do that? Wellllllll, guesses, but--
- Maybe because Xerxes didn't work out?
- Or maybe Xerxes did work out, but only halfway?
- Maybe that's what Hohenheim is --the halfway success, or maybe the human that Father transmuted from a human? Or heck, another homunculi? Certainly Father doesn't refer to him as though he's a human, "It wouldn't have died, but for it to have had children?"
Last point, and this is the only actual original thinking I have to contribute to this discussion, but did you notice the array used for Human Transmutation and the array that Mei uses for her combat Retanjutsu? Both have five points. They're shown either as stars in circles, which we would call Pentagrams.
The Pentagram is the symbol of the Five Elements. Five Elements, because besides the traditional Earth, Water, Air, and Fire, there is the Animus, the Idea or Spirit. (Think Captain Planet, here. )
Many belief systems that adopt the Pentagram as a symbol acknowledge that all things have some kind of awareness or spirit. You'll sometimes hear them called Animists. Funny, that sounds an awful lot like the notion of "Chi."
I don't think that the difference between Xing and Amestrian Alchemy is as simple as a Five-Pointed Array vs. Other Arrays. If Father's group was in any way involved in what happened with Xerxes, they already know about the fact that the Human Transmutation array is a pentagon, and they probably came up with it.
So, in theory, they'd be able to counter it . . . right? But they can't or don't.
Maybe the difference is that where Rentanjutsu uses "chi" --uses all five elements, maybe even simultaneously, Rekinjutsu focuses on four elements, or uses the elements independently of one another?
Beh, I dunno. I would really like to hear people's thoughts on this, though!