The other day, I picked one of the impressive quotes from Fullmetal Alchemist:
In this article below, I brought up another impressive thing from the same anime: the Circle of Life.
The quoted italic phrases below are from Fullmetal Alchemist Ep.28, and the credit goes to © 荒川弘/鋼の錬金術師製作委員会・MBS.
This post contains spoiler.
"All is One, and One is All."
Can you imagine what this "All is One, and One is All." means? Well, it means "All is the world, and One is me," according to Ed and Al.
Let's dig down more about this concept.
This "All is One, and One is All" was an assignment for Ed and Al from Izumi, their alchemy teacher.
When the Elric brothers were little, they needed Izumi as a teacher to master alchemy for some reason. But Izumi needed to be very sure if they could understand what the alchemy ultimately was and they wouldn't do taboo in alchemy, so set an ambiguous yet significant assignment to them before starting the alchemy training.
Circle of Life
After a month of isolation surviving at a desert island, Ed and Al figured out the meaning of "All is One, One is All."
It's like the food chain.
Initially, the brothers couldn't feed themselves because they couldn't kill wild animals for their survival. So, even they could finally catch a hare for the first time, they couldn't go further, meaning to kill it to eat. Then a fox just stole the hare and brought it back to her nest, fed her babies.
One life depends on the other's.
We Are a Part of the World
Eventually, Ed and Al realized an important thing; "We are just a small part of the world."
"Even if we died here, the world would keep moving as if nothing happened," said Ed. The body remains, then bacteria decompose it into nutrients. The nutrients nourish plants, which feed herbivores. Then the herbivores nourish carnivores and omnivores including us, human beings.
Without being aware of it, each of us (ONE) is depending on the other lives. The system or the whole world (ALL) described above let us keep living. Without any individuals, we or the world cannot exist.
This is "All is One, One is All." We are all somehow connected.
How Is It Relevant to Alchemy?
Alchemy is said to be "equivalent exchange" through transmutation. If one wants to create something (A) out of something (B), the A and B need to be the same elements or compositions. Otherwise, the whole system would be disturbed by losing its balance.
For example, one cannot create a gold statue out of bronze. One cannot fix a broken radio to the original state if the radio's missing some parts.
Human transmutation —which is the core topic in the Fullmetal Alchemist— is an absolute taboo in this world. If you think about the law of the alchemy "equivalent exchange," you would figure why it's forbidden.
This is just my guess, but Hiromu Arakawa (the author of the Fullmetal Alchemist) might be sending a message "there is no one who is completely identical to you." It's not limited to appearance, race, language, but it also includes experience, emotion, value, etc.
In addition, the system —the circle of life— is one way and cannot be reversed, with no exceptions.
In many ways, human transmutation disturbs the movement of the whole system. Alchemists, therefore, need to abide by this rule no matter how much they want to bring their loved ones back to their lives.
Izumi taught this important rule not by just saying "Human transmutation is forbidden, don't even think about it" but let them figure it out on their own by experiencing the great current of the ecosystem. (Did the brothers follow this teaching? Oh..., that's another story.)
When I was watching this anime in Japan, I was just an elementary school student. It was just an interesting yet scary anime to me back then. Didn't even notice these significant messages in it.
I think this is an exciting part of watching anime: to get the message and apply it to life. The popular, renowned anime definitely have a core message, which may nourish our views toward life.