a common theme in arakawa’s writing of fmab is about choosing life over death, how sacrifice is meaningless, and how each human life is valuable and worth a lot. when we’re introduced to the ingredients of a philosopher’s stone, human lives, it puts that theme into action. we learn from envy during the gluttony’s stomach arc that the souls that are placed into philosopher’s stones are reduced to mere energy. they don’t remember what they look like nor their memories. but .. that doesn’t seem right.
when ed faces envy in his monster form, he hears the voices of those souls crying out things such as “kill me,” “help me,” “give me back my son,” and of course the one that makes ed freeze in place, “big brother, wanna play?”
if these souls were reduced to energy, then how are they still crying out, showing emotions, feeling pain, and calling out to their loved ones?
ed questions this himself when he fights envy. he hesitates because the possibility that these souls can still think, exist, and talk is horrifying to him. they’re trapped inside envy with nowhere to go forever, possibly going insane for being in there so long and begging ed to kill them because it’s better than knowing you won’t ever have a body or be truly human ever again.
envy tells ed that you need to use logic instead of emotions if you are to determine what a human is, but arakawa teaches us in that moment that it’s okay to think with your emotions, that sometimes thinking with your emotions solves problems better than using logic.
hohenheim is a great example of this. he was forced to live with over 500,000 souls trapped inside his body, but unlike father, he actually talked to the people that resided within him. he learned their names, their likes, dislikes. this goes to show that no, the people trapped in those philosopher’s stones were NOT just reduced to energy. they still had their minds even if they didn’t have their bodies, because THINKING and FEELING is what TRULY makes you human, not what you look like.
understanding the seven deadly sins is understanding humanity. father’s downfall was that he severed all those emotions from himself; he didn’t feel emotions towards humans or the people trapped in his stone and couldn’t care less about them, never trying to talk to them or create bonds or connections with them. he saw himself as a higher being when in reality he was just a simple human who thought removing his emotions would make him stronger.
the citizens of xerxes still remember who they were when they were alive and the people whom they loved. when father gives them bodies for the first time, they still remember hohenheim and how their lives once were, and they are thrilled to walk again.
we learn from winry that being trapped in a philosopher’s stone is painful and feels like being in a prison. the citizens of xerxes in envy’s body would rather be dead than trapped, and when ed uses envy’s philosopher stone to get out of gluttony’s stomach, the souls THANK him.
they are not just reduced energy. ed was right when he had a gut feeling that those people trapped in the stone were still human like his brother and could still think and feel, even if they didn’t have physical bodies. he and his brother still recognized them as people. he hesitates when he has to shoot them.
he has to face this reality again when he fights the immortal legion, soldiers who’ve had souls placed in their bodies, minds possibly manipulated to attack other people, and ed hesitates once again.
envy told ed that you can’t use your emotions to decide, but it was envy in the end who was wrong. he didn’t understand human emotions nor bonds just like the rest of the homunculi. they looked down on people and just saw all the souls trapped in stone as mere energy instead of humans with emotions. they lost the fight because they underestimated the power of what people can do when they work together. it’s okay to think and decide based on your emotions, because it’s just another trait that makes all of us human, another trait that helps us form bonds with one another.
“One difference I notice about him from last year to now is his confidence,” Kelly McDavid, Connor’s mom says. “I have always said he is an old soul trapped in a young body. He used to always want to be older. I would have to tell him, ‘Connor you are only four once’, and he’d say, ‘But I want to be five.’ […] He was born to be a captain. When they gave that to him, he took the role very seriously. He really cares. He has a huge heart.”