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[personal profile] octomantra
In which the term "soulbonding" is slightly problematic, especially if you happen to know an alchemist who once bound his brother's soul to a suit of armor.

I'm pretty sure I stumbled across soulbonding through a couple of fanfiction authors. In my first draft of this entry, I stated that it was a Star Wars fanfiction author specifically, but I also remember other authors having the word "soulbonding" among their giant walls of interests on livejournal. I clicked on it, and I found myself absorbing as much information as I could. Neither Ed or I were particularly chatty towards anyone at the time, so we lurked. My experience turned out to be a thing, and there were a few websites with information that validated the thing. So now I can calm the fuck down for a bit. He was satisfied with that, as I had spent a lot of time obsessing over the nature of his existence. It annoyed him.

I read about soulbonders' thoughts on the multiverse theory, which resonated with us, but I backed away. Ed did not waste any time in giving me a nudge.

"Ed," I said. "Buddy. Please. You're asking me to take a leap of faith, here."

He shrugged.

Ed has always been lukewarm about soulbonding as a concept, as he found it incredibly weird that he is considered to be a fictional character in this world, and the definition of soulbonding emphasizes this sort of perspective. I don't think he was a fan of the term itself, because it reminded him of his brother, a soul bound to a suit of armor. He didn't HATE it. He just found it rather odd. On the other hand, he was amazed to see that others have mysteriously connected to this world across dimensions.

***

There were a few months in which I had to wait for Conqueror of Shamballa to come out. Vaguely, I sensed that there was something about this movie that was important, but I chalked it up to just ordinary excitement about gathering more backstory for Ed. I had always been interested in WWII history since I was little, and so the setting was enough for me to count down towards the premiere. In the meantime, I started seeing his brother Alphonse off and on for the first time, and there were a few instances in which he stuck around for a day or two.

Early that summer, during a period of anxiety stemming from my home life (I'll go into details about this later), I had my first soulbond-related dream. Unfortunately, this was many years before I tried keeping dream journals, so I'm working off my memory in this case:

I was inside an unfamiliar house, and all the sudden, asteroids fell and crashed into the surrounding neighborhood. I was forced to leave and run out into the street, and the sky above was filled with giant thunderheads of smoke and fire. I was running, and I saw Ed running towards me. I collided into him, sobbing, and he caught me around the middle. Right before the dream ended, I heard him say, "Tell me what's wrong."

I woke up that morning feeling just a tad bit awkward, and I immediately decided that I wouldn't mention anything of this to him. It was just a dream. Nothing special. This was before I read about shared or mutual dreams on the Internet, but despite my hopes that it wouldn't be true, I knew instinctively that he was going to know about it on some level.

My suspicions were confirmed just a half-hour after I got out of bed.

He asked me, with an amount of tenderness that I wouldn't expect from him, "Hey. Are you alright?"

Yeah. Er. Awkward.

I kept telling him that I was fine, and he must've sensed that I really didn't want to talk about it. I had expected an argument to come out of this. It didn't. He followed silently, and at some point, I felt kind of bad for snapping at him, but he responded, "It's alright. We don't have to talk about it."

I knew that I was being rather silly, because Ed is not a mean character by any means, as can be seen during his conversations with his brother Alphonse, Nina, and many other characters. I still wanted to keep him at arm's length, even though he was pretty much the only person who had any idea of what was going on at home. I remember him being rather alarmed by what he saw and heard, but to me it was the way things were, and I thought to myself that I wouldn't allow any of that weigh me down. I've taken care of myself before.

In an attempt to ease my discomfort about this intimacy, I re-watched a few episodes where he is a brash, hot-tempered kid, but I sensed that he was getting irritated, and he went out of his way to distract me from the TV.

I never did ask him if we had shared that particular dream until many years later. He said that he didn't create or influence it intentionally, but he remembered exactly what was going on in my waking life and how strongly he had picked up on my anxiety.

***

In July 2005, Conqueror of Shamballa came out in Japan, with English fan subs following shortly after.

I had briefly mentioned before that I had a childhood interest in that period between the First and Second World Wars as well as WWII itself. I still don't know why, other than having a dad who watched a lot of documentaries about the Nazis and military strategy. But for me, there was something deeper. The general atmosphere of that time period always seemed to draw me in. I was the kid who knew the most obscure facts about it, including the shenanigans of the US Army in their attempt to find a secret weapon against the Axis powers, Britain's North African campaign, as well as Germany's fascination with the occult. I never did glorify the war and fully knew that it was a horrendous moment in history, but I always went back to reading about the 20s through the 40s. The clothes, the architecture, the philosophical and artistic movements of the time, etc.

Even better, it was a story set in the Fullmetal Alchemist storyline, and I has been amazed by the music in the TV series and looking forward to seeing more of that animation style as teased by the trailers. All the ingredients were there: parallel universes, WWI and WWII, psychics, telepathy, inter-dimensional contact via dreams, etc. You could not build a bigger, flashier cosmic billboard that read, "Octi, this is very, very important."

I was excited about this movie. But only as a fan. I ended up getting a lot more than what I had bargained for.

Say what you will about it--I know a lot of FMA fans disliked CoS, and I will admit that it is definitely flawed--this movie evokes some strong feelings in me, even after a decade. When I watched it for the first time, my inner film critic was drowned out by a tidal wave of feelings that weren't mine. I was fine for about the first twenty minutes, but then it hit me hard. No specific scene triggered it, and I didn't actually cry like other fans did. It just felt like I was getting a firsthand experience or a direct feed of Ed's regret over his mistakes. What I got was total emptiness, apathy followed by crippling depression and self-loathing. I wasn't sure if it was any better or worse than the intense dread I felt during the last few episodes leading up to Ed's temporary death (by the way, I've watched those final episode only once, simply because Ed gets extremely uncomfortable about that fight with Envy. Whenever I need to refresh my memory, I just read the wiki or some other source).

As we watched, I remember him shaking his head and saying, "I hadn't learned a damn thing even then." It got exponentially worse towards the end, when he is sent by Heiderich through the Gate to his homeworld...only to come back again.

Besides Ed's emotional experience, I zeroed in on specific aspects of the plot, especially the part about parallel worlds and clairvoyance. I had heard back then that the anime staff just threw in those concepts in order to wrap up the TV series and make money off of a movie, so the fact all this emotional nonsense was happening was absurd. Ed came in crystal clear after the fact, and he started appearing as he does in Munich. The same thing could be said for Alphonse, though he did not stick around nearly as much as his brother did.

We recovered from the intensity after a few days, and I realized that his personality had been sort of matching up to how it is in Munich since the very beginning (a bit more light-hearted perhaps, but it was a closer to his eighteen-year-old self in the movie rather his fifteen-year-old self in the TV series). He was fronting before, but starting at that point, it was almost natural, and it didn't take up as much energy. Even after all this time, Ed remains the one soulbond who does front, despite physical discrepancies such as sex differences and his false limbs.

After a while, I thought to myself, "Well, okay, maybe I can re-watch it like a normal person this time."

Ha. Haha.

So now that the 2003 FMA anime was officially over, I realized that I had completely forgotten about the manga, and I went back to read trough the volumes that were available at the time. I wondered if some elements of Arakawa's original plot would match up with Ed's backstory, and that of course turned out to not be the case. It was a worth a shot. Totally weird experience for him, though, but he actually laughed and said, "That guy will never know just how big it all is."

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