Alphonse Elric (アルフォンス・エルリック Arufonsu Erurikku ), also known as Al, is the deuteragonist of the Fullmetal Alchemist series. He is the younger brother of the Fullmetal Alchemist Edward Elric. Al is also a victim of the failed Human Transmutation experiment in which Ed lost his right arm and left leg. Having had his entire physical being taken away from him in the aftermath of the tragedy, Alphonse exists solely as a soul alchemically bound to a large suit of steel armor. Now, Al travels with his brother in search of a legendary Philosopher's Stone, an item with the power to restore their bodies to normal.
In his gunmetal-colored steel armor body, Alphonse stands out as one of the tallest characters in the series, inching out such stalwart man-mountains as Captain Buccaneer and Major Armstrong while absolutely dwarfing his older brother, who only comes up to his elbow at the beginning of the series. As such, a running gag in the series is that he is frequently mistaken for being the famous "Fullmetal Alchemist" (due to his full-armored steel body) in place of his brother - the rightful bearer of the title. He is also often mistaken for being the older brother or even Ed's father on occasion. The helmet that comprises Al's face is adorned with a large, conical horn in the middle of the forehead, has a pair of parallel, horizontal vents beneath each half-moon eye hole and a fang motif just above the protruding chin. The top of the helmet also sports a ribbon of white hair that hangs down to the small of the suit's back. Later in the series, the hair is cut short during a skirmish with the Fort Briggs Mountain Patrol, much to Al's chagrin.
The trunk of the body also consists of a removable breastplate with a protruding, triangular shelf on the chest just below the throat guard, a high collar that extends out of the back and surrounds the rear and sides of the neck, and a large, circular leather patch on either side of the abdomen.
Al's armor body also appears to have a triple spike motif, as each shoulder is adorned with a trio of large conical spikes lined in a row and each elbow, knee, and foot carries small, spiky protrusions as well. Al also appears to have a white band around his right leg which holds up a small weapons holster.
Inside the empty armor is a curtain of chain mail for the protection of its former wearer as well as a small alchemical rune drawn in Edward's blood, which binds Al's soul to the metal by way of the iron in both. Al's "Blood Seal" is unique - likely of Edward's own design - and denotes a small flame locked in place by multiple intersecting polygons.
In the manga, Alphonse's appearance before the accident was rather similar to his brother's. Despite being a year younger, Al was taller than Edward even then and wore his golden-blond hair short and neat with a parting on the left side. His eyes - gold like Ed's - are rounder than his brother's and set in a broader face, causing Al to more closely resembles Trisha Elric than Ed, who resembles Van Hohenheim.
In Chapter 53, it is revealed that Al's body still exists, living without its soul inside the Gate. With absolutely no direct nourishment or maintenance, it has become skeletally thin, with its finger and toenails growing past his digits and its hair, though still parted on the left, growing past the shoulders in back and growing down over the right side of the face, all the way to its collarbone in the front. Even though it did not exist in the physical realm, it had aged and developed as it would have in the physical world. By the end of the series, after regaining his human body, he is healthy and well-nourished again.
In the 2003 anime series, Al's human appearance differs slightly. His hair is a few shades darker than Edward's, and his eyes are brown instead of gold, but otherwise, there are no major differences between the anime and manga. The events of Conqueror of Shamballa depict Al donning a similar hairstyle to that of his older brother, with his bangs worn long, but still parted on the left rather than in the center, and a ponytail hanging down in the back. His outfit in the movie is also very similar to Ed's, including a pair of white gloves marked with Transmutation Circles. However, unlike Ed, whose black jacket was fastened at the top with a button or zipper, Al wears a jacket fastened by a row of four smaller buttons. Another notable difference is that Al does not wear elevator boots, most likely due to the fact that he does not share his brother's height issues.
In many ways, Alphonse's calm and passive disposition exists as a foil to his older brother's more abrasive personality. Al is kindhearted, notably compassionate and patient almost to a fault, acting often out of protective selflessness for his loved ones, new friends and sometimes even toward his enemies (Scar is a particular example). Having had his psychological growth stunted at the age of ten due to loss of his physical body, Alphonse retains a childlike purity in the face of all his encountered horrors; however, despite his age, he has always displayed a significantly higher level of maturity than Edward. Though Al is as passionate as his brother, he has remarked that his anger takes longer to spark and jokes that he is always beaten to the punch by Edward's outbursts.
On the other hand, Al's heart does contain some darkness born from the tragedies of his life. Plagued with insecurities about his own uncertain existence inside a suit of armor, Al craves the human warmth of his former life in desperate silence, fears that he will never again know closeness, and is sometimes overwhelmed by the suspicion that he himself is not human. It is also revealed that Alphonse carries the added burden of blaming himself for the failure of his mother's resurrection and the subsequent loss of his brother's limbs.
As Edward detests his own diminutive stature, Alphonse dislikes being reminded of his large size and often becomes melancholy when it inhibits or calls undue attention to him, lamenting that it was not his choice to become so big. As such, he displays a great deal of pleasure when others treat him as a child instead of the hulking brutish adult persona that his appearance gives off.
Possibly as part of his desire for warmth and love, Alphonse displays a great affection for small cats and has developed a bad habit of picking up stray kittens that he finds over the course of his travels, hiding them inside his armor cavity from his disapproving brother.
On a more subtle level, Alphonse appears to have a great fondness for women as well. Particularly sensitive himself, Alphonse has a gift for complimentary and inspirational speech that surpasses even that of his brother's. While this does not negate the effect his armor body has on ordinary girls, it does allow him to leave an impression on the few women with whom he regularly associates such as Mei Chang, Riza Hawkeye, Lan Fan and Sheska. When his skills are necessary, Alphonse is often paired up with female comrades in situations where Edward is not present. In many of the omake, Arakawa makes Al's primary motivation finding a girlfriend.
Aside from the warmth of physical contact, what Alphonse misses most about having a human body seems to be delicious food. He keeps a journal of all the various foods he will eat upon returning to his body in order to keep his spirits up (a practice encouraged by Edward) and has stated that his fondest wish is to have some of Winry's apple pie.
Al holds to the idea that using a Philosopher's Stone is equivalent to murder, but also understands that the wills of the stone's component souls are also important. This is what allowed him to use the power of a stone against Pride and Kimbly.
Alphonse's relationship with his older brother is easily the strongest and most significant of his personal relationships. Though the Elric brothers have wildly different personalities and argue often about the best way to go about things, they are close enough that each would readily and willingly give his life for the other. Alphonse is particularly supportive of his brother and holds a great deal of faith in him despite the fact that Edward almost constantly requires Al to look after him and keep him from getting into trouble. Edward is, himself, very protective of Al, but Alphonse's care of his brother has been described by Winry as being almost parental. While Ed continues to search feverishly for a way to return his brother to normal, Al refuses to be the only one to benefit and insists that he only wants to regain his human body if Edward can restore his right arm and leg by the same means.
Born into the kind family that lived next door to the Elrics, Winry grew up alongside Ed and Al and means as much to them both as would a sister; she and Al are more than childhood friends, they are a family. However, Alphonse had displayed some sort of romantic affections for Winry in his youth, as revealed by his mention of how he and Ed had fought over her hand in marriage, but were both turned down. Nonetheless, Al expresses jealousy in one of the omake pieces over Edward's nearly seeing her naked in Chapter 84. For the most part, Al appears to have put those feelings behind him and takes pleasure in teasing Winry for her apparent feelings for his brother.
As a former student of this spartan-minded alchemy mentor, Alphonse's respect for Izumi's great wealth of knowledge coupled with his memories of her harsh physical and spiritual training during his youth contribute to the fact that she is one of the few people of whom the brave young man is outright afraid. That being said, the time she spent raising Edward and Alphonse to be skilled alchemists and wise young men in general has left an immensely profound print on their hearts, causing them to see her (in her gentler moments) as a sort of surrogate mother, just as she seems to look at them as surrogate sons. Their relationship hits a strain with the boys' shame at having directly disobeyed her teachings, but when they own up to their transgression, Alphonse and Izumi are able to come to an understanding, not merely as master and student or as surrogate mother and son, but as friends and colleagues.
Alphonse's relationship with Mei for most of the series is a one-sided crush, with her doting and lavishing praises on him while he seems to see her as no more than a friend and ally. However, his chivalrous and protective nature ensures that he takes on the task of her protection during their battles together. Her sudden attraction to Al is initially based on his own description of his human body in contrast to the appearance of his older brother. Al's interest in her appears to be largely intellectual, at least at first, as he hopes to learn alkahestry from her. However, their adventures in the North seem to have been leading towards a closer relationship, as each recognized in the other an intellectual equal. At the end of the series, Alphonse ventures to Xing to study alkahestry under Mei's tutelage and returns with her to Amestris some time later. Years later, she is featured in the Elric family photo next to Al, implying she and Alphonse have deepened their relationship over time.
Unlike Ed, who rarely called Hohenheim a father, Al still forgives his father, despite him leaving the family when they were young. Both father and son meet again in Reole when Al accompanied Winry. Al learns from Hohenheim about his past history with Father and destruction of Xerxes which turned Hohenheim as a Philosopher's Stone, Al understands that Hohenheim considered himself as a monster because he lost his loved ones like Trisha and lived through it due to his immortality.
Pinako, Winry's grandmother was the one to look after the brothers when their mother passed. Ed and Al refer to her as Granny, same as Winry. She also seems to be a good friend of Hohenheim so she cares for Ed and Al a great deal. When Hohenheim warned her of the dangers of staying in Amestris (Manga and 2009 anime) and suggested she leave, she opted to stay because she had people who depended on her, namely Winry, Ed, and Al.
Having apprenticed under the master alchemist Izumi Curtis, Alphonse has been trained to condition his body through regular workouts and sparring as part of her philosophy, "to train the spirit, first train the body." As such, Al has become a particularly competent hand-to-hand fighter, able to hold his own against armed opponents and even skilled martial arts practitioners. In fact, Edward had stated that Alphonse is an even more skilled combatant than himself and notes that he has never beaten him in a fight, even since before Izumi's training. Additionally, his armor body has several combat advantages including - strengthened offense and defense, imperviability to bullets, inexhaustible stamina, invulnerability against extreme temperatures and an exemption from needing to breathe, eat or sleep. Unfortunately, these are all tempered by the fact that he cannot take any actions that might cause the Blood Seal inside his armor to be damaged so as to prevent his soul from becoming detached.
Like his brother, Alphonse also wields a genius-level intellect and prodigious proficiency in the studies of biology, chemistry, and alchemy. While Edward is apparently the greater mind of the two, Alphonse does not trail far behind and has been able to match wits with his brother since the days they learned alchemy together as children. Alphonse, skilled with words, is capable of solving complex alchemical puzzles and mysteries and has displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of his craft, but seems to lack Edward's amazing sense of focus, instead developing the social skills in which his older brother is so sorely deficient.
In the 2003 anime series, Alphonse would have become a State Alchemist alongside his brother but for the fact that the inclusion of a physical evaluation forced him to drop out of the program lest his secret be revealed. Otherwise, it is revealed that he was able to finish the written portion of the certification exam, a feat that most candidates, including Edward, were unable to match.
Alphonse is a particularly competent alchemist who transmutes quickly, cleanly and with remarkable attention to detail in the style of his master, Izumi. In combat, he uses alchemy to augment his offensive and defensive capabilities, crafting weapons for melee strikes and altering his surroundings to gain the advantage in the same way as his brother - transmuting columns, battering rams, and traps for his enemies, albeit without the gaudy touches that Edward usually gives his works. While in general, his alchemy is more conventional than that of Edward (who often uses it in unusual forms to outsmart his opponents), he has displayed greater creativity when the situation called for it. For instance, when equipped with a Philosopher's Stone, he was able to use his alchemy in unexpected ways, like transmuting flash bangs, flexible swords, and conical earth-prisons to surprise his opponents.
However, Alphonse's own alchemy is unique in several ways that make themselves apparent over the course of the two diverging storylines. From the beginning of the story, it becomes clear that - unlike most alchemists - Al does not require direct physical contact with the transmutation arrays he draws in order to manipulate matter; merely by standing over a circle and applying concentration (sometimes displayed as his crossing one hand flat over the other with both palms facing down), he can manipulate matter without touching it - a feat that has yet to be displayed by any other human alchemist without an alchemical amplifier. This may be due to the nature of his existence as a soul inside a suit of armor, he may be able to protrude the influence of his soul over larger distances, unlike ordinary humans whose souls are confined within their skin.
In the manga and 2009 anime, Alphonse gains the additional ability to transmute without having to draw a transmutation circle at all. Having passed through the Gate as a result of the failed Human Transmutation, the ability had remained dormant inside his soul so long as his more tragic memories of the event stayed repressed. But after he regains his memories in Chapter 30, Alphonse discovers that the skill he had watched his brother and master perform so many times now belonged to him as well and puts it into practice for the first time in Chapter 33.
In the 2003 anime, Alphonse gains the ability to transmute without a circle in another manner - by becoming the Philosopher's Stone himself due to Scar's machinations. At first, this seems like a boon because the properties of his armor are changed and his blood seal becomes impervious to damage, but it becomes apparent that Alphonse, as the stone, reacts dangerously with any nearby transmutations and loses a physical part of his body whenever he is used directly as an alchemical amplifier. In Conqueror of Shamballa, Alphonse's alchemy takes yet another transformation. Now unable to transmute without circles, he wears a pair of white gloves with transmutation circles in order to use alchemy quickly - emulating his older brother. Additionally, due to the instability of his soul after having his body changed so many times (from human, to steel, to Philosopher's Stone and back to human), Alphonse has gained the ability to split his soul into pieces and insert them into inanimate objects to act as golems. While in this state, he is able to see from the perspective of and communicate through his various avatars.
- The character of Al bears some resemblance to Agilulf, the protagonist of Italo Calvino's The Nonexistent Knight. Like Al, Agilulf is nothing but a living suit of armor, a formidable fighter, and holds a sense of good manners.
- Al was voted the fourth most popular character of the series in the recent fan poll.
- Al's breech cloth is white in the manga and 2009 anime, while in the 2003 anime, it's light violet.
- In episode 12 of Lucky Star, a cosplayer is seen portraying Alphonse in full armor at Comiket, although the suit of armour has a yellowish tint.
- In an app called "Alchemy", there is an element called "Metal Golem". The Metal Golem looks a lot like Alphonse.
- Al makes a cameo appearance in Episode 5 of the anime series, Hayate the Combat Butler when he is referenced by Nagi Sanzenin, who shares the same Japanese voice actress as him.
- In the manga and 2003 anime, the rectangular plate under the chin of Alphonse's helmet has five openings. In the 2009 anime, it has four, excluding rare animation mistakes where it is drawn with three or five.
- Originally, Arakawa did not draw Alphonse's armor face as displaying emotions of any kind, regardless of circumstance or emotional climate. It wasn't until Chapter 4: Battle on the Train that he began "making faces" during comedic scenes. (However, both animes employed this gag as early as their first episodes.)
- It is assumed that Al's human height at the end of the series to be 5'10 (177.8cm) and his brother Ed to be of 5'9 (175.26cm)
- In the manga and 2009 anime, Alphonse, as a direct descendant of Van Hohenheim, is close blood kin to Father and all the seven Homunculi (although King Bradley can be a slight exception, as he is a human based Homunculus, but nevertheless still shares the close blood kin to Al like the others). Additionally, Arakawa has jokingly confirmed that, in the manga, Al (along with Ed) is technically uncle to the seven Homunculi, as he relates to them by blood.
- Al is one of two people in the series to know that Winry and Ed have romantic feelings for each other, the other being Riza Hawkeye.
- In a manga extra, it is shown that Al only allows women and cats into his armor, though the 2003 Anime depicts him carrying Black Hayate (a dog) inside of him, and in chapter 56 he is also shown carrying Xiao-Mei (a panda) there in, although he believes Xiao-Mei to be a cat.
- Alphonse has two theme songs on the Brotherhood anime CD. One of them is called "Kaze ni Dakarete", performed by his seiyu, Rie Kugimiya, and another called "Restore Steppin'", performed by both Kugimiya and Edward's seiyu, Romi Park.
- His 2003 VA Aaron Disuke who voiced Arslan in Arslan Senki with Edward's voice actor Vic Mignogna playing Himles and they would play brothers in Funimation's redubbing of The Vision of Escaflowne.