The Truth (真理, Shinri) is an enigmatic, metaphysical being who appears when a person attempts Human Transmutation. Seeing Human Transmutation as an unfair exchange according to the equivalent exchange laws of Alchemy, Truth will bring the alchemist into the Gate and forcibly take their most valued attribute, or something of value that represents their anticipated relationship to the person they are trying to create or resurrect. Truth will accept otherwise impossible exchanges when a Philosopher's Stone is used, as it or part of it will be used for the exchange instead.
As a negative version or "conscience" of the alchemist who performed Human Transmutation, Truth is perceived by the finite human mind as punishing them for "Playing God" by abusing the power of Alchemy. Truth embodies the universe, serves as both a deity and monad for it, and also represents the consciousnesses and consciences of living things. Truth is all things in the universe and, therefore, the closest thing to the concept of "God" to appear in the series. As Truth is the person it is judging too, all punishments are ultimately what that person thinks is proper for their transgression.
Aside from humans, all living things possess their own Gate of Truth, through which they can see Truth.
Truth is depicted as a white, featureless version of whoever passes through the Gate; this represents the fact that the only one casting judgement is one's self. The Truth's voice sounds feminine and often ends with a sharp accent. Truth can be seen being in possession of items that it took from the Alchemist when they opened the Gate. In Edward's case, Truth appears as a featureless young boy, but later possesses Edward's arm and leg which were paid as an equivalent exchange for seeing Truth, and getting Alphonse's soul back. In Alphonse's case, Truth possesses his entire body, and appears as such.
Due to their relative appearance, when Edward and Alphonse Elric each appeared before the Gate, Truth vaguely resembled a young boy and when Izumi Curtis appeared, Truth's shape reflected that of a young woman. It appeared as a vigorous man to Roy Mustang, and when the Dwarf in the Flask entered the Gate, he appeared as the Dwarf's original form when he lived in the flask.
Truth is cunning and merciless but fair and wise. It believes in the upholding of alchemy's laws and rules by any means necessary and disobedience of them to result in harsh punishment. Truth always does what it believes is fair in trade and will forcefully take from offenders. Truth holds no bias, options or prejudices as it sees all who break the rules of alchemy as equal in their offenses and thus receiving of equal punishment by losing what they value. Truth shows no favorites of victims and no mercy or exceptions.
Despite his ruthless personality, Truth is trying to uphold the laws that bind the universe and thus punishes any trying to perform acts that cannot happen. As shown in the end however, it is shown that Truth's brutality has a reason: It wants to teach humans that alchemy isn't everything and that it can in fact be devastating and crippling to those who are not good enough and that they musn't let themselves get arrogant no matter how genius they may be and learn to accept life and death as it is and continue on with their lives via the loved ones they still had. Indeed, when Edward was willing to give up his Gate of Truth and thus his ability to use Alchemy for good in exchange for his brother, not only did Truth humbly accept that Edward has learned to accept the laws of alchemy and allow him to rescue Alphonse, but it actually shows genuine pleasure at seeing the human that once defied him accept his limitation and acknowledge what's truly important in life and even admits Edward had defeated it. At the same time, while it brutally punishes those who tried to acquire his power, it is fair enough to actually give them the knowledge and power they wished in exchange for the punishment.
He has also shown himself to be capable of showing consideration and respect towards others, as seeing Roy Mustang was forced to perform Human Transmutation, it actually inflicts a rather lenient toll by only taking away his sight, still gives him the ability to transmute without a circle, and later on allows him to be cured by a Philosopher Stone, even though he could have easily left it permanent, showing Truth has enough mercy and fairness as to leave behind hopes for those unfairly punished by him to be saved, and he also shows respect towards Alphonse for his heroic sacrifice to save Amestris, showing how it can approve of others breaking the laws of Alchemy if it meant saving the lives of many others.
Manga and 2009 Anime
Truth introduces itself as the being some people call God, the World or the Universe, at first seemingly welcoming and jovial to its guests, especially when the person asks its name, although it sometimes doesn't talk, before calling attention to their hubris and opening the Gate, which has forced them inside earlier and now forces them outside.
The Gate is always opened through Human Transmutation, and Truth takes a toll, usually one metaphorically or ironically evoking that which the transgressor most values in life.
Due to Edward Elric opening the gate in an attempt to bring his mother back through Human Transmutation, Truth takes Edward's left leg and entirely takes his brother Alphonse. Edward opens the gate again and trades his arm for his brothers soul. Both had encountered him as they were forced to pay their tolls.
Though Truth appears in Edward's dreams, mocking him, Truth's next true appearance is in Chapter 53, when Edward crosses to the true Gate from inside Gluttony's internal imitation. Truth appears amused that Edward has not come to retrieve anything that he lost on that day four years ago. Truth appears as Alphonse here, as the whole of Alphonse's body was taken as his toll.
Izumi Curtis attempted to bring back her child through Human Transmutation, and Truth took some of her internal organs, presumably including part of her reproductive system, leaving her incapable of ever becoming pregnant again and with chronic hematemesis.
It is not confirmed if Van Hohenheim ever saw the Gate, but it can be presumed that his alchemy technique that doesn't even require the normal hand gesture of clapping one's hands together is obtainable by paying an even greater toll upon reaching the gate, letting him see even more of the Truth beyond it.
Roy Mustang, who was forced to open the gate by Pride (with the aid of Wrath). Regardless of this conscious decision to not perform Human Transmutation, Truth still had him pay the toll by taking his sight. It is imperative to note, however, that Truth also took away most of Pride's strength (or souls that make up his Stone), as Pride used himself as the Human Transmutation circle, and this may have contributed towards the toll that was paid for opening Mustang's Gate. Unlike the Elric brothers, Mustang went through with the choice to use a Stone as a replacement for his toll.
In Chapter 102, Father discusses the irony behind the works of the 'Truth', who took Ed's way to 'stand by himself' and his 'only family', Al's body so he 'cannot feel the mother's warmth as he craved', Izumi's 'capacity to nurture the seed of life' and, now, with Mustang 'depriving the man who had a grand vision to save his country of his eyesight, denying him to see what his beloved nation will become'. In Father's perspective, the Truth is cruel and sadistic, whose only ambition is to make people suffer.
In Chapter 107, Truth appears once more before Alphonse once his body and soul are finally reunited. Truth returns Edward's arm in exchange for Alphonse's soul, while wondering with the younger Elric if his brother will return for him and what he'll sacrifice.
In Chapter 108, Truth appears before Father and mocks him for trying to claim the power of God for himself and for thinking that mankind could be transcended by ridding one's self of the seven deadly sins, alluding to Father that those sins exist to give humanity a chance to transcend in spite of harboring such imperfections. It implies that Father never actually matured beyond its days in the flask. It then banishes Father to depths of the Gate he had been summoned from, commenting ironically that Father must have known this would be his punishment. Truth also appears before Ed and asks what he'll give up in order to bring back Alphonse. Edward offers his own Gate of Truth, and thus his power of Alchemy in exchange. Truth seems startled, but when Ed declares that the power of alchemy was not what was important in his life, Truth is pleased, congratulating Edward on finding the correct answer and defeating him. Truth then vanishes with Edwards gate, after pointing him towards the exit and his brother.
Concept & Symbolism
According to Father, Truth's tolls are often based on dramatic irony, oddly unfitting of Equivalent Exchange, which Truth upholds. Edward had to pay the leg he stood on and the only family he recognized as having left. He then paid his right arm to get Alphonse's soul 'back', which Truth recognized as an equivalent exchange, as one could consider Alphonse being Ed's 'right-hand man', if you will. Alphonse's soul was not used as payment, however, as it was affixed to the result of their human transmutation, which means that his body contributed to the toll. This can be interpreted as its own punishment in multiple ways, such as taking away his sense of touch and cutting him off from other peoples' warmth, or thinking along the same lines, making him become their failed creation and thereby an abomination no one wants to associate with. Izumi lost the ability to conceive at all through permanent scarring of her insides, depriving her even further of her 'motherhood'. The irony in Mustang's case would be that he would not be able to 'see' the future he would make for Amestris if he were to become Führer.
Truth's, in both its actions, visual representation and stated goal is to show those that would abuse their great power are ultimately harming themselves. This is most evidenced by Ed's final encounter with Truth, as Truth amiably admits defeat as Ed proclaims that all he is human and he doesn't need alchemy; he only needs his friends. Such an interpretation explains some events such as the final talk between the Truth and Father, when Truth says that the Homunculus hasn't grown and evolved through what he experienced, and that he "already knows" what he should have done and why he was punished like he was. The ultimate representation of this was that while Father directed his pleas to God towards the Door, the only entity that could truly be called God was next to him without him realizing.
- In a late interview with the author, Arakawa said the Truth was somewhat a 'hollow' version of oneself (as a sort of 'internal God', or conscience), a sort of 'negative' of that alchemist, which completed itself with the tolls taken by the alchemist upon seeing the Truth.
- The only way to "beat" the Truth is to give up trying to use alchemy to solve problems.
- As Ed put it, "Who needs alchemy when I have them [friends like them]?" Truth congratulated Ed on his answer, declaring he had lost to him.
- Ed views the Truth taking tolls from people who performed human transmutation by choice to be fair as they trespassed in a domain that they had no business in; however, he finds it completely unjust of the Truth to take away a toll from someone who was forced to open the gate, like when it took Mustang's sight.
- Truth does not take a toll if an alchemist transmutes themselves to reach their portal. Such as when Ed used his portal to escape Gluttony's stomach.
- The Truth shares the same English voice actress as the 2003 anime's version of Wrath, who was also responsible for taking Ed's limbs in that series. In the Japanese version, however, is depicted as having the voice of whoever encounters him with a slight effect added to differentiate, which is more in line to its role as a literal 'part' of whomever it is engaging with.
- In the English dub, when Ed offers up his alchemy to Truth in order to bring Al back, Truth takes on a legion-like crossover of Ed and Al's voices in its shout of approval in a similar vein to the Japanese version, likely for emphasis of the scene.
- For some reason, in the fifth Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood opening "Rain", Winry Rockbell appears as Truth. Perhaps Winry is what Ed needed most at the time of the episode in which the opening first aired.
- Another possible reason for Winry's appearance in the opening "Rain": at this point, the scene is playing a review of Edward's review of his journey to this point. When he faces Truth originally, and is then dragged backward through his Door (his ten year old self), he glimpses an outline of Trisha, the object of his sacrifice that brought him to the Portal of Truth, and also the most important female in his life at that time. But in "Rain", he sees Winry instead of Trisha, the current object of his affections and, after regaining Alphonse's body, his goal.
- A third possibility, is that Winry-as-Truth, was meant to show what he desired as a trap, fitting the next scene: of him screaming within a Philosopher's Stone, before images of every homunculus except Greed. Winry, his desire that tempts him away from what must be done, and the homunculi, whom he must face to succeed.
- The ethereal being of Truth can be connected to the teachings of theosophy (see Gate Trivia for connection between the Gate and theosophy) wherein it is believed that "spirituality, philosophy, science, the arts, commerce, philanthropy and among other virtues, lead people closer to "the Absolute". Planets, solar systems, galaxies, and the cosmos itself are regarded as conscious entities, fulfilling their own evolutionary paths. The spiritual units of consciousness in the Universe are the Monads, which may manifest as angels, human beings, or in various other forms. According to Blavatsky, the Monad is the reincarnating unit of the human soul, consisting of the highest of the seven constituent parts of the human soul. All beings, regardless of stature and complexity, are informed by such a Monad." From this, we can assume that, if Hiromu Arakawa intended the gate of truth to be connected to the teachings of theosophy, then the Truth would be the Monad.
- This can be justified by the motto of theosophy, which is "There is no religion higher than Truth". The emblem of theosophy also depicts the Ouroboros in it; the Homunculi are a reference to this, as they are the children of Father, who by extension came from Truth.
- It is also interesting to note that, in the same topic of theosophy, they teach of the root races of humanity (of which we are in the fifth, the Aryan race,) where they teach that the Aryans established "The City of the Bridge", which is said to be below the city called Shamballa. This could be where the first theatrical film idea "Conquer of Shamballa" came from. This could also be interconnected with the theosophical ideas of The Gate of Truth, as Dietlinde Eckhart had to pass through the Gate in the 2005 film in order to get to the supposed Shamballa that was Amestris.
- One could also make a parallel between the meaning of Truth within FMA and the role of some deities in myths, such as Hera, a Greek goddess, in myths involving heroes - which are usually sons of her husband, Zeus. Hera is usually a deity considered to be antagonistic, posing all sorts of difficulties to the hero in question, but the utmost trait associated with Hera is the one of Pedagogy, as well as Pacts and her role in most myths is associated to a sort of "testing" of the hero and his determination. Other deities associated with this symbolic trait are Juno (roman mythology) and Morrigan (Celtic mythology),
- Another interesting relation with Hera is that of Hera's meaning in Alchemical symbolism, by representing a stage in the Alchemic development, called "Cauda Pavonis" (peacock's tail), set somewhere in the stage of distillation, representing the moment when the alchemist comes to "understand all things for what they truly are". The peacock is also Hera's symbol animal.
- While most alchemists see a "hollow" version of themselves while in the Portal of Truth, there is at least one case where Alphonse sees something else. After Al works with May to offer his soul in exchange for Ed's real arm, Al re-enters the Portal to rejoin with his human body. But the version of Truth he sees has Ed's arm, which disappears and is replaced by a "hollow" version, and also has Ed's human left leg. This may be because Ed and Al are still "joined" through their original transmutation where they attempted to bring Trisha back from the dead
- Truth's ultimate punishment for Father seems poetic: by letting the Eye of God drag him back into the Eye, they let Father become as high as God in some senses whilst stripping Father completely of the freedom he cherished.
- Like most of the manga's major characters, The Truth also makes appearances in omakes. For volume 7 of the manga, The Truth takes Edward's boxer shorts, as opposed to his left leg, leaving the alchemist to feel a draft. In volume 11, The Truth is apparently studying for college entrance exams, but takes a break in order to read from an obscene magazine. He is interrupted by his mother, also a white human hollow, who comes through The Gate to give her son a snack. The panel ends with the question: "He has a mother?!"
- The magazine which The Truth is reading, "Naughty Book", is exactly the same book Hohenheim gives to Edward as a present in a previous omake of the same volume.
- The Truth appeared in an extra in volume 18 of the manga where it showed Yoki attempting human transmutation and having his hair taken as a toll.
- In the 2013 anime-styled web series RWBY, The Truth appears as an easter egg in the first episode on the cover of a magazine (also titled 'Truth').