- "Hohenheim of Light" redirects here. For the episode, see Episode 44: Hohenheim of Light (2003 series).
Van Hohenheim—also known in the 2003 anime series as Hohenheim of Light (光のホーエンハイム, Hikari no Hōenhaimu)—is a deceptively ancient and extremely powerful Alchemist as well as the estranged father of Edward and Alphonse Elric. Despite disappearing suddenly during their infancy, Hohenheim returns during the course of the series in order to right the wrongs of his mysterious past.
Hohenheim is a fairly tall, broad-shouldered gentleman with the appearance of a man of relatively healthy middle-age. He wears his long, golden-blond hair in a loose, shoulder-length ponytail with two or three loose strands of hair falling over his brow and sports a full Donegal-style beard on his square jaw. He also wears spectacles over his golden eyes, though whether or not he needs them is unknown. He has been described as "very handsome" by several women over the course of the series. In the manga, Hohenheim frequently wears a white dress shirt and tie under a black vest with matching slacks and a brown overcoat. In his youth, Hohenheim looked much like his son Edward, save for slightly increased height and a slightly more pronounced jaw.
In the 2003 anime series, Hohenheim sports a slightly doughier build, a softer jawline, and darker hair.
Through Hohenheim's devotion to Alchemy and the mysterious circumstances under which he was witnessed abandoning his young family gave the impression that he was cold, instead, he is an unexpectedly softhearted, kindly individual who is quick to give compliments but loath to accept them. Hohenheim appears to care very little for his own well-being, much less his dignity (because he thinks of himself as a monster because he became a Human Philosopher's Stone), and is therefore often put in situations that give him the impression of being goofy or eccentric, adding greatly to the series' comic relief. Slow to anger and apparently a bit of a pacifist, Van Hohenheim would much rather talk out disputes than fight, frequently doing so even while he himself is under vicious attack. Chief among his personality traits appears to be his hopeless romanticism, given his propensity for spouting sappy lines about his love for Trisha Elric, his readiness to weep openly over her, and his charming treatment of women in general. Van Hohenheim lacks the ambition of others, clearly content to take his time dealing with things that do not demand urgency, but in his youth had a hair-trigger temper much like that of his son, Edward, and became irrationally angry when taunted for his ignorance.
Trisha is the love of Hohenheim's life who is personally responsible for bringing about changes in his worldview. Having discovered a person with whom he truly and deeply connected, Hohenheim immediately fell in love with Trisha and began to desire a normal life so as not to be left existing without her. Even though he loved her dearly, part of his purpose for leaving was to find a way to join his love in death when her time came.
Estranged from his two sons due to his ten-year absence, Hohenheim feels a great amount of guilt over leaving them alone as he is unsure how to deal with them upon his return. While attempting to shakily create a relationship with his boys, he absorbs Edward's hatred and abuse with good nature while nurturing Alphonse's indelible affection for his father. In the meantime, Hohenheim recognizes that Edward has a great deal in common with him and tries to make it clear that he understands the hardships Edward has been forced to endure, mentoring him casually and providing advice and guidance for the future. After defeating Father, Hohenheim offers himself to be used for the human transmutation and states that his reason is that Ed and Al are his sons. He also finally apologizes for leaving them and takes a form of responsibility, saying if he never had left them the boys would have never tried human transmutation to bring back their mother and lose their bodies when he should have been there for them as their father. This action touches Edward and finally causes him to call him father. It is unknown how Hohenheim's death affected Edward after the former gave up his life to release the souls within his Philosopher's Stone, and so he could unite with Trisha once more. In the end, all he wished was for his sons to have a happy life and no longer burdened with his mistakes.
Brought into being through the use of Hohenheim's blood, the Homunculus known as "Father" initially held a great deal of gratitude toward his blood kin for giving him life, and showed that gratitude by granting Hohenheim three treasures: a name, knowledge, and immortality. However, the last of these gifts proved to be a curse and came at a heavy price due to the Homunculus' own unquenchable hubris. Now, sharing a face and a history, the two have become enemies as Hohenheim has vowed to prevent the next phase of Father's plan. Though Hohenheim originally bore deep-seated resentment towards him, in Father's final moments, when stating his desire to become a perfect being and to never be bound again, Hohenheim recalled that in the beginning, Father was really the only one that cared deeply enough to help him change his life for the better.
Hohenheim's lover in the 2003 anime series, Dante shared in his misguided passions and mistakes but failed to learn from them, continuing their reprehensible research long after he abandoned her. However, now that she has made his beloved sons her new targets, Hohenheim of Light returns to his offering to tell her why her body is aging in exchange for her promise to leave his sons alone. Dante instead uses Sloth, holding Rose's baby, to distract Hohenheim by reminding him of Trisha while she opens the gate. She then sends him inside, after which Hohenheim and Dante never meet again.
One of the seven homunculi in the 2003 series, Envy revealed himself as the son of Hohenheim and Dante while they were romantically involved in the past. After his death at the age of 18 due to mercury poisoning, he was reincarnated as a Homunculus, as a result, a failed Human Transmutation. Envy is always put on edge and is prone to bouts of rage whenever Hohenheim's name is mentioned and is determined to make him suffer for his abandonment of Envy to live a life with Trisha Elric and their sons, Ed and Al. At the end of the 2003 series, Envy leaps into the gate of truth with Ed to find Hohenheim on the other side, and is left in that world in the form of a serpent, unable to shapeshift in the parallel world. Hohenheim meets and is easily able to recognize Envy (despite the latter's form). Hohenheim tells Ed that he has resigned himself to his fate as a sinner and wants to be killed by Envy in order to use his first-born son's draconic body to open a permanent portal.
As a Human Philosopher's Stone, Hohenheim's body is capable of the same level of miraculous regeneration as those of the Homunculi and as such, he has been rendered incapable of dying or even aging - having been preserved in the prime of life and health for roughly four hundred years. His stone, however, is far greater than that of any of the Homunculi, as their Stones came from Father's stone, which is the same size as Hohenheim's. With nearly four centuries of life experience and alchemical study accumulated, Hohenheim's level of alchemical knowledge easily dwarfs that of any other human alchemist in the history of the world. With over half a million souls powering his stone, Hohenheim is not only capable of performing transmutations without the use of a Transmutation Circle, but can also transmute without moving his body at all and can even perform biological transmutations and circumvent the law of Equivalent Exchange with ease. Additionally, since he has become capable of conversing directly with each of the 536,329 human souls that make up his Philosopher's Stone, Hohenheim's alchemy is extremely versatile and can be implemented in multiple locations at once even without his own will to actively guide it, so long as he has deposited some of his souls there. Additionally, it appears to be more powerful than that of any other alchemist with a Stone due to having the support of the Stone's souls. During his confrontation with Father, he deflected several sustained energy blasts and called upon the souls of his Stone to aid him. After receiving their aid, his power was augmented to the point that Father could not overcome his shielding with anything less than a nuclear explosion. He also defeated Father during the first round of their battle, and was only overcome when Father revealed his amorphous, undamageable shadow form and enveloped him. It is likely that the alchemy he learned during his youth in Xerxes serves as the basis for the Xingese art of Alkahestry.
In the 2003 anime, Hohenheim is not a Philosopher's Stone, but rather an alchemist who has discovered a method of detaching the soul from a body and transferring it to another body using the Philosopher's Stone to circumvent Equivalent Exchange. By this method, he has managed to elude death for roughly four hundred years, but is still as vulnerable to attack as any human. Additionally, the instability experienced when a soul inhabits an incompatible body causes the body to rot more and more prematurely with each body transfer. Of his skills, his most significant is the ability to transmute light, shaping it into a physical form of his choosing and manipulating it remotely, earning him the nickname "Hohenheim of Light". Soon after his appearance in the 2003 anime, he is seen shaping light into Golems (resembling Alphonse's armor), which he causes to attack his enemies.
- Hohenheim is named after Paracelsus, a prolific real-world 16th century Swiss Alchemist, who was born with the name "Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim"
- It is also noteworthy that the Dwarf in the Flask suggested the name "Theophrastus Bombastus"
- Pinako mentioned Hohenheim was an old drinking buddy of hers.
- Hohenheim later tells Father that he drank so much to satisfy the lust for liquor a soul in him had.
- However, it's implied he can't get drunk or at least hangovers, due to his Philosopher's Stone healing him.
- In the greatest irony in overview, had Hohenheim stayed in Resembool and not tried to stop The Promised Day, he would have prevented Ed and Al from trying Human Transmutation, leaving the amount of Human Sacrifices at half.
- He possibly could have cured Trisha's sickness.
- He didn't give Ed and Al his last name to keep them hidden from Father.
- It is interesting to note that while Father is defined by his seven sins, Van Hohenheim is greatly defined by the Seven Virtues. He fell in love with Trisha and remained loyal to her even long after her death (Chasity), he never abuses or exploits his power beyond what is necessary for the situation (Temperance), he is willing to sacrifice his own happiness for the sake of others (Charity), he is willing to put in the work to accomplish his goals (Diligence) and is willing to endure great struggle or time in the process (Patience), and despite being incredibly powerful he uses his power to help others (Kindness) and does not see himself as superior to others (Humility).
- Hohenheim’s backstory may be a reference to the medieval European legend of the Wandering Jew. The Wandering Jew was a man who supposedly heckled Jesus Christ before the latter was crucified at Calvary. After the former’s transgression, he was cursed with eternal life and doomed to wander the earth until the second coming. This parallels Hohenheim’s arc in many ways. Like the Wandering Jew, he was cursed with an immortal body by Father, was forced to wander the earth for four centuries, and finally passed away after helping his sons thwart the Homunculi's plans on the Promised Day.
- As an interesting footnote, it is also said the Wandering Jew's real name was Ahasuerus, which is the Latinized form of Akhashverosh (אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ), which is ultimately the Hebrew rending of the name Xerxes.