A Transmutation Circle is a special symbol through which alchemists perform alchemical transmutations. They aren’t necessary, as skilled alchemists can transmute even without a Transmutation Circle, but they are used by most and are required for more complex transmutations.
In today’s article, you are going to find out what Transmutation Circles in Fullmetal Alchemist are. We’re going to explain how they function and how they’re drawn, after which we are going to explain some more complex phenomena like Human Transmutation and Transmutation Arrays. It’s going to be an informative text so keep reading.
What are the Transmutation Circles in Fullmetal Alchemist?
In Fullmetal Alchemist, alchemy is a recognized science and has been elevated to the rank of state science. It is a very complex, yet elegant skill set that allows the skilled alchemist to perform almost anything, save for some limitations.
While no machine or equipment is required to generate the energy for transmutation, it is not enough to just understand the process of transmutation and the limits of Equivalent Exchange.
To start an alchemical transmutation, a symbol called the Transmutation Circle (Japanese: Renseijin) is required. A Transmutation Circle can either be drawn in place if a transmutation is required (drawn in chalk, pencil, ink, paint, thread, blood, or even dirt, the material is irrelevant), or engraved, or inscribed beforehand in a permanent matter.
Without it transmutation, is usually not possible, although there are examples of such skills.
All transmutation circles consist of two parts. The circle itself is a channel that focuses and dictates the flow of force by tapping into the energies already present in the earth and in matter. It represents the cyclical flow of energies and phenomena in the world and uses this force for purposes that can be manipulated.
There are special alchemical runes inside the circle. These runes vary widely based on ancient alchemical studies, texts, and experiences, but correspond to a different form of energy which allows the energy concentrated in the circle to be released in the manner most appropriate for the desired effect of the alchemist.
In basic alchemy, these runes are often shaped like triangles (which, when positioned differently, can represent the elements of water, earth, fire, or air), but often consist of different polygons made up of different triangles.
The hexagram, for example, is a basic rune frequently used in transmutation circles, as it creates eight multidirectional triangles when written and therefore can represent all four classical elements at the same time.
Other more esoteric runes (including astrological symbols, symbolic images, and various lines of text) are widespread and represent a variety of other specific functions for the alchemical energy released.
What is a Transmutation Array?
A Transmutation Array is similar to a Transmutation Circle in that it is used to circulate the energy used in a transmutation. Unlike a Transmutation Circle, however, Arrays are not limited to the circumference of the circle and they only use the circle as a small aspect of their function.
In some cases, a Transmutation Array cannot even be a circle and uses different concepts to affect the flow or release of the energies involved.
Transmutation Arrays are often found as full-body tattoos among alchemists due to the shape of the human body. It’s also possible that the non-cyclical nature of Transmutation Array amplifies the “destruction” stage of alchemy, as seen in places like Scar’s right arm and as a circle in the Grand Arcane (exclusive to the 2003 series).
In the 2009 anime, it is shown that reconstruction is also augmented by Transmutation Arrays, as shown by both Scar and his brother’s other arms. In the nearly 400-year history of alchemy in Amestris, great advancements have been made in alchemical research by mixing these runes to increase their potency, converge their results, and create whole new ways of using them.
What is the meaning of a Human Transmutation in Fullmetal Alchemist?
One of the rare, yet serious prohibitions inside the world of alchemy is Human Transmutation. Although not completely impossible, Human Transmutation requires a lot of skill and inhumane levels of sacrifice while at the same giving birth to a never fully completed “product” and corrupting the alchemist’s soul. This is why it is strictly forbidden, although some are known to have broken that rule.
There are several things you can do with Human Transmutation, all of which are quite bizarre and monstrous. We’re going to explain them here.
Attempts to bring the deceased back to life are the most common practices as Human Transmutation. Using various theories and experimental methods, several alchemists have strived to revive deceased loved ones, but such efforts are always failures forbidden by the flow of the universe and the alchemy itself.
Moreover, because the initiating alchemists, entered into the domain of God with Human Transmutation, they are essentially called to the Gate of Truth to face God himself.
Being pulled through the Gate grants alchemists great alchemical and universal knowledge – in return for a physical tribute which usually takes the form of body parts “taken” by the bounce – and the ability to perform non-circular transmutations.
The second most common form of Human Transmutation is the concept of an alchemically created artificial human being called a “Homunculus”. Although it is considered impossible due to the fact that all recorded and reported attempts to make one have been failed attempts, this act is one of those specifically mentioned in the statewide ban on Human Transmutation in Amestris.
Still, as the anime and manga have shown us, Homunculi have been created and it was quite successful, but the responsible ones weren’t actual humans but rather beings who’ve dwelled into the darker realms of alchemy.
3. Human Soul Bonding
Another horrible form of Human Transmutation is the manipulation of human souls. Although it does not appear in any official document, there have been human transmutation experiments that involved the extraction of souls from their material bodies and the alchemical attachment of these souls to inanimate objects, usually through a rune drawn in blood on the object.
Although not all of the details of the soul link have been clarified, it has been explained that the iron in the blood alchemically combines with the iron in the object (since most cases of soul linking used metal as a vessel) and the blood itself remains attached to the soul of the person, from where it was taken.
The act of joining two such different things together is only temporary as the soul and the vessel end up rejecting and parting.
Although the manipulated soul is independent of its original material body, questions regarding the storage of knowledge and memory suggest that the original material body must remain alive somewhere for a bond to exist.
This creates another problem because the soul and its original body are inexorably drawn to each other.
4. Human Chimera
Chimeric Alchemy is a legitimate branch of bio-alchemy, however, there are alchemists who disregard the basic rules and cross the threshold of monstrous experiences. Shou Tucker was the first recorded alchemist to successfully create a human chimera and pass off his crime as a full-fledged animal chimera capable of human speaking.