Breaking The Cycle: Scar (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood)


Among the tapestry of themes and ideas presented
in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the story’s take on anger is one of the most interesting. It’s a topic that is lesser discussed compared
to other elements of the narrative, but it is just as prominent of a theme as nearly
anything else. It’s about fury. Hatred. Some would say, wrath. And how these things can apply to revenge. Brotherhood is not afraid to delve into arguably
mankind’s most base and feral emotion, and this is demonstrated throughout. The story is filled to the brim with iconic
moments that have a fundamental basis in hot rage, and it’s not difficult to see why
given Hiromu Arakawa’s stance on anger and how humans react to upsetting events. The series’ writer has gone on record to
say that “We adults are angered by the senseless things that happen every day in this world…
but at the same time we repress those feelings by telling ourselves ‘there was no other
choice’ or ‘there must have been a reason for it.’ But it’s a natural human reaction to be
outraged when senseless things happen. Some things can’t be justified or rationalised. I want boys and girls to grow up valuing those
feelings.” Here, Arakawa is saying that there is value
in anger and that you need not try to downplay injustice or feign hopelessness to avoid it. Allow yourself to feel it and use it to change
society for the better, learn and progress. It’s not something that should ever be shamed
because it is human nature at it’s purest, and sometimes it’s completely warranted
and beneficial. Sometimes anger and hatred are deserved and
right. Sometimes things change because of it.” Not only can these emotions be the gateway
to positive societal change, but sometimes retribution feels so right and does such good
that you would not have it any other way than white hot revenge. There is often very little value in trying
to become entirely zen and cutting out anger and rage entirely, because not only is that
agonizingly difficult to achieve, but it suppresses a great deal of what makes us human. The unpredictability and unrestricted variability
of our nature. Needless to say, anger is not an inherently
bad emotion, and revenge is not an innately bad motivation. Oftentimes they are the fuel for success,
proving others wrong, allowing us to have backbone, confidence, authority and personal
agency.. However, this does not at all mean that this
story advises you to follow your anger religiously and let revenge drive everything. In fact, it advises the opposite – that we
should use anger as a tool in our arsenal, a means to constructively release and build
ourselves up, but one that we should not lean on. There are always limits. Just as radical pacifism has it’s obvious
downsides, so too does limitless fury. There is a point where it becomes too much,
and in excess, rage can be detrimental. Ieating away at itself and leaving no satisfaction
or value. There’s a fine line that must be tread before
an outlet becomes a black hole. And when it gets to that point, you must cut
your losses and learn to move on. This stance on anger, revenge, and extremes
in general is strongly evident through Scar, who encapsulates this philosophy so faithfully
that one might mistake him for a mouthpiece if he wasn’t so full of development and
human nuance. In the beginning of his character arc, Scar
is completely possessed by a thirst for vengeance. Due to his people, his kingdom and most importantly,
his brother, being slaughtered by State Alchemists under the orders of King Bradley, along with
the very concept of alchemy being thought of as an affront to God by all of Ishval,
he holds a loathing abhorrence to all state alchemists and alchemy in general. His brother, who was conducting blasphemous
research on alchemy and alkahestry in order to gain a worldly understanding and create
a better future, entrusted the research and alchemic powers within his arm to Scar so
it could live on after he died. And so, Scar uses this arm to take down the
people who took everything away from him as a sort of poetic retribution, with the goal
of not stopping until every state alchemist has paid their dues. Despite being painfully aware that his methods
of revenge are in conflict with Ishvallan teachings, Scar still claims to be an agent
carrying out God’s divine will and retribution. However, this is just a brittle front used
to cover his true ambitions of displaying his fury through exacting his revenge. He becomes something of an ideologue, closely
adhering to his revenge and Ishval’s creed to form his own philosophy which he sticks
to dogmatically. This leads to a hatred of all State Alchemists,
even those who had no part in the genocide – it’s an irrational attitude with no broader
perspective and due to how contradictory this is to his religion, Scar thinks of himself
as a disgrace. This much is obvious given how he exiles himself
and forfeits his name, which is considered a sacred gift from God by Ishval. Scar doesn’t think that he’s a hero for
doing this – he is just doing what he feels he needs to do. He is carrying out what he feels is proper
retribution, but he is not proud of his methods. On occasion, he has lamented that he did not
die in situations where he could have, likely because he believed that he deserved such
a punishment. He isn’t losing his way by accident – this
is all completely self-aware. And if you hurt others with your fury, you
become hated as well, perpetuating a cycle that is difficult to stop. He is still capable of compassion, as shown
through his mercy killing of Nina and Alexander, but Scar is all in. He knows that what he’s doing isn’t right,
but he needs this. And nothing, not even anti-hatred advice from
Ishvalan elders really convinces him to sway on this stance. Until he meets Winry. About a third of the way into the story, it’s
revealed to the cast at large that Scar was responsible for the death of WInry’s parents,
who were doctors in the Ishval war treating military and Ishvallans alike. Having realized that his brother had been
killed, Scar went Berserk and killed the couple who had saved him – the simple, kind-hearted
doctors just doing their job and caring unconditionally. In realizing the horror of what he did, Scar
accepts his life as forfeit. He/Scar doesn’t blame her in the slightest
for wanting to kill him and exact revenge. After all, being a person molded by revenge
himself, he is all too familiar with that need. But.. WInry doesn’t shoot him. She very nearly does, but her hesitation speaks
volumes to Scar. Winry’s hesitation gave him pause but it
coalescing with Ed’s protective stance makes this a watershed moment – one that firmly
cemented this cyclical nature in Scar’s mind. He has previously only thought that this chain
could only by halted by his own death, but this shifted Scar’s perspective a little
bit and made him begin to question things. He had been going through his vengeful, rage-induced
motions, deliberately dismissing any path that wasn’t self-destructive revenge because
nothing had convinced him to do otherwise. But this opened his mind a little. Why was he really doing all this? Is there more to this life than this shallow
gratification? Is all of this anger being directed properly? Is this revenge even worthwhile anymore? From this point, Scar’s motivations irreversably
change. He doesn’t disregard the concept of revenge
but he opens his mind. Undoubtedly helped by the presence of May,
Scar begins thinking about alternative endeavors, other purposes. When he first comes into contact with Father,
he realizes that those who were responsible for Ishval’s demise are way more powerful
than he imagined, and that straightforward thoughts of revenge would not make the impact
that he desired if he didn’t change. He realizes that this fight is much bigger
than he imagined, and that much more is at stake. This didn’t help Scar realize that he was
wrong, as once again, he knew he was doing terrible things and just couldn’t bring
himself to stop himself, but all of these factors shift his perspective and finally
give him reason to think of an alternative. When he comes in contact with Dr Marcoh, we
witness another benchmark moment. Here he meets someone who was a primary contributor
to all of the suffering his people endured. But instead of killing him, he demands knowledge
of the war and ultimately decides to escape with Marcoh to the north to recover his brother’s
research. He is no longer fixated on pure revenge – he
is searching for a truth, a greater purpose. It’s a far cry from the man at the beginning
of the series, who likely would have killed or maybe even tortured Marcoh without hesitation. But the final step in his development and
the biggest shift he experiences comes once again from the young woman who first began
changing things for him. In the frigid north, Scar hesitates in his
fight with the Elrics the moment he sees the girl who is so significant to him for so many
reasons, which allows him to be subdued. Given that Scar once again encourages Winry
to exact revenge, it’s clear that despite his growth he still has not completely turned
a corner with his feelings about revenge. However, what Winry proceeds to do, or rather,
not do, signals the approaching conclusion of Scar’s character arc. It all begins to click for Scar here. Through displaying a microcosm of Arakawa’s
stance on the extremes of human anger and hate, Winry does not give in to meaningless
rage and foregoes revenge. Bandaging Scar despite her hatred, caring
for him because that’s what her parents would have done.. Scar knew he wasn’t a good person but it
is here where he finally understands why he was wrong and how he completely missed the
point. Winry doesn’t forgive Scar and she still
hates him.. but revenge here would be a pointless action. It wouldn’t achieve anything, it wouldn’t
make her feel better, it wouldn’t bring her parents back and it wouldn’t do anything
to benefit the world. There are just some things that are more important,
and when those things are in the forefront of your mind, everything else becomes trivial. Before this event, Scar had developed pretty
significantly and started rearranging his priorities. But here, he begins consciously thinking that
maybe he could be devoting his agony and energy to something more important and fulfilling. In this action, Winry reinforces the words
that Scar had heard quite a while ago and forces him to rethink those words through
a new perspective. This experience gives these words much more
meaning and fresh context. He formerly thought of their nonviolence as
overly pacifistic sentiment that wasn’t worth much thought – but now he sees the greater
purpose in it, the bigger picture and the road to breaking the cycle and seeking salvation. It is here where this theme is presented most
forcefully. Hatred is unavoidable and often a natural,
justifiable response. However, it should be used with a bigger picture
in mind. Use it as an outlet for significant value,
not as an aggressive release for the sake of it. There is no need to forgive all the time – we
are all human and things just don’t work out that way. But there IS need to move on. Scar now realizes this and makes strides to
do the same – he lets go of the temptation of revenge and instead directs his attention
towards working with everyone to end the imminent threat and bring about a better world for
Ishval. It’s an indication of progression – THAT
is how he chooses to direct his fury, and it is a much more productive and significant
goal. By dismissing his personal vendetta and letting
go, and by turning his enemies into his allies in order to help Ishval, Scar chooses to strive
past hatred as his brother and his people would have wanted. He has no obligation to stop hating, but he
owes it to himself and those he cares for to not let it overpower his life and control
his actions. This is what lead to his past cycle of bloodshed. If you maintain that cycle and drown in anger,
you will lose yourself. But Scar doesn’t let that happen. And funnily enough, through choosing this
path, Scar becomes even more technically blasphemous to Ishvallan teachings in doing so, as he
decides to go all in with alchemy – embracing his brother’s research in order to help
the cause as much as possible. During the battle of the Promised Day, he
finally begins using the final step of alchemy, reconstruction, to optimize his power. In an abstract form of equivalent exchange,
he sabotages his beliefs completely to purge his soul of this unwanted bloodlust. Using his brother’s work and embracing alchemy
here is a symbolic gesture from Scar. He finally got the point. His brother had been conducting this research
of alchemy and alkahestry with the goal of gaining knowledge and perhaps even building
connections between different types of people to create a much more harmonious future. Scar had been so angered by the war on his
people that he didn’t see the value in it in the past, but through accepting it now,
he is completely showing his devotion to the future of the world, and his intention to
make it one for which all people can leave happily. However, there is also a dualistic function
in Scar’s development here that relates to another of the story’s major themes – that
of science vs religion. It’s an ideological tug of war that goes
on for the length of the story, but it reaches it’s point primarily through Scar. Consistent with the writer’s thoughts on
extremism with relation to anger, the story clearly portrays that neither science nor
religion is fundamentally right or wrong, and that both sides are capable of atrocities. The genocide of Ishval is the best example
of science being taken to radical levels and the fuel for the idea that some Ishvallans
hold – that alchemy is a disgrace and a disruption of the natural world that God created. But in response, there is a proportionately
extreme countermeasure demonstrated through Scar’s consequent quest for bloodshed, which,
as discussed, is displayed to be an excessive and improper way to harness anger. Mass murder is obviously an act that is chastised
by Ishval, but Scar hypocritically uses religion as an excuse to commit it – an act that directly
contradict that religion’s very philosophical basis. This is the biggest demonstration of this
theme, but it is present in micro-situations throughout the story as well. Basically, both sides can be good if used
sensibly, and both sides can be terrible if taken to an unsavoury and dark extreme. This is what Scar realizes. He learns to open his mind and accept that
the world is multifaceted, with good and evil everywhere. He learns that hardly any ideals or schools
of thought are inherently bad, and that alchemy itself is not a problem so long as it is being
used correctly. Scar is what Arakawa uses to communicate the
dangers of radical extremism or fanaticism when it comes to beliefs. Any ideology is capable of terrible acts if
someone leans too far and gets engulfed by dogma, or more prevalently, if someone uses
it as a front or excuse to satisfy their own desires. Good, bad and everything in between are on
all sides – it just depends on the person. This theme dovetails seamlessly with the story’s
take on anger to form the core of Scar’s thematic resonance in the story – and his
story reaches the most appropriate conclusion imaginable as he resolves to confront Fuhrer
King Bradley. A man who ironically advocates the value of
religion vs one who despises the concept of a God. One who contradicted his beliefs for a greater
purpose vs one whose purpose was set in stone who hated anyone that wavered in their beliefs. But, most resonant of all – a man facing up
to the person who ordered the death, torture and experimentation of his people. It was a fight that meant so many things thematically,
and, some would argue, one that reached the conclusion that both men desired deep down. The quick scene in the final opening of the
series is a great microcosm of two comparable character journeys. King Bradley, the raindrops disguising themselves
as tears of his, the embodiment of Wrath who spent his life bound to duty faced with the
one who discarded his wrath and freed himself from an unhealthy obligation. As Scar throws off his cape, he sheds his
former self-imposed burdens to do what he needs to do, to move on and progress in his
life with his motivations more profound than ever before, while Bradley sits there, contemplative,
almost inviting Scar to take everything from him. In the end, Scar achieves his original goal
by helping to kill those who slaughtered his people, and he himself kills the person who
was arguably most responsible. But the ironic thing is that without opening
his mind and progressing, he likely would never have gotten to this point and gotten
what used to be his revenge. My guess is that he would have died along
the way. And if he did somehow achieve revenge on the
path he was on originally, he would have burnt himself out through doing so and felt an emptiness
when everything was done, nothing close to fulfillment. Along with his journey being ingrained in
some of the essential themes of the work, Scar is undoubtedly one of the characters
that receive the most personal development throughout. From a narrow minded, feral animal running
on hateful fumes to one who learns so much from those around him that he is able to find
fulfillment where he thought there was none and pass on his wisdom to those who he formerly
would have killed in an instant. Appropriately for a character that ultimately
breaks the cycle, it is a progressive, symmetrical character arc that rhymes and folds in on
itself. When you are possessed by rage, there comes a point where revenge is no longer justice. Where it goes so far that there is no justifiable
retribution, no equilibrium, no balance – and it just becomes an atrocious act in response
to atrocious acts to satiate an empty hole. Clinging on only lets a pathological hatred
fester, the start of a downward spiral. Scar continuously, consciously found himself
in this state and could not bring himself to stop. It’s very hard to give up that rage and
drive because it almost feels like betraying the memory of those you are avenging. But Scar is mature enough to realize that
there is a much bigger picture and that those he was doing this in memory of would not want
this for him. He’s a character that displays the story’s
takes on how to use anger and hatred, the concepts of revenge and ideological extremism
– and through him coming to his realization through the help of others, he also subtly
contributes to the story’s advocation of human connection to make life worthwhile. In a drearier story where Scar may not have
found anyone to learn from, we could have seen a much darker outcome for the nameless
Ishvallan. But instead, he found purpose beyond grief,
and achieved something very special. Thanks for watching. I’d just like to take the time to thank
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hands in some of my funded videos that I’m proud of and it really means a ton. Anyways, thanks again for watching. Leave your thoughts on Scar, my interpretation
of this thematic meaning, and anything to do with Fullmetal Alchemist in the comments,
and I’ll see you guys in the next video.

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