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What is the reason for which the (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood's) homunculi look the way they do? I know they mean to represent the sins from which they were created, but is there a common image in Japanese folklore for them?

Lust is represented as a beautiful, desirable (take Havoc's opionions on this) woman. (And that's the only directly-represented sin I can find amongst the homunculi.)

Gluttony is represented as a fat, all-eating beast. (?)

Greed... ? I mean, the first Greed was an apparently normal human with abilities to cover his skin with diamond-hard layers. (Apart from the "diamond", I can't see how he is "greedy" at all. Not as his appearance, at least.)

Sloth is

a giant, enormously huge and fast(??) creature.

Wrath is justifiable enough.

He had a normal human body taken for experiments and had a philosopher's stone inserted. All the souls within him then fought for control, leaving only the one who actually controlled him.

Pride

is a child????

Envy

is a huge monster who has the ability to freely change his form around.

Is there a pattern I'm losing here?

  • Are we talking about the 2003 anime (with Dante) or FMA Brotherhood (with father)? I assume brotherhood? – Izumi-reiLuLu Jul 9 '14 at 14:49
  • Brotherhood. I tried to make it explicit with "FMA:B", but obviously wasn't enough :D. Editing, sorry ... – Eric Wu Jul 9 '14 at 14:50
  • It's alright. xD – Izumi-reiLuLu Jul 9 '14 at 14:53
  • Pride is the way he is because he chose it. It's part of his facade to hide in plain sight. As for Envy, he apparently thinks that the form he normally chooses looks good. As for Sloth and Greed, well, they don't really make any symbolic sense... – Killua Jul 9 '14 at 15:59
  • Sloth is very lazy and generally slow (unless he really doesn't want to be otherwise) despite his speed - so in that respect his abilities make some sense in that they showcase his laziness? – Maroon Jul 9 '14 at 21:55
4

This is my understanding of what defines the homunculus physical attributes.

Lust

Beautiful, desirable and a b****. The kind of woman that every man wants to get, but when they are in there, they soon realize that they don't want to be with her.

Gluttony

Fat, lazy, always hungry and quite stupid. Wants the girl but most likely won't get her because of his appearance, which is also why he always hangs around Lust and goes crazy when she is killed by Mustang.

Envy

Her actual form is very ugly. She envies everyone because they look better than her. This is the reason why she can change her appearance at will, as she wants to look better than others.

Greed

Wants everything, has possessions not friends. His ultimate shield is a variation of carbon (diamond). Teeth are jagged like that of a demon.

Wrath

Another word for anger. Uses his rage to fuel his determination and fighting ability, thus making him the ultimate warrior and leader.

Sloth

Large, strong, slow. However, easily bored and would rather not do anything physically taxing. He is also easily agitated hence the battle at the wall.

Pride

Feels he is superior in everything, appearance, abilities. Has a huge ego and will most likely try to kill anybody that makes him feel small. Hence why he is bound to a vessel of a 7-9 year old. Children of about that age are extremely prideful in personality, causing him to be slightly immature and think he is the best.

This is however my own interpretation of why they are like they are physically and personality wise.

  • 1
    "has possessions not friends." --> Do you mean "has possessions and friends"? – nhahtdh Aug 14 '14 at 15:16
  • 2
    Btw Envy's a male. (Though it can be argued they are technically neither) – Quikstryke Aug 14 '14 at 15:53
  • Envy is Envy because he envied humans for their interpersonal relationships. Stated in canon just before he died. Greed's carbon is closer to graphene or carbon nanotubes. Gluttony is not lustful towards Lust. She is essentially his mother or big sister feature. – kaine Jan 10 '17 at 20:58
4

Pride and Greed were always the hardest to explain to me.

Sloth

Sloth has the ability to move at extreme speeds and has incredible strength, but never wants to do it because it's "such a bother." Being slothful doesn't mean you're slow or useless by nature, it means you choose to do as little as possible.

Envy

Envy's true form is both hideous and weak. He wants the use of more beautiful peoples' appearances, and their strength. His large form is more of a mystery in regards to beauty, it might just be that his true form becomes that monstrosity when properly fueled with souls

My theories for the other two:

Greed

Greed 's ability is more indicative of his personality rather than the sin. He has his visage of being a powerful being who wants and wants and wants, but he's the most human of the homunculi in that he actually cares for his 'underlings.'

Pride I'm not sure which theory I like better:

1: Pride is the first homunculus, and where the whole 'father' shenanigans started. That's the reason he's a child and he's pride because of the arrogance of creating near-humans. Or 2: Irony. He's the embodiment of the father'a pride but he takes the form of a child, usually associated with relying on others.

  • Nice answer, though I have to argue that Greed's theory is quite circunstancial. Bearing a little bit more of humanity shouldn't explain it's resemblance, or all of the homunculi would be human enough. – Eric Wu Jul 14 '14 at 21:52
  • you can also argue that Envy's giant form is his form of "Strength". Its how he interprets or envy's what strength is (opposed to his tiny weak original form). – Quikstryke Aug 14 '14 at 15:51
1
  • Lust's body inspires lust. She penetrates victims to kill them. Stabbing killing for pleasure is often cited as having a sexy motivation.
  • Gluttony's body is fat from overeating and has a giant mouth (actually a portal) when opened.
  • Wrath's body is just a man because he as much man as homunculi. Wrath doesn't just mean anger. He here doles out judgements, vengeance, and punishments which is more what it means. I suspect we may never have seen his true form.
  • Greed frankly looks mostly human because it is what he needs to have to do his job and be independent. I suspect we may never have seen his true form. Idk for ultimate shield. Before he died, all homunculi just looked humanoid.
  • Sloth is strong and fast for the irony.
  • Envy's true form is a pathetic worm. Of course it wants to be big and strong which is its first hidden form. Of course it wants to be human and be able to steal other's lives. It's powers gives it what it wants.
  • Pride is the most complicated because it has three less obvious forms. First, the child is for convenience; it is a disguise but looks like true form as it takes pride in it's own creation. Second, the arms and defenses are meant to look like the dwarf in the flask as father takes pride in his himself. Finally, his true form is a true small human. Pride is oldest the homunculus and that is exactly what Father was attempting to create. He is truly playing god by making a human and that is very prideful.
0

Some of the designs of the homunculi seem fairly obvious and others not so much. I'll try to weigh in with some of my own thoughts and I'll also reference the trivia sections from the wiki pages for each homunculus when there is something relevant there.

Envy
Envy's appearance as a giant green monster seems to be a reference to the idioms "green with envy" and "green-eyed monster" (I've also heard this as just "green monster" or "little green monster", which are more appropriate for Envy). Envy's ability to transform into other people seems fitting since an envious person would want to be the person they are envious of.

Lust
This one seems fairly obvious. Her appearance is that of a voluptuous woman with wide hips and slender waist, usually immodestly garbed. She's an embodiment of lust.

Gluttony
This is another obvious one. Gluttony's obesity is a result of engaging in gluttony. His large mouths facilitate his gluttonous eating habits.

Pride
Since he's very proud to be the first of Father's homunculus, it makes sense that he takes a form similar to Father's first form. His wiki page also suggests that the many eyes on his shadow may be reminiscent of a peacock's tail and a peacock is a symbol of pride. The wiki page also notes that his humanoid container being a child may be a reference to the word homunculus literally meaning "little human". In this sense, he is sort of the closest to being a true homunculus (looking separately at the Fullmetal Alchemist definition for his shadow form and the real world definition for his humanoid container) and he's proud of it.

Wrath
Wrath's appearance is that of a middle-aged man with an eye-patch. It's a little difficult to determine the connection to wrath. Wrath does often have a fierce scowl and perhaps his role as dictator and military attire help him personify wrath.

Sloth
Sloth's appearance is perhaps the most difficult to explain. He's large and muscular, which seems to be at odds with his slothful nature. I don't have an explanation for it. His big nose does remind me a little of the animal sloth.

Greed
His appearance is that of a typical human both in his first and second bodies. According to his wiki page, Greed sharing a human body with Ling could be a reference to Dante's Inferno, where the greedy are always having their bodies stolen from them by lizards and they have to steal a human form from another sinner (Interestingly, all the homunculi have some connection to Dante's Inferno. None of the other points are relevant here, but you can look through the trivia sections on their wiki pages if interested). This also accounts for why Greed just has a normal human form. I have no explanation for his appearance when using his ultimate shield.

In your question, you ask whether there might be common image for these characters in Japanese folklore. I don't know much about Japanese folklore other than what little information I've gleamed from anime and manga, but I think it is probably unlikely. This is because the seven deadly sins come from Christian theology (see Wikipedia for details).

References
Wiki pages for Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Envy, and Pride on http://fma.wikia.com/
Seven Deadly Sins on wikipedia.org

-1

Envy's form is understandable because he's actually really small and weak so he has the desire to be as good as other individuals

  • 1
    How about the other homunculi? – Maroon Jul 11 '14 at 13:55
  • 3
    I have to downvote as it only addresses Envy which falls short of a useful answer – Memor-X Jul 13 '14 at 22:21

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