This is somewhat related to the question, Why can't the homunculi perform Alchemy?

Alchemy is an essential part of life in the series, where not only have the State Military weaponized it, but seems to be at the center of religion and priesthood of neighbouring countries. And yet, only a handful of people practice it. If it's so essential, why can't everyone work with it? We are not experts at all the fields we use, but we use them in some limited capacity anyway. For example, we are not all doctors, but when we have fever, we pop antipyretics; we are not all computer scientists, but we can use computers in our own ways, and so on. In the FMA-universe, alchemy seems to practised by just experts.

We already know that sin-essenced homunculi can't perform alchemy, but Father is a Homunculus (the original one), and yet he can perform alchemy. Ordinary doctors (eg. the Rockbells) have the smarts for advanced study, but don't seem to use any alchemy. Skilled automail mechanics have specialized technical knowledge, but none of them use alchemy.

There are exceptional circumstances where Father blocks tectonic alchemy for everyone, or Edward giving away his portal. But why can't everyone else perform some simple alchemy? Is there an explanation for this in the manga, that is similar to Star Wars' "midi-chlorians"?

  • 2
    I added the fullmetal-alcheist-series tag. I'm not sure if the individual brotherhood and manga tags are necessary.
    – kuwaly
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 14:02

1 Answer 1


Alchemy is a combination of chemistry and magic, and it requires both knowledge and technique to make a transmutation happen. Though you're correct that alchemy is an important part of the series, for the people of Amestris, it's still something that's exceptional and out of the norm. (Remember how often citizens are impressed when Ed or Al use the simplest of alchemy to restore broken objects.)

Your analogy of pills and computers isn't totally accurate. Yes, we take pills when we have a fever... but do you have any idea how to make one of those pills? I'm sure you've got a general idea of how to start (you take some chemicals and put them together), but the actual specifics are much more complicated. Same with computers - we can use the programs on them easy enough, but do you know how to code one of those programs? This is how people view alchemy as well - they see a tool that can be used to fix/create, but the actual process is far too complicated for most people. After all, Ed and Al have studied almost their whole life, and most of the state alchemists have also spent a great deal of time honing their craft. (As a side note, this is probably the reason alchemists tend to specialize in one type of alchemy, such as Roy's fire or Tucker's chimeras - they learned all the chemistry related to that field, and would be much less effective doing something else.)

The Rockbell doctors can't perform alchemy because although they are very smart (and probably have some chemistry training as well), they don't know the alchemical techniques necessary to make a transmutation happen. Similarly for automail mechanics - they have a ton of knowledge of which parts make up a functioning mechanical limb, but they don't know alchemy. (Likewise, this is why Ed needs Winry to fix his automail all the time - he doesn't know how it works on a technical level. He can transmute some parts of it like making a blade out of the aesthetic parts of the arm, but he is unable to to fully repair the arm on his own... he needs specialized knowledge for that.)

  • Doctors can't make most of those pills either. They rely on other specialists, but we are all on a spectrum of competence at applying treatments. Most of us can look up medically sound home remedies and apply them. Nearly every office-worker who uses excel knows how to sort some data, without knowing the algorithm used. We are not all carpenters or electricians either, but we can use some of their tools and techniques while fixing things around the house. But more to the point of the question, is there an explanation in the source materials, i.e. manga or anime?
    – prash
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 18:46
  • I think the answer above is the explanation—using alchemy isn’t like using Excel, it’s like recreating the application Excel from scratch every time you need to do something with it. Alchemy requires a complete understanding of the thing you’re working with before you can transmute it, and most people don’t have that.
    – Kitkat
    Commented Feb 24, 2018 at 6:04
  • Good answer. One other thing I'd point out is that alchemists seem to purposely hide and hoard their knowledge to some extent. Real-world alchemists did this by writing in codes and elaborate metaphors, and given how quickly Ed and Al realize that Dr. Marcoh's notes are encoded in a similar way, it seems like it's also a practice in this world. This would impede a lot of people from learning alchemy because they have to rediscover things. Ed and Al had a store of their father's notes to get them started, but not everyone would have that.
    – Torisuda
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 19:00

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