What’s Automail in ‘Fullmetal Alchemist?’

Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist.
Screengrab via YouTube/HardcoreWeeaboo

The world of Fullmetal Alchemist offers viewers many interesting fantastical powers and futuristic devices. Among these is Automail, apparatus that proves invaluable to protagonist Edward Elric during his hero’s journey, the construction of which is the specialty of his childhood friend and romantic interest, Winry Rockbell.

Besides Edward, other characters in Fullmetal Alchemist rely on Automail, including Lan Fan, Paninya, and Buccaneer. Throughout the story, the interesting equipment, while not always fully reliable, is shown to have improved the lives of those who utilize it. So, what is Automail in Fullmetal Alchemist, and how does it help its users?

What is Automail?

Edward reveals his automail limbs.
Screengrab via YouTube/HardcoreWeeaboo

Simply put, Automail in Fullmetal Alchemist is a form of, motorized, prosthetic-limb replacement. These are used by amputees who want to replace a lost limb, or by fans who wish to enjoy the benefits of an armored, weaponizable appendage (opting to have a fully functional natural arm or leg severed to accommodate this desire). The technology was first created for combat purposes, and became especially popular because of the country of Amestris’ frequent wars. (Combat Automail includes diamond-tipped claws, hidden blades, and firearms, to name a few.)

While they’re often made with a steel armor plating and skeletal frame (to shield the wires and machinery inside), some modernized versions of Automail are instead made of carbon fiber, copper-nickel, fiberglass, chrome, or aluminum alloys, with these being easier to manage than steel in some scenarios.

Insofar as functionality is concerned, Fullmetal Alchemist‘s automotive, armored “limbs” are linked to the user’s nervous system, can be moved at will like a normal appendage, and don’t require any outside energy sources to sustain. The machine parts absorb electric pulses from the body’s nerves to operate.

While there are many obvious benefits to securing an Automail “limb,” a fact that anyone who’s seen Fullmetal Alchemist‘s Edward (who has a kick-ass Automail right “arm” and left “leg,” courtesy of Winry’s mechanical genius) in action can attest to, some downsides do exist. For instance, the surgery that an amputee must undergo to acquire said “limb” is extremely painful and complex, with the average recovery time spanning three years. The procedure is also quite expensive, requiring an expert in biomechanical engineering to carry out. Sometimes, further amputation of the severed limb is necessary for the fitting to work out, not to mention that every nerve must be agonizingly linked up to the mechanical device. In both anime adaptations of Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward is shown to have undergone this painful surgery after losing two limbs during his ill-fated and taboo alchemic attempt to revive his dead mother, with his subsequent recovery taking a year to complete.

That’s not all, either. Fullmetal Alchemist‘s futuristic supplementary “limbs” must also be rigidly maintained, often requiring fresh oilings and repeat surgeries to maintain. What’s more, the user will suffer frequent aches and pains from changes in barometric pressure and weather conditions, such as extreme heat or cold. Unfortunately, excess heat can cause the metal to burn the amputee’s connecting tissue, while severe cold can cause oils to stop working properly and accelerate any frostbite damage to living flesh. To top it off, the metallic devices can even impede overall physical growth, which certainly may have occurred in the case of Fullmetal Alchemist‘s pint-sized lead.