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|“||Who am I? I’m a philosopher’s stone, in the form of a man. That’s what I am.||„|
|~ Van Hohenheim to Izumi Curtis.|
|“||Don't you EVER mock my SON!||„|
|~ Van Hohenheim to Pride.|
|“||It's time you remembered your place, DWARF IN THE FLASK!||„|
|~ Van Hohenheim to Father.|
Van Hohenheim is the overarching protagonist of the action-sci fi anime Fullmetal Alchemist. He is a ancient and extremely powerful Alchemist who had tragic past and connection with Father.
In the 2003 anime series, he is voiced by Masashi Ebara in the Japanese version of the anime, and by Scott McNeil in the English version of the anime.
In the 2009 anime series, he is voiced by the late Unshō Ishizuka in the Japanese version of the anime, and by John Swasey in the English version of the anime.
Hohenheim is a fairly tall, broad-shouldered gentleman with the appearance of a man of relatively healthy middle-age. He wears his long, golden-blond hair in a loose, shoulder-length ponytail with two or three loose strands of hair falling over his brow and sports a full Donegal-style beard on his square jaw. He also wears spectacles over his golden eyes, though whether or not he needs them is unknown. He has been described as "very handsome" by several women over the course of the series. In the manga, Hohenheim frequently wears a white dress shirt and tie under a black vest with matching slacks and a brown overcoat. In his youth, Hohenheim looked much like his son Edward, save for slightly increased height and a slightly more pronounced jaw.
In the 2003 anime series, Hohenheim sports a slightly doughier build, a softer jawline and darker hair.
Though Hohenheim's devotion to Alchemy and the mysterious circumstances under which he was witnessed abandoning his wife and sons gave the man the impression of being cold, he is an unexpectedly a kind and caring man who is quick to give compliments but loath to accept them.
Hohenheim appears to care very little for his own well-being, much less his dignity, and is therefore often put in situations that give him the impression of being goofy or eccentric, adding greatly to the series' comic relief. Slow to anger and apparently a bit of a pacifist, Van Hohenheim would much rather talk out disputes than fight, frequently doing so even while he himself is under vicious attack.
Chief among his personality traits appears to be his hopeless romanticism, given his propensity for spouting sappy lines about his love for Trisha Elric, his readiness to weep openly over her and his charming treatment of women in general. Van Hohenheim lacks the ambition of others, clearly content to take his time dealing with things that do not demand urgency, but in his youth had a hair-trigger temper much like that of his son, Edward, and became irrationally angry when taunted for his ignorance.
The young man who would later go on to be known as Van Hohenheim grew up during the 15th century in the capital of the ancient and advanced country of Xerxes. As a youth, he was the twenty-third house slave of a renowned alchemist in the King of Xerxes' personal employ and was known simply as "23". Though content in his lowly position, without freedom, any knowledge of the world or even a name, the youth's life would change dramatically in his mid-teen years when his master chose him for a particular Alchemical experiment which involved taking some of the young man's blood. While cleaning his master's laboratory one day soon afterward, 23 encountered the product of this experiment - a nearly shapeless, sentient shadowy creature kept in a flask and calling itself a Homunculus. Grateful to Slave 23 for the blood that had given it life, the Homunculus decided to give the young man a name. Though 23 decided that the name Homunculus had initially planned for him—Theophrastus Bombastus Van Hohenheim—was far too long for him to remember, he accepted "Van Hohenheim" as his name. But when the Homunculus realized that, as a lowly slave, Van was too ignorant to read or write, it explained that with knowledge, he would be able to escape the bonds of slavery and make something of himself in the big, wide world. As its second gift to the being it called its "father", the Homunculus began tutoring Van soon afterward, using its own mysterious knowledge to teach him reading, writing, arithmetic, science and basic alchemy.
Elated with the new-found sense of pride that came with his knowledge, Van began giving lessons to the other slaves and when the master discovered his remarkable skills, Van declared that, with his knowledge of alchemy, he could be a more valuable asset to the master than a mere slave. Soon afterward, the master released Van from slavery and instead took him on as his assistant. As he grew into manhood as an up-and-coming alchemist, Van thanked the Homunculus for giving him the knowledge necessary to overcome his days on the bottom rung of society and voiced his hope that he would be able to start a family, despite the Homunculus' distaste for the human existence's dependence on "breeding". When Van asked what would make Homunculus happy, it merely replied that it would like some day to escape its flask without dying. Soon afterward, however, Van and Homunculus would begin spending less time together, as the shadowy creature's mysterious knowledge was requested by the King of Xerxes in order to search for a way to make the monarch immortal. It would take at least a decade for the immortality ritual put forth by the Homunculus to become complete, but when that day came, it became immediately apparent that Homunculus had engineered some sort of base treachery. By feeding the King's court misinformation so that the center of the massive circle would be slightly askew, the Homunculus orchestrated the situation so that Van Hohenheim (holding the flask) would inadvertently stand at the true center. The over one million people living in Xerxes had their souls immediately pulled from their bodies and condensed at the center when the circle was activated, pulling the two through the Gate and endowing them with the energy of roughly half a million souls each. When Van awoke the next morning, he was horrified to find the capital a mausoleum and Homunculus inhabiting a humanoid body identical to his own. Explaining the situation, Homunculus revealed that he had sacrificed the people of Xerxes in order to escape his glass prison as well as give his blood kin Van Hohenheim one last gratuity - eternal life and a body that would never age. This left Hohenheim the last surviving citizen of Xerxes.
Filled with despair, Van fled east from his empty homeland, wandering aimlessly through the Great Desert and became aware of the movements and anguished cries of the thousands of people milling about inside his soul. Left with no one, he began to talk to them, separating individual souls out from the endless chorus of screams until he collapsed from exhaustion in the sand. Found still alive by travelers from the eastern nation of Xing, Van Hohenheim was brought there and regained his strength while coming to an understanding with each of the souls inside him and teaching Alchemical principles to the Xingese people. When Hohenheim's Alchemic knowledge was combined with the rudimentary form of alchemy being studied in Xing, Alkahestry was born. The Xingese people called him the "Sage of the West."
It is unknown to where Van Hohenheim traveled after arriving in Xing, but after spending several centuries abroad, accumulating knowledge regarding the world's different customs and practices, he appeared in the growing country of Amestris and settled for a time in a small East Area town known as Resembool, presumably some time in the 1860s. There, he became good friends with the townsfolk, particularly a woman named Pinako.
At some point of his life, Van Hohenheim married a woman named Trisha, and later, the couple had their first son, Edward Elric, and one year later, the couple had their second son, Alphonse Elric. But, in watching time affect his sons who shared his blood in ways that were lost to him and his immortal body, Hohenheim became concerned. Though Trisha and Pinako had never judged or antagonized him for his Amaranthine existence, Van began to fear the prospect of watching his new family growing old and dying without him as he had seen happen to so many others over the past centuries. Thinking himself a monster, he began to fear that touching his sons would give them his curse as well, but Trisha sensed his unease and decided to hire a photographer to take a portrait of the four of them. As she placed the smiling littleEdward in his father's arms for the picture, Trisha explained that she only wanted for them to stay a closely-knit and loving family regardless of each person's appearance and urged him not to distance himself from his family and call himself a monster when Ed was 1 year old and Al was a newborn. As the camera flashed, tears of both gratitude and sadness streamed down Van Hohenheim's face. He resolved to find a way to end his immortality and grow old and die together with his beloved Trisha, but also feared failure and watching his family dieculus had done to him, Van made a shocking discovery: that the very nation of Amestris was built and designed from scratch as to be a much larger and more devastating repeat of the tragedy that had befallen Xerxes - a gigantic Transmutation Circle for the purpose of turning all of the country's inhabitants into a new Philosopher's Stone. Realizing that only the Homunculus could be responsible for such a plot, Van decided that he would be the one to stop it, for the sake of his beloved family and all his dear friends. After explaining to Trisha that he was leaving and promising that they would die together, Van Hohenheim departed from the house and Resembool in 1904.
After traveling for a decade (presumably researching the Homunculus' methods and setting up a counter of his own) Van Hohenheim resurfaced in Central City in 1914, where he encountered an alchemist named Izumi Curtis, with whom he discussed the Philosopher's Stone and revealed that his "life-long dream" was about to come true.
As a Human Philosopher's Stone, Hohenheim's body is capable of the same level of miraculous regeneration as those of the Homunculi and as such, he has been rendered incapable of death or even aging - having been preserved in the prime of life and health for roughly four hundred years. His stone however, is far greater than that of any of the Homunculi, as their Stones came from Father's stone, which is the same size as Hohenheim's. With nearly four centuries of life experience and alchemical study accumulated, Hohenheim's level of alchemical knowledge easily dwarfs that of any other human alchemist in the history of the world. With over half a million souls powering his stone, Hohenheim is not only capable of performing transmutations without the use of a Transmutation Circle, but can also transmute without moving his body at all and can even perform biological transmutations and circumvent the law of Equivalent Exchange with ease. Additionally, since he has become capable of conversing directly with each of the 536,329 human souls which make up his Philosopher's Stone, Hohenheim's alchemy is extremely versatile and can be implemented in multiple locations at once even without his own will to actively guide it, so long as he has deposited some of his souls there. Additionally, it appears to be more powerful than that of any other alchemist with a Stone due to having the support of the Stone's souls.
During his confrontation with Father, he deflected several sustained energy blasts from Father, and called upon the souls of his Stone to aid him. After receiving their aid, his power was augmented to the point that Father could not overcome his shielding with anything less than a nuclear explosion. He also defeated Father during the first round of their battle, and was only overcome when Father revealed his amorphous, undamageable shadow form and enveloped him. It is likely that the alchemy he learned during his youth in Xerxes serves as the basis for the Xingese art of Alkahestry. It is not a false statement to say that Hohenheim is the second-most alchemically powerful humanoid character in the series, second only to Father after absorbing the power of God.
In the 2003 anime, Hohenheim is not a Philosopher's Stone, but rather an alchemist who has discovered a method of detaching the soul from a body and transferring it to another body using the Philosopher's Stone to circumvent Equivalent Exchange. By this method, he has managed to elude death for roughly four hundred years, but is still as vulnerable to attack as any human. Additionally, the instability experienced when a soul inhabits an incompatible body causes the body to rot more and more prematurely with each body transfer. Of his skills, his most significant is the ability to transmute light, shaping it into a physical form of his choosing and manipulating it remotely, earning him the nickname "Hohenheim of Light". Soon after his appearance in the 2003 anime, he is seen shaping light into Golems (resembling Alphonse's armor) which he causes to attack his enemies.
- In the Fullmetal Alchemist manga he is refered to as "Van Hohenheim," not Hohenheim Elric. As Edward Elric points out in book 14 of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, "Elric is my mother's name!"