If you catch me on a day when I am blessed enough to have pockets on my pants (damn you, patriarchy, for refusing me the dignity of pockets) you may see a silver chain that hangs from my belt loop to my pocket. It’s a watch. A pocket watch. And while I would love to tell you it’s a family heirloom, it simply is not. It’s from a television show and longtime readers may know exactly what I mean. Let me tell you all a little story. Pull up a chair. Sit down. Let me tell you about the time I became a State Alchemist.
When I was in high school, I started an anime club. I argued for the club for days and finally when we were approved, I became my alma mater’s nerd prince. I had many nicknames then, mostly characters that I particularly related to. Kakashi-sensei was a common one because I was often caught walking through the halls reading light novels. Yuki-san was another because of my love of a certain blonde Cool Beauty and the one that really stuck was Colonel Roy Mustang.
I took over my college anime club in a glorious coup d’etat. The club began years before I started school by two of my senpais and fell into the hands of a girl that I did not like and who pointedly did not like me. When I started college, I wanted to have scholarly discussions about anime: it was what I was passionate about. There’s two camps when it comes to what an anime club does. Many see it as merely a social club: sit around, talk smack, watch cartoons. Others tend to treat it more like a culture club: talk about Japanese culture, discuss themes and do actual things with actual people. I was an English major then and made some of the best friends I could possibly have by having loud and vocal serious talks about anime. So it didn’t sit well with me that the club my senpais founded were now doing nothing but sitting around and watching cartoons. I spoke with the club’s advisor and he agreed: the club should not be just a bunch of young adults watching cartoons. By my side I had my at the time best friend, Travis. Travis was a giant of a man. We were quite the pair. I was small and somewhat commanding and beside me was my most loyal enforcer. He was with me during every step of the way. From taking over the club by filing a complaint with the Student Union, to re-writing the club’s constitution, we even changed the club’s name. We worked hard to make the club we wanted to be part of. And it took time, effort, money and many late nights. Travis was my rock during that time and thus, I earned a nickname that had seemed to reemerge from my earlier days in costume.
You all have heard me gush about Fullmetal Alchemist. You all have heard me talk about how important the series was to me formatively as a fan and as a person. But while you’ve heard me gush about the main protagonist, Edward Elric, there’s one character who has always echoed as a close second to favorite for the entire series: Colonel Roy Mustang. Mustang is a complicated man. He comes off as a typical narcissistic military man with a flare for the dramatic, a cool temper despite being the Flame Alchemist and a penchant for miniskirts, stealing Jean Havoc’s girlfriends and seeming to be an omnipresent nearly antagonistic force in Edward’s life. But Mustang’s goal was simple: he wanted to take over the entire State Military. He wanted to be Furher. And yes, problematic term but the series is set in No-Germany-Germany. And his ambition was well-known, during his famous Mini Skirt Declaration he so proudly and openly said he’d run the whole damn place. But Mustang was not alone in his ambition. He was surrounded by people who helped him support his dream. He had Havoc and Hawkeye and Hughes (ah, alliteration) and so many other subordinates that I don’t have time or patience to list. They all supported his dream and they all wanted to support him as he rose to the top. I always related so powerfully to Mustang’s charisma and ability to lead. I always wanted to be like Roy and seeing him grapple with the horrors of PTSD and likely some untreated mental illness (feel free to press me on my Roy Mustang has bipolar theory), he was supported by his friends. I remember spending most of high school answering so readily to “Colonel Mustang” and doing so with a smile and a salute as my anime clubbers greeted me.
There’s a funny thing in FMA. A pocket watch. One is given to each issued State Alchemist. Each one is unique, special and important: they’re expensive and amplify the alchemical abilities of those who have the distinct honor and privilege of wearing one. Which is why for Christmas after Travis and I founded our club, the gift he gave me made me smile and merely say “Thank you, Hughes.”
Maes Hughes is a character in FMA that if you are familiar with the series, you are likely already crying. He’s easily one of Mustang’s closest friends and one of his most loyal subordinates and one of the most fervent supporter of Mustang’s insane dream.
For years, Travis had been my Hughes. I stood there in meetings, filed paperwork, argued cases and fought for the club I wanted but I never did so alone. And thus Travis was rewarded. When we overtook the club, I was Madame President and he was my Vice President. Roy Mustang had finally reached his goal. He was king and his right hand was by his side.
In that box that Travis gave me was a pocket watch, was the pocket watch. It was Edward’s pocket watch because that was the only sort commercially available. Inside was the famous engraving Edward did on the night he burned down his family home with his little brother after committing the ultimate taboo and even though the watch was not Roy’s, it was the watch of a State Alchemist. It was a gift from a dedicated Hughes to his dedicated Mustang. And I wore that watch with pride.
What is even more powerful is that in this act, it’s much more meaningful than in the show’s canon. In the series, the watch is given by the State. This watch, this honor, this trust was given to me by my friend, my Hughes, my right hand.
Travis and I fell out around the second year of running the club and honestly, when I think about it: the role may have gone to different people but that role is always filled. There has always been someone beside me willing to support my wild dreams. Whether it’s taking the risk of paneling at larger and larger conventions, taking on more and more ambitious costumes or even the radical dreams of moving, changing jobs and doing more; striving for me. There has always been someone there helping me work towards me goal.
I am a proud State Alchemist and would not be so if I did not have the ability to do so.
And that’s why I am so damn proud of my watch. It’s a constant reminder that no matter what, there’s someone who believes in me, believes in my radical dreams and that I will always have their support, their strength, their power to bolster my own.
I am Proudly Colonel Roy Mustang and one day I will be King.
I have the fury, the ambition, the drive and the fire to be more.