Greetings are in Order

You've arrived at Death Grip, a very humble tribute to the Homunculus "Greed" from the Fullmetal Alchemist series. This thrown-together one-page format was a quick way to get all my ideas down about this awesome character, and with so much content already I hope to expand it into a proper shrine in the future. Until then, the links to the right will help you navigate from section to section. Happy reading, and beware of unmarked spoilers!

Last Updated: 29 December 2012

PS: Much of this was written during late nights, so pardon any outlandish assumptions or interpretations. This is a very complex character from a very complex universe, so do bear that in mind as you read.


The Fullmetal Alchemist universe is an alternate post-Industrial Revolution reality where alchemy, artificial limbs known as "automail", and a host of bizarre phenomena are of the norm. In the warmongering country of Amestris, a failed alchemic transmutation sends brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric in search of the fabled Philosopher's Stone. This powerful item is said to be able to ignore alchemy's law of equivalent exchange, making its usefulness immeasurable. During their quest, the Elrics uncover the hideous, evil truth about the mythical stone and their twisted motherland.

Greed is one of 7 artificial humanoid beings known as "Homunculi", though his exact origin differs depending on which version of the story/universe you look at. In all cases (2 anime series + manga), the Homunculi serve as assistants to the primary antagonist, having been created and/or "nurtured" by him/her. They possess unique abilities and a physical prowess surpassing regular humans, and their infusion with Philosopher's Stones grants them multiple, lengthy lives.

Besides accelerated regeneration, Greed holds the power of the "Ultimate Shield," enabling him to transmute the carbon in his body into any conceivable density, even to a level that makes him invulnerable to most weapons. He usually attacks and defends using hardened claws, but can also transmute his whole person if necessary.

As suggested by his namesake, Greed embodies avarice, to the level where he severs ties with his Homunculi brethren and their master in order to pursue his own personal desires. His path crosses with the Elric brothers' when he seeks to obtain the "true" immortality evidenced by Alphonse's transmuted soul.

From here on in I will primarily discuss his portrayal in the Japanese Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood since it more closely coincides with the manga. For more about the 2003 anime's version of Greed, continue here.

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The Sin

Greed appropriately proclaims this almost dictionary definition as his life's mantra and motive for his actions:

The Sin

I'm greedy, so I want money, women, status, fame, and everything else in this world! [Brotherhood | 13]

And yet, throughout the story he proves that he's not as frivolous as he claims. His multi-dimensional avarice serves to reinforce the strength of his character and even puts him at odds with his creator and "siblings." A famous movie quote goes, "Greed is good," and this anti-villain fleshes out why.


For a character that desires to excess, he must also have a strong will to get what he wants. The first appearance of Greed is a manifestation of that; he saw what he thought was the secret to true immortality and sought to get it for himself. He is always actively seeking to indulge his cravings, and it is that ambition in tandem with his self-awareness that prompts him to betray his creator.


I am Greed, The Avaricious. That is how you created me, and that is exactly how I have lived. If I had stayed with you, my desire would have gone unfulfilled. [Brotherhood | 14]

Granted, when Greed is reborn into Ling Yao he is as compliant as the other Homunculi, but that obedience stems only from his memory loss. The inclination to rebel would have developed again eventually, because the extremity of his ambitions cannot be contained by loyalty to a master. He has to be able to do what he wants, which is why he is adamant about being a leader, lest he be inhibited by subordination.


Being greedy extends beyond just wanting something; often it suggests hoarding one's possessions, or keeping more for oneself without regard for the wants or needs of others. Greed is therefore incapable of letting go of what he deems to be his, and that includes people he cares about--though his choice of words is a little different.


Money, women, subordinates--all of them are my possessions! As such, I cannot just abandon my possessions! [Brotherhood | 14]

So, at least superficially, he has to protect what he already has so it can accumulate and thereby make him truly "greedy." However, his reaction to Bido's death and erasure of his memories indicates that he feels genuine attachment to his possessions, as subconscious as it may be. His abilities as the "Ultimate Shield" find meaning in this, because it represents how he is just as driven to keep (read: protect) as he is to obtain.


Desire itself is only limited by the mind. Since Greed so ardently seeks to have everything the world has to offer, then it is only natural that his favorite saying is:


There's no such thing as "there's no such thing." [Brotherhood | 13]

If something is impossible, then logically Greed cannot desire it--which doesn't sit well with his avarice. As soon as he runs out of things to long for, then his very identity would be at stake, and that would be disastrous for someone so invested in who he is.

On a related note, Greed has a remarkably dull sense of discrimination. It seems that in order to keep his avarice as endless as possible, he'll attribute value to just about anything. His excellent working relationships with Chimeras, outcasts in every sense of the word, provide one of the more positive illustrations of this point. Furthermore, he shows little to no disdain in dealing with humans as a species, which can't be said for any other Homunuculus.

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The Personality

Perhaps one of Greed's most notable achievements of all is proving that even a Homunculus can be charming. With a rugged speech pattern, sharky grin, and laid back attitude, he's certainly one of the most agreeable of the bunch. Still, the guy's got plenty more quirks that make him an incredible and compelling character in general, my favorites of which I've highlighted below.


One of the foundations of Greed's character is his enormous investment in his own identity. His regeneration demonstration for Alphonse is clearly a product of routine, and even throughout the show it seems he's always saying his name or clarifying his motives. This self-assurance likely contributes to his familiar demeanor, as well as his charisma as a leader.

Greed's rebirth presents a unique crisis because it essentially splits him into two identities: the 200-year old traitor and the amnesiac loyalist. The clean-slated Greed immediately expresses a preference for his new self, only acknowledging his past life based on third-person accounts. He knows that without those memories he can't really be that person, so he opts to distance himself from it entirely. Then, he starts to remember.


Those were the last Greed's memories, not mine! [Brotherhood | 44]

While, as Ling Yao points out, the Homunculus's denial here opposes the core of his namesake, it highlights Greed's temporal attachment to his identity. This successor struggles to accept these memories because he's terrified that doing so will change him into someone else, even though it's his former incarnation. After quite a bit of suffering, the identities finally merge back into one. Or, more accurately, the newer one absorbs the older.


Beneath the almost theatrical "cool guy" demeanor, there lies a very measured sort of wisdom. Not that Greed would be the type to come up with airtight schemes, but he also wouldn't barge in on the enemy guns blazing, if he can help it. His initial dealing with the Elric brothers indicates an absent preference for conflict that has affected even his Chimera team. That is, he's more willing to make mutually beneficial negotiations, where both parties win and loss is minimized, than duke it out. It's no wonder he clashes with Ed's unchecked passion.


Oh, you're one of those? You don't care if you get covered in wounds, but if your relatives get hurt, you can't take it and lose your cool. How foolish. [Brotherhood | 13]

Greed sees the value in unclouded judgment, probably because he can't really afford to lose out on getting what he wants. It's interesting that even though both of his incarnations find enjoyment in a good fight, neither are particularly confrontational. Those 200 years must have taught him something about violence.

Additionally, he has the good habit of assessing adversaries in battle and making adjustments accordingly. His calculations during the pitch-black encounter with Pride and Gluttony affirm that, and it makes him all the more respectable in the field.


Neither self-importance nor aloofness hold a candle to Greed's sense of chivalry, the existence of which still leaves me delightfully baffled. Besides his total honesty and refusal to fight women, he's also mindful of the physical and emotional conditions of others, always insisting that they meet their needs first. He'll even go so far as to bar people from battle if they are too at risk.

In many ways, this dutiful notion is a manifestation of how he genuinely cares about other people. One of the most heartfelt examples of this is when Greed is clingy desperately to the Northern Wall after Wrath pushes him over the edge. Lan Fan saves him at the last moment, but not without hurting herself in the process.


It's impossible for automail to support this much weight! Worry about your grandfather-- [Brotherhood | 58]

When she finally succeeds in pulling him up, Ling seamlessly takes control of his body, even though earlier when Fu was in danger he had to fight for it. In other occasions, Greed's emotional vulnerability or willingness allowed Ling a free shot at taking the reins. Whatever the reason was this time speaks volumes about Greed's character, because in one scenario he felt so affected by Fu's death (which is not unlikely) that he could not maintain control of his body; in another, he gave Ling the opportunity to openly grieve for his retainer. It could even have been a little of both.

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The Contradiction

In spite of all those pretty, frivolous things that Greed ever said he wanted, his heart's desires was always the love and respect of others--not as a king or a leader, but as an equal. While that is the basic contradiction in Greed's character, he's got the unfathomable behavior to back it up.


For someone who's always going on and on about who he is and what he wants, Greed really doesn't know all that much about himself. Not that it's all his fault; I think he just has some very stubborn defense mechanisms in place that kept him at a distance from the truth.

Fresh from the emotional trauma of recalling his late Chimera team, he scoffs at Ed's offer to join him and asserts that he's only looking for underlings in order to shut down subsequent negotiation. He walks off into the night, contemplating the lost opportunity when he thinks:


I've got so many souls inside of me, but...I'm alone. [Brotherhood | 45]

Here he is, the embodiment of avarice itself, and he wants to be alone. The pain of losing his friends--which appears more potent now than when it initially happened--seems to have affected him so deeply that he can't even bring himself to form new relationships. Instead he dresses up his fears in illusions of kingly grandeur, because having the whole world bow down to him might quench his soul. The ignorance here is that it is exactly the opposite of what he wants, because the distance between his subjects and the sheer number of them would make it impossible for a close relationship to exist.

Overall, Greed subconsciously couldn't accept what he wanted most because he saw it more as a source of the deepest kind of pain, the kind that could never be erased from his soul if he experienced it again.


Pushing people away never really worked for Greed either, because he can't stop becoming emotionally invested in those that have helped him or stayed by his side. At the pinnacle of his growth, he finally understands what it means to be a real friend--which costs him his life.

While helping out a soldier nearly blasted away by powerful shockwaves, Greed is blindsided by his creator who tries to reabsorb his Philosopher's Stone. In a situation nearly identical to that with Lan Fan, Ling desperately clings to the Homunculus' soul, but begins to deteriorate himself. With no one else to help them, Greed does the only thing he can think of: he lies. For the first and last time in his life, he placates Ling with a promise to fight back, only to hit Ling instead so the prince lets him go. Greed succeeds in weakening Father, but in the end is forcefully severed from his body and left to die as his friends look on in horror.


Enough... That's enough. I don't need anything anymore. See you later, my soul...friends. [Brotherhood | 63]

How beautifully ironic it is that Greed, the Avaricious, meets his end by doing the most selfless thing one can do for someone else. There's no need to try analyzing the scene any further because it speaks for itself so well already. If anything I'd like to draw attention to how Al's preceding sacrifice and Greed's sacrifice complement each other marvelously. The former showed a brother paying the ultimate price for the family he so devotedly loved. The latter illustrated what should have been an inherently selfish, artificially created soul saving the precious friend he didn't know he wanted but already had.

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The Variation

Characterization changes from adaptation to adaptation for unavoidable reasons. I can't say I've read enough of the manga to discuss it intelligently here, but the 2003 anime's version of Greed deserves at least a brief mention. While I believe the core parts of his personality are the same, the rewritten story cut his appearance short and didn't allow for actual development. I won't be doing an overall plot summary, so if you're worried about getting lost, you're better off just moving on.

Without further ado, the important points (as decided by me):

Overall I think as a personality the 2003 version of Greed is pretty true to form, if only a little shifted around values-wise. I certainly didn't feel as attached to him with that amount of screen time, but he does well as both a plot device and a charming antithesis to the other Homunculi.

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Despite being a little lower on the support character totem pole, Greed is easily one of my favorites out of the entire series. His speech style and his cool attitude were enough for me to take interest in him, but I had not expected the spectacular growth he would go through. The villain who was always a good guy at heart--how awesome is that? I feel like I hardly do him any justice in my writing here, and it saddens me that appreciation for him is pretty scarce in general. When I was still in the dark about FMA, I at least knew about the main human characters, Lust, and Envy. I feel like if I'd known about Greed sooner I would've caught on to the series sooner even if just for the superficial reason that the way he talks amuses me endlessly.

In the end, I just can't get over how so not good/not bad he is--that kind of balance is too special not to write about. I really hope to be able to expand this in the future, since there's so much more I could ramble on about. Anyway, thanks for reading down this far, regardless of how you got here, and I hope what's written here, if anything, touched on what makes Greed so fascinating. Or maybe it just showed how intensely nitpicky I am. You decide!

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Site Information

You are viewing Version 1 of Death Grip, entitled "Rugged." It uses assorted manga images from a now defunct escalation group and a texture from Lost and Taken. Edited in Photoshop, handcoded in TextEdit. Tested and should be functional on all major browsers.

The images scattered throughout the text are self-taken screencaps of the anime, while the quotes are Funimation's translations with maybe minor edits out of personal taste (i.e. punctuation). My understanding of the story is also based on these same translations, supplemented by my own Japanese knowledge.

The title Death Grip was inspired by Greed's incredibly strong protective instinct, which in the end led him to sacrifice himself by forcing his best friend to let him go. It also refers to the intense grips with which Lan Fan and Ling Yao held him, two key emotional moments in his life.


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