Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. In a series full of characters that can — just off the top of my head — create fire, transform lead into gold, mix animals and humans together for interesting (read: horrifying) results, and trap human souls in suits of armor, it kind of seems odd that I would fixate on the one badass normal in the entire ‘verse, doesn’t it?
Riza Hawkeye is not an alchemist. She cannot create an inferno with a snap of her fingers, or turn a city into a crater; she isn’t the typical anime female, blushing one moment and violent the next. She is so much more than that. She is a soldier; she is a first lieutenant and right-hand woman to Roy Mustang, Flame Alchemist, she is stoic and professional and a damn good shot.
So: the top three reasons to like Riza Hawkeye? We’re counting them down.
If there’s one thing Hawkeye has going for her, it’s her back story. Granted, as a supporting character, there aren’t episodes and episodes devoted to who she is and how she was brought up, but what we do learn is pretty much like a sucker-punch to the throat. Hawkeye grew up with a father who loved his research and his alchemy more than his own daughter; he tattooed the secret of flame alchemy — which was unheard of until his breakthrough — onto her back (when she was still a child or young teen) and entrusted her with the secret. She gives that secret to Roy Mustang, who then uses that form of alchemy to make himself a better soldier. In entrusting her back to Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye indirectly leads to the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of Ishvalan people in a horrific manner. She spends the entirety of the series trying to make up for her role in the genocide of an entire race. It makes for a complex, compelling character, as well as a thought-provoking one.
That photo up there? Yeah, it is arguably the most intense emotion Hawkeye ever shows at any one time throughout the entire series. Riza Hawkeye is what TVTropes would call “The Stoic,” though she still maintains character-depth, and you don’t really see that a lot, the three-dimensional Stoic, that is. She is professional to a fault, driven, stubborn, protective, mature, no-nonsense, and she has a very kind, compassionate heart in the middle of it all. Hell, she joined the military because she wanted to protect people! She’s layered, is what I’m saying. She’s a complex character with strong motivations and a complex back story; she develops as a character without becoming a love-interest in the traditional sense, and she gets shit done. You don’t see characters like Hawkeye in every run-of-the-mill action anime, and that’s precisely why you should like her.
Although Hawkeye is a fantastic character on her own, it is when she is with her superior officer, Roy Mustang that she shines. They are very much a package deal, and work best together. It is with Mustang that Hawkeye’s more comedic aspects are shown: She makes a fantastic straight-man in Mustang’s goofier moments, and to great effect; as well as a fantastic outlet for all of Hawkeye’s loyalty and ambition. To be honest, Mustang is a trigger for Hawkeye’s more noticeable emotions. Those tears up there? She was under the impression that he was dead and the dream they’d worked so hard for up until that point — toppling the government and instating a democracy, as well as making up for their past war-crimes — were crumbling around her.
Plus, it’s with him that Hawkeye gets her most badass moments. They kick ass and take names together, fighting back to back and making witty quips to one another; she tricks an inhuman homunculus and then shoots it in the face; she directs his flames when he can’t see to target them; she gives out vital information on their enemies when they’re separated, in code, so he can be let in on the secret and act when she cannot. It’s golden.
So there, your top three reasons to adore First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye — her character, her backstory, and her inarguable bad-ass-ness.