Character Analysis: Riza Hawkeye
Riza Hawkeye being the Queen within her commander and partner Roy Mustang’s chess motif is an accurate analogy. The most visible, competent piece of great value, as well as implicitly partnered with the King. She has always been useful and her arc is passing from childhood abuse and military abusive orders to serving, directing, and counterbalancing a good man and asserting her own ideals. One of the most prominent rebels in the incredibly satisfying break where the military stop the shadow play and fight the conspiracy in open warfare.
Riza is good from the start, comically serious but kindhearted, offering a militaristic kindness, distanced with experience and age from the Elric brothers but never with an aloofness compared with other female authority figures. Part of her uncommon nature to be stoic and clearly compassionate is demonstrated in Alchemist’s championing often of the instrument and toil of physical discipline as an allegory for magic and transmutation. Riza transmuted trauma and the frustration of being denied what is implied to be a mother, a caring father, and forever apart from the possibilities of a typical military or romantic relationship. Her weapons are interestingly the fantastic modern alchemy of the modern firearm, phosphorus and steel, the motion of trigger, of aim and trigonometry, choosing a target quite a fitting thing considering the nature of civil war and the notion of violence punctuating the mass scale battle pervading the manga and anime series’.
Her combat skill is distinct and suits Hawkeye’s character. Guns are practical, devastating, and in a way alchemical. Great use of phosphate to blow away people with sculpted metal slugs.
Riza is also shown often practicing her skills, a very good visual to show the audience and fitting the theme of effort and exchange: all proficiency is gaining at a cost by sacrifice and what you exchange defines whom you are. regardless of the tool, the change in understanding provides opportunity. Practice improves ability and discipline. Discipline builds self-confidence, the freedom to act and advance. And what you change shows your morality, the heroic inclined to sculpt matter and government for positive ends and sacrifice themselves, the villainous to corrupt, and use other individuals as resources for their own consumption.
Soldierly and never hesitating to care for someone like a dog, but definitely not a motherly or lover archetype. Riza is if anything demonstrated as being not jaded, but truly admirable in comparison to Mrs Bradley, possibly a victim of ignorance and never really in focus as a result. As Hawkeye becomes more prominent along with all the cast, the ensemble shifting and becoming delved into due to the pacing and extent of long anime episodes, an interesting touch of showing this is not just the shocking aesthetic reveal of her tattoo and its meaning, but the unbound hair. Aggression is typically volatile, within female and male characters. Not so with Hawkeye.
In a series that allows variation of character, interested in building distinct individuals and interesting powers and personalities, Riza for example telling Roy to get out of his self-pity and hang-ups is not just essential for a loosely military maverick, but essential to politics and the indented redemption through legal punishment the pair dream of achieving. Her professionalism and duty prevents fraternisation and while sad, is certainly a good choice practically and for the nation they serve. They are together all their lives, and that is certainly a very admirable love no matter what happens -if anything- changing that.
Ultimately, Hawkeye is one of many exemplary characters originally created by Hiromu Arakawa, an understated heroine with incredible resources and military discipline on both the page and present on screen.