Creation and conception
The name of Alphonse Elric in Japanese contains a play of language regarding the nature of the character. In Japanese, his nickname is written with the katakana "aru" (アル) to mimic the pronunciation of "Al." The hiragana "aru" (ある, pronounced exactly the same) would represent the verb "to exist." The Japanese have two verbs for "to exist" - one for animate objects such as people (iru), and one for inanimate objects (aru). A major theme of the series is whether or not Alphonse still exists as a person with his soul affixed to a suit of armor, and his name takes on an additional layer of meaning with respect to this struggle to define what he has become.
Alphonse is a sweet boy who loves (mostly feline) strays, a very strong pacifist, and is kind and gentle to everyone. He almost stays the same age in his armor 'body' and because of this, speaks with a childs voice despite his size. Edward, feeling a tremendous guilt over affixing Al to something that won't grow or have senses, doesn't care what happens to himself and would without second thought give his life to give Al his body; he believes Al may lose his humanity. Alphonse is completely against Edward dying or being separated from him, so Al stops his brother from going too far for him. Al is known to be one of his "tough-as-steel" older brother's very few weaknesses; enemies often take advantage over it. Alphonse sometimes feels that he is a burden to Edward, but he has saved his brother's life more than once. Alphonse is seen as the counterpart of Edward. While Edward is demonstrated as violent, impulsive, stubborn, and loud, Alphonse is quiet, pacifistic, submissive, and strategical.
Since Al is bound to one of Hohenheim's antique suits of armour, he does not need to eat, drink, breathe, or sleep. Al's second wish (the first being to be able to eat apple pie) is to be able to sleep so that he does not have to spend his nights feeling lonely. Also, because of his armor (and the fact that he is more imposing than Edward) most people who meet Alphonse automatically assume him of being the Fullmetal Alchemist.
Edward and Alphonse are both very loving and close to each other; in their traumatic struggles, they retained their very sanity by becoming each others support beams and only friends.
Alphonse is born in a small town named Resembool, where he lives with his older brother, Edward, and both of his parents, Trisha Elric and Hohenheim, until Hohenheim embarks on a journey and several years after, Trisha falls ill and dies, leaving the two young boys as orphans. Their neighbour, Pinako Rockbell, then begins looking after them. During that time, the brothers concentrate in studying alchemy in hopes of bringing their mother back to life and are able to train with a skilled alchemist named Izumi Curtis. When they return home from their training, they proceed to try the taboo art of Human transmutation but fail costing Edward his left leg, and costs Alphonse his entire body. Edward then performs a second transmutation, sacrificing his own right arm to bind Alphonse's soul to a nearby suit of armor.
In the manga Al eventually develops the ability to perform alchemy without a transmutation circle, the same as Ed. In the manga, when King Bradley impales Martel while she is inside Al's armored body, her blood spills onto his blood seal. This gives him a near-death experience, recalling to his mind his experience at the Doors of Truth. He realizes that he can transmute without a transmutation circle shortly thereafter. Also, in the manga, Alphonse is afraid that his armor will eventually reject his soul, which would mean his death.
A recent chapter proved the theory that Al's body was still in existence, as Ed finds it on a return trip to the Doors, malnourished and unkempt, but very much alive. He shows the true nature of his body, showing that even though his body is almost impossible to recover, he won't give up, and so neither should they. During Ed's near-death experience, Al is shown as blacking out and seeing his body in the midst of a snowstorm. This suggests that his body is calling for his soul, showing the first sign of rejection. However, he manages to find the party and warns them, though Scar said that it is rather useless, since they had nowhere else to go. As of recent chapters, Al has been attacked by Pride and Gluttony, and was knocked out and possessed by Pride. However, with Ed's quick thinking and flash bangs, Pride's control over Al was broken. He then returned to the slum camp, where he met Hohenheim. Al came up with an idea to "beat" Pride. By Hohenheim using himself as a decoy, Pride moved all his shadows near him and was attacked by Al. Further distracted by Al, Hohenheim sealed Pride and Al in a large sphere made out of Earth. Al would be fine in there as he required no oxygen to survive. He started talking with Pride about how human he could be. At some point later Pride began banging on Alphonse's helmet, which Alphonse believed was just playing, in order to send a Morse code through the earth to Father. This worked and Kimblee came and released Pride. At this point, Kimblee and Pride proceed to ambush the group, and end up severely injuring Heinkel. Heinkel gives Alphonse the older Philosopher's Stone which was happened upon in the Briggs Mine. This gives them a great advantage, and with some strategical deception Heinkel is able to come back and deliver a fatal bite to Kimblee in the neck.
After Kimblee uses alchemy to transform Al's armor into explosive material, Scar transfers all of his incomplete Philosopher's Stone into Al to save his life. As a result, Al became the Philosopher's Stone. Because he houses the Stone in his body, he becomes the primary target of Dante's attempt to cheat death, but not before he becomes a pawn in Shou Tucker's plot to resurrect Nina. Once captured by the Homunculi for Dante, Al was to be devoured by Gluttony to complete the Stone inside Gluttony's body. But when he saw his brother killed by Envy, Al uses the stone's power to restore Edward's body (including his missing limbs) and re-bind his soul to it. This destroys his own body as he used up the whole of the Philosopher's Stone in the transmutations.
Alphonse becomes the Philosopher's Stone and regains full memory of his visit to the Gate. The concept of this is never fully ventured, due to his fear of the possible outcome effects of using the Stone's power. In the final episode of the series, he uses alchemy in order to resurrect his dying brother. Then Edward, using his own body, resurrects Alphonse. In the film sequel The Conqueror of Shamballa, Al's previous armor is shown as one of the soldiers Eckhart uses in her attempt to conquer Amestris. Al transfers a part of his soul into one, allowing him to talk with Edward in Munich (through the armor) for a short time.
Appearances in other media
Aside from the initial anime and manga, Alphonse also appears in the Movie, Conqueror of Shamballa. Al also appears in almost all the Fullmetal Alchemist OVAs. In the first one as a chibi version of himself at the movie's wrap-up party, and in the fourth OVA, he plays a part in the battle against the anime's homunculi. Al also appears in all Fullmetal Alchemist video games on all platforms, which still feature his and Ed's journey to find the Philosopher's Stone. Makoto Inoue's Fullmetal Alchemist light novel also feature the Elrics in the same travel, but in all of them they encounter different people from the ones from the video games. On March 24, 2005 a character CD with tracks based on Alphonse's character was released under the name of Hagaren Song File - Alphonse Elric (Hagaren Song File). The tracks from the CD are performed by Al's Japanese voice actress, Rie Kugimiya. He is also featured in several of the Fullmetal Alchemist Trading Card Game.
Aaron Dismuke, Alphonse's English voice actor, has found Alphonse to be his favorite character he has voiced, liking how he "sticks up for people". He also comments that he also "tries to be" like Alphonse when voicing him though he then added "I don't really see a lot of myself in him". In popularity polls from the manga made by Monthly Shōnen Gangan, Al's rank has initially been in the 3rd spot, while following polls featured him fourth.Merchandise based on Alphonse's appearance has also been published including figurines, keychains and plush.
Several publications for manga, anime, and other pop culture media have provided both praise and criticism on Al's character. AnimeOnDVD say Al is "quite the likeable character" and praised him in both Volumes 6 & 7. The first stating that "...Al's slow descent into madness and disbelief over his own existence is interesting something that could make up a series all by itself.." The latter volume review claiming that Episodes 25-28 saying "Getting more time with Al as an actual young boy is a nice change of pace.." The site also commented for the Movie and how the characters had changed, the reviewer stated; "What I enjoyed the most from the changes was seeing just how similar yet different Al had become as he took on the role of his brother." Lydia Hojnacki from mangalife.com noted Al's character to be "is an equally important character" after commenting on Edward. She praised that despite their different personalities (to the point she considered Al to be "Ed's yang"), both brothers have close relationship. T.H.E.M. Anime Reviews' Samuel Arbogast also comments that the interaction between the Elric brothers as they travel is interesting and found Al's armor to be one of the most notable characters designs from the series. When the DVD Fullmetal Alchemist: Premium OVA Collection was released in North America, Anime News Network writer Justin Sevakis criticized that Dismuke now "he simply no longer sounds like Alphonse", noting that when he first worked as Al's for the English of the first anime, he was much younger.
Informations source: Wikipedia