Maes Hughes was an Amestrian State Military officer stationed in the Investigations Office in Central City and Colonel Roy Mustang's best friend, as well as the closest supporter of Mustang's secret bid for the position of Führer. A devoted family man and exemplary soldier, Hughes was generally well-liked by the other characters (unless he was pushing his love of his wife or daughter on them) and his murder served as the major starting point for the story to unfold.
For the most part, Maes' personality is decidedly amicable and cheerful, even to the point of being considered annoying by his closest acquaintances. He nearly always appears randomly, jovially butting in while something important is being discussed, and is rather well-known in Central for shirking his many duties just to have a chat with friends, even while griping gleefully about how much his paperwork is piling up. Hughes is also a rather forcefully hospitable person, never taking "no" for an answer when offering a position under his authority or a night's stay in his house and even going so far as to physically drag people behind him without waiting for their consent--prompting the Elric brothers to call him a "kidnapper" on more than one occasion.
Of course, his biggest and most noticeable character trait is the idolatrous infatuation he has with his wife, Gracia, and his three-year-old daughter Elicia. Never without one or more pictures of them on hand, Maes makes quite a nuisance of himself by bragging about them to peers and friends and offering up glances of their photographs as either a motivational tool or as reward for a service well rendered. As such, he is constantly advising his friends Roy Mustang and Edward Elric to hurry into marriage themselves, much to Roy's annoyance and Edward's embarrassment.
Behind this behavior, however, is a markedly trustworthy, serious, and particularly intelligent military officer who always goes the distance to look after the people close to him. As a soldier involved with investigations and court-martials as well as a veteran of the Ishval Civil War, part of Hughes' buoyant demeanor may actually be a shield to protect himself and his loved ones from the darker aspect of his profession. He is a realist, decisive and shrewd, who is able to cut out what is unnecessary and focus on the most important aspects of a given situation. With his great eye for detail, Hughes is often the first to notice unfavorable patterns in a given situation and can plan accordingly, often calling for a strategic retreat or a change in tactics moments before anyone else realizes it is necessary. He is calm and analytical, not even flinching when a situation calls for him to deal with dead bodies or even deal out death himself, and he acts sharply even in high-pressure conditions. As a realist, he also understands and accepts that some situations cannot be rectified cleanly or honestly. Even so, he retains a soft spot for idealists like Roy and is prepared to burden as much of the darkness as it takes to ensure that idealists can shape the world into a better place.
Maes, despite all his goofball antics, is a rather wise man for his age and is prone to doling out sagely advice to the people he has invited into his extended family, including Roy, the Elrics, and even Winry Rockbell, in order to make sure they take the correct path to the happy future.
Tall and lean, Maes Hughes offsets his sharp military uniform with a thin chinstrap of scruffy beard and his jovially spiky hair ending in a characteristic forelock as well as the rectangular spectacles framed in front of his hazel eyes. Though his hair is black, the 2003 anime gave a green hue to it (coincidentally the same shade as Envy), suggesting that it could have been dark green.
Gracia - He and his beloved wife seem to have a good relationship, shown by the fact that she is hardly annoyed with his tendencies. He is shown to be, though to a much reduced extent than with his daughter, a bit obsessed with his wife. His love for her is shown when Envy takes her form right before killing him. Maes hesitates to attack despite knowing that his opponent is a shape-shifter.
Elicia - He loves his daughter to an really really obviously obsessed level, often showing off pictures of her to everyone he meets. In the 2003 anime (episode 13), as well as in a side story in the manga, he even displayed a 12 foot tall picture of her to the crowd before Ed and Roy's duel. He usually is berated for talking about his daughter so often, to the point that Roy asked Maes if it was possible to incinerate someone through a phone line as an annoyed joke. After Maes' death, Elicia seems to have trouble accepting (or really realizing, considering her age) his death, showing just how close he was to his daughter.
Roy Mustang - Close friends since their shared days at the military academy, Hughes is very supportive of Mustang's secret bid for the position of Führer, promising to work below his friend in order to push him to the top. As such, Roy frequently receives advice and secret communiqués from Central City via Maes' phone calls or unannounced visits. Aware of the difficulty of Roy's position and as an active deterrent against the Flame Alchemist's often gloomy disposition, Maes spends a great deal of their time in communication speaking happily of his family life and advising his friend to settle down soon himself. Though Roy often receives Hughes with disdain and annoyance, when Maes is mysteriously murdered, Roy is overcome with grief and rage to the point that he becomes scarily obsessed with avenging the killer.
Edward and Alphonse Elric - Hughes is especially kind to the Elric brothers throughout the series. In the 2003 anime, he invites them to his home to celebrate Edward's birthday, one of the few moments of domestic bliss enjoyed by the Elric brothers outside of their earlier lives with their mother. Because the Elric brothers had helped deliver Hughes' baby Elicia in the 2003 anime, it may be one of the reasons why he displays kindness toward them. Both he and his wife Gracia continue to be kind towards the brothers, as well as to their friend Winry Rockbell. Hughes also seems to be Edward's most trustworthy ally in the military, as Hughes manages to convince Edward to describe to him what he saw while in Laboratory 5 and also occasionally supplies them with useful information. Major Alex Louis Armstrong also seems to have a similar role like this to the Elrics. When the two brothers learn of Hughes' death, Edward instinctively holds Mustang responsible for the death although as time passes, he drops this accusation. Edward also blamed himself for being partly responsible, as he was the one who led Hughes into that investigation in the first place. Alphonse is also affected, but since he was in his armor form at the time, it is hard to see him expressing emotions physically.
Winry Rockbell - Accepting her as a surrogate member of his family unit, Maes rather enjoys Winry's company and her youthful spirit. Respecting her position as the Elrics' source of comfort and support, he is more than willing to offer her advice on how to deal with their stubbornness. Seeing the fondness both Winry and Ed have for each other, Hughes has told Ed "she'll make you a fine wife one day" much to Ed's embarrassment.
Sheska - Taking her on as his subordinate, Lt. Colonel Hughes takes an unreasonable deal of pleasure in teasing the timid Sheska and putting her remarkable memory and intelligence to work in his office, earning him the distinction among others as a bit of a sadistic slave-driver. His doing so, however, is well-intended and good-natured and he pays her quite well. In the 2003 anime, Sheska also became involved in solving the mystery of Hughes' death, and played a key role in discovering the last bit of information Hughes uncovered before his death, which was regarding the Führer's secretary Juliet Douglas.
Hughes was initially assigned to the Investigations Division in Central. He is more involved with police work than he is in actual battles. He has displayed his skills with his push knives, with very precise aiming and through the use of his reflexes. After receiving his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, Hughes is placed in charge of the Investigations Division. He also possessed very good deductive skills, noticing the pattern of the locations of major fights to match the points used to make the Transmutation Circle given to him by Edward.
Manga and 2009 anime
Hughes enrolled in the military academy during his early adulthood, where he met and befriended fellow cadet Roy Mustang; though it is presumed they were close, the two would be separated after graduation and would not meet again until both being sent out to the Daliha region of Ishval during the Ishval Civil War. There, though fresh from his academy days, Hughes was quickly promoted to the rank of Captain due the frequent deaths of his commanding officers. As the two soldiers watched the senseless chaos and rampant atrocities of the front lines, Maes lost some of his idealism but kept his spirits up with thoughts of a brighter future.
When the long war finally ended, Hughes and Mustang discussed a new idealism wherein one person would rise above people and protect those below him with his acquired power and authority. Even if all he could protect was a few people, he would make sure that those people protected those below them and so on until the entire nation ended up benefiting from his protection. Remarking that any person aspiring to do so would need to reach the highest echelon of government, Hughes promised to support Roy in his new goal - to be Führer.
Over the next six years, Maes was promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel and was stationed in the Investigations Office at Central Command in the capital while also marrying his sweetheart Gracia and siring a young daughter, Elicia. While in such an important office so close to the top brass of the State Military, he continued to covertly pass inside information to Roy (who had been promoted to Colonel and was stationed in East City) as part of his ongoing support of his friend's executive bid - effectively working beneath him to push him to the top.
Investigations in the East
Maes is first introduced to the story in Chapter 6 when he travels from Central City to East City with Major Alex Louis Armstrong in order to officially arrest the errant State Alchemist Shou Tucker for a court-martial in the capital. However, upon arriving on the scene, they discover not only that Tucker, his daughter Nina, and the guards holding him under house arrest have all been murdered, but also that their deaths fit the modus operandi of an unidentified serial killer who had been targeting State Alchemists back in Central - a man they had codenamed Scar. Informing Roy that Scar has already killed five State Alchemists in the capital and around ten nationwide, Maes advises his friend to lay low and keep safe until the assailant is caught, but when word comes back that Mustang's young protégé, the Fullmetal Alchemist Edward Elric, is currently under attack in town by a man matching Scar's meager description, the Colonel rushes to the scene with his men, Lt. Col. Hughes and Major Armstrong in tow in order to mount a rescue. They arrive in time to save Fullmetal and his younger brother Alphonse from being murdered with the help of Major Armstrong - who happens to be the "Strong Arm Alchemist" - and Mustang's subordinate Lt. Riza Hawkeye, and manage to ascertain a bit more about Scar before his flashy escape: namely that the man is an Ishvalan survivor of the civil war bent on taking vengeance for his slaughtered people. In the aftermath of the skirmish, Hughes issues orders to have a more detailed profile of the fugitive distributed through all official channels and warns Roy to be extra careful with a such a particularly dangerous man after his life.
That evening, as Hughes prepares to head back to Central City and file a report, he stops to pay his respects to Edward before the boy and his brother - along with temporary bodyguard Major Armstrong - head off toward the eastern countryside to have the damage to his automail repaired. Delivering a message from the Colonel wishing Fullmetal a safe voyage, Maes chats it up with Ed and tells the boy to look him up the next time he's in the capital.
Complications in Central
Maes reappears in Chapter 10, roughly a week later; his office in Central is suddenly inundated with trouble when the First Branch of the National Central Library - where several court-martial case files were being temporarily stored - is burnt to the ground by an unknown arsonist, but hearing that the Elric brothers are in town, he pops in to visit them at the library's Main Branch where they themselves are conducting research. When he explains his troubles to them and that the Tucker chimera case is still open, the boys introduce Hughes to their new friend Sheska, a former librarian at the First Branch who, in addition to having read all the case files, has a photographic memory. Without delay, Maes secures her a government job in his office recreating the files from memory and thanks the Elrics for their help.
A week later in Chapter 14, Hughes phones Mustang in East City to inquire about the latest developments in the hunt for Scar and learns that the killer has all but disappeared and that the recent discovery of his bloodstained jacket at the site of a sewer tunnel collapse suggest that he may actually have died. In exchange, Maes informs Mustang that Scar's murders in the capital have thinned out the upper echelons of the State Alchemist management office, prompting rumors of an impending invitation to Central Command for the Flame Alchemist. Roy is pleased, but Maes warns him again to be careful, as joining military command at such a young age will likely earn him many enemies in Central, and advises him to surround himself with as many trustworthy supporters as possible - not the least of which being a fine wife. Roy hangs up on him at this last remark, leaving Hughes hanging with the final bit of information he had intended to pass on, that the Elrics had recently been hospitalized due to an unexpected skirmish on the grounds of the previously decommissioned and now-destroyed Central Alchemical Laboratory #5. However, with his own things to take care of, Hughes merely shrugs the matter off.The next day, Hughes takes the afternoon off of work to celebrate his daughter Elicia's third birthday and, while en route to go shopping for a present, decides to visit Edward in the hospital to inform him that his bodyguards - 2nd Lt. Maria Ross and Sergeant Denny Brosh - will soon be dismissed since Scar no longer appears to be active. While there, Maes is introduced to Edward's childhood friend and personal automail mechanic, Ms. Winry Rockbell. Hearing that Winry is in search of lodgings for the night, Maes insists that she spend the night with his family and practically drags her out to go shopping with him. Taking her back to his house, he introduces Winry to Gracia and Elicia and urges her to stay for the birthday celebration. As she bonds with the family, Winry confides in Maes that she worries about Ed and Al, who constantly keep secrets about their apparently dangerous life from her. Maes explains to her that men like the Elrics hide things in order to keep from burdening those they love, but when they really need help, they will open up. Winry takes comfort in his words, but as they return to the clinic that afternoon, they find the boys having a row. As the boys patch things up verbally, Winry remarks to Hughes that some things in life can only be understood when said out loud.
The next day, Hughes returns to the clinic with Major Armstrong to discuss the Lab 5 incident with the Elrics. Ed explains that they had broken into the facility in order to investigate the great possibility that live humans were being used to secretly create Philosopher's Stones (as was deciphered from the notes of AWOL State Alchemist Tim Marcoh) there ever since the Ishval Civil War and that, upon discovering that the site was still in a state of activation, Edward came across a strange Five-Point Transmutation Circle that was likely used in the Stone's creation. Immediately after this discovery, both he and Alphonse had been attacked by a pair of alchemically-created guards before an even stronger, more mysterious pair appeared on the scene. Ed describes the sudden interlopers as a long-haired woman and a dreadlocked, androgynous teenager, both dressed in black and both marked with the symbol of the Ouroboros and states that they both referred to him as a Human Sacrifice before knocking him out. Ed produces a basic sketch of both assailants as well as diagrams of the Ouroboros mark and Five-Point Circle. Having the whole story out in the open, Hughes and Armstrong prepare to use their positions to search for any parties involved with Lab 5 or Tim Marcoh as well as any members of Central Command who might have given the order to keep Lab 5 in operation, but their conversation is interrupted by the sudden appearance of Führer King Bradley himself. The Führer greets the flustered soldiers graciously before announcing that he is aware of their recent investigations into Central Command's dealings and outright demanding to hear how much Fullmetal knows about the Philosopher's Stone. Stunned, no one is able to give an immediate answer, but Bradley merely laughs his question off as a joke. He reveals to them that he, too, has recently become aware of some shady business within the military and declares that he intends to discover its roots. However, he adds that the people for whom Hughes and Armstrong were about to search have all apparently vanished - having gone missing just a few days before the Elrics' venture into Lab 5. With their unidentifiable enemy clearly a step ahead of them and absolutely no idea who in the military is friend or foe, Führer Bradley deems the situation too dangerous for such a small-time investigation and orders Hughes, Armstrong, and the Elrics not to stick their noses in any further until he calls for them to do so.
Having reached the limit of their investigative license in the capital, the Elrics make plans to visit their teacher in the south and depart the next day with Winry. That evening, as Hughes sits at his desk discussing the mounting death toll in Reole's recent spree of religious riots as well as the churning turmoil in the Northern and Western areas with his colleague Captain Focker, Maes notices that the locations of all their recent military activity seems to correspond around their roughly circular nation with the vertices around the Transmutation Circle that Edward had drawn in the hospital. Shocked and horrified by the possibility, Maes rushes to the records room to confirm his suspicions by checking the circle against past military actions. His fears are confirmed when checking the records shows him that each and every major military battle in Amestris' history - including the Ishval War - took place at a location that matched up with a point on the circle used to create Philosopher's Stones. As he wonders who could be behind such a thing and resolves to inform Colonel Mustang and Führer Bradley, the door to the records room closes and he finds himself alone with a woman matching Edward's description from Lab 5, right down to the Ouroboros mark. She explains coolly that Hughes has learned far too much to be allowed to live and attacks, her fingertips shooting out like spears, but Maes draws one of the push knives concealed within his uniform and counter strikes - burying the knife in the woman's forehead while narrowly avoiding a fatal wound himself. Bleeding heavily, Hughes flees the record room and makes his way toward the telephone office. He declares quickly that he needs to contact the Führer, but as he picks up the phone, another realization dawns on him - a plan of this magnitude could not possibly have gone on without not only Bradley's notice but also his consent. The Führer and possibly all of Central Command must be involved and would certainly be monitoring his actions at this point. Hughes hangs up the phone without a word and hurries outside to a public telephone booth.
Once there, he calls the East Area Military Headquarters and demands to speak to Colonel Mustang, but is met with some difficulty due to his use of an outside phone line. While he angrily verifies his identity - remarking that there is no time to waste as the military is in great danger - he unknowingly drops a small photograph of his family from his pocket onto the ground. Suddenly, 2nd Lt. Ross appears behind the Lt. Colonel and, holding her sidearm up against his head, demands that he hang up the phone. However, Hughes responds that the person speaking to him is not the real Maria Ross, as the impostor is missing the small mole that the 2nd Lt. has beneath her left eye. The impostor apologizes gleefully for the oversight and causes the aforementioned mole to materialize into place, much to Hughes' utter amazement. As he covertly draws another concealed knife for a preemptive attack, however, the impostor spies the photograph on the ground and quickly changes shape again to resemble Gracia. Unable to attack the image of his wife, Maes hesitates and is shot dead. His corpse is discovered in the telephone booth shortly afterward and his military funeral takes place a few days later. He was posthumously promoted two ranks to Brigadier General for dying in the line of duty.
After his death, he is remembered throughout the storyline. Furthermore, during the confrontation between Envy and Mustang, Maes makes a cameo when his murderer tries to throw Roy off guard by transforming into him, but this does not fool the Flame Alchemist. Mustang immediately scorches the homunculus in a bath of flame, yelling that Hughes is dead from Envy's hands, and that his impersonation of Hughes is an insult that Mustang, as Hughes' best friend, will not forgive.
In the anime, Maes appears in the 1st opening sequence and later appears in the 3rd and 5th opening sequences despite his demise in Episode 10.
- In the OVA "Kids" on the Conqueror of Shamballa DVD another police officer resembling Hughes can be seen giving directions to Edward Elric's grandchildren.
- As a running gag, Hughes would always talk about his daughter (mainly to Roy and Ed, shoving a picture of her in their faces and loudly saying things like "Look at my beautiful daughter Elicia! Isn't she adorable?!"). Most noticeably in the 2003 anime (as well as in a side story in the manga) when before Ed and Roy's duel, he unveiled a large picture of his daughter, causing the crowd to throw stuff at him. Despite this habit, many people were very upset at his later death.
- Maes' death is somewhat changed from the manga. In the 2003 anime, he initially attacked Envy.
- Also in the 2003 anime, Hughes was shot in the liver while in the 2009 anime, he was shot in the heart. (Though fans without medical knowledge know getting shot in the torso is usually fatal.)
- Maes indirectly creates his own death due to his habit of bringing photos of his family wherever he goes. That was taken advantage by Envy when he just so happened to see Gracia on the dropped photo and transforms into her, making Maes hesitate and allowing Envy to kill him. In short, his habit is one of the reasons that leads him to death, apart from knowing too much.
- Hughes' military identification number is USO-800.
- In Episode 30: The Ishvalan War of Extermination, it is revealed on a letter marked to Maes Hughes that he was stationed with the 27th Infantry Battalion during the Ishval Civil War.
- The Hughes' house in Central City is located on a street called Mayflower.
- Like all military personnel in the series, Maes Hughes is named after a military vehicle, the Hughes H-4 Hercules heavy transport plane (Otherwise known as the "Spruce Goose").
- In a little picture in Volume 22, Arakawa states (while holding a FMA volume with no visible number) that she didn't get to draw Hughes, or Lust, on the back spine on that printed manga volume, meaning she was planning to have him and Lust somewhere on the back spines along with the other main characters but apparently didn't get the time to do so.
- In the splash page of chapter 107, where the protagonists place their fists towards to center, the reader can see his hand holding a picture of Elicia.
- His first name is pronounced quite differently in the original Japanese compared to the English dub. In the dub, it sounds like "Maze" but in the Japanese version, it's almost exactly as it's spelled: "Mas."
- In regards to Maes' career as part of the Amestrian State Military, he has held four separate ranks over the span of the franchise. He held the rank of Captain during the Ishval Civil War in the manga storyline and was introduced as a Major in the 2003 anime storyline. In both stories, however, he holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel up until his death and is posthumously promoted two ranks to Brigadier General (Major General or Commodore in the Viz translation of the manga) after being killed in action.
- During his scene in "In Memoriam," he is shown forcibly showing the Slicer Brothers a picture of his daughter as they are both ascending to heaven.
- Hughes participation in the the Ishval Civil War is different in the 2003 anime, as during the events of Episode 25: Words of Farewell, it was revealed that Hughes did not serve on the front lines during the Civil War. Instead he chose to stick to a desk job in the military. This was due to the fact that the 2003 anime had already ended before this fact had become known when the manga chapters for the Ishval Civil War were serialized.
- He was injured by Lust before his murder by Envy by taking form of his wife, which may have been a reference to Lust being called an excessive love for others, and which also is how he meets his end at the hands of Envy using the same tactic.