Fullmetal Alchemist: Premium OVA Collection (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, September 04, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Gags and more make up this short collection of Fullmetal Alchemist fun.

What They Say
The Fullmetal Alchemist universe expands with new stories that reunite the original U.S. cast in four eye-opening tales available for the first time outside of Japan.

In the Interactive Experience, you're on the front line against the Homunculus scourge. In the Live Action Featurette, the search for truth continues in modern Japan. The Kids Short offers proof that innocence lost can be found again. Finally, you're invited to the Chibi Wrap Party, but don't arrive late... With Gluttony on the guest list, the finger foods - and fingers - probably won't last long.

Contains the following OVAs:
Chibi Wrap Party
Kids Short
Live Action Featurette
Interactive Experience

The Review!
Audio:
The bilingual presentation for this release is a bit of a surprise as the English mix gets a 5.1 upgrade done at 448kbps. The Japanese stereo mix, done at 192kbps, is pretty solid and conveys the original material well and it’s really not clear why the English mix got the bump up since it doesn’t really utilize the sound design all that much. Most of these pieces are basic dialogue exposition pieces or comedy segments so there isn’t all that much to do with them. The English mix is a bit louder and clearer, but it offers little overall in terms of a real difference from its stereo counterpart. Dialogue is solid and problem free on both language tracks and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 2006, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This show is pretty short so there are no space issues to be had here and the mixed material comes across pretty well since there’s live action and animated material. The different parts of the show are done with different styles but the transfer looks to capture all of it pretty well with a clean look and no discernable problems with any of it. Colors are generally very solid with hardly any noise and no visible blocking and aliasing isn’t a problem at all. This isn’t a show that’ll be hugely visually pleasing, as it works from the TV series level of animation and then often delves into more rough comedic styles, but it’s a solid looking piece overall.

Packaging:
The Premium Collection really fits in well with all the DVD releases that have come before with its gray background and logo design. It’s got a very serious look to it which the show so is not as it has Ed and Al in their standard appearances in the midst of a fight with electricity crackling around them. It’s a very appealing cover with its look and layout, but it just bugs me a little in that it doesn’t really represent what this release is all about. The back cover is certainly more accurate as it has a nice grouping of the primary characters in super deformed form on it with amusing looks on their faces. A few shots from the show extend this concept as does the summary which sort of reveals the comedic side of this release. The discs features are clearly listed and the bottom portion is given over to the production credits and technical grid. This release is done in a clear keepcase and has some reverse side artwork that has some fun deformed versions of a lot of the cast laughing and being silly which is very cute.

Menu:
The menu is kept very simple as it takes the artwork from the cover and zooms in a bit on it as its central focus. It fills up the screen nicely while providing a bulleted rundown list along the right of the menu selections. The show is split up into the two main parts, with the interactive section first and then the main comedy parts afterwards. The setup and extras round it out and all are very quick to load and easy to navigate. The show is like just about every other FUNimation show out there in that it doesn’t read our players’ language presets and defaults to English with no subtitles.

Extras:
The extras are pretty minimal which isn’t a surprise since the entire release really feels like one big extra. The closing sequence is included in a clean format and we get an original TV commercial used for advertising the movie.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tied somewhat to the theatrical release of the Conqueror of Shamballa release, this release is made up of a few OVAs that were made for what appears to be a premier tour that went around the country for the movie. The OVAs didn’t get a release in Japan until about a year after they started showing and I believe it was tied to the release of the movie on home video as well. The Premium Collection is a bit unusual as it’s essentially a bunch of short side stories related to the movie in that it takes place as a wrap party. There’s more to it of course, but overall it’s very much meant for the diehard fans.

 The show is split into two sections. The first section is the interactive piece, which isn’t really interactive, as it essentially introduces you to the world of Fullmetal Alchemist as if you’re a new probationary recruit. Under the guidance of Colonel Roy Mustang, you get to understand the basics of the series and then you see a number of action scenes from the show, some serious such as the pitched battle between Ed and Lust, while others are more comical such as Mustang’s piece involving Envy. This does take up a good chunk of the release, clocking in at about twenty minutes, and it’s a nice little side-cap of the series since you have the characters occasionally interacting with the viewer.

The best segment overall is the second piece which has the new animation and work to it. The first one is brief and thankfully so since it’s live action as it shows Ed in his full armor suit going about the city of Tokyo to the Bones office as he wants people to understand his brother. It is just a large non-moving suit being moved around, but it’s a cute piece. The bulk of the episode is focused on the wrap-party from the filming of the movie as you have the large cast acting silly at a drinking party as various secondary cast members get unruly and there’s some fun with that. It’s all done with a good wink and nod with plenty of silliness that really is enjoyable to see. But there’s also a nice nod to the serious side as you have a short segment at the end dealing with a lot of kids living in the modern city who look like the main cast characters. The focus is on a pair of brothers with a young girl going to see their great grandpa, who is actually Ed who is close to a hundred at this point. It’s a beautiful cap off to the film in a way and actually makes me want to go back and see it again.

In Summary:
This collection is a really hard piece to talk about because it’s made up of so many disparate pieces. I really had little interest in the “interactive” piece and the live action segment was mildly amusing. The rest of it was material that I really enjoyed and would have loved to see a full thirty minutes of. Instead, it accounts for maybe ten minutes total and that’s really hard to recommend. Most of this is stuff that I felt should have appeared tied to the movie release since a lot of it is related, but I’m glad it’s finally made its way out for release here. It’s definitely aimed more at the diehard fans than the casual Fullmetal Alchemist fan, but those diehards are the ones who will soak up and love most of it. It’s good fun in places but is very uneven simply because of its nature.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Original TV Commercial, Textless Closing Song

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 30
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist