Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #09 (of 13) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, April 28, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, May 02, 2006
What They Say
The boys are separated when kidnappers take Al to their hideout, leaving Ed frantic to find his brother. Izumi steps in to help her proteges as always, and finds they've learned something from life she never could have taught them alone: responsibility. Major Armstrong battles Greed's men in the sewers in an attempt to save Al, while up above Ed escapes the military's clutches for a showdown with Greed.
As Lust suggests the battle is part of some larger plan, Greed morphs his body into an impervious shield, and swears Ed must kill him if he wants to see Al again. Lust and Gluttony meet Wrath for the first time and quickly set out on the Elric Brother's trail. Will Ed and Al reach their destination before they're overtaken? And if they do, are the ready for what they'll find?
Contains episodes 33-36:
Theory of Avarice
Reunion of the Fallen
The Sinner Within
Heavily focused around Greed, we get to understand more of the Homunculi as internal strife boils over within that group.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The shows stereo mix is nicely active as there's a lot of good directionality to be found across the forward soundstage here between the alchemy moments, dialogue and some of the brief action sequences. While not as immersive as some other high action shows, this is a more well-rounded mix and it comes across well. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Originally airing in 2003 and 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being such a recent production and with good production values to it, the show really shines well, especially in these early episodes, with great looking detailed backgrounds and well animated characters running around. Though like every show it has its fair number of pans and stills, there's a greater sense of life to this show than in a number of other series of the same vintage. The color mix is really good with some beautiful blues and greens mixed in but it also plays well with the darker fantasy oriented colors as well. The color gradient issues shows up lightly in a few areas but it doesn't detract too much since it's pretty minimal and doesn't cause any noticeable blocking. Cross coloration and aliasing are both fairly non-existent and we've got a really good looking transfer here that shines nicely.
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but with a much better looking logo, this installment is a fair bit darker as it has Greed on the front as he battles again Edward who gets shadowed onto the back. The back cover has the remainder of the image from the front cover but lightens it up and places a number of shots from the show and several paragraphs worth of summary to it. It's a nicely laid out piece that gives you a really good idea of what to expect. The discs episode numbers and titles are included as well as the extras. The production information fills out most of the bottom of the cover and most of the technical information is nicely laid out in the grid. Though a bit small and scrunched, it provides a quick and easy location for all the key technical bits that I think a consumer should be able to find without having to look all over. The keepcase is clear and the reverse side of the cover is the same as the character artwork on the front cover but it carries all the way across without being obscured by logos or anything else. The included booklet is really beautifully done with lots of a high quality artwork included both in the character pieces and in the small art sections that follow. It goes into a bit about a couple of the characters and setting before doing a breakdown of some of the secondary characters from the series and several showcases of animation from the show. This booklet should in no way be read prior to seeing the episodes on this disc however.
Unlike a lot of the busier and flashier menus that FUNimation generally has, this one is going for simple and effective. With a close-up of Greed from the cover done in black and white while one of the alchemist symbols is off behind him in vibrant red, a bit of music plays along in a bout a minute long loop that's very soft and subtle. The navigation strip is along the bottom in a good looking fantasy character font and the overall feel of the menu is restrained but very apt for the show. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is easy to navigate though as with past menus, I still dislike their language setup. With no listing of what the actual settings are once chosen, you hope that when you make them that it's taken. Due to their style of language settings which are combined with alternate angles for the opening and closing credits, we never rely on our players' language presets for FUNimation titles.
The extras continue to be along what's considered standard for most releases. These include the usual suspects such as the textless songs, the character profiles and art gallery material.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fullmetal Alchemist makes its way through a good chunk of the thirties with this volume and has to work through the period of the series where you can start to feel the potential of a slump. So much has gone on before and while there have been resolutions and revelations, it has that feel of wondering when something really significant will be resolved or changed. Not too surprisingly, they manage to deal with this by working with the character of Greed rather heavily.
So much of the show has been following Ed and Al around that while they do continue to still be the main characters here, more time is given to the Homunculi in these episodes so that we can start to see more of what's making them tick and how they're working together " or not. Greed doesn't exactly try to work from the shadows to begin with as one of the first things he does here is to kidnap Al because he figures that due to the transmutation that was done that put him in this state that he can learn how to become truly immortal. Greed's body is certainly an intriguing piece of work as he demonstrates it in different ways across these episodes and it makes him a formidable opponent. At times though, it almost feels like some of his abilities don't quite mesh with what you believe a character named Greed should have. That said though, I think he has one of the best episode so far once he returns to Dante's mansion and deals with the surprises that face him there.
Lust manages to get almost an entire episode to herself which is a real treat. She's been involved in things behind the scenes for so long and taking orders from the mysteriously named "you know who" that getting to see a bit more of her background. The episode is relatively a standalone piece that tells a tale of about a disease affecting a small village that's rather disturbing to look at. It goes back and forth between original outbreak of the disease and how Lust provided a doctor there with the means with which to fight it and the present where he's needing help to face it once more. What's interesting about it in the larger context is that we're able to see the longer and bigger game that the Homunculi and their master are playing as they come up with creative ways in which to find someone who will create a Philosopher's Stone. It also in a way paints the journey that Ed and Al have undertaken in a different light as they're more obviously unwitting tools in their end goal, regardless of the reason that they first started on it.
This volume also provides some good coverage again on the entire Ishbal matter as the events from the previous volume see some form of resolution. The plight of the Ishbalan's continues to be shown in very stark terms as we've seen the various camps they've been forced into and the trek some have taken across the seemingly endless wastes of the world. But now we also get to see them being transported in trains and a small group of them being interrogated about who shot the first shot during the last encounter. As downward as their plight is, it also does a good job in showing the prejudices that even the downtrodden have which is something that some of the characters find surprising. But the storyline also serves to bring together some very different characters in order to bring a new truth to the surface that could profoundly change Winry's life. It's done in a beautifully simple and almost offhanded way which is often how some of the biggest revelations in life come.
The pacing for this volume isn't all that different from what's come before as the shows staff has certainly found their groove and have been pushing a number of storylines forward along with the main premise. There's a good deal of interesting new revelations throughout these episodes, particularly in regards to the Homunculi which have needed more fleshing out, but it's very well balanced against action sequences that help push the show forward instead of feeling like they're just set pieces designed to keep you interested during that episode. These episodes hit some good highs and really mess with some characters as it doles out the story. Just like every volume prior to this, I'm enjoying the hell out of this show and it's high on my watch pile whenever a new volume comes in, if not at the very top. The series is only going to get more interesting from here on out with four volumes left and I can't wait to see more.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Production Art Galleries,Character Profiles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist