Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #11 (of 13) (Mania.com)

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Monday, April 02, 2007
Release Date: Monday, March 19, 2007

What They Say
Edward Elric faces his destiny and the burdens of his actions as the chaos surrounding the quest for the Philosopher's Stone reaches full boil. Alliances shift and factions fracture when horrible secrets and undeniable truths glare in the light of day. Long lost faces from the past appear to the Elric brothers, while twisted rumours threaten to unleash a civil war. The enigmatic Scar prepares the people of Lior for the onslaught of the military while pushing for a bloody collision of bullets and alchemy. The sinister beings that pull the strings continue to wind them tightly around hero and villain alike. Sin, corruption and shocking revelations propel the Elrics, Military, Scar and the dark Homunculi toward a tumultuous climax. Something big is happening in Lior... the souls of all involved lie in the balance.

41. Holy Mother
42. His Name is Unknown
43. The Stray Dog
44. Hohenheim of Light

The Review!
Fullmetal Alchemist races in to overdrive in this latest volume as we get ever closer to the conclusion.

I listened to the Japanese stereo track for my main review, and continued to really enjoy the performances of the Japanese cast. The stereo mix sounds good, with the music and effects coming across quite well. I noticed no dropouts, distortions or other technical issues with this disc.

I briefly sampled parts of the English 5.1 track, and really liked the English performances. Though I do sometimes feel areas of the translation are a little loose, this is just a preference and the dub does flow very well.

With this being a recent show, the transfer here is very good. I noticed no aliasing or other artefacts as I watched. Colours were reproduced well, and the transfer was very sharp and clean. In my main Philips player, this volume did seem to have issues with the alternate angles, with the disc breaking up before pausing when the angles came into use. This hasn't happened with past volumes so it's worth mentioning here, but it didn't occur on my PC or laptop.

We also get alternate angles for the openings and endings. This means that you can either watch the translated, English credits in the opening, or the original Japanese opening with kanji, and the same for the ending, depending on which language you select from the menu. It works well and caters to both sides of the audience, though Funimation could perhaps be a bit more comprehensive with their translated original Japanese credits.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, and I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors.

The front cover of this disc features Al in his armour as it becomes once Kimbly gets his hands on him. The logo placement and disc title are the same as past volumes, though Revelation have added the episode numbers included just under the volume name. The back cover has mostly the same layout as past discs, except there is no technical grid. The relevant information is all clearly listed at the bottom though. The cover is also reversible with the clean version of the wraparound cover image.

The menus mimic the previous discs, with a brief introduction sequence featuring the show's English logo leading into the main menu. This has the show's logo at the top, with some scenes from the show playing in the centre of a circle with Ed and Al either side. You can select individual episodes from the selections below, as well as extras and setup. A piece of background music plays over the main menu, though I'd have liked to have the opening theme play here as it does on the US disc. Sub-menus are static, sporting the same circular background design but with just the text selections available, and they don't have any music playing. Once again, there's also no scene selection menu. Overall, as is often the case the menus are functional but just a bit bland in their design.

Continuing with the bare bones in terms of extras, we get just the textless opening and ending, as well as the production art galleries here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Each volume of Fullmetal Alchemist I receive always goes straight in to the player, and as I've said before with each disc the story just builds and builds, getting better and better as we near the end. This volume just exemplifies that as the story has reached such a point that everything is really starting to pay off, as the pieces of the puzzle are really coming together.

The episodes on this volume deal with a lot of different themes and touch on all the different characters, but it naturally all starts with the fallout from Martel's death. At the end of the last volume the Fuhrer struck her down after stalking her and Al, but it's only at the start of the disc that we find out the truth about what she told Al with her last words " the Fuhrer is a Homunculus!

With that revelation, so much starts to make sense including why the Homunculus are so close to, and involved with, military matters, and how Juliet Douglas has managed to be his secretary even after her supposed death. The Homunculi are really getting back into the key portions of the story now, and they are deeply involved with the other main story; how the people of Liore have turned the city into a giant transmutation circle, so that when the military invade they can use them to create a philosopher's stone. Rose is there, still mute and with a baby and accompanied by Lyra, but it's Scar who's really pulling the strings.

There are some fantastic moments of action spread throughout the disc, none more so than the fights in Liore between Kimbly, the Crimson Alchemist, and Scar. Al gets mixed up in all the action, trying to do what's right but in the end he is turned into a walking bomb. The only way he survives is when Scar transmutates him, and in the process creates a true philosopher's stone inside Al.

This really turns things on their head, as Ed and Al have finally reached their goal (as the updated introduction sequence mentions from episode 43 onwards) and got a true stone. But it's not all rosy; obviously they are not sure where they stand with the military so go on the run, and it's this that brings one of the many memorable moments in the series " the chase between Mustang and the military, and Ed and Al. With the Fuhrer sending Mustang and the whole military after the boys after the Liore incident, it's Mustang's team that reach them first. Once again we get some great action as the brothers do their best to outwit Mustang, but in the end he and Armstrong come up trumps.

Throughout the episodes, a lot of the internal politics within the military come to light as people are exposed for who they really are, but it's the more personal relationships within that really shine. It's Mustang's speech that really shows why this series stand out among so many of its peers, because finally Mustang tells the boys he's not angry with the fact that they're running, he's angry because they didn't come to him for help. It's a very moving moment because of the history between him and the boys, Ed in particular, but it means so much for him to come out and say he cares.

Similarly, we get an interesting reunion as the boys' father finally returns from whatever he has been doing. It's not the most welcome return for Ed, but for Al you can just see how important it is and how much it means. The show is just so well written in terms of the relationships, and it's plain for everyone to see in moments like these. While the return puts a strain on Ed and Al, it also drives the story forward as several new things come to light. In a conversation with Mustang it becomes clear from what their father says that someone is raising Homunculi, and is doing it to get some new philosopher's stones. But it's also said that for Al to get his body back, he will have to return what was given up as part of the equivalent exchange, which would be the Homunculi created from the transmutation.

The final scenes on the disc at last introduce us to the main enemy, the one really pulling all the strings, and it's an interesting showdown in how it includes the father as well. Things are hotting up so much now, with relationships ever changing " some being cemented, some being broken " and the story taking its final twists and turns, and it's all coming together perfectly, and leaves me desperate for more volumes.

In Summary:
This really is the best volume of Fullmetal Alchemist yet, and that is saying a lot. The show is truly excellent, and here the story just hits its stride and never lets up. The characters are just as great as the story, too, and on this disc the relationships are tested to their limits. I have recommended this show before, despite the huge investment, and I just can't help but recommend it even more after this volume.

Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),Textless Opening and Ending,Production Art

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.

Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: C-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Revelation Films
MSRP: £15.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist