Fullmetal Alchemist Set 1 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Lori Lancaster
Review Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2007



What They Say
The Season 1 set contains the first four volumes of the Fullmetal Alchemist series

The Curse
The Scarred Man of the East
Equivalent Exchange
The Fall of Ishbal

The Review!
Audio:
For the purpose of this review, the English 5.1 track was used. Spot checks were done on the Japanese and English 2.0 audio tracks as well. There was a nice balance between the sound effects, background music and vocal parts. The music itself had a full robust sound while not over taking the vocal track in the least. The usage of sound effects was almost spot on through out the episodes. The echoing effect that they used inside the church made it feel like you were actually there in the cathedral with them. The outcome was the feeling of a full 360 degree sound immersion. The only place where this faltered was on disk 4 episode 13. When the characters are at Central and they are employing the 'echo' sound effect the audio sounds tinny. The echo effect is also louder than in other sections. The tinny effect may be due to the audio becoming inverted. The Japanese and English 2.0 soundtracks do not seem to suffer from this.

Video:
This is a transfer of a recent anime series. The colors are very vibrant and the transfer seems very clean. There do not seem to be any noticeable interlacing issues.

Packaging:
There are three main components to this packaging. The first being the outer box. The front portion is comprised of a nice picture featuring four of the main characters. This is on a reflective silver background with the logo for the series emblazoned a few inches up from the bottom. There is a subscript underneath that states that it is the first part for season one. The back of the box is black and features several images as well as a short summary of what you can expect. Also listed are the extras and the episodes contained in this set. The box isn't entirely flimsy, but it isn't as sturdy as it could be.

Inside the outer box is an overlapping quad-case and dvd sized pocket. The tri fold case features artwork on the outside of Ed and Al on the front section. A stunning picture of Roy with flames surrounding a leaping Ed cover the other two back sections. The interior of the case features a reflective gold background. In the first section it lists the episode titles for the first 16 episodes under the pertaining volumes. The only downside to the case design is that it was a bit hard to get the dvds out initially without applying too much force.

The dvd sized pocket contains all four guidebooks for the first four volumes. The case itself is a very shiny reflective silver color. It is emblazed with an alchemic symbol that sees frequent use throughout the series. The guidebooks look like they might be the same ones that were released along side the original single volumes. These cover a great deal of information. Contents for these include comments from the Japanese Staff, short character profiles, and setting data. Setting data is basically comprised of pictures that are circulated to the animators to make sure that everyone draws certain things the same way. This particular set includes pictures of some of the minor and supporting characters. At the beginning of these guide books, pictures of various backgrounds can also be seen. This also shows some of the line art that was used as an upper layer in conjunction with other backgrounds to create the depth of the space the characters interact in. Lastly, the corresponding volume's episode titles are given alongside a short teaser.

Menu:
The main menus of each disc featured very bold and striking black and white images. The sub menus used very bright and colorful images. Each menu had different background music and it was very enjoyable. These were very easy to use and navigate.

Extras:
There were a plethora of extras included on these disks. The normal inclusion of trailers for other Funimation titles can be seen here. Also included are a variety of Japanese commercials, production art, character profiles, and textless theme songs. The production art spans a few different categories such as illustration, line art and model galleries. The Japanese commercials include short promo spots, longer trailers for the show, a serious trailer, and a dvd release commercial among others. Character profiles span the main characters, important supporting cast and also key figures in certain episodes.

Content:
"To create, something of equal value must be lost." This is not only one of the basic laws of alchemy, but something that is touched upon
several times during these first few episodes.

Edward Elric and Alphonse Elric were two brothers who lived happily with their mother in Risembool. They spent their days as other youngchildren might with one small difference. They were able to do alchemy. When their mother died after pining away for their father the twoboys would do anything to get her back. Even if it was something that many consider taboo. It is because of this that they are now forced to seek out the Philosopher's Stone. A Stone capable of rendering "Equivalent Exchange" useless and restoring unto them that which they want back the most... Their bodies returned back to normal.

The first part of the series sees the Elric brothers set out on their journey to seek out the Philosopher's Stone. Throughout their quest they are forced to make many choices and faced with several trials. One of the first of many that we see is that which makes it so that one of them must ally themselves with the military. This is so that they can secure access to the large libraries of Central for research purposes. Edward's first task as a State Alchemist sees him traveling to the desert town of Lior. Originally going there for the purposes of gathering more information about the stone, he soon discovers that there was something rotten underneath the surface. What seemed odder still is that the people of this town seemed to have chosen comfort over truth.

Aside from a few new character introductions, the next volume gives insight into how Ed became a State Alchemist. All the preparations and study that had to take place are mentioned. In addition to this the contents of the exams are also shown. By the time the first episode on the second disk comes to an end, a pattern seemed to have emerged. Every time Ed was confronted by what many would consider a villain they compared themselves to him. It could be the fact that the antagonist also wears automail. He could claim that they both want more power and so they are doomed to be outsiders. It could be they are gifted in alchemy and the thought of not furthering the science could be akin to an unimaginable evil. Perhaps his antagonist has even tampered with taboos. The results always end up the same. Ed ultimately has the higher moral ground on which to stand upon. The reasoning behind his choices for their shared attributes being far nobler. The villain who was grasping at straws in order to create a sense of comradery and establish legitimacy gets rejected. One of these scenarios can be seen in the man who was forcefully expelled from the military. It seemed that at one point he had decided he needed more power and as such tried to acquire an automail arm that granted this. However, his higher ups were not in agreement with this. As an end result he ended up in the current confrontation many years after the original discussion had taken place. Ed was quick to state that they had their automail for two completely different reasons. Ed's was out of necessity, whereas the other man's was out of the desire for power.

In the third volume, we see how Ed has come to embody the phrase "Be thou for the People." Although, choosing to defend the little guy wasn't always as easy as it may have seemed. This is especially the case when those people he is trying to defend happen to choose a certain way of life over their health. The brothers are also put into a situation where doing what many may think is the right thing isn't necessarily the correct thing to do for the people of a certain town as a whole. Seeing Alphonse always in armor, it is sometimes hard to remember that he is really just a little boy. However in 'The Phantom Thief,' it is easy to be reminded of this fact. The interaction he had with the nurse showed how shy young boys are when they first become smitten. The aforementioned episode also gives a nod to Lupin the 3rd. From one incredible scenario to another, this episode provides a good bit of relief from the drama and seriousness of the previous episodes.

The last volume sees a few more character introductions. New opening and ending theme songs are also introduced. This volume also touches a bit upon the idea of Equivalent Exchange and how it is not only for alchemists. In doing so an old soldier was able to teach Ed that not every loss was truly a loss. It only was one from a certain point of view. It also seemed that three years had passed since the beginning. As such Ed must complete an assessment. Instead of choosing something less challenging he decided to go participate in a battle assessment. It was not just any battle assessment either. He chose to go up against what he felt to be his nemesis, the Flame Alchemist. This leads into one of the most enjoyable episodes in this set. It's wonderful to see the interactions between the two. Roy seemed to have predicted how Ed would react in most scenarios. As a result, he used the assessment to teach him various 'lessons' while literally enflaming him.

The range of facial expressions that the characters have as seen during the battle assessment are part of what gives Fullmetal Alchemist it's charm. From Roy Mustang's smug expressions to Ed's extreme anger at being referred to as diminutive are a pleasure to see. It isn't only seen here. In various other episodes, the animators manage to give a nice range of facial expressions to most of the characters. This is readily apparent on Alphonse who is seen as a suit of armor. They have given an otherwise inanimate suit of armor the range of emotions of a small boy. Everything from wildly embarrassed, to sad, to mad can all be seen. Seeing so many various emotions on all the characters makes it easy to immerse one's self into the story. The background art is also beautiful. The plot itself is wonderful. A bit of a tragic coming of age story mixed in with the Odyssey. The final touch is the music and sound effects. The background music is rather nice to listen to just on its own, and the sound effects add that extra touch of realism needed.

In Summary:
Fullmetal Alchemist is one of those titles that most likely deserves all the "hype" that surrounds it. The richness of the characters, the plot, artwork, and wonderful music make for an anime that encompasses all the key factors of a great title. This series seems like it is part Odyssey and part tragic coming of age story. It will leave you truly sympathizing with the two young boys who found themselves in such a position. At this price point it would be a shame not to get it if you have not already done so with their single release or "viridian" line up. There is enough action, drama and comedy mixed in to keep most viewers interested. This is one of those anime series that is likely to become a classic.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Textless Opening and Closing, Production Art Gallery, Japanese Commercials,Tofu Records commercial,Square Enix video game commercial,Character Profiles,L'arc en Ciel Ready Steady Go video,Spiral of Destiny episode 1

Review Equipment
106" 16x9 DaLite HC Screen, Panasonic PT-AX100U LCD Projector 720p native, AMD 64 x2 4200, Windows x64, NVidia PureVideo, FFDShow, CoreAVC,
AC3Filter and Various Media Players DVD Upconversion handled by NVidia software, Sony STR-DE835 500W Receiver DD/DTS, Klipsch Reference
System (RB-61, CS-52 and RS-42) speakers, Sony SA-WMS5 100 Watt powered subwoofer, DVI to HDMI (PC to Projector), Digital Coaxial Cable (PC to Receiver).



Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A
Extras Rating: A+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 49.98
Running time: 480
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist