Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #02 (Viridian Collection) (of 13) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2007
What They Say
Fullmetal Alchemist follows the harrowing adventures of the heroic Edward Elric and his younger brother, the metallic Alphonse, as they search for the fabled Philosopher's Stone in their quest to regain their original bodies!
More of Ed and Al's pasts is revealed as their journey to Central brings them to the State Alchemist test and all that is involved.
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, the front cover has a good looking dark piece of Al that shows a lot of him and with the shadows and coloring is very creepy. It's also a simple cover since it's just the single character shot that has a bland gray background that only has the simple line work of the alchemy circle. 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 image 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 some character sketches and a couple of advertisements for related items like toys and games.
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 Al 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.
Mirroring the previous volume other than obvious changes, we get some basic but decent extras here. The opening and closing sequences are provided as textless versions but with subtitles available for singing along. The production art gallery is broken down into a couple of sections for easier browsing. A couple of commercials are included from the show's original airing. A section of character profiles, with a lot of them included for this first set, are a bit better than some past attempts as there is more detail to be had for various characters, but I'm still always leery of reading these for potential spoilers that I should be hearing from within the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a series as long as Fullmetal Alchemist is, it surprised us with the first volume in just how much detail it went over the origins of the two leads in the opening episodes since that's often something that's slowly dragged out over time. With it being a show that's more intent on telling us in length about their journey to the present, this set of episodes continues that by bringing them into Central where their journey will really begin.
In the time between volumes I had also forgotten just how dark the show can be though this set of episodes did a great job of reminding me that this isn't exactly kiddy material. Ed and Al's journey to Central has them quickly hopping on a train by Mustang's orders so that they can get in a bit earlier they believe but more so because a particular General is on that train and there's some potential for trouble from a group that may want to abduct him. Mixing in a bit of cute fluff about some of the passengers and their reactions to Al, it quickly shifts into a more dangerous piece as a group wanting to gain freedom for their captured commander tries to kidnap the general and use him as a bargaining tool. In a way, the episode is a bit of fluff because it doesn't really progress the story itself but it does provide some notoriety for the pair before they even arrive in Central and gives them a rather thankful general since his family was saved from potential death.
Once they're back with Mustang they realize just how crafty he's been in that it's only because of the recent events that they're able to take the State Alchemists test by special dispensation. There's some time before it's to take place so the pair is put up at a researchers house where he and his four year old daughter live amid more books than the pair have ever seen before, which lets them study hard and long in preparation for things. The researcher, Tucker, is famous within small circles for his being the first person to create a chimera that was capable of speech and understanding human language. Though it's words were that it wanted to die, he's been kept to the project to expand it further since there is some serious military potential to it. The time all of them spend together, particularly with the little girl Nina, is nicely done and it provides some good quiet time for the pair while they study up on things.
Through their time at Central, we're introduced to a small number of officers and that the pair interact with. One in particular that stands out is Hughes, a rather talkative and proud new papa who heads up the investigating side of things. He's rather friendly with Ed throughout his time studying for the test and afterwards, somewhat due to the fact that he does owe him a few favors after how some events go, but also because you can tell he genuinely likes him. Hughes allows for all sorts of little bits of information to flow freely from him that helps expand on how things work in the military and the role each of them plays in it but also how the world out where they are now works compared to the Elric's time spent in the countryside. He's also got a serious side to him that we see in a couple of the darker moments that really works well.
A couple of the stories that run through here, which again could seem like fluff or filler as we deal with the tests and entry into the State Alchemist program, really do serve a purpose in helping to show more of how the world works but also in that since Ed and Al end up dealing with them it helps raise their stature. One of them even becomes one of the earliest of tales that will spread about Ed in particular due to his involvement in it and is something that you can see as being his debut as a State Alchemist, even though he wasn't supposed to be on that particular case. Between serial killers, transmutation of multiple creatures and the darkness within our lead characters, this show certainly doesn't pull any punches in providing an oppressive feeling at times but it's very well balanced. People are flawed and they don't always do the right thing but there's a desire to do so by many of them.
While we're still dealing with the characters pasts and their journey to become State Alchemists and learning what it all entails, it's very well told and is a very engaging story that's done with some relatively self contained stories. There are plenty of bits that you can see becoming larger stories as it progresses and the way of the world is continually being expanded upon as we see just what Alchemists are capable of and how the organization is really structured. Combined with excellent animation, very engaging and interesting characters, Fullmetal Alchemist manages to take what it did with the first volume and expand on it without losing any of its energy or excitement. Which each new episode I'm glad that this show ran as long as it did as I want a lot more of it.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Production Art Galleries,Japanese Commercials,Character Profiles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV PG
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