Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #06 (Viridian Collection) (of 13) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, December 11, 2007
What They Say
While Al defends himself against the transmuted Barry the Chopper, Ed discovers more about the dark alchemic experiments deep within Lab Five. But the biggest threat of all may be Ed's own morality, as he's tempted with the ultimate power he's been seeking for years. Hughes issues an order to allow Armstrong, Bloch, and Ross to investigate what's going on inside the 5th laboratory.
Now Ed sees that Tucker was hiding the fact that there were human prisoners involved in the making of the stone... and that Ed would have unkowningly killed them. But Lust has Al held hostage... forcing Ed to attempt the unthinkable. Meanwhile, Al's recurring questions about his existence come to a boil. Was there ever an Alphonse Elric? Or are his memories and soul alchemistically created lies?
With so much revealed to the brothers during the past arc, this volume lets things settle down a touch as the introspection takes place.
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 what's being called a controversial piece by some as it has the characters of Roy and Hughes together, sipping a drink and wearing standard suits and simply looking comfortable. I've heard a lot of people really don't like it for a variety of reasons but I think it's a great piece that lets these two guys simply look cool and plays up their personalities well. 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. It's a bit thin compared to past ones but it's still a great booklet overall.
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 Scar 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. No commentary tracks are included in this release but we do get "treated" to another episode of Mr. Stain.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fullmetal Alchemist hits the halfway mark just about with this volume and with such a great run of episodes already behind it, the series seems like it can only get better and more interesting as it progresses. The episodes on this volume have a bit of action here and there but it really is focused around taking the things the brothers have learned in their last encounter and letting all of that percolate in their heads. And nothing is more dangerous than men with time to think about things.
The first pair of episodes on here brings the Fifth Laboratory storyline as the various fights finish out. The fight between Al and 66 takes an interesting turn when Scar appears on the scene and they all end up going at it but events lead to Al and Scar almost working side by side as they deal with 66 and make their way into the Laboratory. The way the two of them deal with each other is interesting since in a way they should be going at each other but there's something bigger driving them at this point and as they make their way through the building and deal with the Homunculus and the twisted things they're trying to accomplish. For Ed, his time spent in the building in dealing with the two brothers that were combined into one unit has left him at a severe ethical crossroad since he considers them human – as he must since he considers his own brother human – but the pair feel like they're anything but and to leave them in a near destroyed state would be cruel and inhuman they claim going by Ed's standards.
Ed's descent into darker places is even worse as it goes on, using the brother in the helmet to guide him into the bowels and he meets up with the, well, person for lack of a better word, that's behind all the chimera's and other things going on in this laboratory. It's actually a bit confusing at first since the show has jumped back and forth in its timeline a bit but the revelation turns out to not be surprising in the long run but it does show just what some aspect of the military is really after. The disconnect between what Ed and Al see with the state alchemists and their close friends in the group and what the military is doing overall is a strong point and something that's been shown several times and continues to gnaw at the boys.
This also ends up being reinforced as we get more time with the entire Ishbala war that had gone on in the past and the way the remnants of the country has found themselves hunted down and hounded. Scars past is brought to the foreground in some key scenes when we catch up with him and a group of refugees that include some kids that allow him to remember his own time with his brother during the darker days and what they all went through. Some of the material in the present with the refugees, particularly the brothers, is hackneyed and obvious but it provides Al with what he needs to work through his own problems with his brother that have surfaced after dealing with 66. Al's slow descent into madness and disbelief over his own existence is interesting something that could make up a series all by itself. It's given enough room to play out here but with this being a fairly standard boys action series with some very above average elements, it doesn't go as far as it could for as long as it could.
While in a number of ways the Fullmetal Alchemist series is fairly average, it manages to take an interesting storyline and accentuate it with solid and engaging characters and done competently enough to raise it above the rest of what's out there. The series doesn't shy away from material that others would gloss over or treat with less seriousness. It's a case where the show has plenty of style to it but there is a solid amount of substance underneath that gives it more depth and emotion to it. The show is simply far too much fun, from the scenes of Winry chastising Ed over drinking his milk to the more serious material such as Ed's having to really make a choice over what he believes in. It's easy to see why the show has its detractors as it plays to the heartstrings easily enough and it's popular which works against it in some circles but it's far easier to see why it has such a wide and varied fan base. This is simply a great show that's enjoyable through and through.
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, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, 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: 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