Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #12 (Viridian Collection) (of 13) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, February 25, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What They Say
The quest for the Philosopher's Stone is wrought with madness. Soulless beings, half-man, half-animal, and armies driven by secret devils all mingle in the shadows. As the Elrics dig into the darkest realms of humanity, one thing is clear... everything is about to change.

Contains episodes 45-48:
A Rotted Heart
Human Transmutation
Sealing the Homunculus

The Review!
Edging ever closer to the end of the series, events continue to become more closely tied together as the path of destructions ends up slimming the cast down some.

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, Mustang gets the cover this time and unlike the more laid back one he had earlier, this one is nice and grim which looks great with the kind of coloring used for his uniform. It just oozes what this character is all about. 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 Roy 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)
Similar to the previous volume, watching episodes on this release is both exciting and saddening because we know the end is right around the corner. The culmination of storylines that have been going on since the beginning of the show are now in place and storylines that were only recently introduced that cover a much larger history are allowing us to understand the other stories in a far greater context. Wrap it all up in great looking animation and some exciting fight scenes as well as a few moral quandaries and you have a great show.

These episodes are the kind that are harder to talk about as they do a lot more towards bringing us closer to resolutions than anything else, the quickening of the pace as we see events unfurl before us and the events are all more in synch with each other. Ed has decided that it's time to take the fight to the Homunculi and has spent his time acquiring pieces of information and remains in order to deal with them once and for all. During all of this, Mustang is seeking to draw attention away from Ed by staging a rebellion in the northern territories along the border while secretly making his way into Central Command to verify the things that have come to light recently about the Fuhrer and his secretary.

As simple as those plot elements are, they bring in a slew of things with them and take up the bulk of the four episodes here. Mustang's arc is interesting since it shifts around the cast on his side a bit and they make a fascinating ploy to turn rebel. While none of them have issue with the fact that they must make war in general, as it is their belief that is what the military is for, the understanding that the country has engaged in more wars since the Fuhrer came to power and that there is a seeming pointlessness to a lot of them now that there is the possibility of their being started because of the Philosophers Stone, stepping back and taking stock is easier for some of them to do. But those that do find that they are few overall and it leads to the kind of diversion that Mustang needs so he can investigate things more clearly within Central Command.

While I do find Mustang's arc more interesting, Ed's arc is visually much more exciting as he's taking the fight to the Homunculi now and with a sense of confidence but wariness to it. His distaste for the Homunculi has left him in the mindset of being able to deal with them as just things and not really human, which they obviously aren't, but he's pushed them to a less than nothing state in order to be able to kill them. This belief of his is of course challenged the more he fights them and as he uses the tricks he's learned during his fight with Greed. As quick to judge as he is, Ed does take things a bit more seriously now and continues to push the idea that he's growing up more as he does use the Homunculi where he can in his goals, even if it means siding with one for some time.

The fights between them are very well done throughout this part of the storyline. So many of the Homunculi are brought in to play at this point since they know what Al is and there is a growing need to bring him to Dante so she can have what she needs to extend her life. We haven't seen this many of them together in some time so having them all working towards the same thing €“ while some of them start to distrust Dante and her promises about giving them back their humanity €“ it changes the way a lot of the show has worked. The split in the ranks coming after we get some surprising confirmations about Dante's history as well as that of Ed and Al's father helps to push the show up a bit higher in its epic feel. We've certainly a lot of hints throughout the series that there is a much larger back story but it's now all being revealed and it is fascinating to see it all come together.

In Summary:
Fullmetal Alchemist continues to be one of the more engaging straightforward boys action shows out there that manages to cross genders and bring in new fans rather easily. Everything up to this point has been a lot of fun to watch as they've mixed the humor, action and even sensuality into it. A show like this may seem easy to do but getting something that clicks as well as this for a large number of people isn't easy, especially considering how little filler there really has been and how each new piece of the show builds upon what has come before. It's managed to be engaging on the release schedule it has and I can imagine it being only more so in a marathon form. This volume answers a lot of questions and brings up a few more that will be tough to answer in the three remaining episodes, but I can't wait to see it. Excellent stuff, very recommended once again.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Production Art Galleries,Character Profiles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray 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: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 19.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist