It’s like watching the first season of the first series. Except on fast forward.
What They Say
Edward and Alphonse Elric's reckless disregard for alchemy's fundamental laws ripped half of Ed's limbs from his body and left Al's soul clinging to a cold suit of armor. To restore what was lost, the brothers scour a war-torn land for the Philosopher's Stone, a fabled relic which grants the ability to perform alchemy in impossible ways.
The Elrics are not alone in their search; the corrupt State Military is also eager to harness the artifact's power. So too are the strange Homunculi and their shadowy creator. The mythical gem lures exotic alchemists from distant kingdoms, scarring some deeply enough to inspire murder. As the Elrics find their course altered by these enemies and allies, their purpose remains unchanged - and their bond unbreakable.
Contains episodes 1-13.
For this viewing, I checked out the English dub, which is offered in 5.1. The mix is decent, with some nice left/right and front/back directionality on the sound effects. The dialogues stays centered, though, but there is no dropout or distortions on any of the tracks. With a series based in action like this, I would have liked to have seen some more directionality on the effects, and I am always a sucker for directionality in the dialogue, but this is still a nice mix.
This release is very pretty. Colors and lines are solid, and I did not see any technical issues at any point. It handles the brightest of reds just as well as the deepest of blues and anything in between. It should be noted that there is an obvious disconnect in style between the background and foreground in many scenes, especially outdoor scenes. The characters appear to be cell shaded, while the backgrounds are done with a more traditional color scheme. This is not as apparent on lesser setups. I personally love this style of animation, but I know that there are plenty who do not, so it is worth mentioning.
This is a fairly simple box, but it has a nice design. The two discs come in two thinpaks, with a slip sleeve art box to contain them. The front image of Edward has a bit of a foil effect, so it shines to varying degrees based on the color. It is a pretty cool image to boot. The back of the box has some screen shots, summary, and technical details, all with the same foil effect. The thinpak covers have some nice images too, one of Ed and Al and one of Roy Mustang and Maes Hughes. Nice pictures can be seen from the inside too, and though I do not think they were specifically designed for it, they would work well as reversible covers.
The menu is really basic. It is just a plain red screen with some white splotches near the edges. It looks a bit like some red paper that has gotten its edges wet and bled some of its color. The selections are in black, too, which can make it a little hard to see on smaller setups, especially from a distance. It does not look bad, but they certainly did not spend a lot of time designing it.
Not a whole lot of extras on this release. There are textless versions of the opening and closing, and some commentaries for the first and tenth episodes. The best extra though are the four collector’s postcards included in the box. There are some really cool pictures here; my only complaint is that they do not feature Winry heavily enough.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a remake of the popular Full Metal Alchemist series, this time designed to more closely follow the manga’s storyline. The original series got through about the first season before they were fully caught up with the manga, and the animators/writers opted to strike out on their own rather than wait for more material from the manga to continue. The result is a second season far different from the path of the manga. Not that it was bad, just different.
Brotherhood seeks to fix this and is designed to be completed right as the manga reaches its conclusion. Funimation have been simulcasting the Brotherhood series on their digital distribution site though only in sub format due to the length of time it takes to redub a series, so dub fans (such as myself) have had to wait for the DVD release to get our fix. This boxset contains the first thirteen episodes of the series.
Edward and Alphonse are the famous Elric Brothers, powerful alchemists with a penchant for righting wrongs. Ed is a State Alchemist, given the code name ‘Full Metal’ due to his cybernetic arm and leg (known as automail), and is the youngest State Alchemist in history, achieving the rank three years earlier at age twelve. He is also well known for his ability to create alchemic reactions without a transmutation circle, something typically considered necessary any time alchemy is performed. It is this feat that convinces the military into accepting Ed at such a young age. Al is Ed’s younger brother and also a skilled alchemist, but he does not have Ed’s ability at circleless transmutations, so he has not been given the same special dispensation that his older brother has. However, because he walks around in a giant suit of armor, he is often confused as ‘Full Metal.’
As a State Alchemist, Ed is a Dog of the Military, forced to go wherever and do whatever his superiors deem necessary. But he is given a lot of free reign by his immediate supervisor, Colonel Roy Mustang because Ed and Al carry a terrible secret. Before joining the military, Ed and Al lived alone in the small village of Risenbull with their mother, studying alchemy so that they could follow in their father’s footsteps. However, when their mother dies from an illness, Ed and Al break one of the cardinal rules of alchemy: they try to bring her back to life.
Alchemy is built on the principle of equivalent exchange: in order to create something, something equal must be given up in exchange. Ed is able to bring their mother’s spirit back, though rather than the beautiful young woman they love and remember, she is a horribly disfigured, formless mass who is in a lot of pain and dies again almost immediately afterwards. In exchange for her brief return, Al is taken away from Ed. Not wanting to lose his brother as well, Ed uses forbidden alchemy again, binding his brother’s soul to a suit of armor. Luckily for Ed, he only loses his arm and leg in the process. However, by delving into these forbidden areas, Ed also discovers the secrets of alchemy, which is what allows him to practice it without a transmutation circle.
After the failed experiments, Ed decides he needs to find the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, an object so powerful that it is reputed to be able to break the immutable laws of alchemy, enhancing an alchemist’s ability to unforeseen levels. He hopes that by obtaining the stone, he can return his brother back to his original body. It is this search that leads him to join the military. Mustang and his subordinate, Riza Hawkeye, are the only two people in the military that know of Ed and Al’s dark past. While he sends them on missions, he also allows them plenty of their own time to research the Philosopher’s Stone. But this search leads Ed and Al further down the path of areas best left unexplored.
If you have seen the original Full Metal Alchemist anime series, then you know what to expect here. In fact, the thirteen episodes in this boxset are little more than a faster version of the entire first season of the original series. It goes a little beyond it actually. While some of the details of the events happen a little bit differently, at least partially due to the much faster pacing this series is setting out, the overall plot pretty much matches that original season perfectly. And for what it is worth, the series should start deviating after this as it continues to follow the manga.
While this might seem hectic, it actually worked for me. As much as I enjoyed the first series, and I did, there were plenty of times when I felt like it was dragging. Too often I noted that it took them two or three episodes to get a storyline across when one would have been more than enough. The faster pace of this series has so far negated that complaint. I also like that they are throwing some details in earlier, such as hinting in the very first episode that Fuhrer Bradley might not be as benevolent as he seems. By the time that comes out in the first series, it comes out of left field.
And of course, the strength of the series continues to be the characters. I love the dichotomy between the Elric Brothers, as they are almost foils to one another. Ed is intellectually mature, while still (mostly) emotionally immature; Al is (mostly) emotionally mature, while intellectually immature. It sets up a nice situation where Ed is often the one who has to stop and put things together, while Al is the rock that keeps him on an even keel when things do not go their way. Add in that Ed is a far superior alchemist (mostly due to his circleless ability), but Al as a suit of armor is far more physically imposing than the vertically challenged Ed (God-forbid somebody call Ed short), and they are almost polar opposites. But their combined focus on their ultimate goal is what keeps this series moving.
Full Metal Alchemist is a series I have really liked for a long time. Brotherhood is another look at it, though this time it is supposed to follow the storyline of the manga. While I had no issue with the storyline of the original series, I will say that my only real complaint of it is that it plodded at times. So far, Brotherhood has taken care of that complaint, as they managed to cram the entire first season of the first series (and then some) into the thirteen episodes in this set. It is gloriously fast-paced, and therefore I cannot think of a negative thing to say about it. Highly recommended.
Features Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentary
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System
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