A re-take of the popular Full Metal Alchemist series, this one follows closer to the manga which has both positive and negatives for the series, but overall is still an excellent show to watch.
What They Say
Alchemy the mystic science of transmutation. Gifted alchemists can break down and reconstruct matter using the Law of Equivalent Exchange, creating miraculous things. But one taboo can never be broken - human transmutation. The Elric brothers Edward and Alphonse broke the taboo in an attempt to resurrect their late mother and as a result, lost everything. Al s soul was transferred to a suit of living armor and Ed lost two limbs, confining him to mechanical auto-mail. To recover what they have lost they embarked on a journey to find the fabled Philosopher s Stone. The closer they get to the hidden truth of the Philosopher s Stone, the deeper they fall under shadowy schemes and the perils of unnatural creatures. The military nation of Amestris, the grudges and hatreds of a persecuted people, and the countless tragedies caused by alchemy all form a dark vortex that will draw people and countries into its void. The Elric brothers forge ahead in their quest to transmute despair into hope...
In what's becoming normal for 2 disc releases, I decided to actually review both audio tracks by watching the first disc in Japanese and the second disc in English. The English track has a 5.1 Dolby Surround Audio track whilst the Japanese is the standard 2.0 Stereo Track. This is one release that is excellent when it comes to audio, as the transition is flawless, and both tracks are excellent coming through my speakers, and whilst the English audio is superior, the Japanese track is fantastic to listen to. There are no problems I found with the transition between audio and visual, as the moment you are sucked down the sewers in episode 1, the effects really come through your screen and you get sucked into how well it translates.
The video had no problems, they were no glitches or slowdown, and linked in well with the Japanese subtitles, although there were two minor problems I noticed. The first is that like in a few of Manga's releases (most noticably Ouran) they chose to put the subtitles of signs and such over the subtitles of the characters talking. Whilst this isn't as problematic as it was in Ouran, it's still quite annoying. The second problem was I noticed a few spelling mistakes during the subtitles - I will reiterate this is an early test disc so these problems may be rectified but as of now until release I don't know. The transition is good and works well overall, but in those instant when signs are required (especially during the episode when Winry is delivering the baby) it can be headache inducing.
There was no packaging for this test disc.
The menu is very basic, with the opening song playing over a shot of Ed and Al on the first disc, with Winry added to the mix in the second one. The problem is it's a very dark background which makes some of the selections harder to see, and in the episode selection, you can only go by the very thin arrow on the right to switch episodes, as the episode selection is only for the episodes itself, and there is no scene select option, making a few more niggles which annoyed me.
Whilst we have the standard opening and endings in clean format which is always nice, we have two nice treats for dub fans in two episode commentaries in episode 1 and 10.
The first one features one of the ADR Directors Mike McFarland, Colleen Clinkerbeard reprising her roles as Rose and Riza, Travis Willingham reprising his role as Roy Mustang, and a new voice of Alphonse in Maxey Whitehead, who I heard most recently as Ellis in El Cazador De La Bruja, who has taken over from original VA Aaron Dismuke. The main take of this commentary is a combination of how the original Vas see what is different between the original series and Brotherhood (Colleen saying she had to try harder to lower her voice) whilst giving slightly spoilers to the Hawkeye/Mustang relationship. The other part is basically having fun and basically teasing Maxie who is the new kid on the block, as they talk about the way in both shows they got Alphonse 'suit of armour' voice, and bits of their previous works, although they don't talk much about the episode itself.
The second commentary is far different as it involves one of the most famous moments of FMA. The hint is that we have Maes Hughes VA (Sonny Strait) along with Winry's (Caitlin Glass) and Lust's (Laura Bailey) Vas there. Without spoiling too much for new viewers of the show, it is definitely more of an episode focus as Sonny talks about how he felt about doing the role again, and just how quickly 'it' happens in comparison to the original series. They even get a little sad at the episode, and even compare some historical facts regarding this episode, which was interesting. With all 3 reprising roles from the original, it's more of a character study of each actor within the episode. Both commentaries are very good though for different reasons so if you're a dub fan, it's a real treat.
Being a fan of the original FMA, I hadn't had a chance to check out this new version yet, but I had heard that things stick a lot closer to the manga than the original. The original series was a very good story about two brothers looking to reclaim their bodies back after a failed alchemy experimentation to resurrect their dead mother so I was looking forward to see how this new version would differ.
The first episode is basically a re-introduction to the characters, as pretty much every major character from the military and our beloved Elric brothers appears in a battle to trap a rogue alchemist named the Ice Alchemist. It isn't until the 2nd episode that the story begins to what we know and love. The Elric brothers, Ed - a young man who has a height complex, is a State Alchemist at a young age who has the unique ability to transmute things without the aid of what is considered a pre-requisite for all alchemists, a transmutation circle. His brother, Alphonse appears to be a giant suit of armour, but the episode basically explains everything well - both as a reminder for fans of the original, and newer fans never seeing it before as it tells the story of why Ed's brother is a suit of armour and why Ed lost his arm and leg. It's quite terrifying in some places and these scenes definitely stick out more in Brotherhood than the original as it definitely a lot darker. It leads to their childhood friend Winry and her grandmother to fix them up, and the appearance of State Alchemist Roy Mustang to convince him to become a State Alchemist to look for the way to return their bodies back to normal. And as you could say, the rest is history.
The interesting thing about Brotherhood is basically how fast the story goes. A number of the arcs from the original are reduced completely (like the Cornellio arc which lasts just one ep) or are only mentioned in passing (such as the Yoki arc, Yoki does appear during the confrontation of Scar) which requires newer fans to maybe bit a bit confused. This could be a weakness in that respect, but for fans of FMA, this could also be a plus, as we immediately get into the nitty gritty and get ready for the sections later in the manga that the original anime didn't animate and get the real story told in animated form. Scar for example, appears in episode 4 as the episode is about a famous alchemist named Tucker who created the first chimera who could talk. However times are hard for him and he needs to submit a good examination requirement otherwise he will be stripped of his qualifications, and thus his lifestyle. Fans of the original will know how this plays out, but for newcomers this scene really hits you hard and even to watchers of the original it's played out quicker and darker, and the moment lives in for Ed as a day before he was playing with Tucker's adorable daughter Nina and their dog Alexander, and the next day...
Scar is an interesting antagonist as well - he seems to have a religious reason for killing State Alchemists, and sets his sights on Ed, yet he also seems to have a humble side and you can tell he's certainly not 100% evil as he decides not to kill Al on Ed's request -" Scar definitely is a complex character, as it appears both the Alchemist side and the real bad guys, the Homunculus are both after him. The Homunculus first appear in the Cornello arc, and are named after the 7 Deadly Sins. We meet throughout the discs the apparent leader Lust, a beautiful raved haired woman who's deadly with her hands, Envy - a shape shifting boy who has a teasing nature but is definitely just as deadly, and Gluttony - a seemingly no intelligent one track mind thing, who basically consists of literally eating up anything and anyone in his path.
As mentioned, a lot of the arcs get shortened to hurry the story along. This is both good and bad as it hurries the story along, but at the same time it does shorten the time of the arcs, this is definitely prevalent during the infamous scene with Maes Hughes, who was one of my favourite characters in the original. Whilst he lasts a while in the original series extending several episodes and adding original content to prolong, it may delay the story a bit but gives you more closure for one of the more fun characters in the series. In Brotherhood, he does get his fun moments and the scene with his daughters' birthday with Winry is heart-warming... but it soon turns too quickly to heart wrenching. So it doesn't get you as close to some of the characters that you may have done in the original series. But it does quickly get the main stories into play with less filler, so Winry gets more focus quite early as she's a focal point of Ed in fixing him up after his altercation with scar, and even travels with them to Rush Valley, the home of automails - and Scar returning to an Ishbalian slum back to his roots as you see a glimmer of what makes him tick. You even get cameos from characters who don't turn up much later in the manga like Kimblee, knowing they will play a role at some point in the story.
We get a lot of the arcs condensed, so we get to near the end as Ed and Al have returned to their teacher of alchemy Izumi, to try and find a clue to the Philosopher's Stone, the main ingredient to try and get their bodies back to normal. There were hints earlier in the arc about it, like when the brothers return to their home in Risembool and meet someone named Dr Mardoch who did research on it, and then when they research the materials with the help of one of my favourite side-characters Sheska (and the sad truth they learn from what creates a philosopher's stone). This is probably the strongest part of the discs as we learn that Izumi, who is a very no-nonsense powerful woman, had been through the exact same hell as Al and Ed, and is one of the few people who truly understands them. She is easily under the harsh but fair type of teacher, and whilst their relationship does provide some comic moments, the end of episode 12 made me teary-eyed.
It ends up with introducing the 4th Homunculus Greed, just 13 episodes in - which leads to a small cliffhanger when Izumi steps in to take over from a fight between Greed and Ed. The series literally flies through the stories a lot faster, making the adjustment is easy for older fans, but newer ones may be confused at the characterisation, as I get the feeling this series was basically made for fans of the original who are familiar with the characters and the plots from the manga and original anime. However it does make a lot of the plot link through much better (such as when we meet Barry The Chopper and the Homunculus' reason for trying to kill Scar yet keep Ed alive is shown and heard quickly and is easy to understand), and the darker tone of the series also adds a new dimension as whilst the comedy is there, you can feel the tears of Ed when he sees himself as helpless as he couldn't save one little girl, or the pity for Izumi as this tough woman has to sacrifice so much for something she no longer can have. Fans of the original may have different opinions about how this new version is in comparison to the original, but I don't think anyone can deny it's a very good series.
Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood is a love affair for fans of the original series as we get the story as told by the manga, but at the cost of an abridged version of certain storylines and arcs from the original. In some cases, this is a plus and removes a bunch of the filler, but at the same time also cuts short a fair bit of the characterisation, this is definitely shown in the case of Maes Hughes for example and to a lesser extent Scar. However, it's a very good series in it's own right without prior knowledge of the series, with overly complex characters, dark overtones and tears flowing right from the first two discs. If you don't shed a dear during what happens to Nina, Hughes and to a lesser extent the brothers and Izumi, you're about as human as a homunculus. There is definitely a lot to look forward to and I can't wait.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 1 Commentary - Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Colleen Clinkenbeard (VA of Rose and Riza Hawkeye), Travis Willingham (VA of Roy Mustang) and Maxey Whitehead (VA of Alphonse Elric), Episode 10 Commentary -Sonny Strait (VA of Maes Hughes), Laura Bailey (VA of Lust) and Caitlin Glass (ADR Director and voice of Winry Rockbell), Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV - Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers - Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.