The series starts to move away from the first series and really shows what proper writing can do.
What They Say
The path to the Philosopher's Stone now enters unfamiliar territory, as the Elrics face exotic strangers who use alkahestry, a version of alchemy native to the distant kingdom of Xing. As insight is gained into the secret world of the Homunculi and their enigmatic creator, Lust feels the fires of Mustang's rage in battle - and the outcome of the clash will shock you. Winry endures the trial of her life when new horrors of the Ishvalan massacre are revealed. Contains episodes 14-26.
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 Mustang 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 Lin Yao and his bodyguards and one of Ed trying to force his way through The Door. 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 fourteenth and twenty-third 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)
The original Full Metal Alchemist series was one that was a bit hit-or-miss for me. I loved the first season but found the second season to drag; it never seemed cohesive to me, almost like the writers did not know what they wanted to do with it. Makes sense since the manga was not complete when it came time to make season two, and the manga writer Hiromu Arakawa did not want the anime to spoil what was still to come in the manga, so a new direction was written on the fly. So now with FMA: Brotherhood, they are attempting to redo the series, correcting the later mistakes of the first. The first thirteen episodes of Brotherhood covered the same material as the first twenty-six episodes with a few minor alterations, but this set now starts delving into the new material. And so far, the redo is well worth the effort.
The last set left off with military intelligence officer Maes Hughes stumbling onto the truth behind the homunculi and the top brass of the military and being killed by Envy. At the same time, Edward and Alphonse are continuing their search for a legendary Philosopher’s Stone while doing their own investigation into the mystery of the homunculi.
After finding out that they are important to the homunculi’s plan, this investigation leads them to plan a trap to draw out the homunculi by egging on the serial murderer, Scar, knowing that the homunculi would never allow Scar to kill either Edward or Alphonse. With this plan, they are able to capture Gluttony, but in the process, they learn that Fuhrer King Bradley, the supreme commander of the State Military, is also a homunculus, making their position even more dire. When Gluttony escapes and goes on a rampage, he swallows Ed, Lin Yao, and Envy, setting off a chain of events that leads Ed and Al to head to confront this secretive “Father” of the homunculi.
When Lieutenant Maria Ross is framed for Hughes’s murder and sentenced to death, an already suspicious Roy Mustang decides officially enter the conflict, allowing Ross to escape from military pursuit while faking her death. Knowing this will draw out the ire of King Bradley, Mustang approaches a general whom he believes he can trust with his suspicions about Bradley, only to find out that the entire high command are openly under Bradley’s control. Bradley opts not to strike immediately back at Mustang, preferring instead to transfer all of Mustang’s subordinate’s away from Central and effectively isolating Mustang, also making his position all the more precarious.
Starting with this set, FMA: Brotherhood really diverges from the storyline of original anime series, and so far, I am really liking the changes. For starters, this series is doing a much better job with building the sense of danger that surrounds Ed, Al, Mustang, and their mission. In the original series, there was never really a sense that things were ever truly out of their control. But by the end of this set, not quite halfway through the entire series, we are already at a point-of-no-return for our protagonists. Their situations do not seem like they could be any worse.
Aside from the increased sense of danger, I am also liking the changes they have made with some of the characters. There were quite a few aspects of characters’ stories and backgrounds that I did not particularly like in the first series that are no longer true. Staying intentionally vague, certain dynamics just no longer exist, and it seems to all work that much better. We have somewhat new stories for Scar, Mustang, Hoenheim, and even Ed and Al. Character histories just make a lot more sense to me this time around. Granted, there is still plenty of time for all of this to change, but for now it is going well for me.
The episodes on this set really start to diverge from the storyline that plays out in the original Full Metal Alchemist series, and for the most part, they are changes that I welcome. So far, the series makes a lot more sense to me than the original series ended up, and it seems that already, our protagonists are in much more trouble than they ever were in the first. It is just all pacing out well. Frankly, I cannot wait until the next part. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 14 Commentary, Episode 23 Commentary, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System