The first collection was setting the scene, the second collection expands on the scene, brings new people into the equation and brings in the past and present together to a point where it all melts in brilliantly, as it took a while but I finally now understand why this show is so highly regarded.
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've 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...
As what is becoming standard in my set reviews now, I decided to actually review both audio tracks by watching part of both discs in Japanese and in English. The English track has a 5.1 Dolby Surround Audio track whilst the Japanese is the standard 2.0 Stereo Track. The audio seemed fine, but seemed a little bit weaker that expected on the English track despite the Dolby Surround (though still stronger than the Japanese 2.1) In terms of resolution and in combination in the video, there weren't any problems, and during certain scenes (in particular the Scar/Ed fight) it seemed to pick up a notch, but overall the audio release was good at best.
For the most part, the video had no problems, in wide screen and full screen parts - the subtitles were timed with the video and the colours were very clear. However, there was one problem I noticed during at least two episodes - there was some clear watermarking in the middle of the screen. Whilst it doesn't hamper any of the video quality for the most part, it is noticeable and the lining was definitely a bit of an inconvenience. This was obvious on both my main DVD player and my PS3/PC viewing as well to make sure it wasn't just the players, so hopefully this was just a minor problem for the test disc that it won't affect the main release, but if it does it's an obvious problem.
There was no packaging for this test disc.
The menu is basic, set on a full red background with the FMA: Brotherhoold Logo, where you can select on both discs Play All, Set Up, Episodes and Extras - audio selection is easy as is extras, the episode select screen however is a bit more awkward than normal as not only is the fact you can't select any of the scenes, but you have to navigate each episodes by clicking on the right or left button, rather than what I feel is an easier option in having all the episodes on one screen and then selecting it.
With two different openings and endings for this set, we get them on both discs in the extras textless, which is great. The two other extras are dub commentaries on episodes 14 and 23. Episode 14 features a commentary with Mike McFarland (ADR Director), Chris Patton (Greed) and Vic Mignogna (Edward), and episode 23 features Mike this time with Todd Haberkorn (Lin), Monica Rial (Mei) and Trina Nishimura (LanFan). Both commentaries have similar feels to them (questioning Vic, Chris and Monica who were in the original how different it feels in Brotherhood). The second commentary is a bit more varied because Todd and Trina's characters were in the manga but not in the original series and Monica plays a different character, Monica in particular having a hoot playing Mei as such a little badass and adding the term -tastic to anything she says. Both are informative, but the second one I felt was more fun out the two - both are recommended for fans of the dub though.
I will confess that I didn't see much of the original Full Metal Alchemist anime, and whilst I have read a fair bit of the manga, I've not yet completed it so whilst the first collection of Brotherhood definitely was good, I was wondering if the death of one of my favourite characters would hamper the show, or cause it to go into greater things.
You'll be happy to know it's the latter.
It starts off wrapping off the end of the last arc in glorious style - it's confirmed that King Bradley, the head of the military, is in fact a homunculus (Wrath) and along with a squad, goes into the Devil's Nest to 'help' Ed and Al, but in fact goes down there to capture Greed, and mercilessly kills his underlings, including one hiding in Al's armour. It's bloody, animated brilliantly and sent chills up my spine. It's wrapped up nice enough with Greed being returned and destroyed by the mysterious Father, but immediately goes into a brand new arc, one that I was looking forward getting this far in the manga - the introduction of the character Lin, the twelth prince of a country named Xing, who is searching for immortality. He's quite a character, seemingly very jovial, sneaky and trying to take the easy way out, especially with him taking advantage of the Elric brothers every chance he can get, but once his eyes open, you know you'd better start running. It also culminates with Scar returning, and now joined by a little girl named Mei, also from Xing, who is a surprisingly talented martial artist and alchemist herself.
One thing this selection has done brilliantly is somehow get both this new characters together, and use some of the secondary characters and incorporate them into the story, making you feel for every single person in the show. The character Maria Ross, a seemingly normal member of the military, is accused thanks to meddling from the shape shifting Envy, of killing Hughes. It even brings in the return of Barry The Chopper (and surprisingly comic despite his nature when he has a weird fascination with Riza Hawkeye) back into the fray, and somehow it all works with his interactions with Mustang, the Elrics being tricked and the revelation of Mustang's plan as he realizes she's innocent. The comic timing and revelations however are also supplemented with the huge sadness when the Elrics and Winry realize that Hughes is dead - that scene when Winry goes to the Hughes' not knowing and Alicia hoping it's her dad knocking on the door - it's being added to my top 10 tearjerkers'
Mustang really is a big part of this volume, and you see why the military are so liked by fans. He's nothing short of one part genius, one part comic tool. He sends the Elrics back to their hometown so he can investigate Hughes' death without Bradley knowing, he saves Risa from Gluttony, and in a truly epic fight scene, his fight with Lust is nothing short of brilliant, both voice, animation and storywise. It leads to an actual death of a homunculus as well, when the truth about them and why they can regenerate is brought into case and the reminder of how important the Philosopher Stones are.
There are other major points in the story as well. When the Elrics return home, Ed is reunited with his father. Needless to say, Ed has never really liked his father ever since he left home and to say the reunion is awkward is an understatement. However, revelations from this and the fact that their attempts to resurrect their mother were definitely futile, brings a new sense of thought into Ed's head, to resolve bring Al's soul back into his body. He, along with the help of Lin and Lin's assistant assassin Lanfan, make a plan to lure the homunculus out to study the Philosopher's stone inside them/learn how to become immortal - by luring Scar out. The insuring fight does indeed bring out Gluttony, but also Bradley - in a couple of good fight scenes between the Elrics/Scar, and also Lin/Bradley with some interesting results, and one huge reveal for Winry, involving the death of her parents and who was the one who killed her'again, another huge tearjerking scene, especially the aftermath talk between Winry and Ed.
The final few episodes result in the fact that Lin, Ed, Roy and Al capture Gluttony, but Gluttony's rage about the death of Lust at the hands of Roy caused him to go insane, and reveal the truth about his ability to eat anything to a very scary degree. Envy shows up to make things worse, especially with his reveal about the truth of the Ishbalian War - something that is shown in various flashbacks which the series again intermingles with very well. With Roy knowing that Bradley is a homunculi, Bradley seperates him from his closest friends and colleagues, specifically Riza, whilst Ed and Lin have to battle with Envy inside of Gluttony, with Gluttony taking Al back to Father, as he searches for a way to get his brother back, leading to a very interesting climax involving Al's soul.
What I've touched upon is only the bear bones of what occurs in this collection. There is so much more, but the main reason this succeeds so well is of two things. The first is the fact that they intergrate everything so well, from past and present - the Ishbalian War, the Philosopher's Stone, the Homunculus, Ed's past, Al's memories, the introduction of the people from Xing, the death of Hughes - everything somehow is worked into these 13 episodes and yet seems to have worked well - giving attention to everything and somehow linking with something else.
The second is the characters - Almost every character has a huge moment in the spotlight, even some of the seemingly minor ones. Ed and Al of course with their fight with Scar, Roy with his fight with Lust, Riza emotional shots when she things Roy is dead, Winry's tearful realization about the murder of her parents and when she visits the Hughes family, Lin with his battle with Bradley, Envy with his role in the Ishbal War and his horrific true face, Lanfan who I haven't talked about much is truly devoted to Lin and when Bradley nearly kills her, her method to escape him is'well, wow. She's quickly become a favourite of mine despite not being in much, and Mei looks to be similar, teaming up with Scar she's a definite bright spark for Scar, and in the dub commentary, Monica said how bad ass she is when use kunai to mark a transmutation circle and making it with her feet'but of course, she also thinks Ed Elric is a 6 foot tall prince so'I hope her dreams don't get crushed too badly'and of course, Maria Ross - seemingly insignificant side character of the military is thrust into the main scene with her unfortunate role in the Hughes' murder investigation. The way Roy works this out is brilliant - and quite possibly this arc turned me into a Roy Mustang fan, he was just so awesome in everything up until Bradley finally begins to turn the wheels that the military really went up in my estimation.
With so much fused together, obviously there are going to be some casualities. Mostly, FMA: Brotherhood avoids this, but there was a lack of Armstrong (then again, this was mostly a serious arc so wouldn't have fit in as well), Izumi left pretty much after the first ep which was a shame considering how badass she is, and also the Ed reunion with his father was mostly anticlimactic. However, these parts aside, this volume has definitely converted me into an FMA fan.
FMA: Brotherhood is slowly becoming the series I really wanted it to be. Full of action, great characters, great storyline, and more and more added to it. However, it doesn't feel rushed or clunky with new characters and plots developing because it combined everything so well so you get a good feel of everything from the Ishbalian War to the plot of the Homunculus, and when you get some great fight scenes combined with comedy and tearjerkers, you know the show is doing everything right. Very recommended.
English 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, Textless Opening/Closing - Episode 14/23 Dub Commentaries with ADR Director Mike McFarland (also Havoc's VA), Vic Mignogna (Ed), Chris Patton (Greed), Todd Haberkorn (Lin), Monica Rial (Mei) and Trina Nishimara (LanFan)
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.