We learn more of the homunculi’s plan, while the series throws in a twist I was not expecting.
What They Say
In the shadows beneath Central, the Elrics encounter Father, the creator of the Homunculi. His face is familiar, but his alchemy is unlike anything the brothers have ever seen. As Father's dark plot takes shape, Ed and Al brave the frigid north to meet the top officer of the fortress Briggs: General Olivier Armstrong. With icy nerve and burning intensity, she commands the hardest soldiers in the land, leading the warriors of Briggs in battle against the unstoppable, rampaging Sloth.
Contains episodes 27-39.
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 General Olivier Armstrong 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 Winry and Scar and one of Ed and Al. 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 three volumes in, they still do not feature Winry heavily enough.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the last volume ended, Gluttony was worried because he had accidentally swallowed Ed, Ling, and Envy despite being under orders not to harm Ed and Al. Al is also worried for his brother and manages to convince Gluttony to take him to the person the homunculi consider “Father” as he wants to know who is behind the attacks by the homunculi and Gluttony is certain Father would know how to recall Ed.
Meanwhile, the fight inside Gluttony comes to a conclusion as Ed figures a way out using the Philosopher’s Stone that grants Envy his powers. The three tear their way out of Gluttony right as Al is meeting Father, whom they briefly confuse as their own father, Van Hoenheim. But while Father looks exactly like Van Hoenheim, he acknowledges that they are two very different beings; quickly Ed and Al find themselves out of their league as Father is able to use powerful alchemy without following the standard rules of equivalent exchange, and the two are easily taken hostage.
After giving Ling a Philosopher’s Stone to give birth to Greed again, Father sends Ed and Al with Envy back to military headquarters where they find the entire top brass openly working towards the homunculi’s goals. After a meeting with King Bradley, Ed, Al, and Mustang are all allowed to go free to continue their work with the understanding that if they act out, Winry’s life is forfeit.
While the three are worried that Bradley is openly daring them to continue looking for a way to defeat him, they press on with their plans. After some more research, Ed and Al head to Northern Command to search for more information about Xing’s alcahistory in the hopes they will find a way to recover their bodies without the use of a Philosopher’s Stone. At the suggestion of Major Armstrong, they bypass Northern Command and head straight to Fort Briggs, which guards the northern border with Drachma, and seek out the help of the Fort’s General, Armstrong’s older sister Olivier. But while in the north, they’ll discover that Father’s plans are far worse than apparent.
When I finished the last volume of Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, I wondered where they were taking the story. The cliff hanger left us with Al about to enter Father’s chambers, which really made it feel like we were getting ready for the explosive finale despite still having 38 episodes still to go. So I knew a twist was going to get thrown in somewhere, I just was not sure where they were going to throw it in.
For starters, everything through 26 episodes suggested that Father actually was Hoenheim, so I was wondering whether he actually was a bad guy this time around, or if he had an “ends justify the means” reason for his actions. So I was surprised that they gave up that Father was not Hoenheim so easily. I had figured that if there was going to be a twist there, it would make a good source of tension for a while.
The other part that surprised me was how easily Father, Bradley, and the homunculi let the Elrics and Mustang go. And frankly, I love that direction. I had expected some sort of daring escape followed by them having to go underground. Instead, they have really ratcheted things to a new level by essentially making the three free hostages. They are allowed to continue their research, but they have to keep their mouths shut or risk the destruction of all they love.
Aside from being a neat twist on what might be expected, this also opens up other ideas and opportunities. For starters, because they are at Bradley’s mercy, the three find themselves in a situation where they are forced to continue to do their work as state alchemists despite the fact that they know all they are doing is advancing Father’s plan. But it is also really telling for the arrogance and disdain of Bradley’s character that he openly acknowledges Mustang’s attempts to overthrow him but feels so unthreatened by Mustang that he lets him go and pretends that nothing has happened. Frankly, it is a twist that I loved.
And as a final note, I have to say that I love the addition of Major General Olivier Mira Armstrong. The complete polar opposite in personality to her younger brother, she is nonetheless just as dedicated to her duty. Her dedication to her post and subordinates makes her the perfect commander for the isolated Fort Briggs, and her no nonsense attitude made me look forward to every scene that she was in. Her inclusion in this series just makes the first series all the more disappointing.
I have said before that the original Full Metal Alchemist anime series was a huge disappointment for me. Well, so far Brotherhood is making up for that with gusto. The story is more logical, the characters are better defined, and it seems to me that the stakes for Ed and Al’s failure are just all the more higher. I am a little more than half way through the series now, and I cannot wait to see the rest. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentaries, Episode 23 Commentary, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song, Trailers.
Review Equipment: Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System