Fullmetal Alchemist: The Movie Limited Edition - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 49.98
  • Running time: 104
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Movie Limited Edition

By Chris Beveridge     November 09, 2006
Release Date: November 14, 2006


Fullmetal Alchemist: The Movie Limited Edition
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
It is 1923 in Munich. Two years have passed since Edward Elric's sacrifice ripped him out of his world and into ours, separating him from his younger brother, Alphonse. In that time, Ed's continued research into rocketry as allied him with Alphonse Hiederich, a fellow researcher who oddly resembles Ed's brother.

Progress has been slow, however, and Ed has become discouraged. But when he saves a quiet Gypsy girl with the power to read minds, Ed is quickly pulled into a plot by the Thule Society and the burgeoning Nazi Party the could drag both worlds into a terrible war.

Back in his own world, Al has been unlocking new secrets of alchemy and gaining incredible powers, all in the hopes of finding Ed.

Battling the occult, ideological extremists, and monstrous Homunculi lurking in the shadows, can the brothers find a way to reunite without causing chaos and bloodshed? What will happen when the world of alchemy and the world of modern science collide?

This limited edition comes with a 64-Page hardback book, ten 5x7 portrait cards, and a bonus DVD with extras.

The Review!
With the brothers separated by the gate between both worlds, each is looking for their own way back home to the other.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this film in its original language of Japanese. The audio side of this release is nicely packed with stereo mixes for both languages but also 5.1 mixes for them. In listening to the Japanese 5.1 mix, we had a really good presentation all around but also a rather strong forward soundstage mix. There are plenty of moments where the rear speakers get a lot of use and helps to envelope things really well, but the forward mix is where the bulk of the action and dialogue is and it's done very well here. We did spot check the other tracks after finishing out the movie and didn't have any noticeable problems there with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally in theaters in 2005, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The source materials for this look really good and a lot of this release has a very smooth and clean look. There are some problematic areas though in that some of the backgrounds have a fair bit of noise to it and some of the colors don't hold too well, showing some blocking here and there. With there being more visible digital moments here, such as the cel shaded armor pieces and some of the water visuals, there's some more visible issues there at times as the blending isn't always perfect but overall the transfer looks good. The number of scenes that look spectacular outweigh the ones that don't by a wide margin.

Packaging:
The special edition version of this release is another in a line of very slick looking packages from FUNimation but I fear its long term use will be detrimental. The entire package is wrapped up inside a thin cardboard slipcover. The front cover has a good looking simple shot of Ed in his brown suit outfit and keeps it simple with the gold foil movie logo and that's it. The back cover has Al in his brother's outfit being looked at from behind and is more like a standard cover in that it has a good summary of the premise, and a number of shots from the show. The breakdown of the discs extras is decent and easy to figure out and the technical information covers everything else. The runtime isn't kept to the grid but listed separately and clearly breaks out the feature runtime and the extras runtime, a real plus.

Inside the slipcover is something of a recent trend in that we have a small hardcover book digipak, where the interior front and back sides have the clear plastic disc holders. Bound in between it is where the 64 page book comes in and it's a really solid piece. It's filled with lots of little pictures, plenty of interesting text and a number of sketches that all help flesh out the movie more. But since it's bound to the book itself and not a separate book inside, it's a bit awkward to read in general and if you do a lot of heavy reading or viewing, I'm afraid that it will detach from the binding itself. This is something that should have been bound separately. Also included inside this package is a black envelope with gold embossing on it that contains several postcards worth of artwork from the film.

Menu:
The menu utilizes the reverse side artwork from the cover of Edward and Alphonse and it looks really good here, nicely detailed even if a bit soft due to the style of art. With the lighthearted nature of the character artwork and the heavy imposing music that goes along with it, it's an amusing mix and one I'm not sure entirely works. The logo and movie subtitle are kept to the center while the bottom has a simple but effective navigation strip that's quick to access. Submenus are laid out well and it's easy to get around. Due to the multiple audio tracks for each language, we didn't go by defaults and instead forced our settings via the menu.

Extras:
The extras are split across the two discs, with the feature disc being identical to the general release. There's a section that contains the original trailers from the Japanese launch, a gallery of production artwork and your standard image gallery. These are quite good and some of the material in the galleries are just gorgeous, but they take up only so much time. The big extra that runs the most here is the Making Of feature. It's more of a reminiscence though as it was filmed four months after the theatrical release of the movie and is done at the place where the TV series and the movie itself was created. A bit longwinded at times in getting to the point, it is a fascinating piece that really takes you behind the franchise to see what went into it and the people that imagined it all.

The second disc is exclusively extras. The first extra is a talk session which has several of the Japanese voice actors and the director going on about their experiences in the production, moderated by Romi Park. She conducts some one on one interviews with them as well as the group session. There's plenty of material to cover and it is interesting, especially if you like this cast of actors, and with a runtime of just under fifty-four minutes they aren't quite as rushed in trying to get their opinions across. The other extras on this release are done in this way solely because of the limitations of DVD. There are two Japanese audio commentary tracks and one with the US director and actors that run the length of the entire film. During this, you cannot change audio tracks on the fly and the subtitles are just for capturing what's being said by the commentators. This is the kind of release that will benefit from next-generation home video in that it would be able to offer up all the soundtracks across both volumes (something like seven of them combined) as well as all the extras on one disc instead of awkwardly split up like this.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With as strong a run as the TV series had and the manga that complemented it, never mind the mad amounts of merchandising, it was little surprise to see a feature film come not long after the series itself ended. As strongly as the TV series did end, and in a way that I liked as it wasn't entirely final but had some negative tones to it, it did leave plenty of doors open to explore in a sequel of some fashion. Having gone beyond the Gate with Edward, there was a whole new world to explore in a sense.

First and foremost, this is not a movie that anyone can just jump in and get everything out of it. While there is plenty of eye-candy and a clear enough plot to follow, so much of it is layered in knowing who some of these seemingly minor characters are and understanding the relationships between them both in the world that Edward originally comes from as well as "our" world. In a way, I would really hate for people to get to know a character like Hughes, one of my favorites, solely on his Earth analog of a German policeman with strong anti-Jewish and anti-Gypsy feelings. Some of the challenge in this show for fans of the TV series will be seeing some of their favorite characters being involved in the birth of the Nazi party via their parallel world counterparts. It's certainly a tried and true technique in novels and science fiction in general, as anyone who has watched Star Trek will attest, but with Fullmetal Alchemist appealing to a younger crowd as well as adults it has the potential to cause some problems.

With just over an hour and a half to tell a linear storyline without having to deal with commercial breaks or episodic cliffhangers, Fullmetal Alchemist works on a different level than what has come before and the creative team handles it beautifully. As we had seen from the end of the TV series, Edward is living in Germany, now in 1923 and older by about five years, and has found himself hooked up with Alphonse. Alphonse is a bright blue-eyed and blonde haired young man who is a bit sickly but is something of a genius. They've come to Germany to build rockets and expand scientific knowledge for the pursuit of bettering mankind. What the scientists don't realize is that they're getting wrapped up in the "Munich Putsch", the events of November 8th 1923 that caused a failed revolution spurred on by Hitler that eventually led to a much bigger event years later. Edward's initially dealing with some of the problems caused by his helping out a young gypsy woman who was being sold off to the Germans because she can see things others can't but it doesn't take long before he realizes he's caught up in the larger events of those wanting to support Hitler and are using spiritual items in order to gain power against their enemies.

On the other side of the Gate, we get to see some of the results of the five years that have passed. Al is taking on the role of his brother, though I'm not entirely clear if he's really a State Alchemist or not, but he dresses as Edward used to and is spending his time learning all he can about alchemy. The world here has had its share of problems over the last five years, but it's rebuilding quite well at the same time. Armstrong for example now spends much of his time running a construction service in Liore, the city that was completely destroyed during the formation of the Philosopher's Stone. Other's have moved on as well but for most of them there is a sense of waiting for Edward to return before they can fully start their lives up again. Winry is doing her usual best at her work, Sheska is much more involved in the politics and work of the State while Mustang has gone to a far flung outpost in order to pay for what he's done. Only Al seems to be growing and changing but he still keeps his dogged pursuit of finding his brother.

Interestingly, he's able to "dream" himself to the other world and through Alphonse is able to see some of what his brother is doing. Not that he realizes this nor does he understand what's going on a lot of the time but it does bring in a tenuous link between the two. Al still hasn't regained his memory of the time spent journeying with his brother either but he does know that his brother is everything to him. This bond between the two is something that was very well played during the series and is really given a solid use in the film, particularly at the end. Both are in their own way desperate to get back to the other and with Al's growing powers, he's able to start creating a stable path between the two worlds. This happens at the same time that those wanting to gain the power of alchemy are doing the same on Earth and it doesn't take long for the two to collide.

And when the German's come to town, nobody is safe. Especially when they come through the Gate and the things that live within there manage to attach themselves onto them.

Visually, the film is a step or two above the TV series which already had some really great looking animation to it. Of course, it had to keep within the constraints of its budget but there were quite a few tricks pulled along the way that helped it to look really smooth and fluid at times. The films bumps that up a couple of levels and with the greater detail to the backgrounds as well as the darker and more ornate feeling that comes from the time in Germany, it has a very strong defined character to all of it. The characters were also very well handled in being aged up about five years and some of them dealing with the aftereffects of the end of the series. Winry has a more womanly feel to her which really was good to see and even Mustang has a bit more of a worn down aspect to him. What I enjoyed the most from the changes was seeing just how similar yet different Al had become as he took on the role of his brother.

If at the start of the TV series you had told me that after the end of the series there would be a movie that dealt with this particular period of time in German history, well, I would have believed it based on how many other shows have gone in the past. But since it wasn't an upfront thing and was only touched on in some ways towards the end of the series, it was fascinating to see the Japanese approach to this both in terms of the story and animating it but also from a historical perspective. There's a moment where the Earth version of King Bradley has a book from Japan that talks about how the German way of doing things may be right is eerie but there are so many more moments where the ethnic issues are so prominent in the German cast that you can't help but feel unsettled by it. It's this straightforward approach however that makes the film and the story stand out more. While it is at its core about two brothers, it's more about how wherever we actually are in the world, we are of this world and what goes on in it is important to all of us. That we can't simply not be involved. It speaks as much of this time in history as well as of today.

In Summary:
After the TV series had ended, I was hesitant to jump right into the movie and bring it all to a close. The series had ended on a very strong note and appealed to my taste for endings that aren't necessarily happy nor that wrap everything up in a neat little bow. I was also very leery of the entire Nazi angle and what it could potentially do to cheapen the show and the characters. But having seen it now, I'm all the more impressed and fascinated with how it's all come together. This film does a great job of tying up a few loose ends, establishing certain realities for some of the characters but in the end focusing on the most important part, the bond between two brothers who only have each other to rely on in the world. But also having them at long last realize that they have a bond to the world at large as well. This is a solid piece of entertainment but one that plumbs the depth of recent modern history and through it tells an exciting, fascinating and heartwarming story.

The main draw to this release comes in the form of the extras on the second volume, which are heavy on the Japanese side since so much was produced for it originally, but also in the bonus book that comes along with it which provides a plethora of information and detail on the films creation. In its way, this is the best way to really cap off the series if you are into every aspect of it and want to dwell within it even more after it's been completed. Much of what you learn here will make watching the series itself again a more enjoyable experience as well as giving the movie a much stronger connection since you'll have the various actors impressions. This is certainly a solid send-up for the film though like the standalone release, the extras do seem deceptive in some ways. This one will be a bit more of a challenge for people trying to make their decisions but for the hardcore fans, it's one that shouldn't be passed up.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,The Making of Fullmetal Alchemist - The Movie, Japanese Theatrical and TV Trailers, Production Art Image Gallery,54 Minute Interview with Japanese Cast and Crew, 2 Japanese Staff Commentaries, US Staff Commentary, Extended Trailer

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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