Fullmetal Alchemist: The Movie - 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: 29.98/49.98
  • 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

By Chris Beveridge     October 04, 2006
Release Date: September 12, 2006


Fullmetal Alchemist: The Movie
© 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?

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 cover design for the regular edition of the movie is pretty solid as it has the long line of characters that make up key moments from the film while behind it is a mixture of elements that add to the alchemy side of it. The character designs look great in general while the rest of the layout mixes in a lot of dark colors with some very attractive shades of purple and white. It's somewhat basic in its approach but overall it works very well. The back cover goes for simplicity as it has a black background for the entire area but it does have a couple of strips of small shots from the film. The minimalist feel of the design is appropriate here since it gives the entire thing a much grander feel as well as simply making it easier to read the summary without any clutter. The discs features are a bit difficult to read in the squished technical grid but the extras are clearly listed. The keepcase for this is clear and the reverse side has a great illustration of Edward and Alphonse together working on some Newtonian physics issues. While not quite as intricate and detailed as the books scene for the TV series, the guide book here covers some fascinating material on how the film came about after the manga and anime series origins. It also delves into character designs and a look at the differences and similarities between both worlds.

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 back cover proudly proclaims a forty-five minute runtime for the extras though in reality there aren't all that many here depending on your point of view. 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.

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. Very highly recommended.

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

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 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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