Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #02 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #02

By Dani Moure     July 26, 2005
Release Date: July 25, 2005


Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #02
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
A serial killer stalks the streets of Central, searching for his state-sponsored prey. He is a refugee, a loner from a land scarred from the wounds of war, tortured by memories of a happier time. His mandate is from the heavens: exterminate all state alchemists. This assassin believes it is his duty alone to purge the world of the cursed alchemists defying the natural order of his master's mighty creation.

His body is riddled with tattoos of alchemical symbols which allow him to use the ancient art for his murderous purpose. It is his curse, and he accepts this as his fate. If he must draw upon the taboo practice of alchemy, then let it be to redeem his people and reclaim the land stolen by the State.

Under these pretenses, he haunts the shadows and alleys of Central. He is fearless and faithful to his creator, a willing martyr for the countless many who fell during the war. Perhaps more than fate has brought young Edward Elric to Central as well, newly certified as a State Alchemist.

Episodes comprise:

5. The Man With The Mechanical Arm
6. The Alchemy Exam
7. Night Of The Chimera's Cry
8. The Philosopher's Stone

The Review!
The Elric brothers return as Fullmetal Alchemist takes a closer look at their past, and cranks the story up a notch.

Audio:
I listened to the Japanese stereo track for my main review, and continued to really enjoy the performances of the Japanese cast. The actors for Ed and Al are particularly strong, really embracing the dramatic tone and comic relief. The stereo mix sounds good, with the music and effects coming across quite well. I noticed no dropouts, distortions or other technical issues with this disc.

I briefly sampled parts of the English 5.1 track, and while I enjoyed what I heard of the dub again in terms of performances, I did notice that the translation is still a bit loose for my liking on occasion. As a by-product of their “reversioning” process, I do dislike Funimation’s habit of changing episode titles. I noticed no problems with this track in the sections I sampled, and the directionality of the 5.1 mix was pretty good.

Video:
With this being a recent show, the transfer here is very good. I noticed no aliasing or other artefacts as I watched. Colours were reproduced well, and the transfer was very sharp and clean. Despite issues with video quality being mentioned in regard to the region 1 release, I didn’t notice any problems during regular playback of this UK release.

We also get alternate angles for the openings and endings. This means that you can either watch the translated, English credits in the opening, or the original Japanese opening with kanji, and the same for the ending, depending on which language you select from the menu. It works well and caters to both sides of the audience, though Funimation could perhaps be a bit more comprehensive with their translated original Japanese credits.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, and I didn't notice any major grammatical or spelling errors.

Packaging:
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

Menu:
The menus mimic the first disc, with a brief introduction sequence featuring the show's English logo leading into the main menu. This has the show's logo at the top, with some scenes from the show plying in the centre of a circle with Ed and Al either side. You can select individual episodes from the selections below, as well as extras and setup. A piece of background music plays over the main menu, though I'd have liked to have the opening theme play here as it does on the US disc. Sub-menus are static, sporting the same circular background design but with just the text selections available, and they don't have any music playing. Once again, there's also no scene selection menu. Overall, as per usual the menus are functional but just a bit bland in their design.

Extras:
Similar in vein to the first disc, for the extras here we get a couple of Japanese commercials for the show’s TV premiere, followed by a promotional video for the show. We also get the opening and ending in textless form again, and a selection of three different production art galleries, one entitled "illustration", another "line art" and finally a "model gallery". All three are a selection of images done up as a video with some music playing in the background. While it may not be the most earth-shattering selection, it’s a pretty decent one considering the show’s length.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In its first four episodes, Fullmetal Alchemist introduced us to its characters before going back somewhat and showing us how they came to be in the situation they’re in. Those episodes had a fair amount of action and excitement, with a dose of drama thrown in, and I was curious as to how the series would continue.

After these latest four episodes, it’s clear that the series is shaping up to be something special. They’re well written, being both intelligent and fun, but are also infused with passion and heart that really brings out the true qualities of the characters, and reminds us that despite how they may look, how they may have changed or how old they are, with everything that’s happened to them they’re only human,

The story continues with Ed and Al on their journey from the end of the last disc. Heading for Lt. Col. Mustang, the boys board a train of his choice, only to find that some Liberators are on board, and they’ve decided to take the military’s General Hakuro hostage in order to get their leader freed. Mustang isn’t so quick to agree though, and with another military man, Major Hughes on board, as well as Ed and Al, the odds are stacked in the military’s favour.

Once the pair arrive at Central City, they’re taken to stay with a man called Shou Tucker, also known as the “Sewing Life Alchemist”. There the brothers become engrossed in his books in order to study for the State Alchemist exam, and also get to know his daughter Nina. Unfortunately, in order to not attract too much attention to the pair, only one of them is able to take the exam, hence Ed taking the stage.

While Ed and Al are occupied in Central City, there’s also a serial killer on the loose, preying on young girls, and the military have been unable to catch them. Not only that, but Ed also becomes curious about the nature of Tucker’s research, and the stories that he’s the only alchemist to have successfully transmuted a chimera that can speak and understand human language. But Ed’s delving only leads to some shocking truths about what alchemy can do.

With several different plots being weaved throughout these episodes, each still manages to maintain a central focus, the first being the train takeover, the second the alchemy exam, the third Tucker’s story and the fourth the serial killer, but the way they all fit together and are presented is quite masterful. The initial threads are planted early on, for instance with the appearance of the man with the tattoos on his arms and the first talk of Tucker’s research, and then gradually play out in the background before becoming the focus later on. It really works well in giving the show some momentum and keeping the viewer eager to see what will happen next.

And though the first two stories are good in their own right (it’s nice to see how Ed passed the alchemy exam, for instance), it’s episodes seven and eight that really heighten the tension and crank the show up a notch on the emotional level, delving deeper into the hints of a darker story that we saw glimpses of on the first disc, and really giving us an idea of how good this show could be.

Tucker’s story is both sad and sadistic, but it’s the reaction of the two leads, Ed and Al, that really shows the true horror behind what he is doing. As Ed witnesses even more horrors of alchemy, we see some regret and hatred of the whole alchemy idea, and the military’s involvement only heightens his anger, so much so that he initially relinquishes his status as a State Alchemist. But perhaps even more telling is Al’s reaction, both to what he sees his brother doing and trying to give up, and in his reaction to the loss of Nina. When he was talking to Ed and saying that he just wanted to feel the same feelings that Ed felt, and be able to feel the touch of his brother again, I really found it touching and tragic, and it carried quite the emotional punch.

Again with Ed’s reaction to the serial killer in episode eight, we saw him fighting for his life and at the same time doing his best to try and save Winry, but it nearly wasn’t enough, and he really thought he was going to die. Though his ordeal was scary and it’s easy to understand his feelings, it was again quite emotional to see him pushed to almost killing the man himself, going against everything he believes and almost doing something that he had just said he was disgusted about. Yet Al’s reaction was again a great counter balance, as he’s the one who has to stop Ed and, had he not been made of armour, he would’ve been hurt by Ed himself.

When you combine such strong characterisation at this early stage with the quality of stories we get here, you can just see this show has the potential to become a truly great one. The cast of characters are all unique and interesting, from two different and yet complementing leads, to great supporting characters with real personalities like Hughes, Mustang and Winry, and even episodic characters like Nina, and that they’re so good is a real testament to the creative team.

In Summary:
While it’s still early in it’s 51 episode run, from the quality of stories and characterisation increasing continuously as the disc progresses, it really does look like Fullmetal Alchemist will become an exemplary series. The mix of drama with a bit of comedy, plenty of heart and a lot of emotion continues to work really well, and aside from it being a long series and a bit of a commitment to collect, I’d be hard-pressed to find a reason to not recommend this. I can’t wait for the next disc.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Japanese Commercials,Textless Opening and Ending,Image Galleries

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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