Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #03 (Viridian Collection) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #03 (Viridian Collection)

By Chris Beveridge     November 11, 2007
Release Date: November 13, 2007


Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #03 (Viridian Collection)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
The Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward Elric, is given his first assignment. He is to inspect the coalmines of Youswell, a task he believes to be Mustang’s attempt to deter his search for the Philosopher’s Stone. Ignoring direct orders Ed and Al take a detour to a popular tourist town hoping to uncover the smallest fragment of truth behind the Stone’s growing legend.

The Review!
The education of Edward continues as he's sent out on his first mission and has to temper his views of how the world should work with what reality is. But when you can transmute almost anything, what is reality but what you make it to be?.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The shows stereo mix is nicely active as there's a lot of good directionality to be found across the forward soundstage here between the alchemy moments, dialogue and some of the brief action sequences. While not as immersive as some other high action shows, this is a more well-rounded mix and it comes across well. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003 and 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being such a recent production and with good production values to it, the show really shines well, especially in these early episodes, with great looking detailed backgrounds and well animated characters running around. Though like every show it has its fair number of pans and stills, there's a greater sense of life to this show than in a number of other series of the same vintage. The color mix is really good with some beautiful blues and greens mixed in but it also plays well with the darker fantasy oriented colors as well. The color gradient issues shows up lightly in a few areas but it doesn't detract too much since it's pretty minimal and doesn't cause any noticeable blocking. Cross coloration and aliasing are both fairly non-existent and we've got a really good looking transfer here that shines nicely.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but with a much better looking logo, the front cover looks great here with two of my favorite characters with Mustang and Hawkeye together, him on the couch and her standing behind him, both in their full uniforms. I adore these uniforms and the style they exude and Hawkeye only looks better here with a black coat draped over her shoulders. The back cover has the remainder of the image from the front cover but lightens it up and places a number of shots from the show and several paragraphs worth of summary to it. It's a nicely laid out piece that gives you a really good idea of what to expect. The discs episode numbers and titles are included as well as the extras. The production information fills out most of the bottom of the cover and most of the technical information is nicely laid out in the grid. Though a bit small and scrunched, it provides a quick and easy location for all the key technical bits that I think a consumer should be able to find without having to look all over. The keepcase is clear and the reverse side of the cover is the same as the character image on the front cover but it carries all the way across without being obscured by logos or anything else. The included booklet is really beautifully done with lots of a high quality artwork included both in the character pieces and in the small art sections that follow. It goes into a bit about a couple of the characters and setting before doing some character sketches and a couple of advertisements for related items like toys and games.

Menu:
Unlike a lot of the busier and flashier menus that FUNimation generally has, this one is going for simple and effective. With a close-up of Colonel Mustang done in black and white while one of the alchemist symbols is off behind him in vibrant red, a bit of music plays along in a bout a minute long loop that's very soft and subtle. The navigation strip is along the bottom in a good looking fantasy character font and the overall feel of the menu is restrained but very apt for the show. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is easy to navigate though as with past menus, I still dislike their language setup. With no listing of what the actual settings are once chosen, you hope that when you make them that it's taken. Due to their style of language settings which are combined with alternate angles for the opening and closing credits, we never rely on our players language presets for FUNimation titles.

Extras:
Mirroring the previous volume other than obvious changes, we get some basic but decent extras here. The opening and closing sequences are provided as textless versions but with subtitles available for singing along. The production art gallery is broken down into a couple of sections for easier browsing. A section of character profiles, with a lot of them included for this first set, are a bit better than some past attempts as there is more detail to be had for various characters, but I'm still always leery of reading these for potential spoilers that I should be hearing from within the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fullmetal Alchemist hits another four episodes with the third volume in its release and the series starts moving forward again in the timeline of the past as Edward gets assigned his first mission as a true "dog of the military" and sets out into the world. Little does he know that the ever conniving Colonel Mustang knows exactly how he'll operate and takes all of that into account as his own larger plans and goals move forward much at the same time.

As this series moves along, I'm enjoying it more and more since the characters are becoming much more comfortable and familiar and their quirks fun to watch. By their nature, both Ed and Al are fairly quiet and introspective people who are just trying to achieve their own specific agendas, which is amusing because it's something that Ed constantly berates others for doing on various levels. In the previous episodes we've gone from seeing the route cause of this to what they're doing in order to correct it. But sometimes things just don't click for them or those around them until awkward moments. Winry's been a joy for them to have visit, but when she's sent on home and they say they'll never return, it's only then that I think it sinks in not only for Winry but for Ed and Al that they truly have no home to return to other than wherever they hang their hats now.

Ed's first couple of missions outside of Central sends him eastward to a gold mining town that's on the downside of the boom as the gold has been mostly all dug up and the military man in charge of the place has opted to bleed them dry as much as possible, which naturally results in a depressed town with big burly men who are getting crapped on pretty much on a regular basis. When the boys arrive there, it's a fairly jovial greeting since visitors are few and they actually talk about how they intend to abuse their wallets as much as possible, but once they find out that Ed's actually a State Alchemist, he's booted out and eventually ends up with the town's military man who shows him what the "reality" of the situation is.

The follow-up tale is a polar opposite in setting as it's a Venice-like city that's also on the downside of a boom but is perking up due to increased attractions in tourism, mostly related to a young woman named Psiren who has been going throughout the city stealing priceless items and causing trouble. She's become a draw for those that want to catch a glimpse of this phantom thief and in a sense is saving the town through this. That doesn't exactly work well in Ed's mind as he simply sees Psiren as a woman who is using alchemy for illicit gain and that goes against what he believes in. So with Al in tow, he goes down trying to figure out what the deal is with her. It's actually amusing as to what she's really doing all the thieving for and that she's doing it in such a traditional manner of notifying newspapers about what she intends to steal. Both of the boys end up with some feelings for her due to the way she interacts with them when they figure out who she is but at the same time she is running a scam of sorts so it gets to be another moral conflict.

These episodes are decent, but they go back to a basic problem that so many series have these days in that they constantly try to portray people as either misguided or just having their own agendas and if you look at it from their point of view, they're not doing anything wrong. This isn't the same as the epic villain who is strong his beliefs and doesn't view himself as a villain, something a number of anime series have done to great effect in the past, but rather it's the latest method if pop psychology that continues to push that everyone is good and noble but they have their own varied ways of showing it. Each of them being redeemable in Ed's eyes is something that he wants to believe in but it's just not a good reality to promote. Sometimes the bad guys really are just bad guys and there is far less of this than there used to be.

This is less of an issue in the two-part storyline that follows up these single tales as the boys continue to travel around looking for clues about the Philosopher's Stone. They end up in an interesting town called Xenotime where things are similar to the mining town in that the place isn't what it once was but it has something of a recent history regarding the Stone. The pair are surprised though when they get into town to find out that two people are already there and working in a mansion at the top of the mountain claiming to be the Elric brothers. And with Ed looking as young as he is, he's not easily believed to be such a State Alchemist.

The mystery of the Philosopher's Stone becomes the key storyline here as the duo learn about a method that's being researched about making such stones by condensing red water. The imposters are working through their fathers notes and discoveries to try and save his name and reputation as he had spent his life on it but they're doing it without realizing or caring what the effects are of such a process. The Stone's are interesting in that in their condensed form, the sponsor of the project is able to take them and transmute things himself without any talent whatsoever. Placed into a glass bowl with a handle, we see it used as a weapon in that it transforms the bowl into a gun and shoots from it. There's a lot of "magic happens here" kind of feeling to it but it's an interesting technology and you can see why some people would go to extremes to try and get it functional.

Of course, the price for it is pretty high and over the course of the two episodes we learn about it more and more as Ed and Al interact not only with the regular townspeople and those who knew of the past research on the red water but also with interactions from the people that are there under their names, which leads to the question of just what kind of research is the right kind of research. Though it's kind of a cheap thing, Ed's time spent in Central where he's pored over so many books and topics is useful once again because he recognizes some names quickly and is able to piece together exactly what's happening here. It's an enjoyable two part storyline that goes on just a bit too long but it does what the episodes on this volume are supposed to, show us how the world outside of Central and the boys own country village really works and what a lot of people are going through.

In Summary:
With each volume I come away liking the characters more and more though I keep wanting more of those that are relegated to truly supporting role such as Mustang and Hawkeye. Ed and Al are a lot of fun to watch and the way they act as brothers is a nice change of pace from other shows where this often feels hollow. The mixture of the alchemy and technology continues to be a major draw for me and overall the layout of the world and how it works, especially in how the story bounces back across a few years, is something that just appeals quite a lot. It's still a series where I see more potential to be discovered; it's quite enjoyable as is but at the same time I'm still expecting a lot more out of it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Production Art Galleries,Character Profiles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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