Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #03 - Mania.com

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  • 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: 100
  • 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

By Dani Moure     December 12, 2005
Release Date: December 05, 2005

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #03
© MVM Entertainment

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. There they encounter a thief with enough tricks to keep the detectives busy for decades. Yet a tip from this unlikely source leads them into an adventure more startling than they could have ever imagined!

Ed and Al arrive in Xenotime, once a prosperous gold-mining settlement. But Xenotime's gold has been exhausted and its economy is crumbling. Its only hope: two alchemists who are developing an artificial Philosopher's Stone to rejuvenate the mines. Their names? Edward and Alphonse Elric!

Who are the false Elrics? And what light can they shed on the Philosopher's Stone?

Episodes comprise:
9. Be Thou For The People
10. The Phantom Thief
11. The Other Brothers Elric (Part 1)
12. The Other Brothers Elric (Part 2)

The Review!
After a bit of a delay, MVM are getting back on track with their releases and we finally get another volume of Fullmetal Alchemist love.

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.

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.

No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

The menus mimic the previous discs, 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 playing 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 is often the case the menus are functional but just a bit bland in their design.

On this disc the extras drop down from an already thin selection, so we just 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. It’s not exactly the most awe-inspiring collection.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the third volume, Fullmetal Alchemist is well into the swing of things and as the episodes continue, I only find myself drawn more and more into the world and its characters. So far, this is a longer series that actually gets better and better as it goes along and builds momentum.

The first episode on this disc has Colonel Mustang (who really hasn’t had enough screen time yet) send the brothers Elric to an old Mining colony for an inspection. On arrival they’re greeted by the local inn owner who welcomes them with open arms. Since they haven’t had guests in a long time, he also wants to rinse Ed and Al for all the money he can. Only it’s 200,000 a night, and the boys don’t have that much money, so they use alchemy to fix a couple of things. When they find out that Ed is a State Alchemist though, they throw him out calling him a “dog of the military”. It turns out that a man named Yoki controls he mines, and he claims everything everyone makes in taxes, and uses an alchemist as his muscle. Naturally Ed and Al can’t let it go, and see what Yoki is really all about...

I really enjoyed this episode, in part because it showed the grit and determination of Ed to do the right thing even when the town was against him. Although we kind of know he wouldn’t, it would’ve been easy for him to walk away given the townspeople’s attitudes, but in the face of adversity it only drives him even more to get to the bottom of things. And the way he goes about getting the upper hand with Yoki is absolute genius, and just had me in stitches as he was playing up to Yoki and then the villagers when he was going to hand over the deeds.

After a strong episode, things continue on with a bit more comedy. The boys travel to Aquroya, the City of Water. As they admire the view, Ed gets wet and uses alchemy to dry himself. He’s immediately cuffed by a policeman who takes him to the station to ask for his help. A thief called Psiren has recently been causing a stir around the place, as she uses alchemy and is causing havoc. The brothers can help, and soon go about the task of tracking the thief down. But at the same time, Ed gets a bit ill and has to have a shot at the hospital, and the he’s a little bit taken by the nurse who gives him it, Clara.

Although it descends into something a bit more comedic than other episodes, especially when Clara starts jumping around professions as the buildings keep getting knocked down, I really liked this episode. It was just fun and engaging, and although the link with Psiren’s true identity wasn’t exactly rocket science, it was made more amusing once Ed and Al had figured out what was going on but didn’t really know her motivation. In true style for the series, someone who appeared initially to be a fraud actually turned out to be a character with far more shades of grey than you might expect.

The remaining two episodes on this disc crank things up a notch, as we get a really good two-part episode to chew on. Following a rumour they heard from Psiren in the last episode, the brothers travel to a town called Xenotime where they will apparently find a couple of alchemists researching the Philosopher’s Stone. The town used to be a literal gold mine, but since they’ve not been able to get any more from the mines, they are looking to research the Stone so they can use it to transmute the gold to return the place to its former glory.

Two other brothers are doing the research for Mugwar, but most interestingly they too are Edward and Alphonse Elric! Or at least they claim to be. The real Ed and Al get a bit of a roasting for the locals, but one man, Belsio, doesn’t seem too fussed whether they’re lying about their identities or not. But to get to the bottom of the other brothers’ true identities, they’ll have to uncover the link between the experiments and the health of the townspeople, and uncover the history of a legendary figure who discovered the power of red water.

As Fullmetal Alchemist continues it just keeps getting stronger and this story is a perfect example. There’s plenty of action such as when the two sets of brothers face off a couple of times, there’s some nice downtime as Al gets two know the brother that’s taking his name, and realises that perhaps there’s more to the pair than just being fraudsters, and the story itself is quite enjoyable as it uncovers a bit of history as well.

The supporting characters introduced here are also very interesting, which continues to be one of the series’ strengths. Elisa is a sweet little girl with a lot of personality, Belsio has an interesting past and relation to the other boys, Mugwar is quite villainous and ruthless and of course the other brothers themselves are given a great story that makes it easy to empathise with them.

In Summary:
Fullmetal Alchemist continues to go from strength to strength with this disc, as it continues to show so much potential for a truly epic story. While we’re barely a quarter of the way through now, it’s extremely enjoyable. The stories are just so well written and the characterisation is very strong even with the excellent supporting characters, and when it’s all combined with the heart and emotion that these episodes convey, you have a bit of a winner here. Despite its length, this is definitely a series I recommend as it looks like it’s only going to keep getting better from here. Again I find myself hungry for the next disc.

Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Textless Opening and Ending,Production Art

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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