Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #04 - 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: £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. #04

By Dani Moure     January 18, 2006
Release Date: January 16, 2006

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #04
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
The Elrics return to Eastern Headquarters to report their progress – which, as Mustang points out, is none. Ed and Al leave for the countryside to search for Doctor Marcoh, a State Alchemist who deserted during the Eastern Rebellion and is now a fugitive of the state.

Unbeknown to the brothers, Marcoh possesses secrets that could prove invaluable - if they can keep him alive. On the run from both Scar and the military, Doctor Marcoh confesses to the Elrics the reason these tragedies are happening. A decade ago, State Alchemists were called into Ishbal to end a seven-year civil war. What followed was a wave of unspeakable atrocities that neither the Ishbalans, nor the State Alchemists who committed them, can forget...

Episodes comprise:
13. Fullmetal vs. Flame
14. Destruction's Right Hand
15. The Ishbal Massacre
16. That Which Is Lost

The Review!
The story goes full steam ahead with even more emotion and action than what the series has produced before.

I listened to the Japanese stereo track for my main review, and continued to really enjoy the performances of the Japanese cast. 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.

One considerable new extra appears on this disc; L’Arc-En-Ciel’s music video for the new opening theme “Ready, Steady, Go!” I always find these kinds of videos amusing so welcome its inclusion. 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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With each volume that’s gone by, Fullmetal Alchemist has really impressed me with its effective pacing and fantastic characterisation that sees even supporting characters get an amount of depth that some series never even reach with their primary cast. This volume was different though, because while it had all that in spades, the story really kicks into high gear and goes full pelt, barely letting up with several revelations that show many of the characters in a completely different light. As if that wasn’t enough, the emotional impact is cranked up to a series high so far, as the stakes just get higher and higher as events spiral out of control.

After their adventures in Xenotime, Ed and Al return to visit Colonel Mustang and co. at East headquarters. He arrives expecting the usual confrontation, but after a bit of an ear-bashing, the Fuhrer and the rest of the State Alchemists from Central arrive on the scene. No one’s really sure why they’re here, though they say it’s just to take charge temporarily. A little later, Ed is pressing for information about Marcoh, the man they are now looking for who was once in Xenotime, and he finds out a bit about him from General Grand. Mustang is still keeping quiet though, and on looking at the records he finds everything about Marcoh has been erased. He decides it’s time to take on Mustang as part of his State Alchemist Recertification Exam. The fight goes ahead, but more information comes to light regarding events in Central. The man called Scar is still on the loose, killing every State Alchemist he can get his hands on. But we soon see that things are about to get worse, because he’s on his way East…

Ed and Al continue their search for Marcoh, finding him when they get to his old town. But General Grand interrupts them having been following the pair to keep an eye on them, and arrests Marcoh for his crimes. They don’t get very far when they try and leave, though, as Scar stops them in their tracks. General Grand fights Scar as the others escape, and he realises that Scar is from Ishbal. Marcoh tells Ed and Al the dark truth behind the so-called Ishbal “rebellion”, which turned out to be more of a massacre. The events of the past are finally catching up with those haunted by the past…

There’s a great deal to love about this latest set of episodes. They’re a real tour-de-force and during the middle two in particular, the action and story never lets up for a moment. With the revelations about what happened in Ishbal, the re-appearance of Scar and how everything is tied together, we have the makings of a really good story as everything is now really starting to come together. The Ishbal story is particularly harsh and brutal, especially given the use of the red stones to completely level everything, and the reactions of the characters who were involved and how they tend to avoid talking about it speaks realms about how they feel about it.

With this and the return of Scar, the quota of violence in the series increases a great deal. There’s plenty of blood flowing, but it’s only ever used to advance the story and put even more emphasis on the realities of what’s going on. The bloody flashbacks carry a great impact, and when we see Scar on a killing spree we really know that he means big business. Sure enough, when he’s fighting General Grand you can’t help but wonder if he’ll come out alive; just look at the damage he did to Ed and Al without actually killing them.

In general, the emotional impact is stepped up a gear in this volume with all the revelations and everything going on really getting to the characters and having a real impact on them. The writers do a fantastic job of making all the key events mean something to each of the characters, and their reactions generally tell you just how they feel about things.

Speaking of the characters, plenty of them get their moments here. Ed and Al get a plethora of moments to shine, from Ed’s showdown with Mustang, to Al’s sweet little moment with the cat, more and more we get both big, high-impact moments and the smaller, more intricate character moments. Ed and Al’s bond is always clear to see, but there’s both a bit of friction at times between them in this volume, and a lot of solidarity coming through when things start to go pear-shaped and they come head-on with Scar.

Seeing the reintroduction of Scar wasn’t too surprising, but the impact he’s having on things certainly turns the series upside down in many ways. While his actions a reprehensible, again the writers do a great job of revealing why he’s doing what he’s doing, and dare I say it, it becomes understandable from his perspective to a certain degree. Marcoh is another character who has an interesting history, and Mustang gets a fair few moments to shine throughout this episode as well. I loved his gung-ho attitude to Scar even when it was pouring with rain, and it made me laugh how he was stopped. It was also fantastic to see Lust and Gluttony really starting to get involved now, as we see much more of them especially towards the end of this disc and what we do see is far more meaningful than what’s come before.

Fullmetal Alchemist manages to strike a great balance between the hard-hitting emotional moments and the more light-hearted fun, and has a great story to go along with the cast of characters which is really developing well now. Everyone has their own agendas and things they are involved in, and we’re finally getting to see more and more of what is going on and what they are doing. With this disc all these aspects really start to shine through.

In Summary:
This volume has firmly entrenched the series as one of my favourites currently being released. It’s really enjoyable and once it gets going the story just doesn’t let up. There are so many events that will have ramifications as the series continues here, and the emotional impact is raised up a few notches to go along with it. With an array of interesting characters, a fantastic story that really comes into its own here, and plenty of action to keep you entertained, Fullmetal Alchemist is a series that’s really becoming easy to recommend.

Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,L’Arc-En-Ciel Music Video,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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