Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #05 - Mania.com

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  • 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: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #05

By Chris Beveridge     September 14, 2005
Release Date: September 20, 2005

Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. #05
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
The hobbled Elrics return to their childhood village for the first time in four years. As the Rockbells construct Ed’s new limbs, the boys sift through the ashes they left behind. While Al comes to the fearful realization that his memories are fading, Ed visits his mother’s grave, and both must redefine their view of family and home before returning to Central’s library to research the work of Dr. Marcoh. Nothing could prepare Ed for the shock that is to come. Having just learned the Stone’s secret ingredient, how can they reconcile their strong desires to fix their own bodies with the knowledge of its gruesome costs?

The Review!
Ed and Al get closer to discovering what they're after but the continued pursuit by Scar and some of the truths behind things slow them down.

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.

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.

Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but with a much better looking logo, the front cover has a really nice illustration of Scar, wounded, sitting amid the rubble but still exuding nothing but pure confidence and power. 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 a breakdown of some of the battles and a series of woldview images.

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 Scar from the cover 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.

The extras are back to a bit more normal mode here as we get mostly the standards. These include the usual suspects such as the textless songs, the character profiles and art gallery material. What's new in this on is an actor commentary done for episode 19 which has a couple of the voice actors including the young one for Al talking about the series in general and this episode in particular. Not really an extra in a sense but something taking up a bit of space on this and other FUNimation releases this month is a full length episode of something called Mr. Stain which I learned to ignore completely after seeing the promotional front loaded trailer for.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The further and further I get into this series the more I realize just how well plotted out it is and what a really great set of writers there are behind it. The way they've managed to break the traditional arcs into something much more free flowing across the episodes makes it more difficult to isolate a particular volume in terms of talking about it but it leads the show to move forward on a near constant basis and provide numerous new and interesting areas of things that happen to the two leads as they continue their search.

Their arrival back at the Rockbell place is a key point that's really needed. With Armstrong by their side, the pair go through some of what's been going on lately as those this far out in the country rarely hear much but they also get moving quickly to repair Ed's arm. Even his leg needs some work as he is still a growing boy and some new adjustments are necessary to compensate for his own growth. The time back with Winry and her grandmother is good for the boys as they feel safe here and it's certainly enlightening to see just how much Winry has grown up and out over the last few years. Though this is mostly just a downtime episode with reflection on things since it is their first time home since they left, it also provides a reminder for them that they do have a place to call home still and to not forget it.

Once this is out of the way, it's off to Central Command again so the research can begin in the library where Marcoh's notes will hopefully be found. Upon arriving in Central things change up a bit as Armstrong is sent back to the Command itself for further duties and the brothers find themselves being taken care of by Maria Ross and another soldier who ends up with little screen time or personality. These two are much younger and more by the book because of it which grates on Edward a lot since he just wants to get going on the research. There is reason for caution though because Scar has apparently come back and is causing trouble. In fact, he apparently got into a fight in the library that the two are heading for and caused it to burn down, leaving no books intact.

Amusingly, there is an out to be found as it turns out that Sheska was working there for some time before she was let go for being a bit off and not doing enough work. At her place there are thousands of books that she's read or in the process of reading so she's plenty happy and is able to confirm that Marcoh's book was indeed in that library before it burned down. The path looks closed again but as it turns out, she's got a photographic memory and is able to reconstruct not only that book but any other book she's read. This has her quickly being picked up by the military for use in recreating lost records from the library, though she is very well paid for her efforts at least at first. It's a neat return to a character from earlier episodes that helps things along the way because of the boys' previous involvement.

This puts them on the path again, but as Ed finds out along the way, it's like God is playing with them by changing things and making it more difficult and unbearable the closer they get to an answer. There are some really interesting truths to be found out based on the recreated documents that they go through here after Sheska hands them over. Most interesting is that if you actually look at some of the pages as they go by, it's actually French toast and other breakfast recipes that are on the pages in English script. The discoveries here push them down another darker path that also has some return to older characters and some amusing and engaging fight sequences.

In Summary:
This series just continues to win me over handily with each volume. There's such a great bit of wit and sarcasm along the way with the characters that the interplay is just as natural as any live action series but with the extra quirks. The banter between Al and 66 during the last episode here is priceless and I adore the way Armstrong plays up his macho manliness but has all sorts of sparkly stars around him when he does it. The numerous little light elements like this really help the show be more than just a continuous somber series with some really interesting action to it. I enjoyed it a lot from the start but now at the fifth volume I can't get enough of it. Fullmetal Alchemist is quickly earning a listing as one of the best series to recommend to both old and new fans for something that can (re)ignite the interest in anime.

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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