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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Part 4 UK DVD Review

10 min read

The show continues on it’s epic way, one of the longest runners I’ve watched where I cannot wait for the next episode as it is always interesting in one way or another, whether plot, action or character wise.

What They Say :
Alchemy – the mystic science of transmutation. Gifted alchemists can break down and reconstruct matter using the “Law of Equivalent Exchange,” creating miraculous things. But one taboo can never be broken – human transmutation. The Elric brothers Edward and Alphonse broke the taboo in an attempt to resurrect their late mother and as a result, lost everything. Al’s soul was transferred to a suit of living armor and Ed lost two limbs, confining him to mechanical auto-mail. To recover what they’ve lost they embarked on a journey to find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone. The closer they get to the hidden truth of the Philosopher’s Stone, the deeper they fall under shadowy schemes and the perils of unnatural creatures. The military nation of Amestris, the grudges and hatreds of a persecuted people, and the countless tragedies caused by alchemy all form a dark vortex that will draw people and countries into its void. The Elric brothers forge ahead in their quest to transmute despair into hope.

The Review:
Audio:
As this was a two disc release, I watched the first disc in English and the second disc in Japanese – the English release comes in a very high powered 5.1 Dolby Track whilst the Japanese has a stand alone 2.0 Stereo track, though it is also very strong. The releases from Manga are getting better and better in their audio releases, the first scenes in episode 41 for example were ear busting and just oozed right through the screen – again, no problems regarding audio in matching the subtitles or any timing issues as the FMA release continues to be very strong.

Video:
The video likewise had no problems, they were no glitches or slowdown, and linked in well with the Japanese subtitles, there are no transition problems and works very well in both widescreen and full screen format. This is especially good considering the variety of locations that was on offer, from the snow covered areas of the fort to back to the military, to the railways and the forest areas, where problems like that would have been very obvious, but overall as mentioned, not problems with transition and a quality release visually, imperative considering how much goes on in a series like this…

Packaging:
No packaging was brought with this test disc.

Menu:
The menu is basic, set on a full red background with the FMA: Brotherhood Logo, where you can select on both discs Play All, Set Up, Episodes and Extras – audio selection is easy as is extras, the episode select screen however is a bit more awkward than normal as not only is the fact you can’t select any of the scenes, but you have to navigate each episodes by clicking on the right or left button, rather than what I feel is an easier option in having all the episodes on one screen and then selecting it. Basically it’s not changed in any of the previous releases, which is a little bit annoying.

Extras:
The second disc containing the new opening and ending textless, which is now becoming more and more standard.

The two main extras occur in the first disc, with two dub commentaries, on episodes 40 and 46 respectively. Both involve Mike McFarland the ADR director and the voice of Havoc, with episode 40 lending the talents of John Swasey(Hohenheim) and Aaron Dismuke (young Hohenheim and the original voice of Alphonse). Not too surprisingly, a number of questions to Aaron is how he feels now he’s older and the change of roles, getting John involved though with previous roles in the series and movie as well, with a running joke that John takes the roles from the original voice actors. It’s an interesting commentary to see how far Aaron has changed in his voice since Alphonse especially with a new voice playing him and how he feels they compare.

The second commentary however has Caitlin Glass(additional ADR director, voice of Winry) where in a similar vein, she compares playing Winry in Brotherhood compared to the original, particular some changes in the character and how certain things changed in the new installment, this particular gets interesting when she talks about the changes of who killed her parents. She’s more talkative when speaking about her fellow voices, and talking about Mike about trying to get many of the original voices when working farther away and how challenging it was, it was definitely more the technical side…along with talking about Caitlin’s honeymoon in Europe. O.K, it wasn’t that serious. Both were fun and in the latter’s case quite informative.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood continues to be the long running series that I can definitely sit down and marathon, and this volume is no exception – managing to bring back characters from the past and making it all sound sense, some great battles, further development of the plot and overall making you wait for the next volume with incredible anticipation.

13 episodes are hard to condense in a review where so much happens, but here goes. We first get a flashback of young Hohenheim’s life and how he comes what he becomes interspersed with Riza managing to communicate with Roy and warning him that Selim is a homunculus, whilst Olivia intends to try and get close to Bradley to spring her own trap into power, whilst in the modern day, Izumi returns and after an encounter with Hohenheim gets a new lease in life, and as later proves, it seems she’s now going to be an interesting point in the plot.

We return with Winry’s group as Alphonse manages to struggle through his own migraines and warns their group about the trap at the fort, so Scar suggests to go to an Isbalian refuge camp named Asbeck nearby. Scar’s character is one great example of character development in this show and how he’s working for the enemy now that things are clearing up for him both personality wise and plot wise. Ed of course gets his shots in as well as he’s trying to stop Kimblee, and actually manages to get some new friends after a fight with Kimblee and his two chimera buddies turns bad and Ed saves their life but nearly gets killed himself, bringing the chimera’s as new bodyguards for our favourite short hero.

Episodes are then condenses as all the plots get mostly equal focus, such as trying to discover how alchehistory can be used to stop the chosen day of sacrifices, with equal efforts from Al and May they realize there is a way to look into it, whilst Hohenheim searches for his sons, even bringing back the church of Leto and a welcome if brief return to Rose, and how she is coping. There are double crosses galore, such as when one of the chimera guards tells Envy where Scar is, but in fact was all a trap thanks to May and even Murdoch gets to be a little badass in the ensuing encounter. Just in the first few episodes, we get so much additional info (like Olivia disowning her brother Louis after a mock battle, Greed returning briefly to his old hideout, an attack on Fort Briggs which was actually part of Kimblee’s plan) that to incorporate everything in this review without making it an essay long would be a disservice and would be simply better in just watching the show.

The main issues however involve basically a number of things. First of all, a major confrontation between Pride/Selim and the return of Gluttony up against Ed, his new chimera friends, and Greed who joins them as the leader mainly thanks to Ling’s influence. Alphonse basically manages to trap Selim at one point as well to weakens him but sadly doesn’t work, but instead is able to use a Philosopher Stone when he enlists the help of Kimblee against him. This occurs near the end of the last disc and what happens is a real twist, but it was indeed one hell of a battle, which also was aided with the fact that they had to work out how to beat Pride and Gluttony, and the fact Hohenheim also comes to help, not to mention the very welcome return of Fu and LanFan is making almost everything come full circle.

The second major plot is Roy Mustang’s attempted take over the military. They basically kidnap Bradley’s wife, not as blackmail, but to make her realize that her husband’s ways are not as they seem. Interesting, we learn that despite being a Homunculus, Bradley seems to actually care for her, but he’s rumoured to have been killed during a train explosion, which make you wonder what the twist will be if/when he returns. This also leads to some amusing banter between Roy and Olivia, where she does have a grudging respect for him…though still hates his guts. Roy’s enlists help from around, even bringing back Havoc temporarily and Maria Ross as well – so glad they never forgot these characters and even briefly they all unite with the colonel because of their belief in him.

The third and perhaps most important part of this volume is the plot known as the Promised Day, the legions of blood used to create enough sacrifices to aid the homunculus – this is later involves creating an immortal legion…who consume any fool hardy humans who come within 2 feet of them, even when it was them who released them into the wild so to speak. Tying in with May’s alchehistory and the embryo of Envy trying to manipulate her (so he can be resurrected) – the Promised Day looks set to bring forth back Father and what he has plans for this earth, but with Al in possession of a philosopher stone, Pride still alive, and takeovers being planned, there’s still a lot to go through.

As you can see, there is so much going on, and yet strangely doesn’t feel like it’s been rushed because everything links together. Whilst Roy is bringing forth his squad and his plans, Scar and Ed are being forced to fight together against an immortal legion. Whilst Winry is enjoying chatting with Roy, May is struggling whether she should return back to Xing or go back with Scar or the others. Whilst Pride consumes Gluttony, Sloth returns and fights with the Armstrong siblings. Whilst Bradley is presumed dead, Izumi returns and kicking ass in Fort Briggs. I guess the only real problem I had with this is because so much is happens and almost equal parts to each plot are given, it does mean the leads are slightly lost in the shadow. Don’t get me wrong, Ed is still a major part of this arc with his battle with Pride, and his new friendship with Heinkel and Darius – but his main role in this set is his fights with Kimblee and with the homunculus/immortal army, whilst his brother Alphonse gets more of a role as he struggles with feeling his self being sucked into the other side, whilst managing to get some heroic moments of his own during his tricks against Kimblee and Pride. Pride himself is looking to be a real interesting villain, especially with his new found powers…and of course, the big twist after the fight involving Kimblee and what he does to him…not to mention the irony against Gluttony…

The strength though is that with so much going on, the plots all intergrate with each other, with Scar’s battle with Envy leading to May’s problems, with Roy’s planned takeover bringing back both cast from the past and newer characters like Olivia and Bradley’s wife. You just know that Bradley can’t be dead that easily and this is going to come into a real collision. And of course, the return of LanFan to help Greed/Ling is much appreciated – sorry, she just kicks ass. And hey, when a character like Yoki (read: joke character) even has his own badass moments, you know the series is doing the right thing with lots of characters, and yet every single one is memorable.
With all these plots coming to head as the morning of the Promised Day has dawned, you know it’s all going to a head.

Overall
Whilst ironically a lot of the main characters like Ed, Winry and to a lesser extent Scar and Roy are slightly cast away, it doesn’t diminish a great collection due to the sheer amount of plots being somehow woven together so well. Returning characters all make a small contribution to this, and some more so, and new characters at this later stage actually add to the atmosphere (the chimeras add a real dynamic to the already fun Ed/Greedling team) – there is something for everyone in this volume – some great battles, real emergence of plots and all combining as the finale is about to hit a boiling point. Cannot wait for the next volume.

Features:
5.1 English, 2.0 Japanese – Episode 40 Commentary with Mike McFarland (ADR director/Havoc), John Swasey (Hohenheim) and Aaron Dismuke (Young Hohenheim). Episode 46 Commentary with Mike McFarland and Caitlin Glass (Winry)

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B –
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: 13th June 2011
MSRP: £24.99
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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