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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Part 5 Anime Blu-ray Review

10 min read

The promised day has arrived and absolutely nothing is going according to plan for anyone.

What They Say:
The Flame Alchemist’s rebel army pushes the forces of Central to the brink of collapse – until the enemy’s fallen leader returns to take control. As mortals and monsters wage war, young Edward and Alphonse Elric must face a cruel being with the unholy power of a god. After endless adventures and countless struggles, the boys find the fate of the world in their weary hands. When the Gateway closes and the circle is complete, who will be left alive to celebrate the astonishing sacrifices made?

Contains episodes 53-64.

The Review:
Audio:
The bilingual presentation for the series is solid across the board as we get two Dolby TrueHD audio tracks for it. The original Japanese language track is in stereo as that’s how the show was broadcast while the English language version gets the 5.1 upgrade which is no surprise. Both mixes are very good as the stereo mix has a very strong presentation to it with a fair bit of placement and depth throughout while coming across as very clean and sharp. The 5.1 mix naturally bumps things up a bit with a more full sounding effect, particularly in the opening and closing sequences with the music, but it makes good use of the overall soundstage throughout and prominently during the various action scenes. Both tracks are good and having them both in lossless is a very good thing. It’s worth noting that you cannot change settings on the fly for this release as they’re locked and you must go to the menu to do it.

Video:
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this HD native TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs in a eight/four format with the first disc being dual layered. I’ve read comments by some that have seen this disc and they tend to be very disappointed in the release. After watching this via streaming and comparing it to the DVD, I came away very pleased by it. The vibrancy of the animation shines through beautifully here as the colors are rich and generally free of gradients outside of a couple of scenes that almost look intentional. Backgrounds and character animation is solid with no visible noise and just a layer of natural high definition grain that’s very minimal overall. By all appearances and comparisons, this release looks identical to the Japanese Blu-ray release outside of being slightly brighter which is a common occurrence.

Packaging:
This release has a standard size Blu-ray case inside of a cardboard slipcover that has some nice metallic elements to it. The slipcover and the case use different artwork which is a welcome aspect to see as it makes it worth keeping the slipcover. This final cover is given over to the bad guys with Bradley getting the most of the space while Selim is in the foreground in shadows and Father is behind them both in his changed form. The back of the slipcover has a lot of empty space to it with a nice strip of rough red along the bottom which contrasts the Blu-ray logo strip along the top. There’s a small two column summary of the show which covers a fair bit of the setup and a clean listing of how many episodes and the basic extras, including the collectables. The top has a nice box of some images from the show, though nothing that really stands out strongly, while the bottom has a clean yet stylized technical grid. I was very pleased to see that in the video section they denote that this is an “HD Native” program. Inside the slipcover we also get four postcards that are numbered which have some very good pieces of artwork from the series.

The single Blu-ray case inside holds the two discs on either side of the interior while the exterior features another good piece of artwork. Putting Mustang and Hawkeye together from one of the more tense moments of the set works very well as it sets the mood in opening up the package with it being a dark and moody piece. The back cover is kept painfully simple with just a full red piece with the number one in the middle and the series name below it. I’d have preferred more artwork to be sure. I really like the reverse side artwork a lot more as it has a great image of Ed and Al together as they go on a journey while the back cover is simple but actually useful with a breakdown of what episodes are on what disc by episode number and title.

Menu:
The menu design for the show is of the very simple stripe as the only actual menu aspect is the small navigation strip along the upper left, which is what the pop-up menu doubles as well. The rest of the menu is given over to some decent clips from the series that highlights its action and intrigue pretty well and with the music it sets the atmosphere nicely. But the only real menu aspect with the design is that tiny strip and it’s got a little bit of style to it to fit with parts of the cover, but it’s pretty minimal overall. Unsurprisingly, the discs don’t read our players’ language presets and defaults to English language with sign/song subtitles. Navigation is a breeze and everything loads very quickly which is a big plus.

Extras:
There aren’t much in the way of extras here as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and an English language dub commentaries by the people behind this production for the final episode. The really fun piece here is a nearly eight minute series of outtakes from the show. Outtakes continue to be one of my favorite extras, though I understand why they’re often not included, but whenever they are, they’re usually worth it even if it’s just a single gag.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With sixty-four episodes, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood brings everything to a close with this set as the final twelve episodes hit almost all high notes. With the previous set being the final section that put all the pieces in the right place, finagled the characters and their stories and laid clear what was really going on, it got right to the start of the good stuff with plenty of action from the Immortal Legion and the Sloth homunculi before calling it a day, essentially ensuring that this next set couldn’t come quick enough. And it couldn’t, since it took a bit for it to arrive, but it’s worth every second of the wait. Many series tell excellent stories that deals with the journey but end up falling short when it comes to the end. Here, it manages to do both and brings it all to a close just about perfectly while not overextending its epilogue episode.

Because it’s the end, and it’s all about the action and resolution of so many plots, it is awkward to talk about without revealing plenty of spoiler material, so be forewarned. The main thrust of things continues to come down to what Father wants to do, which is made perfectly clear in the fact that he wants to bring the eye in the sky, the female side of things in a way, down to the earth with him to consume it, make its powers his. The ability to do so, which he does gain, brings him unparalleled power. When he shows it off, after switching out of his old body that duplicated Hohenheim but different and taking on a younger one, we see just how crazy it is. The ability to create a micro sun out of thin air is boggling and the impact on everyone else is considerable. It also redoubles their desire to take him down since they know exactly what he can do, especially after he’s ready to sacrifice fifty million people for even more power.

Almost all the characters have their stories show up here and are resolved to varying degrees. The smaller ones like the chimeras are dealt with as you’d figure, a small but welcome nod, while others are more in-depth. With the five sacrifices, they get the most time but even there it’s even broken down a lot. Ed and Al have their significant moments revolving around their bodies, and it’s beautifully done as sacrifice becomes the big point here and each of them are so strongly committed to each other that it’s in danger of going in circles, but they manage it in a way to make it epic, tense and beautiful all the same. Similar can be said of Scar as he drives him his issues, having become a weaker player as he sided with Ed and the others, but he finds his absolution as well by confronting his past and really coming to grips with what he brother may have truly wanted, which is definitely poetic when he has his brother’s arm as his own and can use that to help the Ishvalan cause more directly.

Not surprisingly, the stories that I liked the most dealt with the more nuanced characters as opposed to the straightforward ones like Ed and Al and even Scar. Mustang’s quest for revenge for the death of Hughes continues to be a motivating force here and it has a wonderfully tense and powerful moment when he comes across Envy and he admits to what he did, which sets them on quite the chase. We’ve seen Envy’s cowardly side before, and Mustang pushes him continually, but it also pushes his friends to really confront him over how far he’s going with it all. He and Hawkeye have had a very lengthy history, which does surface here in the midst of this set, but we’ve had most of it covered before and having seen how the two operate together throughout the series, a situation like this is tough on all involved yet is handled perfectly for them.

The character that fascinates me the most though, and has from very early on, is Greed himself, the Homunculi who has forged his own path because it fits in with his “sin” to do so. When he merged with Ling, the Xingian prince, he became something even more interesting and they really do work some magic here with this combination. The two of them have undoubtedly influence each other heavily, and they’re able to have some of the best moments in the middle of the fights, especially against Bradley, that shows just how cunning and unpredictable the two of them are because of what they went through. While there are characters that you’d like to follow in separate stories based on what you see here, the “Greeling” combination tops my list of who I’d love to see spun off and expanded upon, though only if it took a different turn in this batch of episodes.

The character stories build a wonderful tapestry here as events build and it really handles the whole epic scale perfectly. There is a lot going on within the series and the stakes are immensely high and it feels it, but not out of reach considering what everyone will do in order to survive it. There are numerous personal connections to be had to events and seeing how they all work together so hard, dealing with so many setbacks and so many variations of forces allied against them from the Immortal Legion to the Central forces under Bradley’s command, mixing in the homunculi themselves and others who are just unsure of what’s happening gives plenty of people pause. I loved that it went big, as it should considering the time scale that the homunculi in the flask has spent in order to get where he is and the number of deaths and sacrifices along the way, and it does it without being ridiculous. It fits with what we’ve seen of them to date, just on a much larger scale.

In Summary:
While a lot of series that build to epic endings seem to fizzle just as they get there, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is filled with payoff from start to finish. From the hilarity of Armstrong dealing with Izumi’s husband to the blood seriousness of what’s at the root of Selim and other homunculi, it’s filled with personal story resolutions as well as the grand event that’s been unfolding slowly since the start, and in fact has been unfolding for many years beforehand because of the planning involved. With plenty of episodes to build to this, carefully and with numerous characters and story arcs, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood hits all the right notes here and does it expertly, convincingly and with a sense of beauty and power behind it. The series moved me when I watched it in simulcast form and having it here in larger doses simply reinforces all of it. Very highly recommended.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Audio Commentaries, Outtakes

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 2nd, 2011
MSRP: $54.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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