What They Say:
A fugitive alchemist with mysterious abilities leads the Elric brothers to a distant valley of slums inhabited by the Milos, a proud people struggling against bureaucratic exploitation. Ed and Al quickly find themselves in the middle of a rising rebellion as the exiled Milos lash out against their oppressors. At the heart of the conflict is Julia, a young alchemist befriended by Alphonse. She’ll stop at nothing to restore the Milos to their former glory – even if that means harnessing the awful power of the mythical Philosopher’s Stone.
The technical portions of this review covers only the Blu-ray in this DVD/BD combo release.
The audio presentation for this film contains the two standard audio tracks in that we get the Japanese and English language mixes in 5.1 using the Dolby TrueHD codec. Due to licensing restrictions, the tracks cannot be changed on the fly and the subtitles are locked to their specific tracks, which is unfortunate but didn’t impact my enjoyment of the film. The audio mixes are essentially the same with the music and effects tracks as they use the forward soundstage well with some good bass moments, but it’s the music that primarily uses the rear channels in both soft and loud ways that helps to enhance the moment. The dialogue is largely restricted to the forward soundstage but it flows very well with some good placement in many scenes and a solid sense of depth as well. It’s not an over the top mix but it doesn’t shy from going big in the right ways. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2011, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The feature has a very rich design to it and the transfer captures iti very, very well. Colors are rich where appropriate, the detail is solid and well defined and it brings the theatrical flavor of the animation home in a compelling way. Owing to its theatrical nature, there is also that thin sliver of film grain here that gives it a bit more richness but avoids any problems such as noise and other complications. Cross coloration is a non-issue and in general the transfer comes across as rich, beautiful and clean as it should be. There was really nothing of note to make here that would detract from a normal viewing experience.
The packaging for this release, at least the first pressing edition, has an O-Card on it that mirrors whats on the standard size blu-ray case inside. The front cover artwork is a good piece with the usual array of headshots in emotional moments set against an explosion of power and a mixture of energy striking out against the darkness that is the black background. The heavy shadows and overall look is quite good and it’s definitely distinctive. The logo is kept along the bottom adheres to the usual style design and has a good thematic look while also keeping things simply but effective. The back cover runs with the black background in a good way because the text, while a bit soft, is readable against it and is laid out without being too small of font size. The small strip of pictures doesn’t do the film justice but it does show off some of the variety to it. The films extras are clearly listed and the summary of the plot covers the basics well enough without giving away too much. Add in the good dual format technical grid that lists it all accurately and you’ve got a decent cover here. My only gripe is that the run time is kept outside of the technical grid so that a cursory look will have you seeing the extras runtime and thinking the film runs that long. The set doesn’t have any inserts of note related to the film but there is artwork on the reverse side in a greyscale that shows off part of the ruin from the film itself.
The menu design for this release is decent and about as expected as it utilizes a lot of big action clips from the film that run in a decent loop. All of it is set to the end music, which is definitely something that sets up the active aspect of it, and it all loops together with the logo at the end. Amusingly, while I liked it when I first loaded up the disc, going back to the menu after the end of the movie where the song plays, you realize just how much weaker high-end Dolby Digital audio is compared to the lossless Dolby True HD mix as the menu is kept to the 640kbps level. It feels very empty in comparison. The layout of the menu is alright, not really thematic or anything, with a small navigation strip near the bottom that doubles as the pop-up menu and has the basic selections which are all quick and easy to access with no problems. Submenus load quickly and cleanly and we had no issues in getting around.
The extras for this release, the majority of which are kept on a second disc for the DVD release but are all on the Blu-ray, are definitely the kinds of things you want. The big extra for the Japanese language fans is an hour long behind the scenes feature which is in high definition and covers a lot of ground. Bringing in the voice actors to talk about it, the creative staff and showing what went into its production is always enlightening and this one is no exception. It’s the kind of extra that really lets you see the people and effort and how they did it all, in a positive light, that helps to expand your appreciation of the end result. English language fans aren’t left out as they provide a commentary track for the feature to talk about their experiences as well, which we sampled a bit of. Add in a selection of trailers, TV spots and the web promo and you get to see some of the marketing that went into it as well. There may not be a lot in terms of the extras you can select, but what we do get is pretty extensive and encompassing.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the overall period of time that the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood series runs, there’s certainly enough room for a couple of side stories to take place. The series itself is rich with adventure but little in the way that isn’t necessary to the core storyline. That’s one of the big advantages to it in that it’s pretty focused and working towards telling that tale. It meandered a little but even those pieces were part of the larger puzzle in some important ways. So when it came time to a movie to be made, I’m definitely glad they went this route of a new original story rather than trying to do movie version of the TV series itself or mucking with the continuity in some way. Or even worse, a completely different retelling of things in compressed form.
With a nearly two hour running time, the film certainly gets to take its time doing what the series did best in bringing out all these various events and characters to tie it all together. And rather than working with the cast at large, it does keep it to Ed and Al for the most part and the new characters. The central motivation here is a good one that ties into the series as a potential new flavor of Alchemy may be out there due to an incident that unfolds and that gets the brothers heading off to investigate. Their natural desire to find some way to get their bodies back is what drives them, but it also ties into their job as well which is a big bonus. That incident has them going to Table City, a border town against the nation of Creta where tensions are seemingly always running high.
The feature introduces us to some of the characters from the start in a painful way as two young children, a son and daughter of alchemists themselves, find their parents slaughtered at the hands (or claws) of something brutal. Their lives change dramatically after that, and as we learn they ended up in the valley between Armestris and Creta. Ashleigh didn’t stay there forever though as he ended up heading out for his own goals, leaving his sister Julia there where she attempts to learn alchemy herself. This area, a land once belonging to a group called the Milosians, has an intriguing history of abuse by various nations that has now left them barely surviving in a deep stone valley along the border. It’s one of the more intriguing areas of the world to come into play between this and the series and really gives you a sense of history and scale that a lot of the main show did not for various locales.
What draws Ed and Al into things is when in the capital, an escaped prisoner uses the strange alchemy to overpower them and get away, which puts them hot on the trail that leads to Table City. That has them following Ashleigh, who has plenty of secrets of his own, but also introduces a Chimera of sorts at first with a werewolf type that’s causing plenty of trouble and hunting down Ashleigh pretty fiercely. The arrival at Table City is pretty spectacular in terms of action and layout as things just turn out as they usually do for the brothers, but it then spends a lot of its time exploring the nuance and intricacies of the city itself and the various groups that occupy it. Nothing is like it seems at first and the further it gets in and the more we understand of the Milosians and their struggle, the more curious a turn it takes yet with a certain predictability. With Ed and Al getting caught up in it, things do spiral out of control at times but there’s also a very strong sense of purpose about them as they want to do what’s right as the learn more of the history.
While the TV series spent its time detailing the locales over several episodes but within the confines of the multi-character arcs that were going on, this one gets to spend almost all of its time really building this area. And it’s very unique, making it a visual treat on many levels. There’s a good sense of continuity between the series and this, though this is obviously a theatrical level budget in the sheer amount of detail and design. The payoff is huge as it makes this a richly designed and engaging film just in watching them move through all the places. It’s almost a little too distracting at times from the main storyline. But the character animation, while very good, also doesn’t detract by being radically different or overdone from what we saw in the series. This film really is the perfect complement to the series. It adds to the richness of the world without screwing anything up.
With the TV series being one of my all time favorites, I had a certain hesitation with this feature before watching it after what the previous movie did to the previous series with all its changes and alterations. Thankfully, none of that is here and what we get is something that is, while standalone, a spot on perfect addition to the series. It’s a fine line to tread in how it can either add to the world or corrupt it, but they did a fantastic job here. And it is pretty accessible to people who haven’t seen the series (as proven with the group I was with that hadn’t seen it but thoroughly enjoyed this). Though things are essentially self contained here, it provides for an engaging story that deals with large scale issues, a sense of history and a connection to everything else that the TV series operated with. It’s a striking film with its visuals, set design and character animation and it essentially hit everything just right for me.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Making of Sacred Star of Milos, U.S. Cast Commentary, Theatrical Trailer, Web Promo, TV Spot, U.S. Trailer
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 24th, 2012
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.