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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood OVA Collection Anime DVD/Blu-ray Review

8 min read

Filling in the blanks of the series with fun, silliness and some dark moments as well.

What They Say:
Join Ed and Al as they chase rumors of successful human transmutation into a web of shocking family drama and lies. Sneak a glance at hidden sides of Winry and Hawkeye’s personalities. Survive the frigid north with a young Izumi Curtis as she fights to gain a deeper understanding of alchemy. Explore the legendary friendship shared by Mustang and Hughes and watch them grow from military school rivals into hardened brothers transformed by the horrors of the Ishvalan War.

You thought you knew the whole story. You thought all the tales were told. You were wrong.

Contains the following OVAs:
The Blind Alchemist
Simple People
The Tale of Teacher
Yet Another Man’s Battlefield

The Review:
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.

Originally released with the Japanese home video TV discs, 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 four OVAs clock in at about 15 minutes each while the comic style bonus episodes account for another forty minutes total, making it an easy fit to say the least on the disc. The collection essentially matches the TV series in terms of style and quality and the transfer is no different.. 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.

The packaging for this release belies its very, very silly nature (though there are serious parts!) as it features some of the more stern faced characters from the series together looking all grim and serious while set against a bland and somewhat indistinct background. It uses a lot of the same design elements as the TV series releases with the logo design, it makes it clear it’s an OVA collection and it has the stripe along the top to showcase that it’s a combo set. It definitely fits in with the look of the series (unless you just had the Blu-ray series releases, since this is in a DVD keepcase). The back cover has a similar feeling to the series releases as well with a few serious shots along the left and a summary section that plays the whole thing straight, which is more amusing when you read it after watching the show because it almost feels like they’re pulling a fast one. The layout beyond that is pretty straightforward with a small font production credits summary and a technical grid that while accurate is hard to read with black print on a dark red font. No show related inserts are included but there is artwork on the reverse side that again plays up the serious side is as showcases the cast being all grim.

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 the silly and serious 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.

I’m hard pressed to call the extras here extras as they’re just as much main content as the OVAs themselves. What we get are sixteen four panel comic video shorts that run between one to two minutes each. They pretty much cover the usual kinds of silly stuff you’d expect from these comics and in this form, so if you don’t care for it you probably won’t like these. The jokes are fast, cruel, hilarious and all over the map as it plays with pretty much the entire cast, mocking them in a loving way that only family can do. It really feels like they have a blast with it here all around. I’m typically not a huge fan of these, even in print form, but these had me laughing quiet a lot.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having really enjoyed the TV series, I was curious as to what the OVAs would bring to the table. One of the things that I definitely appreciated about the TV series is that by and large it avoided doing fluffy filler stories that didn’t add much of anything tot he overall narrative. While it took detours, they all had a connection to events that were going on and were instrumental to the larger development when you get down to it. So while I definitely liked the tightness of the TV series, the whole Fullmetal Alchemist world is one that is ripe for a whole lot of expansion, especially considering the size of the cast and events that go on.

The disc gives us four OVAs, well, four and a little more as there’s one very short cute bit, but mostly it sticks to the four main stories that are all very different in approach and characters to establish a very enjoyable series of events. The opening tale delves into a potential clue about human transmutation that the brothers are looking into and it has its own dark secrets to reveal, though you can map it out easily early on. The second episode goes for the straight out humor with Ed as he has to deal with Winry and the way she’s continually repairing his automail. Since it’s something that she beats up on him about, he’s starting to figure out how he can take advantage of things to avoid the punishments, which involves him now gifting her each time. There’s a lot of good comedy to this in a light way, but it also wraps around to the interconnected nature of the cast and life itself as we see how it was caused by Hawkeye who in turn took things from Winry.

The third story goes for the humor as well as it gives us an eighteen year old Izumi, something that is a sight to behold as she’s looking to train and get better. She ends up finding the man she’s looking for in order to do some training and he sends her on a crazy mission up Briggs Mountain, which gives us a real treat to see the area again and how weird things can get quickly with her. It even has a very small follow-up down the line when she was a bit older and the brothers were living with her that feels like it’s practically out of Ouran High School just because of the end credits for it.

The real winner for me here though is the final story as it delves int Roy Mustang’s past. Roy could easily have his own series and pull it off beautifully. It goes to when he was eighteen as well and joined the military and was introduced to the prejudice against Ishvalans at an early age within the military. We see his youthful compassion, tempered as it is with him, and how he had a rough timw with Hughes early on. There’s some really good material here about his growth and what defined him as a soldier, especially as it goes into the war in 1908 and we see a stronger personal connection made here that enhances the main storyline but also details why he ended up going as dark as he did, or at least why he steeled himself even more so to do what needed to be done going forward.

In Summary:
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this collection since OVAs could be all over the place, but the four short form OVAs here really do a wonderful job of both having fun with things and adding more meaty material to the larger narrative. I’m hard pressed to really call one out as my favorite over the others, though the last one would be the one, but they all brign something different to the table and add something extra to the series that makes you wish they made more of these. Add this in with the very, very fun four panel comic theater shorts that populates the extras section and it’s like getting back together with an old friend that you love dearly for a night of drunken fun. Very recommended.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Fullmetal Four-Panel Comic Theater Parts 1-16 (English & Japanese audio)

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 22nd, 2012
MSRP: $24.98
Running Time: 60 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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