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Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part Four (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 4, 2011 by  



“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” continues the action and excitement for part four but this time around, the action is much more intense! Definitely put this series high on top of your anime on Blu-ray to buy list!

Images courtesy of ©Hiromu Arakawa/FA Project, MBS. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Part Four

DURATION: Episodes 40-52 (300 Minutes)

 

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition 16×9 HD Native, Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 and Dolby TrueHD Japanese 2.0, Subtitles: English

 

RATED: TV 14

 

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment

 

RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2011

 

Originally Created by Hiromu Arakawa

Directed by Yasuhiro Irie

Series Composition by Hiroshi Ohnogi

Music by Akira Senju

Character Design by Hiroki Kanno

Art Director: Takeshi Satou

Art Design: Kazushige Kanehira

Anime Production by BONES

 

 

Featuring the voices of:

Rie Kugimiya/Maxey Whitehead as Alphonse Elric

Romi Paku/Vic Mignogna as Edward Elric

Iemasa Kayumi/Kent Williams as Father

Megumi Takamoto/Caitlin Glass as Winry Rockbell

Shinichiro Miki/Travis Willingham as Roy Mustang

Unshou Ishizuka/Aaron Dismuke as Van Hohenheim

Ai Satou/Brittney Karbowski as Mrs. Bradley

Akemi Okamura/Cynthia Cranz as Paninya

Anri Katsu/John Burgmeier as Dolcetto

Atsuki Tani as Berthold Hawkeye

Chika Fujimura/Gwendolyn Lau as Sheska

J. Michael Tatum as Scar

Fumihiko Tachiki as Sloth

Fumiko Orikasa/Colleen Clinkenbeard as Risa (Riza) Hawkeye

Go Shinomiya as Storch

Kikuko Inoue/Laura Bailey as Lust

Wendy Powell as Envy

Edward and Alphonse Elric’s reckless disregard for alchemy’s fundamental laws ripped half of Ed’s limbs from his body and left Al’s soul clinging to a cold suit of armor. To restore what was lost, the brothers scour a war-torn land for the Philosopher’s Stone, a fabled relic which grants the ability to perform alchemy in impossible ways.

The Elrics are not alone in their search; the corrupt State Military is eager to harness the artifact’s power. So too are the strange Homunculi and their shadowy creator. The mythical Stone lures exotic alchemists from distant kingdoms, scarring some deeply enough to inspire murder. As the Elrics find their course altered by these enemies and allies, their purpose remains unchanged – and their bond unbreakable.

 

In Japan, “Fullmetal Alchemist” (Hagane no Renkinjutushi) has been a popular long running anime and manga series created by mangaka Hiromu Arakawa. The original manga series was serialized in Square Enix’s “Shonen Gangan” since 2001, while the 51-episode TV series created by BONES was shown on television in 2004 and was followed by a film to conclude the series.

The popularity of “Fullmetal Alchemist” has led to many novels, OVA’s, drama CD’s, soundtracks and video games and a lot of these releases have been distributed in various countries and its popularity is a testament of how people have come to love the series which has won many awards in Japan including being voted for the #1 most popular anime series of all time.

Despite it’s popularity, the series could have gone on longer but because the anime series was created when the manga was only several years old, the anime series only lasted 51-episodes and there were differences between what the director featured on the anime series and what Arakawa had in the manga.

So, in 2009, a new series titled “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi: Furumetaru Arukemisuto) was created by BONES and this time around, the series would follow the manga much more closely. Currently there are over 60 episodes that have aired in Japan and the series is still ongoing. Also, unlike the previous anime series, this series would be created in HD (540p). The first 13 episodes of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” would feature its first 13-episodes covering the first 26-episodes from the original anime series but from that point on, the series becomes a whole new storyline which features more characters and for the most part, something new and different for the viewers, especially fans of the original series.

To make sure that there is a difference between this series aside from the storyline differences compared to the original, the staff is different this time around as well as the character designs. The director for “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” would be Yasuhiro Irie (who worked on RahXephon”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Macross Plus”, “Gunparade March”), series composition by Hiroshi Ohnogi (“Eureka Seven”, “Area 88, “Aquarion”, “RahXephon”, “RIN”, “Skullman”), music by Akira Senju (“Red Garden”, “Mobile Suit Victory Gundam”, “Silent Service”), character designs by Hiroki Kanno (“Angelic Layer”, “Eureka Seven”, “Ninja Scroll”, “RahXephon”) and art design by Takeshi Satou (“Mobile Suit Gundam 00”, “Ghost Slayers Ayashi”, “Please Twins!”).

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” is a series about two young alchemist brothers named Edward and his younger brother Alphonse Eric (aka “Al”). Their father left them and several months after their father left, an epidemic hit their village and killed their mother. Grieving and alone without their mother, the two quickly tried to hone their alchemist skills and hope to bring their mother back alive by using a human transmutation (this is illegal and considered taboo by alchemist).

While performing the transmutation, a dark shadow comes and literally breaks apart the body of Alphonse and as for Edward, he is shown “the truth” but in return for doing the transmutation, there is a toll and in this case, he loses his legs and feet and his right arm. And the transmutation to bring their mother fails as Edward was only able to revive a disembodied figure. In a short time allowed before the dark shadow leaves, Edward was able to bond Al’s soul to a suit of armor but there are some consequences. And these consequences and guilt have plunged Edward to the lowest he had ever been.

Meanwhile, a military figure named Roy Mustang has come and is shocked to see that Edward was able to survive a human transmutation and also anchoring his brother’s soul and thus gives Edward a chance to join the military to fight with them but at the same time, gaining access that may give Edward a chance to bring his brother back to life and also his own body as well.

With this opportunity, this gives Edward a chance to repair what he did wrong and help his brother. But as they investigate on how they can get their bodies back and investigating what is known as a “Philosopher’s Stone”, an unknown group is out there, observing his every move and willing to kill in order to get to Edward.

In part two of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood”, we learn that Bradley is a homunculus and that the homunculus may have infiltrated the State Military.

In part three, Ed and Al continue their search of how to get their bodies back but meanwhile, Scar tries to find out the truth of why the Ishvalans were massacred. Meanwhile, Ed and Al find themselves in the North needing Olivier’s help but can they divulge the information about Bradley, the Fuhrer is a homunculus? Meanwhile, Ed and Al find themselves teaming up with the people they have been against.

Now here we are in part four of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” and division in the State military have been drawn as information of Bradley being a homunculus is now known and a war between the rebellious members of the State Military led by Mustang take on the homunculus begins.

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” features the following characters:

  • Edward Elric – The oldest of the Elric brothers who manage to survive a transmutation and managed to bond his brother to a suit of armor just in time. In the process, he lost his legs and his right arm in which his childhood friend Winry has created metal prosthetics known as “automail”. He is also quite short but also very destructive as he is skillful with alchemy and the fact he survived a transmutation shocks the military. Working as a State Alchemist in order to find a way to bring his brother’s body back and possibly getting his own body back.
  • Alphonse Elric – Al is the youngest brother of Edward who was bonded to a suit of armor. Almost invulnerable and very strong. Often mistaken as the eldest because of his size.
  • Roy Mustang – The Lt. Colonel of the State Military who wants to become the next Fuhrer of Amestris. He is the one who discovered Edward and Alphonse.
  • Winry Rockbell – A childhood friend of Edward and Alphonse. She is also very gifted in technical and mechanical things. Often is the person who repairs Edward’s automail (metal prosthetic limbs). And always arguing with Edward, but its quite obvious that she cares about him.
  • Alex Louis Armstrong – A strong arm alchemist who is extremely strong and hulking in size but also very sensitive.
  • Izumi Curtis – The teacher of Ed and Alphonse Eric who helped them hone their alchemy right after their mother died.
  • Maes Hughes – An old friend of Roy Mustang’s who tries to help him with his goal to become a Fuhrer. He works in military intelligence and has a loving wife and young daughter. A family man, he lets Winry stay with them when she is in town.
  • King Bradley – The head of the State Military and King of Amestris who has a major secret.
  • Riza Hawkeye – Roy Mustang’s most trusted subordinate. The voice of reason and excellent in using firearms.
  • Jean Havoc – One of Roy Mustang’s subordinates who is exceptionally trained in firearms.
  • Lin Yao – A prince of Xing who is trying to find ways of immortality in order to prepare for his goal as Xing’s future emperor. An excellent swordsman.
  • Lan Fan – Lin Yao’s bodyguard and a skilled fighter willing to protect her boss at all costs.
  • May Chang – A young princess of Xing who goes to Amestris with her panda Xiao Mei. She has the power to heal and also manipulate energy.
  • Olivier Mira Armstrong – The older sister of Alex Louis Armstrong who leads the Brigs Fortress and protects the country from Drachma. She is cold, distrusts people and inpatient. She believes in “Survival of the fittest”.
  • Miles – A man who is quarter Ishvalan and wants to change the country’s perception towards Ishval.
  • Buccaneer – A huge man who has two different pieces of automail (the latest type of automail which makes Winry so excited when she is around him).

The Homunculi

The main antagonists which consist of artificial humans who are trying to create the philosopher’s stone and has become a major thorn in the military’s side. They are hard to defeat as they can regenerate.

  • Father – The main antagonist who is the creator of all homunculi. For some reason, he looks like Hohenheim and has interest in Ed and Al.
  • Lust – A homunculi who is a sexy woman who can use her fingers to become weapons and grow to larger lengths and cut through anything.
  • Gluttony – A homunculi who likes to eat people or anything. He has powerful jaws with acidic saliva.
  • Envy – A homunculi who can assume any appearance and makes him infiltrate the military HQ quite easily and is known to create and instigate major problems.
  • Greed – A homunculi that craves money, women and worldy possessions. After being killed by Wrath, Lin Yao who is searching for immortality wants to become the new Greed.
  • Sloth – A large muscular man who has great speed and strength for his size. He has been digging beneath Amestris and ends up inside the Briggs Fortress.
  • Pride – A homunculus using the body of Selim Bradley, the adoptive son of King Bradley, He uses his shadows to kill.

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part Four” features episodes 40-52 on two Blu-ray discs. Here is a basic, spoiler-less summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 40 – Homunculus (The Dwarf in the Flask) – In this episode, Hohenheim’s past is revealed.
  • EPISODE 41 – The Abyss – Ed vs. the Chimeras, Darius and Heinkel.
  • EPISODE 42 – Signs of a Counteroffensive – Hohenheim vs. Pride.  Also, a new transmutation circle is discovered.
  • EPISODE 43 – Bite of the Ant – Briggs vs. the Drachman forces.  Envy returns.
  • EPISODE 44 – Revving at Full Throttle – Hohenheim reveals his past to Al.  Meanwhile, Greed confronts Bradley.
  • EPISODE 45 – The Promised Day – Greed vs. Bradley.  Ed tries to get Greed to become an ally.
  • EPISODE 46 – Looming Shadows – Roy informs Olivier about Selim’s true identity, meanwhile Ed tries to send Winry back home.
  • EPISODE 47 – Emissary of Darkness – Ed and his group go to see Hohenheim and tell him about the Promised Day.  Meanwhile, something is wrong with Al.
  • EPISODE 48 – The Oath in the Tunnel – Lan Fan and Lin vs. Gluttony, meanwhile Heinkel takes on Pride.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 49 – Filial Affection – Hohenheim reminisces on the day he left his family and why he did it.
  • EPISODE 50 – Upheaval in Central – Roy Mustang, Mrs. Bradley and others are cornered by the Central soldiers.
  • EPISODE 51 – The Immortal Legion – Olivier vs. Sloth.
  • EPISODE 52 – Combined Strength – Al uses the Philosopher’s Stone to fight against Kimblee and Pride.

VIDEO:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part Four” is presented in 1080p HD 16×9 via a HD native source. It’s important to note that although the conversion was made to 1080p, I’ve read that the actual Japanese original masters were created in 540p. With that being said, this is a TV series and one can’t expect OVA or film quality but I manage to compare the DVD and Blu-ray version and the Blu-ray looks much more colorful, much more detailed and looked much better and more colorful than its DVD counterpart.

I did notice edge enhancement and I’m sure the conversion of a 540p source to 1080p possibly led to the jaggies that can be seen at times. Granted, I’m a bit picky when it comes to video quality but the fact that this is created by BONES (a busy anime production company) and the fact that this is not an OVA or film, for a TV series, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” looks very good. Granted, it’s not uber-vibrant but there is a good amount of shading, detail, blacks are deep and overall, I felt the Blu-ray looked much better than its DVD counterpart.

AUDIO:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part Four” is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and in Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0. Overall, the 5.1 lossless soundtrack sounds very good and there is a good amount of surround usage and its much more immersive than its Japanese lossless counterpart. There is quite a bit of action in this second volume, plenty of battles are featured and many episodes that utilize the surround channels.

The Japanese lossless soundtrack is still good, especially if you have a receiver in which you can change the setting to stereo on all channels. I do prefer the Japanese lossless soundtrack in terms of acting especially during the more emotional moments in this second volume (which there are many). But I’ve watched the series in both Japanese and English and for the most part, both are well done and similar to “Dragon Ball Z” and “One Piece”, the English dub has caught my attention and this time around, I was watching many of the episodes in English. But both voice acting are well done.

Subtitles are in English.

NOTE: You can not use your audio button to switch from Japanese to English and vice versa while watching the series. You will need to press your guide button to switch to another audio. Also, you can not optionally remove English subtitles unless you choose the English lossless soundtrack. So, for those who want to watch the series in Japanese with no English subtitles may be disappointed by this.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part Four” comes with the following special features:

  • EPISODE 40 Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer and voice of Havoc) and voice talents John Swasey (Van Hohenheim) and Aaron Dismuke (young Hohenheim)
  • EPISODE 46 Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Producer and voice of Havoc) and Caitlyn Glass (ADR Director/voice of Winry Rockbell).
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs – The textless opening and ending theme songs.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

With the latest volume of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” – Part Four, the only words I can think of to describe the episodes in this volumes is probably… “the sh*t has hit the fan!” and I mean literally.

There is no secret in the military that Bradley is a homunculus and you have no doubt in your mind that this is going to be a violent and bloody battle and it will be interesting to see how things progress between Roy Mustang’s group vs. the homunculus and how much it differs from the original “Fullmetal Alchemist”.

For the Elric brothers, while Ed is featured quite a bit, it’s Al who gets quite a bit of the spotlight and the writers definitely show how much this young kid has matured and also how much different he is from his older brother.

Suffice to say, this latest volume is action packed and if there is something you will see quite a bit, it’s impaling scenes, death scenes and episode after episode, the writers deliver.  Also, when it comes to explaining the past of van Hohenheim, everything is quite intriguing and also entertaining.

Overall, I really enjoyed part four of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” and how well-paced, how action-packed and how much deeper the episodes were. This latest volume was quite addicting and I definitely enjoy how the series has continued to grow and improve with each episode.  This is possibly the most action-packed volume of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” by far.

As for the Blu-ray release, as explained with my review for the first volume, some people may have issues that this series is not true 1080p but created in 540p and then upscaled to 1080p. As many Japanese companies are going through cost-cutting situations due to their economy, we are going to see some anime released in 4:3 instead of widescreen and we are going to see Japanese companies not taking advantage of true 1080p and focusing on creating anime series in 540p. It’s the nature of the industry right now and if we want to support anime, we’ll need to support them even during these tough times.

But with that being said, I was able to compare the DVD and the Blu-ray release of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” and the artistic backgrounds and its details are much better looking on Blu, the colors are more cleaner, sharper and more colorful on Blu and for the most part, for a TV series, I’m quite content with the PQ. I felt the black levels were good and again, for a TV Series released in 2009, the picture quality is good not great (it’s not 1080p) and there is a hint of edge enhancement but it’s still pretty good.  And in this part four, you also get two audio commentary as well.

Overall, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” may not please the die-hards who have loved the original anime TV series but the fact is, we are getting a series that is now closer to the manga series and also more episodes than the original release. Not to say one should forget the original series but in a way, the “Fullmetal Alchemist” brand has moved on to bigger and better and the FMA: Brotherhood series is much more consistent to what the creator, Hiromu Arakawa intended.

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” has the making of a great anime series and part four continues the excitement of the previous three volumes. Definitely put this series high on top of your anime on Blu-ray list!






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