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

May 24, 2010 by  



“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” has the making of a great anime series!  It will make you laugh, cry and by the end of the first volume, you are left with wanting more!  If you are looking for an anime TV series on Blu-ray that has a great balance of cool characters, an addictive storyline and for the most part, looks good and sounds wonderful in HD.  Definitely put this series high on top of your anime on Blu-ray list!

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

TITLE: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Part One

DURATION: Episodes 1-13 (325 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: November 17, 2009

Originally Created by Hiromu Arakawa

Directed by Yasuhiro Irie

Series Composition by Hiroshi Ohnogi

Music by Akira Senju

Opening and Ending Theme by L’Arc~en~Ciel

Character Deisgn 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 also eager to harness the artifact’s power. So too are the strange Homunculi and their shadowy creator. The mythical gem 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.

“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.

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Part One” features a total of 13-episodes on two Blu-ray discs.  Here is a basic summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1 – Fullmetal Alchemist – Edward and Al are sent to capture rogue State Alchemist Isaac McDougal.
  • EPISODE 2 – The First Day – We learn how Edward lost his limbs and how Al was bonded to a suit of armor.
  • EPISODE 3 – City of Heresy – Ed and Al arrive at Liore and learn about Father Cornello’s “miracles”. Does he really know alchemy?
  • EPISODE 4 – An Alchemist’s Anguish – Who is the mysterious man who has murdered State Alchemists?
  • EPISODE 5 – Rain of Sorrows – After the battle against the mysterious man, now Edward and Al must take on Scar.
  • EPISODE 6 – Road of Hope – The Elric brothers and Armstrong go to Resembool to find a former State Alchemist.
  • EPISODE 7 – Hidden Truths – Ed and Al arrive back in Central and find out that the library they need to visit has been burned down by someone.
  • EPISODE 8 – The Fifth Laboratory – Al vs. Barry the Chopper while Ed takes on Slicer.
  • EPISODE 9 – Created Feelings – The aftermath of the battle and Al starts to have conflicted feelings.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 10 – Separate Destinations – Both Edward and Al go to visit their old alchemist teacher Izumi Curtis.  Meanwhile, tragedy hits the State Alchemists.
  • EPISODE 11 – Miracle at Rush Valley – The Elric brothers and Winry visit Rush Valley (where the best automail creators live).
  • EPISODE 12 – One is All, All is One – Ed and Al learn the truth about their teacher.
  • EPISODE 13 – Beasts of Dublith – Al is captured by homunculus.  Edward searches for his brother.

VIDEO:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” 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 verson 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 One” 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.

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.  For example, the scene where Edward is screaming in pain after performing the transmutation is incredibly acted by Romi Paku, Vic Mignona did a good job but I felt Romi was much more emotional and you can hear that pain in his voice.  But the English lossless of course, has a much better sound overall.  So, it all comes down to preference.

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 One” comes with the following special features:

  • EPISODE 1 Commentary – Audio commentary by Mike McFarland (ADR Director/Line Director and voice of Gene) and voice talents Colleen Clinkenbeard (Riza Hawkeye and Rose Thomas), Travis Willingham (Roy Mustang) and Maxey Whitehead (who plays Al).  The talent talk about the differences of playing the character in the original series and playing the characters now.
  • EPISODE 10 Commentary – Audio commentary by American voice talent Caitlyn Glass (ADR Director and voice of Winree Rockbell), Sonny Strait (voice of Hughes) and Laura Bailey (voice of Lust).  The talent talk about the differences of their characters compared to the original “Fullmetal Alchemist” series.
  • Textless Opening and Closing Songs – The textless opening and ending theme songs.
  • Trailers – FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

EXTRAS:

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” comes with a cardboard slipcase and four postcards (note three of the four postcards are seen via the images on this review).

“Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” made me laugh, made my cry but for the most part, made realize how much I love this series and how happy I am that we are getting the version based on the manga series.

Not to say that I don’t miss the original anime series but “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” is what should have been to begin with but overall, I enjoyed this Blu-ray release.

The first 13-episodes pretty much covers the first 26-episodes of the original series, so certain parts of the storyline that were much more fleshed out in the series will definitely upset the hardcore fans of the original series but I felt that the point is to get over the primary 13-episodes and then afterward, go full force in a different direction from the original anime series.

As that is one major difference between the two series, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” also features a different look for some of the characters and more characters are introduced.  The series is much darker, bloodier but it eventually works itself out.  The storyline of Hughes is not as fleshed out as in the original but still, the impact of what happens to him is still there.

The brotherly bond between Edward and Al is still there and it was great to see Winry so direct in how she gets her emotions across was quite nice.  But of course, these are the first 13-episodes and there are over 60-episodes in Japan (and the series is still ongoing).  But I have no doubt that this will be one of the more exciting ongoing long series to be available on Blu-ray that I have no doubt in my mind is going to be action-packed, hilarious, fun, sad and even more than what we got with the original series.

The only thing that I know where people will have their differences in opinion is the actual picture quality of the series.  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 1080p and focusing on 540p.  This is going to be a major contention with videophiles wanting the best for anime in the US (and have been disgruntled by the amount of upscale releases).

Personally, I’m not as critical because this is a TV series (you can’t expect OVA or film quality) and just because it’s from BONES, like any major anime studio, sometimes the staff are working on multiple series and for those familiar with Japanese anime studios, sometimes these series are turned in to the network up-to-the-last minute of being aired on television.

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.

Overall, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” may not please the diehards 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!  It will make you laugh, cry and by the end of the first volume, you are left with wanting more!  If you are looking for an anime TV series on Blu-ray that has a great balance of cool characters, an addictive storyline and for the most part, looks good and sounds wonderful in HD.  Definitely put this series high on top of your anime on Blu-ray list!

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