Vic Mignogna as Edward Elric
Aaron Dismuke as Alphonse Elric
Caitlin Glass as Winry Rockbell and Winry’s Mom
Julie Erikson as Pinako Rockbell
Laura Bailey as Lust
Chris Cason as Gluttony
Travis Willingham as Roy Mustang
Lydia Mackay as Trisha Elric
Andy Mullins as Cornello
Colleen Clinkenbeard as Rose
Bob Carter as Cray
Daniel Katsük as Winry’s Dad
Kent Williams as Majhal
Ellen Locy as Lebi
Charlet Dupar as Clause
Sean Schemmel as Clause’s Dad
Soundtracks: English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, English 2.0 Stereo, Japanese 2.0 Stereo
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Fullmetal Alchemist originated as a shounen manga (boy’s comic) by Hiromu Arakawa serialized in the magazine Shounen GANGAN. The comic was adapted into a 51-episode anime TV series that aired in Japan in 2003-04. Funimation’s English adaptation of the series currently airs on Cartoon Network. This DVD contains the first four episodes.
From the DVD cover: Edward Elric changed the night he trapped his younger brother’s spirit in the unfeeling steel of an ancient suit of armor. That night, Edward and Alphonse exploited the clandestine science of Alchemy to attempt the unthinkable – resurrect their dead mother. They failed, unleashing an alchemic reaction that ripped their bodies apart.
Four years later, an expanding evil lurks behind the false face of freedom. With rebellion crushed, the State turns its eye to increasing its grip on the people by seizing a legendary artifact that would ensure complete domination and plunge the land into State controlled darkness.
Now a lone State Alchemist combs the country for a single stone that could amplify his Alchemy. If successful he would control a power permitting him to restore the precious things that were lost. But it would also allow the State Military to senselessly obliterate countless more. The Alchemist is soon faced with the harsh truth that the power to create is but a breath away from the power to destroy, and that with each birth, death must follow.
From the moment it began airing in Japan, Fullmetal Alchemist was a monster hit and generated a considerable amount of “buzz” among anime fans in the US. The Funimation adaptation does not disappoint. Like most anime based on shounen manga, the emphasis is on action and humor. The “hook” in this series for children is the creative use of Alchemy to transmute matter and get our heroes out of jams. There are some gory scenes that may not be suitable for younger children, but any kid old enough for Star Wars should have no problem with it.
But Fullmetal Alchemist sets itself above most other titles of the genre by its depth of characterization. Our heroes, Edward and Alphonse, are two young brothers scarred by committing the Indelible Sin of Alchemy: attempting human transmutation to return their mother from the dead. The voice cast does a credible job of conveying the brothers’ intense loyalty to each other, their guilt over their past actions, their devotion to their mother, and their ambivalence toward their missing father (who was a legendary Alchemist as well). Some may quibble with the disparity in the age of the voices. Aaron Dismuke as Alphonse really sounds like a kid, while Vic Dignogna as Edward sounds like a young man trying to sound younger (the two characters are only a year apart in age). But I found it an appropriate way of contrasting Alphonse’s innocence with Edward’s worldly cynicism.
Fullmetal Alchemist also keeps things interesting for adults with its nonlinear storytelling. The story is set in an “alternative” early-20th century Europe. In a brief opening flashback, we see Edward and Alphonse attempt their forbidden experiment, and a brief glimpse at the horrific results. Flash forward four years later. The brothers travel to the desert town of Liore, to confront a priest named Cornello who can perform miracles but harbors a terrible secret. Flash back again to the brothers’ childhood, their early experiments with Alchemy, their mother’s tragic death, and their catastrophic attempt to bring her back. The brothers then burn down the family home and set out to become State Alchemists, in the hopes of learning the secrets that will allow them to return their bodies to normal. All in all, this first DVD does a good job establishing the heroes’ characters while also laying the plot groundwork and introducing the supporting characters for the series to follow.
Technically, the DVD is good, though not perfect. The video transfer is clean, considering the source material. The English 5.1 soundtrack gives the proper sense of space, but occasionally the voices are mixed too low (such as the next-episode previews). The box cover says the Japanese track is mono but the DVD menus (and my ears) tell me it’s 2.0 stereo. The English subtitles are legible but somewhat small and blocky, and occasionally poorly placed so that they overlap the credits. The menus don’t clearly indicate which option is currently selected but overall aren’t difficult to use.
The DVD comes with a full-color 20-page booklet with additional information on the setting, story, and characters. It can be handy for the uninitiated.
Anime TV series DVDs are not particularly known for their bonus features, and Fullmetal Alchemist is no exception. The following bonus features are included:
Textless songs – the opening and ending songs (“Melissa” and “Indelible Sin”) presented without credits. The subtitle track gives the lyrics in phonetic Japanese (“romaji”) for the karaoke-inclined.
Production art – sequential stills of various background paintings, line art, and model sheets for the series.
Japanese commercials – the promos used to promote the series during its original run in Japan.
Character profiles – short descriptions of the characters, mostly identical to the booklet.
Trailers – commercials for other Funimation titles, including the Fullmetal Alchemist video game from Square Enix.
The Bottom Line:
Fullmetal Alchemist is an action-packed anime series aimed at older children, but has well-written characters and strong plotting to appeal to adults and non-anime fans as well.