Let's face it; there is a lot of mediocre anime out
there. It seems like you have to sit
thought a handful of so-so shows in order to discover one good one. So why do we otaku do it?
in the hopes of discovering a show like Fullmetal Alchemist. It's the great shows that make it all worth
while, and Fullmetal is definitely one of them.
Filled with exciting battles, a convoluted yet not confusing
some truly touching drama this show is one of the better shows to come
along. While the first season was
second is even better. Building off the
earlier episodes this season expands the world of the Elric brothers
answers a lot of lingering questions,
though they're not always the answers we want.
Edward and Alphonse Elric are two brothers who live in a
quite village with their mother, their father having left them years
before. The two brothers, especially
diminutive Edward, excel at the science of alchemy, and are able to
shape and function of objects using this ancient art.
When their mother takes ill and dies before
either of the boys reach their teens, Ed makes a disastrous decision: although it is forbidden, they'll use alchemy
to bring their mother back from the dead.
Gathering the elemental components that will form their mother's
body and adding a drop of their own blood to make her soul, the two
perform the ritual they've worked out only to have it backfire horribly. The thing that they make, a zombie that bears
little relation to their beloved mother isn't human, but what's worse
Al's body is disintegrated along with one of Edward's legs. Thinking quickly, Ed uses his own blood to
draw a binding circle onto a suit of armor and links his brother's soul
metal form. Something has to be given
for the spell to work though and Edward gives up the only thing he has
available: his right arm.
The binding spell works however, and the giant suit of armor
carries the wounded alchemist to the village healer who is able to save
life. Not only that, she crafts a metal
leg and arm for him, but while his body is healed, his mind has not. Edward is wracked with guilt over imprisoning
his younger brother into a suit of armor and vows to one day give him
Edward knows the only way he can possibly get his brother
back into a real body is to have access to the great alchemy library in
capital, but only State Alchemists, scientists who are deemed worthy to
the military, are able to access this great source of knowledge. So Edward trains and at the age of 12 becomes
the youngest State Alchemist ever. With
every step forward he takes one back.
Edward soon discovers that the only way he can achieve his goal
restoring his brother is with the possibly mythical 'Philosopher's
object that increases an alchemist's power greatly.
At the end of the first season, Ed finds out the secret of
the Philosopher's Stone: in order to
make one you need to take hundreds if not thousands of human lives. He discovers this from a group of Homunculi,
half human/half animal abominations that are incredibly powerful and
generate a Philosopher's Stone so they can become human.
The stakes are raised this season as Ed and Al realize that
any Philosopher's Stone they find was created by killing many people. That's the least of their problems
however. It seems that there's someone
in the government working with the Homunculi and trying to create a
Stone. Someone very high up.
There's also the problem of Scar, an assassin
from an oppressed minority, who is out to kill all of the State
Ed is no exception.
There's an awful lot that goes on in this season, so much
that I hate to give anything away. It
starts out with several unrelated plot lines; the hunt for Scar, the
and the traitor in the government, but as the series goes along these
threads come together to form a picture that is much larger than
anticipated. That's one of the nice
things about the show, the writing is very tight and small throw-away
from one villain may turn out to have great importance later in the
Another aspect of the show that makes it so enjoyable are
the well developed characters and the fully realized personalities. Al and Ed act like true brothers, they fight
and bicker at times, but their bond is extremely strong due to the
they've experienced. Even the supporting
characters are more than just stereotypes.
People like Alex Louis Armstrong, the muscle bound military
officer who is
constantly crying, and if not he's bragging about his (impressive)
starts off as a cliché comic relief but slowly develops a
personality. Over the course of this show
he turns into
almost a father-like figure for the boys.
Mustang, Ed's immediate superior is the same way.
He seems to be a subdued officer who enjoys
putting Ed in dangerous situations but as the story unfolds it becomes
that he has hopes and aspirations and that there is a reason for
that he does.
This second season is more dark and depressing than the
first was however. There are a lot of
revelations made, and many of them are unpleasant stories.
There is more death and maiming in this
season but it never comes across as gratuitous.
The violence always has a reason and it's painted as very
There are a lot of mysteries before this season begins.
Why can Ed perform alchemy without a
circle? What happened to their
father? Who created the Homunculi, and
just what does a Philosopher's Stone do?
Since I knew this was an on-going manga in Japan,
I was afraid viewers would
be left hanging in a lot of cases.
Happily this isn't the case. All
of the things I was wondering about were resolved and so were several
Ending worry me in anime.
There are some excellent shows that just didn't end well
Genesis *cough*) and so I'm always leery that the last couple of
will be a letdown. That's not the case
with this show. Though there is room for
expansion (the second series is starting in Japan
in early 2009) the program
wraps up many of the loose ends and comes to a satisfactory conclusion.
The 26 episodes that make up this second season come on four
DVDs each with its own thinpak case. In
addition there are six booklets that were originally included with the
volume release of this season. They
contain character sketches, background info and short statements from
creators. It was very cool of FUNimation
to include these as they're fun to read.
This set presents the show with the original Japanese stereo
soundtrack or an English dub in both DD 5.1 and stereo.
While I really wish the Japanese track had a
DD 5.1 option too, both tracks sound very good.
People who prefer dubs will be happy with this one; the voices
artificially high for the women or filled with fake accents. The English actors did a good job and brought
their characters to life. The Japanese
track sound a bit more 'natural' to me however and the optional
a nice translation without any glaring grammatical errors.
Full frame image looks great. There was a
tiny bit of aliasing in the
background occasionally but the colors were vivid and strong (and they
wide palate too) and the blacks were nice and dark.
The level of detail was fine, what you'd
expect from an anime series that's about 5 years old, and the lines
The meager bonus items are all located on the last
disc. They start off with An Inside
Look, a half hour talk with the English voice talent.
Each of the voice actors discusses their
character, lists their favorite scenes and what the show means to them. It doesn't really offer any insight to the
series or its production but it's nice to see what the actors looked
There's also a commercial for the videogame, a textless
opening and closing, and a series of trailers for other FUNimation
Exciting, thought provoking, and a whole lot of fun,
Fullmetal Alchemist has quickly become one of my favorite shows. Easily in the top 10 anime shows of all time,
and probably in the top five, this is a program that should be in every
fan's library. This is a keeper that
will have a lot of replay value. This
set belongs in the DVD Talk Collector