Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Part One – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 320 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now

This may be familiar territory but that doesn’t mean it’s not still outstanding and lots of fun to watch.

All it took was one episode of the original anime release of Fullmetal Alchimist to hook me and several episodes after that I found myself going the legion of fans from all over the globe in singing its praises for many years to come. So it’s no surprise that I practically begged to review the Blu-ray release of Brotherhood, a new anime retelling true to the manga by Hiromu Arakawa. What we have here in Part One of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a series that might not be as epic as the first anime release but it will not disappoint fans new and old either way.

You know you’re in for a different viewing experience when the opening scene after the title credits roll has Edward Elric and his armor-plated brother Alphonse goes up against a former State Alchemist turned traitor named Isaac “the Freezer” McDougal who murders State Alchemist officers by freezing or boiling a person from within. Capturing McDougal has been the priority of one Roy Mustang but it is King Bradley who steps in when Edward Elric is too injured to continue pursuit. Yes, this King Bradley is somehow even more menacing and formidable than in the previous anime version.

You see, Edward and Alphonse were two cheerful lads living peacefully with their mother in the city of Resembool when tragedy befalls this small family. When the boys’ mother passed away from illness, these kids attempt to use the art of alchemy to bring her back to life. However, the laws of alchemy are very clear that you cannot get something for nothing and the result is that Edward loses his arm and leg while Alphonse loses his entire body. Quickly recovering, Edward manages to fuse Al’s soul into an empty suit of armor and thus their actions catch the attention of the State Military and a State Alchemist known as Colonel Roy Mustang.

In order to get their bodies back, Ed and Al decide to work with the State Military as well as search for a valuable object known as the Philosopher’s Stone that might be a key to undoing their horrible mistake. This quest takes them to Lior where a prophet named Father Cornello has convinced the people of the city that he can perform miracles. Ed and Al, of course, smell alchemy despite the fact that he doesn’t draw a transmutation circle. They meet a young woman named Rose who believes in the Father but the truth is revealed to her and, sadly, the truth about the father’s ring that seems to amplify his alchemy skills.

We also meet the Homunculi like the sultry yet deadly Lust and the freakishly grotesque Gluttony who has been manipulating Father Cornello by the orders of a mystery leader. Just who or what are the Homunculi I will not reveal but they are motivated by the same goal in locating the real Philosopher’s Stone. Meanwhile, back in Central, a vicious killer with twin scars across his face is targeting and slaying State Alchemists … a fact that has the State Military worried.

The series runs through many other familiar moments such as when the brothers meet Shou Tucker and his daughter Nina, which leads up to a powerfully emotional and tragic moment. This event changes the boys as they go up against the State Alchemist killer officially known as Scar. We find out his connection with the murder of a group of his people known as the Ishabalans and his reasons for wanting to see State Alchemists like Roy Mustang dead.

The series is zips through Ed and Al’s interest in Doctor Marcoh’s research on the Philosopher’s Stone that leads them to find the secrets behind a State Military prison and a hidden laboratory. As Al begins to question whether he is real, the brothers continue on their quest and finding themselves meeting up with the person that helped them better understand Alchemy when they were young … a woman named Izumi Curtis.

Brotherhood covers memorable moments with less flash than the original anime so those little touches that made the original so endearing are replaced by scenes that get right to the main story. Gone is the birth of Maes Hughes daughter and scenes of Ed preparing for the exam to become a State Alchemist. However, there are new moments here that are nice touches such as Al keeping a notebook with all the things he wants to try once he gets his body back and yes Ed is still touchy about his height. The original voice cast is mostly back with a few exceptions, one of the more obvious – of course – is Maxey Whitehead standing in for Aaron Dismuke who was 12 years old when he recorded the voice of Al. Whitehead actually does a magnificent job too.

Part One of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is true to the manga and it’s a fun ride that is sure to rekindle the love we have for the characters, story and memorable scenes. Sure, it cuts through the filler that actually added more depth to the main story but it is hard to ignore how beautiful this story is and how the rich characterization make Brotherhood compulsively watch-worthy material either way. We cannot wait the Part Two and beyond that seeing as the best stuff is yet to come.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
Brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric commit the ultimate sin amongst Alchemists and they pay for it dearly but swearing to rectify their error the boys join the State Alchemists in search of the Philosopher’s Stone to get back what they lost. Along the way, the brothers uncover a startling fact … not only are there members with the State Military after the same thing but so are the dangerous Homunculi as well.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The series looks just as good as the earlier anime series and even more so on Blu-ray where the animation seems to stand out even more than on DVD. It’s great to see all the familiar faces again as well as familiar scenes that are changed to match the manga version.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The music is every bit as amazing as the earlier anime version and the opening theme song “Again” by YUI is a perfect introduction. Even the closing theme song, “USO” performed by SID is awesome. As far as the voices are concerned, it’s great to hear Vic Mignogna again as well as many others and Maxey Whitehead definitely handles Alphonse perfectly.

EXTRAS: B+
There’s audio commentary for Episode 1 with voice actors Colleen Clinkenbeard, Maxey Whitehead and Travis Willingham that is fun to listen to while watching the episode. So is the commentary track for Episode 10 with ADR Director Caitlyn Glass (who also voices Winry Rockbell) and voice actors Sonny Straight (Maes Hughes) and Laura Bailey (Lust). There’s also the textless opening and closing theme songs and a few trailers.

OVERALL: B+
Some acts are hard to follow as we can see from Part One of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood but this faithful retelling of the manga version is still a beautifully crafted story that is a brilliant epic no matter how you slice and dice it. If you’re a hardcore fan, buying this one on Blu-ray is a very good idea and we are so looking forward to the next chapters.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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