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

 

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $54.98 US (Blu-ray), $49.98 (DVD)
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Action
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: April 5, 2011

The Day of Reckoning is finally here and you won’t believe your eyes.

While the original Fullmetal Alchemist series is a beloved and timeless classic, it’s now safe to say that the Brotherhood series is not only the darkest version of Fullmetal Alchemist but also more exhilarating as well as each episodes prepares the viewer for the inevitable showdown between good and evil. In Part Four of Brotherhood, the Elric brothers and those around them begin their assault on the homunculus threat as the promised day begins.

With Ed and Al Elric now away from Fort Briggs and Winry Rockbell joining Scar and his companions, the stage is set for the upcoming battle against King Bradley and the ringleader … a mystery who calls himself Father. In the meantime, General Olivier Mira Armstrong arrives in Central to meet with the Fuhrer who is curious to find out what happened to General Raven after he failed to come back from Fort Briggs. Playing it intelligently, though, General Armstrong tells King Bradley everything in a way that wins the Fuhrer’s trust.

Elsewhere in Central, Colonel Mustang and Riza Hawkeye meet briefly as she uses a code to reveal something we already know since Part Three … Selim Bradley is a homunculus. This bit of news, of course, has Mustang worried that the homunculus threat has more allies than expected. Still, Mustang has people he trusts around him and since he is very familiar with the Armstrong line, he also knows Olivier.

Meanwhile, Ed joined the team in charge of taking out Kimblee only to find himself in a battle that nearly kills him. Kimblee manages to escape but a badly injured Ed finds help in the form of Darius and Heinkel – the two Chimera soldiers from Fort Briggs. Al, on the other hand, not only runs into Scar who is now determined to help the brothers stop Father from completing the ritual that will open the gate. Unfortunately, Al is already feeling the effects of the homunculus plan that is related to an event they are calling “the day of reckoning.”

In the middle of all of this, though, we get a glimpse of the past and the event that started this homunculus business in the first place. We meet a young slave who bares a striking resemblance to Edward Elric who is sweeping the floor of a laboratory owned by his master when the eerie dark matter in a flask begins to talk to him. The frightening-looking entity calls itself a homunculus and tells this young man that it could teach him to read and write and become his own man in order to set himself free. It even gives him a name … Van Hohenheim.

In an interesting twist of events, young Hohenheim does become educated enough to become a trained alchemist working for King Xerxes himself as he finds out that the King is trying to get the homunculus to grant him the gift of immortality. However, the homunculus was never to be trusted and sets in motion a trap that pulls of a horrific event. When the smoke clears, the only ones left standing is an immortal Van Hohenheim and a being that looks just like him as well that takes up the title of Father.

There’s more but I would be doing you a disservice by revealing it as well as the truth behind Van Hohenheim’s status that is connected to Ed and Al’s quest. Hohenheim shows up throughout the series, first aiding Ed and Al’s teacher, Izumi Curtis, and later shows up in the very town both Ed and Al travel to later on in Part Four.

With the so-called Day of Reckoning upon them, Mustang makes a move and mobilizes men loyal to him to first secure King Bradley’s wife and then to push on to Central. His actions are seen as a staged coup as does the actions of General Grumman who does it to unseat the King as the new Fuhrer. There’s even a failed invasion force that reaches Fort Briggs to try to take it with the aid of Kimblee.

Better yet, though, is Ed and Al’s confrontations with the other homunculus. There are losses on the side of evil as Envy is taken down and then – in the hands of May Chang – is lost again. Then there’s the impressive battle between Al and the others versus Selim Bradley or, as he’s better known, Pride. As Ed – joined by Scar and a few other comrades – enter Central, they find themselves going up against an immortal legion of mannequin soldiers that are ravenous creatures that turn on their handlers.

There are surprises aplenty throughout Part Four that include the return of a few familiar faces as the final battle is just beginning as the city surrounding Central has become a war zone. Unlike the first Fullmetal Alchemist series, Brotherhood’s feel like just about anyone can die as things get ugly and downright exhilarating.

A lot happens in Part Four of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as events are set in motion that make this a rewarding and intense part of a series that has proven to be consistently engrossing to the point that you cannot take your eyes off the screen. With the finale quickly approaching, Part Four is a jam-packed collection of episodes that will have you exhausted but in a very good way. Action and drama this good should definitely not be missed.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
With nearly all the pieces of the puzzle falling into place, Ed and Al find themselves not just thinking about their main goal but to help their friends save the world from the homunculus threat tied to Father. With General Armstrong joining the fight in Central alongside Mustang, the good guys also make their move. Meanwhile, we learn the secret behind Father and Van Hohenheim.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
I always thought the first Fullmetal Alchemist series would look amazing on Blu-ray but Brotherhood seems to be made for this format because it looks downright gorgeous. The flashy effects and characters seems to really come to life on Blu-ray.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
Strong performances on both sides easily makes the English dub and Japanese voice cast equally impressive so whatever your preference you will find yourself pleasantly surprised. Then there’s the original score that is as intense as the story and the opening and closing theme songs are great, particularly “Period” by CHEMISTRY and the new closing theme song, “Ray of Light” by Shoko Nakagawa.

EXTRAS: B+
Like past releases, the extras include trailers and the clean opening and closing theme songs but also two audio commentary tracks as well. The first commentary is for Episode 40 with ADR and Line Producer Mike McFarland (who also handles the voice of Havoc) with John Swasey (Van Hohenheim) and Aaron Dismuke (who voiced Al in the first series and is the voice of Young Hohenheim).

Then there’s the Episode 46 commentary with McFarland and Caitlin Glass (the voice of Winry Rockbell and occasional the occasional ADR director for this series). Caitlin Glass is fun to listen to as she goes over the differences between Brotherhood Winry and the Winry in the original anime series.

OVERALL: A+
A deeply involving and riveting chapter in the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood series, Part Four is nothing short of epic and explosive. With a few allies fighting alongside them to save humanity and the world, the Elric brothers find themselves in the middle of a war against the homunculus in a collection of episodes that count down to what is sure to be a spectacular and unforgettable finale. If Part Five is anything like Part Four you will find yourself glued to your seat to the very end.

Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment

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