Review by: Felicia Day
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $24.98 US (Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack)
Running Time: 60 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now
Welcome to another reason Fullmetal Alchemist fans’ wallets will be thinner.
It looks like 2012 has been a good year for Fullmetal Alchemist fans seeing as this was the year the Brotherhood animated film was released and now we find ourselves looking an another Brotherhood release that includes a collection of four short OVA episodes plus 17 volumes of the hilarious Fullmetal Four-Panel Comic Theater. Despite its short length, the OVA Collection for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood definitely has a lot to offer fans of the series.
Obviously, the OVA Collection is strictly for the fans who already know the story of the Elric brothers and those around them so don’t expect an explanation or a re-introduction of the main cast. These episodes are four individual tales that actually add more depth to some of the characters by revealing key moments in their past.
First, however, is an episode titled “The Blind Alchemist” that features Ed and Alphonse Elric as they sit in a café talking about a rumor Al heard. Rumor has it that an alchemist working exclusively for the wealthy Humbergang family has been successful in performing a human transmutation. This news is surprising and, because of their current predicament as far as their bodies are concerned, the Elric brothers see this as a sign that there might actually be a way to right the wrong that cost them Ed’s limbs and Al’s entire body. This is certainly worth investigating.
So both brothers go to the Humbergang where they aren’t exactly greeted with warmth as they go to meet the alchemist named Judeau who just so happens to be blind. Carefully guarded by the estate‘s staff, Judeau is accompanied by Mrs. Humbergang and their rambunctious daughter named Rosalie. As it turns out, Judeau is an approachable man but there’s a reason why he can’t give Ed details about pulling off a human transmutation. As they dig deeper, the truth comes out and it is completely unexpected.
Then, in the second story called “Simple People,” we witness the meeting between Winry Rockbell and Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye that we had seen in the Brotherhood series only this episode reveals the aftermath of this meeting especially the affect it has on Hawkeye. Meanwhile, Winry receives a present from Ed and Al who have come back home to Resembool. As it turns out, the present explains Winry’s earrings while it also explores a day in the life of Riza Hawkeye around Central as well as why she grew her hair long.
In the third episode, we get a glimpse of Izumi Harnet, Ed and Al’s tough-as-nails teacher, when she was 18-years old. Already a fiery woman, Izumi has traveled a long way to meet a renowned alchemist named Silver Steiner so she could become his apprentice. Although a bit long in the tooth and hard of hearing, Steiner is willing to accept her as an apprentice if she first survives one month on the icy Briggs Mountain with nothing but a knife.
While not really getting the purpose of such a challenge, Izumi accepts and finds herself regretting her decision to go through with it but she soon discovers ways of surviving that includes stealing rations from the nearby soldiers of Fort Briggs. It becomes clear during her training why Ed and Al has so much respect (and fear) of Izumi. On top of that, we also witness how Izumi met her muscular husband-to-be named Sig that involves love at first sight and a dead bear carcass.
Finally, in “Another Man’s Battlefield,” we meet an 18-year old Roy Mustang who is a military cadet at the academy who finds himself hating a group of fellow cadets that are bullying the only Ishvalan recruit named Heathcliff. It is here that he meets an upperclassman named Maes Hughes who Mustang competes against and, eventually, develops a friendship with as they bond over a fistfight with said bullies while defending Heathcliff.
Then things change a few years later during the Ishvalan war as Mustang finds himself slaughtering Ishvalans and finds himself struggling to make sense of the war itself. Then, on the battlefield, Mustang encounters Heathcliff who is shocked at the sight of the young man who had once stood up for him. How did they both suddenly find themselves on the opposite end this conflict?
While the episodes are brief in length, the content is beautifully handled to the point that you will be so absorbed by the episodes that you won’t care about the short running time. I found myself loving the fact that we got to see Izumi battle the elements near Fort Briggs, which was something that was only briefly mentioned in the anime and the manga. Also, a chance to see how Roy Mustang met and befriended Maes Hughes is another big plus in my book mainly because both these characters play such a major role in the series. Even the Ed and Al story has a deep meaning to it.
Then there’s the Fullmetal Four-Panel Comic Theater that features animated shorts that bring to life the four-panel comics found in the end of each manga volume of the series. They’re short and silly but in the best possible way and it’s obvious that the English dub cast had a blast working on them. Here you’ll find Hughes on the phone listing to recorded hold music of Roy Mustang rapping and a short with King Bradley as a Magical Girl. With 17 volumes you will find more than enough reasons to watch the Comic Theater and love every second of it.
The OVA Collection of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood may be short but what it doesn’t have in quantity it more than makes up for in quality to the point that even casual fans of the series will be drawn in by the four tales. We’ve seen OVA collections before but this one has enough substance and surprises that it will not fail to please longtime fans of the series. Fullmetal Alchemist fans, no collection is complete without this title.
BLU-RAY/DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In one of the four stories, Ed and Alphonse check on a rumor that an alchemist working for a wealthy family has performed a successful human transmutation. Then, in another story, we catch a glimpse of young Roy Mustang during his days as a military academy cadet and his involvement in the Ishvalan uprising. In another glimpse into the past, we follow Ed and Alphonse’s teacher, Izumi, as she takes on test of survival in the Briggs Mountain. Finally, we discover the origins of Winry Rockbell’s ear piercing and why Riza Hawkeye’s hair is long.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
Like the Brotherhood series, the OVA Collection includes a Blu-ray version that looks absolutely gorgeous and should be the way to watch these four stories. Sure, the DVD version looks good too but with animation this beautiful, it is best appreciated in a format that compliments your HD setup.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The entire Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood voice cast is back again and that includes both the Japanese and the English dub voice actors so you will find Romi Park and Vic Mignogna as Ed Elric depending on how you like to watch the episodes. Also, the score by Akira Senju is absolutely stunning and a treat for the ears.
Sure, there are a few FUNimation trailers and the set includes both the Blu-ray and the DVD version but the star of the extras happens to be the 16 volumes that makes up the Fullmetal Four-Panel Comic Theater extra. Like the four-panel funnies found in the manga, the Comic Theater features short yet hilarious vignettes that poke fun at scenes from the series as well as some comical scenes like King Bradley poking people with his multiple swords while riding a crowded train or Father and Hohenheim hanging out together in a noodle stand. They feature the English dub voice cast and are actually quite funny.
Although the stories in the OVA Collection for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are on the extremely short side, they are certainly meaningful and actually adds something to the already impressive and epic main story. This one is strictly for the fans who will find more than enough to love about this collection of OVA episodes. Don’t let the short running time fool you, this is a Must Have for anyone who looking to complete their Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood collection.
Review copy provided by FUNimation Entertainment