Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 19th 2012
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Blu-Ray + DVD - OVA Collection
Four short OVA episodes provide additional stories to help flesh out the Brotherhood continuity. In “The Blind Alchemist,“ Ed and Al hear about and visit a blind alchemist who lost his sight in an attempt to perform human transmutation but apparently succeeded at it. As they discover, though, the supposed results are misleading. “Simple People” flashes back to the early days of Ed's career as a State Alchemist to explain the circumstances under which Winry got her earrings. “The Tale of Teacher” details Izumi's experiences trying to survive on Briggs Mountain and the circumstances under which she met her future husband. Lastly, “Yet Another Man's Battlefield” reveals Roy Mustang's early days in military academy and, later, the Ishvalan War of Extermination, with a particular emphasis on his early encounters and association with Maes Hughes.
The four Brotherhood OVA episodes range in length from 12 to 18 minutes, totaling about an hour of running time. Collectively they make an entertaining and worthwhile companion piece to the TV series that any big FMA fan should enjoy, as they expand on, and fill in the gaps in, the franchise's continuity. They are hardly essential views, as one can certainly fully appreciate the main TV series without seeing these, but if you ever wondered what the full story was behind Izumi's basically-substantiated claims about once living alone on a mountain for a month during her alchemical training, or how Roy and Maes first hooked up, then this video set is the answer to your prayers.
The tone of the videos varies as much as the tone of the main series did, and in pretty much the same ways. “The Blind Alchemist” has some light-hearted tomfoolery mixed into a tale which is mostly mildly serious but features a very dark twist, one done in a style typical for the most heart-wrenching recesses of alchemy that Ed and Al have encountered over their investigations into human transmutation. Though it is the only entry which is purely a side story, it is also the one likely to carry the most impact. “Simple People,” contrarily, is more light-hearted on the balance despite a serious action sequence. It suggests that Hawkeye and Winry had a longer and even deeper connection than the series showed, with each having some influence on the other, while also revealing Winry's biggest weakness (she really will forgive just about anything if gifted with jewelry, something that Ed seemed to forget in the main series) and the reason why she wears double sets of earrings.
“The Tale of Teacher,” meanwhile, is a purely comical story about Izumi's struggle to endure her wilderness survival period, including in particular how she came to be remembered as such an anonymous menace by the Briggs soldiers. It is capped by the fanciful first meeting of Izumi and Sig. “Yet Another Man's Battlefield” returns to a more serious overall tone as it shows that the relationship between Roy and Maes started as a rivalry between two like-principled individuals to see which could outdo the other before moving into their more difficult working relationship in the Ishvalan War. Most of this 18 minute segment is fairly typical in execution despite adding an extra layer of bitterness to Roy's experiences in Ishval by showing that he was clearly against anti-Ishvalan discrimination from the earliest days of his career. Its merits and impact instead swing almost entirely on a single scene where Maes, in a rare moment of angered frustration, reveals the true nature and strength of his character; with that blistering lambaste of Roy's embittered attitude, Maes lays the groundwork for how he behaves in the main series in a way that will undoubtedly resonate with many war veterans and should raise his esteem in the eyes of those who are not already fans of him.
The artistry and animation qualities of these four episodes are about on the same level as an average episode of the TV series, including the occasional venture into SD territory for Al. While a couple of the episodes do have some graphic content, this run places among the tamer periods of the franchise. The musical score for this content is also consistent with the more typical TV series episodes. None of the episodes has an opener, and neither of the two closer tunes used is particularly memorable.
The main Extra for Funimation's release of the OVAs, which comes in a DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack, is a collection of 16 “Fullmetal Four-Panel Comic Theater” segments, which each consist of four short gags totaling an average of 2 minutes. These gags mostly focus on parodies of scenes from throughout the series done in approximately chronological order. While these 64 gags do have a handful of misses, the vast majority are anywhere from mildly to enormously funny, with a couple even being sputter-worthy. They almost single-handedly justify the cost of the release.
The entireties of the regular Japanese and American casts return for the dub work in these OVAs, with the American cast even getting to dub the “Comic Theater” segments, too. The dub work here presents no problems, with the English language actors clearly delighting in getting to ham up for the “Comic Theater” segments. Whatever your opinion was of the English dub during the TV series run, these episodes are unlikely to change your mind one way or the other.
Overall, the OVAs and “Comic Theater” bits provide about 90 minutes of additional franchise entertainment - in other words, only a bit less that what typically came in a four-episode DVD single - on both DVD and Blu-Ray for about the same price as an American single volume. It makes for an entertaining and worthwhile companion piece for any Brotherhood fan.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Fulfilling elaborations on some scenes not fully explained in the series, Comic Theater is very funny.
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