Review

by James Beckett,

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Blu-Ray - Box Set 1

Synopsis:
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Blu-Ray Box Set 1
Edward and Alphonse Elric live in a world that has been revolutionized by the science of Alchemy, which allows its practitioners to reconstruct matter in all manner of wondrous and deadly ways. Alchemy's fundamental law is that of equivalent exchange, which states that creation cannot come from nothing – if matter is to be created, something first must be destroyed. The young Elric Brothers learned this lesson the hard way when they attempted to break Alchemy's greatest taboo and bring their recently deceased mother back to life. Edward lost his left leg and his right arm in the process, and Alphonse' entire body was obliterated; he survives only because Edward was able to bind his soul to a gargantuan suit of armor. Now the pair work as State Alchemists, using their military connections to search for the mythical Philosopher's Stone, which might contain the power to restore their bodies. However, as their nation of Amestris is becomes embroiled in a brutal civil war with the Ishvalan people, the Elric Brothers also find themselves being attacked by humanoid monsters known as Homunculi, and before long it becomes clear that their quest for the Philosopher's Stone threatens to uncover secrets that could bring the whole world crashing down around them.
Review:

There's not much I can say about Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood that hasn't already been said over the past ten years. Studio Bones' adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa's manga is at least a massive aesthetic improvement over the original anime. The show still looks gorgeous all these years later, and the action-packed animation looks crisp and fluid on Blu-Ray. Edward and Alphonse remain likable and compelling leads, and though my memory of FMA 2003 is a bit fuzzy, Brotherhood's story feels like it has more momentum where the plot needs it, and it's also able to slow down enough to allow for poignancy and horror that brings the Elric's struggles into sharp relief. While I haven't yet seen it yet myself, I've had people telling me for years that Brotherhood's ending is much more satisfying than what we got from the original series and Conquerer of Shamballa. While I didn't hate that ending as much as I know some fans did, it did feel at odds with where FMA originally started out.

I'm already loving the direction FMA: Brotherhood is taking, in part because it feels much more focused on tying the Elrics' personal struggles to the larger conflicts of the Ishvalan Civil War. One of my favorite aspects of FMA was always its world-building – the universe feels like a perfect mashup of industrial European trappings and fantasy manga tropes that works well at facilitating FMA's own story while also offering pointed commentary about the real-world consequences of nationalism, unchecked military fanaticism, and genocide. I also feel like two of my favorite characters, Winry Rockbell and Riza Hawkeye, get a lot more to do in Brotherhood versus the original series.

My only major complaint about the series at this junction is something might betray me as a crotchety old man; I had a much harder time with the show's humor than its drama. Fullmetal Alchemist has always liked to balance its pathos with punchlines, but there were quite a few times in these first thirty episodes where I thought there were too many cutesy gags, to the point where they undercut the drama of any given scene. Hearing Edward freak out about being called short once or twice was funny. By the fiftieth time that gag was run into the ground, I couldn't roll my eyes any harder.

Funimation lost the home video and streaming rights to FMA in 2016, so Aniplex's hefty new Blu-ray box set of Brotherhood is currently the only legal way to acquire the series, which makes it a perfect opportunity for me to fill this regrettable void in my anime backlog. The first of the set's two volumes contains the first 30 of Brotherhood's 64 episodes across six discs, along with two of its shorter OVAs and a handful of goofy little comedy sketches called “4-Panel Comic Theater”. The picture and sound are great quality, and every single episode, OVA, and sketch contains an excellent Japanese and English dub.

The first of the OVAs is a haunting little adventure called “The Blind Alchemist”, and it's very good, though not exactly an essential piece of the FMA puzzle. The second OVA, “Simple People”, delves into Edward and Alphonse's relationship with Winry, with a bit of time spent with Riza as well. It's cute enough, but it feels more like a collection of deleted scenes than a proper standalone episode. The 4-Panel theater sketches range from being decently funny to total duds, but they're there for anyone who desires a break from the show's usual drama.

The whole set is packaged in a sturdy and well-designed box that features some original art from Arakawa herself, and it also comes with a booklet featuring an episode guide and some character profiles. It's nice that some care was given to the set's packaging, especially given the set's steep price (each of the two box sets goes for between $100-$125 at various online retailers). It's a shame that newcomers might be put off by the pricetag, but FMA: Brotherhood has been one of the most beloved shonen anime of the past decade for good reason, and this re-release will hopefully attract a brand new generation of fans.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A-

+ Thrilling shonen adventure with fascinating world-building, Brotherhood's aesthetics have aged better than the 2003 series, nice Aniplex release
Price might deter new fans, OVAs and comedy sketches don't add too much to the experience, show's comedy can be distracting

Director: Yasuhiro Irie
Series Composition: Hiroshi Ohnogi
Script:
Seishi Minakami
Hiroshi Ohnogi
Shōtarō Suga
Michihiro Tsuchiya
Yoneki Tsumura
Storyboard:
so-shi
Masahiro Ando
Michio Fukuda
Takuya Igarashi
Takahiro Ikezoe
Yasuhiro Irie
Shinji Ishihira
Tadashi Jūmonji
Shin Misawa
Kenshirō Morii
Minoru Ohara
Yoshimitsu Ohashi
Masao Ookubo
Masayuki Sakoi
Namimi Sanjo
Shinsaku Sasaki
Kiyomitsu Sato
Kotaro Tamura
Katsumi Terahigashi
Iwao Teraoka
Nobuo Tomizawa
Tsutomu Yabuki
Yutaka Yamamoto
Yuichiro Yano
Episode Director:
so-shi
Takuya Igarashi
Hiroshi Ikehata
Takahiro Ikezoe
Yasuhiro Irie
Tohru Ishida
Shuuji Miyahara
Kazuo Miyake
Kenshirō Morii
Rokou Ogiwara
Masao Ookubo
Keiko Oyamada
Ikurō Satō
Kiyomitsu Sato
Hisatoshi Shimizu
Masahiro Sonoda
Haruo Sotozaki
Yoshifumi Sueda
Takayuki Tanaka
Kazuhide Tomonaga
Daisuke Tsukushi
Shingo Uchida
Shigeru Ueda
Tsutomu Yabuki
Music: Akira Senju
Original creator: Hiromu Arakawa
Character Design: Hiroki Kanno
Art Director: Takeshi Satou
Animation Director:
Masahiro Ando
Atsushi Aono
Taichi Furumata
Minefumi Harada
Kazunori Hashimoto
Satoshi Hata
Koichi Horikawa
Hiroya Iijima
Satoshi Ishino
Hiroki Kanno
Tetsuya Kawakami
Hiroshi Kobayashi
Akira Matsushima
Tomokatsu Nagasaku
Yasuyuki Noda
Hiroaki Noguchi
Kenichi Ohnuki
Masaru Oshiro
Madoka Ozawa
Tsunenori Saito
Souichirou Sako
Ryousuke Sekiguchi
Jun Shibata
Yumiko Shirai
Kanta Suzuki
Hitomi Takechi
Sadakazu Takiguchi
Yuusuke Tanaka
Chiyomi Tsukamoto
Takeshi Yoshioka
Mechanical design: Masahisa Suzuki
Art design: Kazushige Kanehira
Sound Director: Masafumi Mima
Producer:
Nobuyuki Kurashige
Hiro Maruyama
Ryo Oyama
Noritomo Yonai

Full encyclopedia details about
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (TV)

Release information about
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood - Collection 1 (Blu-Ray)

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