Reviews: Fullmetal Alchemist; Brotherhood – Collection 01 (Blu-ray)

Fullmetal Alchemist; Brotherhood is a strange and engaging anime series based on one of the most popular manga of all time. Brotherhood is the second adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist, and was directed by Yasuhiro Irie (Spriggan, Cowboy Bebop) and written by Hiroshi Onogi (Earth Girl Arjuna, Mobile Suit Gundam). The phrase ‘second adaptation’ may have been somwhat confusing – don’t worry, you’re not alone. Brotherhood is, essentially, a reboot of Fullmetal Alchemist-as-anime, covering similar (and in many cases identical) ground as the first anime adaptation of the manga. The differences lie in the visual style, the voice cast and the amount of material brought across from the manga. New viewers will get thrown into the story rather abruptly, but once you’ve absorbed character names and basic terms the action, the atmosphere and the sheer audacity of Fullmetal Alchemist; Brotherhood will reward your patience.

The series chronicles the adventures of two brothers – Alphonse and Edward – who, in a misguided attempt to resurrect their dead mother, horribly disfigured themselves at the hands of dangerous and unpredictable Alchemy. The manner in which they are disfigured is bizarre and fantastical (fans of anime will no doubt appreciate the inventiveness of the creators) – Edward’s limbs are ripped off, and Alphonse’s soul is transferred from his body into a suit of armour. The boys seek the Philosopher’s Stone, an artifact capable of restoring them to health. Fan feedback leads me to believe that Brotherhood is infinitely more faithful to the source material than its predecessor, and seeing as the original manga is arguably the most popular Japanese comic of all time I’d say that’s a good thing.

The story takes place in a fantasy/sci-fi version of 19th century Europe that exudes dark, Edwardian steampunk style. The score, the animation and the Mise-en-scene  all serve to cultivate an ethereal atmosphere. Both the English-speaking and Japanese-speaking casts are made up of absolute veterans and they all give great performances.

Blu-ray is simply the only way to see contemporary anime – the HD resolution presents as perfect a vision of the animation as possible, and the sound design (so important in animated programs of all descriptions) is conveyed accurately and effectively. The special features include audio commentaries, trailers and songs. The audio commentary is the one special feature I simply must have, and I’m pleased as punch that Funimation and Madman have included them.

It goes without saying that Fullmetal Alchemist; Brotherhood isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ever enjoyed anime then it’s a must-see.

4/5

review by Ben Vernel

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