Fullmetal Alchemist DVD #2: Scarred Man of the East
Nothing is gained without sacrifice. The biggest sacrifice for Fullmetal Alchemist fans has to be waiting for the DVDs to be released, so they might finally own their own personal copies of this fantastic series. DVD #2, Scarred Man of the East, picks up where the first one left off, with action and drama, humor and heartbreak, and lots of cool fight scenes. While some anime series start strong, only to collapse under their own momentum, Fullmetal Alchemist maintains its momentum and charges forward, building towards a crescendo of revelations and plot twists that elevate the series beyond the merely cool, into the realm of the sublime. Disc #2 is where things start to get weird.
Scarred Man of the East comes with four episodes. In Episode 5, The Man With The Mechanical Arm, Edward and Alphonse are on their way to Central when the train gets hijacked by rebels on the hunt for General Hakuro. The Elric brothers take offense to their train being hijacked, so naturally, things come to violence. This episode is notable as possibly the only time Ed ever calls himself “humble.” This episode is also notable because it begins the FMA tradition of train trips leading to disaster or problems.
In Episode 6, The Alchemy Exam, the Elrics’ exploits on the train allow them to begin studying for the upcoming State Alchemy exam. They are introduced to the “Life Sewing Alchemist,” Shou Tucker, the foremost authority on transmuting living things, and study under his eyes and using his materials. We also meet his adorable daughter Nina, and the huge, lovable mutt Alexander, who loves nothing more than pouncing small State Alchemists.
A serial killer is stalking Central in Episode 7, Night of the Chimera’s Cry. Shou Tucker’s annual assessment is coming up and he needs something big and impressive to keep his State Alchemist certification. While Tucker tries to figure out what to do, the Elrics adapt to life after the State Alchemist exam, and keep bumping into a man with a huge scar on his face.
The Elrics finally get involved in the hunt for the serial killer in Episode 8, The Philosopher’s Stone, and their childhood friend Winry gets drawn in when things go awry. The brothers also dig into Tucker’s research and discover he was looking for the legendary Philosopher’s Stone, an object of incredible power that can amplify an alchemist’s powers tremendously.
While people watching FMA for the first time will appreciate this disc, the real treat is for those who have already seen if. If you’ve seen the entire series, it’s a total joy to run back through it again, now that you know everything. Watching the early setups for everything is fantastic, and everything you thought came out of nowhere later on didn’t. The first disc is a nice launchpad for the series, but the second one is where we start to see the transition from a simple storyline about two brothers to a tremendously complicated one with plot twists, intrigues, betrayal, and at least one heart-wrenching tragedy. Episodes 6 and 7 are showpieces for the series’ patented tendency to set up something nice and sweet, and then turn it around into something horrible, frightening, and heartbreaking.
Technically, DVD #2 continues the FMA tradition of quality. The animation is crisp and clear, undoubtedly one of the nicest looking series in recent years. Fullmetal Alchemist’s soundtrack is fantastic, one of the best uses of sound and music ever. When Lieutenant Colonel Mustang turns the screen orange and red with fire, the low-end of the soundtrack rumbles as if he just set your living room on fire.
The music is usually classical-style pieces that do a superb job of setting mood and enhancing scenes, while not overpowering them completely. Military moments have a dramatic horns-and-drums military score, while sweet moments at home have quiet pipes or strings, undercut with melancholy when things are about to go bad. Fullmetal Alchemist’s music is so good, you won’t even notice it most of the time. It blends so seamlessly, so organically, into the scenes that it’s as much a part of them as the lines and colors of the animation itself.
This round of extras don’t impress quite as much as the cool collector’s box we reviewed earlier, but for a single DVD, it’s still pretty cool. Alchemy Text 2, the insert in the DVD case, is a nice little booklet on high quality paper, with cool shots and mini-bios of some of the characters. The official subtitles are nicely done and sync up with what’s onscreen, while the dubbing is what you’ve seen camping in front of the TV to watch FMA on Adult Swim. Textless songs, an image gallery, character profiles, some production art, and Japanese commercials round out a nice selection of extras. Al fans will be glad to find the giant, walking suit of armor in a cool action pose on the cover.
Fullmetal Alchemist’s first DVD is a must-own and the second is more than worthy to sit beside its predecessor in your cool collector’s tin. If you’re an FMA fan, I can’t think of any reason, save masochism, why you wouldn’t want to own this. Newcomers to the series will want to start with the first one, but they should go ahead and pick this up, too, since once it sets its hooks in, you’re going to want to watch them all. This one’s a must buy, must own, must watch DVD.
It has just about everything you could ask for in a single-disc release and the animation and sound is flawless.
Obviously, this is a bad place to come in if you’re new to the series. But for fans, this is when things start heating up and FMA goes from being a fairly simple story to kinda twisted.
Episodes: #5-The Man with the Mechanical Arm, #6-The Alchemy Exam, #7-Night of the Chimera’s Cry, #8-The Philosopher’s Stone
Extras: Textless Songs, Production Art, Japanese Commercials, Image Gallery, Character Profiles, Trailers