After recovering from the Lab 5 incident, the Elric brothers realize that they are in need of more training. With Winry in tow, they head off to once again see their teacher for some advice and guidance. Little do they realize, however, that tragedy is about to fall upon Central.
Every so often, we get a series that manages to do everything right: an engaging story with plenty of twists; a delicate balance of action, drama, and comedy; a strong cast of interesting characters; something to stimulate the grey matter; and striking visuals and audio holding everything together in a tight little package. Seven DVDs in, and Fullmetal Alchemist is still delivering on all fronts.
The most impressive thing about the series is the way it continues to stir so many different emotions. The mood can switch from lighthearted fun to serious drama and then to heartrending sadness and back again with such ease that the transitions are almost unnoticeable; it all has a pace and flow that feels natural and unrushed, despite the swiftness with which the plot advances.
Speaking of the story, it’s just as good as ever, with even more surprise twists and developments in this volume. I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice to say that it’s one hell of a shocker that you simply won’t see coming. As for the rest… well, there’re more revelations, more backstory, and more character development. Pretty much Fullmetal Alchemist’s formula for success, but the key point to note is that it rarely feels formulaic.
Incredibly, yet more characters are added to the already burgeoning roster. You may think that with so many people now running around some of the faces might begin to blend together, but the excellent character design boasts impressive variety, and ensures that each individual looks unique and distinct. Of the new characters, Ed and Al’s teacher, Izumi, is easily the most interesting, with a surprising amount of depth and background established rather quickly. In the space of three episodes, we see many facets of her personality — the strict teacher, the caring motherly figure, the fearsomely violent monster… they all show her to be a complex character indeed, full of contradiction — and it seems that she has plenty of secrets of her own.
That said, it’s not without its flaws. It does have its share of slow moments, sometimes it’s not as funny as it wants to be, extras are virtually non-existent, and there are little gripes about the subs (for some reason there are hyphenates at the end of every other line). Overall, though, these points are moot when you consider how tight the overall package is.
Fullmetal Alchemist is still one of the most engaging and enjoyable series currently available and, having just hit the halfway mark, it shows no signs of slowing down. Whether or not it can maintain its consistency throughout the second half remains to be seen, but based on all that we’ve has thus far, it looks as if there is no need to worry.
||8 out of 10
||Mon, 24 Jul 2006