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Full-On Glory with "Fullmetal Alchemist" Vol. 4

The plot thickens as Ed and Al get closer to uncovering the mystery of the Philosopher’s Stone and Scar begins to hunt down and murder State Alchemists. The series is already so good that it’s hard to believe that it can consistently top itself with each volume. And I have it on good authority that this is nowhere near as good as the series gets.

The first episode on “Fullmetal vs. Flame” is the best thus far, featuring a hilarious contest of alchemic abilities between Ed and Roy Mustang as well as some disturbing revelations about Mustang’s involvement in the famed “Ishbal Massacre.” Even though it seemingly starts off as comedic filler material, it ends up being one of the most important episodes of the series. And a great new addition to the already fantastic cast comes in the form of Major Alex Louis Armstrong, a.k.a. the “Strong Arm Alchemist”. While Major Armstrong provides some of the best comic relief in the series, he’s certainly a force to be reckoned with, as Scar sees firsthand.

Also of note are the introductions of former State Alchemists Zolf J. Kimbley and Tim Marcoh, as well as a new baddie, Envy. Kimbley is the Crimson Alchemist, capable of alchemically causing explosions. This psychopath was responsible for a large number of innocent deaths during the Ishbal Massacre, and due to his violent and sadistic nature his State Certification was revoked and he was supposed to have been executed. Tim Marcoh is the Crystal Alchemist; during the Ishbal rebellion he developed powerful stones that increase an Alchemist’s power immensely. Due to his guilt over having been responsible for so many deaths, Marcoh went AWOL with all of his research and has been missing since the war. Last but not least is Envy in all his metrosexual wonder. Being a homunculus (along with Lust and Gluttony), Envy has the ability to change into any form he wants. Since he has forgotten his original appearance, he has chosen the form of a pretty young man. All of these interesting characters are integral to the story, and Fullmetal Alchemist benefits greatly from their inclusion.

FUNimation has also included some fantastic extras for this disc. The music for L’arc en Ciel’s “Ready, Steady, Go” (the second theme) is included in all its glory. Another great extra is the first episode of Spiral. Sure, it doesn’t make any sense to have it here, but it is a good move on FUNimation’s part, as it increases the entertainment value of the DVD and might make fans (including me) check out that series as well.

While these four episodes will be almost completely inaccessible to new viewers (as most plot-heavy shows are), they still serve as a sterling example of what an anime series can hope to achieve. Highest possible recommendation. Only one more volume until the Fullmetal Alchemist DVD tin is complete.

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