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"Fullmetal Alchemist" Vol. 5: A Perfect Prelude

The plot advances nicely and the tone darkens a little bit in Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 5. So let’s skip over any lame puns or intros and dive right in!

After meeting Tim Marcoh, Ed and Al may be close to finally discovering the Philosopher’s Stone, the key to restoring both of their bodies to normal. With enemies all around and both of them badly injured, the Elric brothers return to their hometown of Risembool for repairs. Having not seen them since the “Barry the Chopper” incident two years ago, auto-mail whiz and childhood friend Winry Rockbell isn’t too happy with them. This episode is mostly comedy and showcases Winry and the Elrics’ relationship, a bit of humor with Major Armstrong, and hints at a secret that Ed may be keeping from Al. After receiving their repairs, as well as promising Winry that they’d return soon, the brothers set off to Central City to research Marcoh’s work.

In the next episode, we are introduced to two new characters, Denny Bloch and Maria Ross. Both of them have been assigned to protect Ed and Al from Scar during their stay in Central City. Upon their arrival, the Elric brothers are met with the startling news that the Central library (where Marcoh’s research was secretly kept) was burnt to the ground during a fight between Scar, Lust and Gluttony. All hope is not lost though, as timid and mild-mannered Sciezca, a former employee at the library with a photographic memory, agrees to reproduce Marcoh’s book verbatim. Taking Sciezca’s notes, the brothers lock themselves in a guarded room and begin to study them, hoping to unlock the true ingredients to make a Philosopher’s Stone.

This episode has some strong interactions and an interesting bit of character development as Roy and his cadre of loyalists prepare for their transfer to Central. The final scene where Ed discovers the horrifying secret of the Philosopher’s Stone is incredibly powerful. Ross and Bloch are also welcome additions to the cast. Despite it being her duty, Maria Ross develops somewhat motherly feelings towards Ed, and that dynamic will be showcased better in the next volume. Sciezca is absolutely adorable and I hope she and her comedic flavor stay on the show for a long time. (She looks good in a military skirt too.)

In the third episode, Ed decides to infiltrate Central Laboratory Number 5, which was shut down years ago. A quick sneak-in/sneak-out shouldn’t be hard, but as fate would have it Lust, Envy, and Gluttony, as well as two suits of armors with souls attached occupy the laboratory. To complicate things, Scar battles the military in his search for Ed. Instead of finding the Elric brothers, he finds their notes and heads to the Fifth Laboratory. Overall this is good episode with some good action. I find it a little cheesy, though, that the Fifth Laboratory contained an Indiana Jones-esque pongee stick and rolling boulder booby traps. Those gripes aside though, the boulder is done in some pretty decent CGI that flows with the animation, and Ed’s movements are very nicely animated.

In the final episode of Volume 5, Ed duels with the Slicer Brothers, two murderers who were sentenced to death years ago but had their souls bound to a suit of armor. Outside of the laboratory, Al faces off with the armor-bound soul of Barry the Chopper. This episode is mostly just a long fight scene and is actually one of the more boring entries in the series, save for the absolutely hilarious exchange between Al and Barry. Props to the scriptwriter for perfectly capturing the flavor of this conversation!

FUNimation has been doing some excellent work with their DVDs, and I love the commentary with the voice director and, for one episode, Ed’s and Al’s voice actors. It certainly adds to an already slick package when you take the cover art, pack-in booklet, character profiles and everything else into account. Be warned though, as this disc does feature a bit more violent content than the others thus far, so it’s not for the kiddies. Despite my problems with episode 20, this disc is chock full of great comedy, action, and drama and serves as a great prelude to the amazing episodes to come.

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