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"Fullmetal Alchemist" Vol. 7: Moments of Character

ImageThe fallout from the Elric brothers’ trip to Laboratory 5 sets the stage for the latter half of the series, and claims the life of one of its’ most beloved characters. On a spoiler-laden, somber note, lets jump right in…

The first episode on the disc proves to be both exciting and depressing. As Edward and Alphonse prepare to leave under the guise of a visit to their teacher, Major Maes Hughes investigates further into the incident at Laboratory 5. Pouring over the mountain of evidence, Hughes begins to suspect that the military may be internally corrupt. As Hughes receives carte blanche from Fuhrer Bradley to unearth the corruption, he discovers something unsettling about the Fuhrer’s secretary, Juliet Douglas. Apparently, someone with the exact same name opened fire on a small child, resulting in the Ishbalan war of several years ago, but Juliet Douglas supposedly died three years prior to it. When “Juliet” is approached on this matter, Hughes is attacked by Lust, proving his suspicions that there is indeed a conspiracy involving the Homunculi from Lab 5. While attempting to make a call to Mustang, Hughes meets his end when the shape-changing Envy, disguised as his wife, shoots him, thus silencing Hughes and his findings. The episode closes at Hughes’ funeral, with Mustang making a silent vow to avenge the now Brigadier General Maes Hughes. The funeral is powerfully directed, with real emotion evident in all the characters. A cameo by Lieutenant Colonel Frank Archer is very subtle, yet well placed considering his future importance to the story. I’ve shown people this episode by itself, and despite never having seen another episode of the series, it touched them. The last three minutes cement Fullmetal Alchemist as a true work of art.

Following the masterpiece that is episode 25, things start to slow down a little bit for a breather. On a stopover in Rush Valley, the “Auto-mail Mecca”, Ed, Al, and Winry meet Paninya, a triple-amputee with auto-mail limbs. After using alchemy to cheat and win an auto-mail arm wrestling competition, Winry advises Paninya to steal Ed’s State Alchemist pocket watch in order to help him learn a real appreciation for finely crafted auto-mail. Following a rather…explosive chase across the city, Ed catches Paninya and they are taken to meet the man who made her auto-mail, Dominic. After a stern lecture by Dominic, Paninya says her good-byes to Winry and the Elrics just as Ed and Al’s teacher arrives, much to their chagrin. The main problem with this episode lies in its manga connections. The Fullmetal Alchemist manga devotes a rather sizable portion of story to the Paninya arc, thus giving her more background and fleshing her out. As originally written, she’s actually quite likable and cute, but comes off as really annoying in her one-episode appearance. Also, her motivations for stealing Ed’s watch are quite forced and far-fetched in this episode, as opposed to her need to sell it and make money to pay Dominic back in the manga. Despite these complaints, this is actually a fun episode that gets better with repeated viewings. Despite what it seems, it isn’t completely filler material due to a short yet important scene with Mustang and Hawkeye discussing their plans for avenging Hughes. I’m also glad that Winry is given some more time to shine, and is shown to be a lot deeper and interesting than just a pretty face. The episode is not the best, but far from the worst.

ImageThe third episode continues immediately where the previous one left off, with the Elrics’ teacher Izumi Curtis and her husband Sig arriving. In what can only be described as a kidnapping, Izumi takes Ed and Al back to her hometown of Dublith. While there, the Elrics reflect on how they came to study under Izumi. Right after their mother died, a huge flood came upon Resembool. Ed and Al, just having began mastering alchemy, attempt to barricade the flood with little success. Thankfully, Izumi and her husband are vacationing in the area, and master alchemist that she is, Izumi easily stops the flood, but collapses after coughing up blood. After seeing what she could do, Ed and Al plead with her to become her apprentices and she reluctantly agrees, assuming they pass her “trial”. After the flashback sequence, Izumi questions the boys on what happened to their real bodies. Infuriated that they would try to revive their dead mother, she slaps them around before embracing them, as she may not be so innocent herself. This episode doesn’t do much to advance the plot, but showcases some great characterization and back-story. Izumi is a well-rounded addition to the cast, and her secret is one that has major repercussions on the series.

“One is all, all is one” finishes off volume 7, and I have to say that its one of the lesser episodes of the series. In a move to re-vitalize Ed and Al’s waning spirit, Izumi drops them off on a deserted island that they had once spent an entire month on during their training. Flashbacks show the young Elric brothers fighting for their lives against a hulking brute who terrorized them, fending off starvation, and learning a valuable lesson about life. The episode’s title sums up the theme of the episode nicely. Aside from adding some more depth to Ed and Al, not much happens in this episode except the introduction of a young, black-haired boy that will play a pivotal role in upcoming episodes.

The interesting thing about this volume is that after the first episode, the rest aren’t all that stellar. As with most anime releases, the extras are unimpressive aside from a few standards like art galleries, profiles and trailers. That should serve as a testament to just how great episode 25 is, and that it can make this DVD a serious must-have for any anime fan!

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