"Fullmetal Alchemist: Vol. 8" Like a Fine Wine
Fullmetal Alchemist is like fine wine. It just gets better and better with age. Well, no, scratch that. Fullmetal Alchemist is like….uh…Fullmetal Alchemist is….like nothing thats ever come before. Trying to compare it to anything will result in a disservice to the series itself. Mixing comedy, action, horror, fantasy, and some sci-fi elements, and even being what could be considered a period piece at times, its genre classification fluctuates from scene to scene. Sure other shows have tried going the full spectrum, but Fullmetal Alchemist has thus far (and continues doing it to the end, trust me) done it better than anything that has come before. Now that I’m done singing the praises of the show as a whole, lets take a look at the newest DVD.
Volume 8 starts off with a bang, picking up right as Izumi collects Ed and Al from the island she left them at. The first episode has them all dealing with a young boy they found living on the supposedly deserted island. For reasons unknown to them, this child can perform alchemy without a circle, much like Ed and Izumi can. After Al notices something particularly disturbing about the child’s limbs — the skin color and scars match Ed’s missing limbs perfectly — the Elric brothers attempt to interrogate him and he escapes, resulting in a chase through the city. This episode features some remarkable direction, specifically, the sequence showing what Ed saw in the black gate when he originally tried to save Al’s soul and attatch it to the suit of armor. Not to spoil anything, but watch carefully (slo-mo if you have to) and you’ll see some subtle foreshadowing. This episode stands out for me as the introduction of new series villain Lt. Col. Frank Archer. While this character is none too popular with FMA fans, I think he is a great addition to the cast, treading the line wonderfully between insane-evil and just being a plain old ass. He is believable and none too over the top.
The next episode “Assault on South Headquarters” is one of the best in the series. Lt. Col. Archer makes his move and apprehends the young boy, hoping to find a link between him and the situation at Laboratory 5 from a few weeks back. Angered, Izumi heads to South Headquarters, ready to rescue the boy at all costs. Upon arriving there, several factions enter the fray including Armstrong (allied with Archer and the military) Envy (disguised as Fuhrer Bradley), Ed (hoping to prevent his teacher from getting killed or arrested), and Zolf Kimbley, the former Crimson Alchemist, now working with Greed. The different sides do battle until Envy manages to sneak away with the young boy for a moment and then exposes him to the red stones. Hidden secrets about him are revealed as the boy quickly eats them resulting in a transformation. He has now become the seventh homunculus, Wrath! Izumi collects him and heads back to the island where she found him. If you love character driven action, this one has it all. The fight between Kimbley and Ed is really cool, as is Izumi vs. Armstrong. The scene where Wrath gobbles the red stones compulsivly is a bit disturbing, and strikes you as a drug addict hastily getting their fix, damn all consequences. Oh, and did I mention that Archer is cool?
“Sin” sees the battle continue to the island. As Izumi is unable to bring herself to do what is necessary and kill Wrath, Ed and Al jump in, planning to finish it. Greed and his men, hoping to secure the young Homunculus and turn him to their ideals, arrive on the island only to be greeted by Envy and Sloth. A stylish battle ensues until Greed admits defeat and leaves. The fight between Wrath and Ed heats up until Izumi puts an end to it driving Wrath away, right into the waiting clutches of Sloth and Envy. She feels that it isn’t Ed’s place to do her unfinished dirty work. This is another good episode for action lovers. Wrath’s little speech about Homunculi sheds some light on things, and shows just what a nasty little monster he really is. Things are only going to get tougher for the Elric brothers from here on out.
The last episode on this disc features the introduction of another new, and very important chatacter; Dante. Izumi sends the Elric brothers to visit her former teacher in order to hopefully finds some clues and leads in their quest. Greed himself decides to pay a visit to Dante’s house (the ‘why’ won’t be revealed until the next disc though) and runs afould of the Elric brothers and captures Al. A Greed scene always makes for good televison and this episode has them aplenty. You also get to see some development for his, thus far, mysterious cohorts. There isn’t much I can reveal or point out about Dante without spoiling the rest of the series, so all I can tell you is just to watch closely and don’t forget about her. Not the best episode, but far from the worst.
Extras are usual fare and if you’ve been keeping up with the Fullmetal Alchemist DVDs, you already know whether you care about them or not. Art galleries, profiles, textless songs, etc. This DVD showcases the best animation, music, and directorial efforts in the whole show. It just keeps getting better and better, and from my experiences with the TV run, the series’ quality continues skyrocketing until the end. It’s a good time to be an anime fan!