ANIME & MANGA - Review
11:51 - 22nd March 2013, by Tom Smith

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Alchemy like that never before seen, an impossible battle against an unstoppable force and the spookily familiar face that belongs to the creator of the homunculi is revealed. FMA: Brotherhood - a closer retelling of the franchise to its source material, the manga - returns, and brings with it the daunting task of living up to its previous two rock solid offerings.

If the mayhem of Christmas and the New Year led you to forget the key points in the series so far, episode 27 - the opening of this set - acts as a handy little reminder. And, as we've come to expect from such a heavyweight of a series, the opportunity to cut corners (by simply rehashing old clips to fill time and bolster the episode count) has been expertly avoided. Instead, the recap is framed around a demonic encounter involving Hohenheim and touches on several vital themes that, in turn, lay the foundations for the following 12 episodes of the set.

Once up to speed, the series' many weaving paths clash together and hurtle the key players inadvertently towards their individual roles in the much larger scheme of things. These revelations are handled beautifully, and when things begin to slot into place they add a greater poignancy to everything experienced so far. Yep, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, if you thought volumes one and two were good - they ain't nothing but an introduction as far as volume three is concerned.

Additional to everything we've just mentioned (and a hell of a lot more we dare not in fear of dropping dreaded spoilers), a number of new cast members are thrown into the mix, each revitalising the series' core by adding their own unique slant to the goings on while not acting as people-shaped filler.

Presentation-wise, everything was as sharp and vivid as we'd expect from DVD. The original 2.0 Japanese language track and the 5.1 English dub also manage to nail the emotional 13 episode rollercoaster effectively. The latter even stays immune to the ever infectious dub-bug of overacting - hurrah!

Brotherhood is the obvious must buy series for all fans of the original. Why? Well, we've covered that countless times already, but for those lucky people who have just discovered the wonderful world of NEO with this very issue, let us explain it for you: The original FMA from 2003 began as a faithful(ish) retelling of the manga, but soon deviated into its own unique plot, resulting in an entirely different conclusion compared to its manga-based cousin. Brotherhood, while also receiving a shaper, more vibrant visual makeover, aims to stay closer to the manga.

However, if you're approaching the Fullmetal world entirely fresh, where would we recommend you to start? That's a tough choice and it really depends on budget and the way you consume anime. For casual viewers who usually watch a series once and never return to it, Brotherhood is definitely the one to go for simply because it has the visual edge, and although the remaining 50 percent isn't released here yet, the source material can't be faulted. Yet, if you're the type with plenty of time on your hands, 2003's series could be the one for you. Because, if you enjoyed that, we guarantee you'll love what's in store in Brotherhood.

Game over, 2011's going to be hard pushed to top this - and it only just begun.
SCORE: 5/5
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