Fullmetal Alchemist: OVA Collection
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The Fullmetal Alchemist universe expands with new stories that reunite the original U.S. cast in four eye-opening tales available for the first time outside of Japan. In the Interactive Experience, you're on the front line against the Homunculus scourge. In the Live Action Featurette, the search for truth continues in modern Japan. The Kids Short offers proof that innocence lost can be found again. Finally, you're invited to the Chibi Wrap Party, but don't arrive late - with Gluttony on the guest list, the finger foods - and fingers - probably won't last long.
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At Universal Studios Japan, back in 2005, those who took part in the "Fullmetal Alchemist Premiere Tour" ride were treated with an animation (specifically made for the ride) that puts a person on the ride to take on a role as the new member of the State Alchemists. As a rookie, you are introduced to certain key characters from the anime series but then immediately taking part in a battle between the State Alchemists versus the Homunculus. These shorts include a Preshow, Zone 1-4 and a Postshow and the duration is about 18 minutes long.
For the short collection (Duration: 16:48), the viewer is treated with the following shorts (spoiler-less summary):
* Live Action Featurette - This takes place after the television series with Alphonse Eric in his armor form in live/real Japan searching for Ed.
* Chibi Party - This is a humorous animated short in which the characters are in super deformed mode (chibi-small character mode) and celebrating after the filming of "Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa".
* Kids - We watch three children who look so similar to the Elric brothers and Winry Rockbell. But who are they?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
For the most part, there is of course animation differences with one being used for a Universal Studios Japan ride in Japan, one that is super deformed format and another that actually looks quite cool with its beautiful backgrounds and vibrant colors. The video is featured in 4:3 standard definition.
The audio is featured in English 5.1 Surround Sound and Japanese Stereo. The majority of the action sequences can be heard in the interactive story but dialogue and music comes quite clear through your front channel speakers and center channel.
Subtitles are in English.
The special features featured on the "FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: PREMIUM OVA COLLECTION" DVD include the following:
* Original Japanese TV commercial (with English subtitles) - (:41) The Japanese TV commercial for "Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa".
* Textless ending theme - (4:03) The ending theme for the anime shorts and video clips of Universal Studios Japan. Also, optional romanized and translated subtitles for the ending theme song.
* Trailers - Trailers for upcoming FUNimation Entertainment releases
When it comes to a popular series such as "Fullmetal Alchemist" and other popular long-running series, these OVA's are typically for the fans of the animated series and/or the voice talent. You either get a solid half hour of a storyline (that may or may not relate to the anime series) or an OVA that puts your favorite characters in a unique situation that may be full of humor and all-out fun! The latter is indeed the case for the "FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: PREMIUM OVA COLLECTION".
For the interactive segment, it may be hard to imagine a ride with video (for those who never experienced it) but with my experience of riding a few in Japan, I can say it's comparable for those who have attended such ride at Disneyland or Disney World, where you are shifted around through a ride (that is not like a rollercoaster but its constantly moving) while watching a storyline progress.
I could imagine after watching the Interactive Experience of how cool this ride may have been. For the most part, the interactive experience was quite fun to watch and see everyone together in battle. Not being part of the ride and watching it on DVD is still fun and enjoyable but I could only imagine how the interactive ride could have been during the action sequences.
For the animated shorts, fans of the anime series and film will definitely find these three shorts quite enjoyable and amusing. They are short in duration but for the most part, my favorite would have to be "Kids" which has an ending that may surprise fans.
Overall, "FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: PREMIUM OVA COLLECTION" is a fun, enjoyable and satisfying collection of shorts. It's also much more enjoyable knowing that retail stores are selling this for $10-$14, so it is quite affordable. If you are a big fan of the anime series, this DVD deserves to be part of your "Fullmetal Alchemist" collection!
Released across a single disc packaged within a standard dvd case, Full Metal Alchemist Premium OVA Collection comes in at a total runtime of 35 minutes and wears an appropriate TV PG (13+) rating.
Language options are of typical sub & dub variety meaning the choice of original Japanese dialog audio presented in stereo or an English dub track in Dolby Digital 5.1, and the option of running English subtitles within either.
Typically at this point of my anime reviews, I would take a moment to focus on the extras contained within but to be completely honest, this entire disc is essentially a collection of extras in and of itself; so let me take the easy way out by following the press release in saying that extras include original TV commercials, textless closing song, and some Funimation trailers.
That said, the "feature" here actually consists of four snips of Full Metal Alchemist that could, realistically, have been packaged as extras on any one of the series or prior OVA releases if for nothing else, due to the fact that all of them together only equal a half hour of entertainment. I will break the four pieces down in the order in which they are presented on the menu:
1) The Interactive Experience
This part of the DVD consists of six little lecture segments (a pre-show, zones 1-4, then a post-show) that basically get the viewer up to speed on the Full Metal Alchemist universe by addressing the viewer directly. The goal of this approach, presumably, was to emulate the feeling of military briefings but long-standing fans of the show will certainly be disappointed in the simple and lackluster recapping contained here. Calling the experience "interactive" is certainly a bit of a stretch but in this segment's defense, at least some of the humor works pretty well.
2) The Live Action Featurette
Great potential lost to time restraints and odd presentation. This segment is exactly what it sounds like; a live action little film where a character from the show attempts to visit Bones studio for answers on the meaning of his existence. Sure it sounds cool but the fact that it's only about two minutes long really cuts down on the storytelling element. Fans will be left wanting more and non-fans of the series that happen to be in the room will look at you as if you've lost your mind (which, may or may not be the actual case). Either way, everyone is sure to be disappointed.
3) Chibi Wrap Party (Short)
This segment is classified as a short and that's just what it is. It's a completely animated Full Metal Alchemist entry of the slightly super deformed (SD) variety with decent voice work in both the original Japanese dialog and the English dub. If I could have had any input on this entire project, I would definitely have tried to secure more of this stuff right here.
4) Kids (Short)
Finally we have another animated short- this time literally about three minutes long in which the year 2005 witnesses Edward Elric's 100th birthday party. There isn't much dialog here in either language option (then again the runtime would only allow for a sentence or two anyway) but the artwork here more closely resembles that of the original FMA series (moving away from the super deformed look of Chibi Wrap Party) with beautiful skies and rich textures. Again, the biggest flaw is that it's short- too short in fact for anyone who happens to find themselves without a terrible case of ADD.
In all, this will surely be a valuable little collector's piece to diehard Full Metal fans who've been awaiting an official Region 1 release of these nearly legendary Japanese segments but the rest of the anime community at large will likely find little redeeming quality about a release (especially one called the Premium OVA Collection) that is barely a half hour long. Keep in mind that a good portion of the total 35 minutes from start to finish is a simple recap up to current events and the fact becomes painfully clear that this collection will likely end up only on the wish-list of the hardcore FMA fan who seeks every single release.
The interactive adventure is anything but interactive, basically you are watching a rehashing of the series. Almost all the content is recycled footage. The little bit of new content has almost no plot to it and is very brief. As I said earlier, this is NOT interactive. Some of the adventure takes place in a first person POV but you are not controlling this "mysterious character" in anyway.
The live action adventure is basically a bunch of footage of a statue in a Japanese city (Tokyo?). You hear Al's voice in the background. My overall impression was "MEH".
The wrap party was basically all the characters talking about their roles in the movie "Conqueror of Shamballa" Sort of comical, I guess. Everyone is Chibi/SD style. It's kindah comical, I guess.
The best feature is "Kids", I won't give anything away, but it has a nice tie-in to the series at the end. Nothing profound, but it was heartwarming. But still way too short
This would have been a nice addition as a bonus disc for the movie, or some boxed set. But on its own, my recommendation is save your money. In total there is about 30 mins of footage and half of it isn't entertaining at all.
However, if you are an avid Fullmetal Alchemist fan and this is the only thing your collection is missing, then I would get it just for the sake of having it. I bought it knowing good and well that I was only buying it just to say I have it, but I'm an impulsive buyer and a completionist so it didn't bother me very much.
I've watched it maybe twice and it will probably not leave the shelf for a while.
The first short is "Interactive Experience," which was part of the "Fullmetal Alchemist Premiere Tour" at Universal Studios Japan in 2005. For this short, you are a new probationary member of the State Alchemists. You learn key concepts of the Fullmetal Alchemist universe, meet most of the characters, and "you" even get to help out on a mission. This particular feature runs for about 18 minutes.
Next is "Live Action Featurette," a short set in modern Japan. Alphonse (as the suit of armor) is wandering the streets, looking for Edward. He comes to Studio Bones in the hopes of locating his brother. I personally found this particular short to be rather odd.
This is followed by "Chibi Wrap Party," which depicts the characters in a chibi style. It's set at the wrap party after the conclusion of the Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa film. This is a very comedic short, and can really be appreciated if you have familiarity with the Fullmetal Alchemist universe. I enjoyed this short.
The final short on the disc is "Kids," which focuses on three kids who look remarkably like the young Edward, Alphonse, and Winry we see in flashbacks during Fullmetal Alchemist. They are going to see their grandfather (probably more likely their great grandfather). The short ends with the impression that the grandfather is Edward Elric. This was an enjoyable short.
There are three extras included on the disc. The first is labeled as "Original TV Commercial." This is a commercial from Japan for the Conqueror of Shamballa film. It runs for 41 seconds, and has Japanese audio and English subtitles. The second extra is labeled as "Textless Closing Song." This is the ending credits that appears after all of the OVAs are shown, and it's just the images and music; there is no text on the screen. The final extra are the trailers that are included on the disc for The Slayers, Kenichi, Heroic Age, Jinki Extend, Dragon Ball, Fullmetal Alchemist, xxxHoLic, and Origin.
While most of the OVAs included on this disc are enjoyable, this is definitely a release that's geared much more to the die-hard fans of Fullmetal Alchemist rather than to casual fans. If you're a Fullmetal Alchemist fan who wants to own everything on DVD, you'll want to own this one in your collection. However, be sure to shop around for the best price. I've seen this run anywhere from as low to $11 to as high as $20. Personally, I think the $20 price tag is a little high for what's included on this release.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD release that I checked out through the King County Library System.