It's tough to argue with the widespread adoration that developed from seemingly thin air (lame pun, I know) over Full Metal Alchemist. In a sense, I've often viewed the franchise as a bit of an Asian/ anime counterpart to the hysteria over Harry Potter we've endured here in the States. And while I haven't considered myself a dedicated fan of the series per say, I have enjoyed its unique premise and solid presentation in each encounter I've had thus far. Enter Full Metal Alchemist, Premium OVA Collection from Funimation. Based on the title alone, I really expected this release to be the definitive OVA collection of the franchise but with a total runtime of just over a half hour, something didn't feel quite right about that theory. But before I get ahead of myself, let's talk a bit about the cold hard facts.
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.