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Full Metal Alchemist - volume two:
Scarred Man Of The East

casts: Rie Kugiyama/ Aaron Dismuke, Romi Paku/ Vic Mignogna

director: Seiji Mizushima

120 minutes (15) 2003
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Michael Bunning
Full Metal Alchemist (aka: Hagane no renkinjutsushi) is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed anime series ever produced, but it's not entirely accessible. It does require a willingness to enter a world where alchemy is not only a real science, but is so powerful as to be almost magical. This is a world where a young boy's soul can be detached from his body and housed in a giant suit of mobile armour, where Earth mythologies are mixed together at will, and chimaeras stand alongside golems with no explanation or apologies for the series' cross-cultural choices.

If you are willing to enter into the series' world, and if you're not the sort of snobbish, reactionary, closed-minded viewer who considers that "all cartoons are for children, so this must be like sitting through the various kids cartoon series which appear ad nausea on British Saturday morning television"; then you're in for a treat.

Scarred Man Of The East contains episodes five to eight of the series, and starts with Alphonse and Elric - the brothers who are the series' main characters - on a train to Central City, where they hope to take the entrance exam to become State Alchemists (sort of a cross between an FBI-style organisation and civil servants). Their train is taken over by terrorists, and the brothers use their alchemical skills to foil the nefarious plot. It's a pretty juvenile, comedy-flavoured episode that serves as a brief introduction to people who haven't seen volume one.

The next three episodes quickly move away from this light entertainment fluff and become something much darker and more interesting. The series is strongly linear - you couldn't miss an episode without missing some important plot development, and the plot moves along, taking in the destruction of one of the brothers' dream to become an alchemist, kidnapping and torture of one of their friends by a serial killer, the death of someone else close to the brothers, and the introduction of a villain who's far from one-dimensional.

Extras on the disc aren't fantastic, unfortunately. There's an English dub, which is okay but uninspired. There's also the standard (and pointless) option to watch the opening and closing credits without text, as well as some trailers you'll only watch once. Overall, this is a fantastic DVD. If you 'just want to be entertained', then perhaps you should watch something with less of a plot, something like Fist Of The North Star, where it's obvious no enthusiasm has gone into making the show anything other than shoddy, recycled ultra-violence. If you're able to engage your brain, and you're after something that might actually interest you and make you think, this is the show for you.
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