Hidekatsu ShibataMichiko NeyaHiromu ArakawaFullmetal Alchemist
Fullmetal Alchemist: Premium Collection
Also known as: Hagane no Renkinjutsushi Premium Collection
Medium: OVA
Year: 2006
Director: Seiji Mizushima
Original creator: Hiromu Arakawa
Actor: Rie Kugimiya, Romi Park, Hidekatsu Shibata, Junichi Suwabe, Kenji Utsumi, Mayumi Yamaguchi, Megumi Toyoguchi, Ryotaro Okiayu, Toru Ohkawa, Yasuhiro Takato, Yoshino Takamori, Yuuko Satou, Houko Kuwashima, Michiko Neya, Nana Mizuki
Keywords: Fullmetal Alchemist, anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 4 short episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=6779
Website category: Anime late 00s
Review date: 23 March 2016
Hagane no Renkinjutsu
This won't take long. It's a collection of Fullmetal Alchemist OVAs, but you needn't pay it much attention because it's short, silly and not very good.
It's a sequel to the Conqueror of Shamballa movie (2005) that's a sequel to the first anime series (2003) that included a loose adaptation of the first seven volumes of Hiromu Arakawa's manga. When I say "sequel", though, I really mean "having a laugh". These OVAs aren't trying to present themselves as real within the Fullmetal Alchemist universe. They visit the Bones anime studio, attend its post-movie wrap party, etc. They're not trying to extend the Fullmetal Alchemist story.
Instead, they're just trying to amuse. Imagine an animated TV sketch comedy. As such I wouldn't exactly call these bad, but I wouldn't call them good either. Tomoko thinks they're a waste of time. They're not even that funny, I'm afraid, although on the (debatable) upside at least they're very short.
OVA 1 (State Alchemists vs Seven Homunculi, aka. Interactive Experience)
The first time we watched this, we simply gave up. The first half is just an info-dump about the series, narrated in-character over the top of lots of clips. The premise is you, the viewer, are a new recruit to King Bradley's alchemist army and so his men are giving you a grand tour on your first day. They talk straight to camera. This means they're talking to you. It's a first-person camera, in other words. When you shake you heads to mean "no", the camera moves from side to side.
There's nothing wrong with this notion, but it feels a bit contrived and doesn't really add much. The educational value of this info-dumping for newbies is also diminished by the fact that these OVAs contain massive spoilers for the TV series and the movie, so you wouldn't want newbies to be watching it in the first place.
Anyway, these lectures gradually drift into being an actual episode with a plot. In fairness, this surprised me. We're being given a tour of HQ when suddenly it's action stations and we're on a mission to help the Elric brothers fight all seven homunculi! This is more diverting than an info-dump of facts I already knew, but it's still basically a big fight scene that's mashing up all available characters with no regard for plausibility. By putting everyone in a big line, it also reminded me that I'm not wild about those reused homunculus character designs (Wrath resembling Envy and Sloth resembling Lust).
Mildly Amusing Bit = Havoc's annoyance that a girl he fancied is on a date with Roy Mustang.
Dumb Bit = Greed deciding that he wants an immortal metal body, when: (a) "immortal" means "until someone rubs off the hand-written blood seal inside the neck", and (b) he'd have to give up lots of other things he wants, like food and girls. Well, I suppose that just means Greed's an idiot.
OVA 2 (Jissha-hen, aka. Live Action)
Yes, live action. This involves a suit of Alphonse armour being taken around Tokyo and filmed. It's mildly amusing the first time you see it.
OVA 3 (Enkai-hen, aka. Chibi Party)
This is the wrap party for the Conqueror of Shamballa movie, on the premise that animated characters are actors. Do not watch this if you haven't seen the film. It contains brain-melting spoilers. There's a table for characters who died. Anyway, it's drawn with comedy art and it's going for broad laughs, e.g. busting up the Mustang/Hawkeye relationship for the sake of a gag. The 2003 series really, really isn't the manga, is it?
It's... okay. I didn't mind it.
OVA 4 (Kodomo-hen, aka. Kids)
This comes nearest to being worth watching, albeit in an almost story-free way. Almost a hundred years after the events of Fullmetal Alchemist (i.e. the present day), we follow some children going to see their grandfather. There's almost no dialogue. The significance of what we're watching is that almost everyone is someone we know. The three children resemble Ed, Al and Winry, while other random children they pass in the street resemble Mustang, etc.
If I could believe in it, this would be lovely.
In fairness, it shouldn't be so hard to accept what it's suggesting. It's a standard (if ridiculous) fictional trope that children will be perfect clones of their protagonist progenitors, subject to gender matching. A girl will appear to have inherited 100% of her genes from a single granny and nothing from her other three grandparents. For a boy, it'll all be from one grandad. Okay. I'll decide to buy that. It's visual shorthand. I'm afraid what's giving me more trouble here is the same magic genetic wand having affected random passers-by.
Frankly, there's little point in watching this. It's just not that entertaining. Even if you're a Fullmetal Alchemist completist, it's not part of the Fullmetal Alchemist story. It's just riffing on it. My favourite bit was actually the boogie-ing suits of armour in the end credits, which is the best possible use of those over-CGIed wigglers. (Have you ever wanted to see spectres in full plate armour waving their bottoms at you? Here's your chance.)
It's different, though. Each of these OVAs is unique in style and content. That's worth a modicum of praise, at least, even if that doesn't actually make them good.