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FMA OVA BoxartFullmetal Alchemist is a bit of a polarizing series in the American market. There seems to be either extreme love or extreme hate toward the franchise, with very little middle ground. However, the series does have an undeniably large and vocal following. With that much under its belt, it was all but guaranteed that a Fullmetal OVA would hit the market. However, with the collection of OVAs the series received, it’s hard to imagine a fan saying any less than “What the hell is that?!”

The Fullmetal Alchemist OVA series is a collection of four short non-canon pieces: Fullmetal Live-Action, Chibi Wrap-Up Party, Kids, and Fullmetal Alchemist: The Interactive Experience, each with a different tone and animation style. Taken as a supplement to the series, the Fullmetal OVAs are a wonderful chance to revisit the characters and world that viewers fell in love with. However, as stand-alone works, the series is uneven at best. Some segments are clearly better-developed than others, and a few key scenes fall flat in execution. Rather than discuss the series as a whole, it would be more beneficial to mention each OVA as its own stand-alone piece.

The most substantial segment, the Interactive Experience, is a collection of sequences animated for the Fullmetal Alchemist ride at Universal Studios Japan. The segment uses a combination of new animation and clips from the show, and places viewers in the shoes of a new recruit to the State Alchemist of Amestris’ State Military. The feature begins with an overview of the a number of staples of the Fullmetal Alchemist world, from alchemy to automail (mechanical prosthetic limbs). After the introduction, the plot shifts to a more urgent pace. The State Alchemists rush in to rescue series heroes Edward and Alphonse, who are in the middle of a standoff against the Homunculi.

In the context of a theater ride, the Interactive Experience would be an enjoyable diversion. However, as a stand-alone animated feature, it comes across as weak and somewhat pointless. The plot is paper-thin, and the amount of recycled sequences borders on absurd. The climactic finale provides a few minutes of excitement, as all hell breaks loose in an epic, if not short, battle sequence. However, it’s but one high point in an otherwise bland short.

Fullmetal Live-Action is possibly the most unusual of the OVAs, as it isn’t an animated feature. Instead, the three-minute short places a model of Alphonse Elric’s armor in several places in modern Japan. As the people walk around the model and go about their lives, the voice of Alphonse narrates, as he ponders the meaning of his brother’s ultimate sacrifice. It’s short, it’s melancholy, and it’s outright bizarre.

The Chibi Wrap Party is a nine-minute feature drawn entirely in super-deformed style. The feature takes place directly after the “filming” of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie, in some random bar. Every fan-favorite character from Roy Mustang, to Lust, to Winry (who is in surprisingly short supply through the rest of the shorts) makes an appearance, often in unexpected ways. Through the course of the short, nothing is sacred – be it the film’s director, the characters themselves, even the fans. The piece is tied together by a visual style that works in the mood, as well as a healthy smattering of random visual humor.

In many ways, the Chibi Wrap Party feels like the strongest of the shorts. The feature has a consistent narrative, and a strong script. The characters play wonderfully with each other, and really help to sell the short. There’s enough service to make the fans happy, but also enough random humor to entertain first-time viewers.

The final segment on the disc, Kids, is a short but sweet piece that follows the young descendants of Edward and Winry in modern Japan. There is little actual dialogue through the three-minute short. Instead, the simple visual impact speaks volumes as what many would deem a cold, heartless world is suddenly filled with energy and life. The feature ends on a bittersweet note as the children arrive at Edward’s apartment to wish him a happy (hundredth) birthday. The happy occasion is contrasted by photos and clippings of all those other characters from the original series who were taken by the cruel flow of time.

After a satisfying television series, the Fullmetal Alchemist OVAs feel like a disappointment. The overall quality is uneven across the series’ four episodes. The odd mishmash of concepts may alienate viewers that were expecting a more substantial return to the Fullmetal Alchemist world. However, the series is undeniably charming, and has enough nods to please the die-hard fans. Fans looking for something different would probably find the most enjoyment in the short series. However, those looking for more substantial adventures with Edward and Alphonse would best be served by the series’ relaunch, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.