Episode 1, "The Fullmetal Alchemist"
Synopsis: A man named Isaac McDougal is terrorizing Central, the capital of Amestris, with his use of water alchemy, heating it up to burn his victims or freezing it to freeze them alive. The President, Fuhrer King Bradley, puts Colonel Roy Mustang in charge of capturing Isaac, who fought alongside him in Ishbal. Mustang calls on the help of the Elric brothers, Edward (the "Fullmetal Alchemist") and Alphonse. Isaac plans to kill the Fuhrer using his ice alchemy, which is boosted by a Philosopher's Stone, but it is the Fuhrer who ends up killing him, and the stone in him dissolves before the miltary has a chance to check.
I was never a huge fan of the English dub of the first Fullmetal Alchemist series. I even wrote a damn article about what I thought was wrong about it. But, it's by no means a horrible dub, just a very disappointing one. So, bare with me, I'm trying to keep an open mind as I travel into the dub for the new series, and this is only a review of the dub of the first episode thus far.
I think the first dub was actually better than this. Even in the first episode of the first series the dub wasn't this awful. This is some grade A garbage. Let me count the ways.
Vic Mignogna's Edward Elric is about the same as always. Not great, not terrible. It was actually one of the strongest performances in the episode, but that's not saying a lot. He still sounds a little too dry for me. Sometimes I think he's doing an impression of Romi Paku, and it's not working out for him. I don't think of him as untalented per se, but he clearly is in over his head with this role.
Maxey Whitehead is the new Alphonse Elric, and from what I can hear, isn't so bad. I say "from what I can hear" because I can barely hear her at all. They have her volume turned way, way down and its difficult to make out half her lines. Are they afraid of criticism, or what? She's not that bad, though. Pot her up a little, Funimation. I could get used to her as I did Aaron Dismuke (who turned out to be a great Al).
Some of the most frustrating performances come from the voices I liked in the first dub, or at least thought were okay in it. Travis Willingham's Roy Mustang and Sonny Strait's Maes Hughes didn't sound at all like before. What happened to their previous voices for the roles? Perhaps they're going for different approaches, which might help in the long run, but in this episode, it was very off-putting. They sounded out of practice.
Some of the voices I can't tell too much about in just this single episode. Eric Vale's Kimbley sounds a little awkward, and like Willingham and Strait, out of practice. But he really didn't say very much, so it's difficult to measure. Likewise, Riza Hawkeye spoke once, so it's impossible to tell at this point whether Colleen Clinkenbeard still has it.
Then there's Ed Blaylock's Fuhrer King Bradley, which sounds mostly the same as before, which isn't a compliment.
Laura Bailey only said a couple of lines as Lust, but it was okay.
I'm not a big Chris Sabat fan. I think his characters tend to have this annoying, generic gruffness to them with little actual energy, and especially his DBZ voices. However, one of the voices I enjoyed in the first FMA dub was his Alex Louis Armstrong, and I can hear he doesn't disappoint here. It does sound just ever so slightly out of practice, but that's negligable. He manages to capture the same quality of the Japanese voice, but without sounding like he's just doing an impression. I don't gush, but Sabat's Armstrong is excellent and I would be wrong not to note it.
I guess it doesn't do much good to complain about Isaac's voice. He only appears in this episode and the one with the Ishbal flashback, and the latter is a silent cameo for about a moment. It's still a terrible voice that doesn't do the Japanese VA justice at all, but it's one episode, so I can dismiss it.
What is with the rescripting? Not just "Isaac the Freezer", but there were definitely some ad-libbing or rewriting going on here and there. I hate when Funimation thinks they're good enough to punch up scripts. They're not. It only worked in Yu Yu Hakusho, and even that's up for debate.
I've already commented on the actual episode before, back when it first aired, but I just wanted to say that I forgot how odd it is. First, it's an anime-only episode that crams in a ton of character introductions. Then there's all the bits of Arakawa-like humor they try crow barring in, which are a little distracting. I'm glad they toned it down later on, mostly using the humor she already put in the manga. Though there are parts of the episode I love, like the action, and Isaac's fate.
As for the dub, let's hope some of these performers settle into their roles.
Overall Dub Score: 2.5 out of 5