What better way to bring a popular series like Fullmetal Alchemist to a close than with a theatrical feature? “The Conqueror of Shamballa” attempts to resolve the cliffhanger of the TV series successfully and manages to do a pretty good job of that during its 104-minute runtime. I am sorry that the below review was a bit delayed (was busy with schoolwork yesterday) and a little disjointed. I have decided to review the extras and the movie in seperate posts so look for another entry on the two documentaries tomorrow along with those postcard scans I promised.
A couple years after the end of episode 51, Edward is still in post-WWI Germany and has made friends with an aspiring rocketeer named Alphonse. What Al doesn’t know is that he’s working on a project meant to supplement the uprising of a radical party. The Thule Society, an occultist organization, seeks a sacred power that will save Germany. They have acquired the Great Serpent (Envy) which they plan to use to reach Shamballa, a supposed utopia, with the help of alchemic circles. In reality, “Shamballa” is Edward’s original world that unfortunately gets attacked in the latter half of the film.
Since most of the movie takes place in 1923 Munich, the topic of ethnocentrism and radicalism is inavoidable. Germans are in a economic depression after signing the Treaty of Versailles and plan to unite all German into one country through the National Social Workers Party (aka the Nazis) and the leader Mr. Hitler. I think the film handles this subject pretty well and most of the historical references seem to be accurate, including the Beer Hall Putsch, except the filmmakers made Dietrich Eckart into a woman named Dietlinde Eckhart.
Ms. Eckhart is the main antagonist and a ruthless Society leader who will anything to reach her goals. She actually gains alchemic abilities after he goes through the gate and she attempts to plunder and destroy Al’s world with armored warriors because she thinks those people are monsters. In the end, she dies a horrible death but not before making a sizeable assault on Central with her rocket-powered airship.
Another thing that comes up in the film is the counterparts between the two worlds. Weimar Hughes is a soldier like Amestris Hughes except he is less passionate about his love for Gracia, who runs a clothes shop. Bradley’s counterpart is filmmaker Fritz Lang and Lyra is an actress at Lang’s studio. Some counterparts of the minor characters like Scar and Greed’s henchman also show up in select scenes.
[Sidenote: I learned about David Lewis’ counterparts theory as a part of his theory of possible worlds in my metaphysics class this quarter. His theory seems to be followed in anime like Tsubasa Chronicle but not in this one. According to Lewis, x is a counterpart of y if (1) x is sufficiently similar to y in “content and context” and (2) nothing in x’s possible world is as similar to y as x is. Anyway, both parallel worlds seen in the film seem to exist in a single universe because only one version of, say, Alphonse Elric or Hohenheim exists between the two. This contrasts Lewis’ definition of parallel worlds under which there would be two “Edward Elrics” who could not meet each other because each world is spatiotemporally seperate from the other. It is notable that all the counterparts that appeared in Weimar had previously died in the world of Amestris; this fact could allow for Lewis’ theory to work but it seems unlikely because then that would ignore the gate as a waystation behind the two distinct worlds. Okay, enough philosophy. Back to the review.]
The film provided a pretty good resolution on the series with an ending that satisfied this fan of FMA but it wasn’t perfect. As the plot progressed, there were a couple spots in the middle and near the end where it lagged. Also, Noah, the gypsy from Romania, came off as a weak character to me. Although she was held hostage by Eckhart in an attempt to lure Edward into helping them open the gate, she seemed to have only been included in the script to flesh out the growing “Germany for Germans” movement.
Overall, I felt it was an entertaining movie despite its shortfalls. The action sequences were awesome and the humor continued the style that worked in the TV series. Whew, now I can finally let myself watch the bonus features, see how the movie was made, and read the interviews with staff members!