Saturday, December 22, 2012

Outdated Reviews: Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa

     Someone tell me if I broke the record for longest post title of all time with that one.
     Anybody remember this face? In October of 2003 the first episode of Fullmetal Alchemist aired, and plunged us headfirst into a vivid anime world of consequence. Tragedy was the flavor that was heavily sprinkled over the series to give it the trademark poignancy so many other anime cannot hope to achieve. Of course, in my personal opinion, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood was the superior of the two series, but I should probably avoid that rabbit trail, or we would never come back. This post is about the movie that completed the first series, The Conqueror of Shamballa, so don't expect to sound off on the show beyond the premise. I don't have nearly enough endurance as a writer to say everything I want to say about this story. *proceeds to summarize the anime anyway*

     For those who are unfamiliar, Fullmetal Alchemist is the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who are also alchemists in a country called Amestris, where science never replaced the medieval study of the metaphysical. The setting mirrors early 1900's industry and architecture, and is done convincingly, the similarities between Amestris and reality only proving to further immerse the viewer. However, the setting is hardly the focus- Edward and Alphonse, still children and having lost their mother to a serious illness, use their budding abilities to attempt to bring their mother back to life. The result is disaster, leaving Edward missing an arm and a leg, and leaving Alphonse nothing more than a soul bonded to a suit of armor. Realizing their mistake in attempting to revive their mother, they instead focus their lives on returning their bodies to normal. Edward, the older (shorter) and more talented of the two, joins the military as a State Alchemist, hoping to gain the resources necessary to retrieve the mythical Philosopher's Stone, which he and Alphonse believe would give them the power to return their bodies to normal.

     Without spoiling any of the exploits that follow in the anime, the movie is meant to be the ending of the Elric's story. In true FMA fashion, the film is rife with emotion. The mood is melancholy in the earlier segments of the film while Edward remains in the real world- in Germany in the 1920's, separated from his brother and other loved ones in Amestris after the events of the anime. No, you didn't misread that- one of the more uncommon elements of this film is that it ties the fantasy world in the series to the real world. The tension is universal in this story- post-World War I Germany is filled with distrust and bitterness after the national humiliation that was the Treaty of Versailles. It's not until the viewer is introduced to Alphonse that the bleakness starts to fade, introducing an interesting emotional counterpoint to Edward's emotional resignation. Where Edward feels as though he is receiving his allotted judgment, Alphonse is tirelessly searching for his brother. This emotionally poignant section leads into a bittersweet conclusion that is not without loss, which resounds true to the theme of the anime- equivalent exchange. "To create, something of equal value must be lost."  All in all, the movie is a fitting, if not perfect end to a series rich in dramatic complexity. The antagonizing group of this production, the Thule Society, seems to be a bit of a cop-out, introducing characters that are cheaply disposed of, which actually hurts the former depth of emotion that made this anime so personally touching. That being said, it can't ding the armor (behehehe) of Edward and Alphonse's relationship, which continues to make for a compelling, fulfilling driving force for the story.

    Finally, how can I bring up this movie without addressing the mind-blower of a fight scene between a mutated Gluttony and the now motherless Wrath? Let me say- the whole movie doesn't reach this standard- but the estimated minute-and-a-half of action is, in my opinion, a pinnacle of animation. The smoothness of the animation, the high-impact blows, just, just- AIOEHGOIHEVECEJCJEJJECKLDJZKZKKKZKK. Anyway, go out when you feel like you're in a drudgery of repetition, and rent this film for a step out of the ordinary.

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