I’ve talked about Fullmetal Alchemist before, both the first anime and Brotherhood. It was largely positive, with both series having a lot of good elements. Well, the original series had a film based on it and that’s what we’re looking at today, Conqueror of Shamballa. Does it live up to the rest of the franchise, is it an embarrassment? Let’s find out.
The film opens with a scientist showing Alphonse his new bomb, mistaking him for the Fullmetal alchemist. What a novel idea, we’ve never seen that before. He wants a State Alchemist to help him present his bomb to their higher ups. Alphonse refuses and the scientist gets angry and attacks him. Which is just a bad move on his part. You’d think he’d be better off finding a State Alchemist who would listen, but that would show common sense and not result in an action sequence. Ed bursts in and the brothers manage to fight off the scientist. Who uses human transmutation in a last ditch effort to stop them. This results in him going through the gate and never being seen again. We cut ahead to Edward in a world very much like ours relating the story to someone who looks very much like his brother, who laughs it off since the idea of alchemy as a legitimate scientific practice is absurd. Which is a bit head scratching since his world has people with unexplained psychic and magic powers.
The two join a group of Roma going to the carnival in order to show off their rocket. Ed excuses himself from the demonstration just in time to see a young Roma woman named Noah being chased by a trio of thugs. He steps in and manages to rescue her. Which results in him coming to the attention of the Thule society, you may remember them from your history as a group of occultists who sponsored the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, which was reorganised into the Nazi party. The Thule society is trying to open a gate into Edward’s original world, which they call Shamballa under the pretense of gaining an invincible army so that the Nazis can take over Deutschland and then the world.
Let’s start with the things that are wrong with the film, shall we? The big one is that a lot of the plot points don’t make much sense. The Thule Society’s plan is patently stupid. They’ve had three people cross over from the other world, Edward, Hohenheim & Envy. Two of them are ordinary people who don’t even have alchemy in their world and the third they manage to capture with no trouble whatsoever. So, how exactly is this world supposed to give them an invincible army? Of course, the woman in charge has a different plan and it is even dumber so there’s that. We also get some real plot contrivances. For instance, Winry shows up to bring Ed a new automail arm and leg, knowing exactly how much he’s grown so that she could compensate because she read ahead in the script. There’s also the issue of the gate itself. In the series proper we saw that opening the gate has terrible consequences for just about everyone who does it. In this they open it several times without a bloody thing happening, save for that initial incident with the scientist. Some characters die, but they all die of reasons un-related to opening the gate. The closest connection we get is that some of them die as a result of someone else opening the gate.
Now on the positive side I do like the idea of these two parallel worlds and how people on both sides can share an appearance. I also do think there was potential in Edward’s story arc about learning to live in the world he’s in instead of dwelling on the world where he was even if this film doesn’t handle it well.
You get to see pretty much the entire cast of major characters from Fullmetal Alchemist. Of course, the film screws some of them up. Roy Mustang in particular. Apparently between the ending of the series and this he decided to take a demotion and go off to a remote area to be emo. Yeah, that makes sense for a character who took his angst from a war and channeled it into strength to try to grab political power. Then we have the original characters. They’re a pretty one-dimensional group with flat motivations. Maybe that’s why our villains are Nazis. Since you don’t really have to try to give them motivations or fleshed out personalities. You can just make them evil and everyone will nod and say “yes, that’s how Nazis are.” You win this round, Conqueror of Shamballa, but I’m still calling it lazy. And it could have fleshed out Noah and some of the other non-Nazi original characters.
I will give the film credit, the visuals are really good, mostly. The character designs are just like the ones in the series and the backgrounds are detailed. What’s more mixed are the action sequences. They use some effects that don’t really work, sometimes giving them a jarringly different animation style. Some of the fight scenes are kind of badly done too. The fight between Wrath and Gluttony is just weak and there’s also the pathetically easy way that Envy is captured early on.
The original cast reprise their roles and they all do well. No worries there. There’s nothing wrong with the acting whatsoever. The music is good too, at least the instrumental stuff. Some of the lyrical stuff is outright badly done.
There really isn’t any in this film.
Conqueror of Shamballa is the worst thing I’ve seen from Bones. It’s not a bad film, but it is definitely weak with a lot of story problems and some characterisation & art issues. In the end, it’s a weak and disappointing way to end the original anime series. My final rating is a 4/10. Next week I’ll look at the second 3×3 eyes OVA. For those of you who are curious about when the Gintama review will be up, expect that on the 20th.