Critic’s Log - Earthdate: December 2, 2013. Review #76: Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa.
Traveling through time and space is tricky business, one must be careful and very cautious when dealing with all that wibbly wobbly timey wimey...stuff. This anime film doesn’t really deal with this as much and time travel was never implemented in the show that this movie follows. With that said, Listen up!, Here’s Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa! Allons-y!
In Munich, Germany, 1923. Two years have passed since Edward Elric was dragged from his own world into our own, leaving behind his country, his friends and his younger brother, Alphonse. Stripped of his alchemical powers, he has been all this time researching rocketry together with Alphonse Heiderich, a young man who bears a resemblance to his own brother, hoping to one day find a way back home. His efforts so far had proven fruitless, but after helping a troubled gypsy girl, Edward is thrown in a series of events that can wreak havoc in both worlds. Meanwhile, at his own world, Alphonse Elric ventures deeper into the mysteries of alchemy in search for a way to reunite with his older brother.
To be technical, this is a Studio BONES production and this is the sequel to Fullmetal Alchemist as well as the conclusion of the original 2003 series and the animation looks fantastic compared to the show and that’s because it obviously is a theatrical film (meaning higher budget). The animation has a good contrast between Ed’s world and our world. Ed’s world looks bright and vibrant while our world isn’t. This is an interesting aspect of the animation and I can see why Seiji Mizushima went with this visual approach near the end of the series and this film. The animation is very good but it isn’t perfect. This movie does have a little 3D motion in it and it feels a little different than what was seen before the movie. The action scenes are much higher than the show and it has some great visuals till the very end. In the long run, the animation was very good.
The music by Michiru Oshima is a bit different with the movie yet it makes sense, it does compliment the atmosphere in the movie and it is a pretty good soundtrack. It does have some exclusive music to the movie and there is even some themes from the original series. And… even though it’s different from the show, it is still a great soundtrack. It complements the emotional feel of the movie which stayed after the series and Oshima-san does it again. The music is the strongest factor of the entire movie.
When voice acting is concerned, the Japanese cast is excellent. Romi Park is great as Edward Elric, Rie Kugimiya is fantastic as Alphonse Elric, and Shun Oguri is alright as Alphonse Heiderich. Some of the cast members that came back are still great as before. As with the English Dub, it is still fantastic as ever with one little flaw. Allow me to recap, In the final episode of Fullmetal Alchemist, there was a german accent to one of the characters. That accent is missing throughout the whole movie which is the only flaw with the dub, but as the movie alone… it’s well performed. Vic Mignogna is terrific as Edward, Aaron Dismuke is also terrific as Alphonse even though we can tell his voice was starting to mature. Jason Liebrecht is also great as Alphonse Heiderich. As for the English cast that were able to make it into the movie, they all performed well. You can’t go wrong with either version just like the original anime.
If there’s one thing that this movie does wrong is that it doesn’t give its characters enough time which the original series did so well with this. Allow me to explain. Edward got a good amount of screentime, and so did Alphonse. There was a lot of time spent on the real world characters and less of Ed and Al’s world. Characters like Mustang, Hawkeye, and Armstrong only get less than a half-hour of screentime. Considering the events that took place before the movie, this is a huge stepdown in the entire series and this is the conclusion. It was nice to see those timeless characters once again but the military characters did feel a little sidelined until the last half hour. At least Alphonse was given proper screentime, and it was a nice touch that he wore Edward’s trademark Red Coat. If there is one thing I am surprised, it is that Edward didn't get too depressed or whiny like this when he was stuck in our world.
As for the real-world characters, I didn’t really care for them, so I’ll just stick to looking them up on history articles. Another issue I have with this movie is some of the sendoffs. The main problem I have with the characters is that most of them don’t get a proper closure even though the bittersweet effect does work.
That’s where my main issue lies, the whole entire story is a huge stepdown to the writing after all that the original series was leading up to. The show was well paced despite some questionable chronological choices at the start of the series, and it was well-written even though it has its flaws especially near the end of the series. What Fullmetal Alchemist was able to achieve was take 6 volumes of the manga, and even though they couldn’t keep up with the manga. It took a different path that was actually just as interesting as the manga and just as moving and it had a decent ending. The ending of the show did raise questions which was why Conqueror of Shamballa is made, but the movie adds more questions and they are not answered and the movie makes more plot holes . What made the show so beloved is that it had a balance of animation, story, characters, and music. Half of this is there in Conqueror of Shamballa, the most important half is unbalanced. The story doesn’t feel like a proper conclusion and there isn’t enough balance of screentime with the characters and that’s why I find Conqueror of Shamballa disappointing. But I will be completely honest, I actually enjoyed this movie to a degree. It’s not perfect but it actually was an okay movie. It’s just not the ending this anime deserved, it may be disappointing but at least it was not a terrible conclusion.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa is available by Funimation.
With all that said, Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa has some very good animation and really good music. It unfortunately is unbalanced with some characters sidelined and not appearing much while a few and movie-exclusive characters do. The story is a huge stepdown compared to the show and will disappoint some. It may not be perfect, but it is an okay movie. This movie as well as the conclusion could have been so much better.
I give Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa a 5.8 out of 10, it is SO and SO!
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