Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Revelation Films
  • MSRP: £15.99
  • Running time: 104
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa

By Dani Moure     October 17, 2007
Release Date: September 17, 2007


Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa
© Revelation Films


What They Say
It is 1923 in Munich. Two years have passed since Edward Elric's sacrifice ripped him out of his world and into ours, separating him from his younger brother, Alphonse. In that time, Ed's continued research into rocketry has allied him with Alphonse Heiderich, a fellow researcher who oddly resembles Ed's brother. Progress has been slow, however, and Ed has become discouraged. But when he saves a quiet Gypsy girl with the power to read minds, Ed is quickly pulled into a plot by the Thule Society and the burgeoning Nazi Party that could drag both worlds into a terrible war.

Back in his own world, Al has been unlocking new secrets of alchemy and gaining incredible powers, all in the hopes of finding Ed.

Battling the occult, ideological extremists, and monstrous Homunculi lurking in the shadows, can the brothers find a way to reunite without causing chaos and bloodshed? What will happen when the world of alchemy and the world of modern science collide?

The Review!
The story continues as Ed fights to find his brother Al following the ending of the TV series.

Audio:
I listened to the Japanese 5.1 mix for my main review, and it proved to be a great step up from the TV series. Since this was a theatrical release, dialogue has great directionality to it and the music comes off very well with added oomph thanks to the extra speakers. I didn’t notice any technical problems with the track, and the Japanese cast picked up their TV performances really well for another impressive performance.

I briefly sampled parts of the English 5.1 track, and noticed no technical issues

Video:
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the transfer for this film is excellent. Done by Madman in Australia, it’s as good as their work tends to be, with the vibrant colours coming across very well and no noticeable blocking or other artefacts; even the dark scenes make out very well.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, and I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors.

Packaging:
The front cover of this disc features a massive group cast shot, and while it looks quite busy it’s also very nicely arranged and looks quite good. The movie’s logo is in the middle of the cover, while the back cover contains no art but a description of the movie, a set of 10 screen grabs, and a clear extras list. Although not arranged in a grid, the technical details are clearly listed. The reverse side of the cover features a really nice watercolour-style image of Ed and Al.

Menu:
The menu takes a simple approach, with three circles in the centre, Ed and Al either side with the middle one showing clips from the film. The selections run across the bottom, while music plays. Sub-menus are all static, so access times are really fast.

Extras:
The key extra here is a great making of featurette running 40 minutes (with chapter stops!) with the director and other staff members, chronicling the production of the film from inception to release. It’s really interesting and it’s great to see extras like this on a movie release. Then there’s a set of trailers; the US trailer, Japanese theatrical trailer and the TV spots for the film. Rounding things out are two art galleries of images set to music.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Movie sequels to anime series don’t happen very often, with many movies even of the most popular shows either being re-imaginings, side stories or films that take place at some point within the series timeline. The Conqueror of Shamballa bucks that trend and proves to be a worthy sequel to close off one of the most poignant and exhilarating TV series of recent years.

With Ed and Al separated at the end of the series, with Ed being left in Munich in 1921 within our own world, and Al being returned to his normal body but remaining in his world, the movie opens two years later with Ed meeting a group of gypsies, one of whom – a woman called Noa – has the ability to read people’s minds. She gazes into Ed’s and sees many things that disturb her. Ed brings Noa to stay with him and Alfonse Heiderich, the man that looks like his brother Al. Out with Noa one evening, he spots a man that looks suspiciously like Fuhrer King Bradley, but actually turns out to be a movie director in search of a fabled dragon.

Ed goes along with him and sure enough, they do find the “dragon”, which is actually a serpent that turns out to be Envy. Following an attack on Ed, a group called the Thule Society enter the picture and take Envy away, using the giant serpent, with Ed’s father present, as a catalyst to open the gate to another world – Shamballa.

Over in Al’s world, he has no memories of his adventures with his brother, but having been trained by Izumi he’s doing his best to help everyone, and is still close with Winry. They are in Liore where Armstrong and Rose are helping rebuild the city devastated in the battles with the Homunculi, when a transmutation circle forms and armoured troops come through a portal. As you could probably have guessed, Shamballa is actually Al’s world and the Thule Society is trying to use it to get military power to assist the uprising of the Nazis.

From here the movie takes many twists and turns on the path to reuniting Ed and Al once again. Al uses powers of alchemy he’s learned to send a message through the gate to his brother, and this spurs both of them on to stop the Thule Society and to close the gate to Shamballa once and for all, with the help of several old friends even if it means losing some others along the way.

The first thing that struck me while watching the movie was how the tone had shifted to something quite dark and meaningful, with all on Ed’s side taking place in the early 1920s during the rise of Nazi Germany. I was quite surprised at just how many political overtones there were in the film considering its target age group, and the fact that anime doesn’t often tend to address real life history very often. Some of the themes that carried through with it like the oppression, as seen through the eyes of Noa, and the bigotry through the Thule Society, fit into the story quite seamlessly and I was surprised at how well it all came off. It never gets too deep, nor would you expect it to, but the fact it’s explored at all in such a popular franchise is nice to see.

With that in mind, the changes in the characters since the end of the TV show are initially jarring but soon make sense. Ed is pretty hell-bent on finding his brother once again, as you’d expect, and his new life is a dramatic change to that of the other world. He’s now a bit more mature, settled in a life with some close friends like Alfonse around him, although many of his personality traits remain (like his short fuse when people mention his size). Al longs for his brother just as much as Ed, but his amnesia of sorts, clichéd though it may be, adds an interesting dimension to a character that already looks completely different to how he did during the 51 episodes of the TV series.

Given the shorter running time of a movie, there’s not a great deal of time to give to developing a huge supporting cast (something the TV series did astoundingly well), so some old favourites like Mustang and his crew are reduced to token appearances. It is a bit of a shame, but as the focus of the story is meant to be on getting Ed and Al back together this is easily forgiven.

As a whole the film is very well put together. The animation is excellent, notably better than the TV series, which itself was already of a high standard. The several high action and fight sequences in the film showcase the higher budget very well, with swift and smooth movement the order of the day. But it’s also notable in the slower scenes, from minor character movements to things in the background, the attention to detail is excellent and it gives the film a great look.

The story is well executed for the most part, and it’s only the clichéd and often predictable nature of it that lets it down ever so slightly. It’s not hard to see where everything is going from the way things play out early on, but the ride is good and there’s rarely a dull or boring moment. The ending rather epitomises how clichéd it can be, but it’s still hard to fault it too much because of how well it all comes off and how it leaves you with a good feeling in the end. The brotherly love between the brothers shines through, with both yearning for each other and in the end, getting what they want.

In Summary:
It would always be difficult trying to follow up such an exceptional TV series as Fullmetal Alchemist, but the creative team behind this movie have done an admirable job. The same loveable characters are ever-present, and the driving force of the movie – reuniting Ed and Al – is something that’s easy to root for and get involved in. Although it’s not the most original story, it’s mixed in with some unusual themes and is well-written, and it turns out to be a very entertaining ride. The Conqueror of Shamballa is like seeing an old friend again for one last hurrah, and it’s a sequel well worthy of bearing the series’ name.

Features
Japanese Language (5.1),English Language (5.1),The Making of Fullmetal Alchemist The Movie,Japanese Theatrical and DVD Trailers,Production Art,Image Gallery

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.

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