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Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa Movie

FUNimation // Unrated
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted November 18, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
Fullmetal Alchemist is easily in the top ten of my favorite anime series.  Probably in the top five.  The series had a lot of action, some real heart-felt drama, and a unique and creative 'world' that was brought to life over the course of 51 episodes.  Even so, I was a bit hesitant about watching the move that acts as a sequel to the show, Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa.  Could the creative team capture lightning in a bottle a second time?  Would the movie have all of the fun, humor, and excitement as the show, or was it just a chance to cash in on a successful show?  Luckily my fears were ungrounded.  This movie is able to bring together all of the things that made the series so good in a nice tight package.
Warning:  If you haven't seen the TV show, don't watch this movie.  It is a continuation of the show and if you haven't see that, you won't have any idea of what is going on. 
The movie starts up two years after the final events in the TV series.   Edward Elric is trapped on Earth, in Weimar Germany, where his alchemist powers will not work and therefore he's unable to get back to his world, Amestris.  Edward is hanging around with Alphonse, the Earth version of his brother who grew up to be a young man.  Alphonse is interested in the new science of rocketry and has made a good amount of progress in the field.  His work comes to the attention of a Nazi group that calls themselves the Thune Society and they offer to sponsor his research. 
After rescuing a psychic gypsy named Noa and encountering this world's versions of people he knew back on Amestris, Edward goes on an expedition to hunt down a dragon.  The creature turns out to be the homunculus Envy, and it gets captured by the Thule Society.  They have a plan to use the dragon in a spell that will open a doorway to Amestris, which they plan to conquer.  When the gate is opened, the Thule leader, a woman named Dietlinde Eckhart, sends a platoon of armored soldiers through it to attack. 
When the army arrives on Amestris however, they have to deal with the 'real' Alphonse Elric who has become quite an alchemist himself.  By merely touching the suits of armor he can instill a small part of his soul into the suits and cause them to do his bidding.  He makes quick work of the attack party who are eventually sucked back into a vortex and brought back to Earth. 
It's after this failure that Eckhart tricks Edward into helping her make a more permanent opening through the dimensions, but the young man, alchemist powers or not, isn't going to let his world be invaded, even if it means never going home again.
Like the series, this movie has a lot going on at all times.  There are several subplots that I had to gloss over and simplify since the story is actually fairly complex.  It's never confusing though, and this movie includes all of the aspects that made the series so great.
One of the reasons that the movie succeeds so well is that they switch the narrative back and forth between the two worlds frequently to keep the plot zipping along.  This could become confounding but it's not because of the visual cues they use to let viewers know just where things are taking place.  The Earth is filled with more earthy tones, browns, dark greens and grays, while Amestris is filled with bright colors; reds, oranges and blues.  It's a simple trick, but on that works quite well. 
The creators also realized what made the TV series so powerful:  the love between Edward and Alphonse.  I wasn't sure how they were going to make that same connection since the brothers were in different dimensions, but they managed to pull it off quite well (through a plot device that I won't reveal).
The Blu-ray Disc:

Like FUNimations other Blu-ray releases, this movie looks pretty good.  The 1.78:1 1080p AVC encoded image has a lot going for it.  The movie uses a wide range of colors and these are reproduced well.  The lines are tight and sharp and the black are generally deep and inky.  Digital noise wasn't a problem though there was just a trace of banding in a couple of scenes.  Aliasing was largely absent too.  Overall it is a very nice looking disc that should please fans of the show.
This disc offers viewers the choice of the original Japanese audio in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix or an English dub, also in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  I flipped between tracks while watching the movie and then went back and compared specific scenes.  I usually have a preference for the Japanese audio while watching anime, but this time the English won out.  The audio levels on the Japanese track are a bit lower and the sub channel doesn't have the *umph* that the English track does.  Don't get me wrong, the original audio isn't bad; it just lacks some of the impact that the English version has.  Both tracks made good use of the surrounds, though the feeling was a bit more immersive in the English dub.  In both cases the battle scenes were aurally exciting with crashes and blasts occurring all around the room.  
This disc ports over all of the extras that were found on the previous SE DVD, though they are all presented in 480i/p.  The main bonus item is The Making of Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa a 40 minute docu on the creation of the film featuring extensive interviews with the director Seiji Mizushima.  It's a bit technical in places, but if you're interested in the nuts-and-bolts of anime production, this is an excellent piece to watch.
Talk Session with Seiji Mizushima, Romi Park, Rei Kugimiya, and Toru Okawa is a 50+ minute interview with the director and main Japanese voice actors from the series.  They discuss not only the movie, but the TV series as well.
There are also three, count 'em, three audio commentaries.  The first is by the Japanese voice actors, the second by the Japanese staff, and the third by the English actors.  Between these three, you'll know more than you probably want about the series and the film.
Finally there are several different trailers for the film, an art gallery, and a series of FUNimation trailers. 
Final Thoughts:
Just as exciting, creative, and touching as the original series, Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa is a great follow up to an excellent series.  FUNimation's Blu-ray release is very good too, boasting a fine picture and good audio.  This is one anime movie that comes Highly Recommended. 
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Highly Recommended

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