Monday, January 26, 2015

Anime Talk: Conqueror of Shamballa

So, it has happened. I have watched Conqueror of Shamballa (to be honest, I watched it yesterday but I didn't want to blog about it right after as it probably would have been an incoherent post). For those that haven't watched it, there are major spoilers in here, so be warned! Back to the movie - I was honestly confused during the first 5 or so minutes, because I seriously thought the first half of the movie was going to be a summary of everything that had happened in the anime series. However, it quickly switched to Ed and Al?? Well, yes, Ed is speaking with Alphonse, but not the Al we all know and love but the Al that exists on the other side of the gate. From there, the movie begins to unfold pretty quickly. While Ed is on one side of the wall, trying to find a way to get back to his world and helping a gypsy fortuneteller on the way, Al is on the other side, studying alchemy and developing an uncanny resemblance to his elder brother. Seriously, you can mistake Al easily for Ed if it weren't for the different bangs. I thought this was a neat quirk as throughout the series, it's Ed that is constantly mistaken for Al due to his stature. And speaking of stature...Ed has grown taller! The topic of Ed's height makes for some great comical moments in the movie as Ed seems to take just as much offense when people mention that he's taller as when he was being teased for being short.

But, enough about that. I suppose the big question is, "Did I like the ending?" Yes and no. What I liked: revisiting so many of the characters that I got to know and love throughout the anime series. I like that we get to see their "other selves" on the other side of the gate through Ed's eyes. Not surprisingly, most of the antagonists are just normal people. I also liked that we caught up with Colonel Roy Mustang and Lt. Hawkeye as well as the rest of the crew. I was very sad to see how Colonel Mustang spent his time alone in the north, waiting at the door to his shack for any visitors. But, as two of the soldiers who visit him point out, he seems to be waiting for one person in particular and that seems to be Ed. Colonel Mustang loses his best friend halfway through the series and losing Ed seems to have made him really depressed. It doesn't help that Al can remember nothing of the 4 years he spent traveling with his brother searching for the philosophers stone. In fact, he cannot remember being a suit of armor at all. So, whenever someone from the military sees Al, they immediately recognize him, but Al doesn't remember them at all.
Ed on the left, on the right is Al

And speaking of Al, I really liked that he became such a badass alchemist. He turns out to be equally as good as his brother Ed and has this weird ability to place pieces of his soul into suits of armor, weird huh? ;) Some might think Al goes on to create a book to explain his ability and years later, a troubled lad named Tom Riddle picks it up and makes horcruxes. While Al's ability is clearly a remnant of the 4 years his soul spent bound to a suit of armor, I just couldn't help thinking about its similarity with horcruxes. Anyway, it's this ability that ultimately allows Al to pass through the gate and see that his brother is still alive on the other side. However, the technique only lasts so long, but as soon as Al has verified that Ed is alive, he sets out trying to open the gate to bring him back.

Now this brings me to what I didn't like: the overall plot. Ok, so some lady thinks that opening the gate will allow her to enter a "paradise" named Shamballa and use its "magic" to basically rule the world. It was never that clear to me why she was so sure Shamballa existed and how she came to learn of Envy's whereabouts. It seemed like a plot forced to bring about the opening of the gate and Ed eventually going back to his own world. Also, Wrath sacrificing himself so that Al could open the gate seemed forced as well. At least we got to see what happened to Gluttony. Anyways, I think it sucks that Ed will never be with Winry because they were clearly meant for each other. I got the feeling that Winry always knew Ed wouldn't come back to her permanently even though she continued to make and perfect his automail. While the whole point of the movie was for the brothers to be together again, I still felt dissatisfied. Yes, in the end they end up together and they're traveling like the good old days, but they're not in their own world. I don't know, I just get nostalgic that they will never see Colonel Mustang, Lt. Hawkeye, Winry, Granny Pinako, etc. ever again. Granted, these characters may have a clone in the world on the other side of the gate, but they will not be the same as the people they left behind.

But, as I said before, until the very end the series stayed true to its theme of equivalent exchange. Clearly, Ed and Al were not supposed to be alive in their own world. This explains why shortly after Ed arrived on the other side of the gate, the "Ed" that lived there, dies. While Al's body is restored and he is training to become an alchemist, Ed meets Alphonse who is dying from a disease. Shortly before Al crosses the gate, Alphonse dies from a gunshot wound. So in the end, the brothers were supposed to die, and in exchange for them being able to live on the other side of the gate, the lives of the Ed and Al that already lived there were taken. It makes sense, but I still felt like the brothers were cheated. In the end, they choose to give up everyone else they loved to stay together. In the movie, it's meant to be an equivalent exchange, but I think it shows that in life, nothing can be equally taken or given away. Simply put, life is unfair and the ending of Conqueror of Shamballa conveys that perfectly.

Al and Ed, the two brothers with an unbreakable bond. 

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