It's important to approach art with an open mind, but sometimes that's impossible. One of those times is when it's an anime that's meant as a direct continuation, not even a reboot, of an existing series. In the case of the Fullmetal Alchemist movie, the series it follows is one of the best anime series of the last decade, a tour-de-force with memorable characters, deep symbolism, and a truly heartbreaking storyline told in a way only possible over several seasons of broadcast. It feels almost unfair to admit that the movie is very clearly a lesser work.
But a lesser work it most certainly is. Whereas the TV series had the complicated foils of the Homunculi (literally the embodiments of human failures) and Scar (himself not only sympathetic, but a close examination of how world events shape violent extremism), in Conqueror of Shamballa we're left with villains who are comparatively trite and two-dimensional. They're after power, they cackle at how evil they are, and if they weren't aligned with the Nazi party in 1920s Germany, they could easily pass as Disney villains. Similarly lacking are some of the issues faced by our heroes -- one new cast member in particular is dying of the great plague of cinema, the mysterious and unexplained Coughing-Up-Blood Disease.
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