Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror Of Shamballa (劇場版 鋼の錬金術師 シャンバラを征く者 or Gekijōban Hagane No Renkinjutsushi: Shanbara O Yuku Mono) isn’t worth bothering with if you haven’t watched the series that precedes it, as it’ll just be an impenetrable mess filled with hideous monsters, wild haircuts, steampunk magic stuff and the obligatory Nazis.
There’s an attempt at the start of the movie to give the heroes Edward and Alphonse Elric some backstory (Alphonse spent most of the series as a suit of armour due to an alchemy cock up, whilst Ed’s missing an arm) in their own world before it transpires that Ed’s merely telling his story to some guy in our world, where Ed’s being transported to after sacrificing himself to get his brother’s body back.
Deep breaths now.
As messy as it seems though, Conqueror Of Shamballa is sporadically entertaining at least. Of course it suffers from the usual bad acting and dialogue that blights a lot of anime, but at least it looks and animates beautifully. It’s stylishly directed too when things are getting fraught and fights are happening, all swooping shots and close ups on bionic appendages charging up.
One battle scene between Al, a character called Wrath and a beast called Gluttony (it’s subtle isn’t it) is particularly impressive, as they leap about like they’re in The Matrix, gracefully dodging killer blows like it’s nothing. The final skirmish is impressive too, steampunk Nazi dirigibles raining down all sorts of fiery death upon the hapless citizens of Al and Ed’s homeworld.
Eventually you do sort of catch up with what’s going on in the movie, even if it does throw you off sometimes and introduce characters you’ve never seen before that you’re somehow expected to know.
That doesn’t matter though when things culminate in a huge battle between supercharged Nazis and alchemists, resulting in a decimated city, some pretty shocking violence (it doesn’t shy away from showing the consequences of full scale war, such as a small bloodied hand trapped under rubble reaching for a teddy bear).
So yes, for fans only, but there’s enough here to get vaguely invested for those unaffiliated.