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Transmutation of worlds: Adaptation and transformation in Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa

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Fullmetal Alchemist, a Japanese manga series by Hiromu Arakawa, has achieved global success since its debut in 2001. The work has numerous multimedia adaptations, ranging from animations (including two TV animations and OVA), films, radio drama, PC games and light novels. Not all the adaptations follow the original story; many of them contain alternative or even original plots. If the manga series serves as the kernel of Arakawa’s masterpiece, then some of these adaptations may have become the author’s ‘official fan art’ of the manga, given the extent of changes to the contents and the characterization.

Within this backdrop, my study focuses on the intertextuality between the manga version of Fullmetal Alchemist and the film Conqueror of Shamballa (Mizushima, 2011). I argue that Conqueror of Shamballa deviates drastically from the manga in terms of both the setting and the visual narrative. The film features an alternative ‘parallel universe’ to the universe in the manga; this parallel universe (the Earth in the 1930s) appears more like the real human world in history than the hometown of Edward and Alphonse Elric. The two worlds, one accommodating the wandering Edward while the other inhabited by his friends and family, are linked by nothing but the Gate of Alchemy. In order to explore the representation of alternative reality and parallel universe in the film, I apply theories of adaptation to my study of Fullmetal Alchemist and Conqueror of Shamballa. I contend that the film adaptation orchestrates ‘multiple realities’ by means of duplicating, recreating and parodying the characters, the space and the plot of the original manga version.
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Keywords: Fullmetal Alchemist; Japanese ACG; adaptation; animation; comics; parallel universe

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: National Taiwan University

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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