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Fullmetal Alchemist Discussion Board > Fullmetal Alchemist Discussions > Fullmetal Alchemist Anime (FMA-1) > FMA Conqueror of Shambala Movie
His Name is Unknown
Alright - the reason I am posting this topic is to explain how the portal between worlds might work (according to FMA logic). Feel free to agree or disagree because this is a pivotal part of the movie and essential for the resolution of the series, so it would be great if we could all figure out how the heck it happened.

Before I begin, some review of relevant transmutation circles/information.

1) Grand Arcanum: An ancient method of creating the philosopher's stone apparently discovered by Hohenheim and passed down in the secret alchemic tradition of the Ishbalan people. This is the transmutation array used to create the philosopher's stone in Liore, as well as the one seen in the underground city in Central.

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2) Human Transmutation: The circle used by Ed and Al at the beginning of the series when they attempt to resurrect their mother.

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3) Gate Array: First seen very late in the series when Dante sends Hohenheim to the other side of the gate. It appears on the stomach of Rose's baby. A similar but more complex symbol is seen in the movie at Professor Haushoffer's villa (pictured below).

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4) Complex Gate Array: This is the array which Al makes in the underground city. It can also be seen in the final episode when Al uses the philosopher's stone to resurrect Ed. I'm not really sure of it's distinct purpose at this point. It seems to be used to call forth the gate, but so does the star shaped Gate Array.

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5) Eckhart's Alchemy: The symbol for Eckhart's alchemy is an eye, very similar to the eye adorning the Gate of Alchemy. Her method of alchemy seems to revolve around the Gate Children/Homunculi.

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6) Alchemy's Source: One of several major revelations of the series; Hohenheim tells Edward that energy cannot be created or destroyed and thus the energy for alchemy finds its source in the souls of those who die on the other side of the gate. We can infer from this, that the only way to reach the gate from the Earth side of the portal is through death. For proof of this fact, look to Episode 50 "Death" when the death of alter Edward allows Ed's soul to reinter the gate and find his real body.

7) Homunculi and Alchemy: The series implies, and the movie confirms, that homunculi ane manifested forms of the gate children. Al remarks: "Of course. The gate always opened when a homunculus was brought to life. Those who came through the Gate can also be material to open it."

8) Why Germany? Because the cycle of alchemy revolves around the exchange of human souls for transmutation energy, it would make sense that the strongest connection between parallel worlds would exist in the places with the most death - and hence, soul exchange. In the manual for the movie, the creators explain that the connect between Lior, Central, and Munich has to do with this very principle. Hohenheim tells Edward "All the lives that have died and will die, cross the gate and become energy." And what is soon to occur in Germany? You guessed it, the Holocaust (not to mention the death from WWI which has already occurred).

Based on the above information, this is my theory of how the gate opened:

The initial attempt to open the gate invovles Envy's body, Hohenheims blood, a human transmutation circle (present as an incantation rather than a drawing), an incomplete gate circle (the star pattern on the floor) and a bunch of German soldiers in suits of armor. Eckhart recites the incantation drawn on a human transmutation circle and touches Envy. Because he can be used for material to open the gate (no matter which side of the gate he is on), this starts a reaction. However, because our world is incapable of actually using alchemy, Eckhart cannot transmute Envy into a gate as Al later does. When Envy attacks Hohenheim, his blood appears to provide enough of a catalyst to open a temporary gate (the emphasis on blood as the lifeforce of an individual is significant, and was long believed to be true). This temporary gate can basically be thought of as a way to achieve premature death. When the soldiers enter it, they are transported along the flow of spirit energy to Armestris. That is why when this disruption in the fabric of reality is created, there are earthquakes at both Liore and Central (the link of spirit energy is strongest at these two places because this is where the most death occured in the FMA world). Thus, we see a Grand Archanum transmutation circle circumscribed with a Gate Array when the ground crumbles in Liore (souls passing through the gate). The unnatural manner in which this occurs (i.e. the soul is transfered allong with the body and mind, instead of the soul alone) turns the soldiers into zombie-like entities. Ultimately, the bodies are taken back through the gate by the forces of alchemy because they do not belong in the FMA world.


The next attempt to open the gate invovles Edward Elric's blood, Envy, and a more complete gate array. Using his knowledge of alchemy, Edward retraces and completes the Gate Array at Eckhart's villa. Envy reprises her role as catalyst, while Edward's blood is the spark of life which gets the reaction going (since the only way to reach the gate is through death on the Earth side, the use of blood is a stimulus for opening the gate). I use the word reaction because I don't believe what has occured thus far can be considered alchemy. It is actually more science in a weird way - performing experiments in an attempt to discover the nature of reality, of how things work. That is why Eckhart's knowledge of alchemy, however imperfect aids her in her attempts to find Shamballa - because alchemy, in this story, is the foundational fabric of reality. Anyway, Edward is able to reopen the temporary portal, and the rejected bodies of the German soldiers fall out.

The final attempt, and the only one to succeed invovles Hohenheim's life, Envy's body, a complete human transmutation circle, the gate array, the complex gate array, and the material of Wrath and Gluttony. Hohenheim must have realized that it requires death to summon the gate. He gives up his life as the price for reaching the gate (through the human trasmutation circle), and Envy's material is expended to keep it open. On the other side, Al uses alchemy to transmute Wrath and Gluttony into a complex gate array. The two meet in the middle, and form a permanent portal to Armestris.
Kivrin
QUOTE(His Name is Unknown @ Oct 21 2006, 01:26 PM) [snapback]462662[/snapback]

Alright - the reason I am posting this topic is to explain how the portal between worlds might work (according to FMA logic). Feel free to agree or disagree because this is a pivotal part of the movie and essential for the resolution of the series, so it would be great if we could all figure out how the heck it happened.
smile.gif Most excellent analysis of alchemy/magic in the series and movie! Just some additional comments/tidbits/ observations/questions:

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1) Grand Archanum: An ancient method of creating the philosopher's stone apparently discovered by Hohenheim and passed down in the secret alchemic tradition of the Ishbalan people. This is the transmutation array used to create the philosopher's stone in Liore, as well as the one seen in the underground city in Central (only in the movie).
The Grand Arcanum or "Great Knowledge" is actually the Ishbalan form of alchemy and is not specific to creating the Philosopher's Stone.

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3) Gate Array: First seen very late in the series when Dante sends Hohenheim to the other side of the gate. It appears on the stomach of Rose's baby. A similar symbol is seen in the movie at Professor Haushoffer's villa (this is the one which Ed accidentally activates).

4) Complex Gate Array: This is the array which Al makes in the underground city. It can also be seen in the final episode when Al uses the philosopher's stone to resurrect Ed. I'm not really sure of it's distinct purpose at this point. It seems to be used to call forth the gate, but so does the star shaped Gate Array.
The Simple Gate Array on Rose's baby and characterized by a pentacle circumscribed by a circle seems just to summon The Gate. The array in Haushoffer's villa is much more complex. And of course, its complexity coincides with the array's purpose. The SGA simply summons the Gate. The villa array connects and allows travel between two worlds with the Gate being the conduit.
The "resurrection array" actually is not the same as the array that Al summons in the underground city. Question: Did Al create the array in the underground city? Or did he simply uncover it?

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The initial attempt to open the gate invovles Envy's body, Hohenheims blood, a human transmutation circle (present as an incantation rather than a drawing), an incomplete gate circle (the star pattern on the floor) and a bunch of German soldiers in suits of armor....
It seemed to me that the soldiers were killed because of effects of the Gate manifesting itself in the crushing force of the Gate entities, rather than it being a mind-body-soul transposition. Falman at Lior says something about the men being subjected to extreme pressure. The reason for building the rockets was to escape these forces. Hence it seems to be that if you had adequate protection and/or moved quickly enough to break away from the entities, you would be able to move through the Gate mind-body-soul intact. But I agree that because the array was incomplete, the "foreign matter"i.e. the Thule soldiers, were recalled through the portal when Ed accidentally re-opens the portal.

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The next attempt to open the gate invovles Edward Elric's blood, Envy, and a more complete gate array. Using his knowledge of alchemy, Edward retraces and completes the Gate Array at Eckhart's villa.
I would call Edward's blood the catalyst that is necessary to jumpstart the process, just as you mentioned in Attempt #1. My feeling is that Envy's role is to serve as a focal point for the manifestation of the portal. And perhaps because his "matter" or "energy" originates from their world, his presence as a kind of living ouroboros helps to create the connection between the 2 worlds? Just thinking aloud.
In their world, alchemy *is* science where understanding the nature of matter - the chemistry, the physics, etc. - is fundamental to being able to manipulate it. Although by modern standards, alchemy is considered a pseudo-science in our world, what you describe as "an attempt to discover the nature of reality, of how things work" is exactly part of the objectives of early alchemists in our world! I'm not sure if Eckhart could relate what she was incanting to the physical world, the way Edward knew that the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen in Sloth's body could be transmuted into ethanol. Because the transmutation circles of their world are grounded in "hard science" which are common to both worlds (elements held together by bonds, etc.) , when they are used in our world, this is what really gives "substance" to Eckharts "magic". Really hard to wrap one's head around this! Sorry if I'm not expressing myself very well.

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The final attempt, and the only one to succeed invovles Hohenheim's life, Envy's body, a complete human transmutation circle, the gate array, the complex gate array, and the material of Wrath and Gluttony...
If the Gate is the conduit through which one may travel between our world and theirs, it was already possible to summon it with just a little blood as they had already done so in Attempts #1 and #2. Because they were attempting to create a permanent and stable Gate, I believe that the level of sacrifice required was greater. They basically performed a human transmutation with Hohenheim's lifeblood as catalyst and Hohenheim + Envy as material to create the stable gate. In the movie, you can see that Envy and Hohenheim turn into that octagonal structure.

Thanks for doing all that "brainwork"! You definitely helped give structure to some of my own ideas about the theories of alchemy in the movie!
His Name is Unknown
Glad the analysis was of some value. It just struck me as very interesting that all of the symbols in FMA have such meaning. They are almost as big a part of the plot as the actual characters. Just a couple more comments on your post, and maybe a little clarification:

First, before I get into the specifics of your response, here is an observation that might prove interesting. If you recall from the series, each alchemist seemed to have a distinct transmutation circle used for his personalized alchemy (Roy Mustang's ignition cloth glove with sigil, Ed and Al's variation on a triangular symbol, Majahal's wrist band, Armstrong's knuckles, Iron Blood's gauntlet, etc.) Well, it seems as though Eckhart's symbol is that of an eye. If you look at the Complex Gate Array used by Al, you will see that there are various symbols which swirl into a central vortex. One of these is the eye. This eye is also very similar to the eye seen in the gate, leading my to theorize that this is the symbol for the gate children. When Eckhart passes through the gate, the gate children are drawn to her and fuse into her armor, body and ship, giving her alchemic powers. It seems as though the branch of alchemy learned by Eckhart relates to the gate children/homunculi (hence why she would be searching for the Great Serpent, which was supposed to have alchemic powers). Perhaps the stories of monsters and dragons are all that remain of alchemy and the homunculi in our world, and it was this arcane legend that Eckhart had studied.

Now, on to your post:

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The Grand Arcanum or "Great Knowledge" is actually the Ishbalan form of alchemy and is not specific to creating the Philosopher's Stone."


I understand that the Grand Arcanum is the Ishbalan form of Alchemy. However, I found it interesting that when the series finally showed the flashback of Hohenheim creating the Philosopher's stone, he used a transmutation circle identical to the one required in the Grand Arcanum's method. Perhaps, as Hohenheim was the original creator of the Philosopher's Stone, his primitive method somehow survived in the alchemic traditions of Ishbal. Just a thought.

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The "resurrection array" actually is not the same as the array that Al summons in the underground city. Question: Did Al create the array in the underground city? Or did he simply uncover it?


I was aware of this - perhaps my description was a bit confusing. I labeled the pentacle circumscribed with a circle the Simple Gate Array, while the transmutation circle which Al creates in the underground city (both in the series and in the movie) I called the Complex Gate Array. The resurrection array is what is painted on the ceiling of Eckhart's villa before the final transmutation.

As for your question, I think he actually created the array. A revelation in the later half of the movie is the fact that Al somehow does remember seeing the gate. This should mean that he can perform alchemy without transmutation circles - making those trasmutation circles on his gloves seem a bit redundant.

Also, it is interesting to note that the Complex Gate Array appears very early on in the series when Ed takes the State Alchemy Exam. When he sits in the three legged chair to be interviewed by the Furher and a panel of military higher ups, he is located at the center of a Complex Gate Array on the floor. Weird. Perhaps a little forshadowing?

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It seemed to me that the soldiers were killed because of effects of the Gate manifesting itself in the crushing force of the Gate entities, rather than it being a mind-body-soul transposition.


I tend to agree. However, I was trying to figure out why the suits of armor would still be moving at all (the first time). When the soldiers appear in Lior, they are devoid of the mutated gate children which do not appear until the soldiers pass through the gate in the large rocket ship. A possible explanation for this could be that their souls were removed (hence their being dead) but their minds (although shattered - thus explaning the zombie-like behavior) and bodies remained as rejected material that was later returned to their world.

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Although by modern standards, alchemy is considered a pseudo-science in our world, what you describe as "an attempt to discover the nature of reality, of how things work" is exactly part of the objectives of early alchemists in our world!.. Because the transmutation circles of their world are grounded in "hard science" which are common to both worlds (elements held together by bonds, etc.) , when they are used in our world, this is what really gives "substance" to Eckharts "magic".


Interesting thought. When I wrote that phrase about attempting to discover the nature of reality, I actual had the early alchemists in mind. However, as I've stated above in my first observation, I believe Eckhart actually knew alchemy as it existed in Armestris. Although the success of alchemy was the diverging point between the two worlds, that does not mean that alchemy itself could not be understood on Earth, passed down through secret traditions just as it was in Ishbal. I believe Eckhart and the Thule society did in fact possess real alchemic knowledge that only lacked the proper catalyst (the material of the Great Serpent as well as a blood sacrifice) to make it work.
Kivrin
QUOTE(His Name is Unknown @ Oct 23 2006, 11:29 AM) [snapback]463926[/snapback]
Well, it seems as though Eckhart's symbol is that of an eye. If you look at the Complex Gate Array used by Al, you will see that there are various symbols which swirl into a central vortex. One of these is the eye. This eye is also very similar to the eye seen in the gate, leading my to theorize that this is the symbol for the gate children. When Eckhart passes through the gate, the gate children are drawn to her and fuse into her armor, body and ship, giving her alchemic powers. It seems as though the branch of alchemy learned by Eckhart relates to the gate children/homunculi (hence why she would be searching for the Great Serpent, which was supposed to have alchemic powers). Perhaps the stories of monsters and dragons are all that remain of alchemy and the homunculi in our world, and it was this arcane legend that Eckhart had studied.
Ah, yes. That makes sense and makes for an even greater connection between our two worlds. It does also explain her facility with using alchemy in their world, since the Gate Children seemed to have imbued her with some kind of power/ability.
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I understand that the Grand Arcanum is the Ishbalan form of Alchemy. However, I found it interesting that when the series finally showed the flashback of Hohenheim creating the Philosopher's stone, he used a transmutation circle identical to the one required in the Grand Arcanum's method. Perhaps, as Hohenheim was the original creator of the Philosopher's Stone, his primitive method somehow survived in the alchemic traditions of Ishbal. Just a thought.
Oh, I see! The phrasing threw me off a bit! Yes, Hohenheim's (and Dante's) transmutation circle is identical to the Ishbalan one. We know that Dante and the Homunculi have seeded the knowledge of the Stone's creation with whomever they thought could potentially create the Stone for them. Wouldn't you say it was probable that Dante had a direct hand in the incorporation of that circle into the Grand Arcanum's body of knowledge?
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I was aware of this - perhaps my description was a bit confusing. I labeled the pentacle circumscribed with a circle the Simple Gate Array, while the transmutation circle which Al creates in the underground city (both in the series and in the movie) I called the Complex Gate Array. The resurrection array is what is painted on the ceiling of Eckhart's villa before the final transmutation.

As for your question, I think he actually created the array. A revelation in the later half of the movie is the fact that Al somehow does remember seeing the gate. This should mean that he can perform alchemy without transmutation circles - making those trasmutation circles on his gloves seem a bit redundant.
LOL! biggrin.gif Too many circles and arrays! Actually, the array on the villa's ceiling is a human transmutation circle, just like the one Ed and Al used in their attempt to bring back Trisha. (Yes, I geekily took screencaps of the circles after I read your initial post!) I see my terminology is confusing as well! Sorry about that. By "resurrection array", I meant the array Al used to bring Ed back at the end of the series, rather than the human transmutation circle that is used to re-create a body of the deceased ... which would then also make it a "resurrection array". Argh! wacko.gif
Regarding Al's glove-circles: my understanding is that because Al had no memory of confronting The Gate and thus of the knowledge of alchemy concomitant with seeing "The Truth", he would not be able to perform circleless alchemy. (This is mentioned in the manga as well.) Without his memory, Al would still need the circles on his gloves. Al's memory (about The Gate and their subsequent adventures) was restored only after he physically travelled through The Gate into our world. So if Al were to return to Amestris, memory intact, he would be able to perform alchemy without the circles.

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Also, it is interesting to note that the Complex Gate Array appears very early on in the series when Ed takes the State Alchemy Exam. When he sits in the three legged chair to be interviewed by the Furher and a panel of military higher ups, he is located at the center of a Complex Gate Array on the floor. Weird. Perhaps a little forshadowing?
I'd forgotten about the "interview array". They are similar: a circle divided into quandrants transcribing an equilateral triangle. Al's underground city array is quite a bit more complicated, again in keeping with the complexity of the alchemy that is to be performed. Perhaps the movie's slight "echoing" of this array is like a "callback": Ed's promise to Al to restore his body; Al's promise to Ed to bring him home.

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I tend to agree. However, I was trying to figure out why the suits of armor would still be moving at all (the first time). When the soldiers appear in Lior, they are devoid of the mutated gate children which do not appear until the soldiers pass through the gate in the large rocket ship. A possible explanation for this could be that their souls were removed (hence their being dead) but their minds (although shattered - thus explaning the zombie-like behavior) and bodies remained as rejected material that was later returned to their world.
You're right - they're not wearing any Gate Kids the first time around! I totally overlooked that their moving around post-mortem needed some kind of an explanation! biggrin.gif I suspend my disbelief remarkably easily! 'Oh, yeah! That's just The Alchemy!' That explanation is as good as any and makes a certain amount of sense. Without their life-essence present, they would just be bodies, animated but nothing more than automatons.

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Interesting thought. When I wrote that phrase about attempting to discover the nature of reality, I actual had the early alchemists in mind. However, as I've stated above in my first observation, I believe Eckhart actually knew alchemy as it existed in Armestris. Although the success of alchemy was the diverging point between the two worlds, that does not mean that alchemy itself could not be understood on Earth, passed down through secret traditions just as it was in Ishbal. I believe Eckhart and the Thule society did in fact possess real alchemic knowledge that only lacked the proper catalyst (the material of the Great Serpent as well as a blood sacrifice) to make it work.
I guess my original thinking was that the Thule were in possession of antiquated knowledge - the alchemy that didn't work because it was not grounded on a correct understanding of the nature of matter. Back then, no one had any understanding of the elements, chemical bonds, etc. The advanced alchemy from the Elrics' world would be as chemistry/biology/physics exist in our world. Although who's to say the Thule weren't in possession of the "real thing" ? Real alchemy that was not disseminated but kept, as you said, secret? And merely lacked the right catalysts and reagents? Eckhart's facility with alchemy in Amestris then makes sense. She would know enough of the basics to manipulate matter and would need the advanced knowledge provided by Hohenheim and Ed to perform the more complicated stuff, like inter-dimensional travel ('cos we know alchemy did not progress past a certain point in our world). Somehow, the mere existence of gate arrays suggests there may have been cross-overs between the two worlds before. This is perhaps why true alchemical knowledge exists in our world, as there would be no way for practitioners here to develop alchemy empirically.
His Name is Unknown
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Wouldn't you say it was probable that Dante had a direct hand in the incorporation of that circle into the Grand Arcanum's body of knowledge?


Can't say it would come as a surprise if she did! wink.gif

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Regarding Al's glove-circles: my understanding is that because Al had no memory of confronting The Gate and thus of the knowledge of alchemy concomitant with seeing "The Truth", he would not be able to perform circleless alchemy. (This is mentioned in the manga as well.) Without his memory, Al would still need the circles on his gloves. Al's memory (about The Gate and their subsequent adventures) was restored only after he physically travelled through The Gate into our world. So if Al were to return to Amestris, memory intact, he would be able to perform alchemy without the circles.


I agree with this. However, the one thing throwing me off is the little bit where Al is trying to figure out why the Complex Gate Array is failing - the movie goes to a flashback scene (showing Al standing before the Gate) with a voiceover of Al saying, "I did see the Gate on that day. If this one works the same way, then the equivalent exchange to make it open is..." (this is where Gluttony crashes the party) If he remembers seeing the Gate, wouldn't he be able to do alchemy without circles? Or perhaps his memory ends abruptly after his body was taken as payment?

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By "resurrection array", I meant the array Al used to bring Ed back at the end of the series, rather than the human transmutation circle that is used to re-create a body of the deceased ... which would then also make it a "resurrection array". Argh!


I see. In that case, I agree! biggrin.gif My, this is getting a bit confusing, isn't it? Maybe I'll post some screencaps to make things easier.
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