|“||By using the lives of those sentenced to hang during the witch-hunts and those who were dying of the plague; By repeating our experiments, relentlessly, despite countless failures, we finally grasped it; The Philospher's Stone.||”|
Dante (ダンテ, Dante) is the central antagonist of the Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 anime series, first introduced in Episode 32. She was a heartless elderly woman and a formidable alchemist herself. She posed as the master and the benefactor of the Homunculi, Dante was responsible for setting in motion the events of the series and the challenges its protagonists faced along the way, and orchestrated her agenda within the shadows of the Amestrian government and military.
Dante first appeared as the former alchemy teacher of Izumi Curtis, who in turn taught Edward and Alphonse Elric. Soon after her meeting with the Elric brothers, Dante faked her death at the hands of Greed, who is in turn killed by Ed, although it is obvious to the viewer that her body was dead before Greed had arrived.
Much later in the series, it is revealed that Dante had transferred her soul to the body of her student Lyra, thereby prolonging her life. Dante is actually around 400 years old and is able to escape death by continually transferring her soul to new, younger bodies with the aid of the Philosopher's Stone. Nearly 400 years ago, she was Hohenheim's lover, and together they lived for centuries using this technique. They even had a son; however, he died of mercury poisoning at a young age. Hohenheim's attempt to transmute him back to life created Envy.
The first Philosopher's Stone that Dante and Hohenheim made used those condemned as witches and those dying of the plague as the required human sacrifice. In the course of performing this transmutation, Hohenheim was nearly killed; Dante saved him by instinctively attaching his soul to the body of another man; thus the pair discovered "eternal" life. In addition to this first Stone, Dante and Hohenheim were responsible for the destruction of at least two ancient cities: one located where the present capital of Amestris, Central, now stands, and a "fabled lost city in the east" (in reality, Hohenheim's home city), each of which is said to have mysteriously disappeared overnight. The inhabitants of the cities were used as ingredients in the Stone, while the buildings were pulled underground with alchemy. However, sometime prior to the beginning of the anime, Hohenheim left Dante, eventually meeting Trisha Elric twenty years prior and falling in love with her.
Suddenly left to fend for herself, Dante resorted to using the Homunculi to do her bidding. She seeks out Homunculi from the moment they are created (when an alchemist tries to bring a dead person back to life) and feeds them red stones, thus strengthening them. She convinces the Homunculi that they will be better off as true humans, and makes them believe that she can transform them into true humans with the power of the Philosopher's Stone. Hence, the Homunculi become her minions in helping her to create the Stone. In reality, she only wants the stone for herself in order to continue cheating death. Only Pride and Envy seem aware of this. The former serves Dante in exchange for power and adulation while the latter does so to kill as many humans as possible.
Incapable of creating a Philosopher's Stone herself, Dante seeks to manipulate other alchemists into unwittingly doing so for her. However, she reasons that only someone with nothing left to lose would go so far as to sacrifice the many human souls required to create a Philosopher's Stone. Thus she uses the Homunculi (especially Führer King Bradley, who is secretly Pride) to wage unceasing war, hoping to motivate a desperate alchemist to create a Philosopher's Stone, which the Homunculi would then steal for her. To this end, she orchestrates the slaughters in Ishbal and Lior, and later, to cover her tracks, she orders Pride to attack Drachma, a country to the north. In the latter campaign, she plans to use the chaos on the front lines as a cover for the planned assassinations of Roy Mustang and his subordinates by Envy, though Envy abandons his mission upon hearing that Hohenheim revealed himself and refused to help her until she reminded him that the Elric brothers had the stone, giving Envy the pleasure to kill Ed (his replacement) and get Al (the stone).
However, Dante's immortality was a lie, as was revealed by Hohenheim when he confronts her after so long. Her body is literally rotting away because every time she transferred her soul, she left a piece of her soul in her previous body, and over time her soul had been reduced by so much it cannot support her human form, so Dante had planned to transfer her soul into Rose's body next using the Philosopher's Stone that was inside Al's body. This way, she hoped to gain control of Ed, hoping Rose's feelings for him would allow her to have him replace Hohenheim as her lover. But after Ed refused to aid her, Dante sent him away to the other side for a short while. When Ed did return and got killed by Envy, Al sacrificed himself to revive his brother, destroying the Philosopher's Stone, while Ed's death manages to shock Rose out of the trance that Dante had placed upon her earlier, much to Dante's dismay. As she escapes into the elevator to find Pride to help her exact vengeance, Dante was possibly killed by Gluttony, ironically whom she had rendered crazed and mindless earlier, however, it's not entirely impossible she survived her encounter with Gluttony, as we never learn for certainty the outcome of this confrontation.
Personality and Abilities
Dante's personality and motivation were very enigmatic yet also all the more malicious. She is cruel, manipulative, arrogant, narcissistic, single-minded, devious, and vindictive. In her long years as a parasitic soul, moving from body to body, her personality has apparently changed considerably: as Hohenheim lay dying after creating the Philosopher's Stone, she rushed to save him, but now she cares little for the lives of others, believing those who die in order to preserve her life to be "necessary martyrs." Ever since then, Dante developed a god-complex, as well as exhibiting a misanthropic and egotistical view of the world, believing most human beings to be "selfish, ignorant creatures", unworthy of the knowledge of alchemy and the Philosopher's Stone (demonstrating a large degree of hypocrisy as well). As such, she has no qualms over starting wars or taking countless lives, as she is convinced that she is ultimately protecting mankind from itself. Because this is all Dante cares about, global politics, wars, and human lives mean nothing to her, as she has control of Amestris through her homunculus Pride and uses the whole country as a tool to obtain the Stone.
Like Hohenheim, Ed, and Izumi (and later Al), she can transmute without a circle, completing complex transmutations just by clapping her hands. She also possesses other abilities that go beyond normal alchemy: she is able to summon the Gate using infants (whose souls are more strongly linked to the Gate than those of adults), transform Gluttony from a childish fool into a ravenous monster, and split the mind, soul, and body of Hohenheim before sending him into the Gate. Dante is also the only known person to attempt a human transmutation specifically in order to create Homunculi (Greed, Pride, and most likely Gluttony), without any repercussions (apparently).
She uses the symbol of a winged snake fixed on a cross (called a flamel), which is passed on to Izumi, and then to the Elric brothers. It is meaningful that the symbol is the opposite of the Ouroboros worn by the Homunculi. It represents a fixation on the volatile principle in alchemy, as opposed to the endless cycle represented by Ouroboros. In Dante's case, the symbol likely represents her belief that she is immortal and has conquered the cycle of birth and death represented by the Ouroboros. In real life, it is a symbol associated with the 15th-century alchemist Nicholas Flamel, who claimed to have created a Philosopher's Stone and used it to achieve immortality (one of the two main goals of alchemy, along with the creation of gold from lead).
As a narcissist and egomaniac, Dante had very few meaningful relationships, and those she does have are not depicted in depth until very late in the series.
Despite Envy being the homunculus of her son, Dante has no actual feelings for him. Their only common ground probably lies in the feelings of rejection they were each dealt when Hohenheim abandoned them. The immense strength she endowed him with through red stones and his awareness of her true intentions make him her unofficial enforcer among the other homunculi and her most reliable agent in securing the Philosopher's Stone.
The fact that Envy knows Dante has only her own interests in mind and the way he uncaringly disobeys her makes it clear that they work together to accomplish parallel goals rather than the same one: Dante works to prolong her life at the cost of human suffering and death and Envy works to bring about such suffering and death for his own amusement. Dante later proves that she shares no real alliance with Envy when she "kills" Hohenheim, an act of vengeance that had heretofore provided Envy with his only justification for existing. The conversation Envy has with Alphonse following this event implies that he is at least vaguely aware that Dante manipulates him emotionally but, again, does not care very much since he takes pleasure in doing the things she wants him to do. When Envy is later lost to Al's transmutation to revive Ed, Dante does not even mention him during her tirade over losing the stone, further solidifying that he had no real meaning to her other than "pawn". This is also cemented when Dante tells Wrath that homunculi 'don't have mothers' while standing next to Envy and never refers to him as her son, meaning in no way does she see him as family.
Pride is perhaps the most useful of Dante's Homunculi creations. She considers him her greatest creation due to his sophisticated design; a status he is very proud of in turn. Through his persona as Führer King Bradley, she has control of Amestris and utilizes the country as a tool to create a stone by causing wars and spreading plagues regardless of global politics hoping to motivate a desperate alchemist to create a Philosopher's Stone to prolong her longevity. He appears to be Dante's most trustworthy creation and serves her for power and adulation, (although he may serve her solely out of loyalty) considering himself "God's Guardian Angel." Like Envy, he appears to have at least some idea of her true motivations, although this is never expressed to the same extent as the former. Despite being initially portrayed as a benevolent statesman, it is revealed Pride has disdain for humankind much like his master (the theme of deception is a similarity between them). These tendencies reveal themselves when he mindlessly murders his adopted son after his weakness is exposed to Mustang.
It is worth noting that the trust between them was so great that she let him keep his remains, rather than keeping it with her in case he was to betray her.
Despite her misanthropic outlook, Dante implies that her affection for Izumi is genuine. While at first it could be seen that Izumi was simply another candidate for a body-swap, the scene depicting Izumi's decision to leave depicts Dante as feeling honestly dejected and disappointed, not just frustrated over losing a potential body. The resulting bodily damage from Izumi's attempt at human transmutation would most definitely exclude her as a body-swap candidate, yet Dante still tries to maintain a positive relationship with her. She provides Izumi with medicinal herbs to counter the consequences of her "sin", offers occasional guidance, and the casual discourse they share following Al's abduction indicates they may have still spoken with one another on occasion despite their differences. It is possible that her final farewell to Izumi is heartfelt, although it is also just as likely that she is using her to manipulate the Elrics (the Japanese dub suggests the former, while the English dub implies the latter).
Dante's relationship with Hohenheim is probably her most significant.
Dante's comments of "being an innocent" back when Hohenheim wooed her insinuate that he was an older, already accomplished alchemist by the time they met, which implies that she may have been more or less one of his admirers and that she pursued him for sexual reasons. There may have been some Hero-Worship on her part going on, as evidenced by her awed facial expressions during his experimentations with the Philosopher's Stone (despite how despicable the act was, considering the ingredients) and the way she unhesitatingly sacrificed the life of another man (who was probably a trusted friend and colleague, judging by his presence at the event) in order to save him.
There is also evidence that Dante's Hero-Worship had an effect on Hohenheim during their life together. The first time he created the Stone, he did so by using the lives of those condemned to die during witch-hunts and the plague. The second and third times, he used all of the lives of an entire city and (possibly) a country, indicating that he had lost all his inhibitions and decency in that amount of time. He had most likely become swept up in her awe of him and her beliefs that they were gods among insects, and only later came to realize what a farce that was. He obviously did try to make a go at living life with her after the first Stone was made—considering they had married often (to keep up the ruse) and had and raised a child together—but apparently, he just couldn't do it, seeing as how he left her so suddenly. The fact he left her part of the Stone when he did insinuates that he felt responsible for her, and consequently responsible because he had allowed her to become the monster that she had become by humoring her absurd delusions of grandeur.
During their reunion in "A Rotted Heart", Hohenheim shows open shame when she comments that 400 years ago, "he whispered words of love to her". This further evidences the likelihood that he was just an older man pursuing a younger woman sexually when they first met (his behavior with Second Lieutenant Maria Ross also supports this). And because he was sorely aware of the fact that they were not gods, he pitied her, a fact that she was well aware of but tried to hide her knowledge of it and the negative feelings it caused her. Her attempts to woo him back through sexual insinuations after furiously denying her inevitable fate was her last, futile attempt at holding on to the image she held of herself, not "them". When this failed, she was truly defeated.
When Dante "killed" Hohenheim, it was only partially because he would stand in the way of her plans. The main reason was that he was the only person in the world who could show her the lies and delusions she had based her life on and he had done so out of pity and exasperation. He had revealed her mortality and inferiority, both as a lover and an alchemist, and she resented him for this, and so banished him to the other side of the Gate. With him out of the way, she could continue her life as a "god" of sorts without any worry that anyone else could stand in the way of that delusion, not necessarily in the way of her plans.
- She may be named after the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, famous for writing "The Divine Comedy", a three-part poem with the first chapter, Inferno, taking place in the Nine Circles of Hell. In fact in the Italian dub of the episode title "Dante of the Deep Forest" was translated to "Dante Della Selva Oscura" (lit. "Dante of Dark Forest"), a reference to the beginning of Alighieri's poem.
- Dante's theme music is loosely based on Ludovico Einaudi's classical piece "A Fuoco".
- Dante shares many similarities with her manga and 2009 anime counterpart, Father:
- Both, at one point, had close relationships with Hohenheim dating back several centuries.
- Both "shared" the secret of eternal life with Hohenheim by means of the Philosopher's Stone.
- Both planned to turn mass numbers of people into Stones in order to become "perfect" beings.
- Both Dante and Father have the most physical transformations through the course of their respective series (excluding Envy, of course), with each of them gaining a much younger body for themselves.
- Both Dante and Father are hypocritical in that they consider humans to be lower beings, yet their respective reliances on the Philosopher's Stone render them both dependent on the human race for survival, technically making them little more than parasites.
- Both Dante and Father are intensely connected with the Seven Deadly Sins, both in terms of their relationship with the Homunculi and in the content of their actions.
- During her confrontation with Edward in the hidden city, she asserts that the Law of Equivalent Exchange is false and that even if a person gives their full effort, it is unlikely that they will receive a reward of equal value. Her words prove ironically false as she spends years having others do her work for her, only to lose the Philosopher's Stone. She did little work and thus received nothing.
- An elderly woman almost identical to Dante (her elder form) makes a brief cameo in Episode 58 of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
- A character that resembles Dante appears in the episode "Let's Nab Oprah" from "The Boondocks" series.
- As hinted above, Dante seems to commit each of the Seven Deadly Sins in her appearances:
- Pride: she has an air of superiority and speaks condescendingly whenever she is surrounded by the Homunculi and sees all those around her as inferior to herself. She feels the thousands of lives lost to the Philosopher's Stone are inconsequential because she was "worth it."
- Envy: she showed hints of jealousy when Hohenheim refused her advances saying that Trisha was the only person he loved. Being the first Homunculus and sin created, it's possible that envy was the basis of which other events transpired.
- Wrath: she was quick to punish anyone who failed her or dared interefere—even former lover Hohenheim and her homunculi servants.
- Sloth: despite being a very powerful Alchemist, she prefers to use other alchemists to forge the Stone for her and tasks the Homunculi with all the footwork. Also, like the Homunculus it was named after, she maintained a cold demeanor and was aloof to the world and its inhabitants (ironically, she claims to have committed her deeds to help humans from destroying themselves with the stone).
- Greed: her plans to gain the Philosopher Stone are out of a selfish act of having her life extended.
- Lust: the act of having her soul transferred to other bodies violates her victims. She also takes care in selecting more lascivious bodies to steal (perhaps suggestive of her vanity). Later, while meeting Hohenheim, she licks her own arm, states she hasn't tested out her new body (Lyra's body), suggesting they sleep together. She also makes mention of her plan to take over Rose's body and use it to seduce Edward and "be loved by the son of Hohenheim."
- Her desire to have her life extended represents the sin of Gluttony: the sin of having more to the point of waste.
- The series has implied that the transgression of Gluttony is Dante's most grievous offense. When she tells Edward that she is no longer human, the Homunculus Gluttony bursts into the room to carry out a scene that reveals him to be more human than she. When she later takes away Gluttony's mind (his last measure of humanity), she serves to transform him into the physical manifestation of her own monstrosity and is ultimately consumed by him.
- Dante is one of the very few individuals to have an appendage inside Gluttony's mouth that comes back unharmed.
- According to Dante, she has jumped from one body to another less than ten times in over 400 years.