Solf J. Kimblee (ゾルフ・J・キンブリー, Zorufu J Kinburī, also spelled Zolf J. Kimbley), the Crimson Lotus Alchemist (紅蓮の錬金術師, Guren no Renkinjutsushi), sometimes referred to as the Crimson Alchemist, is a recurring antagonist in the Fullmetal Alchemist series. He is a former State Alchemist and special agent working under the direct orders of Führer King Bradley. Admittedly sadistic, Kimblee was imprisoned in Central City for several years after his official involvement in the Ishval Civil War for having infamously turned his unique brand of combustion-based combat alchemy on people who were not on his government-approved kill list. Due to conspiratorial acts at the top of government, Kimblee is officially exonerated of his crimes so as to serve as the Führer's hidden left hand in the secret battles to come.
Personality & Appearance
In the manga (and subsequently, the 2009 anime series based thereon), Kimblee is as much a philosopher as he is a psychopath. A gentleman artist through and through, he considers his alchemically-induced explosions to be of the highest aesthetic and aims to make them as "beautiful" as possible in terms of scope, destructive capability and sound - sound apparently being the most important criterion based on his oft-showcased keen ear for explosives and his manic enthusiasm for loud eruptions.
Not so much immoral as amoral, he stands as an inquisitive, apathetic observer most of the time, assessing people and situations while throwing out morality and the concept of grey areas as contaminating factors. Driven by such mindsets as "survival of the fittest" and "to the victor go the spoils", Kimblee takes great pleasure in determining whether the will and/or strength of one person or party is capable of overpowering those of another and genuinely respects people of strong will and unshakable conviction, but cares little to nothing for human lives that are affected or even lost as a consequence of the conflicts that arise. Even his own life is accountable to his unconventional ideals and he is only too glad to put his existence on the line.
Cool and mannerly, Kimblee is an avid philosopher and skilled rhetorician who argues his viewpoints well enough to silence most naysayers. However, he seems aware that his mindset and actions are not in tune with the popular veins of thought and actively shrouds these with gentlemanly decorum and clever semantics. As an analyst of human nature, Solf J. Kimblee understands exactly what needs to be said in order to hide his "heresy" from those who would not understand him. He is shown to be a very calculating and methodical man, able to seemingly perceive any and all matters at hand and use this information to better manipulate the situation, making him all the more dangerous.
As such, Kimblee's manner of dress after leaving the penitentiary is an all-white three-piece suit with a matching fedora and purple tie as well as white overcoat. He ties his long, black hair into a neat ponytail, leaving two long strands loose in the front. He is tall and thin with piercing eyes colored amber in the manga, but blue in the 2009 anime.
In the 2003 anime series, Kimblee's personality is significantly less gentlemanly and more psychotic. His character is more openly sadistic and acts more often out of sheer pleasure, rather than towards any particular goal. Additionally, he seems to enjoy blood and death more than explosions, actively incorporating them into his combustive artistry rather than thinking of them as byproducts. The only thing that he retains from the original version is his nihilism, as he openly admits that he is killing just to prove that everyone, including himself, is worthless.
His appearance is more thuggish as well, with his black hair left unkempt on top while his ponytail is wrapped almost entirely in pale yellow ribbon. Kimblee's eyes are amber and he dresses in a burgundy blazer over a T-shirt with a matching pair of slacks, when not in his military uniform.
Kimblee's unique type of alchemy involves orchestrating explosions and is centered around the transmutation arrays tattooed on his palms. On each hand is a triangle inscribed in a circle with alchemical symbols in the center of each - the sun symbol (signifying gold) on his right palm and the moon symbol (signifying silver) on his left. When he puts his palms together the two triangles (the left pointing up to represent fire and the right pointing down to represent water) combine to form a hexagram which initiates the transmutation. Transcribed around both circles is a ring of unidentified text.
In the manga, Kimblee uses this array to transmute ordinary matter into explosives by clapping his hands together. By combining the contradictory symbols of the sun and moon, gold and silver, water and fire, the Crimson Lotus Alchemist creates an unstable imbalance of energy in whatever matter he touches, causing it to explode violently. He has also revealed himself to be capable of causing that instability to flow from one place to another at his will, essentially directing localized explosions from long range. By using only the hexagram of his transmutation circle and not the celestial runes, he can also perform more mundane transmutations that involve the alteration of matter, but not its detonation.
With the added amplification of the Philosopher's Stone, Kimblee's alchemy reaches much further than usual; he is able to bypass the Law of Equivalent Exchange and create far more powerful explosions with it in his possession. Additionally, he does not seem to require the use of both hands in order to transmute explosions while using the Stone.
In the 2003 anime, Kimblee's method of transmutation is quite different. Instead of creating an energy imbalance within an object, he shifts the atomic and molecular composition within objects so as to change whatever he touches into a chemical explosive. According to what he has stated in the series, he apparently specifically manipulates the metallic particles comprising an object. Edward also once states that Kimblee transmutes certain materials in his target into a "gunpowder-like substance", then compresses it rapidly to form a huge explosion. Though Kimblee has been shown to use this method on inanimate objects, he apparently prefers to use living things, especially people. With this technique, he can completely obliterate a person's being or even explode small portions of the body independently from others.
Manga and 2009 anime
In the manga, Kimblee's rationale is more deeply explored during the Ishval extermination. He looks with disdain upon Mustang and Hawkeye's guilt regarding their actions against the Ishvalan citizens, reminding them that they bore the military uniform of their own free will, knowing what may have been expected of them when they made the decision. He also purposefully thwarts any attempts other state alchemists make to show mercy to the enemy, such as when he kills two fleeing Ishvalan women whom Armstrong attempted to spare, reminding his comrade that allowing an enemy to escape was an offense punished by court-martial before extending a hand to help him up.
After it was discovered that the Rockbell doctors were aiding the Ishvalans, Kimblee's superiors express discontent for their actions. Because they were providing humanitarian aid, it was the military's duty to protect them, an act which they felt was an unnecessary burden to them. Kimblee's unit is the one sent to guard the Rockbells, with it being strongly implied that he was to assassinate them as soon as possible. Kimblee expresses admiration toward the doctors, stating his respect for their doing their job as doctors in such a chaotic time. When it's discovered that they were killed prior to his arrival, Kimblee states that the purpose of a soldier is to take life, and the purpose of a doctor is to save it, and as such, the Rockbell's deaths were noble ones.
Following these events, Kimblee kills several of his superior officers, in doing so maintaining his possession of the Philosopher's stone he was issued, and was subsequently sent to prison.
Though he appears in the first episode of the 2009 anime—having been approached in prison by the anime-only character Isaac McDougal for the purpose of assisting in his attack on Central Command and refusing the offer—Kimblee first appears in the manga in Chapter 13. Hearing the noise of Laboratory 5's destruction from his cell at the prison next door, Kimblee correctly deduces the sound's origin and expresses his ecstasy over the sound and feeling of such a nearby, powerful explosion.
After the war, Kimblee is released from jail by order from the Führer and Envy gives him a new Philosopher's stone. He is then sent to capture Scar and Dr. Marcoh. Of course, he was oblivious to the identity of Scar as the man whose entire family he's slain, and thus was fairly stunned at this revelation. He engages Scar in a brief battle on a train to the north but is badly wounded by a steel pipe thrust by Scar through his left side. He is then transported to Briggs, and General Raven arrives along with the Alchemist doctor who heals him.
He arranges to have Winry brought to the northern base, under the guise of needing her help in making Ed combat-ready, but in reality, securing her as a hostage to force the Elrics to cooperate with his search for Scar. Ed confronts him on his siding with the homunculi, but Kimblee states that he did so out of simple curiosity. He says that he knows he is what the world would regard as psychotic, but he passed the psych test for his State Certification because he knew how they expected a stable person to respond. He further says that the world was on the brink of change, and he acted because he wanted to see which side the world would support in the end. He feels that, like the people stationed at Briggs, he is merely seeing "survival of the fittest", and that whichever side triumphs, human or Homunculi, will be the world's verification of that principle. He is eventually able to force Ed into compliance, both because he holds Winry as his hostage and with the "carrot" of giving Ed a Philosopher's stone should he succeed in his threefold assignment: 1) to find Scar and notify him, 2) to find Dr. Marcoh and notify him, and finally, 3) to "carve a crest of blood" into the mountain, which would help as part of the Nationwide Transmutation Circle.
Kimblee's search resumes, taking him, the Elrics and several Briggs soldiers to the abandoned mining town, Baschool. The Elrics conspire with Dr. Marcoh and Scar behind his back, faking Winry's kidnapping as a means of freeing her from Kimblee's grasp. They arrange a scene to create the illusion that Winry has been taken by Scar, in the hopes that Winry's presence would stop Kimblee from attacking, and give the perfect excuse for her sudden disappearance. The plan goes awry when Scar taunts Kimblee, telling him that it seems their roles had switched from when they had first met, bringing Kimblee to a rage that makes him attempt to use his alchemy to attack. The encroaching blizzard prevents the scene from growing bloody, and Kimblee's army is forced into shelter as Scar and his party navigate the mines for a path to Briggs.
While snowed in, the Briggs in Kimblee's search party begin plotting his assassination, convincing an uncertain Ed to participate by drawing his attention away while their snipers take positions. Ed attempts to comply with their plan, but Kimblee reveals that he's perfectly aware of the attempt, stating that he could sense the murderous intent coming from the Briggs unit the whole time. He creates an explosion to blur the view of the snipers and escapes into the mines.
After taking care of his subordinates Ed follows Kimblee into the mines and fights him. Ed manages to separate Kimblee from his first Philosopher's stone, and cut the transmutation circle on his hand, believing these actions to have effectively ended Kimblee's ability to perform alchemy. Kimblee expresses his respect to Ed for trying to live true to his code of possessing the strength to not kill, but says that it's that same naive belief that will cost him his life. Kimblee then uses the other stone (which Ed was unaware of) to create an explosion which collapses the mine.
He attacks Briggs along with the Drachman army, posing as an Amestrian traitor. However, while the front of the Drachman forces are getting wiped out by Briggs, Kimblee was busy removing the remaining soldiers himself, completing the "blood crest".
On the night before the Promised Day, Kimblee had returned to central and was enjoying a killing spree, but lamented that he had stained his white suit with his victims' blood again after having it custom made for himself. When Pride had been detained by the Elrics, Kimblee is sent by Father to rescue him after hearing a message sent by Pride banging on Al's helmet in morse code. Ironically this is just like when Riza sent Mustang a secret message about Selim being the homunculus Pride. Using the element of surprise Kimblee blasts a hole in the dome of earth that had subdued Pride. However, Al takes Kimblee's old Philosopher's Stone in which Heinkel had found after the skirmish in Baschool and had kept. After a while of fighting against Al, Kimblee gets bitten in the neck by Heinkel in chimera mode. They attempt to escape by car while taking Kimblee as a prisoner, but Heinkel decides to toss Kimblee's body back at him in order to buy them further time. Rather than pursue them, Pride stays behind with Kimblee; it was his intent all along to get the sacrifices back to Central.
Pride shifts his amused stare down at the fatally wounded Kimblee, stating that this truly proves that humans have no place in the natural world. He marvels at how Kimblee's suit, which has been dyed red by the blood from his throat, now had a color that so perfectly suited him, and asks Kimblee how he planned to see the side the world would choose if this was all his strength could do for him. He decides to help Kimblee in his desire by letting him "live on as a part of him." As Pride's shadows overtake Kimblee's half-dead face, he is entirely consumed, his body and soul, coupled along with the new Philosopher's Stone in his possession are added to Pride's own collection of souls.
Solf J. Kimblee appears one final time in Chapter 106, emerging from the vortex of souls within Pride's consciousness to interfere with the Homunculus' attempt to steal Edward's body. Though mired in the agony of centuries-old spirits, Kimblee is able to retain his individuality. To Pride's surprise, Kimblee considers the wails of agony from the other souls to be as soothing as a lullaby. When asked why he would interfere, Kimblee comments on Pride's lack of resolve in calling himself a "superior being" one minute and then turning around to obtain the body of a "lesser being", such as a human, the next, solely to save his own life. Kimblee makes it very clear to show his disdain for Pride's lack of elegance, inadvertently having bought Edward enough time to counterattack. However, Kimblee assures the Homunculus that Edward will not be murdering him (remembering the conversation the two alchemists had regarding the "resolve not to kill") and willingly vanishes as the Philosopher's Stone comprising Pride's core is destroyed, doffing his hat at Edward as he travels into oblivion.
In the 2003 anime series, Kimblee is first seen in a cameo as one of the State Alchemists during the Ishval Civil War in Dr. Tim Marcoh's story. Kimblee isn't properly introduced until a few episodes later, where he is in prison, serving his time for the war crimes he committed in Ishval. Along with other prisoners, he is sent by Envy, disguised as Basque Grand, to Lab 5, where he would be a human sacrifice for the Philosopher's Stone being created by Edward at the same time. However, Kimblee escapes death by exploding one of the inmates who believes that his alchemic skills are a hoax. While leaving the facility, he meets Greed, also escaping, and his newly formed Chimera gang. Having few options, Kimblee joins.
After the Elric brothers return from Yock Island, Kimblee helps Greed by assisting, along with Bido, in trying to capture the homunculus Wrath from Military headquarters. While there he personally meets Frank Archer who is impressed with him and points out that he could help Kimblee get back into the military if he wishes to. After they fail, he helps Greed in kidnapping Alphonse. Shortly afterward, Kimblee betrays Greed by sending an army unit (as well as Lust and Gluttony) into the hideout, where they kill most of Greed's gang. In doing so, Kimblee is recruited back into the military under Archer's command.
Kimblee, having been promoted to Lt. Colonel, later travels with Archer, Mustang and their men to Reole, where they attempt to find Scar, though Mustang is disgusted that Kimblee is back in the military. There, Kimblee is confronted by Martel, the only surviving member of Greed's gang. Enraged, she attacks Kimblee, only to be nearly killed. She is saved by Alphonse who injures Kimblee's arm in the process due to Al's strategy of using Kimblee's own alchemy against him. This only earns the armored boy Kimblee's wrath that makes the Crimson Alchemist swear he'll get revenge by turning Alphonse into a bomb next time they meet. Hours later, Kimblee is employed by Bradley to go into Reole to stir an uprising with the help of Shou Tucker's chimeras as part of his plan to ensure that the military wouldn't be blamed for any wrongdoing in the destruction of Reole, along with the command to secretly assassinate Edward to aid their cause. During this attack, he confronts Scar, which Kimblee was responsible for his facial scar and the death of Scar's brother during the Ishval rebellion (Kimblee initially didn't remember him, until he recognized that scar as his handiwork). Kimblee fights Scar, but is killed when the vengeful Ishvalan punched out his heart. Bleeding to death, his last act is to turn Alphonse into a bomb to exact his revenge, by designing to explode after a slow chemical reaction in order to give Alphonse "time to think about his death, and reflect on how meaningless his efforts have been", all while sadistically mocking Scar for his nobility.
Scar, along with Lust's assistance, would later use Kimblee's body to draw the military forces into Reole, allowing him to turn them into Philosopher's Stone ingredients in the end.
- During numerous points in the manga, Kimblee is revealed to have a photographic memory, as he never forgets a person's face, mostly the faces of his victims.
- The kanji that makes up Kimblee's State Alchemist name in Japanese (紅蓮 Guren) is a source of contention among translators. While the word "Guren" can be translated as "Crimson", the kanji (紅蓮) suggests another possible translation that reads "Red Lotus" or "Crimson Lotus". As the Crimson Lotus is often used as symbolism for fiery explosions, it is most likely that Red Lotus or Crimson Lotus is Kimblee's true name despite Guren having been translated as Crimson in the subtitles of the first anime series and both English dubs.
- The voice actor for Kimblee in the 2003 anime, Eric Vale, also voices Future Trunks in the anime Dragon Ball Z and Trunks in the anime Dragon Ball GT, along with other Dragon Ball franchises, including video games and movies.
- Like nearly all military personnel in the Fullmetal Alchemist series, Kimblee is named after a military vehicle, vessel or weapon, in this case, most likely USS Kimberly - two United States Naval Destroyers, the first, the DD-80 was a Wickes Class and served in the final months of the First World War and the second the DD-521, a Fletcher Class which served in the Second World War and which was later loaned to Taiwan in 1967 and in use until 1999.
- During the most recent character popularity poll, Kimblee ranked fourteenth.
- Hiromu Arakawa stated that inspiration for Kimblee's character came in part from Alex, the protagonist of A Clockwork Orange. She has also said that she thinks people in white suits always have this "sleazy look" on their faces.
- Yuji Ueda, the Japanese voice actor who had played Kimblee in the 2003 series, plays Jean Havoc in the 2009 series.
- Kimblee has shown several times he is able to control his regurgitation. This usually focused on how he hides the first Philosopher's Stone he received inside his stomach, only to bring it back up whenever he so chooses.
- In Chapter 13, one of the guards at the prison calls Kimblee an arsonist. Kimblee has never been known to be an arsonist however, relying on alchemical explosions for destruction in both series.
- Interestingly enough, in the 2003 anime, manga, and Brotherhood, Kimblee battles with Alphonse at some point and is fatally wounded by a third person: Scar in the 2003 series and Heinkel in the manga and 2009 anime. Additionally, both Scar and Heinkel at the time had a deep hatred towards Kimblee since he tried to kill them in the past.
- The antenna-like strands in the front of Kimblee's hair in the manga and 2009 anime changes from time to time in the manga. At first, the two strands are up instead of down, then they are down, then one is down, and so on. In the 2009 anime, though, it always stays two strands down.
- It's interesting to note that Kimblee was never reprimanded for nearly killing Edward (a precious human-sacrifice) in Baschool. Whether the Homunculi and/or Military were unaware he caused the cave-in, were aware that Edward survived, or were just desperate for manpower remains unclear.
- In the splash page of chapter 107, where the protagonists place their fists towards to center, the reader can see his hand holding his hat in the center-left, above Buccaneer's automail.