Solf J. Kimblee is the Crimson Alchemist of the Amestris State Military. A psychopath, he uses a Philosopher's Stone and tattoos of alchemical arrays on his hands to create his explosive alchemy.
Solf J. Kimblee was one of the State Alchemists who participated in the Ishvalan war, and was chosen to test the prototype Philosopher's Stone. With it, he caused much carnage and destruction, culminating in the death of Scar's family. When tasked to return the Philosopher's Stone, he instead kept it for himself and murdered his superior officers, which led to his subsequent arrest and imprisonment by the Amestrian Army.
During his time in Ishval, Kimblee was responsible for making Roy Mustang and Riza Hawkeye really awaken to the horror's of war. He was also responsible for the death of Scar's family, as well as countless other Ishvalan lives. Kimblee was also assigned to murder the parents of Winry Rockbell due to their charitable acts for the Ishvalans, but was only prevented from doing so by the fact that Scar murdered them before he arrived.
The first manga incarnation of Kimblee was created by Hiromu Arakawa for the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, and the subsequent Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood anime. According to Arakawa, part of Kimblee's appearance and personality stemmed from Alex, the protagonist of A Clockwork Orange. She also said that she gave Kimblee his signature white suit and slanted eyes because she felt that "people that wear suits always have this sleazy expression". The incarnation of Kimblee that shows up in the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime was designed by Studio BONES, more specifically character designer Yoshiyuki Ito. In the first Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Kimblee was played by Yuji Ueda. In Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Kimblee was played by Hiroyuki Yoshino. In the adaptation of both anime, the role was filled by Eric Vale.
Solf J. Kimblee first appeared as a single-panel cameo in the fourth volume of Fullmetal Alchemist, clothed in prison garb and referred to as "Kimblee, the Mad Bomber." When Fullmetal Alchemist was licensed for a first anime, since the manga had not yet reached the point where Kimblee became a main character, requiring an adapted characterization of Kimblee. Therefore, the first anime's Kimblee is significantly different from the one present in the manga. He wears a burgundy blazer over a black t-shirt and slacks, with his hair unkempt and tied back with a yellow ribbon. This version of Kimblee is also more openly sadistic and menacing than his manga incarnation.
Meanwhile, Kimblee's manga incarnation is significantly more subtle and gentlemanly. He wears a dapper white suit with matching white fedora, and keeps his hair tied back, with two strands hanging in front of his face. Also, instead of being outwardly sadistic, Kimblee instead maintains an outwardly friendly and genial appearance. However, this kind facade is soon dissolved when he encounters Scar. This version of the character is generally popular with the fan base, as he placed 14th in a recently conducted Character Poll.
Major Story Arcs
In the first anime
Kimblee was one of the State Alchemists responsible for the genocide during the Ishvalan War. However, after he fulfilled his role during the war he was arrested for the murder of his superior officers, and was about to become one of the living ingredients for a Philosopher's Stone. He was able to escape his imprisonment and joined up with Greed and his chimera henchmen.
At the military headquarters in Central City, after attempting to locate and capture the homunculus Wrath, Kimblee is invited to re-enlist into the army by Frank Archer. He does so and proceeds to reveal the location of Greed and his chimera cohorts at the Devil's Nest, resulting in their subsequent slaughter.
Later on, Kimblee travels alongside Roy Mustang, Archer, and several other military personnel to the city of Reole, in search of Scar. There, Kimblee has an encounter with Scar, and reveals that he was the one who gave Scar his iconic X-shaped scar, as well as killing most of his family and his Ishvalan village. Although Scar eventually ends up killing him, Kimblee further sours Scar's revenge by turning Alphonse Elric into a bomb.
In the manga and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
In the manga, Kimblee's origins are very much the same as his anime counterpart, with him being one of the instigators of the genocide during the War on Ishval, as well as being imprisoned for the murder of his superior officers, with one major difference being his assignment to murder Winry Rockbell's parents, instead of Roy Mustang. However, it is with his release from prison at the hands of Father and his homunculi that the differences begin to appear.
After his release from prison thanks to King Bradley and Father, Kimblee is assigned to locate Scar and Tim Marcoh, and is given a new Philosopher's Stone to aid him in this task. He manages to track them down to the East City railway station and gives chase to them. He locates a hooded man who turns out to be Scar's traveling companion and lackey, Yoki. Then, whilst on the train, he has a showdown with Scar, and reveals that he remembers murdering Scar's family, causing Scar to fly into a rage. However, Kimblee is stabbed with a metal pole, and flees from the battle with Scar screaming his name.
By bringing Winry along, Kimblee manages to make Edward and Alphonse agree to comply, albeit temporarily. He then tells Edward about his policies of "survival of the fittest", and how he believes that the universe decides if and when a person is defeated.
As Ed staged the kidnapping of Winry by Scar, Kimblee was ready and pursued them. However, Scar, from his high vantage point, managed to infuriate Kimblee by commenting on the reversal of their positions from the first time they had met. Kimblee then attempts to attack him with alchemy, but is stopped by an oncoming blizzard.
Later on, military personnel at Briggs attempt to murder Kimblee in the snow, but he manages to evade them by creating an explosion in the snow, which provided cover for him while he made his escape into the mines at Briggs. He and Ed fight each other, and whilst Ed cuts one of the transmutation circles on his hands and relieves him of a Philosopher's Stone, Kimblee reveals the second one in his possession and makes his escape deeper into the tunnels, where he encounters Pride, who orders him to "carve a bloody crest at Briggs."
He then takes charge of a battalion of Drachman soldiers on the way to Briggs. The soldiers are easily slaughtered by the Briggs soldiers, thus completing the final stage of the Amestris- wide transmutation circle.
When Pride is captured and sealed away by Alphonse Elric, Kimblee is sent by Father to rescue him and get rid of Alphonse. Although he and Pride prove to be an even match with Alphonse, Kimblee is overwhelmed by Heinkel, who bites him in the neck, dealing a fatal blow. Unable even to speak, Kimblee is then absorbed by Pride, who gains another Philosopher's Stone.
In his final appearance, Kimblee shows up as Pride attempts to take Edward Elric's body for his own. Unlike the other souls absorbed by Pride, Kimblee was able to retain his identity through sheer force of will, commenting that "the screams of the damned are like lullabies to my ears." He also berates Pride for his hypocritical behavior: calling humans inferior, and yet resorting to taking the body of one just to survive. In the end, Kimblee assures Pride that the Fullmetal Alchemist will not murder him, and opens the way for Ed to counterattack. He then fades away, finally at peace, as Pride's Philosopher's Stone shatters into pieces, and Pride is turned into a fetus.
Powers, Abilities, and Objects
Kimblee is capable of recalling events and people in perfect detail, as demonstrated when he was able to remember the Scar's village and the fact that a person of similar appearance was shielding him from the blast.
Kimblee utilizes a form of alchemy which requires two transmutation circles, tattooed into his palms. In the first anime, these symbols were simply the sun (symbolizing gold) on one palm, and the moon (symbolizing silver) on the other, as well as two triangles facing in opposite directions, representing fire and water, combining into a hexagram. In the manga, however, the transmutation circles are more complex, being rimmed with unusual text and characters.
In the manga, Kimblee uses these alchemical arrays to convert regular objects into explosives by using the contradictory symbols to create a form of energy imbalance, which he can control the flow of at will. He is also capable of performing more ordinary transmutations, such as turning a watch into a toy, with the use of only a single array.
In the anime, Kimblee uses the same alchemical array, but instead shifts the chemical composition of an object or person, so that it instead turns into a chemical explosive.
Although not fully explained, Kimblee has displayed the ability to cough up swallowed objects at will, as evidenced by several instances wherein he hides and regurgitates Philosopher Stones at will.
Kimblee also makes use of two Philosophers Stones to amplify his transmutations. The first was obtained during the War on Ishval, when he was sent to test it on Ishvalan people, and was made from Ishvalan prisoners. The second was obtained after his release from prison, and was created with the souls of scientists who experimented with Philosopher Stones during the War on Ishval. The first stone is much weaker than the second. It is easy to differentiate the two by looking closely at their shapes; the first is shaped like a shard of glass, while the second is spherical, representing its significant improvement and "perfection" over the first.
Both stones allow Kimblee to bypass the Laws of Equivalent Exchange: this allows him to create more complex transmutations, and on a grander scale. With the Philosopher Stones, Kimblee is also capable of performing explosion alchemy with only one hand, as evidenced during his battle with Edward Elric.