- Episodes : 1 (Movie)
- Genre : Fantasy, Adventure
- Aired : Nov 2017
We’re assuming you have either read the critically acclaimed manga, or watched the masterful anime series of the same name. This article will mainly focus on the live action Fullmetal Alchemist film as an adaptation. Thanks to the staff at Anime NYC, we were lucky enough to watch this amazing film before it even aired in Japan. But in case you forgot about the story, or just want to take a trip down memory lane, continue to the following section.
Fullmetal Alchemist Introduction and Story (Spoilers)
Alchemy is magic down to a science of sorts. To create something, one needs to give up something else in equivalent exchange. At a young age, the Elric brothers, Ed and Al, became fascinated with alchemy. After their mother died of a sudden illness, Ed and Al decided to bring her back through human transmutation - the ultimate taboo in alchemy. By doing so, Al was taken away and their mother appeared as a burnt corpse. Heartbroken but not defeated, Ed gives up his arm and leg to bond Al’s soul to a suit of armor. Now the two search for the Philosopher's Stone, a stone that can create anything without having to do an equivalent exchange.
Thankfully, the boys are very talented, as Ed can use alchemy without having to create a transmutation circle. And Ed can still use alchemy, even as a hollow suit of armor. Becoming the youngest state alchemists of all time, Ed and Al find themselves closer to the Philosopher’s Stone. Time and time again the Elrics run into fakes, but through their journey, they uncover the truth about the stone and their government.
In the meantime, strange supernatural creatures resembling humans roam around every corner, and Ed and Al keep running into them. They are homunculi; artificial humans. Their job is to protect the sacrifice, and enforce any order Father insists upon. But eventually, the truth sets itself free, when Ed and Al discover that the Philosopher’s Stone is made up of human lives. They decide to give up on the Philosopher’s Stone and find another way to get Al’s body back. But first, they must defeat the homunculi and everything else the government is hiding.
What We Liked About Fullmetal Alchemist
Before the film started, an interview was played with the original creator of the manga, Hiromu Arakawa; and Ed’s actor, Ryosuke Yamada. Arakawa’s face was covered by a drawing of a cow, as that’s how she sees herself. The two talk about how they love the film and seeing it come to life. Arakawa herself especially loved the movie, and even wants to see a sequel. If the original creator is happy with the film, how could anyone dislike it?
Within recent years, we’ve gotten more live action adaptations of multiple anime and manga franchises than usual. A lot of the time, the live actions are rushed during production, so they look cheaply made and horribly adapted. It’s as if the director didn’t care for the original work. This is not the case with Fullmetal Alchemist. The characters were perfectly cast, the CGI was lifelike, and the pacing was phenomenal. You could tell that director Fumihiko Sori, is very passionate about Fullmetal Alchemist, and truly put his heart into it.
To properly adapt the entirety of Fullmetal Alchemist, studio Bones made it into a 60 episodes anime series in 2009. However, a movie can only run for so long, hence why Arakawa would like to see a sequel. The live action film is over 2 hours long. It adapts the first season and a half of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. This means that characters were cut out, and integral scenes to progress the plot were also scrapped. However, Sori was able to make every flow just right so that Fullmetal Alchemist fans and newcomers would be satisfied.
Speaking of satisfied, the ending leaves you with the same feeling of excitement that you had when you first watched/read Fullmetal Alchemist. Sure, things were rushed and changed towards the end (more on that later), but overall, Fullmetal Alchemist did its best to bring the story to life. Moving onto the technical side of things; the CGI was stunning. There weren’t any awkward green screen backdrops, or cheap special effects. Al was completely CGI, but the way he moved made it seem as though there was an actual person inside that suit of armor.
When alchemy is used, a spectacle of rocks or flames soar in the air. It’s incredibly lifelike, to the point that you have to question whether it’s really a special effect. As for the soundtrack, it captured the atmosphere of a fantasy adventure series. And the theme that played during the credits was a catchy pop song that we will gladly download. But don’t just watch the credits for the catchy song, there is a special clip as well!
1. Perfect Casting
There is no way we could see any of these characters being played by anyone else. Not only do they look like the characters (despite the story taking place in Europe, and the actors being Japanese), but they got the personalities down pat. Although Al is CGI, Atomu Mizuishi did great voice acting as an innocent sweet child. The actors put so much effort into their characters, that you feel as if they are the characters. Moments of sadness may even make you tear up, as you see a character breaking down or screaming.
When our favorite characters first showed up on screen, the audience cheered. Not only because we love the characters, but because they appeared in a way that’s uniquely them. For example, Maes Hughes, a character beloved by all for his happy attitude, makes his entrance by busting through a door with the biggest of smiles. Roy Mustang enters the big screen by showing off his epic flame alchemy. And Ed (as a 13-year-old) appears by jumping off a building, sticking the landing, and saying a cool one liner.
Although the film was rushed and even changed towards the end, the majority of the film was paced very well. Immediately, you’re introduced to Ed and Al’s backstory, followed by the end results of the Liore priest’s actions, and quickly making a trip to the Sho Tucker incident. This may sound rushed as well, but in actuality, only the important parts from the manga/anime were shown. This gave the audience no time for dilly-dallying, but instead wrapped us into the fantastical world and plot. By adapting important scenes, a newcomer would not have to force themselves to read the manga in order to understand the story.
Given the length of the film, and the content the director had to work with, it is very impressive that almost every character got enough screen time. From the film, a newcomer can understand and sympathize with Ed and Al’s tragic past. A newbie will also feel a romantic bond brewing between Ed and Winry. It’s honestly mind blowing as to how Sori was able to compile so much of the story and have it make sense, all in roughly 2 hours.
1. Changed Ending
When adapting a work, you can almost always expect something to be changed. The question is how much will be changed, and how big of an impact will the change have on the story? Unfortunately, the last 30 minutes of the film were drastically altered. The worst change by far was giving Sho Tucker more screen time. Yes, you heard us correctly. They gave one of the most hated characters in anime/manga, more screen time. Sho Tucker was released from prison, and sort of played the roll Kimblee had in the original series.
The same can be said for Hakuro, as he played the role of Wrath. Sho Tucker and Hakuro team up to create an artificial army using Philosopher stones. The famous scene of Roy Mustang repeatedly killing Lust was also changed. Instead of carving a transmutation circle into his hand, and snapping his fingers repeatedly to kill Lust, Mustang gets help from Ed and fires a long beam of flames to burn Lust. Lust then dies feeling happy that she could die like a human.
2. Cutting Out Characters
There are a wide variety of fan favorites throughout Fullmetal Alchemist. Such as Armstrong, Scar, Olivier, and Greed. Sadly, none of those characters show up. This is especially odd in Greed’s case, considering that Greed plays a huge role in the story by introducing homunculi to Ed and Al. Wrath was briefly mentioned in the film, but again, his role was taken over by Hakuro.
Even stranger was Scar’s disappearance. Multiple times throughout the film, we were told about the Ishvalan War, and later find out that Ishvalans were used for the Philosopher’s Stones creation. Seeing Scar trying to get his revenge for the slaughter of his people would have made sense in the film. Perhaps they couldn’t cast a tan enough person who spoke Japanese? Whatever the case, we just wish one of these characters had screen time instead of Sho Tucker.
Fullmetal Alchemist is most definitely worth your time. If you want to introduce a friend to the story even though they’re not into anime, then this movie is perfect. And if you just want more Fullmetal Alchemist in general, you’ll love the film even more. It may not be a perfect adaptation from start to finish, but what we got made us more than happy to see a sequel. Will you be watching the Fullmetal Alchemist live action film? Have you read the manga, or watched the anime? Let us know, and we’ll be happy to reply with our experiences as well. Till next time!