Director Harada Masato (Killing For The Prosecution) is at the helm once more clashing swords and tempers for late Edo period piece, Burning Sword. Production is underway with Harada adapting author Shiba Ryotaro’s 1960s Shukan Bunshun publication centered on the wartime chronicles of Hijikata Toshizo, the Shinsengumi vice-commander who led the shogunate forces against the imperialist Meiji government during the Boshin War.
Far be it for me to complain when an anime or manga gets its rights obtained by a studio announcing a film adaptation. I accept almost any number of these announcements largely based on overall curiousness over caution – I’m a fan of anime, but I don’t have a waifu and I don’t fall to far into emtropy with geek discussions. I simply enjoy anime for what it is and if the films are good, then..well… good.
Then, the last ten years happened and my awareness expanded when a flood of ballyhoo began streaming for years and years over fandom weariness regarding Hollywood adaptations of anything, be it games, comics or even manga, and that’s still the case. Whitewashing is one cog that keeps this engine running, and by comparison, however, it’s an even more curious instance in Asian territories where Asians comprise of local entertainment figures on a regular basis compared to foreigners, and so the worry is much less than in America.
It’s…interesting if not slighty stomach-churning, that a film like Fullmetal Alchemist can supposedly set itself in the fictional world of Amestris as illustrated in Arakawa Hiromu’s 2001 shonen manga and still get away with presenting its cast as a bunch of Europeans who can seemingly speak Japanese while having some seriously white names. That’s also not to suggest the film’s director, Sori Fumihiko, didn’t do a pretty impressive job trying to craft a whole two hour movie from a 27-volume manga that turned over two whole animated shows totaling more than 100 episodes.
Indeed, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the animes and I haven’t gotten back to them for reference before seeing this film, although there are several things I do remember enough to compare and contrast. And assuredly, Sori did make several sacrifices and changes – like Envy’s lack of fighting prowess and presence of King Bradley – while keeping many of the things that make Fullmetal Alchemist as definitive as it is – the originating and concurrent story elements that introduce the Resembool-born Elric brothers and childhood friend, Winry, and character favorites like Mustang, Hughes, Hawkeye and Ross, as well as the egregious turning point from military scientist Shou Tucker’s chimera experiments.
Of course, you also get near-infallible incarnations of the opening green hills where the Elrics’ grow up, a riveting chase sequence in which our hero Alchemist siblings, Ed and Alphonse race to catch a maniacal priest using a philosopher’s stone to wreak havoc unto the idyllic town of Reole and a number of other things that Sori uses to not only sprawling narrative to life, but condense it in something of a balanced way.
Most of the actors do a decent job on honing in their characters. Most notable among the lot in this regard is Fujioka Dean who plays a military Colonel whose fire Alchemy is the end-all-be-all to almost any situation while Yamada Ryosuke, starring as Edward Elric, balances acting with real talent next to a CG character designated as the animated armor in which the soul of his brother, Alphonse, resides. Hongo Kanata and Uchiyama Shinji are the supporting lot for Matsuyuki Yuko in the role of Lust, leading the trio of otherworldly demons known as Homunculi throughout Amestris as they advance Genreral Hakuro’s endgame.
More could have been done to probably make this a fast-perfect adaptation, but it’s fair to say that plenty of effort went into harnessing as much out of this IP for a live-action adaptation as Sori could. There’s no deying. That said, I can’t say I’m not bothered that there isn’t a white cast in this movie, or even a mostly caucasian roster conducive to the film’s European setting, but I can certainly appreciate what Sori tries here, aided no less by Arakawa’s own screenplay. I’m even inclined to see what a sequel would entail given how it all plays out; The budding Armstrong sibs could use an introduction as well as Bradley’s son, Pride, Xing family Ling Yao and his tough-as-nails ninja troupe, and that of Izumi Curtis, the authoritative mentor who taught the Elrics’ how to survive and fight for their upbringing. All that and so much more…
This, of course, is only possible if you can suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy a cast of Europeans speaking and addressing each other in Japanese. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself as conflicted as I am while you sit in bittersweet silence and watch as this movie gets more than the praise it deserves for at least being the visual treat it needed to be for its mass appeal. Besides, with Hollywood’s own notorious applications of Asian IP treatments, in this regard, I’d say Yellowface here is the least of our worries.
There’s no question that 2017 saw a hell of a year it had with live-action anime flicks. The good news is that the feedback has been largely positive on all fronts and now director Sori Fumihiko’s own offering with an adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist now looks to share in the glory with Yamada Ryosuke leading the cast.
Edward Elric, a young, brilliant alchemist, has lost much in his twelve-year life: when he and his brother Alphonse try to resurrect their dead mother through the forbidden act of human transmutation, Edward loses his brother as well as two of his limbs. With his supreme alchemy skills, Edward binds Alphonse’s soul to a large suit of armor.
A year later, Edward, now promoted to the fullmetal alchemist of the state, embarkson a journey with his younger brother to obtain the Philosopher’s Stone. The fabled mythical object is rumored to be capable of amplifying an alchemist’s abilities by leaps and bounds, thus allowing them to override the fundamental law of alchemy: to gain something, an alchemist must sacrifice something of equal value. Edward hopes to draw into the military’s resources to find the fabled stone and restore his and Alphonse’s bodies to normal. However, the Elric brothers soon discover that there is more to the legendary stone than meets the eye, as they are led to the epicenter of a far darker battle than they could have ever imagined.
There’s at least one key cast member’s portrayal still a mystery, although the newest trailer that arrived late Tuesday deals greatly into some striking new imagery. This further includes a little more screentime with the Elric brothers, another look at the Homunculi as well as The Gate Of Truth, the long-sought after Philosopher Stones and more of Fujioka Dean’s fire alchemy as Roy Mustang. You also get a look at one of the pivotal supporting characters from the original 2001 manga and subsequent anime; she’s often poked at in memes to trigger otakus and if you’re familiar with FMA, you’ll know her when you see her.
It’s also worth noting that previous reports have stated this film intends to tell the whole story which to me is still…well… daunting considering the size and scale of the source material. Alas, I digress. December 1 is the date and so who am I to rain on WB Japan’s parade?
Check out the trailer below!
Can Sori-san pull it off? I really don’t know and the trailers, as ample as they are in just showing the necessary bits and pieces to stir hype, don’t really speak much to the aforementioned m.o.. It’s a big story with a lot of characters and my guess is some have been written out in the course of its development. At any rate, we’ll find out soon enough, but you’re bound to be in full view of some of the more outstanding principles from the good and evil spectrum.
This year, I’ve found myself a new hobby in catching up with as much anime that I’ve missed in the last fifteen years or so as I possibly can. I’m having fun with it as I’ve already seen five series and currently in the middle of a sixth, which now brings me to even more homework I’ll be doing between now and 2017.
For this, I speak of the sci-fi action series, Fullmetal Alchemist which debuted a manga from author Arakawa Hiromu in 2001 before venturing into several animated shows and a feauture film in the decade that followed. Reports in the last 12 hours from Japanese media outlets (forwarded through Crunchyroll) are now buzzing over news of a new feature film in the works for 2017 with Ashita no Joe helmer Sori Fumihiko directing and Hey! Say! JUMP’s own Yamada Ryosuke (Assassination Classroom) cast to portray protagonist, Edward Elric.
For those as familiar as I am with the franchise, it goes a little something like this:
Imagine a world in which Alchemy is not only possible, but used frequently. Alchemy, though, is a science, and with all sciences there are laws that must be followed. Welcome to the anime, Full Metal Alchemist. The story begins about two brothers, Alphonse and Edward Elric. Ever since they were young they had practiced the science of alchemy. You follow their journey of being alchemists and their quest to regain that which they have lost.
Their father was a well recognized alchemist, which is probably where their knack for it comes from. However, when they were young their father left, and they remained in the care of their mother. One day their mother died, and in their innocence and ignorance, they attempted what was forbidden, human alchemy.
What happened next, they were obviously not prepared for, and in the aftermath the brothers lost more than just their mother. In the freak accident Alphonse loses his body, and in a moment of panic Edward ties his brother’s soul to a piece of armor. Edward himself loses an arm and a leg, a costly reminder of what has happened.
The story begins and details the brother’s journey to find a alchemy amplifier so that they may return to their normal bodies.
Filming is expected to commence in Italy from June through August with production utilizing CG to erect Alphonze’s armor.
Keep your eyes peeled! I’ll be over here on Netflix playing catch-up in the meantime!