Fish and Cherries Productions

Creative content from a mad mind.


Reel Snippet – Fullmetal Alchemist

Summary: The science of alchemical transmutation is based on the Law of Equivalent Exchange (in order to use alchemy to create, say, a cabinet, you need the exact volume of wood and metal found in cabinets). It is for this reason that there is a taboo on human transmutation, for what could be equal to a human soul? Brothers Edward (Ryosuke Hamada) and Alphonse Elric (Atomu Mizuishu) find this out the hard way when a disastrous attempt to resurrect their mother* with alchemy leaves Ed missing two of his limbs and Al a disembodied soul bound to a suit of armor. This begins their quest to find the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, which can allegedly allow for alchemy without equivalent exchange. Thus they become members of the military to gain more resources for their quest, but soon trip over a conspiracy of death involving three humanoid superbeings — Lust (Yasuko Matsuyuki), Envy (Kanata Hong?), and Gluttony (Shinji Uchiyama) — who have a vested interest in the Philosopher’s Stone that can only lead to bad things.

*Some of the cast, like Trisha Elric, have not been credited on IMDB or Wikipedia and I don’t know how to read Japanese kanji.

Review: Fullmetal Alchemist, based off of the legendarily popular manga and anime series, is a fairly faithful re-creation and rather entertaining to boot. Of course, I’ve been a fan of the series for a long time, so it’s hard for me to judge how it would look from an outsider’s perspective. I was personally able to follow the plot, which is a condensed telling of numerous episodes, but again I knew the details beforehand. Still, it’s pointless to talk in broad strokes without going into details, so let’s dive in.

Visually, the film is a spot on re-creation with some new flashy bits. It’s interpretation of alchemy is stunning, with matter deconstructing into little particles before our eyes before reforming into something new. I gotta give the acting credit too as everyone feels like the characters they portray. Special mention goes to Captain Maes Hughes (Ryuta Sato) who is a dead ringer and Shou Tucker (a.k.a. The Best Dad In The World (Yo Oizuma)) captures the… multiple facets of his personality, though Gluttony, Mustang (Dean Fujioka), and the Elric brothers are runners-up. Apart from maybe some kids at the beginning, there isn’t a bad performance in here.

However, I feel like its strength is also a bit of a weakness at parts in that it can be a little too faithful in some areas. The costumes, while accurate, feel more like cosplay than actual outfits. A more egregious example is the infamous chimera scene where the beast is just a CGI re-creation of what was in the anime and manga, even using the exact same distorted voice. It felt like a cheat, particularly because it didn’t look like, er, the parts used to make it. While it did have a creepy, unnatural way of moving, I feel like mixing in practical effects would have helped. Then again, given how lackluster the practical effects for Gluttony’s stomach-eye were, maybe it’s better this way.

That’s not to say everything’s identical to the source material as there are quite a few differences. In particular, the climax involves a lot of truncated events that actually serve to streamline the movie. Unfortunately, the abridging of events leads to some unfortunate role reductions, with Hawkeye (Misako Renbutsu) in particular getting insultingly little to do. There’s also a bit character that had his part expanded (presumably as a substitute for Fuhrer Bradley until he shows up in the sequel) and some other changes that are minor, but impactful. Scar and Colonel Armstrong are nowhere to be found, Shou Tucker has a much larger role, and Hughes and his wife (Natsuki Harada) are childless, thus robbing the movie of the possibility of re-creating one of the anime’s most powerful scenes (which admittedly wouldn’t have happened anyway because of how events played out). All in all, while some of the cuts were regrettable, they at least allowed the movie some flow to get through everything it needed to.

It’s funny, although I came away enjoying the movie, I find myself remembering more negatives than positives. That’s probably because the positives were in the source material to begin with. Fullmetal Alchemist is such a great story that it’s almost impossible to screw up unless you hand it to M. Night Shyamalan. I don’t know how well newcomers will be able to follow it, but I was definitely into it. I hate to use the excuse of “it’s for the fans…” so I won’t. Instead, I’ll say, “Give it a try.”

Fun Tidbit: That ain’t no wig, folks — actor Ryosuke Hamada grew out and dyed his own hair to get Edward’s trademark blond ponytail.

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