Review for Fullmetal Alchemist
Viewed Nov. 19th at Anime NYC, Javits Center
By Melissa Farinelli
Live action anime has had a rough history in film. For every Rurouni Kenshin there are two Attack on Titan, and please don't get me started on Hollywood's interpretation. That's unfortunate considering most source materials for these properties are among the best manga and anime has to offer. One struggle is capturing the action and the fluidity that animation allows without it looking, well, cartoonish. The other is faithfully adapting a story, often several volumes large, into a digestible few hours for a broad audience without losing the themes that made fans fall in love with them in the first place.
Director Fumihiko Sori's adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa's beloved manga series Fullmetal Alchemist certainly tries its best to capture these elements. The delicate balance of lighthearted humor and crushing drama more or less makes its way intact, and the central themes of family and brotherhood weave their way through the story. Excepts fans of the manga and animes should be warned: only about a third of the story is covered, and I personally feel this serves the movie best. Trying to adapt the entire series into anything cohesive would be impossible and even with the cuts there are points where the pacing is a little uneven. Certain characters and story arcs are omitted. Scar and Armstrong are the most notable absences (though during the brief post-show interview, Sori stated if the movie does well he would like to continue and find a way to work them back in a sequel). But overall they knew which narrative moment to highlight that would please the longtime fans, so you almost don't miss them. Almost. My one big complaint was Riza Hawkeye had far too little to do. Actor Misako Renbutsu did great with what she was given, but as a fan of the character I wish she had a few more moments to shine.
The effects budget clearly went into Al's suit of armor which is entirely CGI. He looked fantastic and virtually seamless within the movie. This also meant some of the other effects suffer a little bit in quality. The transmutations were inconsistent, though Mustang's flame alchemy looks quite good, and some of the creature effects were a bit laughable at times. The action pay-off was fairly satifying, most of the time. Both the opening sequence and finale were exciting and well choreographed, though some the smaller skirmishes were too quickly resolved.
Ryosuke Yamada works very well as Edward Elric, playing the petite and cocky, yet devoted and loving elder brother to Alphose's (voiced by Atomu Mizuishi) big-hearted, armoured giant. Ed is one of the most complex characters you'll find in anime, and Yamada runs the emotional gauntlet much like his animated counter part. Al doesn't quite get the same amount of development but he's still loveable and endearing as ever. Tsubasa Honda (Winry), Dean Fujioka (Mustang), and Ryuta Sato (Hughes) round out the cast with strong performances.
Overall, not exactly a knock out of the park but it's a solid line drive. It's clearly crafted with enough love and care for the source material that will leave most fans happy at end. And maybe even pick up few more along way.