The anime Fullmetal Alchemist takes place in a Germanic-inspired fictional realm where “alchemy,” a kind of magical science, plays a major role in society’s technological developments and the nation’s military might. It has a vaguely steampunk, European Industrial Revolution-style aesthetic, and is known for its dazzling action sequences — like one where its lead character uses alchemy to summon a complicated spear out of particles of sand.
That scene, as it’s presented in a trailer for the upcoming live-action adaption of Fullmetal Alchemist, has some fans less than excited for the movie. As with any live-action adaptation, fans require special effects that look real enough to do the franchise justice, which already seem to be lacking.
Overuse of lower-quality special effects plague most live-action films based on anime, as was the case with Attack on Titan, which traded a bright landscape in the anime for a miserable dark quagmire filled with distortions of the source content.
For Western audiences, at least, they also long for a Fullmetal Alchemist cast that genuinely resembles the original characters. Because the setting is something of an alternate reality Germany (there’s even a “Führer” ruling over the industrialized military), some wonder why the actors aren’t all Caucasian.
The Elric brothers, the two leads in the series, are both yellow-blondes. Edward is basically a maimed magician cyborg and the other, Alphonse, is a soul bonded to a giant suit of armor.
After their single mother dies of illness, the Elric brothers teach themselves the forbidden alchemy transmutations that could theoretically resurrect her. But instead, the process costs Edward an arm and a leg (literally) and Alphonse his entire body. Much of the series follows the two of them joining the military as state-sanctioned alchemists to pursue the resources that might aid them in restoring their bodies.
Both of their physical predicaments present visual problems when translating the characters to live-action, which concerns many fans about the prevalence of CGI in the film.
Further, in the anime and manga the two brothers are still teenagers, but for the live-action adaptation, Edward is aged up to 20 years old. Does it create some kind of continuity error and/or completely jeopardize some of the themes at play with regards to developing maturity and Edward growing up as a pawn of the military?
For the year or so since stills and footage of the film have been released, fans have also taken to the Fullmetal Alchemist subreddit to wonder things like, “Am I the only one around here who thinks the all Japanese cast of the live action Fullmetal Alchemist movie is a bad idea?”
Even the names Edward and Alphonse Elric — like that of other characters Winry Rockbell, Roy Mustang, Van Hohenheim, or Maes Hughes — are distinctly European.
Similar issues with casting were also claimed when it came to the live-action adaptation of Attack on Titan as well — another manga-turned-anime with distinctly German roots in its cultural presentation.
With a dream casting as good as Tom Selleck playing Führer Bradley, it’s tough to argue.
But does all of the concern about Caucasian representation in the Fullmetal Alchemist movie matter when it’s being created by Warner Bros. Pictures for the Japanese film market?
But the fact remains: The Fullmetal Alchemist movie is not being made for the English-speaking Caucasian fans clamoring for whitewashing in their anime film adaptations — and that’s totally okay.
Fullmetal Alchemist will be released December 1 in Japan.