Bleeding Cool contributor Jason Borelli writes from his recent experience at Anime NYC:
Anime NYC wrapped up its inaugural event at the Jacob Javits Center in New York by showcasing Fullmetal Alchemist. The live-action film is based on the popular manga by Hiromu Arakawa, which led to two anime series that aired on Cartoon Network late-night blocks in 2004-2006 and 2010-2011 (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, which was firmly based on the source material). Director Fumihiko Sori talked with the audience through a translator before and after the screening. This was the first screening of the film outside of Japan.
The movie is a loose adaptation of the manga, centering on Edward and Alphonse Elric. The two brothers seek to restore their bodies after an attempt to bring back their dead mother through alchemy goes awry. Edward loses an arm and a leg; those are replaced by prosthetics known as automail. After Alphonse's body disappears, Edward bonds his soul to a suit of armor.
Sori said in an interview following the screening:
"When I made this movie, certainly the manga was the source material. However, I didn't want to make an exact rehash. I wanted something that would be fun for fans, including diehard fans, but also to be enjoyed by newcomers; people who had never heard of or seen Fullmetal Alchemist. I put in some twists, and some that may even surprise or shock fans."
Prior to the screening, Sori talked to the audience about the all-Japanese cast. The manga was set in the fictional country of Amestris, which resembles a European nation, and it had a few Asian characters during its run. In the original shortened anime, those characters were not involved in the story. They would play important parts in the manga and in Brotherhood.
"We didn't go for perfect casting from a visual standpoint. What was important was that we had actors who were capable of expressing and capturing the emotions of the theme and the lore of the series."
Sori went on to talk about themes in Japanese society that were not considered universal, yet hold the film together:
"The characters and setting look very European and very Western. At heart, they are very Japanese in their ways of thinking, their philosophies, and even the spirituality.
For a series like this one, where It's set in the West, to get Western actors where they look like the characters but can still emote the Japanese spirit of the original series, that would be perfect. I'd love to be able to work on a project like that."
The film makes heavy use of special effects, particularly during fights where alchemy is used. In addition, Alphonse Elric is a CGI character, presented as an animated suit of armor with no body inside. Arakawa talked about that as part of a pre-recorded message to the audience. She was joined by Ryosuke Yamada, who played Edward.
"I really thought at first that when I saw the footage that Ed is punching a stand-in Al on set," Arakawa noted, regarding a fight scene between the brothers. "But when I saw that he was added later in post-production . . . I was in awe, and, at the same time, it was my favorite scene."
"I think the most challenging scene [was] between Ed [and] Alphonse, because it's very emotional and yet there are so much visual effects as well. It was a very difficult shoot, but I think it was also the most impressive scene in the movie."
There has been no news regarding screening of Fullmetal Alchemist in North America, but stay tuned for any new info.