Preview highlights loyalty to source material’s character motivations.
The live-action Ghost in the Shell hits Japanese theaters today, a refreshingly short one week after its U.S. release. There’s another much-loved anime franchise that’s swapping its animated characters for flesh-and-blood actors this year, though, in the form of the live-action adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist.
In contrast to the several years of stumbling false starts for Ghost in the Shell, Fullmetal Alchemist has had pretty smooth ride into the live-action world. First announced last May, the producers quickly assembled a cast and crew and began filming in an unspecified Italian location a month later. A teaser video was released in November, and now there’s a longer trailer with brand-new footage of star Ryosuke Yamada as protagonist Edward Elric, as well as the first glimpse of the helmet/head of disembodied younger brother Alphonse.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the film has been just how much of the original manga and anime the film is going to cover. The original narrative ends up in a very different place from where the story begins, and the presence of such early-installment-only antagonists such as Cornello and Tucker had some fans expecting large chunks of source material to be jettisoned for the sake of making a story that can fit comfortably within a single movie’s run time. But the new trailer begins with a scene of Ed and Al as young boys, and their dialogue shows that they are set on their path to adventure by the same motivation as they had in the original story: a desire to bring their mother back to life through a magic ceremony.
“But you’re not allowed to use alchemy to make a human being, right?”
“Don’t you want to see Mom again?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Then that settles it.”
Likewise, the text that flashes on screen translates to “The arm and leg of the older brother, and the younger brother’s entire body, were taken by the forbidden alchemy. Their adventure to take back everything they’ve lost begins.”
Speaking of those missing limbs, the new trailer shows off Ed’s “automail” mechanical arm.
Something else worth pointing out is that while some other anime-to-Japanese-live-action adaptations have shifted their settings for the sake of congruence with their Japanese casts, such as the live-action Attack on Titan taking place in Japan or the events of the live-action Kiki’s Delivery Servce transpiring in “a town in Asia,” the Fullmetal Alchemist movie seems content to stick with the vaguely European locales of its source material. A shot of the Elric brothers’ mother’s grave shows the headstone marked in both Latin letters and a runic script, but no Japanese text of any kind.
It’s also somewhat intriguing that the trailer bills this as the beginning of Ed and Al’s adventure. While that’s definitely true in the sense of the live-action film being the first installment of its own continuity, it’s hard not to think that the producers are hoping audience reactions are positive enough to warrant sequels, especially after the success Warner Brothers Japan, the film’s distributor, had with the live-action Rurouni Kenshin trilogy. All of that will depend on how well Fullmetal Alchemist performs at the box office, though, when it opens on December 1.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s glad that neither he nor his two brothers ever lost any limbs on the boyhood adventures.