It’s Alive! Fullmetal Alchemist is Alive on Netflix

28 Feb

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Watching a retread of a favourite anime as live action can be hit or miss. The earliest I have seen is Lone Wolf and Cub (1972) which introduced me to the genre. This series of films were awesome. The Guyver (1991) was cheesy and Space Battleship Yamato (2010) was one that barely worked. That piece was difficult to compress an epic story arc into one movie. Netflix’s version of Death Note (2017)  can not compare to the Japanese productions decades prior. It did not have enough meat. When considering the Japanese production of Fullmetal Alchemist is now on Netflix, to see this adaptation is a must.

I have read the first few books, and the tightened narrative and visual design had me captivated. With thanks to current CGI rendering technologies, Al simply looks fantastic. Not every bit of the digital action is top-notch. In later parts, when audiences are staring at armies of the undead, the realism takes a dive and I could swear I’m watching The Mummy Returns all over again.

As the story moves from one subplot to another with relative ease, the first adventure went very fast. This tale is compressed and told verbatim. Not every unit from the 27 tankōbon volume series needs to be told to set up the conflict this world faces. If more films are made, I will continue watching.

The story arc of looking for the Philosopher’s Stone becomes the basis of Ed’s quest to save his brother. The reasons are the same, as in Harry Potter’s first book, but the end goal is far sinister. The ethics of toying with human life is explored not only in the original manga but also with TV series, movies and live-action tale. Newcomers get the obligatory introduction needed to understand this larger terror. The Elric brothers miss their mother. When they were young, they thought to bring her back to life was simply a matter of science. However, there’s more to the philosophy and their Frankenstein attempt failed.

The story captures everything important. The performance is a mixed bag. Ryosuke Yamada (Edward Elric) is charming enough to play the lead. He did not have to ham out the same persona from the anime. The same can be said for Tsubasa Honda, who plays Winry. Atomu Mizuishi as Al nails it for being the sensible brother.

With the four tales put together to relate how alchemists cannot play god, the cumulation of what it represents is a terrifying one. The series is almost like Star Wars: The Clone Wars in this way and I have to wonder what else Edward will discover in his travels. This world populated by many wannabe John Dees is a terrifying place, and to see it with the Renaissance Italian backdrop certainly makes this live-action version one to watch. I can not wait until it takes ventures into darker territory to make the supernatural even more terrifying.


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