Live action adaptations of anime is not a new concept. In fact, a quick internet search will reveal that anime have been adapted into live-action films since the 1970s. As exciting as it can be to see your favorite anime heroes being brought to life, it is a very risky business. A poor cast of characters, overuse or under-use of special effects, and even the wrong choice of background music can easily turn an animated masterpiece into a live-action dumpster fire (see: Dragon Ball Evolution).
With the 2015 release of “Attack on Titan”, the recent release of “Ghost in the Shell”, and the much anticipated release of “Bleach”, one much overlooked live action anime adaptation in the making is actually one of the most beloved anime in history: Fullmetal Alchemist.
Traditionally, live action anime films have very low chance for success, simply due to the degree of difficulty of turning crazy anime fights in a crazy anime world into “real life” (see: Fist of the North Star, 1995). However, a glimpse at this “Fullmetal Alchemist” trailer, set for release in December 2017, speaks a different story.
Simply put: it looks amazing.
First of all, I love the decision to stick to a Japanese cast. Many anime-to-film producers are often tempted into casting Americans in an effort to appeal to the growing fan base in the West. The effects can often result in shameful hilarity, much akin to watching a Chinese kung-fu movie dubbed in English. One must wonder if “Ghost in the Shell”, which is set in a futuristic Japan, would have been much more successful in the box office if Major Motoko Kusanagi had been played by a little known Japanese actress rather than the infamous Scarlett Johansson.
In the case of “Fullmetal Alchemist”, even in spite of the fact that the original anime itself is supposedly based on an industrializing Western society, the Japanese cast is a near perfect reflection to the original anime characters in their appearance, action, and speech. Mad props to the costume team!
Second, and again judging solely based on the trailer, the scenes imply that the producers had intended to stay true to its source material. A brief action sequence involving Edward’s duel with the Fire Alchemist Roy Mustang and brief cut scenes of heartfelt moments with his brother is both reminiscent and nostalgic to the fans’ familiarity with the original story line. Rather than trying to get clever by attaching a new story to a set of classic characters. The producers seem to have played their cards right by sticking to what the fans know and love.
Finally, the graphics, look, amazing. One of the biggest make-or-break moment for live action anime adaptation is how real the crazy anime graphics look in live action sequence. In an anime like “Fullmetal Alchemist” that revolves around the use of alchemy to create, destroy, or transform objects and beasts, the right use of special graphics is pivotal. A poor utilization of graphics can distract the audience and turn a perfect story line into a pathetic comedy show full of cheap magic tricks. From what has been revealed in the trailer, the amount of graphics is just right. Rather than throwing in a load of over-the-top CGI to push for more high-powered action shots. The film relied on the right blend of action and display of emotions from the characters to drive the story along.
The trailer promises great things. Anime fans have every reason to be excited about this long-overdue adaptation. On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether or not the film itself can deliver on the magnificent foretaste that is found in the trailer. One thing is for sure: it won’t have Nicholas Cage playing Roy Mustang or Sean Connery playing Father.
I, for one, am grateful to the anime gods for that.