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The Second “Fullmetal Alchemist” Movie is An Overstuffed Marathon

A good and faithful adaptation of manga and anime is a lot like alchemy; it requires the right balancing of all its ingredients to be created correctly. Awkward prologues aside, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Revenge of Scar is the second live action adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s iconic manga. Fullmetal Alchemist has been transmuted into two anime, each with their own related movies, as well as a live action film, released in 2017, directed by Fumihiko Sori.

The first film tried to be loyal in terms of capturing the look and feel of the manga. Unfortunately, its efforts made it resemble a hi-def fan film; plagued by wooden acting and questionable special effects. That, and cherry picking iconic moments from the manga/anime whilst lacking the heart that made it so special. The sequel, The Revenge of Scar, handles the source material a little more coherently, but still suffers from the same issues as the first.

The Elric brothers; Edward (Ryosuke Yamada) and Alphonse (voiced by Atom Mizuishi), continue to search for a way to mend their broken bodies following their taboo attempt to resurrect their mother.  The film opens with the Elrics catching a train following an unknown excursion. Then, never once mentions the enormous conspiracy they uncovered in the first film involving the state military and the sinister Homunculi. Instead, the movie hits the ground running in a race to cover as much in the film as possible.

The major threat of the film is Scar, an Ishvalan warrior monk who murders State Alchemists to avenge his people; the victims of a terrible war. Scar is played by a mostly statuesque Mackenyu Arata, son of the late Sonny Chiba, lacking the simmering rage and eventual conflict of the character. Sadly, this absence of personality extends to most of the overstuffed cast. The film introduces a number of supporting characters, who mostly appear for a couple of scenes before vanishing. Although physically resembling their manga counterparts, the characters lack in depth. In some cases, the need for accuracy works against them, as in the case of the muscle-bound Major Alex Louis Armstrong; portrayed by the more stout Koji Yamamoto, whilst low angle camera shots are used to make him look taller.

Ryosuke Yamada appears more comfortable in the lead role, sporting a better blonde wig; capturing Edward’s charm, intellect, and hot-headedness more naturally. Alphonse remains a computer-generated character, which remains problematic, disappearing for vast lengths of time or reduced to a background role. I can understand the difficulties portraying a character who is a literal suit of armour and lacking a face; but Al’s increasing absence really effects the flow of the story, especially when Ed has no one to talk to.

As with the first film; the cinematography, sets, and costumes are well handled, even if the special effects are wobbly at times. There are a large amount of subplots all in play which are handled with uneven focus. As soon as we meet one new character or establish the next subplot, we leap away to the next plot without time to get to know anyone in the expansive cast. We meet Ling Yao (Keisuke Watanabe), a Xingese prince hunting the Homunculi to acquire their immortality, accompanied by his guards Lan Fan (Yui Kuroshima) and Fu (Toshio Kakei). The Homunculi remain entertaining, but their presence remains rather trivial even when the story tries to focus on their mysterious goals.

A lot of the scenes involve the cast standing around stone-faced, delivering dialogue with grave urgency like an office briefing. The overall experience is hampered by this unbalanced sense of tone; leaping between super seriousness and melodrama.

The heart of the film lies with Tsubasa Honda as Winry Rockbell, the Elrics’ childhood friend, whose own past collides with that of Scar when it becomes apparent that he murdered her parents during the Ishvalan war. This leads to a harrowing stand off midway through the film that remains one of the most heart-breaking moments from both the manga and the anime Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Edward and Winry have one of the few layered relationships within the movies.

The third movie has recently been released on Netflix, concluding this ultimately hollow trilogy. If you are wondering if it is any better, it’s not!

What are your views on the Fullmetal Alchemist film trilogy? What would make for an improvement? Leave a comment below, or on our Twitter feed.

About the author

Mark Russell