Movies & TV / Columns

Anime Expo: Fullmetal Alchemist Live-Action Movie Panel Recap

July 15, 2017 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris

During this year’s Anime Expo, Warner Bros. held a panel for the upcoming Japanese live-action adaptation of the smash-hit manga and anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist. The film is based on the beloved original manga of the same name created by Hiromu Arakawa. The manga was adapted into two highly acclaimed anime series, both of which had their own animated films as well. Now, the story moves to the live-action format, from director Fumihiko Sori. Filmmaker Sori was on hand for the panel at AX along with the film’s star, actor Yamada Ryosuke (Assassination Classroom).

The panel began with a look at the film’s latest trailer. Then both special guests Yamada and Fumihiko appeared for a moderated Q&A session, and they answered some questions from the fans as well. Fumihiko Sori started his career as a visual effects artist on such films as the Academy Award-winning classic, Titanic, before he moved onto directing such features as Vexille, Ichi, and Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker. Sori provided some very interesting details for the film, which actually shot on location in Italy. This was a smart choice as it looks like the production maintains its very early 20th century Europe style setting.

Besides the trailer, a sizzle reel of sorts was shown for the film. It ran through a number of familiar characters from the Fullmetal Alchemist saga. Besides the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, the sizzle reel featured appearances from the likes of the live-action versions of Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, Maes Hughes, and the sinister Homunculi: Envy, Greed, and Lust. It looks like the film version will be a fairly faithful retelling from the first fourth or so of Arakawa’s manga, which followed two brothers who use the powers of alchemy in an attempt to resurrect their late mother. The attempt backfires, causing Edward to lose an arm and a leg. The process forces Alphonse to lose most of his body, and now his soul is forced to live inside a suit of armor.

For a live-action Japanese production, the visuals look very strong, especially with how Alphonse has been rendered in the film. I can’t be completely sure, but it does look like there’s some CG trickery mixed with motion capture there. The alchemy mechanics from the manga and anime have also been faithfully represented onscreen, showing how Edward can transmute weapons and tools from the ground. It looks like a signature sequence will have him outrunning smashing pillars in a city street.

For the Q&A session, Fumihiko Sori did talk about plans for a sequel that already appears to be in the works. He gave the impression that some characters who don’t have as big a role in this film, such as Scar, or might not make a big appearance will be showcased more in the sequel, which fans should look forward to. It appears that the whole production received Arakawa’s blessing, which is nice. They panel read a statement from the author, noting how she sees the manga as her “child,” and the live-action movie is like her “grandchild.” Actor Yamada Ryosuke also had some amusing anecdotes about his casting as Edward Elric, joking that he is also somewhat short like Edward (an ongoing gag for the character.

This might not be a masterpiece, but it looks like it will be a fun adaptation of the source material that does well in keeping most of the significant elements intact; especially for a live-action Japanese production. The live-action Fullmetal Alchemist film is due out for a December 1 release in Japan. It does not yet appear to have a distribution deal set up for a US limited theatrical or home video run yet. It wouldn’t surprise me if Funimation Entertainment picks it, since they released the Fullmetal Alchemist anime shows in the US, and they’ve also handled the US distribution of the live-action Attack on Titan films.