Streaming Releases: The Law of Equivalent Exchange: Fullmetal Alchemist (2018) - Reviewed

I’m not a huge fan of anime, but I have a couple favorite series and Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA) is my number one. On the surface, FMA seems like your run-of-the-mill anime with gigantic over-the-top action sequences and characters with sharp pokey hair – which is some of the appeal anime brings to the Western hemisphere, but FMA’s story cuts deep with its questions about morality, how a person should represent them, and its philosophy on the importance of a human life. My favorite part about this anime is in the title – alchemy. The use of fantasy/magical science in this series is so fascinating and extremely entertaining. To make it even more interesting, alchemy is regarded as the highest skill humanity can possess. There is a dichotomy between the military and its country of Amestris - similar to many developing countries in the world today.

FMA follows the two Elric brothers Edward (Ryosuke Yamada) and Alphonse (Atom Mizuishi). After learning about alchemy from their absent father’s studies, they lose their mother to cancer and try to bring her back to life with human transmutation, but this act is considered taboo and is outlawed by the military. After the situation goes horribly wrong, Alphonse loses his soul and Edward loses his right arm and his left leg in what is called, “the laws of equivalent exchange.”  Edward procures Alphonse a new body and they both become State Alchemists which is where the real story begins.

The series is full of characters within the country Amestris’ many races, too much to put into one movie, I guess. The feature length live action movie’s running time is a whopping two hours and fourteen minutes and still only scratches the surface of this densely expansive series. Concentrating on only a few major plot points woven into the story, the movie still makes sense, but fails in comparison to the anime which leads me to believe there will be at least one more live action feature length film coming. Hopefully then, we’ll see the other characters even though supporting, that are important to Ed and Al’s desperate search. General Armstrong, Scar, Teacher, and the other four Homunculi (each one named after a Deadly Sin) are missing. So far, we’re only introduced to Colonel Roy the Flame Alchemist Mustang (Dean Fujioka), Winry Rockbell (Ed and Al’s childhood friend played by Tsubasa Honda), Dr. Marcoh, Lieutenant Hawkeye, Ross, the homunculi Lust (Yasuko Matsuyuki), Envy (Kanata Hongô), Gluttony (Shinji Uchiyama), Captain Maes Hughes (Ryûta Satô), and Shou the Sewing-Life Alchemist Tucker (Yô Ôizumi), the latter two being major plot points that left viewers in anguishing tears because their stories are so sad.

Outside of all these missing characters and ultra-compressed storytelling, Fullmetal Alchemist is a sight for sore eyes with its stunning landscapes, vibrant colors, and gorgeous cinematography. Each transitional still-frame scene, heroic pose, architecture, and wardrobe design is plucked right from the anime. The music is mysteriously ominous in all the correct places and silly at the perfect moments where Ed and Al goof off to showcase the tragic truth of these adolescent boys throwing themselves into an adult life for the sake of family. Surprisingly the use of CGI is impeccable, bringing all the alchemy to life without looking cheap. Many reviews are negatively skewed probably because the anime is almost perfect while this movie is underwhelming, but this FMA fan is pleased with how it all turned out. I highly suggest giving it a watch for its exceptional acting and beautiful exterior.