by Brooke Nowakowski | Editor-in-Chief
I hate to offer a disclaimer, but in this case, it’s probably for the best. Because upon walking into the lone theater showing the film “Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos”, fully intending to review it for the general public, I was suddenly struck by the prevailing lack of ‘general public’ seated in the rows around me.
You see, when I walk into a dark room full of moviegoers in funky character hats and equally-colorful costumes, I don’t experience the fleeting panic that most would. On the contrary- my overwhelmingly nerdy self feels quite at home. But this isn’t going to sit well with the typical viewer. At least, not immediately. There is no way to avoid the odd crowd and the fleeting nature of films such as these, because… *deep breath*
“Fullmetal Alchemist” is an anime.
Wait! Don’t run! I promise; if you write off an entire genre on the premise of a few loose stereotypes, you’ll be missing out out- big time. Even the layman cinephile can identify Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” in a lineup; and his following hit, “Ponyo”, has earned similar acclaim in the American film circuit. It is in that strain that “Fullmetal Alchemist” makes its big-screen debut, showcasing a concept reminiscent of Miyazaki’s masterful touch.
There is a caveat that begs mentioning. In the United States, “Fullmetal Alchemist” is the property of Adult Swim, a late-night Cartoon Network block geared toward young adults. Unless you have a habit of staying up until the witching hours on the weekends, “Sacred Star” will probably be your first look at the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric; two youngsters hailing from a fantastic mirror of WWII-era Europe. While “Fullmetal Alchemist” is extremely well-known in its native Japan- having been the subject of a long-running comic and two television adaptations- few Americans will understand the significance of Edward’s robotic limbs, or how a suit of armor came to be his brother. Nor is any real explanation given here, a few convoluted flashbacks aside. Yet the film is mercifully driven to spin an original tale in “Sacred Star”, and that it does with definite flair.
Julia Crichton is a girl in crisis; wanted by the Amestrian government for plotting to retake the holy land of her native people, where she and her family once resided. Having lost her parents and brother to assassins in years past, Julia believes herself quite alone in her herculean task- until her brother reappears after escaping prison and pledges himself to her cause. As Edward and Alphonse were commissioned to hunt the ex-convict down, they find themselves woven into a tale of ever-increasing intrigue and mystery, all hinging on the powerful alchemy that drives their own destinies.
It’s an undoubtedly well-formed story, with much to offer fans old and new. Returning voice actor and Dallas native Vic Mignogna lends his talents to Edward with typical aplomb, and equally strong efforts from the rest of the cast leave little to be desired. While longtime fans may be a bit unsettled by the art style- a definite departure from that of the TV show- director Yoshiyuki Takei has obviously been inspired by Miyazaki, and the fluidity of motion and expression in the film itself is held as evidence. It’s not a bad thing. As the eye adjusts, the cinematography seems to come into its own, developing a rhythm that suits the tense finale.
Success in the states has caused “Sacred Star” to earn an extended run in numerous major cities, and you’ll be well-served to catch it while it lasts. If not, expect a release on DVD and Blu-Ray in April, courtesy of Funimation Entertainment.