All-Japanese cast set to start filming in Europe next month.

After decades of indifference regarding turning its wealth of animated and comic franchises into live-action productions, Japan has warmed up to the idea in a big way. A growing number of new movies and TV series have anime and manga to thank for their source material, and the latest franchise to get the adaptation nod is Fullmetal Alchemist.

Starting as a manga from Hiromu Arakawa in 2001, the serialized Fullmetal Alchemist comic ran for nine years. It was popular enough to not only be made into an anime that aired concurrently with the manga’s publishing and took the story in its own direction, but also a second, remade anime series that depicted Arakawa’s vision of the latter half of the tale. All three versions were major hits, and now we’ll see if lightning can strike four times in the same place as a live-action Fullmetal Alchemist movie has just been officially announced.

Tapped to play main character Edward Elric is pop star and actor Ryosuke Yamada, a member of the Hey! Say! JUMP boy band who at 165 centimeters (65 inches) tall exactly matches the stated height of Fullmetal’s vertically challenged hero. This won’t be Yamada’s first time playing a live-action version of a ponytailed anime lead, as he starred in a 2013 TV drama special based on mystery anime The Case Files of Young Kindaichi, and also in last year’s Assassination Classroom theatrical feature.

Other as-yet announced members of the extensive cast include:
● Tsubasa Honda as Winry Rockbell
● Dean Fujioka as Roy Mustang
● Ryuta Sato as Maes Hughs
● Misako Renbutsu as Riza Hawkeye
● Yo Oizumi as Shou Tucker
● Kenjiro Ishimaru as Cornello
● Yasuko Matsuyuki as Lust
● Shinji Uchiyama as Gluttony
● Kanata Hongo as Envy
● Natsuna as Maria Ross
● Fumiyo Kohinata as Hakuro
● Natsuki Harada as Gracia Hughs
● Jun Kunimura as Tim Marcoh

Looking over the list, a couple of things stand out. One is the presence of early-appearance, short-term antagonists Tucker and Cornello, which points to the film most likely being an adaptation of only the franchise’s opening installments, since Cornello shows up in the first chapter of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, but doesn’t really matter much for the remaining 107.

This would gel with the fact that only three Homunculi, Lust, Gluttony, and Envy, are mentioned. The meat of the manga/anime’s story has Ed crossing paths with seven of the entities, who have presumably been cut because of time or expense constraints, since their superhuman powers and inhuman forms would no doubt be expensive to render for live-action.

There’s also the fact that the cast is entirely Japanese. While many live-action adaptations change characters’ ethnicities to bring them closer to the majority of moviegoers in the primary target market, as Fullmetal Alchemist’s story goes on ethnic conflicts and tensions become an increasingly important part of the narrative. As this would be hard to portray with a monoethnic cast, once again it seems like the film will be focusing more on the opening acts of the story, before such elements become so prominent.

However, the scenery won’t be getting a similar Japanese shift, as filming is scheduled to start next month in Italy. And while the use of Japanese actors and actresses is likely a linguistic, logistic, and marketing-based necessity, director Fumihiko Sori (who also helmed the 2002 live-action film adaptation of manga Ping Pong), says he intends to create as faithful an adaptation as he can, commenting:

“I want to stick to the original work as much as possible. The cast are all Japanese performers, but the cultural background will be European. However, we won’t be specifying a particular ethnicity or nation in the film.”

For her part, though, Arakawa doesn’t sound entirely adverse to some creative changes being made to the series she created, saying:

“Sori is a talented individual when it comes to blending live-action and CG to recreate manga scenes, so I’m looking forward to him showing us Fullmetal Alchemist in a way that’s different than how the anime and games based on it have.”

Optimistic as Arakawa may be, live-action anime adaptations have a fairly spotty record in terms of quality and audience satisfaction, with last year’s two Attack on Titan films being mercilessly ripped apart by both critics and moviegoers for unpopular changes made to differentiate it from the manga and anime. Fullmetal Alchemist, though, is in a unique position in that it has an established record of success with alternate versions, so perhaps audiences will be more open-minded and accepting of the inevitable ways the live-action film will differ from the versions that have come before. We’ll find out in winter of 2017, when the movie opens in Japanese theaters.

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Source: Comic Natalie via Jin