On September 16th at Nikufes (Meat Festival) Tokyo 2017, a roundtable with Fullmetal Alchemist anime director Seiji Mizushima and anime producers Hiroshi Kanemaru and Tomoki Misawa was held to discuss the latest trend of anime and manga live action adaptations.
Mizushima worked as the director and storyboarder in the 2003 anime adaptation of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga. When asked about the upcoming Fullmetal Alchemist live action movie, Mizushima criticized the casting by stating “It was a bad idea to only use Japanese actors”. Mizushima went on to explain his thoughts on the film by expressing: “If you asked me whether I think the cast could pull it off, I’d say that no, they can’t” and “It’s hard for actors to capture the look and feel of the original manga”.
Mizushima continued to jab at other live action adaptations such as Gintama, unabashedly asserting “Gintama just looked stupid”, despite the film’s recent success. Kanemaru and Misawa also included Terraformars as another bad adaptation film to add to the list. Ultimately, the trio agreed that 2D animation allows for more freedom and expression than live action.
However, despite all the complaints, Mizushima is still rooting for the film and sees potential, particularly mentioning interest in the use of 3DCG in the film. The three concluded that although they prefer animation, they approve of and appreciate how live action adaptations bring attention to manga and anime from the general population.
The Fullmetal Alchemist live action adaptation is set to premiere as the opening film of the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival on October 25. The film is directed by Fumihiko Sori and stars Ryosuke Yamada as Edward Elric.
Yamada and Sori has addressed the concerns of an all-Japanese cast in the past. In the March issue of CUT, when asked about the hurdles faced during filming, Yamada answered:
First of all, Edward Elric isn’t Japanese, right? Playing [the role] while figuring out how to digest that within myself was something I really struggled with. I thought of how I could show that without making it feel out of place. I think that was a difficult problem that the rest of the cast probably struggled with too. Each one of us prepared for these roles with all our might, facing them earnestly, and I think we completely cleared [the hurdles]. I think that fans of the manga are still in a state of ‘how, how?’ so in regards to that, I think that’s what I want them to feel reassured about.
(translation credit: hagarenmovie.tumblr.com)
Personally, as someone that is adamantly against the whitewashing seen in the U.S, I can understand the criticism towards the decision of an all-Japanese cast based on visual concerns. However, I think we must also acknowledge the vastly different circumstances between a Hollywood production and a Japanese production. In the U.S, there are Asian actors readily available to star in movies that feature Asian characters. In the case of Japan, I am not sure whether the same can be said about Caucasian actors that are fluent in Japanese. One fact that is important to remember is that Fullmetal Alchemist is a Japanese film made for a Japanese audience.