24 January 2012

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos

So, I LOVE Fullmetal Alchemist. Love, love, love it.. And yesterday I went to the Gateway Film Center in Columbus to see the newest addition to the franchise. Before I hop into my review of the film, please allow me to share this with you: I LOVE COSPLAY! I was so happy to see it at the movie theater--how awesome is that!

(cc)  KEB
From left to right: Amanda as Roy Mustang, Joni as Edward Elric, Kelly as Winry Rockbell, and Ashley as Jean Havoc.

I was nervous to ask to take their picture but they were happy to let me snap one before showtime, and to let me share it with the world.

So...Long live ZAG!  I hope to run into you again in June at Colossal Con.

FILM REVIEWFullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos  

The 2012 film poster.
Animated feature by Bones and Aniplex. Licensed and reversioned in English by FUNimation Entertainment. US distribution by ElevenArts. Film directed by Kazuya Murata and produced by Masahiko Minami. From the manga by Hiromu Arakawa.

Read the official film summary!  


I was lucky enough to see this in the movie theater when it premiered in the US! The theater was packed, and I loved being surrounded by fellow fans. Sometimes the audience members provided interesting commentary during the film (ahem, that would be the people who sat next to me), but overall, I liked that I wasn't alone in my love for the franchise. There were a lot of small details here and there in the film that only a fan would understand, and it was nice to be able to catch these little moments and have my reactions make sense--we all laughed and cringed at the right spots together.

The audience highlights (SPOILERS): everyone laughing when Major Armstrong winks at Winry, and the huge collective groan when Julia's "brother" removes the piece of flesh from his ribs inscribed with a transmutation circle. I think it hurt everyone who watched it...my row was definitely squirming. On top of all that...watching FMA on the big screen really is a sight to behold. It looked good. Very good.  

Here's my report card, AND THERE ARE MORE SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. I also recommend hopping over to Rotten Tomatoes and read what actual film critics have to say about the film--I find I agree with a lot of what they have to say, for both the Fresh and Rotten reviews.

PLOT: When it comes to storytelling, there are two types of tales that exist: a plot-based story and a character-based story. Usually it's one or the other, but some of the best creative works are able to provide a relatively balanced mixture of both. I myself hold a bias towards character-based stories--it's what I like to write and what I like to see/read. So...That being said, FMA: SSM is very, very heavy on the plot and at times I couldn't always follow it. This is also because the film is very, very heavy on the action.

I love action, don't get me wrong, but the pace of the film (after its initial scenes of exposition) shoots out at the speed of light and doesn't let up. This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there was never a dull moment in this film and it always had my full attention. On the other hand, I wasn't always sure of exactly what was going on...I feel like I'd have to view this film a second time in order for me to understand it.

There also seemed to be some continuity errors. This film is NOT a sequel to the series, but a sort of "midquel"...it supposed to take place somewhere around episode 20 in Brotherhood, and the film functions as an added bonus episode--extra fun, but also not necessary to the original story. There were a few moments where I scratched my head and thought, Was it like that in the series? I don't remember. The scenes whizzed by quickly but it did make me question the film's consistency with the pre-established anime series.
The 2012 DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack.

To the film's credit, though, it does provide some interesting parallels to the television series--it was hard not to consider the plight of the Ishvallans (from the first and second series) and compare it to the plight of the Milosians (from the film). And it also did a good job of reiterating the terrible price of the philosopher's stone--it was horrific to see in the series and just as horrific in this film (that freaky bloodbath tower of terror!!!!). The film's strong sense of morality, and its ability to show the dark side of things (as well as the gray, ambiguous side of things) is very consistent with the other works in the franchise. The film truly is representative of the series, there is no mistaking that. Overall Grade: B-

CHARACTERIZATION:  While this story is technically Julia and her brother's, I really, really wanted to see more Ed and Al! There were a couple moments where Al did get to have some time to shine, and his scenes with Julia were always poignant, but Ed's my favorite character and I was bummed that he didn't take center stage more often, instead providing some good action sequences and comic relief.

In terms of the rest of the characters in the film, it was nice to see some familiar faces again (Mustang, Hawkeye, Winry) but they still didn't seem to fit the story exactly--it seemed like they were thrown in just for the sake of appearances...again, a nice nod to fans, but sad for the story itself since they're rendered as throwaway characters. Poor Winry--she's come to the battlefield looking for Ed, and conveniently his automail got messed up so she can work on it (and therefore is relevant to the plot again). However, I don't remember seeing Ed mess up his automail and we don't see Winry working on it--if it happened, it was a blip on the radar and I totally missed it amid all the other things going on. Anyway, in graduate school we talk about showing versus telling in our writing, and this was a film scene in which telling was used instead of showing...so it didn't actually prove to me that Winry was a helpful or relevant character. We're just told she is.

As for new characters, Julia proved to be a sympathetic heroine and I felt I got a nice snapshot of her humanity. The other characters--Miranda, Ashleigh, etc.--although they were interesting enough to forward the plot, I didn't know enough about them to care whether or not they lived or died. And there is a lot of death in this movie, just so you know. Overall Grade: B-

ACTING: Consistently top-notch, as always. I got a warm, fuzzy feeling hearing familiar voices once again, and the new actors performed just as well. I didn't always like hearing the villains burst into long and involved fits of maniacal laughter, but I fault the script for that, not the actors. Overall Grade: A+

ANIMATION: This was a new animation style to adjust to. I could easily tell who everyone was, but visually, there was a clear difference to how the characters are rendered in the film versus the first two series. I like the Brotherhood series' style better overall, but that's just me. I will say though, I kind of like Ed's eyes in this movie (there's like three different colors in them, making them more dynamic) and there were instances where character motion was very organic and fluid. But it still seemed like less emphasis was placed on the artwork of the characters themselves, and more on the "set design" of the movie. There are plenty of gorgeous renditions of the landscape in the film, and so much detail and painstaking care is evident in the scenery, backgrounds, and city design. On the whole the use of color was brilliant. But, as a member of the audience, I'm always more interested in watching characters than scenery, and if there is anything to fault the film's style for, it would be emphasizing background over foreground. 


 Edward Elric in action...*
Image (c) Protected 
Look at those eyes!!!!!!
Image (c) Protected


A composite of screenshots reveal intricate backgrounds and coloring.
Composite by Rei of Wanabrar. Images (c) Protected
See the difference? The background looks better than the characters. In my opinion, it should be the other way around. However, the film still looks good, so it gets an Overall Grade: A-.

MUSIC: I don't know too much about Japanese popular artists, so I'm not sure how valid my opinion will be in regards to the pop songs for the film.  L'arc~En~Ciel did the main theme "Good Luck My Way" (which I think played over the closing credits), and that was fine and suitable for the film. They've been tied to the franchise and are the perfect choice. The opening song, "Chasing Hearts" by Miwa was nice on the ears, but it didn't seem to fit only because it sounded very happy and optimistic while the Wolfman chimera is jumping along the trains.  Kind of conflicting imagery, there....In terms of the film score, Wow! The opening composition that plays during the Harvest Festival (I think that's the name...it was a Something Festival) scene that first shows us Ed and Al, sounded absolutely lovely. It reminded me of some of the music I heard when I lived overseas. The film score was very well done and was effective at heightening emotional tension throughout the movie. I am a fan of Taro Iwashiro now and will look for more of his orchestral compositions. Based on the film's score, I give the music an Overall Grade: A+

FINAL GRADE (Totaled and averaged from above): B-.

WOULD I RECOMMEND? To fans, yes. And pretty much fans only.I think someone unfamiliar with the series would be lost. Although the film does a good job providing exposition for Ed's automail limbs and Al's missing body (the basis for the whole series) I don't think that this would be a complete enough introduction the world that is Fullmetal Alchemist. The newbie audience member would leave with too many questions, in my opinion. Leaving with questions isn't always a bad thing--you want to promote critical, serious thought with the art you've created--but I think they would not only wonder about the plot, but wonder about the mechanics of the FMA universe...as in, plausibility. The series explains the "rules" of alchemy and the "rules" of Amestrian society ok enough, but this film is only a quick peek into a region that bears no importance to the main continuity of the Fullmetal Alchemist saga.

I've heard that this is the last time anything FMA-related will be produced, since the manga has been completed and Brotherhood has finished. I'll be upset if FMA: SSM is indeed the last thing fans have to look forward to, but on its own, fans will be happy with it.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos. Dir. Kazuya Murata. By Yuichi Shinbo. Prod. Masahiko Minami. Perf. Vic Mignogna, Maxey Whitehead, Alexis Tipton (Eng. Dub). Funimation Entertainment, 2012. Film.


  1. Much to love here, but thing that sticks with me is you asking if you could take/use the photo. Ballsy! :)

  2. ...well written review ;) It reeks of interest!


  3. ANITA: Thanks so much! I've been trying to be a bit more assertive and less shy around people, and that includes meeting awesome strangers. I hope this is good practice for Ohayocon--I plan to snap a lot of photos there!

    ELLIOT: Thank you! And thanks for stopping by. Happy to meet a fellow author--I've joined your site as well. :)

  4. Wonderful review and the picture looks even more awesome here. I am totally going to show this to all my friends. Can't wait to see you at Colossal.

  5. Hi Joni! Happy to have met you! I was so glad you dressed up and let me take your picture. It really made my day!

    Yes--looking forward to seeing you at Colossal Con. Maybe I'll be brave and come dressed up too...we'll see.

    Thanks for stoppping by my website! :)


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