'Fullmetal Alchemist' Director Reveals Why He Needed An All-Japanese Cast

Casting isn’t an easy thing when it comes to live-action anime projects. In Hollywood, films like Ghost in the Shell have been lambasted over whitewashed talent, but Japan’s take on Fullmetal Alchemist also raised some brows. Some were surprised the European-influenced series filled its film cast with Japanese stars, but the film’s director says the decision was an easy one.

Recently, Fumihiko Sori appeared at the 30th Tokyo International Film Festival to talk about his work on Fullmetal Alchemist. It was there the director said his film needed an all-Japanese cast to follow through with its emotional core.

“The heart part of the original manga is perfectly Japanese, and the brother relationship between Ed and Al is also unique to Japanese. It may be possible to recreate the manga characters' visuals in a Hollywood's big-budget film, but the heart part must be shifted,” the director said via Eiga.

“I think it must be an ultimate choice to decide which part should be given priority. But focusing more on the soul part, we reached the conclusion that it must be very difficult unless they were played by Japanese actors."

Continuing, the director said he is confident his film respects Fullmetal Alchemist’s original manga.

“Principal photography was held in Italy. There were so many Italian fans (of the series) and they also wanted the characters to be played by Japanese, saying 'Because it is a Japanese content.' By producing it as a Japanese film, we can closely talk with the original creators, and it is surely going to be a film that keeps respect for the original manga."

So far, reviews for the live-action adaptation have been varied. Japanese fans who have screened the movie appear to be responding well, but western publications like Variety greeted Fullmetal Alchemist with a lukewarm reception.

If you are not familiar with Fullmetal Alchemist, then you have plenty of time to watch the anime before its live-action film arrives. The series follows brothers Edward and Alphonse after their mother tragically passes. They attempt to use alchemy to resurrect her, but the attempt takes Edward’s arm and leg - and it takes Alphonse’s entire body. Determined to get their bodies restored, Edward and Alphonse try to become State Alchemists so they can find the location of a powerful item known as the Philosopher’s Stone. But their journey ultimately leads them into a seedy world of government corruption and mass genocide.