starlady: roy in the sunset at graveside (no rest for the wicked)
[personal profile] starlady
Hagane no renkinjutsushi: Mirosu no seinaru hoshi | Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos. Dir. Murata Kasuya, 2011.

I was, to be quite frank, not expecting very much of of this movie. The last FMA movie, Conqueror of Shangri-La, was a solid B effort with an absolutely infuriating denouement. This movie, however, is set in the midst of the manga storyline (the booklet we were handed when we entered the theater is volume 11.5 of the series) and was pretty kick-ass from beginning to end. It doesn't quite measure up to Arakawa's own storylines, of course, but I was satisfied with the movie all the same. Also, there are werewolves.

As with many of the FMA spin-offs, this movie focuses on one of the countries surrounding Amestris, namely Creta, or more precisely, a certain city on the edge of Creta named Table, and the unusual incidents that are occurring there. After a prison break in Central, Ed and Al head out to Table City in pursuit of one escaped prisoner in particular who wields an entirely new form of alchemical transmutation circles, with unique abilities and effects. Ed and Al don't even make it over the railway bridge to Table before they are thrown into a polymorphous conflict between the Cretan army, the Amestran military occupation force, and Milosian terrorists, the infamous Julia Crichton among them. In the end, the question returns to the Philosopher's Stone, and what people will do for it and with it in the end.

The movie really dials the steampunk elements of the manga up to 11, and though the character design never stopped looking slightly bizarre to me, the animation is really well done, particularly in the action scenes (which are at times so intense that they briefly go manga-style) and the integration of CGI into the animation, shown off to particularly awesome effect in the first major train action sequence. The plot is also unabashedly complicated, with at least four major factions battling each other for and in the city, as well as werewolves, face-stealing, the usual Arakawa elements of ethnic warfare and oppressed refugees turning themselves into an insurgency, and bat-winged terrorists/freedom fighters. I honestly was surprised, when the house lights came up, to see that not even two hours had passed.

The movie also, to my surprise, was rather intense. Not more intense than the manga, to be sure, but there are literally rivers of blood sloshing around by the end (one character even transmutes himself into a blood monster, ew), and at one point one character steals a patch of another character's skin, along with the aforementioned face. Nice.

I was pleased to see, as much as Ed and Al have a meaningful presence in the story, that the plot in the end is largely about the Milosians determining their own fate, and to that end I was entranced by the character of Julia, who reminds me just a little of Juliet from Romeo x Juliet, except with much less hesitation--in that respect she's a bit like Karen Kasumi of Code Geass. But they both have the same long, flame-red hair, and they both know very well on which side they belong, even if Julia in the end is far, far more awesome. She's introduced as a dangerous terrorist despite being about sixteen, is immediately shown to be a school teacher in her spare time, is also an alchemist, and takes the fates of herself and her chosen people firmly into her own hands (along with rifles and knives!) and doesn't waver in the end from her principles no matter who opposes her. And then she survives both her own moral ambiguity and a certain self-inflicted plot development that is normally fatal. JULIA, HOW SO AWESOME.
All this being said, I still prefer the voice cast of the first anime, particularly for Roy. *ducks rocks and cabbages* I also found it a little odd that he's the one who wound up dispensing the movie's moral lesson, though I suppose he got that role at the end of the first anime too, I can live with it.
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