The Fullmetal Alchemist movie was filmed in Italy. It stars two brothers named Edward and Alphonse. Yet the cast is Japanese, and the characters speak Japanese. Director Fumihiko Sori recently explained why he thought the actors needed to be Japanese.
[Image: Warner Bros Japan]
On Twitter, Sori writes that while the location and the names were Western, the characters’ inner selves were “exceedingly Japanese”. Continuing, he adds that Hiromu Arakawa also wrote the manga’s famous lines in Japanese.
“The most important point in this story is the relationship of the bond between the brothers,” Sori explains. “I don’t think anything is different from the feelings of love between siblings around the world.” However, he does believe that the standing younger and older brothers have is different based on the country. Which is true to a point.
“Since culture and the way people thinks differs greatly from country to country, I think it’s impossible to entrust this Japanese style story and characters with Japanese mentality to foreign actors.”
“Ultimately, it was a choice between facial features or what’s inside,” Sori explains. “Which answer is correct varies from person to person,” he continues. “For this movie, because I was putting so much importance on the characters’ mental state, I picked a Japanese cast.”
Sori confesses that he was worried about having a Japanese cast juxtaposed with the European setting, but was relieved the movie got a positive reaction at its New York screening. (You can read Kotaku‘s review here.)
Out of all the reasons Sori gives, I think the strongest one is the language. The original manga is in Japanese, and while the characters are foreign, they have been put through a Japanese filter that is linguistic and, in turn, cultural. Having Japanese actors (or even Japanese speaking ones) does keep the live-action movie closer to the original source material – or, at least, the spirit of it – even if the characters’ appearances differ.