Why Japanese Actors Star In The Live-Action Fullmetal Alchemist Movie

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.


    Well yeah, the characters may have been foreign in name and setting, but they were entirely fictional and a reflection of the Japanese culture itself.
    That would've been a nightmare to cast in that sense and the end result would be a colossal mess at its best.

    Let's take some of these quotes (slightly altered) and think of them in regards to the recent 'Ghost in the Shell' adaption:"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 European cast."Uh oh. That is a bad excuse. Let's try again:...while the location and the names were Asian, the characters' inner selves were "exceedingly European".Wow. That is amazingly horrible. Another:...he was worried about having a European cast juxtaposed with the Japanses settingAs you would be given our current outrage culture, hoo boy!

    So yeah. Don't bullshit, just state the truth: The reason Japanese actors star in the live-action adaption is because the film was first-and-foremost made for a Japanese audience, requiring actors that speak fluent Japanese, and Japan is highly homogeneous. Everything else is just ridiculous excuse making.

      The "inner characters" and the setting of GiTS were modern Asian so you argument doesn't make that much sense...Fumihiko Sori was absolutely right in that Japanese manga does have this habit of creating very Asian characters in western settings. Think of the large amount of medieval themed manga (particularly fantasy ones) where the characters come of very Japanese in certain places...

      Would have been more appropriate if you dug up a Japanese remake of a western book.

        What is it about the characters in Fullmetal Alchemist that make them "very Asian characters in western settings" exactly?

    Agreed. They couldn't even bother with making the ED actor grow his hair out instead of the horrible extensions... This always pisses me off. Just make the characters look asian in the manga and anime and it would be fine. The reason they rarely do this broaches a very awkward and strange subject. No characters in any manga or anime really act Japanese. No real Japanese would express opinions or emotions like they do in manga and anime. At least least not in any way that could be worth making an action/adventure or Scifi about... It's why the acting seems so exaggerated/ unrealistic, because that is exactly what it is. The reason the characters act so westernized compared to people who are born in and live in Japan (I believe) is a result of the cultural oppression of emotional expression. It wouldn't make for an entertaining romance story if the lovers didn't kiss or hug in public. A protagonist wouldn't be very badass or admirable if he didn't openly and accutely dissagree with his superiors or peers
    about whatever injustice they find themselves up against. It just just wouldn't be entertaining if the characters acted Japanese the excuse the director made was a lie. The real reasons would take him ages to explain (not tjat je would be likely to...It's a broad and complicated topic...

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now