Denver fans of cutting-edge Japanese manga and anime can immerse themselves this week in the alternate steampunk European world of “Fullmetal Alchemy,” a popular series of comic and animated TV series and feature films that have captivated audiences on both sides of the Pacific since 2001, when the series launched in Japan as a serial comic.
The latest output of the franchise, “Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos,” continues the compelling tale of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who are famous alchemists — scientists who can use their powers to change the molecular structure of objects and materials. Edward lost a leg and then an arm, and Alphonse his entire body when they tried unsuccessfully to use alchemy to bring back their mother to life after she died of an illness. Alphonse’s soul is contained in an armor.
In the new film, the Elric brothers track down a fugitive alchemist with unknown powers to a city where the Milos, a downtrodden people, are rebelling against their oppressors. The Elrics are drawn into the battle, and befriend a young woman who wants to lead the Milos even if it means using the Philosopher’s Stone, the powerful catalyst that could restore Edward and Alphonse’s bodies.
The film is a thrill ride of cutting-edge animation and action, and even if you’re not familiar with anime in general of the “Full Metal Alchemist” franchise, you’ll be immediately drawn into the sci-fi reality and soon forget you’re watching an animated movie.
It’s also, like many modern anime, a reality that’s outside of the racial parameters of live-action film, or even old-school anime. The genre is not one that’s tied to Japan or Japanese culture, especially since the characters are clearly Caucasian and the setting is a Euro-fantasy world.
I kind of miss the references to Japanese culture that older anime used to have embedded because the stories were created by Japanese originally for Japanese audiences. Classic titles like “Akira,” for instance, could be “Neo Manhattan” (like the proposed Hollywood remake with all Caucasian cast before the stupid project got shelved) except the anime had scenes like one in a late-night ramen shop.
But the world of “Fullmetal Alchemy” isn’t about an identifiable Earthly place. And that’s OK. The story is great, the animation is fantastic and the film is worth a look.
In keeping with its cutting edge, modern production values, “Fullmetal Alchemy: The Sacred Star of Milos” is promoted on social media via Facebook and Twitter, and the studio is urging fans to demand theaters to bring the film to their towns.
Denver’s lucky; the film is showing this week through Thursday at the Denver Film Center at 2510 East Colfax in Capitol Hill. Don’t miss it while it’s here.