Black Butler Book of Atlantic Review

Black Butler Book of Atlantic

Demons, Grim Reapers, and Zombies?
Why didn’t I watch this sooner?

I’m wondering how much they paid in royalties for Titanic for this one? Pride and Prejudice got a zombie version and this one is definitely Titanic with Zombies. Not that I’m complaining. There’s an absolute delight at seeing our favourite characters cutting loose and not taking it all so seriously. And believe me, you can’t take this one seriously. Where Book of Murder took a more measured tone as it built its atmosphere, Book of Atlantic goes for sheer spectacle and entertainment.

Black Butler Book of the Atlantic

I will admit, a good choice was to leave the other Phantomhive servants on the short so once they boarded the ship we only had Sebastian and Snake at hand (definitely the A Team when it comes to those who work for Ciel). Lizzy and her family were also onboard for an unrelated matter and we also came across familiar faces such as Grell, Knox, Undertaker and Grey as well as the always creepy in a different sense Druitt.

Book of Atlantic - Ciel and Sebastian

With the players in place the story unfolds as Ciel is investigating a Doctor who claims to be able to bring the dead back to life and for whatever reason is demonstrating this on the ship. Naturally he succeeds but the end result is a ravenous zombie that promptly bites the grieving mother. Still, this isn’t about a mass infection but rather there was a whole cargo hold of bodies being transported, again for reasons unclear and not really necessary to know because this story isn’t taking itself seriously enough for that to matter.

The Grim Reapers are involved because dead people who have had their soul collected are kind of supposed to stay dead and apparently it is a great affront when the dead start walking. So you would think the Repears and Ciel’s group would be getting along except of course the Reapers want Sebastian to stay out of it and Ciel, being Ciel is pretty determined to have the final say.

Book of Atlantic - Undertaker

And so the story unfolds with a lot of ridiculous cutlery vs lawn-mower and chain-saw action as Sebastian clashes with the Reapers.

All of it is highly entertaining, even if the story does take a pause long enough for Grell and Knox to ripoff the Jack and Rose moment at the prow of the ship.

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Yana Toboso Artworks Black Butler 1

However, the all-star award goes to Lizzy who despite her determination to be a cute girl is forced into a situation where she finally has to reveal that the scared little blonde girl act really is just an act. All this means is Ciel may be the most helpless in the room but even he gets a bit more direct action than normal taking a gun to multiple zombies. This is certainly a bit more action focused than we’ve seen these members of the cast before but given the circumstances it works well.

Book of Atlantic - Lizzy

I’d also like to say that Undertaker entirely steals the final act and it is brilliant. A character who has been on the edge of things throughout the other series and arcs now takes centre stage and the results are nothing short of brilliant. That said, I’m going to leave that conversation here because otherwise it just plunges us straight into climax spoilers and I really think you should just watch the movie.

The sound is, as usual for Black Butler, spot on. I watched the Japanese version with English subs because I still can’t get used to Sebastian’s English voice (it isn’t bad but I just don’t match that voice with Sebastian and the Japanese voice is brilliant). All of the characters do a solid job though Grell might be a little too subdued at times.

Visually I wasn’t that impressed at times with this. Exterior shots of the boat and the mass of zombie hordes at times seemed very basic and while the characters are beautifully detailed, backgrounds and the like don’t really give off the sense of luxury that you would expect from the setting here. That is probably the biggest complaint I have about this movie is that while if this was an individual episode it would be fine, for a movie I expected a little bit more effort on the visuals.

All and all though, if you are a Black Butler fan, this movie gives you more Black Butler, some of the best characters, some great fight sequences, and some solid character moments. It is a zombie story to be sure, but a zombie story told only the way Black Butler could do it.

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Karandi James
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My Hero Academia: Two Heroes Movie Review

I was pretty surprised that I got to see this. I knew I was going to the city for work but the odds of my intended travel lining up with the week this movie was released were pretty low so I hadn’t even checked where it was airing until I realised that I was in the city at the same time that this was about to be released. Imagine my surprise when not only was it the same week but the local cinema was playing it (even if not a single staff member there seemed to know what the movie was, that it was on, and couldn’t correctly identify the language it was playing in given I was told at least three times when trying to buy a ticket it was in Japanese and then I got the English version). That said, getting to see an anime movie at the cinema is a rare novelty (I’ll be honest, getting to the cinema at all is a novelty for me these days as I’m only in a location with a cinema two or three times a year) so I was pretty excited about going.

And I almost had a private screening. Almost. No surprise. While the cinemas website had the movie listed there wasn’t a single poster or advertisement in the cinema for the movie. The title was listed on the printed schedule with the viewing time but nothing else. No synopsis or description (the only movie on the list lacking additional information). I’m not exactly amazed that not many people were aware of the session. However, right as the lights dimmed and the ads started playing, two groups came in and so six of us got to watch My Hero Academia.

So how was the movie?

Review:

HeroMovie1

I’m going to skip to the punchline and then I’ll explain, but really this was not a good movie. Much like my experience with the Sword Art Online movie which was my really only other anime movie experience, as a fan of My Hero Academia, there were moments I appreciated, but the movie itself is riddled with issues. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. Fans of My Hero Academia will definitely get something out of this film and will probably have a great time. However, looking at it as a film it is lacking.

However, if what you are after is seeing your favourite cast of super hero teens in a new location, wearing formal wear, and fighting off villains and robots before seeing a fight where Midoriya and All Might are side by side in the dramatic final punch, this movie is going to deliver. Beautifully. And part of that tells you that the writers know what the target audience is wanting from this show. If a sketched out set up is enough for you to lead into a bomabastic series of fights leading up to an overblown final battle that very much suits the tone of the series, then you will have little to complain about.

That said, it kind of misses a lot of what I liked about the series and as I said, as a film it is kind of wanting. So specifically what were my issues with it? (Keep in mind, I did have fun with this, I just kind of wanted a more balanced film given all the hype.)

My first issue is with the art itself. While the animation is beautiful and fluid, as you would expect from Bones, there are some really lazy scenes where characters who aren’t in the forefront of the scene become really distorted, particularly faces. And while this isn’t the end of the world and there are some very pretty scenes in the movie, it was noticeable. I kind of expected slightly more consistent quality given the build up to this movie and to be honest even main characters suffered at times when they weren’t foregrounded. This was really noticeable during the opening sequence which is a flash back showing All Might at the beginning of his career. While it seemed to get better, or I stopped paying as much attention to it as the film progressed, it wasn’t a great first impression because while the movement was lovely, the characters in particular were not.

HeroMovie3

However, looking at the story itself, it suffers from its desire to have its cake and eat it too. They set up a story where All Might takes Midoriya away for the Summer and yet they want the entire class to make an appearance in this film. Let’s now waste a lot of time in the first half wandering around and ‘bumping’ into groups of classmates with increasingly contrived reasons to be on the island. Half of them don’t even end up in the final fight at all because while they are on the island they aren’t at the party so we literally just get occasional cuts to them waiting in hotel rooms. Why even bother wasting time with these characters? They aren’t important to this story? Why can’t My Hero Academia ever commit to just cutting the extras when all including them does is destroy the pacing or make you wonder why none of the other students ever really get a moment to shine?

We also then have the villain’s plot which is pretty transparent though I guess none of us were expecting much more from it really. The villains in My Hero Academia haven’t exactly come off as the strongest of points for the narrative so I guess we’ll settle for what we get including the ‘reveal’ that anyone with half a clue saw coming from the moment we met the character.

I did enjoy meeting Melissa Steel. She was a great character and worked well with Midoriya in this film. I really would have liked even less of the usual classmates so that we could have had more time with her as she was quite interesting and you can totally see her being Midoriya’s supporter in the future (rather like Q in James Bond).

And, as overblown as that final fight was, it was still kind of cool. Logically in makes no sense and why the building didn’t fall over is a little beyond me, but still cool. What I don’t buy is Bakugo waiting with the others while Midoriya and All Might go for the final blow, but again, whatever. Just another case of having a character in a scene and not knowing what to do with them.

While we are discussing Bakugo though, he and Todoroki did get a fairly fantastic fight sequence against some villains. Kirishima was there but got taken out pretty early on. Anyway, if you ever wanted to see Bakugo and Todoroki wearing formal wear and fighting back to back, this scene is everything you ever hoped for and I really enjoyed that particular sequence.

The female cast from the class are as usual criminally underused in vague supporting roles and not getting to really get into any of the fights. Uraraka didn’t even get one moment of hand to hand fighting and while her floating ability did once again offer valuable support, we’ve seen how tough this girl can be and her lack of active roles in fights is really starting to be annoying.

Basically, the film is a mixed bag. If you just want a fun movie with the cast you already like, then go for it. If you were hoping this would be some epic film that could stand alone or even convince others of the sheer brilliance that My Hero Academia sometimes has to offer, then it probably is going to fall short of those expectations.


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Karandi James

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Friday’s Feature: 3 Lessons To Be Learned From Bleach Movie Adaptation

Netflix Live Action Bleach

While it was less than a week ago that I watched this movie for the first time, despite having an incredibly hectic work week I forced a second watching. For a movie I wasn’t dreading the release of, but was fairly nervous about how it would end up looking, the Bleach live action movie that landed on Netflix certainly managed to get my attention. My review a few days ago was fairly glowing and I’m standing by that review even after a second watch through.

While I will admit the movie is hardly a modern masterpiece and a lot of the enjoyment came from being a fan of the franchise, what has been delivered by Bleach is perhaps the surest sign that writers and directors are starting to learn from the many failed adaptations of the past (or maybe they just lucked out this time). However, while there are certainly negative reviews to be found if you look for them, the majority of posts I’ve read covering this movie have been surprised in tone and largely positive of the choices made in adapting it.

I’m normally not one for scoring shows or movies, but I was curious how this was playing out on popular sites like IMBD and Rotten Tomatoes so decided to take a quick peek at the scores Bleach had compared to other recent adaptations.

The break-down looked more or less like this:

Bleach: IMBD = 6.8 Rotten Tomatoes = 84% liked it

Full Metal Alchemist: IMBD = 5.9  Rotten Tomatoes = 75% liked it

Death Note: IMBD = 4.6  Rotten Tomatoes = 24%

Death Note Live Action Movie

Now it may not be fair to compare them given audience expectations, fans of the franchise, and all the other factors that are going to play into the end result that really have nothing to do with the quality of the movie at all, but it seems like at least most people agree that the Bleach movie is all right and likewise most people seem to agree the Death Note movie missed its mark as an adaptation (I still think it is perfectly fine as a movie in its own right – not great but fine – however it isn’t Death Note as anyone knows it or wanted it).

So I started wondering what Bleach did that seemed to work in its favour as a live action adaptation compared to some other adaptations that have fared less well and I came up with a few points that worked in Bleach’s favour.

01: The amount of content chosen wasn’t too ambitious.

We get that when adapting an anime or manga into a movie the time is getting cut down. A lot of things have to go. And it is tempting to try to adapt a lot of content. It makes perfect sense. Fans want to see such and such a scene and will be disappointed if X gets cut out. Cram it in and just keep cramming. You have to appeal to everyone.

Well, no, you don’t. You have to make a decent movie. One with pacing and a clear narrative in its own right. You don’t have time to shove every single plot point that might ever exist into your story and you certainly don’t have time to give the vast cast that probably exists all their shining moment.

Where Bleach worked beautifully was it chose one arc to tell in its movie. A simple story with a beginning and an ending. Then it cut almost every superfluous point from the source material that didn’t help that arc progress out.

Bleach live action movie - Orihime
I’m fairly certain that people who have never read the source or watched the anime probably have no idea that Orihime is actually supposed to be important.

I say almost every point because there are certainly characters and ideas that exist only for the sake of allowing a sequel to be made and to make sense. But these are minimised and given the barest of attentions. Fans of Orihime or Chad will probably be appalled at the way the characters were side-lined and there are certainly entire swathes of characters who were just completely ditched from the story altogether. And Kon? Gone entirely and who can tell if that is ultimately a good choice or not because the idea of a live action plush lion wandering around with a perverted attitude kind of amuses me but somehow I’m just not sure it would have added anything of value to the movie here.

02: They weren’t slaves to the source material.

I actually argued in a feature I wrote after the Death Note movie that the biggest issue with it wasn’t that it changed the source material. No, the bigger issue was they didn’t commit to changing the source material and made changes but wouldn’t cut out particular points making a movie that ended up as an unsatisfying compromise between a new vision for Death Note and a slave to fan expectations.

In my Full Metal Alchemist review I pointed out that while the costume design was gloriously similar to the anime (and I assume the manga) the end result was a not-so-real feeling like the world was inhabited by very sophisticated cosplayers.

Fullmetal Alchemist Live Action - Edward

In both of these cases the movies were bogged down by trying to reproduce source material in a different medium and they didn’t pull it off. Ghost in the Shell also suffered from the need to recreate sequences that didn’t fit into the new context and while fans of the original may have squealed with delight at these overall they don’t make for a better movie unless they are well integrated.

Bleach didn’t suffer from this. As with the content selection where ruthless and sensible cuts and changes were made, with character designs and the world they undeniably created Bleach in a way that fans could recognise it but at the same time they weren’t laboriously simply trying to bring drawings to life. They seemed to really think about how to make the characters come to life without losing the sense of who they were. For the most part they largely succeeded with both character and world design.

03: They understood what makes Bleach popular.

I think this is where Death Note really lost its viewers. The anime is a slow build with some interesting mind games between two intelligent human beings who both like to keep their hands hidden until the last moment. The movie abandoned this atmosphere making Light far less intelligent and more brazen in his need to gather attention and L far less patient and contemplative. The end result was that a lot of fans felt like the core of what made Death Note had been ripped out and trampled on.

Bleach is a long running series (not the longest but certainly one where the episode count becomes daunting to newcomers) and it blends some fairly stupid slap-stick humour with some intense drama and action. The first season introduced Ichigo to a world of Hollows and Soul Reapers and a lot of it is spent balancing Ichigo’s everyday high school life with the new responsibilities thrust on him. That balance of normal and supernatural, some moments of light hearted humour, and some moments of life threatening danger is what draws a lot of fans into the world that is Bleach (okay, the soundtrack as well but the movie can’t have everything) and as much as later seasons of the show become increasingly bloated and filled with overly long fight sequences, season one is where the show’s heart is and where the core of the story is crafted.

Bleach Movie Training.jpg

The movie did an excellent job of replicating the supernatural side and that turmoil in Ichigo’s life as he’s forced from high schooler who can see ghosts into the role of a shinigami and there was enough humour and light hearted moments between Ichigo and Rukia during training montages for it not to become too much of a drama. The fight sequences were intense and there was definitely a sense of danger in them and while we missed out on Ichigo’s normally copious buckets of blood pouring from wounds, the movie once again favoured some sort of realism over staying slavishly true to the source.

Wrapping It Up

So, great choices in content, in how to adapt characters and settings, as well as capturing the spirit of the story even while making necessary changes seem to be helping Bleach stay a little ahead of the pack of recent anime movie adaptations. Does that mean Bleach made no mistakes? Of course not. There’s plenty that could still be improved upon. Still, I kind of feel like Bleach is my light at the end of the tunnel and the possibility that I won’t be defending anime movies with the ‘it could be worse’ statement into the future.

That said, my inquiring minds question that I’m answering tomorrow also focuses on Live Action adaptations so I’d love to know your thoughts on them and if you’ve seen the Bleach movie, what did you think?


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Nendoroid Bleach - Ichigo Kurosaki

Bleach Live Action Movie Review: I Loved The Anime But What About This?

Bleach Live Action

There’s always some trepidation when hearing about a live action adaptation of a beloved anime. It’s a feeling that I might try to push to the side because I want to give something a go on its own merit rather than lumping it in with predecessors that may have failed to leave much of a positive impression. But just like with video game adaptations, while there are certainly a fair share of truly dreadful ones to be found there are also adaptations that have worked and given a fairly satisfying watch. So the question becomes whether or not Bleach survived this adaptation? There’s no way I’m not comparing as I go given how much I love Bleach but hopefully you’ll join me as I look at this movie.

Review:

I’ll get to the point fairly quickly and then explain my reasoning, but I found myself incredibly engrossed in this movie while watching it. I pressed play with that same sinking feeling of trepidation, wondering if I should put it off and wait until more reviews were out and wondering if I should possibly just forget it was even available rather than risk the feeling of disappointment that would come from a poor movie. I didn’t want much from this film, but what I absolutely needed it to do was to be fun to watch.

Netflix Live Action Bleach

Bleach was my ultimate pop-corn viewing anime that swept me up in its grandiose (albeit overly stretched out and bloated) story and cast and just its sheer brazen silliness at times. In short, it seemed the kind of thing that absolutely would not translate very well to real actors because anime fans have kind of learned to cope with the hero losing more litres of blood than that human body holds and still managing to stand up whereas when it happens on screen it kind of makes you wonder what is wrong with the writer.

However, Bleach actually managed to defy my expectations in a lot of ways as I watched this live action unfold on Netflix. The characters were not attempting to copy exactly the look of the anime (or if they did they clearly gave up for practicality’s sake). As a result Ichigo and Rukia look pretty awesome in their roles (and thank-you for someone having enough sense not to put that stupid fringe down the middle of Rukia’s face). Orihime and Chad are likewise altered so that while they retain some of what makes them distinct in the anime they come across looking fairly much like the belong in the setting rather then looking like they escaped a cosplay convention. My only real disappointment with Orihime was the look of her hair-clip which seems like it is missing a few petals which kind of means they are going to have to do some modification later on with how her power works, assuming of course they go there at all (which they definitely should).

Actually, the only character who really came across poorly in appearance was Urahara. Possibly I’m just being overly critical because I really like Urahara’s look in the anime, but to be honest I found his human counterpart here to be the only character who just looked out of place and garishly cosplay like rather than a real character. Even Renji’s hair came out fairly believably (at least within the context of the movie) so I was a little disappointed with Urahara.

Netflix Bleach Live Action

Outside of their appearances, I really liked the way these characters interacted. Again, they weren’t identical to how they behaved in the anime. None of Orihime’s silliness is on display nor does she get countless scenes eating bizarre foods. Karen, Ichigo’s sister, is certainly toned down and while I appreciate the need for that from a time point of view I kind of missed the spunky anime Karen. But these changes all make sense and with the plot having a much tighter focus on Ichigo and Rukia the changes are necessary.

And that was probably my favourite part of this adaptation. Scenes from the anime were merged and pushed together or deleted entirely for the sake of having a coherent story that felt like it was well paced in the time given. We meet Ichigo and very rapidly move to his meeting with Rukia and the transfer of her power to him. However, we then rapidly move on to Ishida confronting Ichigo at school (so no Chad and bird story, no Orihime and her dead brother, and no random encountering Hollows) and we see the Hollow bait getting used. This doesn’t spark a full on fight in its own right though as they combine this conflict with a later one and we see Ichigo and Rukia being confronted by Renji.

The upshot of this is we are dealing pretty much entirely with Rukia’s transgression and need to get her power back with other events that are crucial for introducing characters for later occurring but in a way that feeds into this main plot. Anyone who has watched the anime of Bleach will know how regularly the main plot gets kind of put on hold while the characters run around and do other things or get diverted by other issues, or just how long some of those fight sequences last as you deal with each and every person involved. This movie is well aware of its time limitations and maximises what it can show us through some fairly deliberate modification of the narrative.

However, if you think I’m just going to sing the praises of this movie I’m about to turn this around. There are two points that really stop this from being the truly excellent experience it was pretty close to becoming.

The first is the ending. We get to essentially the end of the first season where Rukia returns to Soul Society and that is a great place for the movie to end. But the fight sequence against the Grand Fisher is… well I hesitate to call it bloated given compared to most of the fight scenes in the Bleach anime it is pretty succinct. Yet, we have Ichigo running from the Hollow through crowded streets (wasn’t he just in a graveyard) and fighting the Grand Fisher in a fairly public space.

Bleach Netflix Live Action

I get that partly this is because they combining events from the fight in the park in the anime where Ishida and Ichigo team up, with the Grand Fisher fight, and then they are transitioning to the fight against Renji, so there were going to need to be some fairly major adjustments to this sequence to make it work. However, it doesn’t fit with Ichigo’s character to lead a Hollow into a public space where others might be put at risk. It also shows off the CG Hollow for far too long. Its first appearance in the graveyard is pretty amazing and in short bursts it could have looked exceptional and had real impact. But, because of the length of the screen time, it ends up looking pretty cheap by the end.

I’ll also point out through the whole chase sequence I was just reminded of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the totally unnecessary dragon chase across the rooftops that ate screen time, wasn’t in the book, and totally wasn’t needed. Yes, we get your wind effects look cool and you are damaging a lot of buildings. We’re at the climax so big boom. And yet, this scene could have been so much tighter and had so much more impact.

The second complaint I’ll raise is the music. Bleach has one of the best soundtracks ever – I’m totally not biased. Every single OP is amazing – again, not biased. The fight music that accompanies Ichigo as he gets geared up to take down anything is unforgettably cool – alright, fine, I’m totally and completely biased when it comes to Bleach music. I’m not going to say the soundtrack to this movie is actually bad… it’s just kind of forgettable. There isn’t one track which just made me sit up and take notice or drew me into a scene. And that was probably my biggest disappointment about this entire movie. The music.

Right, objectively the acting isn’t amazing though it certainly isn’t dreadful. The script is fairly average with dialogue serving its purpose but not doing a lot more. I’m not entirely sure how caught up in events non-Bleach fans will be because I can only watch this film from the perspective of a major fan of the series.

But, this movie was fun to watch. At no point did I feel bored or like I was wasting my time. I didn’t have a single moment where I considered stopping it (Full Metal Alchemist on the other hand I had several moments where I wondered if I should cut my losses and move on).

Do I recommend this movie? Certainly. If you are a Bleach fan but open to necessary changes to accompany the changed format, you’ll have a great time. If you’ve never watched Bleach, this movie will give you a good taste of the plot of season 1 though I’d still recommend watching the anime. That said, if you already jumped in and watched the movie, I’d love to know what you thought of it so leave me a comment.

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Game Soundtracks CDJapan

The Boy and the Beast Movie Review

A story about a boy doesn’t want to face his life and runs away and a beast who hasn’t quite figured out how life works. Together the two will learn and grow to discover what really matters to them.

Review:

It isn’t really news that I don’t watch a lot of anime movies. Even ones attached to series that I quite like don’t normally get watched unless there’s a pressing need to complete a story. The Boy and the Beast wasn’t on my radar but then one day it showed up on Anime Lab and given my subscription there is reaching the end of its life, I figured why not. I’m really glad I did.

While this story isn’t exactly going to blow your socks off with originality as children running away from home and having some adventure to teach them some moral lesson is as stock standard as they come, the delivery here sells it beautifully. Not to mention, the cast of beasts that the boy encounters kind of lift this film from what might have been a fairly mediocre fair to something that becomes quite striking and memorable.

Beast3

Early on, I was a little concerned. The opening narration is all very ordinary and then the encounter that leads to the boy running away seemed incredibly rushed. I get that his circumstances weren’t great but his running away just seemed like a forced response rather than a natural reaction to the situation. However, the boy very soon encounters the beast and after following him away from the human world, everything in this movie gets better.

Beast2

What really works at the core of this film is the relationship that is constructed between the boy and the beast. The boy refused to give his name so the beast names him after his age, a name that sticks despite the boy growing up into a man over the course of the movie The two bicker and fight almost continuously as the beast is every bit as childish as the child but slowly and grudgingly the two begin to see the good points in the other and respect begins to form.

Beast4

As much as the earlier encounters and relationships in the movie seem very rushed and forced, the perfect amount of time is put into making the relationship between these two characters feel as authentic as possible. While there are plenty of fights, training sequences, squabbles, and laughs along the way, this movie always comes back to that relationship and it has a lot of heart.

Beast5

Even a final fight sequence that kind of looks beautiful but seems just a little overblown for the sake of being a final fight sequence can’t really shake the goodwill this movie builds up over its run-time.

All and all, this was a very enjoyable watch and one I’ll probably look out for on DVD.

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The Boy and the Beast, Vol. 1 (manga)
The Boy and the Beast, Vol. 1 (manga)

Fullmetal Alchemist Live Action Movie Review: Bringing Equivalent Exchange to Life

Overview:

Ed and Al are brother’s who have been studying alchemy when their mother dies unexpectedly. Determined to bring her back, they commit a taboo and in the process Al loses his body and Ed loses his arm and leg. Now a State Alchemist, Ed is determined to learn the secret of the philosopher’s stone and use it to restore his brother’s body.

Review – With spoilers for those who have never read or seen any adaptation of this story:

I must admit, one of my greatest fears going in to this movie was that they would actually try to fit the whole saga of FMA into a movie which was guaranteed to fail without any chance of redemption. Fortunately, this movie seems to understand it was an adaptation and decided on a sensible stopping point in the narrative to bring the movie to a close and also made some pretty solid choices on what to cut and what to keep in the story.

Admittedly, purists who want the source adhered to are going to hate it. There’s no Scar, the Fuhrer doesn’t appear at all, various actions and motives get attributed to the characters that were left in the story in order to fill some of the gaps left by the entire arcs that have literally been hacked out. But the end result is surprisingly okay. There’s a few bits of awkwardness, a couple of plot threads that people who aren’t familiar with the story are going to be puzzled over because they are just kind of floated out there and left dangling for a sequel, and the pacing isn’t spot on, but this definitely could have been worse.

Fullmetal Alchemist Liveaction2

And that is probably going to be the mantra of this review. It could have been worse. That is hardly a glowing recommendation but I honestly found that I enjoyed this movie well enough, but at the same time, I’d rather watch the anime. Either version of the anime.

Taking this logically, I’m going to point out the first twenty minutes of this feel need to be redone. It is a horrible beginning and almost had me reaching for the remote the first time through, unsure if I could stomach watching the farce FMA had become. The second try watching was actually worse and I would have stopped it except that I remembered things got better. So what is wrong?

The child versions of Ed and Al are not good actors (let’s not talk about the hair, really, we’ll save that for the grown up version of Ed). They do not pull off the whole tragic backstory that was so incredibly hard hitting in the anime. And possibly even the director realised this given the aftermath of their attempt to bring their mother back to life is only told in a dream sequence by Ed where the older version of Ed stands in instead of child-form. It is completely illogical that older Ed would be there and yet so much better than what that scene would have looked like if the younger version had attempted that scene.

But actually, the bigger issue with the start of the movie is the action sequence. Yep, FMA is a shounen story through and through and it has some incredible and fantastical fight sequences. These were always going to be really hard to translate into live action and yet somehow I think they could have done better than this.

Whether it is the pained expressions on the actor’s faces, the poor trajectory of Ed’s leap off the roof (seriously, he did not land anywhere near where the landing shot showed him landing, that was incredibly badly cut), the very average CG, the poor attempt at inserting some of the slapstick humour into the story (which just resulted in me declaring the main character dead about ten minutes into the movie), or even Al’s dreadful attempt at pacifying the crowd and explaining alchemy in one of the clunkiest exposition dumps I’ve seen in recent memory… Just no.

Quite literally the only good thing to come out of the opening sequence is Al’s first appearance and that was entirely deflated because we had already seen that exact moment in a teaser trailer. That moments and reveal utterly powerless because we were just kind of waiting for exactly that to happen.

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Throw in the disappointment that came when I first saw Mustang (no, he did not live up to my impossibly high standards given he’s one of my all time favourite characters), and really the opening of this movie left me really wishing I’d decided not to bother.

By the end of the movie, I would re-evaluate that thought.

Mustang grew on me as the movie progressed and to be honest, while the actor never quite pulled off the nonchalant attitude Mustang usually has when not in combat, he certainly pulled off the final of this movie in the confrontation with the homunculus. He was every bit the Flame Alchemist I wanted to see in action. He delivered and to be honest the removal of the comedic Colonel wasn’t such a downside in this movie.

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However, there is no escaping discussing the appearances of the characters. While I know the reasons they chose an all Japanese cast, one has to wonder why they then decided that they had to stay true to the Elric’s being blonde. Would having a hair colour that didn’t look totally ridiculous on the actor really have been that difficult? Given all the other changes to the FMA universe, would we have been that upset by a dark haired protagonist? I’d like to say no. And given FMA isn’t set in Japan in the first place, if you wanted to keep them blonde then don’t use a Japanese actor. There is genuinely no escaping that Ed looks bad. The hair is the main culprit here with the plait looking completely detached from the rest of his hair most of the time and the whole time it just looks nasty (distractingly so).

And the costumes themselves, while faithful reproductions of what the characters wore in the anime (and possible the manga – never read it), they don’t look good in real life. All of the characters look like they escaped from a cosplay convention where a few minor modifications would have brought the outfits in line with the reality they were trying to construct. This is a case where slavishly trying to replicate something has resulted in an inferior product rather than giving this movie the look it deserved.

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Though, while still on appearances, they nailed Hughes, Lust and Envy (Gluttony, not so much – okay, not at all). Hughes particularly, though he had about four scenes, managed to be exactly the character he needed to. Similar enough to what we were familiar with and yet he made Hughes come alive in a way most of the other characters fail to do during most of the run time.

To get to more positives, I loved the attention on Ed’s feelings of guilt toward Al for the majority of the first half. While there were certainly other stories that could have taken the lime-light, this story managed to humanise the characters and it is a story that managed to play out in the time given. Some great choices in shots and the relationship between these brothers gets the spot light and it manages to hold up very well.

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However, that does come at the expense of Nina and Alexander’s moment which becomes more a moment for Ed and Al. I didn’t mind this too much given it fit the context of the film, but the anime definitely handled this particular story better.

I also really liked that they realised that in their short length of time the Homunculi couldn’t be these massively unkillable creatures where fights took up episodes. Sure, they were tough enough to be a threat but reasonably scaled down to be dealt with in the course of the movie and while we might all be sad if our favourites didn’t appear, or were killed off too quickly, I think this was a sensible choice.

So it is a mixed bag. There are some great choices here and some really good moments, and then there are some poor choices and less outstanding scenes. I think your enjoyment of this movie will come from whether you are willing to accept the compromises that were needed to bring the movie to life or not and whether you are willing to ignore the incredibly bad hair on so many of the characters.  It might seem like a petty complaint, but it is definitely distracting.

After a second watch through, I definitely know that I enjoyed this well enough, but if I want to see FMA again, I’ll watch the Brotherhood box set. However, will I watch a follow up movie to this? Probably.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Finally, you can use the affiliate link to shop at Play-Asia.com ifPlay-Asia.com - Play-Asia.com: Online Shopping for Digital Codes, Video Games, Toys, Music, Electronics & more you are interested in anime, soundtracks, figures or games. Should you use the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

 

A Silent Voice Movie Review: Almost Nailed It

Overview:

I doubt there are many who haven’t heard of this one. Lucky for me, AnimeLab added it for just one week which gave me a chance to see this much talked about film. Focusing on Ishida, a teenager who in primary school bullied Nishimiya who was deaf and later found himself the target of bullying, the story looks at his life as he tries to find a way to live with himself or to atone for his past acts.

Review:

There was no going into this movie blind. The sheer number of reviews and articles about this anime that have been flung about the internet made that an impossibility. The fact that so many of those were positive set the bar for this movie incredibly high particularly in how it was going to depict disability and bullying. And for the most part, the movie delivers on these aspects phenomenally well. At least, it delivers a recognisable form of both the struggle with hearing impairment and the social aspects of school and life that sometimes fall apart by people not really thinking through their actions.

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The movie is also beautifully constructed. Scenery is almost always flawless and the characters are distinct enough while still mostly being fairly generic school students. The use of the purple crosses to demonstrate Ishida’s disconnect from others and his social isolation was integrated well and used with consistency and purpose. All and all, it is a well put together movie from a visual point of view.

Even though many of the characters are unlikable, that isn’t a drawback to this film. For the most part they are supposed to be. They show us the selfish nature people have and how, even when their actions harms others, they still choose the path that gives them the most satisfaction. Even Nishimiya doesn’t come off as the saint being bullied and abandoned. Her flaws as a character are on display giving us a rare look at bullying that doesn’t paint an innocent victim but presents a situation that no one really likes but no one really knows how to stop or feels really compelled to act differently. Even when the bullying is exposed in primary school, all that does for most of the class is shift the target to Ishida and later on claim innocence.

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And with that in mind, this isn’t exactly a relaxing viewing experience. Despite the soft pastel colour scheme, this movie is hitting hard at social issues and it isn’t point the finger at one cause or perpetrator but rather is painting the entire social construct as complicit with allowing such situations to exist and to continue. Victim, perpetrator, by-stander, parent, teacher, school… everyone is shown to have contributed to the situation and the solution in the 6th grade is no solution as all of these characters are still carrying around the weight of the events many years later which ultimately lead the two characters at the centre of the story to the understanding that they hate themselves.

Ishida attempts suicide at the very start of the movie and it is only after that, and the confrontation by his mother and a rather dramatic (if slightly stupid) burning of some money, that he begins his journey toward looking for atonement or even just a reason to continue living. And he seeks this out by meeting with Nishimiya, who understandably has a fairly mixed reaction to seeing the face of the boy who bullied her so mercilessly again. Despite the progress made throughout the story and the other characters who also come on-board to deal with their own baggage, Nishimiya ultimately also tries to take her own life.

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It is a dramatic story and one that hits hard. It brings the consequences of seemingly ‘innocent’ actions to the forefront and makes you think through the reality that other people might be living due to your words and behaviours. And if the movie had ended on that note I would actually claim this movie was an absolute masterpiece.

And yet, the story continues and leads us by the hand through a redemption sequence and ultimately tries to set up a happily ever after which might make people feel better about what they just watched but kind of shoots the film’s powerful messages and early statements in the foot. While it is lovely these characters get a happy ending, kind of, the far more powerful story is ultimately down-played because of it. While I don’t actually think the suicide should have been successful, leaving us wondering what happened next or seeing just the immediate fall out of the incident where the characters finally feel the full weight of their actions, would have been a much more powerful ending.

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Still, it is a minor criticism and the movie still packs quite a punch. I’m really glad I had the chance to see it and if you haven’t seen it yet, I certainly recommend checking it out.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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If you enjoyed this post and would like to see Patreon2more great content on this blog, consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month.

Thoughts on Anime.jpg

Another way you can support the content here is by buying a copy of ‘Thoughts on Anime 2017‘ as an ebook. It contains a selection of reviews, features and top 5 lists from 2017 and while the content is available free on the site, this is a great way to give a one off show of support for the blog. It is available for $3.99.

Finally, you can use the affiliate link to shop at Play-Asia.com ifPlay-Asia.com - Play-Asia.com: Online Shopping for Digital Codes, Video Games, Toys, Music, Electronics & more you are interested in anime, soundtracks, figures or games. Should you use the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.