Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and the original manga Fullmetal Alchemist is one hell of a series. It has always been and continues to be my favorite animation, manga, and story. Today I re-watched the movie that followed the end of the Brotherhood series, Fullmetal Alchemist: the Sacred Star of Milos.
The movie tackles the usual themes of Fullmetal Alchemist: the value of truth, imperialism, death, and hints of feminism. I believe this movie, especially after having seen the Brotherhood series multiple times, concisely captures these themes. It shows us the dangers of blindly pursuing the truth, and how it can be corrupted by power and greed. It shows us the devastating impacts of imperialism through the plight of Ishvalans, alluding to the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. The movie goes a step further and shows us the abominable condition of the people of Milos –commenting on the humanitarian crisis in Palestine.
I believe one of the most important themes –and whose importance I had just realized – is Death. Fullmetal Alchemist bids us to think of our lives as finite. This is the reason why we were introduced to the Philosopher’s stone and human transmutation in the original series; and it continues to persuade us to think of it as so in this movie. What does it mean to have a finite life? Well, it means that this is the only life that matters. It means that we have a limited amount of time. Instead of thinking about what lies beyond, we come to focus on the precious and small amount of time we have left. This is something Heidegger tried to teach us in Being and Time, and he would agree with Hiromu Arakawa –the author of the manga– that it is mistaken and inauthentic to ignore our finiteness.
Another astounding fact about this series is that Hiromu Arakawa is possibly the most successful and critically acclaimed female mangaka in an industry dominated by men. I believe her awareness of such a fact allows her to write compelling female characters that are unseen in other Shonen works. This is probably one of the reasons why Fullmetal Alchemist is appealing to so many. We have a female general like Olivia Armstrong who is ambitious, commanding, politically savvy, selfless, and caring. No wonder she trains and leads the strongest army in her country. We also have Izumi Curtis who is probably the strongest human being in the series and a brilliant alchemist who guided the main characters as a teacher and a mother. She isn’t merely just a strong person though. She is a sympathetic character who failed to have a child with her husband and tried to bring it back by performing a human transmutation –causing the loss of her organs and the pain of seeing her child die again. This kind of complex and compelling characterization of women can be seen in this movie as well. Julia is a rebel who fights to take back her country. She is troubled by the implications of using a Philosopher’s stone. She is troubled by the egregious deeds of her ancestors and family members. Yet, she musters up the courage to not only keep fighting but to use her life and the Philosopher’s stone as a means to protect her people. This is not something you see in mainstream Shonen manga.
Some may say that these themes were already explored in Brotherhood. My answer: so what? These are timeless questions that we need to keep asking ourselves. If you do not see them as such, I would be tempted to say that you wasted your time watching the series.
Last but not least, let’s talk about the animation. The animation of Brotherhood was superb, and the same studio animated the movie as well. It showcased a slew of different styles, beautiful landscapes, and even some 3D animation. The colors were vivid and it really helped hit home the exotic nature of this adventure film. I greatly enjoyed this film and I recommend it alongside Brotherhood and the manga.