Man, Yuichi Shinbo and the folks over at Funimation sure know how to spin a yarn. You know, when I first heard that they were coming out with Full Metal Alchemist: The Sacred Star Of Milos, I wondered cynically to myself where in the hell they were going to bring the plot this time. I mean they’ve kind of taken this world to the limits of where it can go. All the cards are on the table so to speak. This is probably a good thing though, I doubt anyone wants any more flying magic Nazis trying to take over Amestris.
Well I’m happy to report you don’t have to fear flying magic Nazis in this one! No sir, this takes place in the Brotherhood universe, set during the time that Ed realizes that Al’s body still exists somewhere. Now I’m not gonna lie here, we’ve heard this tale before. No new ground is covered in this one. And just as FMA:TSSOM doesn’t go over any new plot material, it also doesn’t really bring Ed and Al anywhere new emotionally. I mean they can’t really, it’s supposed to take place in the middle of the series, they can’t have the two main characters have some major emotional breakthrough or it would effect the canonical storyline. So instead, at the heart of this movie is our heroine Julia… Without giving away too much here, the movie drags Al and Ed out to a city on the Creta/Amestris border in pursuit of an escaped convict who uses strange alchemy. They end up in the middle of a struggle between Julia’s people, the victims of good old fashioned colonial oppression (a familiar theme…) who are desperately seeking a great and mysterious power (I wonder what that could be…) to help them reclaim their homeland, and the unfriendly nations on either side of them (what do they have red eyes too?)
But to me the heart of almost every anime is a character drama. The fucked up places and situations our characters are drawn into are nice and all but the real meat is in how they deal with it. I mean think about it. Evangelion wasn’t about NERV and the Angles, it was about Shinji, his weaknesses, and how he ultimately reacts when he has to face them once and for all, thus the last two episodes become this dream-state Freudian character analysis of the poor sap… well that and the production team ran out of time and money and had to scramble to slap that madness together. And FLCL isn’t about Medical Mechanica trying to take over the world, it was a coming of age story about our boy Naota.
Now while FMA never got quite as hide-in-a-corner-and-quiver-in-terror-for-days-fucked-up as EVA or as off the wall zany as FLCL, it’s an equally solid character drama. In fact I would go so far as to say it has some of the most believable and lifelike characters in any anime ever. Even the dubs are one of my favorite dubs of any other anime out there. FMA rarely go for the chibi gaffes or the cheap anime plot tropes. And when they do, they do it with purpose; they really make it feel like it belongs there, not like it’s just a placeholder. And to me this is the saving grace of this movie. We may had heard this story before, we may have seen these characters face these same moral dilemmas, and ultimately we may have seen the end of this movie coming from a mile away. But the characters are done so well that even just watching them go through the motions is a pleasure. If you love FMA you will undoubtedly enjoy this movie.