Full Metal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos
Dairy farming isn’t something that one would normally associate with anime and manga, especially as there’s nothing really entertaining about looking after or milking cows. There is, however, a rather improbable connection between these seemingly disparate industries, and nowhere is this more apparent than when dealing with popular franchises – like Full Metal Alchemist.
With a successful manga, two anime adaptations, two movies, six light novels, two series of drama CD’s, around a dozen video games across several formats, and a mountain of merchandise ranging from art books to key chains, Arakawa Hiromu’s tale of two brothers is undoubtedly one of the most profitable titles of recent years. That said, the jewel in Bones’ crown does lack the marketing clout of long-running franchises like One Piece, Bleach and Naruto, and in order to maximise profits the studio has decided to follow a tried and tested method to “advertise” the main series.
Which is a much nicer way of saying that Full Metal Alchemist is the prize cow, and Bones have decided to milk it (again).
The movie opens with a girl dreaming of her past, in particular the moment when a group of soldiers take her and her family away from what looks like a refugee camp. She wakes up to find her brother studying their parent’s alchemy research book, but before she can go to bed the siblings hear a strange noise inside the house. Her brother goes to investigate but she secretly follows, only to witness a nightmarish scene that causes her to pass out.
Several years later Central city, the capital of Amestris, is rocked by a prison break on the day of the harvest festival, and a confrontation with an escaping convict leads the Elric brothers on to another adventure.
Okay, it all sounds pretty straightforward, and therein lies one of the main problems with this addition to the Full Metal Alchemist franchise. The overly linear plot and the fact that this is nothing more than another tale about a specific ancient power mean that the storyline is highly predictable – even though the feature is set in a new country with its own history. In addition to this there’s a fairly noticeable lack of cohesion with the sequence of events, which may be due to the speed at which the narrative progresses. In order to fit the entire storyline into 110 minutes certain corners needed to be cut, but this has been done with very little care so things can often get a little … disjointed.
Aside from the over-churned plot, The Sacred Star of
Milkos – sorry, Milos – also suffers from a similar “anime-by-numbers” methodology that was prevalent in Guilty Crown, and this becomes obvious when one considers the relevance of characters like Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye, and even Winry Rockbell. It’s likely that their presence is nothing more than a nod to the fans as their addition adds nothing to the narrative, and this only serves to highlight the fact that this movie has been made for one reason only – and that isn’t to tell a story.
Visually this is a bit of a departure from the clean lines and smooth animation that one might expect of the franchise, and the techniques used during action set-pieces have an experimental feel. That said, the detailed artwork lacks the finesse of Brotherhood, and while the character designs are pretty much what one might expect, the movie has a rushed atmosphere that no amount of familiarity can counter. This is reflected by the quality of the animation the attempts to make the action scenes more visceral often has bodies contorting in odd ways. The experimental nature of the visuals also makes the CG stand out, and the obvious disparity can make certain scenes look more than a little odd.
The movie does have an opening theme, but viewers will have to wait ten minutes before they can listen to Miwa’s dulcet tones as she sings “Chasing Hearts”, a pleasant rock-pop song with an adventurous atmosphere which unfortunately has been relegated to background music for the on-screen action. The Sacred Star of Milos closes with a rather simple sequence depicting a train journey across various landscapes while L’Arc-en-Ciel’s serenade viewers with their fourth contribution to the franchise – an upbeat rock ballad called “Good Luck My Way”. The rest of the movie has a variety of musical accompaniments composed by Iwashiro Taro ranging from dramatic martial themes to medieval-style ditties and mysterious piano pieces, and for the most part these tracks fit their respective scenes quite well.
Sadly, the movie suffers from the poor scripting that has plagued many shounen titles over the years, and although the actors are as competent as ever, not even their vaunted skills can do much with the typical formula of cheese, shout, run, hit people, shout louder, more cheese, run faster, scream, hit more people, etc, etc. The rather pedestrian dialogue means that The Sacred Star of Milos lacks the emotional charge of its predecessor – a fact that is borne out by the predominantly static characters.
The problem is that this movie is little more than a sideshow rather than a main event, which ironically places this feature below the much maligned Conqueror of Shamballa in terms of development – especially where the Elric Brothers are concerned. The only character who shows any sign of growth is the main heroine – Julia Crichton – but this alone cannot support the weight of a story that relies on previous familiarity with specific characters. While this method of storytelling isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does place limitations on the storyline regarding the actions of particular individuals, and when one adds the fact that several characters are nothing more than window dressing, viewers may find themselves disappointed with the overall lack of depth.
That said, although this addition to the Full Metal Alchemist franchise has more moo than milk, fans will probably find themselves warming to it as it offers them a chance to see the Elric Brothers in action once more. The feature may not be of the same standard as Brotherhood, the original anime adaptation, or even the first movie, but it does offer some moments of pure enjoyment. Although the storyline is relatively simplistic compared to what has gone before, anyone familiar with the franchise will probably find this an easy film to watch – even with the blatant and somewhat redundant reminders of certain past events.
It’s just a little sad that a great title is being treated as nothing more than a cash cow, but with The Sacred Star of Milos, hopefully Bones will decide it’s time to put the franchise out to pasture.