Film Review: Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos
Fullmetal Alchemist: Sacred Star of Milos takes place in the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood world and explores more of that series' greater world building than the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime. The movie introduces new characters and a new location, so it brings familiar characters out of their element, parting from the status quo of the show.
The movie begins by focusing on new characters, siblings Julia and Ashleigh Crichton, whose father is an alchemist. Julia witnessed the death of her parents and (she believed) brother at an early age.
From this awful prologue, the movie shows us the Elrich brothers several years later, chasing down an escaped criminal. When they finally capture the criminal alchemist, they remark how strange it is that he escaped within six months of the end of his sentence. Among his belongings, Risa Hawkeye and Colonel Mustang found a newspaper page with a piece cut off, and comparing with an intact copy of the same page, they find that the missing piece is a photo of Julia Crichton, who was arrested while entering illegally in the remote Table City, set in the border between Amestris and Creta.
The Elrich brothers board a train to investigate Table City, but along the way they are attacked by a person who can change themselves into a wolf-like chimera. They make it to Table City and find it to be a bleak, war-torn place, and they're instantly caught up in a lot of political in-fighting. The political balance of the city seems to be caught up in a three-way battle between Amestris, Creta, and different factions within Table City itself. Time for Ed and Al to do what they do best, investigate a mystery in a dangerous place. But the clock is ticking, and they narrowly escape attempts on their life while trying to get information out of the locals.
Of course, alchemy is involved, and the pair discover the Crichton family's connections, unraveling the mystery of their past and the importance of the city. They also help Julia face the tough realities of her past and start a new life, similarly to how they helped Rose early on in the series. It ends on a bittersweet note, leaving audiences with a feeling that yes, bad things happen in life, but the spirit of human resilience remains supreme through all of these challenges.
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos
Manga by Hiromu Arakawa
This movie was more similar to Brotherhood than the original series. In this movie, the geographical and cultural diversity of the alchemyl world is explored more than in the original anime series. The previous film takes place in two separate but simultaneously occurring timelines in parallel worlds, but instead, this one explores a new city within "the alchemy world". This creates less plot confusion than the previous Fullmetal Alchemist movie, Conqueror of Shamballa.
However, this movie is still very politically complicated. In Sacred Star of Milos, there are larger moral grey areas, whereas in Conqueror of Shamballa, the good and evil is a lot more obvious. It mirrors more recent conflicts in the world, with all of their social, political, and moral ambiguity, rather than simply terrorizing us with fantasy Nazis like Shamballa did.
You don't have to be a Fullmetal Alchemist fan, or even an anime fan, to enjoy this. It was similar to District 9 in that it was a story of imagined oppression that reflected the horrors of similar hatred and bigotry that exist in our own world. Fullmetal Alchemist has done that well in the past, especially with Shamballa's portrayal of Nazis and their oppression of ethnic groups like the Roma.
I felt like this movie offers a lot to those looking for emotional depth or profound truth. Furthermore, for the fan of occult horror, this movie out blood-magics any previous Fullmetal Alchemist story line, which is saying a lot. As such, this movie is one I feel would resonate with a broad audience, and potentially reach people outside of the current anime fandom.
One minor issue some fans of the series may feel slighted about is that Winry, Armstrong, and the various homunculi have little or no role in this film. The homunculi are entirely nonexistent here. In a film format, some characters have to be axed in order for the writers to introduce new ones. The new characters they replace old ones with in this movie proved to be fascinating and deeply moving people, so much so that you could argue that cut out characters weren't missed that much.