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Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos

The latest installment of a series that has moved from manga and anime (the latest series of which played on Cartoon Network in the US last year) through novels, radio adaptations (!) and feature films, Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos presumably has enough of a built-in fan base to make my review unnecessary. For those of who familiar with it, I can only say that this second feature is largely designed as a standalone, which means that the main characters are reduced to supporting roles in a story that doesn’t advance the ongoing storyline.

For those of you as new to it as I was, Fullmetal Alchemist is set in an alternative world where alchemy became a significant science after the Industrial Revolution. (Think steampunk.) Although creator Hiromu Arakawa seems to have done some research into alchemy, it’s pretty much just used as an excuse for characters to have inexplicable magic powers, like emitting bursts of energy from their palms and controlling physical objects.

The setting is Milos, a foreign country where the original citizens have been banished to live in a deep, garbage-strewn canyon surrounding a city rumored to contain the secret to enormous knowledge and power. It’s hard not to suspect an allegory regarding Palestine or Tibet (especially when the English-dubbed version refers to it as the “Holy City”), but if that was intended by the filmmakers they don’t pursue it very strenuously. The combatants include two pair of siblings whose lives have been affected by their parents’ studies into alchemy, various military factions, flying freedom fighters in bat costumes, and mercenary werewolves. It’s the kind of freeform story telling where big special effects sequences are interspersed with characters barking out lots of plot details that probably all make sense after the third time you’ve seen it.

—m. faust

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