Seiji Mizushima, the director of the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime series, believes that it was a bad idea to hire an all-Japanese cast for the live-action adaptation. The issue of race in movie casting and "whitewashing" is a hotly debated topic in the movie industry at present and recent Western anime adaptations such as Death Note and Ghost in the Shell have been mercilessly hammered by fans and critics for casting white actors in previously-Japanese character roles. The topic reared its head once again when Ed Skrein (Deadpool, Game of Thrones) stepped away from the upcoming Hellboy reboot after being cast as the Japanese-American Ben Daimio.
Hollywood aren't the only ones attempting to adapt beloved anime and manga franchises into live action of course, Japanese studios have been at it for years, albeit with only a marginally better success rate. The latest attempt is a live-action version of Hiromu Arakawa's Fullmetal Alchemist. Also turned into two separate anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist tells the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric who set out on a mission to restore their bodies using the magical power of alchemy, before becoming embroiled in an ancient international conspiracy.
As with many Japanese live-action anime adaptations, the Fullmetal Alchemist movie utilizes a wholly Japanese cast but the original director of the anime series sees this as the wrong move. Speaking at Nikufes Festival 2017 in Tokyo (via Anime News Network), Seiji Mizushima stated:
“It was a bad idea to only use Japanese actors... If you asked me whether I think the cast could pull it off, I'd say that no, they can't. It's hard for actors to capture the look and feel of the original manga.”
Mizushima's issue seems to be primarily one of authenticity and in this respect, it could indeed be argued that although the world of Fullmetal Alchemist is a fictional one, the location and its culture are heavily inspired by Europe rather than Japan. However, it is perhaps worth considering that there isn't a huge pool of European actors working in the Japanese movie industry.
U.S. criticisms of Hollywood anime/manga film adaptations stem in no small part from the lack of proper representation for Asian-Americans in U.S. movies and TV in general. Japanese audiences have typically had a different response to western adaptations like Death Note and Ghost in the Shell because, unlike Asian-Americans, they aren't hurting for representation onscreen in films from their home country. The Scarlett Johansson-led Ghost in the Shell in particular was better received in Japan than in the U.S., for related reasons. Hence, it's best to not make a direct comparison between Mizushima's complaints about Fullmetal Alchemist and, say, the whitewashing critiques made against past Hollywood live-action anime/manga adaptations.
Fullmetal Alchemist premieres in Japanese theaters on December 1st. More news on a worldwide release as it arrives.
Source: Anime News Network