One of the reasons why, with only a few exceptions (Akira, or the work of Hayao Miyazaki) feature-length anime rarely makes it to U.S. theaters is because the films are so damned complicated, and they often seem to be playing by a rulebook you never read. Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos is a movie spinoff of the long-running manga series, which has sold more than 50 million copies, and the TV series that aired on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. This helps explain why I was completely lost three minutes into the movie, before the opening credits had even rolled.
But like a lot of anime, the movie remains entertaining even when you have no idea what’s going on. This much I could discern: Two brothers, left disfigured by their forays into alchemy (one of them has been transformed into a metal robot) join forces with a female rebel fighter to attempt to reclaim their birth land of Milos. This requires many battles, including one against a giant wolf and another in which huge spikes erupt from the ground beneath the heroes’ feet.
Director Kayuza Murata employs the herky-jerky animation common to Japanese cartoons — the movie doesn’t look all that much better than an episode of Star Blazers — but the creatures we encounter are interesting and bizarre, some insane bit of action breaks out every time you start getting bored, and the story takes some unexpected, surprisingly serious turns in the third act. I suspect Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos is trying to say something about ethnic cleansing and genocide, but only the hardcore will be able to derive much meaning here. For the uninitiated, the film is best approached as a crazy storybook that doesn’t necessarily have to make sense in order to be enjoyed.
Voices: Shelley Calene-Black, Rie Kugimiya, Shinichiro Miki, Fumiko Orikasa.
Director: Kayuza Murata.
Screenwriter: Yuichi Shinbo. Based on the manga by Hiromu Arakawa.
An Eleven Arts/Funimation release. Running time: 110 minutes. Cartoon violence, gore. In Japanese with English subtitles. Plays Friday-Sunday in Miami-Dade only: O Cinema.