Fullmetal Alchemist Movie: Whitewashing Works Both Ways

Whitewashing has been a contentious issue in film making for a while, especially recently. Adaptations of popular anime franchises like Ghost in the Shell have drawn heat for casting white actors for rolls that are set in Japan and who’s stories are specifically influenced by Japanese culture. It is true that it doesn’t make much sense for white actors to play what should be Japanese rolls, but that standard applies when you reverse the situation as well.

It was announced last year that a live action Fullmetal Alchemist Movie was being made, and we now have multiple trailers and a full cast list. Here’s the problem: the whole cast is Japanese. All of the actors, both main and supporting cast, do not match the race of their original characters.

Just as Ghost in the Shell took a uniquely Japanese story and replaced any cultural influence with white actors, The live action Fullmetal Alchemist looks as though it is going to take the unique commentary of the original series and replace it with Japanese actors. 

The reasons that this such a problem in the first place is because much of Fullmetal Alchemist’s story revolves around the conflict of the Amestrian government and the Ishvallan people. Amestris is a country that draws large parallels with Western Europe in the 1940’s, but more specifically it is meant to represent Germany, with Fuhrer Bradley being a direct reference to Adolf Hitler. Of course, the Ishvallans are a reference to the Jewish people in Germany and the Ishvallan War of Extermination is a reference to World War 2 and Concentration Camps.

Race, in this case, plays a large part of the show. Most of the characters being white represents the predominantly white Western Europe, and the ethnic discrimination of Ishvallan people from both the Amestrian government and the people of Amestris serves as huge arc in Scar’s character. 

Having both Edward and Scar be Japanese eliminates any theme of ethnic resentment from the original. It would be taking away heavily from the character of the story.

Even the director of the original show thought the all Japanese cast was a bad call. It’s not wrong for their to want to proper representation for different races in different stories. In Fact, I agree completely, but let’s make sure that standard is applied across the board.


7 thoughts on “Fullmetal Alchemist Movie: Whitewashing Works Both Ways”

  1. This was an interesting read. I personally believe that the term “whitewashing” is thrown around entirely too much. It should not apply to everything that has been reimagined. Take Death Note on Netflix (though I didn’t like the movie). It was a reimagining, not a beat-for-beat remake of the show. Like you said, Ghost in a Shell was whitewashing. But I believe what they are doing with Fullmetal Alchemist is a result of the overuse of the term “whitewashing”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I agree on that. I think people try to use it in situations where it doesn’t apply. And your right Death Note was a reimagining. Although, someone pointed out to me that Asians are the second largest race in Seattle, so I could definitely hear an argument from that perspective.


  2. Honestly the casting makes since the same way the ones in the west did. Since the movie is being made in Japan and really is being marketed to them it makes sense for there to be a mostly Japanese to all Japanese cast. In the same way that a live action movie adaptation on the us is going to have mostly white actors as it reflects the population with them being an overwhelming majority. You change characters races based on the markets demographic especially if being made in a place that’s mostly one race.

    I agree that it doesn’t make sense story wise but majority of the englush dubs don’t make any real sense either, the same with the Japanese dub of Black Lagoon.


    1. With most Japanese movies I would probably agree, but it seems like this is one they are really trying to push worldwide, It’s going to be debuting in 190 countries, plus Fullmetal is already one of the most well-recognized anime even by non-anime fans. Also, I get what you’re saying, but dubs and live action adaptations are not the same thing.


      1. If they’re pushing it that much I would’ve thought they would’ve brought in foreign talent but I can see a reason why they might not have done it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s fucking awful.
    Excuse my French, or maybe it’s Dutch now, nope, according to the comments I come from a mostly white country so I guess it’s just a rude word in English, which is true.

    But me swearing in English and calling it French has no relevance whatsoever.

    Taking a story revolving around a German country surrounded by Ishvalans (Bad speeling for each of these) who are… I’m not sure. Are they Japanese? I feel they’re more a made up race. What happens when the dynasty leader wannabe’s from XING A CLEARLY ASIAN LAND come into the story?

    “OMG a person from XING, Their culture, way of fighting and Alchahestry is so unique! I can also tell they are from XING because we wear European clothes while they wear Japa- uh; XING clothes….”

    Ghost in a shell is whitewashing and avatar is whitewashing and if you think that term is overused, it is, You also don’t know what it means (People that say that). If you take a Japanese influenced anime, cast people as the correct race and then for shits and giggles cast the main protagonists as the magic white saviour/s then how about throw in a little black face if someone of colour was in the show (Although black people, in anime? HA, I would be embarrassed to play almost any if that was my race, usually they are the loud mouthed, not even hiding it N to the A with big lips, barely understandable dialogue, doing something bad)(FMAB wasn’t too bad with this, I think they were all evil though)

    Anyway, so this isn’t exactly whitewashed, just like Death Note wasn’t exactly whitewashed, because it was ugh, a “reimagining” as the person above me said or “really bad” quoted by me by using quote marks and attributing it to me.

    This, or at least the third one which I thought was a new FMAB movie until while Riding the waves with a Skull and Crossbones (cmon, the two movies haven’t been great, I’m not paying for an unknown) I opened it and to my horror I found out about the live action movies. It was awful, luckily it hasn’t finished… arriving, so I can skim through and see events and this is no reimagining this is a scene for well, really bad replica scene movie. ( why is Edward a tall Japanese man? and why does the philosopher stone going into Ling’s scratch (lucky I watched it recently, it really could have been anyone. Well that’s not true, whenever I saw a character [shot game? No wait, alcohol poisoning] I would go “hey that’s a bad Roy Mustang I bet! And that’s probably the last of the central team “chosen”…. I bet! AND GLUTTONY! You look bad. Your expelling of the three in your belly to Bad Father [Awful Beard, does he have yellow eyes? Actually if anything he can’t be Japanese. And Ling! And… Man Edward…. and Alfonse… Are you CGI? Or can they not get the race of armor right either? Oh and TEACH AND…. my bro. Sigu… Your’re just fat. Please don’t show me Armstrong. Your housewife is like right on. Oh right, BECAUSE SHE’S ASIAN, I presume)

    So going through that trash I wrote, it isn’t a retelling, It was made for 190ish countries and simply because it’s anime you cannot say they have to be Japanese. Anime is the form it took after Manga, The story focuses HEAVILY on race, Distrusting others, they must be bad, or spies, lets put them in a slum, and now THEY (It’s one angry dude) are attacking you? After all you did for them. There are so many races, each acts differently, have unique looks that match our universe.

    The Japanese probably thought of converting it to live action (when has that ever worked) so they wanted their actors. \it probably wouldn’t have been made otherwise or would be a repeat of DeathNote mixed with Avatar. Also they’d probably avoid holocaust themes and…. oh well they’d probably all be in high school and the Imestrians are bullied and Full Metal who is still a boy but is in the lower grades but the actor is 22 with massive abs and 6″4 defends them and rejects having to punch a single enemy…. Bully. And in the end no one is punching anyone and Father stops spreading rumours on social media.

    Ah what a sad life to have written all this. We can call it what we want. We were never going to get something good, so may as well do what I plan on doing (although this is like years late) ignoring them and watching FMA again to spot the ugly differences there. At least it’s still anime, if not FMAB.

    Also someone said all anime movies are trite filler nonsense? I guess they missed the end of Evangelion as well as Cowboy Bebop the movie. Or to go a little Otaku The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya! I don’t always go slice of life, but when I do it’s depressing as hell even if humour and happiness is included. If it doesn’t make me cry at least once, it needs more depression and depravity. And so obviously the End of Evangelion is the perfect movie, starting with a cum shot into the main characters hand over a side protags comatose body and ending with him strangling her and then just stopping and crying while she calls him/ disgusting, 13/13. After overcoming (overcumming) the shock of the first 30 seconds (you go Shinji) loved it from start to finish, watching teens in comatose depressive states to OVERJOYED WE CAN DO THIS to (spoiler who could it be? Everyones depressed) getting eaten alive…. Yeah, horrible movie, I loved it, shows that Anime movies can be fantastic, they just need to be placed in the right spot, or placed in a non non-canon spot. Usually has to be after the finale or a dream/deus ex pulled off in a way that makes you unscrunch your face.Sometimes it feels like I’ve watched all the good Anime, I know there has to be more out there that suits me, aqnd don’t get me wrong, I don’t want School Days but I want consequences to peoples actions/inactions, Abusing power beyond its limits and finding you’ve screwed something up.

    (spoilers) being forced to almost kill a new friend, that hits the heart strings, Finding out one of your group members has lived the past summer thousands and thousands of times but is not allowed to say anything and probably becoming corrupted because of it. 😦 Children forced to fight and now its not an inconceivable enemy, it’s human nature as well as your own mind. Major Kharacters being killed off, you can do that,

    Sadness is an emotion but one that you can experience vicariously, The real sadness is the hole left behind when you realise you don’t have any more of that anime left, but if you can feel sad for characters on the screen you can get over it in real life.

    Anyway, its about 3, I don’t know you or how I got here or for that matter to this topic.

    Fuck live action anime/games/whatever, I’ll stick to the real thing and watch a good movie or show, anime or live action.



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