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.