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Ryosuke Yamada to play Edward Elrich in live action Full Metal Alchemist!

With 3 full-length films to his credit and a dozen or so TV drama and movies, Ryosuke Yamada recently received the Rookie of the Year from the Japan Academy. Said Rookie was for his role in Assassination Classroom. He is joined by Kento Yamazaki and Tao Tsuchiya for their work in the futuristic-coming of age movie, Orange. Now comes one of the biggest highlights of his acting career – to play the title role of Edward Elrich in the live action Full Metal Alchemist.

Is he the right actor to play the role? What sort of scenario took place during the actual casting? Who is Edward Elrich and why is his character such an interesting role to play?

Now, having launched our yearly Japan’s Best Actors list, it seems like a coincidence that the casting buzz took place just a few days after. I think I have some other actors on my mind to play the role… but let’s have a backgrounder first:

Fullmetal Alchemist takes place in an alternate Edwardian Era-themed history, in the fictional country of Amestris (アメストリス Amesutorisu?). In the world, alchemy is one of the most-practiced sciences; Alchemists who work for the government are known as State Alchemist (国家錬金術師 Kokka Renkinjutsushi?), and automatically are given the rank of Major in the military. Alchemists have the ability, with the help of a Transmutation Circle, to transmute almost anything they desire via their souls. However, when they do so, they must also give up something physically personal of theirs, as stated under the Law of Equivalent Exchange. The only thing Alchemists are forbidden from transmuting are humans. Doing so will not only cost a person a part of their body and create a black, inhuman mesh, but also be confronted by Truth, a God-like being who tauntingly regulates all alchemy use.

Edward and Alphonse Elric live in the rural town of Resembool with their mother Trisha and their father Van Hohenheim, the latter having left home for an unknown reason. When Trisha dies of the plague, the brothers perform the forbidden alchemic technique of human transmutation in an attempt to resurrect her. Consequently, the transmutation backfires and in law with the equivalent exchange, Edward’s left leg and Alphonse’s entire body are destroyed. Edward sacrifices his right arm to rescue Alphonse’s soul, binding it to a suit of armour with a blood seal. Edward is invited by Roy Mustang to become a State Alchemist to research a way to restore Alphonse’s body. Edward succeeds, becoming the Fullmetal Alchemist, the title based on his prosthetic automatic limbs and use of alchemy involving metal materials. [ read more ]

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I am so looking forward to watching Yamada in Grasshopper since that movie happens to be one of my most anticipated for 2015. I want to see how he interacts with Toma Ikuta and Tadanobu Asano. I am not qualified to judge him as a performer since I have not seen him on stage, but only saw a lot of interaction between him and fellow Johnny’s Yuto Nakajima.

His performance in Assassination Classroom was just so-so. I believed that some of the cast, particularly Masaki Suda, has stolen the show from him. While many may consider his role to be quiet, like a smoldering rock locked inside a volcano, I guess having someone like Suda acting together in some scenes can have some “debilitating” effects. For me, his performance was not memorable.

Which brings us to the new live action production! Edward Elrich is like a ball of fire – filled with limitless energy and with a unique sense of humor. The fact that he interacts with his brother, who has been turned from being a human into a different ‘form’ requires a lot of faith – in the sense that in the live action, he might be talking to an ‘invisible co-star’ where bluescreens are supposed to put up the scenes. Its hard enough to be a sensible, faithful Edward Elrich and to rely on CGI for most of the interaction…

I would have to say Nijiro Murakami could have been a better choice. Though Yamada certainly look the part.