THE ALCHEMIST CODE: The Movie - Essential for Alchemist Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Japan - Bandai Namco Arts
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (30th August 2020).
The Film

"THE ALCHEMIST CODE: The Movie" 「劇場版 誰ガ為のアルケミスト」 (2019)

The ancient dark dragon Destrolurk has wrapped itself around the great Tower of Babel, devouring light and spreading darkness throughout the world. As it engulfed both the tower and the Grand Excelsior, it has effectively sealed magic, making heroes with the power of alchemy to become powerless, as Alchemia has been sealed from the good. Mechanical giants known as Dark Demons are controlled by Destrolurk and are set out to destroy all that are in the way. Many heroes fall in the first raid, and the ones that survive must flee rather than fight on. Lisbeth (played by Ai Furuhata) and Edgar (played by Ryota Osaka) try to summon a Phantom Soldier that could help in the struggle, but they somehow instead summon an average teenage girl from another world.

Kasumi (played by Inori Minase) is a girl from Earth - from Tokyo, Japan to be precise, who is not particularly good at sports, in academics, or in social situations. Raised by a single mother, she has anxiety which was triggered a traumatic incident of falling from a tall jungle gym as a child. Suddenly appearing in a world where magic is used by warriors and creatures not found on Earth, Kasumi is absolutely confused about the situation as Lisbeth and Edgar are, as the spell should have summoned a powerful dead soul. Was the spell a mistake, or is Kasumi somehow the chosen one to save Babel?

Launched in January 2016 in Japan, "THE ALCHEMIST CODE" (also known as "For Whom the Alchemist Exists") is a free-to-play mobile tactical grid-based RPG produced by FgG/gumi taking place in a fictional world with dozens of playable heroes and a large number of stories and quests to explore. The global version was launched a year later, and both versions continue to have constant updates to the game with new content such as characters, weapons, stories, events, and more. In 2019 for the third anniversary, the game would expand further with stage shows, novels, and an animated film alongside other various events. For the feature film, the story would take place in Babel and feature established characters, but with a new story rather than adapting an existing one in the game already. This would be the first time that a human character from Earth would be introduced as a new character, and in essence having the story seen through this first-timer would give the story and game a broader appeal, rather than relying entirely on fans-only. The world of Babel, its rules, and where everything stands are fully explained to the audience through the new character of Kasumi, which may be on the obvious side to players of the game but it serves as a way to welcome newcomers to the game. For fans, there are many familiar faces right from the grand opening sequence, with Logi (played by Natsuki Hanae), Dias (played by Kaito Ishikawa), Mira (played by Lynn), Nyx (played by Jun Fukuyama), Zain (played by Yuma Uchida), Setsuna (played by Asai Imai) and more. In addition, all that lent their voices to the original game have returned to voice their anime versions in this theatrical film.

"THE ALCHEMIST CODE: The Movie" has its share of action packed battle sequences, comical and dramatic tension between characters, a mix of cute and cool, plus awkward moments of interactions throughout the story, and for most anime fans these elements will be all too familiar with many other productions in the film, TV, manga, and game world. The story of a young girl being magically transported into another world has been seen in "Spirited Away" (2002) and "Oblivion Island" (2009), and even could be traced all the way back to the stories of "Alice in Wonderland", "The Wizard of Oz", and "The Chronicles of Narnia". Even in the crossover video game/films like "TRON" and "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" have similar plots, though in "THE ALCHEMIST CODE: The Movie", the character of Kasumi doesn't get transported into the game, but rather an alternate world entirely. Originality is one of the weaker points of the film, as the entire scenario of a seemingly powerless character eventually finding his or her own position in the new world, and somehow having more power than what was expected. Sometimes it comes from mixed blood for enhanced power, like in "Dragon Ball Z" and "Ni no Kuni". Strangely for this film, it is never truly explored how and why Kasumi is able to exert the power of Light from within. It's not revealed if her parents had some unconventional power. It's not said if it comes from transporting between worlds that something happened. Logic is basically thrown out here, and it is about the spectacle of seeing a character awaken when the time comes. "THE ALCHEMIST CODE" plays things quite safe, with a plot that doesn't give off too many surprises, and being more on the predictable side through the runtime. An added value to the cuteness is giving Kasumi a seemingly random sidekick with a tiny creature named Pata (or Flappy in English) that is by her side like in "Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind" with the fox-squirrel Teto or in the aforementioned "Spirited Away" in multiple occasions with Chihiro's character befriending others.

Directed by Shoji Kawamori and Masanori Takahashi and a screenplay by Toshizo Nemoto, their resumes feature a lengthy list of classics from "Macross", Ghost in the Shell", "The iDOLM@STER". For the original story, the game's producer Jun Imaizumi and others at FgG/gumi consulted on what needed to be included in the story, from characters to rules established in order to have the film seamlessly fit within the world of the game, rather than movies taking the IP for granted. An RPG being translated into an action film does take a few liberties, such as the fast paced and larger than life action sequences like the destruction of the village and Edgar's motorbike, which is featured in the game but has a different impact overall. Of course as a film it could have taken some risks - Kasumi's trauma could have been darker, possibly about the loss of her father which was never mentioned or something such as suicide as it seemed to hint but was instead just a fall. The consequences of some characters, like the little girl Amelie who is seen being rescued by Edgar at the beginning could have been a subplot explored further. But as stated earlier, it had to be consistent with the game as the film's story became a playable story within the Japanese version of the game, and needed to have a similar tone and not take things too drastically in a different direction. In this sense this is one of the better examples of a film and video game tie in to be released. The recent adaptation successes of "Sonic the Hedgehog" (2020) and "Detective Pikachu" (2019) showed that video game properties could in fact be well made films with a box office draw, but can Officer Tom and Maddie ever be in a Sonic game? In addition, the "Detective Pikachu" video game for the 3DS is completely different in story and setting from the film version. "THE ALCHEMIST CODE: The Movie" may not get points for originality, but is excellent in consistency.

The film was originally slated to coincide with the third anniversary of the game's launch in January 2019, but was delayed and finally released theatrically in Japan on June 14th, 2019 in limited screenings across the country. The in-game DLC featuring Kasumi and the film's story as a playable quest was introduced as a tie-in soonafter. For home video, it was scheduled quite late as a May 2020 release by Bandai Namco Arts, but was pushed back to August 27th, 2020 after a rescheduling due to COVID-19.

It should be noted for this review that I actually work on the international localization for "THE ALCHEMIST CODE" game and unfortunately there are no plans at the current time to release the film's story content into the global version of the game, though hopefully if the film itself gets released internationally that the plans could change. With many anime titles getting licensed for streaming by companies like Netflix, Hulu, and others outside Japan, it would be very pleasing if the film could have an international release (and yes, I have suggested that).

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray release

Video

Bandai Namco Arts presents the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. Animated with traditional 2D with some 3D elements with bright, bold solid colors, the transfer is basically flawless, capturing the darkness enveloping Babel while showcasing the bright colorful look of modern day Tokyo in the scenes with Kasumi in her home world. 3D is used for the mechanical Demons, some of the spells using Alchemia, the epic battle with Destrolurk and other places, but for the most part the 2D is the showcase while 3D is for enhancements. As it uses cost cutting measures frequently seen with anime, mouths flap up and down and there are points which characters have little to no movement, but the action scenes are sure to use more motion and motion blur for effect. With the film itself taking up over 40GB of space on the disc, there is plenty of breathing room and no issues of compression artifacts or other visual imperfections.

The film's runtime is 117:54.

Audio

Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Japanese LPCM 2.0 stereo

A lossless 5.1 and an uncompressed stereo are offered on the disc. The 5.1 track has dialogue centered while the surrounds are used for music and effects. While it sounds good for the most part, some of the effects are overly loud and out of balance with the rest of the track. Edgar's gun and the Demons stomping around is extremely heavy and bombastic in comparison to explosions or other spells used by characters. Other than that, music by Akiyoshi Yasuda (★STARGUiTAR) and theme songs by Huey Ishizaki are very clear and well balanced. Ranging from orchestral pieces, acoustic performances on piano or guitar, the soundtrack is very full with rarely a scene without music. On another positive note, the 2.0 track does not have any issues with loudness that the 5.1 track has. Edgar's gun, the Demons stomping are well balanced with the other effects, and given the choice, this actually is the better option.

There are no subtitles offered for the feature.

Extras

This has been released in two versions. A standard version with the Blu-ray in a standard case, and a special edition entitled "Essential for Alchemist" which has the Blu-ray alongside exclusive goodies. The following extras are on the Blu-ray:


Audio commentary with directors Shoji Kawamori and Masanori Takahashi, voice actors Inori Minase, Ryota Osaka, Ai Furuhata, and Yui Horie, and game producer Jun Imaizumi (117:40)
The audio commentary track was recorded in three separate sessions. Game producer Imaizumi is the moderator of all three sessions and some are there to stick around for all three, while some like Yui Horie (the voice of Ouroboros) or Ryota Osaka are there for one session each. For listeners the sessions will be seamlessly edited together. Discussed are about the challenges on adapting game into a film, some failed story ideas, location scouting, the voice actors discussing the backstories, and more. It's mostly a playful banter with a lot of joking and laughing, and not too much on the technical details. Note that during the audio commentary track playback, the audio cannot be changed to the main film's audio tracks remotely.
in Japanese DTS 2.0 with no subtitles

Theatrical Pamphlet Digital Gallery
Presented here is the original pamphlet for theaters in digital form, featuring artwork and information of the characters, production notes, and more. The text is entirely in Japanese, and there is a "zoom" function for looking in closer at the text.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Official Artwork Digital Gallery
- Special Illustrations
- Story
- Phantom
- Material
- Sketches

A very extensive collection of artwork that goes beyond the film, featuring artwork from the game itself including art and information on characters and the world of Babel, plus work on the film from rough sketches and notes on the story. Some of the stills have a "zoom" function. There is also a "play all" function, which has the user cycle through all the galleries without having to exit each time one of the series of the stills is over.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

PV & Interview (3:30)
A promotional video featuring director Kawamori giving some insights about the film and being the game's third anniversary, there are also a montage of film clips presented for the upcoming theatrical release. Although he is wearing a pin microphone during this interview, Kawamori sounds very echoey, possibly with the mic malfunctioning and having to use raw audio from the camera mic instead.
in 1080i 60Hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

3 Theatrical Trailers (2:04)
Three short original theatrical trailers are played back to back. One of the trailers has been embedded below.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles



2 TV Commercials (0:48)
Two commercials promoting the Blu-ray release of the film are played back to back. One of the commercials has been embedded below.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in Japanese LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles



The "Essential for Alchemist" edition also includes the following:


DISCS TWO & THREE (Soundtrack CD)
Two CDs featuring about 100 minutes of music cues and songs, including tracks sung by Huey Ishizaki and Inori Minase are included. The two CDs and Blu-ray are packaged together in a Digipack case with the tracklisting for the songs.

Storyboards & Animation Settings Book
A large 532 page softcover book is included. The first 500 pages is dedicated to the storyboards for the film with notes, and the last 32 pages include sketches and information on characters and more.


Preorders also include the following:


"The Alchemist Record 4" Book
The fourth in the series of art books for the game includes artwork and information for characters in the film, plus additional characters, and interviews and notes from the producers.


While the packaged contents is heavy, the content on the disc itself is fairly light. There are no interviews with the cast or crew, no featurettes about the making of the film or on the game, and surprisingly no stage greetings either. Also, no music videos. Huey Ishigaki's clip of the song "Namida" which was the main theme song has been embedded below, which includes clips of the film.

Packaging

The discs are packaged in a Digipack case, slightly taller than a standard Blu-ray case but shorter than a DVD sized case. It is housed in a sturdy slipbox which also includes the storyboards & animation settings book. The preorder bonus book is nearly twice the height of the slipbox and is packaged separately. Note that this "Essential for Alchemist" edition is only available at Amazon Japan and A On Store.

Overall

"THE ALCHEMIST CODE: The Movie" doesn't necessarily rewrite anything new for an anime film by playing with conventional plot standards, but does a good job to tie in the video game seamlessly with a story that is easy for non-fans to be immersed in. The Blu-ray offers excellent video, a slightly problematic 5.1 track and a great stereo track, though on disc supplements are a little light. Unfortunately there are no English options on this release for international fans, who may have to wait longer for a localized release.


Notes:
The film's website (Japanese)
The game's website (Japanese)
The game's website (Global)

The Film: B- Video: A Audio: B Extras: C Overall: B

 


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