Interview with Fullmetal Alchemist mangaka (translation)|
Page 1 at Yahoo Japan
Page 2 at Yahoo Japan
- 'Episodes' here refers to the episodes of the manga, and not the anime series at all.
- This translation does not follow the original source's colour scheme.
- Black text here refers to the interviewer or narration.
- Blue text here belongs to Hiromu Arakawa-sensei.
- Text within '[ ]' are my own comments.
Interview with Hiromu Arakawa ( Published on 22nd September 2004 )
We are all acquainted with "Hagaren", right. A very popular television anime "Fullmetal Alchemist" that is currently broadcasting. The protaganists are a pair of brothers who uses superhuman alchemy in a fantasy world different from ours. Fans intimately call it by "Hagaren".
The original work is still serialised in Shounen Gangan Comics since 2001. Up to Volume 8 of the compilations [ 単行本 tankoubon ] have been published, reaching a total sales of 12 million copies. The number of fans who yearn for its continuing publications and chasing after every volume, is increasing. Contrary to the thinking that a veteran hand did these works, the author is Arakawa Hiromu-san who started her serialisation debut 2 years ago and this can be said to be her first serialised work. For one who created a golden hit and probably left a mark in comic history, what is her [ 彼女 kanojo!!! ] "alchemical process"?
Born in Hokkaidou. Her "Straydog" won the first prize in the 21st Century "Shounen Gangan" 9th Awards. In 1999, the same work debuted in the August edition of "Shounen Gangan". "Fullmetal Alchemist" started its serialisation from the August 2001 issue of "Shounen Gangan". The same work was adapted into an anime series, broadcasted nationally on MBS-TBS since October 2003. In 2004, "Fullmetal Alchemist" won an award at the 49th Manga Publisher Awards, Shounen Section. Furthermore, a movie edition has been announced for the summer of 2005.
-- Your first serialised work is a tremendous success all of a sudden. Tell us the whole story of how a newcomer come to have her works serialised.
At the beginning, I was contracted for a one-shot publication. However, the editor-in-charge of the storyboards passed down a request, "Let us serialise this, okay...". With a story that is meant to be completed in one chapter at this time, "How on earth am I going to do it?" (laughs). I pounded my brains for around half a month, thinking about ideas to serialise this work.
-- 4 years have passed then and now, characters appearing one after another are being entangled in the compexities of your steadily expanding story world.
At the time of the start of serialisation, the outline for the plot of the final part was first considered. Since I already decided the them then, once the conclusion has been decided, I can plan for whatever is necessary for whatever is needed to achieve that conclusion later. This portion is still progressing as the serialised work continues. The episodes from now till the final conclusion are being prepared. As usual, the story progresses as the protaganists grow. Therefore, with each coming episode, how their reactions will be, even I will still not know.
-- The theme was already decided at the start?
There is a saying that if you desire something, you should give up something of equivalent value for it. This can be said to be "Equivalent Trade" in my work. In any of the books talking about alchemy, this saying will appear. I thought this was how life should be like. The theme material was a moment of inspiration kind of thing.
-- Something that tugs at the heartstrings, eh. Regarding the perception on the laws of equivalent trade, is it your personal feelings about life?
Yes, it is (laugh)! My parents are dairy farmers in Hokkaidou. The work of a farm family besides being monotonous and forever, is moreover difficult. If you are lazy, you will only suffer hardships at the end. Our ancestors were the pioneers who came over to Hokkaidou, their stories were passed down by word, but they lived in perfect accordance to the principle of equivalent trade.
-- So, the origin of Hagaren is in farming.
Because my family's precept is "Those who don't work, don't get to eat!" (laugh). However in reality, the sad and unwanted events of the past can be thought of as "Ah, we are more fortunate now.", right. However whatever it is, looking back at the times can become a good source of nutrients (for our minds). I continue to feel for that sort of thing.
The law for alchemy in the Hagaren world is Equivalent Trade. The main character Edward (=Ed) and his younger brother Alphonse (=Al) in trying to resurrect their dead mother, try out the forbidden Human Transmutation. However on top of the end product being imperfect, they were made to pay a very high price for it. Ed lost his left leg, Al completely lost his body itself. Therefore Ed used his own right arm as the price to transmute Al's soul as well as affixing it to a suit of armour. To discover a way to get back their original bodies, the two set off on a journey. The house they should return to, they burn it down personally......
-- Even though there is a compulsory motive, as far as what the young readers (children) are concerned, they will be yearning for a wandering journey, I think. Arakawa-san, did you have such wanderlust when you were a child yourself?
Talking about wanderlust, "If I took a few steps over there, what would have happened" can be said as what I had then. In the farmlands, there were mountains.... and just mountains (laugh). Then I had thought "If I cross over this, I will get to see the sea", go up one and there is another mountain, damn, something like that (laugh). Actually now, supposing if I were given a car, where would I think of going to. Perhaps travel all the places from one end of Japan to the other. However, because I possess a house of my own, I can have peace of mind to think of things like that.
-- Ed and Al completely destroyed the home they can return to.
Yes, but though they say "For us, there is no place to return to", in practice, there will always be people in their home town to welcome them back once they return. Although they themselves are not aware of it, they are given comfort and support by those around them, that is why they keep trying their best.
-- It seems that such intentions of comforting feelings means that the author sketching it out must have had heart-breaking experiences?
No (clearly)! For me, I have not suffered a lot of dreadful stuff in the world, so I have to think them up. However you can see from the sort of stuff on television's news that it seems like the number of children feeling lonely is increasing. But it is not as if the adults are ignoring the children's state of affairs, you can perfectly see what is visible. Yeah, adults clearly see it.
-- More on that, is it because of your life's experiences so far?
Since I was raised on a farm, I always have had adults nearby. Walking back along the farm road from school, without fail there will always be some adults doing farmwork and they will greet you as you come along. A working adult will always be nearby, keeping watch over the growing children. The children will even come out during the busy seasons, assisting with the farmwork without complaints. Due to that sort of local culture/tradition, the feeling of "Adults should perfectly watch over us" is something I have from young.
A characteristic of my work is that amongst the tragedies piled up in an episode, the will to live is reassuringly affirmed. Nonetheless for scenes in which times are desperate, the readers are never led into a painful situation.
-- Even if serious scenes are going on, you will without fail interject humourous scenes, eh.
Whenever a chilling scenes unfolds, it might be painful to read, I guess. Since it is entertainment, you want to read for fun as well. I think back to when I was a child myself reading mangas, the joy I get when reading then is not something I have now. When I am emotional, I read sappy mangas, which is appropriate but not enjoyable. So therefore when I draw, I aim to recall whatever was interesting during my childhood and can be told.
-- What kind of mangas did you read?
Every kind there is. My elder sister reads "Shounen Jump" and "Weekly Margaret" (laugh). Moreover since I have a lot of cousins, I increasingly found it funny to have every genre of manga. Those that especially suited my disposition are "Shounen Jump" and "Shounen Sunday".
- Roughly when did you think of becoming a mangaka?
Since I was little, I had thought that it will be nice to draw mangas for a living. In my student years, I reached the "textbook graffiti" level, but after graduation, I was practicing oil paintings while helping out on my family's farm, as well as creating a doujin on the "Annals of the Three Kingdoms" with a bunch of history loving friends. I was called out by my friends to be a writer, and drew some yonkoma mangas [ 4 panel comics ] in a horse racing magazine. However, for drawing a genuine story manga, my debut work was the one that became my first submitted piece.
My first drawn manga "Straydog" "thankfully won an award" and debuted in Shounen Gangan in 1999. According to the editor-in-charge, "On top of it being unique, generally speaking, the degree of perfection was high". The debut work can be said to have led to Hagaren, the unique presented outlooks coupled with excellent drawings steadily win over readers.
-- It is said that a manga is different from novels and the like, in that it presents its interesting content by "showing through drawings". In Hagaren, the backgrounds are things that casually draws you in, and then forms up the subplots of the story or such.
Hu hu hu...... preparing such things can be said to be enjoyable. It feels good to tidy them up in the later episodes. Having the subplot not making me anxious means that there are no stumbling blocks in it, but in reading it for a second time for example, if something gives me that "Ah, this..." thought, then "That did it!" Conversely, when I reread my first volume, I had lots of thoughts of "Ah, it cannot be that this subplot was used." At times like that, I want to praise my past self (laugh).
-- Once more, "To show a world nobody has seen before" is a reason for enjoyment. In your works, after all, there is a scene where Ed sees the "Truth". However what the Truth is, no one has ever been able to see it with their own eyes in reality.
That is quite true... During the storyboard stage, I was like "What kind of impression would it be?", I sketched out my own fuzzy image of this, but then entered into a state of drawing that went "like how, like how, like how"...... This is the only page that still remains to be pondered upon until the day of the conclusion.
-- Nevertheless that scene probably will continue to become a market trend...
Hu hu hu, whatever happens will happen, I guess......
The last part of the television anime ends on October 2nd. The comic perhaps seems to have reached "a stage of a turning point". How the subplots of the subsequent episodes go from here, is said to be still in the midst of drawings and sketches. Somehow or the other, Hagaren has still more to transmute along the way. As to generally how far its radiance will grow, it would not be far from dazzling our eyes till we are dizzy.
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Published on: 2004-09-28 (50378 reads)[ Go Back ]