One on One with Hiromu Arakawa
How did you come to be a manga artist?
When I was a kid I doodled on everything near me…advertisements, my textbooks. I kept that up till the artist thing just happened.
Like drawing a moustache on self-portraits in history textbooks? (chuckle) Did you do any other job before becoming a comics professional?
My family runs a dairy farm in Hokkaido so I used to work for them. For seven years I took care of cows and cultivated the fields.
Is that why your self-portrait is a cow?
Yes, and because I think I look a little like a cartoon cow, so it fits.
In other words you were born with your desinty tied to cows. So, of course you must love cows?
Of course. I love to take care of them and also eat them.
Which do you prefer, Japanese food or Western good? Which dish is your favorite?
Japanese! And my favorite food is ramen! Hokkaido’s ramen is really good.
The ramen from Sapporo and Asahikawa is quite famous, isn’t it? Do you have other hobbies or interests?
I like to watch movies. Also I like to go to antique flea markets and buy all kinds of strange things.
I like the Star Wars series and the Indiana Jones series. Darth Vader is the greatest villain of all time and Sean Connery is the greatest old man.
Would you say any other manga artists have influenced you?
The manga artist that I look up to the most is Suiho Tagawa, the author of Norakuro. He is the root of my style as an artist. I also love Rumiko Takahashi and Kinnikuman or Ultimate Muscle by Yudetamago. As far as composition and how to draw, I learned that when I was apprenticed to Hiroyuki Eto, the author of Mahoujin Guru Guru for Shonen GanGan.
An unusual combination. So you combined Norakuro and Mahoujin Guru Guru to get the inspiration for the world of Fullmetal Alchemist?
Well, first I came up with the Philosopher’s Stone. I don’t remember how I got the ideas for the plot, but it came to me while I was working on something else. Then I did some research reading about alchemy. I was fascinated, and that, in turn, became the framework for the whole manga.
So was it easy researching something as obscure as alchemy?
No! It was difficult because the descriptions and interpretations differed from author to author. I wish they could just unify their feelings. (sob)
Too bad there’s no book entitled Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Alchemy! But the research is over. Now you create. What’s your most and least favorite part about creating Fullmetal Alchemist?
My favorite task is inking the characters. It’s fun to see the characters taking shape. On the other hand, my least favorite task is the storyboard stage, drawing out the panels and writing the dialogue.
What time period is your work based on?
I based it on the industrial sectors of England during the industrial revolution. It’s a city with rows of factories wrapped in smoke, smog and steam But I’ve given it my own original flavor and made it into a fantasy world.
Your train stations definitely have a feeling of old-time Europe to them. Okay, moving on to the next question. Who’s your favorite character?
Favorite character?! I really can’t decide. If I had to force myself to pick they would be Ed, Al, Winry and Lt. Hawkeye. But the characters that are easiest to draw are Major Armstrong, animals and the mobs. (chuckle)
Armstrong must be fun to draw. So you draw animals quite a bit. Do you like any other animals besides cows?
I like dogs. I guess that’s why there are quite a few in the story: Den, Alexander and Black Hayate.
If you had to choose a favorite episode, which one would it be?
It would be the side story “Dog of the Military.” It was really easy to draw. From a recent episode, I would have to say volume 7, the end of chapter 27. The interaction of “Who the hell are you!?” “I’m a housewife!!!!!” That’s a scene that I wanted to do for a long time.
I liked that a lot. That’s the scene that makes you say, “That’s Izumi!” Speaking of compelling scenes, I’m sure there was quite a strong reaction from everyone when Lt. Col. Hughes died. What do you remember from working on that episode?
Every month, before we start work on the comic, I have the assistants read the dialogue in the rough draft so that they can get an idea of how the story is going to flow. This was the one where everyone who read it cried, “Ohhhhh!!!” I had to apologize profusely.
We’ve assembled a special collection of your illustrations in this book. You seem to put a lot of effort into even the illustration on the back of the cover and the bonus manga at the end of the volume. Where do you get your ideas?
They come out of nowhere, really. Sometimes I just think of new things while working on the original book, and then reading all of it over again, I noticed that a lot of it is about Colonel Mustang. Maybe he’s a character that’s easy to mess with?
Out of all the characters, who is modeled after you the most?
Well, since the characters came from me, there must be a part of each of them that resembles me in some way…For instance, my assistant Yuzuka tells me that I resemble Ed. And my other assistant Takaeda tells me that I resemble Izumi. But I’m not that hot-headed!!! (flustered)
So between those two, if you lived in your own manga world, what would you be like?
I’d follow three simple rules: -Never go within 2KM of circus freaks. -Never go near the butcher shop in Dublith. -Always spend under 300 sens on snacks. That ought to keep me alive! (chuckle)
Well then, for good or for ill, if you could become a circus freak, or alchemist, what sort of powers would you have?
I would use ink and paper to transmute manga pages. There might be problems with some of the details though. (heh)
Your code name might be “The G Pen Alchemist”? So with those alchemy skills, what other manga genres would you like to do?
High school martial arts romantic comedy!
That’s quite a genre (chuckle). That would be interesting to see and maybe a bit scary too… Now I’d like to start wrapping things up. Could you give a little hint as to what we can expect in the upcoming episodes?
When the Elric brother’s father, Hohenheim, finally makes an appearance, things are going to start happening very quickly… I think everyone is going to be very surprised when they find out who he really is.
I’ll be looking forward to that. So is there any specific message you’re trying to get through to fans with Fullmetal Alchemist?
Nothing in particular. If 100 people read it there are going to be 100 different interpretations, so I think whatever each person gets out of reading the comic is the message. The Elric brothers grit their teeth every day trying to get back their original bodies but I hope the readers don’t dwell too much on the painful things and just enjoy the story. If people think it’s cool, that’s enough for me!
Okay, what would you like to say to your fans today?
Perfect Guidebook 1; Fullmetal Alchemist Profiles
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