Arakawa Hiromu x Tanaka Yoshiki: A Brilliantly Big Conversation

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Arakawa Hiromu x Tanaka Yoshiki: A Brilliantly Big Conversation is an interview with LOGH author Tanaka Yoshiki and Arakawa Hiromu, author/illustrator of famous Fullmetal Alchemist manga, regarding her new manga adaptation of Tanaka's Heroic Legend of Arslan novels. The interview was originally published in "Bessatsu Shonen Magazine" in December 2013 and also in "Weekly Shonen Magazine" Vol. 49 2013. An English translation of the interview by Lindsey Akashi is included at the end of the first volume of Kodansha Comics' English edition of Arakawa's adaptation, published on 18. August 2014.

Interview excerpts

Tanaka: "As far as writing goes, I kept a journal during my middle-school days. It seems like my mom is still carefully holding on to it, so I feel like I want to find some way to incinerate it. (laughs.)"
Tanaka: "Speaking seriously, apparently, I would scribble down story outlines and other things like that. According to my mother, I've been like that as long as she can remember, but it's actually something I don't remember too well."
Tanaka: "During the spring break following my acceptance to graduate school, I wrote a short story for some reason or another and that started it. I saw an article about a new author's prize in a literary magazine called "Gen'eijou," and the idea just suddenly came to me, so I wrote several pages and sent them in. I was sure that there was no way I'd win, so I completely forgot about it."
Tanaka: "I was at a funeral when they contacted me about my win. The woman who ran my dorm had suddenly passed away, and they called me right in the middle of the service. So I mean, as I was sitting in the corner of the room with a serious look on my face, the phone rang out.I picked it up and I hear something like, "Hello, Mr. Tanaka? You've been chosen for the new author's prize..." But it wasn't the kind of atmosphere where I could just say, "I'm happy," or whatever, so I said "Hmm... is that so?" The person on the phone then said to me, "Aren't you happy?" And even as they asked me that question, you could hear the sound of a priest praying right next to me. (Laughs)."
A slump has arrived! What do you do!?
Tanaka: "No, I have nothing specific. When I can't write, I just say, "I can't write!" and give up, and I watch all the DVDs that have been piling up and such. Just recently I saw a film that was something like 'Anaconda vs. King Gorilla.' (Laughs.) After all, no matter how much you turn the faucet, if the main waterline is closed nothing will come out. (Laughs.)"
Arakawa: "It seems like it, but I came to be interested in it myself after often being asked in fan letters, "Do you like 'Legend of the Galactic Heroes?'" I wondered if that had something in common with the way I create stories...."
Tanaka: "Having "The Legend of Galactic Heroes," read by an unexpected number of people, I felt like I had written everything I could about space operas. Then at the same time, I thought, "I'd like to write something with sword-fighting." Even so, I had no confidence in being able to write Japanese sword fighting, and as far as Western stories go, we already have Kurimoto Kaoru-san's "Guin Saga." When I thought I needed to compete in a different area, suddenly "Persia" was what popped into my head. It might be the effect of books and TV, but I also might have just lost my head. (Laughs.) Even now it's a mystery to me."
Arakawa: "Tanaka-san's stories have "developed characters," or should I say the people have the amazing power to move stories along. Of course there's politics, battles, and so on, but it feels like people are moving the story along. Therefore, it wasn't about "how to inflate the characters," but instead, "how to cut them down," was important. Since there are a lot of interesting episodes, it's difficult to cut them down. The people really are active, and so you even develop an attachment to the enemies."
Tanaka: "I really understand that. I also liken writing to a journey. In short, you leave Tokyo, and it's decided that the story will end by arriving in Osaka. But I think, on the way, do you take the Tokaido line, or do you take the Chuo line, or do you wait until the maglev train passes through? (Laughs.) Rather than deciding on the strict path, you decide based on the character's personalities or in response to their circumstances and you think, do they try stopping by extra stations, or instead, do they try skipping them and passing by? I was a little surprised to hear your story, Arakawa-san. Up until this point, I've heard no end of people telling me, "Your way of doing things is unusual." (Laughs.)"

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