Hiromi Arakawa (荒川 |弘美, Arakawa Hiromi), known by her pen name, Hiromu Arakawa (荒川 弘, Arakawa Hiromu), born May 8, 1973, is a female Japanese manga artist from Tokachi, Hokkaidō. Her given name is Hiromi (弘美, Hiromi), the first character being written identically to her male pen name, Hiromu. Her renowned manga, Fullmetal Alchemist, became a hit, and was later adapted into two anime series, one based on a new story (Fullmetal Alchemist, 2003) and later one that follows the manga (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, 2009).
Hiromi Arakawa (荒川 |弘美) was born in Tokachi, a sub-prefecture in the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido. Her family owned a dairy and potatoes farm and Hiromi was raised there along with several sisters. As a teen, she helped her parents at the farm chores and played on the fields. She said manga had always been among her hobbies and that she read and collected manga of all genres, but was partial to Weekly Shōnen Jump and Weekly Shōnen Sunday (a magazine to which Arakawa now has a contract, publishing the manga Silver Spoon). Kinnikuman was one of her favorite manga. As a child, Arakawa dreamt of discovering what was beyond the farms and looked up to the mangaka profession (manga writer) as being ideal, “light” and carefree.
She went to an agricultural high school and, as she graduated, agreed with her parents she would help them at the farm for 7 years and, in this meantime, would take regular oil painting lessons at town. As that period ended, she moved to Tokyo to pursue her dream of becoming a mangaka and swore to her parents she would only return home once she was able to make a living out of manga. Arakawa started working with manga making doujins with her friends, one of the most known being Shishi Juushin Enbu, a co-work with her friend Zhang Fei Long. Ideas from this fanzine would be later incorporated into the manga Hero Tales.
One of the first paid jobs Arakawa had as a mangaka was making short comics (the otherwise known as 4koma) for a magazine called Gamest, where she made parodies of the games portrayed in the issues of the magazine. At the time, she used the alias Edmund Arakawa. After that, she was accepted as an assistant to the mangaka Etō Hiroyuki, known for his manga Mahōjin Guru Guru.
Her first professional solo manga was Stray Dog (1999), a one-shot that was published by Enix after winning the “9th 21st Century Shounen GanGan Award” contest. The winning of this contest also resulted in a contract with Enix, and the publisher branch, GanGan, was, thereafter, publishing most of her works.
The following piece was the series Shanghai Yōmakikai (2000–2006), an irregular and discontinued series telling the story of a Demon-hunter’s Office in a futuristic Shangai. The series has currently 4 chapters and there has been rumors of its return.
Arakawa's next manga would turn her into a worldwide known mangaka: Hagane no Renkinjutsushi, aka Fullmetal Alchemist, started to be published in August 2001 and had regular monthly chapters up to its finale, in June 2010. Initially, it was regarded by the critics with disinterest, but it rapidly gained popularity by its quality and thickness of plot. The success of the manga has rendered two animated series and an extensive franchise. It has also rendered Arakawa one of the most prestigious awards given to a mangaka in Japan: the Annual Shogakugan Manga Award. She has won the award in the Shonen category in 2003.
While publishing Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa also worked on other pieces, among one-shots and series, mainly the dark humor manga Raiden-18 (2005 – present), the one-shot Sōten no Kōmori (2006), and the long series Hero Tales (2006–2010).
Married and mother of two children, Arakawa has secured a contract with Shogakugan's Weekly Shōnen Sunday in 2011 and is currently publishing the first non-fantasy series of her career, Silver Spoon. Regarded at first with suspicion (and even discontent) by her most hardcore fans for not falling in the "fantasy" category, Silver Spoon has gathered growing attention from the media and critics. As of April 2012, it had 2.5 million copies printed, a number greatly aided by the winning of the 5th Manga Taisho Award. It was recently announced that Silverspoon is receiving an anime adaptation by Aniplex.
Arakawa's self-portrait is usually that of a bespectacled cow, as she was born and raised on a dairy farm. This choice of an alter-ego says much about Arakawa's unpretentious (yet consistent) style in writing. She usually tends to write about everyday events with an emphasis on people's feelings, world-views, and conceptions/misconceptions, but tends to permeate it with humor and jokes, to make it entertaining and accessible.
For Fullmetal Alchemist manga, Arakawa had read alchemy-related books, which she found very complicated due to the fact that some books contradicted others. Arakawa was attracted more by the philosophical aspects than the practical aspects. For the Equivalent Exchange concept, she was inspired by the work of her parents who had a farm in Hokkaidō and always had to give all their effort in order to earn the money to eat. Arakawa wanted to integrate social problems into the story. She gathered information watching news programs and talking to people, such as refugees, war veterans and former yakuza. Several plot elements expand on these themes, such as Pinako Rockbell caring for the Elric brothers after the death of their mother, and the brothers helping people all over the country, to gain an understanding of the meaning of family. When creating the fictional world of Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa was inspired after reading about Europe during the Industrial Revolution period; she was amazed by how different the people from different countries were, in terms of their culture, architecture and clothes. She was especially interested in England during this period and "added to it her own original flavor to turn it into a fantasy world".
When the manga began serialization, Arakawa had in mind how the story would end. As the plot continued, however, she felt some characters were maturing and decided to change some scenes, resulting in some sketches of the faces of the characters were improvised. In creating the characters' designs, she comments that the manga authors Suihō Tagawa and Hiroyuki Eto are her main inspirations, and describes her artwork is a mix of both of them. Arakawa made comedy central in the manga because she thinks it is intended for entertainment, and tried to minimalize focus on sad scenes.
Stray Dog (1999)Arakawa's first official work, Stray Dog is a one-shot launched originally in 1999, at Shounen GanGan. It was very well received by the critics and it was launched as part of an award. It won the 21st Century Shounen GanGan Award.
It's a fantasy/medieval manga that tells the story of Fultac, a mercenary and an outlaw, who discovers a creature called "military dog" (a sort of chimera between a dog and a human) as he pillaged a group of errand bandits, that starts to follow him around.
Totsugeki Tonari no Enikkusu (2000)
A parody, discretionary manga about Enix (later Square-Enix) and Arakawa's relation to it.
Demons of Shanghai (2000)
Arakawa's first series, it only had 4 chapters published and some of its characters greatly resemble Fullmetal Alchemist's ones, which made this series to be recurrently used as "fake spoilers" to FMA.
Demons of Shanghai is a humoristic/adventure manga that tells the story of a futuristic, apocalyptic Shanghai, where demons walk freely among the humans and hide as normal people. The government is aware of these demons and makes up rules so that these demons can remain in Shanghai. A special group of detectives is then summoned to take care of any demon that might break those rules, being in charge of sending such demon back to where it came from.
Fullmetal Alchemist (2001 - 2010)
Arakawa's first long, continuous series, Fullmetal Alchemist presented the author internationally and became arguably her most famous work.
Raiden 18 (2005 - ongoing)A recurrent, non-periodic dark humor series, about mad doctors and Frankensteins, Raiden 18 has 3 published chapters as of 2013.
It tells the story of Dr. Tachibana, a girl whose hobby is to build fighting Frankensteins, putting them to contest with other doctors' Frankensteins in special arenas. Her latest and most powerful creation, Raiden 18, was built out of, according to Tachibana, only the "top class parts" and with a special part that gives Raiden 18 a very strong sense of loyalty. But Raiden 18 is also a rebel and he always questions his master and her morals, making them both fight each other constantly.
Souten no Koumori (2006)
Souten no Koumori is a serious, dramatic one-shot about ninjas in Imperial Japan.
A very traditional ninja story, it tells about a rogue ninja called Henpukumaru who ends up at a rival lord's house and is nursed back to health by people that should have been enemies. Now, Henpukumaru has a moral and existential crisis to solve in order to break free of a very dark past.
Hero Tales (2006 - 2010)Arakawa's second long series, it is currently on hiatus. Although only launched officially in 2006, Hero Tales goes way back to the time Arakawa was still an amateur manga writer. It was first conceived by a doujin group called Dennou Sanzoku Bukando, composed by Arakawa and her friend, Zhang Fei Long. It was first edited as a web manga. As Arakawa became professional, she revisited some of those old ideas along with Genco and Flag Studio. The trio formed a group and adopted the name Huang Jin Zhou, being responsible for the plot of Hero Tales and delegating the art and drawings to Arakawa, who also helped with her contacts with GanGan to publish the manga on their magazines.
Hero Tales tells a story of an Imperial China, where nations would fight among each other for influence and power. A young boy, named Taitou, discovers as he achieves the majority that he's the holder of supernatural powers as the incarnation of a star. This power he's given has a price, since other people are also incarnations of other stars and will fight him for the power to control the Empire.
Noble Farmer (2008 - ongoing)
A humorous and insightful autobiography by Arakawa, in Noble Farmer she talks about her life at the farm and about agriculture, life in the city and anything that crosses her mind. It recurrently talks about milk and its benefits for health.
Silver Spoon (2011 - 2019)Silver Spoon inaugurates Arakawa's contract with the company Shogakugan and it's published by the acclaimed Shounen Sunday. In March 2012, the manga won the new, yet prestigious, Manga Taisho Awards, a prize given to mangas based on the votes of manga retail stores (instead of the usual industry critics and magazines). The manga was adapted into an anime on July 11, 2013, by A1 Pictures with a span of 11 episodes. A second season aired between January 9, 2014, till March 27, 2014.
Arakawa's first non-fantasy series. Silver Spoon is a slice of life manga that tells the story of Hachiken, a brilliant prep-school student who decides to leave Sapporo and his advanced studies to join a farm high school in Hokkaido, where students prepare themselves to be farmers, chefs, and vets. Hachiken has to adapt to a new way of life, waking up before dawn, taking care of animals, and eating healthy food and learning all the different and new knowledge this lifestyle requires.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan (2013 - ongoing)
- 1999: 9th 21st Century Enix Award for Stray Dog
- 2003: 49th Shogakukan Manga Award, Shōnen category for Fullmetal Alchemist
- 2011: 15th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, "New Artist Prize" category.
- 2011: 42nd Seiun Award, "Best Science Fiction Comic" category for Fullmetal Alchemist
- 2012: 5th Manga Taishō Award for Silver Spoon
- 2012: 58th Shogakukan Manga Award, Shōnen category for Silver Spoon
- Interviewer: "Which do you prefer, Japanese food or Western food? Which dish is your favorite?" Arakawa: "Japanese! And my favorite food is ramen! Hokkaidō's ramen is really good." (Hiromi Arakawa, 2003)
- Interviewer: "If you had to choose a favorite episode, which one would it be?" Arakawa: "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." (Perfect Guidebook 1; Fullmetal Alchemist Profiles) on a side note apart from the scene being in Chapter 27 (towards the end, page 42) she also did a similar scene in Chapter 83 (page 24) of FMA.
- Interviewer: "Okay, what would you like to say to your fans today?" Arakawa: "Love!!" (Perfect Guidebook 1; Fullmetal Alchemist Profiles)
- "I always draw ridiculous looking self-portraits for this series, so I have a really hard time when I need to draw one for other magazines. It's regrettable how they always use the "underwear" picture from volume one. Really regrettable." (Hiromi Arakawa, 2004)
- "I've been very touched by letters from young boys and girls in the hospital, or even from adults who tell me that they felt better after reading Fullmetal Alchemist," she says. "Reading manga gave me hope as a kid, and it makes me so happy to think that now I've been able to cheer people up with my own manga! It's such an honor, it really is." (Newtype USA January 2006)
Quotes from the Fullmetal Alchemist Manga, (coverslip flap for various volumes):
- I like B movies. I take a look at this and that, while thinking, "What the hell is this!? This makes no sense!" till the end. I like that sort of feeling. So an alchemy manga was born because I wanted to have that kind of feeling in my manga. Thanks to everyone who bought it. While getting into it and thinking, "What is alchemy supposed to be like this?" Please enjoy it.(Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1)
- I left home, and I wasn’t going back until I could make a living on manga. I’m happy that my wish was granted and that I’ve gotten a series, but now I’m busy and have no time to go home. I’m kind of happy and kind of sad.(Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 2)
- "I love to read manga!" "I love to draw manga so much I don't know what to do!" "I draw, therefore I am!" "That's all the proof I need to know that I exist!! I’m satisfied with just that!!!" The point is I’m a manga idiot. (Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3).
- What do I look forward to in a volume? That would be drawing the omake pages. I don’t care if there are 180 pages, as long as I have my omake. (Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 4)
- Apparently, when my neighbor's 3-year-old daughter found out that I'm a manga artist, she said with a sparkle in her eyes, "I wonder if she draws princesses and stuff?" Sorry little girl, I only draw grubby old men. (Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 6)
- After starting to draw manga, a lot of unexpected things happened, leaving me quite stunned. But it is these sudden events that make life interesting.(Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 7)
- The self-portraits that I draw here are usually not up to scratch, so when magazines do author profiles, it becomes quite a hassle. Repeatedly using the "Fighting Panties" from Volume 1 makes me feel regretful. Very regretful.(Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 8)
- A few friends that also drew manga gathered at the pub regardless of the fact did we drink any alcohol, we would talk excitedly about manga. We will get so preoccupied with the topic, that we always miss the last train. Although we all have the feeling, "We’re so old already, why are we still mucking around like this?" But whenever we hear something like “I want to draw this!!”, the passion from everybody, our spirits are refreshed with new enthusiasm. This time I even got Moritaishi Sensei to draw the omake for me. Wah!! (Happy)(Fulmetal Alchemist Volume 9)
- The cover for Volume 9 seems to be very well liked. I received many letters discussing their opinions regarding it. "Follow me! That’s what it is trying to convey!!" or "Men speak with their backs!!" or "It’s like saying everybody’s fate is resting upon my back, what a great cover!!" and stuff like that. ... Can’t bear to say "It’s because drawing the colonel’s face is really troublesome" ... Can’t say it ...(Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 10)
- This happened when I went for a massage after finishing the drafts for the manga. Because I was really sleepy, I was thinking drowsily about "How should the next chapter develop?", when the masseuse suddenly commented: "Your right shoulder is really tight." I unwittingly answered "That’s because it’s automail." Getting confused between the manga and reality…!!" (Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 11)
- Due to a lack of real publicity photos of Arakawa, a great sum of her fanbase has no idea what she really looks like, even to this day. There are some scarce pictures of the real Arakawa in the web, but they are very low in quality and are rarely used as reference. Many fans have mistaken photos of Romi Paku, Edward Elric's seiyuu, as photos of Arakawa; Paku is known for representing Arakawa in public appearances Arakawa is not able to attend.
- During a Shonen Jump interview, Arakawa was asked, "Which manga, do you consider to be your greatest inspiration." She answered, "Well, I would say European history had the biggest contribution, a mix of the late renaissance era and early twenty century, but in regards to other manga, that would definitely be Fist Of The North Star, Hunter X Hunter and of course Dragon Ball." When asked, in what capacity? She said, "Fist of the North Star, was excellent at combining grim character back story, but still being cute and loveable at the time. Hunter X Hunter, perfected subtle world-building, and unpredictable character arks. And Dragon Ball, took real-life locations, and turned them into beautiful settings."
- Arakawa's birth name is "Hiromi"; Hiromu is reportedly a masculine pen-name she uses in order to avoid putting off shonen readers.
- Some themes are recurrent in Arakawa's works, especially themes referring to redemption, guilt, coming of age, prejudice (and the overcoming of such prejudice) and others. There are also references that appear in more than one piece, such as the term "Stray Dog", some characters' lines and physical resemblance, chapter titles as well as small jokes and Easter eggs.
- Arakawa is married and has three children: a boy (2008), an unknown gender child born in September 2011 and another child born in early 2014. Her husband and her older child appear in 2011 July's issue of Noble Farmer. She mentions a trip she took with her family to her parents' farm and the first try both her husband and son had of natural milk.