Seiji Muzushima has directed a wide variety of anime series, primarily adaptations of ongoing manga properties. His most notable work, Full Metal Alchemist, is still widely beloved by anime fans.
We had an opportunity to speak to Seiji Mizushima for the second time (the first was at Anime Expo 2009) regarding his thoughts on the recent tsunami, the anime industry, and manga series he’d enjoy adapting into anime.
Interview with Seiji Mizushima
May 28, 2011
Interviewed by William Hong
Translated from Japanese into English by Nik Kamachi
APA: How has the tsunami affected you personally and professionally?
Seiji Muzushima: I felt like most of the country felt, which is a huge feeling of helplessness -- how helpless people can be when something of that magnitude occurs. It changed how I think of natural occurrences and even now with the current problem with the nuclear power plant. The whole country has this feeling of uncertainty.
APA: Have you seen the most recent adaptation of FMA, Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood?
SM: I've seen little bits and pieces of episodes, but never sat down to watch it.
APA: What is the most challenging aspect of adopting an ongoing manga series into an anime?
SM: When you turn something that's existing, like manga, into anime, you're changing a media format in itself, so I feel it's okay to add a twist to it in the first place. Of course, if I were to get a project for something that's already completed, like from a finished manga, I would focus more on how to animate specific sequences. Almost all the offers I get for series are from incomplete, existing properties that are still ongoing. From the get go, I often have to come up with a vision to complete the series instead of using the original creator's. It's not because I like to do that, but it's more of a necessity since most of the projects I get are from incomplete manga.
APA: Can you explain the decision to include Nazi's in the Full Metal Alchemist movie?
SM: From the beginning, there was a parallel world motif with how the Full Metal Alchemist world mirrors the European world. A lot of the events that occurred in Full Metal Alchemist were related to stuff that happened during World War II, so I decided to keep going with that. Since Full Metal Alchemist is already heavily inspired by classical European influences, I went with the route of using World War II as setting, and obviously Nazi's would come into play there.
APA: What was the most difficult aspect of adopting Full Metal Alchemist into an anime?
SM: When I first got the project handed to me, there wasn't enough source material, since the manga was still very new. So I had to work with very little and turn a little bit of story into a full 50 episode TV series.
APA: Did you consult with the original manga writer?
SM: Yes, I did speak with Hiromu Arakawa. I showed Arakawa-san samples of what I was trying to do with the TV series and got the ok directly from him.
APA: Who's your favorite Full Metal Alchemist character?
APA: Out of the all shows you've directed, which was the most challenging?
SM: All of them! Each project is a great challenge.
APA: What inspired you to become a director?
SM: A very good friend and roommate of mine was a very good animator. I thought it was really interesting, but unfortunately I wasn't very good at drawing, so I thought maybe I should get more into the directorial side. That's kind of how everything started. It's not a particularly noble reason, but that's just how it happened.
APA: In what ways has the anime industry changed since you've first began directing?
SM: It's definitely the transfer from cell based to digital animation.
APA: If you could collaborate with another director or writer, who would it be?
SM: I can't really think of anybody. I have a whole lot of directors I respect, but I won't go so far as to say I'd like to work with them because I feel that that would be a bit pretentious.
APA: What are your thoughts on the passing of Satoshi Kon?
SM: I've never gotten to talk to Satoshi Kon, but I've seen him around a few times and really wish I had gotten to sit down and talk with him. I think it's a very significant loss for the anime community as a whole, because I feel that Satoshi Kon excelled at making animated content that was not only just enjoyable for otaku, but also for people that weren't fans of anime at all. It's a tremendous loss for the community.
APA: Do you have a favorite anime or manga?
SM: For TV series, it's probably Evangelion or Gundam. For manga, it's Kuru Kuru Kurin.
APA: If could adapt any manga into anime, what series would you choose and why?
SM: It's called Houkago Sekigahara. It's more gag based. It's a gag comedy series where people that were reincarnated from the Sengoku Era (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) are going to the same high school.
APA: What do you think of Hatsune Miku?
SM: I think she's pretty cool. Apparently they're doing a live event at Anime Expo.
APA: How would you compare your experience at Fanime this year to your experience at Anime Expo in 2009?
SM: Anime Expo was really high tension, crowded, and hard for me to get comfortable at. At Fanime, it just feels like the atmosphere and attendees are more relaxed. You can just be at ease here.
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