Interview: FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD Composer Akira Senju

©Hiromu Arakawa/FA Project

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist, and Milan Records released 11 original soundtracks from the anime franchise on all streaming platforms. This marks the first time that the tracks are available outside of Japan. To celebrate the occasion, we had the special opportunity to talk to FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD music composer Akira Senju.


Credit Noboru Morikawa

It has been over 10 years since FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD. Now that many people worldwide will get to experience the music again, what are your initial thoughts?

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is the definitive version of Fullmetal Alchemist, and although the responsibility was greater than other versions, it was such a satisfying project in which I was able to give my all. It is definitely an epoch-making work for me, which I have only done a few times in my career. It was a work in which I was able to express everything I had done up to that point. Please enjoy the world of Fullmetal Alchemist through the music.

 

It is likely their first time experiencing the soundtrack separate from the anime for many international fans. What soundtracks or melodies should we pay attention to?

Even though the project was more than 10 years ago for me, I wanted to give the music a timelessness that does not get old, even after many years. I hope you will discover another world of Fullmetal Alchemist in this music.

 

It will be a nostalgic experience listening to the soundtrack albums. Have you had the moment to listen to the music again before its digital release?

I relistened to the music for this interview, and I still think it’s not old even if you listen to it now. 

©Hiromu Arakawa/FA Project

How were you approached initially to work on FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD original soundtracks? Were you familiar with the manga and series before working on the music?

When I received the offer from the production producer, I read the original work that had been published up to that point and was so impressed that I accepted the offer. It had been a long time since I had worked on an animated series, and I knew that there had been a previous series, but I still felt a responsibility to do it because it would be a complete series that would run concurrently with the original work. I did not listen to any of the previous music to avoid preconceived notions, nor did I think to use it as a reference. 

 

Before composing for FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD, you’ve composed music primarily for drama and live-action films. What was that transition to anime music composition while working on FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD’s soundtrack? Were there any unique challenges?

As long as I am a Japanese composer, I would like to make music for anime titles that represent Japan. Although I am not a composer that specializes in anime, I am given a big project once every few years. I believe that being able to receive offers at the most opportune times is largely due to the accumulation of work in other genres. There is nothing particularly unique about animated titles, but it depends on what is required of the music. 

Anime and game production has changed drastically in the last 10 years. Has that been the same for anime and gaming music composition? Was there something you wished was available when working on FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD?

What has changed on the technical side is the convenience and speed of pre-production. Recording has become more efficient with the development of simulated sound. The choice between live instruments, simulated instruments and programming has become easier. I recorded a session with a large symphony orchestra and choir as well as with the computer, which is still a luxury even today. I would still want to record the same way even now. I wish I was able to have a network between the images and music pre-production.

Any final comments to fans around the world?

I think that music is responsible for expressions that cannot be put into words. For me, this work is more than 10 years old, but it is definitely a masterpiece. I have tried to give the work a sound that will not get old no matter how many years pass, with a spirit both universal and timeless. I feature parts of the Fullmetal Alchemist score in my concerts, but I would love to hold an entire Fullmetal Alchemist concert someday.


The FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST soundtracks are now streaming everywhere digitally. 

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