Yes, I have read Chapter 92, and I'll post my thoughts on it later. But I wanted to get this done first. Because from my observation, there's been a lot of speculation on the new anime in English fandom, but not as much actual information compared to what's known in Japanese fandom. So here's some translations of various magazine interviews from this month and last month.
Shounen GanGan February Issue
Director Yasuhiro Irie Special Interview:
Q: Please tell us your thoughts about being chosen to direct this series.
A: I really enjoyed reading the original manga, so I was happy to be given the opportunity to make such a fun work into an anime!
Q: Then, please tell us your thoughts upon reading the original work and if there are any characters that caught your interest!!
A: Various heavy things happen that cause Ed and Al to almost falter. But it's incredibly charming to see that every time, they would still become determined to "Move forward!" and keep advancing steadily stronger. Of course, that's not only in regards to Ed and Al. The other characters keep moving forward to their own goals-- this work has many strong characters...is what I thought. And as for alchemy, it's very interesting to see how many variations there are depending on who's using it!! Characters who caught my interest...rather, characters who I thought had ways of thinking different than my own were Kimbley and Bradley. Such as with their lines and ways of thinking during the Ishbal war, I thought, "This is a nice touch."
Q: Director Irie, what would you like to tell the viewers through the "Hagane no Renkinjutsushi : Fullmetal Alchemist" anime?
A: In reality, there are terrible incidents everyday and people who get involved in those incidents. Of course, there aren't only incidents; bad things that happen in our everyday lives may cause us to falter... But even so, we still have to look forward and keep moving on. In this work, Ed and Al always choose to keep moving forward. Even if that is reckless, even if they make mistakes, as long as they keep moving forward, a path opens up for them... I would like to powerfully depict how Ed and Al keep choosing to move forward.
Q: Then, what are the things you would like to attempt with this project?
A: For this project I would like to show the moving pictures in an appealing way. Especially since this time, there is a special art known as alchemy, so as one of the appeals of the anime, I would like to draw the "movement of matter changing shape" in an interesting way from start to finish! Also, so people watching the TV can watch at ease, I think it would be nice to give the art an impression of softness. Due to the fact that backgrounds have become digital, we have been able to make elaborate images, but I have the feeling that it gives the art an overwhelming impression. For this project, I would like to create soft images on the screen so that the people watching can go into it easily.
Q: Now please leave a message for the readers of GanGan!!
A: Anyway, it's a fun anime with action scenes and gags!! I do hope that, like how Ed and Al communicate with various people in this work, everyone will get excited over this anime with their friends after watching it.
Newtype February Issue
Interview excerpts posted on 2ch:
Q: Do you have an abbreviation for the official title?
A: It's "鋼FA" [Hagane FA], but fans are free to continue calling it "Hagane" or "Hagaren." (Producer Ooyama)
Q: From around when did this project start moving?
A: It's a little unclear, but in regards to the production, I believe we started around spring of last year. (Producer Ooyama)
Q: What will happen with the cast?
A: Currently we are still in the middle of casting! Please look forward to it! (Irie)
Q: What BONES studio will be producing it?
A: D Studio. (Irie)
Q: What works has that studio created up to now?
A: "Hagane FA" will be its first one. (Irie)
Q: How far are you in production now?
A: As of now in December (2008), we are making the script for episode 18. (Irie)
Q: It seems there will be multiple key visuals, what pattern do you have planned?
A: We are thinking of having a pattern of four. (Producer Ooyama)
Q: Is there some reason for Ed's blond hair being drawn with color-tracing rather than black lines?
A: It's because we wanted to give an impression of softness, and convey how more appealing and special it is. But, it seems that the animators are struggling with it. I'm sorry. (Irie)
Shounen GanGan March Issue
Hiromu Arakawa Special Interview:
Q: Please tell us your thoughts upon hearing that "Fullmetal Alchemist" will be made into an anime again four years after the completion of the movie.
A: There was talk about making Hagane into an anime again for a while before, but when I heard that they were making a new series officially, in my heart I thought "I'm looking forward to the anime~", though at the same time, because I had a lot of work when the previous anime was airing, my body braced itself with the thought "Now I can't get sick... (sweat)." (laugh)
Q: How was the reaction of your staff when they heard there would be an anime again?
A: At the very beginning, they got excited talking about Who's going to be cast as that character?! If characters who weren't in the previous anime such as Ran Fan and the Major General (Olivier) appear, who should play them?! Stuff like that. To be honest, because the animation staff that was working on the previous anime has mostly moved on, I am excited for the reactions of the new staff and how they'll see the anime!! Also, my amount of work will increase, so when I think of how the work place will turn into something like a chaotic training camp again... (sweat) I want everyone to do their best!
Q: This will be the second anime, but Arakawa-sensei, what parts do you personally consider worthy of attention for this anime?
A: I am curious about how Director Irie's art will move!! Up to now in his work, every little movement had some kind of expression, so I am looking forward to what he will create with this project!! Also, I was surprised to hear that the person in charge of the music is Akira Senju-san!! I've been a fan of Senju-san's music since a long time ago and listened to his soundtracks in the work place, so I am very happy that he'll be in charge of the music for this project. This of course goes for new viewers who haven't seen the previous anime, but I also hope that people who saw the previous anime will enjoy the changes in this anime.
Q: Is there anything that wasn't in the story of the previous anime that you want to see animated?
A: I want to see Roy VS Lust from Volume 10!! To tell the truth, in the original work, it turned out rushed due to the number of pages, so even I feel a little indigestion myself...if it's shown in the anime, I look forward to seeing how it's done!! Also...as a native of Hokkaido, I want to see the story of the snow country of Briggs!! And the panda (Xiao Mei)!! This is necessary. (laugh)
Q: Do you have any thoughts about Ed and Al being played by Paku-san and Kugimiya-san as in the previous anime?
A: Because I think those two have added a lot more to their careers since the previous anime ended, for this anime, I am also looking forward to the changes in their performances!!
Q: The original work has entered its final chapter, so please tell us your feelings toward the final chapter and its highlights.
A: Once entering the final chapter, I want to show the sense of speed, so I am drawing it at about 1.5 times the density of the previous chapters. Concerning the story, I've decided who is going to fight whom, but I still haven't decided what the fights will be like. For that part, I would like to enjoy it with the same feeling as the readers while I am drawing. I've been wanting to draw the final episode that's been polishing up in my head for so long, and that's what I've been working toward up to now, so it would be great if I could get there as planned. After all, I want the characters who've worked so hard to be happy, and I want to properly give the characters who will be defeated in battle their own place to end.
Q: Now then, please leave a message for the readers of GanGan who are looking forward to the new TV anime series!!
A: I think that being able to show interesting direction and movement that can't be done in manga is the appeal of animation. Please enjoy the parts that are different from the original work!!
Animedia March Issue
An excerpt from the interview with Hiroshi Oonogi (Series Composition):
The catchphrase for this anime is "dark fantasy." The characters of Ed and co. are cheerful so that might give a false illusion, but the essence of the story is quite dark. But, we won't run from that. We'll draw it straight from the front.
The keywords for the staff are "we'll do our best if it kills us!" and the theme is "don't die!" (laugh)
Hiroki Kanno (Character Designer) also talks about the design of the first two key visuals. "There will be four key visuals in all and it will be a collaborative method of showing the world view."
Other Info + My Thoughts
Also, someone on 2ch commented that in an interview, on the topic of Al & Ed's sibling relationship, Director Irie said: "He is by no means a little brother who follows behind his elder brother with reverence." "It's a fifty-fifty relationship." "In a good sense, his older brother is being a bad influence on him."
The next month's issue of Shounen GanGan will announce the cast for characters other than the Elric Brothers, as well as the song artists for the theme songs, and info on the first episode. (Though apparently PASH magazine has reported that there will be rapid developments from the first episode and hints of what will happen in the future.)
Going from just these interviews, in my opinion, the director really seems to get it. (Though I think the decision to color-trace Ed's hair is odd.) Overall, that leaves me optimistic about the direction of this anime. Also, it's really great to hear that Arakawa is already a fan of the composer and that she actually listened to his music while working. :D And she's pretty excited herself to see how some scenes will look animated.
So now that we've seen two of the four key visuals (#1 has Ed & Al, #2 has Roy-tachi), I predict that one of the remaining two will have the homunculi. And that the other will either have Winry or Scar...or if we're lucky, the Xing characters (it might be too early to reveal them at this point, but hey, I can hope).
Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the first episode is different from the manga. We won't know for sure until more information comes out next month, but honestly I wouldn't blame them if they want to speed through the events of the first two volumes. In any case, it's pretty obvious that they're trying to stick closer to the manga this time, at least in spirit.
And now, just for fun...
The Manga Purist's Checklist
(aka Picky Things That Would Make Me Happy)
-Having Winry's bandanna be green
-Having the Star of David in the Ouroboros symbol & State Alchemist watch (the official website at least isn't shying away from using it)
-Al's hair being the same color as Ed's (fortunately, the official website describes him as originally having "golden hair & eyes")
-Lior (if it appears at all) not being a town in the desert
Unfortunately, it looks like Hughes's eyes are green in this anime and not blue like in the manga, but at least Havoc is entirely blond! XD;