Animage Plus interviews with Yousuke Kinoshita

A translation of three interviews from Animage Plus with producer Yousuke Kinoshita regarding Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna and the related Digimon Adventure 20th anniversary crowdfunding project, held in late 2019.

“To do something special…” The feelings placed in the Digimon Adventure 20th anniversary project

(Originally posted September 20, 2019)
Crowdfunding project “20th Digimon Adventure Memorial Project”

The Digimon Adventure1 20th Anniversary Memorial Project, which was launched on August 22 by Toei Animation, has become a massive focus of attention and was able to break through 200% of its target amount in the first two weeks.
It’s the culmination of the Digimon Adventure series and there’s no better time to do it than now, so we’ve held three successive interviews with Toei Animation producer Yousuke Kinoshita-san about how it’s here to get everyone excited for this memorial year. We interviewed him about the short story “Memorial Story” anime, which serves as the highlight of this project, and the new movie Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna, which is slated to release on February 21 of next year.

HH2: Kinoshita-san, your name was in the credits as a producer for parts 5 and 6 of Digimon Adventure tri., right?

Kinoshita: Up until now I’d been working mainly on live-action films, but I ended up joining Toei Animation through various circumstances, and so I started off as an assistant producer for their original anime Pop in Q. Once that was finished, the timing lined up and I became involved in Digimon tri. midway through its production.
The first thing I did was go see the opening launch of part 4, and I was surprised at how many female fans and fans from overseas there were. On top of that, I was also impressed at how around 2000 people gathered in the halls of the summer 2017 DigiFes event and sang a chorus of “Butter-Fly” in unison. It was a spontaneous thing that had happened entirely on its own, and it was incredibly, incredibly impressive. Even now, I’m constantly feeling the pressure of knowing that there are so many fans following this series with such passion. I still consider it a huge challenge for me to deal with a work like this, with its twenty years of history.

HH: Were you involved on this 20th anniversary event from the very start?

Kinoshita: Yes. It got off the ground while we were doing production for Digimon tri., so we were working on them simultaneously. There were a lot of things I wanted to do, but the first, immediate one was that I wanted to encompass these last twenty years of the Digimon series, as much as I could. Even though, of course, there’s inevitably going to end up being some bias.

HH: One of the highlights of this project is the crowdfunding.

Kinoshita: It is. It was a project born from the idea that, rather than just holding a standard event like we usually would and advertising it and calling it a day, maybe we should try doing something with the fans instead. We’re also making our own original merchandise for the project, but on top of that, we’re trying out something new and making a short story anime called “Memorial Story”. And even though we’re the originators, we want to get the people who are supporting us and participating excited, so that we can all enjoy the 20th anniversary together.

HH: Toei Animation doesn’t usually do crowdfunding all that much, but what are your thoughts on the reactions from within the company?

Kinoshita: They’ve been very supportive, saying that Digimon seems to have the ability to pull off some fascinating things. The short stories for the crowdfund are also being animated by Yumeta Company, the same company working on the movie, so their staff was also paying close attention to what was going on, and they were pretty shocked too. “Did we hit the target already?!” So now even the staff for the movie has gotten excited, too.

HH: Did you expect the crowdfunding results to be like this?

Kinoshita: In all honesty, we did expect to reach target, but we didn’t expect to reach it this quickly. We thought, wow, this is really amazing, and were pretty flatly shocked. Anyway, the first day was incredible. I kept having the urge to refresh the page every five seconds (laughs). And every time I did it was like “whoa!”. I already knew how passionate the fans were from the events and such, but it really was amazing.

HH: All of the reward tiers are stocked with bonuses.

Kinoshita: We stuffed it full. We kept talking about what kind of rewards we wanted to throw in, like “this is too standard-grade”, or “no, we’ve got to make it something special.” But a lot of the ideas that came out were of the kind that’d need extra coordination from both within and outside the company, so I ended up intervening and going “okay, I’ll take care of it, so let’s do it” (laughs). We made all sorts of little modifications, like having Kenji Watanabe-san draw an original Digimon, or an opportunity to be a background extra voice actor in the Memorial Story, or an invitation to the movie screening, so we tweaked each one and came to a final decision. Doing it like this ends up raising the bar quite a lot and makes it even more difficult to do, but I was thinking, we’re not going to make anyone happy if we don’t challenge ourselves.

HH: But you received an excellent response, and you’ve cleared that massive hurdle for now.

Kinoshita: It’s a bit of relief for now.

HH: And the crowdfund is made to create one of the bonus highlights, the original short story anime “Memorial Story”.

Kinoshita: Yes, it’s what the crowdfund is originally for. And we figured, if we’re going to be making this, we should make it a story tied to Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna.

And so, next time on part 2, we’ll continue this interview with a fascinating chat about what’s in this “Memorial Story”!!

The feelings placed in the Digimon 20th anniversary project, and the “Memorial Story” side story anime

(Originally posted September 27, 2019)
Crowdfunding project “20th Digimon Adventure Memorial Project”

The Digimon Adventure 20th Anniversary Memorial Project, which was launched on August 22 by Toei Animation and PARCO, has become a massive focus of attention and was able to break through 200% of its target amount in the first two weeks.
We’ve asked Toei Animation producer Yousuke Kinoshita-san for details about the highlight of this project, the “Memorial Story” short story collection, which embodies the excitement of the 20th anniversary of Digimon Adventure.

“Digimon Adventure 20th Anniversary
Interview with producer Yousuke Kinoshita, Part 2″

HH: The crowdfund is made to create one of the bonus highlights, the original short story anime “Memorial Story”.

Kinoshita: Yes, it’s what the crowdfund is originally for. And we figured, if we’re going to be making this, we should make it a story tied to Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna. It’s just five shorts, but we thought, if we’re gonna do it, let’s make it something interesting.

HH: So you’re not tying it into the movies just for the sake of pleasing the fans.

Kinoshita: Naturally, our main goal before anything else is so that we can make the 20th anniversary more fun. In that sense, we’re also thinking that we’d like the fifth one of these shorts to be the primary one, by certain definitions. So as far as that goes, the other four have me as the effective primary leader behind them, but the fifth is by Hiromi Seki, the producer for the original series. I approached her and asked, “we’re doing this kind of project, so can we maybe work on it together?” and she agreed. The script was written by Akatsuki Yamatoya-san, who is also working on the new movie, and the storyboard was done by the movie’s director, Tomohisa Taguchi-san. We also had Kenji Watanabe-san make a new Digimon for us, so we hope the fans will be surprised when they see it. Seki-san comes up with the kinds of ideas that I would never conceive of. I just blurted out “wait, should we really do this?” and got back “it’s fine!” (laughs). She’s really amazing. And of all things, the title is “Pump and Gotsu’s Shibuya-type Chronicles”3, and a certain specific Pumpmon and Gotsumon will be in it. Please look forward to it.

HH: How do you plan to involve those who applied for the “background extra voice actor” crowdfunding reward?

Kinoshita: They’ll be in these five episodes. We’re currently thinking of having them as background character Digimon. We reached capacity for those so quickly, it really felt like barely a single moment. I was thinking “hm, maybe I should try applying for that one myself,” only for it to fill up right then and there.

HH: So for the other four episodes, did you conceive of them as ones based more on LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna?

Kinoshita: We did. This November, Toei Animation is going to be having a pop-up shop at the Shibuya PARCO theater room, and we wanted buyers to be able to watch something there, too. We conceived the first and second shorts to line up with the release date of LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna. The first is intended to be released before the movie, depicting something like the day before the movie’s events. The second one is meant to depict what happens behind one of the movie’s scenes. As for the third and fourth, we wanted to make something that nobody else was going to do. There are only so many characters that can get to do something within the movie’s limited running time, so these are episodes where we can show off the kids who didn’t get to be at the forefront in the movie and have them play a major role. To be more specific, one of them is centered around Jou and Gomamon. The other one is being made with the theme of “Jogress evolution”. I’d say that, fundamentally, we are making all five of these with the priority of pleasing the fans.

HH: The fact that Seki-san, the producer of the original series, would be participating was a hot topic among long-time fans.

Kinoshita: When I was out eating with the movie’s director, Taguchi-san, and the screenwriter Akatsuki Yamatoya-san, and Kenji Watanabe-san, and the others, and we brought up the topic of crowdfunding some short stories, Yamatoya-san immediately went, “what’s wrong with having me write it? Let me do it!”, and then Director Taguchi and Kenji-san immediately jumped in too, and that’s how it happened. And then it ended up getting Seki-san involved. Director Taguchi was still struggling with the storyboard for the movie, but he told us, “once I’m done with this, give me a breather, and then we’ll see if we can make something fun and I can let loose a bit more,” and then he just went and finished the storyboard in only two days. It ultimately feels like something we figured out in the midst of all of our hype, but when it comes to making the fans happy, it’s only natural that we’d have to get original members of staff such as Seki-san, Yamatoya-san, and Kenji-san. Seki-san also participated in the discussions for the movie’s script, and helped us out in all sorts of ways for the 20th anniversary project. Seki-san is less of an advice-giver and more someone who just says whatever’s on her mind (laughs). Before the preliminary meeting for the script, she told us, “I haven’t finished reading it, so I’ll be there later,” and then she arrived sometime after the meeting had already started, and said things like, “no, Taichi feels wrong here. He wouldn’t say something like this.” She also would say things like “I know we’re talking about something digital, but the non-electronic aspects are important”4 a lot. Like, “we were doing this twenty years ago, too.”

HH: You have an amazing set of people working on this. The “Memorial Story” is looking to be something that’ll make the fans very, very happy.

Kinoshita: That’s what we want the most. We’ve always got it in mind, that we want them to be happy.

In Part 3 of this interview, we’ll hear even more interesting things about the Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna movie!

Working with the original staff! Talking about the new Digimon movie LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna

(Originally posted November 29, 2019)

The Digimon Adventure 20th Anniversary Memorial Project, which was launched on August 22 by Toei Animation, has become a massive focus of attention and was able to break through 200% of its target amount in the first two weeks (and is now currently closed).
In Parts 1 and 2 of this interview, we asked Toei Animation producer Yousuke Kinoshita-san about this project that’s here to get everyone excited for this memorial year, so for our final part, we’ve asked him about the new movie Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna, which is slated to release on February 21 of next year.

Digimon Adventure 20th Anniversary
Interview with producer Yousuke Kinoshita, Part 3

HH: Moving the topic to Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna, the poster shows that the Chosen Children are no longer children anymore, right?

Kinoshita: Right. During the development of tri., which I became involved in midway, there were talks about doing another movie. We thought, we need to do more for the fans who have been keeping up all of the Digimon excitement going for all this time. So we started moving production on the movie at around the same time as tri. That period of time was just shaping the overall idea, but around fall of last year, we decided on having Tomohisa Taguchi-san as the director, and Akatsuki Yamatoya-san as the scriptwriter. Also, we determined from the very beginning that we wanted to give it the position of a proper 20th anniversary movie.

HH: Who was the one to appoint Director Taguchi?

Kinoshita: That was entirely me. I really wanted to make it so that people who were part of the generation that was watching the original Digimon series would be making the new one. I also wanted to work with someone who understood things from the fan’s point of view, so I called on Director Taguchi, who had also been watching Digimon himself back then.

HH: Was there a lot of pressure that came from working with staff from the original series, like Hiromi Seki-san, the original producer, and Yamatoya-san, who wrote the scripts for many of the episodes in the original Digimon TV series?

Kinoshita: They’re wonderful people, so there wasn’t any pressure or anything like that. They were the kinds of people who made us feel comfortable saying anything that was on our mind. That goes for both myself and for the director.
At first, the director and I had worked on the plot together, and when we showed it to Seki-san, she said, “oh yeah, that’s something very Taguchi-kun-ish,” (laughs) or “oh, I like this part!” and “I’ll definitely support you on that.” Yamatoya-san would also say “if you want to do that, then you should do it,” and every time we submitted a draft, he would bring more and more out of it, with increasing levels of skill.
On top of that, while writing our story about what a Digimon is in the first place, we also made a proper series timeline for the Digimon world and reconfirmed each Chosen Child’s history. We compared it to what had happened in the real world, what happened in what year, and even looked into the little details like the employment rate of said years. This movie takes place in around 2010, and so we examined the state of digital technology in 2010 and decided to portray the world as being a bit more advanced than that.

HH: It feels like you got to accomplish what you really wanted to do.

Kinoshita: We were able to incorporate all of the themes that we’d come up with together. After all, the people who are going to watch this movie and the people who would want to watch this movie are primarily made up of adults, so I wanted to create a story that helps those people get through and fight on tomorrow. We really wanted to put in a message about waking up tomorrow and living your life to the fullest.

HH: For a series like Digimon, where “growth” is one of its main themes, if you give it a title like LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna, people are going to start speculating about certain things, even before they’ve seen the movie.

Kinoshita: We’ve been putting out all these press releases calling it “the last evolution,” and saying things like “we can’t be together anymore?”, and so everyone’s pretty clearly aware that it’s going to be this sort of story, but I don’t believe that this is where their story is going to be ending. However, this is effectively supposed to be one important incident in their lives.
The world of 2028 is already clearly shown in the last episode of 02, so we’ve set that as the final goalpost and made a story filling in what happens before then.

HH: And this time the actual 02 characters will be appearing themselves, right?

Kinoshita: It’s the 20th anniversary, so we wanted to make it feel like something made to celebrate everything5, and we also we simply just really wanted to see Daisuke and his friends again. But of course, our first priority was the story, and we wanted to do it the right way, so if we’re setting it properly within this universe, we also have to include all of the content from 02 as well, we figured. Although I’d like to see the kids from the other series sometime, too.

HH: Now that we’re at this point, are there any parts you feel people should look forward to, and what you think the highlights are?

Kinoshita: The only thing I can say is that you’ll have to imagine what’ll happen by watching our press releases and teaser art pieces (laughs). Oh, yes, yes, incidentally, we had the poster be done by Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru-san, the series’s original character designer. We ended up giving him a rather hard time trying to iron out Taichi’s new design, but he pulled it off for us, and when we looked at it, it was like, that’s it! That’s our older Taichi! We felt that coming through very well. I think it really brings out the feel of this movie, so we’re very grateful to have gotten Nakatsuru-san for this. We’ve still got more development to do, but I feel that what we make will most certainly make the fans happy, so please look forward to it.

Crowdfunding project “Digimon Adventure 20th Memorial Story Project”
Accepting funds until October 2, 2019 (Wednesday), 11:59 PM

Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna movie

Translator's notes
  1. The original has a “DIGIMON ADVETURE” typo in the first and third article, which I saw fit to go ahead and correct. []
  2. I wanted to write the credit for the author of the interview, but I can’t read it because no name reading was provided; it’s “今秀生”, which leads me to believe “Hideo Kon”, but they also write their name as “HH” throughout the interview. My deepest apologies. []
  3. “Pump and Gotsu’s Shibuya-type Chronicles” (パンプとゴツの渋谷系武勇伝, Pump to Gotsu no Shibuya-kei Buyuuden) — This is a reference to the original Japanese title of Adventure episode 33, “Pump and Gotsu are Shibuya-type Digimon” (パンプとゴツは渋谷系デジモン, Pump to Gotsu wa Shibuya-kei Digimon). The “Shibuya-type” (渋谷系, Shibuya-kei) is a bit of a pun, because while Shibuya-kei refers to fashion and hobby trends in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo, –kei also can be used to casually describe a “type” or “sort” in the same way you’d describe a kind of Digimon. []
  4. Producer Kinoshita mentions Producer Seki making a contrast between the franchise being “digital” but the production needing to involve a lot of “analog”, the latter being a loanword in Japanese that refers less to explicit analog technology as much as it refers to “anything that’s not digital” (writing with pen and paper instead of typing, etc.). []
  5. When Producer Kinoshita refers to his various reasons for involving the Adventure 02 kids in the movie, he refers to the movie as a “festival” (お祭り, omatsuri), which, in the context of media analysis, refers to a work meant to celebrate everything about a series (i.e. like a “greatest hits” sort of culmination). []

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