A translation of the third of Animate Times’s three-part interview series for Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna, from February 21, 2020, featuring actress Mayu Matsuoka (Menoa Bellucci).
Please note that some of the below content, by certain definitions, qualifies as LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna spoilers. There aren’t many, and they’re not major spoilers, but those who are hoping to go in “entirely clean” are advised caution before reading.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Digimon Adventure series, the movie Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna will be released across the nation on February 21!
2010 — more than ten years have passed since the events of Digimon Adventure, and the summer when Taichi and his friends went on an adventure. A sudden incident occurs, involving “Chosen Children” around the world with their partner Digimon. While taking on the case, Taichi learns that his partner Digimon will disappear; what choice does he make in response?
And in addition to the main characters of Digimon Adventure, the characters of 02 will also be appearing, and although it’s “a movie made for Digimon fans”, it’s something that can leave a deeply moving impression on anyone.
To celebrate the movie’s release, Animate Times has held a series of cast interviews. For this third part, we’ve interviewed the actress for the movie’s new character with the key to the story, Mayu Matsuoka (playing the role of Menoa Bellucci).
The Digimon series that she’s been familiar with since childhood. The joy of being able to see a new movie overtaking that of getting to be in it!?
–You’ve said that you’ve watched the Digimon series before, but which work in the franchise did you start with?
Mayu Matsuoka, voice of Menoa Bellucci (hereinafter, Matsuoka): From the original Digimon Adventure. I didn’t know that people called it “the unmarked series”1, so I’m still not used to it, even though I’ve heard it so many times during all of these interviews (laughs).
When I was a kid, I’d always enjoyed new anime, and when I first started watching Digimon, I fell in love with it and asked my parents to buy me a Digivice, and the series became a normal part of my day-to-day life.
–So it’s a series that you’ve been familiar with since you were a child.
Matsuoka: It is. I still love it even now, and I still sometimes just spontaneously remember old scenes and Digimon. So this movie made me think that it really was good to have been a Digimon fan for all this time.
People who have seen even only one of the Digimon anime series, or even people who have only seen the Mamoru Hosoda-directed masterpiece Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! will end up going “ah!?” at a lot of scenes, or be perfectly comfortable and go “yeah, that’s right!” at a lot of scenes, so I really do hope you go to see it.
–Incidentally, can you tell us which Digimon is your favorite?
Matsuoka: I love them all, but when I was a kid, I had a particular passion for Angewomon, and I would imitate Angewomon all of the time, and I remember really wanting to become Angewomon.
–So then, what kind of partner Digimon would you want by your side?
Matsuoka: It’s hard to choose only one Digimon as my partner, but I want to put Patamon on my head.
You can see it in posters for the movie and various scenes, but Takeru always puts Patamon on his head, but now he’s riding on Takeru’s head while on top of the hat, so he looks really cute, like he’s become one with the hat.
So I want to actually put him on my head and see how heavy he is (laughs).
–What were your impressions when it was decided that you would be in this movie?
Matsuoka: First and foremost, as a fan, I was happy that “they’re making another Digimon movie.” They said that this would be one of the closing moments for Taichi and Agumon’s story, and that they wanted to take in the feelings of so many fans and make a movie out of it, so even with the offer aside, I was just very happy that they were making this movie at all.
–The Digimon Adventure series has reached its 20th anniversary. What are your impressions about that?
Matsuoka: For me, it’s a series that I’ve been watching since I was a kid, and so I’m not surprised at seeing the actual number of it being the 20th anniversary, but when I saw Taichi and his friends having become adults, drinking beer, and worrying about their careers as university students, I really felt, “ah, a lot of time really has passed.”
When the series first began, Taichi and his friends were children like me, and now we’ve become adults together…I don’t think there are many anime series out there where you can do that, and I think this time they’ve really been depicted in a way true to themselves.
–What made you get into the Digimon series, and what aspects of it have made it into a series that has been beloved for such a long time?
Matsuoka: I was drawn in by the characters. With Agumon as the starting point, I came to love all of the Digimon partners, and how Taichi and the other Chosen Children were acting out so vividly.
And now they’ve really gone off in their own ways, and these kids, who still had a hard time getting themselves together, became adults, and some of those kids have managed to make their dreams come true, and some of them still have to work hard to make those dreams come true, or couldn’t figure out what they wanted to do, or were struggling because they couldn’t just focus on one thing, and we come to empathize with Taichi and his friends as they follow the path that we ourselves have taken, and look back at our own journeys that we’ve taken to get here.
I think the reason it’s been so beloved for such a long time is that we’re still able to enjoy this kind of thing.
I was very happy to be able to play a character like Menoa, whom I empathized with and who had similar feelings and conflicts to my own.
–Please tell us about your impression of Menoa, the character you played in this movie.
Matsuoka: Menoa had a rather painful past, having had to part with her beloved Digimon, Morphomon. At first glance, she seems like a cheerful older sister figure who pulls everyone along, but the truth is that she’s been pushed to the point of “I don’t want to take even a single step further.” When you make a story with those kinds of feelings, she comes off looking like a villain type, but I don’t think it’s actually that easy to move forward through that kind of anxiety and despair the way Taichi and Yamato can.
It takes a lot of energy to keep pushing on and to not give up, and even I empathized with how Menoa ended up thinking that she only wanted to see the fun of the past, rather than difficult realities, or the future. So I ended up playing her with the thought, “I really do understand Menoa’s feelings.”
The truth is, when I was a kid, Taichi and Yamato gave me the courage, strength, and energy to keep moving forward, but after I parted from them, there were many times when I’d ended up worrying about how I’d go about living my life, and many times when it all felt so painful that I wished that it’d all stop. So I felt that Taichi and Yamato were teacing me what I’d learned twenty years ago once again, and I was happy to play Menoa, who had the same feelings and pain that I did.
–Fukujuurou Katayama-san, who played Daisuke Motomiya, immediately had “she’s a very beautiful lady!” as the first thing to say about her (laughs).
Matsuoka: That makes me happy (laughs).
–Ayaka Asai-san, who played Miyako Inoue, said that her legs and the view of her from behind were beautiful. She seems to have the kind of appearance even the women look up to.
Matsuoka: There certainly aren’t that many people who can pull off that kind of style, with a skirt of that length and sneakers.
–She also said that your English pronunciation sounded like a native’s, and that it was natural-sounding and cool.
Matsuoka: No way! It was actually really hard (laughs). During the post-recording, we put off the English parts for later and started with her childhood scenes, and after we’d recorded all of the important major parts, we recorded the English excerpts left in the dialogue with the help of an English teacher.
It took something like 40-50 minutes, and I spent all of that time focusing on nothing but English, and it ended up feeling like grueling training, but if she can say that, then it turned out for the best (laughs).
–And Yoshitaka Yamaya-san, who played Iori Hida, said that her facial expressions and feelings were reflected in her eyes.
Matsuoka: The second half particularly involves Menoa having a really shocking flip in demeanor, but the color of her eyes changes, too. Personally, the change in her hair interested me, too.
At first, her hairstyle gives off the look of a refreshing, reliable, neat and tidy older sister figure, but then she starts getting progressively scarier as the story goes on, and it’s really impressive. I felt like the director must have been really committed to that aspect of her.
–Please tell us about what aspects you were conscious of while recording and what kind of direction you’d received.
Matsuoka: The biggest hurdle for me, as someone who doesn’t do voice acting for a career2, was that my voice wasn’t reaching the microphone. The kinds of acting I usually do involve physical expressions like speaking methods and facial expressions that completely vanished when it came to recording at a microphone.
It’s always like this whenever I do voice acting work. But this is a work for the Digimon series that’s important to everyone and important to myself, so while I was recording, I was playing her while praying and wishing, “please, let my feelings be transmitted into this microphone.”
The strange feeling of having a conversation with the Agumon she’d loved so much. The movie is full of love for Digimon and tributes that the fans can’t resist!
–How did you feel when you saw scenes with conversations between yourself and Agumon, and all of the other characters you’d been watching and loving back then?
Matsuoka: When I saw the storyboards (made for post-recording) that had Menoa and Agumon talking to each other, I was like, “I’m going to be talking to Agumon here!” I was still reeling by the time I’d gotten to recording in the booth, and I didn’t even have the emotional space to be happy about it. But when I looked at the completed movie, I got a rather mysterious feeling from seeing myself talking to characters like Taichi and Koushirou.
–Please tell us your impressions about the background setting, the story, and the art in this movie.
Matsuoka: I think they really did make an amazing movie. It’s a movie made by Digimon fans for Digimon fans. From the director (Tomohisa) Taguchi, there are other creators on it who were watching Digimon back then, and the supervisor (Hiromi) Seki-san and others who created the original Digimon series back then, and they’ve all come together in a tag team to make this movie, and there are all these little references that are in there just because people who really love Digimon made it, and all of these little gimmicks that make you realize, “oh, is this a tribute to that scene?”, and it’s a movie that fans really won’t want to miss. I feel like even the price paid for the movie ticket isn’t enough (laughs).
–There was also a fresh feeling from seeing a battle between Digimon in modern Tokyo at the beginning.
Matsuoka: You really feel that twenty years have gone by. And now everyone’s using smartphones. But the Digimon appearing in Tokyo is one that actually appeared in the original anime.
I didn’t even notice it when they’d first come out, and I couldn’t remember and was thinking “I’ve seen them before, haven’t I?”, and then once I realized it I thought, “Director, you really love Digimon way too much!” (laughs).
–Was there a particular scene that left an impression on you?
Matsuoka: During the finale, there’s a scene where Taichi and Agumon are sitting together. Taichi used to be at the height where Agumon would reach his shoulders, but now he’s so tall that Agumon can’t see his face until he looks up. But there’s a sense of robustness in viewing him from the back, and you can really get a feel for the future.
And the line that Agumon says there is one of the most passionate parts of the movie. It’s a line that made me think, “have Agumon’s eyes always been this beautiful?” while he was looking at Taichi with such a wonderful gaze, and the words that (Chika) Sakamoto-san brought to life are worth the ticket price by themselves.
I wanted to see the future of Menoa’s partner Digimon, Morphomon
–This movie has other new characters appear besides just Menoa. Menoa’s assistant, Kyoutarou Imura, is always with her, and he gives off a cool and mysterious impression.
Matsuoka: Imura-san gives off the impression of being very cool, but there’s occasionally scenes that bring out little things about him. When I was told about the fact I’d be in this movie and read the script, the cast’s names hadn’t been written on there yet. And furthermore, I always read through the script once without asking about what role I’m playing.
So when I saw the name of the role for the first time, I thought, “am I supposed to be playing this Kyoutarou Imura?”” But once I’d read the lines, they were obviously for an adult man. I didn’t actually think they’d cast me in the role of a foreigner, so I’d completely overlooked Menoa. And that’s why I’d misunderstood that I’d be playing Imura-san. So I’m glad I got to play a female character (laughs).
–The new Digimon, Eosmon, is also very strong. It feels like a final boss.
Matsuoka: It was an enemy that appeared in front of Taichi and Yamato, and there’s a scene that’ll probably make anyone watching the movie think “ah, it’s hopeless.”
The Digimon series has always had this kind of climax, where it makes you want to think, “ah, it’s hopeless,” or “let’s just give it up,” but this time this really was the biggest sense of despair, and it really does make you think “it’d be easier to just give up.”
But even so, Taichi and his friends never give up, and it brings so much excitement to your heart.
I also felt that Eosmon’s design was much like that of a modern digital type. I think Digimon has become a lot more futuristic with the development of technology like the Internet and CGI over the last twenty years, and I started to really imagine more of this kind of Digimon appearing in the series from here on out.
–It was also revealed that Menoa had a partner Digimon named Morphomon in the past, but the fact she was so cute made it even more painful.
Menoa: She’s cute, isn’t she? She’s got little details that any girl would love, and it wouldn’t be strange to see her as a standalone in an anime or in merchandise, and she makes you want to have a plush of her. I really wish I could get to see her Adult and even Perfect forms.
I loved Mimi-chan and her Digimon partner, Palmon. But then she evolved into Togemon, who looked like a cactus, and I just could not accept that, no matter what (laughs).
After that, she evolved into the Tinker Bell-like Lilimon, so I ended up very satisfied with the end result, but since I’d had that experience of something not growing in the way I’d have liked, I wanted to see how Morphomon would grow.
Her details are rather like Tailmon’s, so I think it’d be nice if she could look more like a human, like Angemon or Angewomon.
I ran through all of my feelings of loving Digimon, and reconfirmed how glad I am to love it so much
–When a guest character appears in a TV anime or movie, even if they’re a character tied to the main story, it’s very rare for them to get that much screentime or dialogue, so we were able to feel your amazingness in playing Menoa.
Matsuoka: It was to the point where I was wondering if the staff got caught up in all of it and accidentally offered me the wrong role (laughs). When I talked to the director for the first time, he told me, “we’re also from the generation of Digimon lovers, and you love Digimon too, right? So it would be wonderful if you could express your love for it.”
There was a lot of pressure on me to play such a huge role, and not a single day passed when I didn’t wonder whether I was really the right person for the role, but I think I ended up running through all of my feelings of loving Digimon, and now that I’m done with playing her, I’m glad that I can love it so much even now.
–Please leave a message for the fans, and tell them about the highlights of this movie and what you would like them to pay attention to.
Matsuoka: This is the final story for Taichi and Agumon, and although it’s a bit painful, it’s a must-see for fans, and there are so many scenes in succession that you can’t miss even a second one, and I feel that it’ll be sure to satisfy you.
And even for those who have never seen Digimon, or have seen it but are showing it to their children who have never seen it, it’s something that you can enjoy.
The action scenes that combine digital technology from the beginning of the series to modern digital technology are spectacular, and the theme of “what does it mean to become an adult?” is a universal one, so I hope you can think back to what it was like to be a child and relive those experience, and that parents and children can talk about it afterwards.
- “The unmarked series” = Although I’ve just gone straight to translating it as “the original Adventure” or just “Adventure” in most interviews (including in this one itself), in actuality, when referring to the TV series Digimon Adventure (and not Adventure 02 nor anything else related to the Adventure universe as a whole), the informal Japanese term used among both fans and official staff is “mujirushi” (無印), meaning “unmarked”. The term is comparable is some sense to the term “vanilla”, and is a general catch-all for anything that has sequels that simply add more onto the title (i.e. the “02” in “Adventure 02” being an “added mark”), therefore leaving the initial, original work’s title “unmarked”. This is not Digimon-exclusive, nor even Adventure-exclusive (it has been used in very limited contexts to refer to the first 30 episodes of Xros Wars, in contrast to Death Generals and Hunters), but since typing out or saying “Adventure” (アドベンチャー) in Japanese can often be a handful to say too often and too quickly, “mujirushi” is understood in Digimon contexts to be the universal catch-all to refer to the original Adventure series.
- Matsuoka states that she “doesn’t do voice acting for a career” because her work is normally in live-action acting; LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna is one of her very rare voice acting roles.