A translation of two interviews from the booklet distributed for the official Digimon Adventure 20th anniversary “Memorial Story” crowdfunding project, relating to the project itself, the related Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna movie, and various development details related to Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02. The first is with producer Hiromi Seki, scriptwriter Akatsuki Yamatoya, and Digimon character designer Kenji Watanabe; the second is with voice actress Chika Sakamoto (voice of Agumon).
Digimon Adventure 20th Special Talk: Hiromi Seki x Akatsuki Yamatoya x Kenji Watanabe
We hear some extensive stories about Digimon Adventure, from behind-the-scenes stories about the series during its broadcast time, to the feelings placed inside the most recent movie.
From Toei Animation. Served as producer for the Adventure through Frontier Digimon series, as well as three of its movies, for a total of seven works. Also was responsible for series such as Magical DoReMi.
Scriptwriter. Participated on scripts for series such as Adventure, Frontier, and Savers. Is also providing the script for the upcoming movie. Also has written lyrics for character songs, for series such as Zatch Bell!
Digimon designer. Is in charge of a large number of Digimon official illustrations. Other major works include character design for series such as Tamagotchi and Legendz: Tale of the Dragon Kings.
Your relationship with those nostalgic days
–Have the three of you ever gotten together to talk like this before?
Watanabe: Yamatoya-san and I recently got to meet at scriptwriting meetings. Twenty years ago, we’d mainly just be seeing each other at things like launch parties.
Yamatoya: At the time, I was just an underling, so I’d discuss things with Seki-san, but as far as Kenji-san was concerned, it was only really to the extent where I could recognize his face.
Seki: Yamatoya-kun had only just made his debut, after all.
Yamatoya: Right. I had just gotten started with Toei Animation’s The Secrets of Akkochan, in 1998.
Seki: I was in charge of Akkochan, so I made the request for him to also participate in Digimon after that. Also, at the time, Yamatoya-kun’s mentor, Yoshio Urasawa-san, had been working on Digimon as well.
Yamatoya: At the time I was in the position of studying others, so I just went along with Urasawa-san when I was writing. It was a series that had all sorts of things involved in it, so I learned a lot from it.
Watanabe: Writers must get a lot of that kind of work. And you also have your mentor fixing your work for you, too.
Yamatoya: There would be times when I’d be told “there’s not enough story in this,” and my work would be sent back. I spent a lot of time fussing over what “not enough story” meant.
Seki: They’re words that are specific to meetings about story. Words like “not enough story” come out when you can’t fully tell “who and who are in conflict?”
Yamatoya: If you can’t describe what the story’s about in only one sentence, then it’s not complete as a story.
–Were there things that you couldn’t say or ask about at the time?
Yamatoya: Things like, “please, just let me write it!” Especially for Digimon Adventure, since I only wrote three episodes for it (laughs).
Watanabe: That’s right (laughs). At the time, even I’d mainly just known that Yamatoya-san was involved, so I thought he was writing more for it.
Yamatoya: I was also working on Magical DoReMi with Seki-san, so I was learning from there, too.
Seki: The reason for that was that Yamatoya-kun was already very good at action scenes. When you’re able to write action scenes, I feel having that as a base ends up giving you a harder time writing drama. So I wanted him to have more experience getting involved with a series with a higher focus on drama.
Yamatoya: That was Magical DoReMi.
Seki: But as far as Adventure‘s action went, he got it down on the first try.
Yamatoya: Thank you very much (laughs).
The character designs from back then
–We have the initial designs for the first Digimon Adventure movie here. Do you have any particular memories regarding these?
Seki: Ah, that’s Nakatsuru-kun’s1 art.
Watanabe: When I first saw this, I thought, this is really good. The way of drawing out the full line makes it look very American comic-like, doesn’t it? Whenever I drew monsters for anime, I would say that I want to put a lot of pure black on it, but then I would get told “this is too hard to draw,” so I had to stop…I remember having that kind of conversation.
Seki: At the time, we had just decided on our direction for the version of Taichi from the TV anime, and V-Jump’s Tenya Yabuno-sensei started working on creating his character. From there, we started talking about the movie and what he would look like a few years younger. The part about having siblings was inspired by the old movie The Spirit of the Beehive2, which the director was very attached to.
Watanabe: The Greymon in the original movie was very cool. The movie had already reached its final manuscript stages when I was called in to look over it, so I wasn’t able to make that many modifications (laughs). But as far as the results are concerned, it was produced very well, with the scary atmosphere of a giant monster film, and since the TV series had a more friendly atmosphere come from the partners, I was really engrossed in how huge the difference in portrayal was.
Seki: I remember that, at the time, our competitor companies were putting out monster films for their spring movie lineups. So Toei was the one to give us the order “we’ll make our own giant monster movie with Digimon.”
Watanabe: Why’d they have to pick a fight like that? (laughs)
Yamatoya: The movie is full of quality. Even when you watch it now, it looks amazing.
Seki: We also still have these. It’s the storyboards that Shigeyasu Yamauchi-san3 drew for Digimon Adventure 02: Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!!
Seki: I’m sure you can tell just by looking at it, but he didn’t use storyboard paper for this. It’s not a brainstorm memo, either. Yamauchi-san would take A4 or B5 paper and draw one or two panels on it.
Watanabe: When I received the storyboard illustrations, I made Chocomon (Terriermon)4 out of them.
Yamatoya: Yamauchi-san’s an amazing person. Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!! has a completely different atmosphere from all of the theatrical movies we’ve had so far, but I heard it had the prior movies in mind during its creation.
Seki: That’s exactly why we took a completely different direction with it.
Yamatoya: For instance, the fight scenes were scary.
Watanabe: On top of that, the background music had acoustic guitar strumming, and it made you think “is this what a Digimon movie is supposed to feel like?”
Seki: I still haven’t forgotten watching the kids at the movie theater. Even though the action scenes with Chocomon were pretty scary, none of the children were crying, but watching, fixated on the screen. It made me feel that this really was a movie that questioned “what’s a monster in the first place?”
Watanabe: Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! is more of a hero movie, after all.
Seki: Right, as they call it. Toei Animation makes a lot of hero anime, and they have a lot of success with that kind of pattern. So on the other hand, I think Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!! is quite an amazing movie, in that Yamauchi went into the true nature of things and made a movie that addressed “what’s a monster in the first place?”
Watanabe: You really feel that it’s not just a simple giant monster movie, but rather one that expresses the nature of “monsters” and humans.
Seki: That’s why, when Director Taguchi5 said that Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!! was his favorite, I thought, I can definitely trust this guy (laughs).
–Beyond just Chocomon, there are also other Digimon that have made their debut in theatrical movies, so do you have any particular memories about them?
Watanabe: We always make one for the theatrical movies. We receive requests from the director and the image they have in mind, but there’s also been times where they just completely leave it up to us. I remember quite well that, during Digimon Tamers, Yukio Kaizawa-san6 basically let us do whatever we wanted.
Seki: Kaizawa-san is more of the type who’s better at worldbuilding.
Watanabe: As far as enemy Digimon go, I have a particularly strong impression of Diablomon. That’s why we also came up with the sequel, Digimon Adventure 02: Diablomon Strikes Back. Well, there were also production convenience reasons as well. If you make an easy-to-understand hero movie, the kids will also be able to understand it easily, and then you can make more money off of it.
Seki: I saw the kids staring straight at the screen during Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!!, and I thought, we have to make sure the kids are absorbed in the movie to this degree, or else the relevant products won’t sell well.
Watanabe: Considering that, we really should have sold some plush toys at the theater, shouldn’t we?
Seki: We really should have. But we weren’t able to make them in time.
–Even LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna has its own Digimon, called Eosmon.
Yamatoya: During the initial plot outline stages, we had its name written as Catmon7 or Dogmon or Horsemon8.
Seki: We had “(tentative)” written on it for a while.
Yamatoya: I don’t remember who actually gave it the name. While we were working on the story, we came upon the name Eos as the “goddess of the dawn”, and I ended up using that because I kept thinking about how it fit the story so perfectly.
Seki: Isn’t it because it’s your name (laughs)?9
Yamatoya: I thought it was a good discovery, and nobody stopped me, so I did it (laughs).
–What was it like being involved with LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna?
Yamatoya: It really is something based on what’s been built up over the last 20 years, and I feel like it’s full of attention to detail. I think there are a lot of parts that will make long-time fans go “ah!” when they see them.
Watanabe: Nakatsuru-san’s art really does leave a huge impression on you. There’s this special charm to being able to see the older Taichi through Nakatsuru’s art. And it’s really amazing that the animators were able to take that and draw it so well.
Seki: The designers for this movie took Nakatsuru-kun’s characters and really brought them to life wonderfully. Also, the layouting is outstandingly good. They take all three directional angles into account when drawing, so the way they make their layouts is spectacular.
Watanabe: The director’s storyboards have also been constantly said to be really well-done. There really are a lot of things in there that are packed to detail in the drawings, things you wouldn’t see much elsewhere.
Yamatoya: The storyboards are lovely, and you can see the progression of events quite clearly. Usually, when the script is made into a storyboard, there’s a lot of times when it ends up going against the original point, but it was rather fun getting to see them even making proper use of the dialogue lines. It was a case where there wasn’t a single element left behind that made me feel like he was being cruel to my work. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Director Taguchi comes up with 10 years from now. I think he’s going to be great!
–Thank you very much!
20th Special Interview: Chika Sakamoto (voice of Agumon)
It’s the 20th anniversary of Digimon Adventure! We asked about her memories from that time, and behind-the-scenes stories from the recording site for the new movie.
A wonderful recording site where everyone felt “my partner is the best”
–What was your first impression when you saw the visuals for Koromon and Agumon?
Sakamoto: Koromon has this tiny pink body, like something that’s just been born, and I really just thought he was cute. Agumon had a strong look to him, gritting his teeth and with sturdy limbs and claws, and it was a shock for me to see that he’d evolved into that. Everyone was looking at him and saying that he was cute, so I remember being happy and thinking “it’s a monster that you can still call cute!” At first, the planning documents I received only said “he slowly grows bigger and bigger,” and had to hear about the more detailed explanation directly. But as I started doing my performance and started grasping for the character, since I’m the type who tries to figure things out by experience, I played the role while fumbling around and going “if I messed up, please tell me.”
–Do you have any particular memories from recording for Digimon Adventure?
Sakamoto: There were seven kids and seven Digimon, and the number of people playing guest characters kept going up, and I couldn’t remember people or role names very well, and we all weren’t used to recording yet so we weren’t sure which mics we were supposed to be using, and everything was all over the place. And then Taichi’s voice actress, Toshiko Fujita-san, went “guys, wait, calm down!” and took on a leadership role. Whenever one of us would approach the mic, the others would hold back. And then we kept getting told things like “you don’t have to step aside! You’re gonna make us look bad” (laughs). We were all so young back then, after all. Right now, all of us who were flailing around back then have gotten older, but the kids playing the “Chosen Children” have a lot of work experience under their belt, so they’re the ones who’ve completely calmed down (laughs).
–Back when you were recording for Digimon Adventure, what kind of time was it for you?
Sakamoto: When I was recording for the very first theatrical movie, I put everything I had into it, but I didn’t get to talk very much, and now that I look back on it, it was mainly as Koromon enjoying a very ordinary and fun time with Taichi and Hikari. The recording for the movie went by in a flash over only a single day, but for the series, I showed up and recorded every week at the same time, at the same studio, with the same cast members. We basically made up a team, and it gave rise to us forming a strong bond, like that of a family.
–Although Taichi and Agumon were the protagonists, there were also episodes where they weren’t very involved. What was recording like during those times?
Sakamoto: I basically became an audience member (laughs). I have a particularly deep impression of the episode with the brothers, Yamato and Takeru, with Pumpmon and Gotsumon. On the other hand, as far as my own lines are concerned, I had so, so many of them in total that I had to play that I can’t remember anything at all. It was to the point where I would watch it once it went on air, and think “oh, so that’s what it was!” for the first time.
–Was there anything that left a particular impression on you when you were watching it on air?
Sakamoto: WarGreymon was really cool, so I was very nervous when playing him. “Is it really okay for me to do this? Is this okay?” He evolved, and super-evolved, and kept getting bigger and stronger, and he was getting further and further from myself. He was wringing all of that from my voice, and I was putting everything I had into it, and I could feel the pressure of “I should be able to do more than just this!” That pressure still weighs heavily on me, even after 20 years of this series.
–What was it like seeing the grown-up Taichi and the unchanged Agumon in LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna?
Sakamoto: It feels like, Taichi is still Taichi after all. Even for Agumon, there isn’t anything sad about Taichi becoming an adult, just “oh, he’s really become an adult now,” and he can accept it just like that. He himself has never changed, and his way of accompanying Taichi doesn’t change either. I think it’s the same for all of the other Digimon, too. Much like Taichi, Agumon has a straightforward, or, rather, simple side to him, and he doesn’t second-guess what he sees and just says what he thinks, and I think seeing him continue to be that way is comfort in itself. In the end, the relationship between the Digimon and the kids hasn’t changed, and it really is relieving.
–When you were recording for LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna, was there anything that left a particular impression on you?
Sakamoto: The scene where Agumon goes to visit the apartment where Taichi’s been living by himself was really funny. He finds a somewhat lewd book and goes “what’s this?” Agumon has no concept of lewd, so if he’d been allowed to keep going I bet he would have said “let’s watch it together!”, so Taichi started panicking (laughs).
–What was it like recording for LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna?
Sakamoto: 20 years ago, we were all beginners flailing around during the recording, and that still hasn’t changed even after twenty years. Rather, we’ve forgotten so many things that we have to bring ourselves back to the beginning, like we’re beginners again, and keep thinking “huh!?” (laughs). But the Chosen Children’s actors really have themselves together, and so all of the pairings really do come off nicely. I don’t know what it is, but we’re all like their parents, thinking, my partner is the best! And the other way around, it’s like they’re also thinking, “my Digimon is the cutest!” (laughs).
–Please leave a message for the fans.
Sakamoto: There’s no way I could have imagined that we’d be receiving such support for 20 years. Being able to face a single role for so long and keep evolving is not the kind of experience I’d normally have, so I’m truly grateful. Back then, I really did put my all into it, but now I’ve taken on the recording in order to not betray everyone’s expectations, feeling their love and wanting to respond to it. I really feel that, with how much this series is loved, it’s something I want to treat with care.
- “Nakatsuru-kun” = Referring to Digimon Adventure through Frontier character designer Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru.
- The Spirit of the Beehive = A Spanish film, originally titled El espíritu de la colmena.
- Shigeyasu Yamauchi = The director for Digimon Adventure 02: Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!! / Supreme Evolution!! The Golden Digimentals.
- Watanabe’s comment does say “Chocomon” (not Gummymon) in the original text.
- “Director Taguchi” = Tomohisa Taguchi, director of Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna.
- Yukio Kaizawa = Director of Tamers, Frontier, and the Hunters portion of Xros Wars.
- The “beta” names for Eosmon discussed here are effectively joke names punning on “-mon” being a Japanese emphasis particle, so, effectively, “Neko-da-mon” (“it’s a cat”), “Inu-da-mon” (“it’s a dog”), and “Uma-da-mon” (“it’s a horse”).
- The inclusion of the horse concept is a play on Yamatoya’s well-known background of also being well-known as a racehorse owner.
- Yamatoya’s given name “Akatsuki” (暁) is the Japanese word for “dawn”, so the joke is about Eosmon being indirectly named after him.