An interview with director Tomohisa Taguchi on Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna, included in the Blu-ray deluxe edition booklet, released on September 2, 2020.
Please note that the below content has major LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna spoilers.
Special Interview with Director Tomohisa Taguchi
We’ve held an interview with Tomohisa Taguchi-san, who was appointed as director for this movie.
We spoke about things that could only be discussed after the public screening, such as behind-the-scenes stories about production and the feelings embedded in this movie.
[Profile] Animation director. Major works include Persona 4: The Golden Animation, Twin Star Exorcists, and Kino’s Journey —the Beautiful World— the Animated Series.
Producing while fighting the pressure
–Please tell us about how you felt when it was determined that you would be directing this movie.
Taguchi: It’s a series with a history of 20 years, so there was an extremely large amount of pressure. I had a lot of worries and conflicts about how to properly answer to the fans’ expectations while producing this movie.
–What was it like seeing the fan’s reactions during the release on February 2, 2020?
Taguchi: There were people who said, after watching it, “it’s a movie that suits the end of the story of Taichi and his friends.” I was very happy that so many people took it in that way, and very grateful. It was a shame that it was just then that the coronavirus started spreading and affected the screenings. But as you’d expect from Digimon, some friends from high school that I hadn’t talked to in decades ended up contacting me.
–In producing this movie, did you get any advice from Hiromi Seki-san1 about how to make it “Digimon”-like?
Taguchi: She told me that the troubles and worries that the Chosen Children have should be spiced up a little by the actual state of world affairs. Also, in regards to the characters, she would say things like “this kid wouldn’t say this,” or “they would say it more like this, right?”, and would give me direction about the finer details. I could tell that Seki-san really does see Digimon’s characters as being like her own children. Also, in regards to the movie, she would never say anything like “I absolutely need you to keep this part intact.” In fact, she would say helpful words like “if this is something we can do with Digimon, then we should be gradually bringing it in.” Thanks to those words, I feel that we were able to pursue the most interesting possible story that we could now.
–What kinds of discussions did you have with the scriptwriter, Yamatoya-san2?
Taguchi: I presented the plot outline (the outline for the story) to Yamatoya-san, but it seems like Yamatoya-san took a particular interest in that plot outline. While we were expanding the plot outline into a proper story, we had a lot of conversations about what we should have which characters do, and how to regulate the emotions in each part. The initial plot outline didn’t have a plan for the Digimon Adventure 02 cast members’ appearance, so when we were working on the story, we had a lot of detailed meetings about how to make the 02 group be active in the story.
–Was there anything you spoke with Yamatoya-san about in regards to the new character, Menoa Bellucci?
Taguchi: From the scriptwriting stage, we talked about how we wanted to be careful about not making Menoa come off as a simple villain. Digimon Adventure was originally an anime for children, so I feel that it did have a tendency towards going for the easy-to-understand “evil = enemy”. But for this movie, we thought about having the viewers understand the core backbone behind their enemy, making her a character that they could empathize with, and shape it into a story where Taichi and Yamato would face up against mental walls. Also, since she’s a character that’ll only be in this movie, we felt that any kind of character tics we’d give her might be too bland, so we decided to have her speak a lot of English and proceeded with the story (laughs). There was so much of it that once we moved it from the story to the actual screen, Menoa’s English words actually ended up decreasing by quite a bit.
–Was there anything you focused on in regards to her appearance?
Taguchi: When we made the request to Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru-san3, I asked him to make her like Anne of Green Gables. With an image of being lively and full of unwavering spirit, and more cool than cute. Seki-san was also there at the meeting, and she discussed it with us as we were making, suggesting things like having her braid be tied up in a single bundle.
–The movie has a large number of butterfly motifs, such as Menoa’s hairpin and her partner, Morphomon. What was the intention behind that?
Taguchi: When the project first started, it was decided that Taichi and Yamato would be up against a Digimon with a butterfly motif. The opening song “Butter-Fly”, in some sense, feels like it’s been elevated to god-like status, and we thought that it would be good to have the theme of surpassing even that in itself. The scene where Agumon and Gabumon disappear also has two butterflies flying, and we felt it was natural to use the butterfly motif in order to mark the end for this series.
The atmosphere of the movie, created with music
–What kinds of conversations did you have with the musician, Harumi Fuuki-san?
Taguchi: I don’t remember making a particularly large amount of requests to her, but I did ask her to make songs that would automatically feel like a theme song that would naturally play when you watch the movie footage, or, rather, songs that would make you remember the story when you hear them. For this movie, the melody of “Menoa’s Theme” plays repeatedly and leaves an impression on you, but it also is made to leave an incredibly pleasant feeling in your ears. After the demo version was finished, we still had to make corrections so that it would fit Menoa’s feelings, so I’m very sorry, but I have nothing but gratitude.
There are a lot of tributes in the first half, and so the music even focused on having rearrangements of existing songs, while we put all of our effort into making original pieces new to this movie for the second half.
–The beginning of the movie has a scene without a single line of dialogue and nothing but music, which really leaves an impression.
Taguchi: In regards to Taichi and Yamato, we wanted to make it have the feelings that are characteristic to university students of trying to put off responsibility. But we couldn’t make this into the main focus of their story, so that was what we came up in order to make at least a little of it get in there. It’s only one to two minutes, but it has the feelings of them still not having been able to do anything with themselves, or visibly working at a part-time job, or being in a state of having given up music, and we made it so that the atmosphere would come out through the visuals and the music.
–Please tell us what went behind the scenes for the production for the new songs, “To What Lies Ahead” and “Even When We Are Apart”.
Taguchi: We had a lot of conversations about “To What Lies Ahead” before it was finished, and the finished song came out very well. It’s the song that plays during the scene when Taichi and Agumon, and Yamato and Gabumon, have their feelings in top synchronization, which is the scene that represents this movie. It has a somewhat sad atmosphere to it, but we wanted to make it have a feeling different from the aggressive sort from a young boys’ manga, and be a song that feels more like it’s conferring a blessing. The final song was a splendid match with Ayumi Miyazaki-san’s vocals, and it came out so well that I can’t think of anything better than it. As for “Even When We Are Apart”, I feel like it came out smoothly as a calming song. We thought that the ending should not have a sad feeling to it, but that we wanted to make it a forward-facing end, and so it had to be a ballad. We arranged the song that Mayo Okamoto-san created it, and AiM-san sang it, and even with the sentimental contents of its lyrics, I think it’s a song that makes you feel like you’re walking forward towards tomorrow.
A film that mixes nostalgia and freshness
–This movie uses a large amount of colors. What kinds of conversations did you have with the color designer, Saori Gouda-san?
Taguchi: I always ask Gouda-san to do the color design for any work I direct. Even for all of the works I’ve made up until now, we’ve always tried to move away from colors that could be called “normal”, and change all of the colors to match the tone of the scene. From there, we felt that we wanted to try expressing the emotions through the colors. While thinking about the balance between the scenes, we produced the first half to have warm colors, while the colors start to get lost on the way to the more serious atmosphere of the second half and start to approach a more cyan image. The colors are a little different from usual, but in the end, during the scene where Agumon and Gabumon evolve, we got rid of all of the major lines. We thought about producing it so that it had a special feeling of them being engulfed and melting in light.
–The movie is organized in such a way that the first half has tributes, while the second half has elements particular to this movie. What kinds of intentions or purpose did you have in regards to this?
Taguchi: Digimon has the weight of 20 years on it, and I feel that the fans must have their own expectations about the visual impressions or the way the story is composed. So things like the fight with Parrotmon in Nakano, or the fight in cyberspace, were made with conscious awareness of the old movies. People who were already fans of Digimon can see that and enjoy it, thinking, “this is how Digimon should be!”, and new incoming fans can see it and be introduced to it by understanding “Digimon is like this!” in a nutshell.
Nevertheless, if we do nothing but have the entire thing be fanservice, it’s just going to be a movie with nothing but in-jokes, and so we paid attention to making sure they only came out in the finer details. And so, from the plotting stages, we focused on setting up the movie so that the real story of the movie comes in 30 minutes into it.
–This movie has the theme of “becoming an adult”, so what were you thinking about in taking on that challenge for this movie?
Taguchi: I don’t think that this is a movie I made from understanding what it means to “become an adult”. Thinking back on it now, I made this movie while wondering about what “becoming an adult” means to me in the end. If someone who did understand it made a movie, they’d probably make a movie that would have a clear representation of “this is what it means to become an adult!” Ultimately, I think this is a movie about the struggle of being caught in that divide between wanting to stay as a child and feeling that you have to become an adult.
–The fact they were separating from their Digimon was a rather shocking development. What intentions did you have in arriving at the form it takes in the movie?
Taguchi: I think Digimon Adventure is fundamentally a series where separating from the Digimon has been depicted quite often. So I thought about the best way to link that with the element of “becoming an adult”. For instance, whether becoming an adult means spending some time separated from your Digimon, the symbol of your childhood. Whether you have to do that in order to become an adult, or such. But in terms of depicting a “separation”, if we went with the kind of separation where they could meet them again by going to the Village of Beginnings, it’d seem like we’re just doing the same thing as the past series all over again, so we made use of the extra background lore of “disappearance” that was added for this movie.
–Taichi’s words of “we have to keep going towards the future!” felt like a very strong message.
Taguchi: Firstly, we thought that we wanted to make this a movie that could push someone on forward. There are people who are too tied to their memories, and can’t move on from there. Even if you make some mistakes, or feel like a victim, or have lost something important to you, I think it’s important to move forward so that you can live tomorrow. We thought of it hoping to apply those concepts into making it a story that anyone could empathize with.
The humor and feelings scattered here and there
–For anyone who is rewatching the movie through the Blu-ray or the DVD, are there any parts you want people to pay particular attention to?
Taguchi: Among the cuts with the Chosen Children all around the world fighting against the Eosmon, there’s one with a Numemon and a girl. That Numemon is the only one that doesn’t evolve. I think you could make a whole 30-minute anime with just that pair of partners (laughs). I promise, it’d be hilarious and exciting, and it’d have the best kind of ending that’d make you cry (laughs)!
Beyond that…during the opening, the computer that Koushirou is using has a chat log on the screen. That chat log has a conversation about the goggles that Taichi took from Koushirou’s place. It only appears for around one second, but we did put that little joke in there.
Also, I don’t think very many people who watched it only once noticed this, but there’s Sora’s Digivice. It shows up for only a single moment in the opening, but the Digivice with a timer on it is actually Sora’s. On top of that, partway through the movie, the Digivice has already become petrified. We put that in as an element to make you think about “do you know what this means?”, so that you probably wouldn’t notice it unless you rewatched it, and once we’d made it, it had a fresh feeling to it.
On top of that, there are flowers in tons of places throughout the movie, and those are flowers we put in accordance with the language of flowers in order to match the contents of the scene. The opening has a butterfly stop on a Japanese morning glory, and in the language of flowers, morning glories have nuances like “affection” and “solid bonds”, but on top of that, “I am linked to you and will not leave you”. That was how we wanted to reflect Menoa’s feelings of being trapped in her past. Also, to Japanese people, cherry blossoms have the image of symbolizing the start of a new life. Because of that, we decided from the very beginning that we would load the final scene with cherry blossoms. We thought about how to convey those feelings through only the visuals, without any music or lines. We put a lot of deliberate thought into those kinds of things, so I hope you have fun with them.
–Thank you very much!
- Hiromi Seki = The original producer for Adventure through Frontier, planner for Xros Wars, and supervisor for this movie.
- “Yamatoya-san” = Akatsuki Yamatoya, the scriptwriter for this movie, and an episode scriptwriter for Adventure, Frontier, and Savers, and the writer for the Adventure 02 “Yamato Ishida: Letter” drama CD.
- Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru = The original character designer for Adventure through Frontier, and character designer for this movie.