Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna Interview: Director Tomohisa Taguchi Talks About the Challenge of “Dismantling the Series”, and His Gratitude

A translation of this Cinemarche article from February 17, 2020, featuring an interview with director Tomohisa Taguchi of Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna.

Translator’s addendum (September 17, 2020)

When I first published my translation of this interview in July, I chose to translate the key word 壊す (kowasu) as the very literal “destroy”, which resulted in a lot of hubbub regarding the article under the impression that Director Taguchi had talked about destroying the franchise in a malicious or violent manner. The surrounding context of the article, however, talks about the process of breaking down the franchise in the hopes of building it anew, especially in the last two paragraphs, so in retrospect, it was my mistake to beeline for the strongest and most literal phrasing in a context that’s not intended to be read as malicious or violent. I’ve amended the translation to better reflect this nuance, and I’m truly sorry for any inconvenience or misinterpretation this might have caused.

The movie Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna will be released nationwide on February 21, 2020 (Friday)!

Digimon Adventure is a popular anime series that depicts the growth and bonds between the “Chosen Children” and their Digimon partners in the “Digital World”.

And now, Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna, a movie made to commemorate its 20th anniversary, will finally be released.

To commemorate the movie’s theatrical release, we’ve interviewed its director, Tomohisa Taguchi.

We heard many things from him, including the themes depicted in this movie, and what Director Taguchi, who is himself from the Digimon generation, thinks it means to “update” the series, and his feelings of gratitude towards it.

The “Chosen Children” becoming “adults”

–This movie is made for the 20th anniversary of Digimon Adventure, so how did you go about building the story for it?

Director Tomohisa Taguchi (hereinafter, Taguchi): Digimon Adventure started off with a movie and a TV anime series in 1999, and the series expanded from there, and they kept making movies and even OVAs, and I was very worried about what kind of story to depict in this movie.

But since the prior work, Digimon Adventure tri., had the theme of “when Taichi and the others become high school students, how would they feel and think?”, I wondered, “why don’t I take it a step further with a theme and story beyond that?” After all, Taichi and Yamato are already 22-year-old university students in this movie, and now that they’ve reached that age, to depict something like “a battle against an evil Digimon that’s going to destroy the world” and having them fight against that kind of opponent felt like it wouldn’t hit close to home at all.

All of the movies made thus far had Taichi and the others referred to as “Chosen Children”, and sometimes depicted in ways that seem like heroes. But they can’t keep living on just by being “Chosen Children”. They have to find careers and jobs like any other normal human beings, and find their own “dreams” and “futures”.

That’s why we started with the themes of “how would they continue to grow?” and “how do they face their past selves and find a way to proceed?” and taking their growth “from children to adults” a step further, and thought about the development of the story from there.

To cut attachments to the past

–In this movie, Taichi and the others grow from children to adults, but on top of that, the relationship between their growth and the Digimon’s evolution will also come to an end. How do you consider the relationship between “growth” and “evolution”?

Taguchi: The works released thus far consistently depicted the storyline essential to Digimon, in that “as the ‘Chosen Children’ grow, the Digimon respond to that and evolve, and their bonds as partners deepen at the same time.”

But as Taichi and the others approach “adulthood”, the audience should also personally understand the feeling of how things have started to lose the impact they had to a pure-hearted child, and how those changes in the heart that lead to such major developments have gradually started to decrease.

As you become an adult, and as you get older, there will always be things you have to let go of. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s impossible for anyone to grow while retaining all of the possibilities or potential futures they had when they were children.

At some point, the time when Taichi and the others will have to cut attachments to the past will come for them. I’d personally felt those kinds of thoughts myself, and so, for this movie, I thought I should portray the Digimon’s evolution, and their partner relationship with Taichi and the others would, and what form it would take.

Taguchi: On top of that, everyone must have had that feeling at least once, the emotions that come out as “the past was better”. When you’re living in society as an adult, you look back to when you were a child who found fun in every experience and when you were full of dreams and hopes and possibilities, so you feel “ah, how nostalgic” and “I wish I could go back to those days.”

A character named Menoa also appears in this movie, and she also has regrets about her past and blames the fact she’s become an adult. You can feel her motive for appealing to Taichi and the others, who are on their own way to becoming adults.

Depending on how you see it, it may come off as “hypocritical”, but it’s exactly because she lived with regrets that she comes to think “even if I can’t go back to the past, I can at least get rid of the regrets that others are about to have.”

–In terms of nostalgia and regrets about the past, you said that “everyone must have had that feeling”. Did you also have those kinds of feelings yourself and project those thoughts into the movie?

Taguchi: I’m not the one who can judge whether there was a concrete projection of my own past in it, but I do feel that it clearly reflects my own personal thoughts on the concept of the “past”.

You cannot go back to the past. Until humans reach the end known as death, there is no choice but to put everything you have into moving forward. It’s not good to be too trapped in the past. Those were the thoughts that I embedded into this movie.

Through anime and live-action, creating the kind of pictures unique to myself

–What made you decide to go into the animation industry?

Taguchi: I’ve always loved anime and manga, and, when I was a kid, I would watch anime like Anpanman and Doraemon until I’d worn out the VHS tape. But I lived in a rural town in Okayama Prefecture, and there weren’t a lot of anime that would be broadcast there, and even when they did, the broadcast would be delayed until a few weeks after the ones in a big city like Tokyo. As a result, I wouldn’t get many more chances to watch anime until I became a university student.

Originally, I wanted to make live-action movies, and I also made my own movies during university, so my personal desire was to “continue being involved in video work as a career after graduation”. Once I started getting into job hunting, I went to my university’s career center and found out that an affiliated animation company was recruiting. At the time, I thought, “well, it’s related to video, and it looks like I can get into directing, so this is good,” and “I’d like to take it on as a challenge,” so I went through the recruitment and jumped into that world.

I’m still interested in doing live-action work, but anime also has its own charm points and uniquely good aspects about it, and I also feel that there are many good things that can only be expressed in animation. For that reason, right now, I’d like to work hard at creating pictures that make use of those kinds of good expressions unique to animation.

On the other hand, I also want to keep the feeling I had when I was shooting live-action films, which allows me to think about image framing more clearly. For example, for this movie, we wanted to reproduce the city where it’s set in as accurately as possible, so we layered photos of the city onto the screen layout and built the screen from there.

By incorporating the strong points and the charming aspects of both anime and live action, I want to continue focusing on making the kinds of images unique to myself.

Giving back to the Digimon series

–You’re from the generation that was watching the Digimon series as it aired, but can you tell us what your impressions are of participating as a staff member in this long-beloved series?

Taguchi: Through making this movie, I realized once again that the Digimon series is an extraordinarily outstanding piece of media. I’m grateful for the experience of being able to participate in a series filled with the love of its staff, including the producer, and all of the fans.

On the other hand, unless a major change happens to the Digimon series, ten years will pass and Taichi and the others will be in their thirties. This movie’s story was created so that Taichi and the others, who were “children”, can become “adults”, and entrust the future of the series to “someone else”.

The producer and the rest of the staff were all conscious of the idea that the Digimon series, in its current form, “needs to be dismantled at least once”. For that reason, I consciously dismantled what had been made up until now, and put my efforts into “turning it into scratch” so that Digimon media could be updated into something new.

Taguchi: When we’d finished making this movie, Hiromi Seki-san, the first producer for the original Digimon series, said something like, “We’ve managed to find people who have dismantled Digimon for us, in a good sense. In order for the Digimon IP (intellectual property) to grow into something new, we have to dismantle it like this, and you’re the ones who have made that happen for us,” and it made me very happy to hear.

I myself am from the generation that was watching the Digimon series, so this movie has the feeling of me wanting to give back to the Digimon that entertained my younger self. Sometimes they were cute, and sometimes they were cool, and I worked on this movie to express my gratitude of “thank you for everything up until now”, and I hope that those feelings will be delivered to the fans who watch this movie.

Interview/Photos: Mitsunori Demachi
Organization: Honoka Mishima

Profile: Tomohisa Taguchi

From Okayama Prefecture. Worked in independent film, and, after graduating from university, is currently working with animation production companies.

Has served as the director for works such as the TV anime Twin Star Exorcists (2016-2017), the movies Persona 3 The Movie: #2 Midsummer Knight’s Dream (2014), Persona 3 The Movie: #4 Winter of Rebirth (2016), and Kino’s Journey —the Beautiful World— the Animated Series (2017).

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