Digimon Adventure tri. Memorial Book — Lead writer Yuuko Kakihara interview

Translation of an interview with lead writer Yuuko Kakihara from the Digimon Adventure tri. Memorial Book (デジモンアドベンチャーtri. メモリアルブック) from August 31, 2018, discussing production for the full series after all six parts had been released.

(Director Keitarou Motonaga interview | Lead writer Yuuko Kakihara interview | Character designer Atsuya Uki interview)

I wanted to depict these kids as if they were 17-year-olds

Lead writer Yuuko Kakihara

Writer. From Osaka Prefecture. Main works include the TV anime series Aikatsu Friends!, Cells at Work!, and As the Moon, So Beautiful. With the exception of Part 5, she also participated as a scriptwriter for all parts of Digimon Adventure tri.

We did have the idea of portraying Taichi as a more reliable leader, but…

–How familiar were you beforehand with Digimon Adventure?
I didn’t watch it as it was airing, but I was aware that it was a very popular series with very many fans. So when I heard that I was going to be involved on this project, I was very surprised, and thought, “I’m going to be doing work for a series with this much impact…”

–When you received the offer to work on it, was it already determined that it would be about the older “Chosen Children”?
It had already been determined. They were taking on the challenge to depict 17-year-old Taichi and his friends, and felt that I would be able to help them out, even though I hadn’t been watching the series as it aired. Of course, before I’d even started working on planning out the story, I went ahead and watched the entire series, and got a huge lecture from Toei’s producers about how much importance we needed to treat this series with.

–It seems like there were a lot of people who felt that Taichi had gone through a huge shift by Part 1, given that he was now dealing with feeling lost and unable to step forward.
The truth is, at first, we actually started off with the idea of portraying Taichi more as a leader who helps bring everyone forward. But although getting to see Taichi as a 17-year-old is a surprise in itself, if he just does the same thing he did a long time ago, there’d be no point to showing him as a 17-year-old. The children who were watching the TV series back then are now also adults themselves, so we thought about what they might want to see, and arrived at a conclusion that it would be better to give him worries more appropriate for his age. At the end of Digimon Adventure 02, we get a clear view of what Taichi does in his future. We wanted to show how he ends up shouldering the burden of becoming a diplomat who connects the Digital World and his own world, and what happened to get him there. What trials would he have to overcome, so that he would be able to face the future? So we decided to make a story that backtracks from Taichi’s future and make a story leading up to it.

–The 02 characters appeared in the form of silhouettes, but was it decided from the start that they would show up in the beginning?
The 02 kids have a known relationship with Taichi and his friends, and we knew from the very beginning that it would be odd to not have them appear. When we decided we’d be making a full six parts, we were also having conversations about making their presences a bit more prominent. But we had to delve into all of the protagonists, and there were so many things that we needed to get written, and eventually the conversation turned to resignation that we’d be asking too much to get the 02 characters in there. We decided to leave the 02 kids to whatever 02-relevant work we figured could be made in the future1 and give up on delving into them, setting up only the minimum so that it’d at least be understandable.

–One thing from this series that left a particular impression was that while the children have grown in mind and body, the Digimon haven’t changed all that much.
There’s a lot of different themes in this series, but I believe there’s a story in there about how, even as the children grow older and the gap between themselves and the Digimon increases, they can still continue to carry on as they always have. So we had a strict objective to make sure the Digimon were in a position that would remain unchanging, through and through.

–Speaking of the Digimon, Part 2 really brought their cuteness out.
When we were talking about the structure for the whole six-part series, we knew that Part 3 wasn’t going to be a very amusing story…so we knew that people love these characters, and we felt that there would definitely be people who want to see them doing fun things, and so, because we really wanted to do that, we had it happen in Part 2.

–The “reboot” in Part 3 was a shocking development to see, and then, in the second half, and there’s also the developments regarding Meicoomon, so Part 2 must have been like a “cushion” beforehand.
To be honest, we actually wanted to do fun things all of the time (laughs). But a whole six parts is a very long time, so if you do nothing but nice things through all of it, it ends up getting very tedious. Part 3 is like a turning point for the series. But we thought it’d be hard for the audience to keep having to endure hard things all of the time, so, while Part 4 was very different from Part 2, we still wanted to make it something a little more fun, so we did a nostalgic tour of the Digital World and showed off how they made ties with a different version of their Digimon partners.

–For this series, every movie showed off different Chosen Children and their partner Digimon, but how did you decide on the arrangement for that?
Taichi and Yamato have the most important roles, so naturally their perspectives were featured in Parts 1 and 6, and after that, we assigned roles based on the subject of each movie. We were thinking about how to balance out the other parts, and as we were thinking about which kid would be the main featured one for each, we actually got pretty absorbed in talking about it. If we hadn’t decided on Mimi being a main character for Part 2, perhaps the story would have turned out a bit differently.

–The other children besides Taichi have their own characteristic worries and ways of thinking, so how did you approach depicting those?
Firstly, putting the story aside, we set up their background with the knowledge that they’re now closer to 17 years old. So for instance, Mimi has just come back from overseas, so there’s going to be a culture gap, and that’s going to cause trouble, right?…We also placed a huge amount of importance on the idea that, as they approach 17 years old, the nature of their human relationships should still feel natural, and bounced off that for every part.

–Jou was the kind of character who was worrying about exams in both the TV series and this series.
Having to deal with the same problems over and over is something that happens very often in life, so we thought it’d be fine if he happens to still be worrying about his exams, just like in the TV series.

–Koushirou was the type who was very serious about trying to find a way to get things in order, but we also got to see a more comical side of him here.
Koushirou’s the type who’s used to looking everything up on the Internet, and we had conversations about how it’d be interesting if there were a gap between him and the others thanks to that, so we ended up portraying him as a character where he ends up just a little out of sync with the others before he even realizes it.

–Yamato’s way of being more assertive about fighting has a bit of the old Taichi layered on it.
I think both Taichi and Yamato have qualities that one could attribute to a leader. When we were talking about how Taichi and Yamato are different, and how they would grow, while Taichi has a lot of heavy worries holding him back, Yamato probably wouldn’t go in the same direction, and the two of them would end up in opposite positions, and thought about the drama in the narrative thinking that we wanted Yamato to grow up in his own way. So Taichi and Yamato have their own story in this series, too. That’s why, for Yamato, we also put thought into backtracking from where we know his life story will take him.

–When they lost Taichi, Hikari went into shock, and the results were surprising. Was this because of her dependence on her brother?
The way I see it, Hikari, in the TV series, is ‘”the type who won’t show it on the surface, but actually has very strong feelings when it comes to her brother”. Maybe it’s because she has that spirit medium-esque2 aspect to her, but even though the others are getting older and approaching adulthood, Hikari isn’t quite there yet, and has a very pure and lofty air to her. She seems like an agreeable person who can come to a compromise easily, but she has the image of having more intense aspects to her when it comes to locking down on protecting everything pure within her. That’s exactly why, when something happens to her brother, I feel she would be the first one to be severely hurt by it.

–Is that exactly why she was the one to raise an objection to Taichi in the end, when he made the decision to “kill Meicoomon”?
It was. It was a very complicated choice he’d made, and we thought that Hikari would be the one in a position to criticize that choice. But also, Hikari would be the one to save him. In actuality, “killing Meicoomon” was a decision that was made very early in the process. But while we were writing it, we were having concerns about it, and there was a lot of dispute among the development team about whether we should do it, and it kept going on for a while. But when it comes to facing the majority of society’s difficult questions, there probably isn’t one right answer to it. So even for these kids, agreeing to kill her is something that had to be agreed on as a truce, and the fact that some of them would be unable to truly accept that result is something we came to feel would be only natural.

–Takeru also left a huge impression during Part 3. Was he ever able to shake off the feelings of guilt from having hidden the infected Patamon?
All of the parts had different screenwriters working together on it, so a scene I personally came up would often end up coming out with a completely different atmosphere when someone else picked it up. But there were also a lot of times when they’d come to ask my opinion on it, and I’d think, “oh, I see.” So what I was personally thinking with Takeru was that he’s gotten a lot stronger from the ordeal. Through all that he’s experienced and overcome, I think he managed to move on and get stronger. Also, through Part 3, while the nature of Takeru and Hikari’s relationship makes Takeru come off as more of the immature one, actually, he’s the one who’s more forward-thinking.

–What about Sora?
Sora’s going through puberty, so her concerns are relevant to that, we felt. Beyond that, she seems to be in a love triangle with Taichi and Yamato…But the fans all have their own individual interpretations of what’s going on with that, and so we ended up paying particular care to make sure not to give a definitive answer as to which one her heart’s tending towards.

Invoking all sorts of feelings to emotionally resonate with Meicoomon

–How was the image of the new character, Meiko, conceived?
Firstly, she was created to not overlap a niche that any of the other existing characters filled. At the same time, we also started thinking about what kind of partner she should have. Once we figured out that she would get close to Meicoomon, a subject of study at a research facility, we started building the backbone of how she could have a special relationship with a Digimon. We wanted to give her a bit more of a proactive personality, but the story involves tragedy befalling her, and since there turned out to be a lot of sad scenes with her as a result, she ended up becoming more pitiful. But we also had the image of her being a girl with the strength of heart to overcome that.

–How about her partner, Meicoomon?
The base framework for tri. was originally made by Producer Shuuhei Arai and Producer Takashi Sakurai. The general flow of the story had already been determined when I joined the project, but at the time Meicoomon was still only known as “the unwanted child”. Once the project reached planning stages and she was given a proper name, things went relatively smoothly, and we were able to push that aside and think about Meicoomon’s ultimate fate. But once she had a name, and then a design, and we gave her a voice, there were a lot of worries of “what should we do with her…” When we made the character, there would be all these times we’d think “we’ll make her a little cuter here!” or “we’ll make her a little more like someone you really want to save!”, and ultimately it became difficult to face “Meicoomon’s ultimate death”.

–The “ta much” that Meicoomon says to Meiko during their parting scene was something that a lot of people probably expected. But what ended up really exceeding those expectations was the incredibly transcendent smile she gave back.
I also personally felt that when I finally got to see the scene fully produced and with the performance added onto it, it was a lot sadder than I’d expected. I honestly really wanted to apologize to Meicoomon.

–Were you actually considering an ending where Meicoomon could live?
Along the way, we had a lot of sentiments like “is it really okay to do this?” “no, it’s fine” going back and forth. From somewhere around Part 3 or 4, the screenwriters ended up having more and more discussions about this, and we started to really worry about how we were going to end this. We were still moving towards an ending that involved killing Meicoomon, but the feeling that “we can’t do this” got stronger and stronger, and we ended up worrying even more about what to do, but the producers told us “you shouldn’t disturb the ending” and “we can’t succumb to being too soft about this,” and finally we ended up having to swallow it.
So from there, once Taichi had made the tough decision to kill her, we put our all into thinking about how Taichi would get the others on board with him. How on earth would they find salvation in this…and such. And then we remembered Patamon’s line from Part 3.
In Part 3, Patamon says, “rather than be destroyed by someone I don’t know, I want everyone to be the ones to do it,” and made a request to all of the other Digimon to be the ones to kill him. So when we read that, we thought, “the people relevant to this might feel this way,” and imagined how this might pertain to Meicoomon. Meicoomon’s suffering a lot, and so the question becomes about who’ll be the ones to want to respond to her, and so when Taichi hears her plea of “please kill me”, how much resolve will he be able to gather? And of course there’ll be people who’ll criticize his decision, and so, we wrote it while thinking of that.

–When you think about it, these children end up taking a very heavy burden onto themselves.
They do. But when pure-hearted ones like Hikari and Patamon are the ones to lead them to the answer, we felt that we wanted to send a message saying that no matter how hard it gets, “when you’re an adult, sometimes there are certain things you’ll have to do.” Of course, you have to be prepared to be criticized for those results. But you’ll understand that there was no choice but to reach this kind of ending, and those who come to accept it can decide not to just mope about it and instead think “well, I’ll have to try again tomorrow,” or “Taichi and his friends had to suffer through pains, so I can also keep going even in the face of my own pains.” We thought very hard about whether we could get people to feel this as we were writing.

–Speaking of adults, Himekawa and Nishijima’s fates were also ended up being very sad.
Himekawa and Nishijima are characters we made because we thought, since there were things going on that children can’t deal with, “we need some adults, right?”. In the end, we know how Taichi and his friends will turn out as adults, but in Part 1, he’s feeling too much pressure to become an adult. He learns all sorts of things through all six parts, but in Part 1, there’s a part of him that still wants to stay as a child. After Part 1, the story starts unfolding into something complicated, so we made Himekawa and Nishijima into characters who will shoulder the burden of adulthood for them. Even from Part 1, we knew that this wasn’t going to end up being a very simple story. After that, we thought up the backbone of their characters in the form of their backstory, and determined that they would be the previous “Chosen Children”. There was a time when they were once burdened with the name of Chosen Children. Himekawa and Nishijima may have been “Chosen Children” in the past, but were never able to become “regularly called on”. This series ends up unfolding into a three-way fight involving Yggdrasil and Homeostasis, but Yggdrasil and Homeostasis’s ways of thinking don’t involve actual human experience, and thus they don’t understand humanity in a lot of ways. We thought it might be difficult for the audience to properly empathize, so we set up Himekawa as a person who represents their intentions and for whom you can understand her motives for intervening on the children.

–As for the mysterious man, what was his purpose and what did he come from?
We felt that the audience wouldn’t be able to understand what Yggdrasil is thinking and planning to do unless we had someone to explain it, so we made the mysterious man as someone who would be active in the story and would act as a spokesman for Yggdrasil. But as he was yet another new character besides Meiko and Meicoomon, we needed to make him more interesting, we had him take on the form of the Digimon Kaiser, so that the audience would be more interested in him.

–In the end, the mysterious man managed to get away without a scratch…right?
This isn’t the kind of story where they can figure out everything the enemy is trying to do and finish all of them off and come to a solid resolution. And delving too much into the issue of Yggdrasil and Homeostasis would have taken too much time, and we had to give up on doing it. Yggdrasil and Homeostasis have things they want to do that span a very grand scope, but there are still many, many things a 17-year-old still won’t be able to properly see, so there are going to be many instances where they’ll have to face off against things they don’t fully understand, and so we at the very least decided to establish that expectation, and the resentment of “why do we have to get involved in this again?” and “why does this keep happening?” This series has parts for which we’re especially keeping our target audience of adults in mind, so we divided it into parts that we had be easy to understand, and parts that don’t feel like they’ve been completely resolved.

–So this series doesn’t engage in rewarding or punishing people for their actions. Was this because of the uncertainty of whether Taichi and his friends’ own actions were the right thing to do?
Yes. The choice that Taichi and his friends made is not something that can necessarily said to be the correct one.

I’m absolutely grateful to those who watched every part

–The end of the TV series depicted Taichi and his friends as adults, so were there any other things you wanted to portray with Taichi and his friends as they approached adulthood?
Things that are nothing but pure fun, like some of the things from Part 2…Like, for instance, Taichi and his friends during summer break…We wanted to write about that kind of thing (laughs).

–How did the fans who came to watch the movies respond?
Personally, I noticed a split between people who said, “this is not what I came here to see,” and people who said, “I’m glad to see Taichi’s worries being similar to what I’m going through myself.” But when I took on this job, and from the moment it was decided that we would make it this way, I was prepared to hear opinions that “this is wrong”. In the end, I’m very happy that even those who said that “this is wrong” watched it all the way to the end. Of course, there were still heavy echoes of the opinion that “this is not what I came here to see,” and I will accept that with good faith. But it really is difficult to make something that’ll please everyone, so it made me feel that I want to study a little harder. For this series, I did my best to make Taichi true-to-life, I threw myself into my work and wrote some painful things and challenged myself, and in the end we arrived at a definitive conclusion, but, naturally, I also think there could have been a different way of going at it, and so, I’d like to keep it in mind as I continue thinking about it.

–Now that all six parts have ended, please tell us about your thoughts on it.
It was a very long and painful work, but there were also many fun things about it, and, in the end, the strongest feeling I have about it is that “I’m grateful to everyone who watched it.” The idea that nobody would come to see it was the most terrifying thing to me, so in any case I’m grateful to everyone who came to see it. This is a series with such a significant history, and so it really is a huge relief when people say “it was good.” We made a story so that you could sympathize with Taichi and his friends’ pains, so it ended up being a story about really painful things happening in succession, so hearing people say “it was good” was a huge source of encouragement for us and helped us keep going. In the end, we decided that I would be the person to write Part 6. I still remember spending a very long time on it, and taking the challenge head-on.

–Incidentally, we never got to see Jou-senpai’s girlfriend in the series…
It was decided that the official stance would be to leave it as a mystery (laughs). It’s more fun when you don’t know, isn’t it?

–We got to see a little of the 02 kids, but did you have any interest in showing them interacting with Taichi and his friends?
To be very honest about it, we did want to show more of them. 02 is, no matter how you look at it, the sequel to Digimon Adventure, and we should not downplay its importance, so we did the least we could to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems with how we laid things out, and we eventually put them in a position where they wouldn’t end up obstructing the story.

–Since they’ve grown into high school and middle school students, they’re probably a lot more conscious of those of different gender, so how did you decide to approach their romantic issues?
There was a time we were thinking about a scene where everyone goes to see Yamato’s concert, and a scene that was like a date, but we had too many things we wanted to do, so we had to proceed with discretion. But we did put actual thought into what would come as a logical extension of their friendships. We were thinking things like, in terms of Takeru and Hikari’s characters, Takeru is a bit of the flirtatious type while Hikari isn’t paying attention to him, but in terms of the actual story, Takeru ended up being the one who grew up a little more, and Hikari the one getting pulled behind him.

–Taichi and Meiko also seemed to have formed a certain bond between them.
To be honest, the relationship between those two was not something we particularly had in mind. But since we had certain expectations of how the fans would react to a new character barging in, and since we were also thinking about what we know about Taichi and his friends in the future, we ended up putting Meiko in a position where she comes and leaves.

–Meiko losing her Digimon puts her in a similar position to Himekawa, but thanks to Taichi and his friends, she won’t end up going the same way as Himekawa…right?
When Nishijima, who had failed to save Himekawa, was dying, what he wanted most to convey to Taichi was that “if you don’t put your foot down, you’ll be responsible for spreading misfortune.” As he was regretting his own failure to put his foot down, he wanted to tell Taichi, “don’t make the same mistake I did.” Himekawa and Nishijima ended up with an unfortunate fate because they were unable to reach their own conclusions, but this time, the children have been able to reach theirs, so I feel they’re headed towards a future that’ll lead to a good ending for them.

–In closing, please leave a message to those who have bought this book.
Thank you to all of you who even went as far as to buy this book. Considering that they entrusted me with a series of this kind of scale, even just thinking about what it was like working on it makes my stomach hurt (laughs). I think this series may have ended up being a bit controversial, but I did my best to do all I could under the pressure, and I wonder if I was able to do anything in return for those who watched the series to some extent. Also, it makes me very happy that there are a lot of people who became fans of Digimon through this series. Truly, thank you for all of this.

Translator's notes
  1. Real-life hindsight might suggest that the hypothetical Adventure 02-related sequel would refer to Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna, but Kakihara’s exact phrase is, more literally, “…that surely will be made” (きっと作られる, kitto tsukurareru), implying that what she’s referring to is genuinely hypothetical. []
  2. Kakihara refers to Hikari and as being like a “shrine maiden” (巫女, miko), a name given to priestesses who perform various rituals at Shinto shrines, but, more pertinently, would traditionally act as mediums to convey the will of a spirit or god. []

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